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Posts Tagged ‘model railway’

 

Work, my final dissertation, and family needs are combining to make sure I don’t have a lot of time for anything else at the moment, and therefore was short of blogging material this week.

Fortunately Japan Railways have come to my rescue by running some very unusual diversionary train workings in the last few months, featuring my favourite Japanese locomotives dragging freight trains across the central mountains in Japan and along the west coast to avoid a section washed out by a typhoon. Normally these are seen lurking in monotonous industrial zones so it’s a change to see them in a more attractive corner of the country.

According to Wikipedia these locomotives are 18000mm/55′ long and a somewhat lardy 2951mm/9.5′ wide, which works out as 327mm long and 53mm wide, or about 1′ by 2″ in my chosen scale of 1:55, or ‘Seriously Massive’, especially as the first model of the Körschtalbahn is likely to be about 2m long at the most, meaning the locomotive will be at least 1/6th of the length of the entire model railway.

On the other hand, I could cheat.

It seems there’s a long tradition of model makers playing fast and loose with scale to make a prototype fit a model, and some companies have been known to make a locomotive 10% under scale so it fits with other models. If you do this with a DD51 it makes for a slightly more manageable 47mm wide and 294mm long. Still a right beast but it would at least fit under bridges.

Of course that assumes I manage to get my sorry behind into gear to make one at all. Currently my progress on all fronts is a bit slower than this:

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Finally all 196 pieces of the uprights are together, the uprights are in place and not just that, they are in fact upright.

Mostly. If you don’t look too hard.

It took several evenings to achieve this, making 1 or 2 uprights per evening. It turned out that the blocks I’d carefully glued in ready to hold the uprights were not as accurately placed as I’d thought and I had to use several 0.3mm pieces as packing. Of course the packing pieces turned out to be too thick, so they needed to be sanded back, checked, sanded a bit more and then fitted.

Now they still aren’t perfect but they’re passable from normal distances and angles, so I’m calling it good.

Next we have detailing, painting and weathering which means I really need to decide what colour it is going to be…

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When we last looked at the wood wagon I was about to start building the uprights that are fixed along both sides of the chassis. Of course when I say “about to start building” I actually mean “about to start making loads of excuses to do it later” because of course, that’s what I proceeded to do. It wasn’t the thought of the 192 tiny bits that was putting me off; more the idea of trying to make them look vaguely similar.

Eventually I realised what most readers undoubtedly already know: templates are the answer. Make one template, fit each part in it, cut along the template or attach the next bit in the right place and move on. No guessing, measuring or aligning by eye, not even much thinking in fact, just repeat the same thing a few dozen times.

I started with a simple set of templates to make sure all the uprights were the same length, then another for the tiny cross pieces… and then things got out of hand and I made a template for pretty much every stage of the build.

It worked pretty well too, although we’ll ignore a certain amount of fiddling about at some stages (note to self: if you’re going to make a template to drill holes, it helps if the holes in the template are in the right place…) On the other hand, I’ve had plenty of practice in filling, sanding, and redrilling holes. Now I have a stack of finished parts that you could almost swear looked the same.

All I have to manage now is getting them consistently upright on the wagon itself.

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This project seemed such a good idea at the time: it’s a flat wagon, with pointy bits on each side. That was it: dead simple. What could go wrong?

I never learn.

Remember the model is loosely based on this wagon. Very loosely, admittedly, but it still needs to have enough of the features of the real thing to be vaguely recognisable as the same type of wagon. This means I need to make some vague representation of those double uprights and the big bolts holding them in place.

So I made a sketch, and used this to build a ‘prototype’. It looked awful. I scrapped this and tried again, this time looking much more at the photographs as I worked.

This one was much better, the only problem was that having finished I realised I’d have sixteen parts for each upright. Sixteen. And 12 uprights.

I did some sums…

I repeated the sums because I’m rubbish at maths…

I gave up and did the sums on a calculator*: 16 x 12 = 192 little bits of plastic, which need to be the same, or at least close enough that they appear the same.

Something tells me I may end up putting this off for a while.

*Yes, really that rubbish, or out of practice. On the other hand I can design a quite complex project in my head and see it in 3d from any angle: swings and roundabouts.

 

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Huzzah and three rousing cheers, the deck is completed.

The boredom factor was dealt with by the discovery of the excellent “Revolutions Podcast” which I recommend to anyone with a long and repetitive job to do. As an added positive I learned a lot of new things about the revolutions of 1848 and 1871, which I’m sure will guarantee me plenty of personal space at any future parties.

During the celebrations* surrounding the final decking piece being fitted I remembered that this was supposed to be an operational model, and that I therefore needed to fit bogies that could rotate. This caused an extra problem: I use nylon press studs as pivots, and I needed a good three millimetres clearance above the hole. This wasn’t a problem on the van because you basically have the entire van interior to hide the stud, but on this wagon I’d forgotten to take that 3mm into account.

Adding 3mm below the frame made the wagon sit too high.

Eventually brain engaged and I realised that if I made the connector for the stud 1mm from the underside of the deck, I could make a recess in the deck itself to give the required clearance for the bogie to turn.

This being a high precision engineering job I used the digital method: I put my finger on the top of the deck and twisted a drill bit from the other side until I could just feel the movement through the plastic.

This is why I will never be an engineer.

I tested the theory by stealing the bogies off the big van. The turn all right but then I discovered the bogies will be trapped between the side bars. It looks like I’ll have to use large radius curves, or possibly smaller bogies.

*One large glass of Ginger Ale and a whole slice of cake: Never let it be said I can’t have fun.

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So, I need to build the deck on the wood wagon. Of course, I couldn’t go and choose a nice simple wagon with a flat deck, oh, no, I had to go for one with a complex arrangement involving a frame and lots of tiny, and rather battered aluminium cross pieces.

Will I ever learn?

On the original the cross pieces don’t seem to have any strength whatsoever, and are probably just there to stop bits of the load dropping onto the track. To reproduce them I’m cutting strips of 0.5mm thick plastic and bending and gluing them individually onto the wagon. They have to go under the outside frame, and then over the central spine.

It isn’t that exciting, but it’s probably as complex a task as my brain is capable of after work/dealing with the kids on a weekday.

I took the picture after the first batch to show the central spine and cross pieces. Does anyone have a foolproof method for making these? I ended up making the central spine in pieces, measuring each one to fit between the cross pieces and filing them down to fit, then lining them up by eye. Fortunately they’ll be invisible after the wagon is completed.

Hopefully they’ll also stop it going the shape of a banana.

Time to make the deck pieces. See you on the other side…

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I really need to think up more original blog titles.

I wanted to double check some details on the wood wagon I’m building, and I remembered photographing the original in Breisach,on the German/French border.

The last time we went to Breisach was probably about 2012/13. This raises the question of why I can remember useless information like this for years but instantly forget important stuff like where I just put my boots.

Anyway, I not only remembered this, but even managed to find the pictures on the hard drive, so there.

These wagons are pretty well used. Looking at the load they were carrying and the loading methods, I can see why they look so hammered. This being Germany I could wander right up to the wagons and have a good look about, I suspect they figure no-one is about to walk off with one of those logs.

The locomotive is from the Südwest Eisenbahn Gruppe or South west railway group, who are owned by the state government. They own and/or operate a few local railways in this part of Germany, including the line from Breisach to Freiburg.

 

By a rather wonderful coincidence someone on the NGRM forum posted a link to the German railways wagon catalogue just as I was writing this entry, so I now know this is a type ‘Snps (typ179)’ heavy duty wagon for timber, pipes, and other thumping great big objects. They are equipped with Extra wide stanchions, and inbuilt ratchet systems with rollers in the stanchions themselves, so loads can be fastened down by one operator. The wagons have wooden bolsters for each pair of stanchions and extra slightly lower bolsters in between so the loads doesn’t sag while being carried.

 

Re-reading that last paragraph makes me realise why I’m rarely invited to parties.

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