Posts Tagged ‘narrow gauge’


Your opinion, dear reader, is required.

Obviously, as you are reading this blog, you are a person of exquisite aesthetic taste and style and I require some feedback on the latest addition to the HBB’s railcar, namely the luggage rack on the roof.

The idea is that this gives some much needed overflow to the luggage compartment on peak services, especially on market days, when customers have a tendency to bring purchases on board that try to move of their own accord, so the Hofelbachbahn (or more accurately, the company that bought the railcar in the first place, decided it wasn’t big enough and sold it to the Hofelbachbahn, it makes sense to me so don’t argue) ordered the version with the extra rack.

Trouble is, now I’ve come to actually fit the rack, it looks a bit big and obtrusive. I can’t work out if this is because I’m used to seeing a dip in the roof or because it just doesn’t work.

And if it doesn’t work, why not? Is it too high, too wide?


From track level it doesn’t look that far out of place, so maybe I just need to get used to it.

What do you think?

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German builders think a roof isn’t properly made unless it weighs almost as much as the house it is covering: our apartment building has a tree trunk forming the roof ridge line, supported by solid beams of rough cut pine. This is because a roof here must withstand not just sun and rain, but also hailstones the size of golf balls, lightning strikes, high winds, and up to three metres of snow; sometimes all on the same day.

And that’s in summer. In winter it gets really bad.

So, I needed to make a solid roof on my model. I’m making the building out of card, because it has a more natural feel than Plasticard, and is biodegradable too, which appeals to my inner hippy. It also doesn’t need spray primer and I can get the stuff free from cornflake packets if need be.

As my work ethic is pretty well non existent after 5pm, I quickly decided that individual tiles seemed far too difficult, so I made strips of card 10mm wide and cut slits into them about 7mm deep at 5mm intervals. Having done some pretty exhaustive research, mostly consisting of leaning out of the bathroom skylight with a tape measure, I know these are pretty close to scale size. The ridge tiles are card folded over at one end and then wrapped around the tip of a small ‘da Vinchi Hobbyist’ paintbrush handle*.

Of course, curvy interlocking pantiles are more typical of this area than flat tiles, but there are enough of both styles about that I’m not going to worry too much, and I’m sure anyone offended by it will be more than happy to make me a 1:55 scale mould so I can use the correct form in future.

The gap in the tiles is to fit the ‘extension’ which should fit neatly against the building and across the roof. For once I actually managed to plan ahead instead of trying to fit things together after the event.

*Other paintbrush handles are available.

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Railcar on a test run along the future Wörnritzhausen high street. Hopefully.

To my rather great surprise the railcar actually managed to explore the whole of the layout without falling off the track, hitting anything, comically trying to go two ways at once or stopping for no apparent reason.

It did however, make it clear this is a railcar with an identity crisis.

For reasons which now escape me but undoubtedly seemed very important at the time, I built the motorised bogie some distance back under the body. I think it was to allow some space to make a reliably tough connection for the coupling, which meant shoving the front of the bogie back to fit it behind the cowling, and this meant the pivot disappeared somewhere below the luggage compartment.

That’s my excuse anyway, and I’m sticking to it.

Anyway, this makes the motorised end run around corners like a Blackpool tram, with a big overhang on the curves. I suspect this is why a lot of European trams taper at the ends, to avoid taking chunks off ancient monuments whose medieval builders inexplicably neglected to take tramways into consideration.

On the other end, I have a fairly normal Kato bogie, a good ten millimetres closer to the buffer beam, which gives a much more conventional movement. Like a train, in fact.

The overall effect is quite unusual, rather like a design committee couldn’t make their mind up on what they wanted. It looks a lot less silly than I feared, but I think the MkII version may well be slightly different in this area.

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First thing to remember for next time: When adding 5mm of clay to a building, this makes it a bigger building. By about 5mm in each direction. How did I not think of this? fortunately I think I got away with it, and I’m sure you won’t tell anyone.

Apart from this things went reasonably well. Next time I’ll let the clay dry out a bit longer before cutting out the windows, and there needs to be a lot more bracing on the card carcass, but nothing broke too much, and what did was fixable. I added a bit of texture by pressing the building into some 120 grit sandpaper, an operation that would have worked better if I hadn’t had a very inquisitive two year old on my knee at the time. Two year old children, incidentally,  are magnetically attracted to damp clay: this applies even if they are in a different room of the building when you start work. They also don’t understand why boring grown ups insist on keeping the clay in one place.

Anyway, after we’d scraped the clay fingerprints off the furniture, I tried painting the model. Most buildings locally are a sort of off-white colour, which looks strange in model form, so I went looking for buildings that showed a bit more ‘character, or to put it another way, ‘dirt’, like this old farm in the centre of our village.

Time and weather and probably a lot of road dirt, have left their mark:

Recreating this in model form took some experimentation, and the discovery that washes of colour don’t really work on such a porous surface. At one point I thought I was about to add a couple more millimetres in paint, but after a considerable amount of time drybrushing I eventually ran out of mistakes to make and got something presentable, so I claimed that was the effect I was aiming for all the time.

The building should look a bit tatty as: it was part of a garage until a few years ago and hasn’t had a lot of maintenance since, but I’m still not sure if I’ve overdone it a bit.

We shall see after I’ve added a bit more detail.

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Running toy trains round a circle of track is only exciting for so long, so this week I finally got on with making the first building for the model railway.

In my fevered imagination, this side of the model will look like a fairly typical village with a cluster of buildings and a narrow gauge railway that happens to run along the main road. It all works very well in my head, as long as I ignore my complete ignorance about how I was going to make them.

Optimism is a wonderful thing, and denial of the facts can look almost as good if you squint.

I decided to make a start on the Post Office. The original plan was for it to be parallel to the track but this lasted until the moment I put it on the model and realised it would mess up just about everything else in that corner. Some bodging later it looked like this:

I’m not entirely happy with this new position but I’ve convinced myself it will work a bit better when the other buildings are added. Hopefully.

The ‘city gate’ will probably follow the line of the post office wall, so it isn’t perfectly in line with the track. Hopefully this will give the impression that the railway came much later than the buildings, and the train is running onto the scene from another part of the village, rather than trundling around in endless circles…

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Some kind person posted this on the NGRM Forum. It features one of the many narrow gauge railways that used to serve small towns all over Germany.

The Plettenberger Kleinbahn, was a freight and passenger carrying tramway in Plettenberg in the North West of the country. Its purpose was to get products from the factories of Plettenberg for a few kilometres to the standard gauge line, and it expanded up the valley as industry increased, eventually having an impressive 71 connections to factories

By the time this video as made in 1962 a standard gauge railway parallel to the line had reduced services and the increased road traffic was getting in the way. As usual politicians blamed the railway and refused to renew the company’s concession to operate it.

If I magine a red Krokodil running down those streets, I can tell myself the Höfelbachbahn is will have the same sort of atmosphere.

At the very least I can now justify the apallingly tight curves on my model.

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By dint of great effort I’ve managed to reach two weeks ago. Again. We have a set of new sides, laminated from three thicknesses of plasticard this time and two millimetres thick in total. In theory this means the sides are more solid than before and the gaps will mean I can slide glazing  into the body after I’m done painting. resulting in clean windows and a smug glow visible from space. We shall see.

The sides are not leaning because I can’t glue anything on straight but because they are currently held on with the local equivalent of Blu-tack while I find a way to clip body to chassis. I continue to think any model glued irreversibly together will immediately develop a fault that can only be repaired by the use of violence and extremely foul language. Much better to clip everything together and keep that smug glow. I’ve even managed to add the five doors for battery lockers on the side and a strip of beading just under the windows which I am assured is standard on such units where the panels for the bodyside meet. I’m also working on the theory that if I build it as an upside down box I can avoid embarrassing gaps between roof and sides, and clip the body onto the base when I’m finished with the interior.

On the subject of he interior, I now have a dozen seated figures from Preiser’s 1:50 range. These are actually intended for architects, which I assume is why they are actually three sets of the same people. Figures in my rather obscure scale of 1:55 are pretty hard to come by, so they will have to do. They are a bit too tall of course, but by the time I’ve cut them off at about the knees and painted them, that will be the least of their worries…

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