Posts Tagged ‘narrow gauge’

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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Here’s a blast from the past. The beginnings of a heavily used timber wagon found lurking at the bottom of a box. This dates from the time when I first started making models again, and planned to build my models in 1:43 scale. Apart from this I’d started a couple of other wagons and a railcar, and they all looked pretty awful. Partly this was a lack of experience and partly because no matter how much I tried the mahoosive models I was making just didn’t fit the tiny wheel sets available, so I changed to 1:55 scale.

It shows how easily I can be distracted, that I’m only just getting round to making replacements for these models in 1:55. I was actually planning to make a second van but I was finding the prospect a bit daunting and when I found this I decided to go with the flow

I remember carefully making the original out o fairly thin plastic sheet so I wouldn’t make the frame too thick. This is probably why the old model is now the shape of a banana.

The new version is a bit more pragmatic, made of several 0.5mm thick sections glued together, partly for strength and partly because that way I could use up the offcuts of 0.5mm thick plastic I had kicking about. I’m hoping the over scale thickness will be made up for by the model lasting a bit longer.

Besides, I can hide everything with weathering, right?

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I am a terrible hoarder when it comes to model making. After all, if I don’t carefully store that vital part I’ve just found/been offered, I probably won’t have it to hand when I need it for a project.

I’m probably worse than most because I’m not working in a normal scale so I can’t rely on big companies and supply chains, so lot of what I use is hard to get or ‘found’ stuff, like guitar strings and bits of Chinese takeaway boxes- I even have some fine veneer scrounged from the packaging a long forgotten meal eaten in a Japanese hotel, but which will one day reappear as the side of a van or something. Probably.

In the meantime I’ve labelled things carefully in a random set of (also scrounged) containers and squirrelled my treasures away in a growing stack of cardboard boxes in the loft.

Unfortunately I then promptly forget where I’ve put everything.

So imagine the excitement this week when I went up to the ever growing pile and found a carefully labelled box of ancient bogies*. In fact, I discovered two boxes of ancient bogies, some equally ancient HO scale coaches and wagons, a lot of er… bits, about three miles of guitar wire (never refuse it), and some 12mm gauge track which I vaguely remember ordering by mistake about a decade ago.

The bogies worked on the goldilocks principle. One set too big, one set too modern, and the other set just right, or as near as made no difference with a hacksaw. The white area on the top of the bogie is a thin strip of plastic to hide the crude surgery and support the almost invisible press stud that forms the bogie pivot itself.

Now all I need to do is dig in the Box Pile until I find the coupling parts hoarded in there some years ago, and I’ll nearly be done.

If anyone wants a few 12mm gauge points let me know. No guarantees how fast I’ll find them, mind you.

*I briefly considered “a box of ancient bogies” as the title of this post but I decided I didn’t want hits that much…

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This is the bit in a project where a proper model maker would add all the details, the exact details mark you,after looking at every available image or designers drawing that can be found, sometimes specific to an individual item of rolling stock.

I tend to take a slightly more pragmatic approach. I have pictures of what I’m building of course, but quite often I (whisper it) make things up a bit besides.

My excuse is that as the fictional Körschtalbahn would be an independent railway, it follows that the needs of this line would be different and the locomotives, carriages and wagons would be built or adapted to reflect that need.

OF course the real reason is often a combination of laziness, lack of skill and a need to move interesting details to hide mistakes I made earlier.

For example, the original vans on the Rhaetian Railway have a different railing to the one I’ve used, but until I get around to learning to solder properly and drill and bend wire much more accurately, I’ll have to keep using plastic and superglue, and add little extra sections to make sure it stays straight, or at least that a casual viewer doesn’t notice that it’s a bit wonky.

Anyway, I’m trying to be a bit more disciplined on projects so I had a good look at the tubes and flexible bits hanging off the end of the prototype vans, and this week I spent a bit of time cutting up old guitar strings and bits of brass to make reproductions of them here.

To be honest I’m not entirely sure about that long cable nearest the camera is supposed to be. It looks like an electrical cable, but I’m not sure why the wagon needs one: the doors seem to be manually operated, and there aren’t any obvious marker lights in the bodywork. I know the RHB often run wagons as part of passenger trains so I’m wondering if it is a through cable to allow the locomotive to power or communicate with the carriages… Any thoughts?

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After sides, the other feature people tend to expect on a van is a roof.

As seems to be normal on this project, this proved to be complicated.

The clever designers of the original vans -presumably from the Complicated Sliding Van Door Department- had a problem. The sides have to slide right out of the way to give free access to the open side of the van and allow the loading of palettes with forklift trucks and other evil machines of global capitalism.

I’m guessing those clever designers solved this with a cunning dropping down sliding mechanism so the door can move away from the main body of the van, and then slide parallel to the other door. This is a very practical solution; the closed door is secure, watertight, and as these vans have been used by the Rhaetian Bahn in Switzerland since 1984, apparently robust.

Unfortunately they are a pain in the bottom to build in 1:55 scale.

It isn’t just the funky angle at the top of the door, it’s also that there’s supposed to be a large ‘gap’ between door and roof, which is essential to capture the character of the van, although I appreciate I could be going down a bit of a rabbit hole here.

So I came up with a plan: I’d make the roof in two 0.5mm layers, one smaller than the other. The inner roof will be covered by a slightly wider outer roof which will hide all my mistakes, strengthen the roof and create the impression of that thumping great gap. So far the van just has the inner roof -don’t ask about the fun and games and bits of plastic I ended up adding there to make it straight, I really need a better way of making formers.

Unfortunately things like real life got in the way after that, so I’m going to have to see if this works as well as I’m hoping next week…

Remind me again how a creative hobby is good for reducing stress levels and getting yourself into a more relaxed state of mind?

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One important, indeed essential feature of the covered van, is that they are enclosed on both sides, so this week was pretty much a repeat of last week with a new set of mistakes. I think I got away with most of them but it’s probably good that you can’t see both sides of the van at once.

I’m also glad that the sister van to this one will be to a different design.

Still, it’s a learning experience. Up until now I’ve always been a bit sniffy about buying strips of plastic for things, assuming that I can cut plastic pretty straight, so why would I need someone else to do it for me at five times the cost? I realised on this model that while I can cut straight to within half a millimetre or so, having several pieces slightly too narrow or wide adds up. One or two of the panels had to be glued in by eye  because even though I went from the side to the middle each time I’d end up with one gap that was bigger than the rest.

Ah, well,  interesting details, paint and weathering can hide a lot of things. I think I may be testing that theory to destruction when I finish this model…



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So having decided to build an unnecessarily complicated model, the first problem was how wide to build the chassis. This you’ll appreciate is rather important.

The problem is that those elaborate doors and associated strange shaped bits make this rather difficult. On this version of the van the original designer saw fit to make recess in the central pillar between the two doors, so instead of making a nice simple side with a couple of lines scored in the middle to suggest a join, I had to add all kinds of additional jiggerypokery with braces behind to hold it all together, and I needed to know how wide these were going to be before I made the chassis to fit.

This is  long way of explaining why I’m now making the sides and ends of a van, and not the bottom, like more sensible people would.

In a rare moment of practical forward planning I’ve even taken pictures of the construction process so I can remember how I made this model.

That way if I’m overcome by the desire to make a second version I’ll hopefully be able to do it slightly faster than a poorly motivated sloth.


[Some early risers may have seen this post last week. I tend to write posts a week or so ahead in case something comes up on the weekend, and I went and pressed the wrong button. Still, now you get to read it all again...]




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