Posts Tagged ‘Scratchbuilding’

I’ve finally managed to get the big diesel project moving. again. Why I chose a complex locomotive with curved ends and sloping sides is open to question but it seemed a good idea at the time.

I was feeling pretty pleased with progress but when I held up the locomotive next to the chassis earlier this week, I realised I’d designed the model about 10mm longer than it needed to be.

I’d claim I was trying to make the locomotive sleek and purposeful, but I probably just got carried away and added a bit here and a bit there, and ended up with a loco that looks sleek and purposeful but will go around corners like a tram.

After thinking about this*, I worked out four places I could make the locomotive 10mm shorter:

1: Remove 10mm between the drivers door and the two lower grilles on the bodyside (Compare with the top image, there is a difference).

2: Remove one drivers door on each side. The locomotives supplied to the Bulgarian railways only have one door per side, so I can claim it’s prototypical, and it would mean less cutting to go wrong, although it would be good if I can make sure each cab has at least one door.

3: I could just make the window in the bodyside 10mm shorter, but that makes it rather a strange shape:

4: On the other hand, removing 5mm from the window and another 5mm between grilles and door, a combination of 1 and 3, would have the same effect with less of a visual change, and the fuel cap would still be central on the side of the loco.

The disadvantage of this is that I’d have to make four cuts into the bodyside, which knowing me is four cuts to get wrong and make a wonky locomotive…

Thoughts and ideas are welcome. I’ve even made a poll, tech savvy modeller that I am, although I don’t promise I’ll follow the result.

*During a sociology lecture. That’s what sociology lectures are for isn’t it?


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Once I found a way to stop trains wobbling about, I was much more motivated to build things. I could claim this was part of a grand plan to build a realistic operating system but if I’m honest it’s because I like watching the trains rattle round and round, and I wanted a few more wagons on mine.

When I’d nearly finished the second van, I noticed that neither van had a handle for the door. As both of the vans are full of card and fishing weights, this is a not going to make a great difference to their capabilities, but I’m trying to at least pretend that they are there to carry general merchandise this detail is somewhat significant,

I started looking through pictures of real narrow gauge vans. Of course one thing led to another and I ended up adding bits of wire all over the model in the hope it would then look all fine scale* and detailed.

The standard way to ventilate vans here seems to be a sliding panel which I assume is operated by staff unclipping and sliding the metal rods underneath. On the original van I made the panel from card, but on the new version this didn’t seem to work so I gave up and used the evil plastic.

The picture shows some of the problems that I’m causing myself with this model. The van in the background is a long way onto the other track, but still overhangs the main line** by some way. In fact the van in the foreground is probably on the one place on the loop that I can get another train past it.

This is one of several reasons why the Höfelbachbahn will now disappear at least until after exams, until I can make it a more sensible shape.

*I can dream…

**’Main line’ in the same way that my model making is ‘Fine scale’


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Roofs are like buses with me. Nothing happens for ages, then two turn up one after the other.

Here’s roof 1.0. with all the right ingredients except that I went and made the tiles on the roof too small. The idea behind this was to make these tiles  slightly different to the post office/Cartoon Gate, giving a smug glow and the impression I might actually know what I’m doing.

Unfortunately they came out looking like they were an entirely different scale.

As the most visible end of the farmhouse isn’t that easy for the eye to scale in any case what with having odd windows and a strangely arched double door, it gave the overall effect that this was a very large building in a smaller scale than the rest of the models.

I’m somewhat fussy about this building because it will be in the centre of the scene, so after looking at it for a couple of days I went and raided a cornflake box in the kitchen cupboard. Then I spent several hours marking up larger tiles to make roof MkII.

This is not a very exciting past time.

On the other hand, I can see a difference: the building looks more in scale with the others to my eye and I fully intend to ignore anyone who says otherwise.

The overall impression isn’t too bad either, although it really is time to make a back scene.

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Duplicate van

In the world of Wörnritzhausen, the job of the transit van is done by bogie vans like this, with a wooden body, sliding door, and enough space inside to take a few European standard sized pallets. The sort of Really Useful wagon that can carry just about anything from groceries to finished wood products or milk containers.

This being the case, it seems a good idea to have several of them.

In an unusual outburst of self-discipline, I managed to knuckle down and start a second van instead of going all megalomaniac and dreaming up interesting different vehicles which might be nice to have but aren’t really needed as yet. This unusual event is probably due to an urgent need for a simple project that doesn’t require a lot of my rapidly diminishing brain capacity  during exam season, but it is pleasant to just be able to copy the current van with occasional changes, rather than work things out as I go along, otherwise known as making all kinds of mistakes and having to go back and correct them like I usually do.

The prototypes for these would probably be made by every workshop that could put two bits of wood together. Some would be made almost entirely locally with a few fittings bought in, or manufactured to a standard design. They’ll probably look about the same but with subtle differences depending on which option the customer chose, design development, available materials, and what mood the person building it was in, so no two would be exactly the same.

This is helpful as I’ve already had to cover up some times of ‘working things out’ on the second van.

Now that I’ve actually started this, I feel much less guilty about those megalomaniac ideas of what else I could build. According to my badly drawn train graph I’m going to need at least one coach, and maybe I could justify a snowplough, or a brake van…

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In my annual attempt to squeeze a blog post out of no model making whatsoever, I’ve been looking at the resolutions I made last January to see how I did:

1: Blog once a week,
It’s good for me to keep writing. Besides, I have to step away from college and breathe on occasion, so I’ll try to make sure there is an entry every week, in fact, every Saturday morning.  Anyone bored with this blog should find that my other one is updated weekly as well.

I occasionally use the same material, but hey, it’s free…

I think I actually managed this, much to my surprise. Admittedly this is at the expense of immediacy so I have a couple of posts ready in case of unforeseen family events or exams. I’m not sure if I’ll keep this up for the next year as I’ll have final exams for my Occupational Therapist qualification in the next months and then the fun of finding a job afterwards. We shall see.

2: Build more models.
After all, I need more blogging material. Being an extreme introvert surrounded by people, I need to switch off to be able to breathe each day, and I find model making is excellent for this as a break before dealing with the family in the evening. I also want to use different materials: card wagons, for example, possibly with the finish printed on paper, or clay and wood for buildings.

This years tally is a completed post office, garage, cartoon gate and developing farmhouse, while the Höfelbachbahn is better off by one railcar and a still unfinished van, and the Körschtalbahn has a big diesel coming along slowly. I seem to have made more buildings than trains. That may just be because I find buildings easier, or because I start all my locomotives twice.

3: Finish half built models.
Like the KÖB railcar (which could well rank as the slowest scratchbuilding project ever although it is much further on than this picture from 2011 suggests), or a rebuild of ‘Growler 1’ which has been languishing in a box for (yikes) ten years as it was far too big for 1:43 scale, let alone 1:55. I’d like it to run one day.

Not doing so well here. The Körschtalbahn railcar is now in primer with some piping, but that’s as far as it got, and I didn’t have the heart to lay a finger on the diesel shunter yet.

4: Maybe, just maybe, get Spitzenwald running.
I feel like I owe it to myself after the fight it took to build the baseboards.

Nope, nothing doing.

What with exams and possibly a house move, I’ve been thinking about my current projects and how they fit in life generally. I’ve got some ideas but they aren’t really complete and you’ve been pretty patient reading this far, so I’ll not bore you further…

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One farmhouse, in colour. If sludgy green and muck counts as colour. I did wonder about making this a slightly less grungy building on the basis that at least some of the houses in the village must have been properly maintained -after all, there are plenty of well kept buildings in our local town- but in the end I recoiled from the very real possibility of an outbreak of cuteness involving window boxes and other horrific things. This building will dominate the rather tiny scene and if I allow it to look too twee it wouldn’t fit into the rest of the story, so out came the dark brown pastels and green paint.

Several people have pointed out that Germany is generally a lot cleaner than this, which is true, but I’ve seen villages not far from here where houses are in an advanced state of decrepitude, and some buildings around the back streets of Esslingen am Neckar, our local big town, are pretty tatty. I’m aiming here for a village that isn’t just a bit short of cash: it’s struggling financially and has more immediate problems than making sure the houses look pretty.

It’ll still get shutters though, as a contrast to the utilitarian rollers on the post office. Current thinking is in terms of cable ties to give a nice slatted look, but if that doesn’t work solid planks will be the order of the day. Add a set of railings, and a bicycle shoved into the gap under the stairs, and it should look the part, as long as you squint a bit.

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The Big diesel is going to have to wait a while until I’ve improved my skill level, or I’m not rushing about doing exams, or both, so I’m restarting this project, least seen in March. It has been lurking on a shelf ever since while I tried to find a way to stop the thing wobbling like a jelly on a dinner trolley, and also find an alternative to using tiny N-gauge bogies which I’d fitted at the time.

So a mere nine months later, I figured out a solution.

The trouble with N-gauge bogies is that they were quite reasonably designed for nice little 1:148 scale wagons, not the lead-filled 1:55 behemoths I build, so they looked frankly a bit silly. Using two four-wheel wagons and press-studs makes much more sense. Being unable to do anything the simple way I ended up butchering the donor wagons until there was very little left. I even had to cut a centimetre out of the middle to make them fit properly.

I’ll try shorter donor wagons next time.

Still the wagon rolls with only a very slight lean which I’ll probably spend the next nine months fretting about before sorting it, partly because I’m now getting all ambitious about the next project.


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