Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Van in the sun

Finally the sun put in an appearance, allowing me to post pictures of van 1. The original can be found here for comparison... Overhead view showing lead weighting and Meik trying to look nonchalant.

Number 1 end after Meik was shooed off... This has the beginnings of a brake platform which I may have a roof over, although this is based on an earlier, short roofed batch delivered to the RHB in the 70's

Number two end, slightly better lit and showing the apparently successful DG coupling.If you're thinking the buffer is a bit small you are probably right. I'll try and rectify that somehow

Underside showing the new and improved bogie fitting method. I'm not going to show you the old one as it was far too embarrassing. Another title for this may be 'Lost in space' because those bogies are. I'm really wondering about casting my own. In the meantime I'll use Cambrian's FTB6 units.

Next job is the two main doors with bracing and figuring how to fit those on and have them connected with the roof. There are other developments aside from this. I'll post details soon.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Transports of delight.

The van is coming together: the bogies are now properly fixed, the “bodge” referred to last week having been replaced by self-tapping screws (thank you Chris Krupa and Steve Bennet for pointing out the obvious solution), the ends are approximately vertical and properly attached, and the sides will be built over the next week. Remarkably the DG couplings are not only glued on, but also seem to work.

The only problem in this happy tale is that the sun abruptly went AWOL this morning, and it is now overcast and dull. This means I can’t make any photos of the model, so you'll just have to trust me until such a time as the sun returns and I can get some real pictures. (Note to self: get a daylight bulb...) I’m not really upset about this as it meant the sun shone for my eldest son's 5th birthday yesterday and he was able to ride his new bike for hours.

Besides, a friend sent me a link to this video last week, showing some narrow gauge in Poland using transporter wagons. After watching this 5 minute video I'd gone from being clueless on how transporters were used, to knowing enough information to model my own. There would have to be a couple of differences (Standard gauge wagons would need to be moved by locomotive, for example) but at least the mechanics are clear, and never mind that the loco has clanky bits. I believe this operation lasted until quite recently, when the lack of investment caught up with the line and the traffic went to the roads.

In search of diseasels I came across another Polish narrow gauge line. Now I don’t know a great deal about Polish lines, but they certainly manage to have a fair bit of variety. Here they manage to include another steam loco, one of the ubiquitous LxD2’s from Romania which were the standard large diseasel in Eastern Europe on a heavy freight, and a not to bad looking rail car.

I will leave you to enjoy this, while I go and look for a daylight bulb on Ebay

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Scale isn’t what it used to be...

I started making a bogie van: an easy project, I thought. It’s just sides, roof, and two ends right? A big box. No problem. I should have it done in a couple of days…

You know what happened: a week later I've just finished the under frame and bodged on the bogies. When it’s presentable I’ll post pictures, but until then here’s what it’s meant to look like, eventually. Sort of.

The original is about 14 metres long, so naturally I measured it out on paper to see what this looked like. It looked ridiculous. Huge. Like a Gn15 model, which would be fine except I’m not building a Gn15 model. Of course that’s partly because the RHB is a Metre gauge line, and mine is about 750mm, and they are 1:72 scale bogies masquerading under a 1:43.5 scale wagon, but even so, it’d really dwarf the layout. So I’ve compromised. Instead of an accurate 337mm over buffers, the base (I would hesitate to call it a ‘Chassis’) is an inaccurate but somehow better-looking 250mm. I know that will cause some to throw their hands up in horror.

In case anyone is still reading. I’ll add that I’ve been researching baseboards. I’m a contender for the title of “Worst carpenter in the world, ever” so I’ve been looking at alternatives. The layout will have a semi permanent home in our living room, supported in its entirety on an Ikea shelf: the occasional movement being to another shelf for storage. So what’s possible? Some of the nice people at the Gnatterbox have suggested there are a lot of alternatives in the realm of card or paper, or even polystyrene. A promising idea is that I could make a board by sandwiching polystyrene with heavy-duty card. Apparently a baseboard made using this method turned out to be very strong (as in: “you could stand on it”) Sounds like some experimenting is called for.

I’m open to ideas, suggestions, and verbal throwing-up-of-hands-in-horror in the comments below.

Friday, May 18, 2007


A while ago I ordered some bogies from Cambrian kits, and some wheels from Alan Gibson to run them on. Except that I ordered 14mm wheels and the bogie instructions said 12mm. So I went back and got some 12mm wheels. These arrived while we were away and as yesterday is a public holiday in W├╝rttemberg I set to in the afternoon.

Of course what I forgot is that Alan Gibson’s “standard” is “P4” (18.83mm gauge), not “00” (16.5mm gauge). Once I remembered this it explained why my newly built bogies bounced along the sleepers on my test track instead of purring along the rails in the traditional manner.
Oh how jolly, I thought... or words to that approximate effect. Fortunately I’d kept the 14mm 00 gauge wheels, and it turns out that they do fit into the bogies quite nicely -and as an added advantage run on the rails- so I can go on with the project (Probably a container flat and a sliding door van)

Now I need to call and ask Alan very, very nicely if he needs twelve 18,83mm gauge wheel sets…

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Best laid plans?

"Spitzenwald" takes shape, sort of... This shows about half of the 1700mm X 400mm baseboard

We are home again, and I think I’m having a reaction to the lack of activity over the last three weeks. The wheels arrived for my wagons, and yesterday I played about with some points on the shelves that will hopefully soon be the home for “Spitzenwald”. I have been doodling on bits of paper while I was in Japan, and I've come up with a general operating plan, so I cut some old cereal packets out to represent different items of rolling stock and test if they’ll fit in the different sidings and headshunts I’d planned.

So far so good: I’ve got a few ideas together and it seems I can accomodate two coach trains (ie: railcar and trailer). I’ll post a track plan as soon as I can…

Wednesday, May 09, 2007


Gotcha... A trio of DD51's showing three livery variations in Yokkaichi.

Yokkaichi is not a pretty place: it’s a port city where oil tankers offload, and seems to be largely composed of refineries. What it does have is a large yard where you are very likely to see DD51’s. I can see that this won’t make the tourists flock to the place, but I appreciate it. I had the time and realised that my Japan Railways pass was still valid, so middle son and I went off for an adventure. The station is surrounded by the yard, which forms the exchange point for the port freight, and an intermodal terminal for Japan Railfreight’s mini containers. It also has a wagon repair depot and a permanent way shed. Funnily enough it reminds me of Bescot Yard in the UK, where I spent many hours as an impressionable youth.

I got pictures of several DD51’s and a couple of DE10 C-B locomotives as well. Thank goodness for Digital cameras… I confess to getting a bit carried away, but I had been looking for these locos for a while and as we fly out tomorrow it was probably my last chance. The people on the platform seemed bewildered by me wandering up and down the platform taking pictures of grubby engines. The one thing I missed was a blue and white industrial shunter, probably from the Ise Railway, which had been hidden behind a train of tanks. I was at the other end of the platform when the train pulled out and just saw it disappearing under a distant bridge.

Never mind. I can always come back next time.

Mindful that most people don't share my affliction, I've only included two images from the mass I took. #1029 stands ready for its next duty.

An added bonus was a decent shot of c-b DE 10 #1512 showing the unusual wheel arrangement.
I wonder why JR don't name their engines?

The Takasaki Light Railway

In Takasaki we met with Matthew Foster his wife Hiromi-san and Rinka, his little girl. Matthew is the owner of the Takasaki Light Railway, the only 16mm gauge model railway in Japan. Matthew has used a heck of a lot of ingenuity in making the line as there are almost no parts or kits available locally. He built his railcars (like the one in the picture) from card and plywood with a motor from a radio controlled car kit. Unfortunately the railway is being rebuilt so a visit wasn’t possible but the family kindly invited us out for lunch instead.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

To the hills…

Nagano is in the mountains and is known for skiing, a sort of Japanese Zermatt, or what Zermatt would look like if the locals decided to build skyscrapers and a Shinkansen terminal in the middle. Between there and Nagoya is a lot of forest and lumpy bits, cut by rivers in deep gorges with spindly bridges, and a railway.

This is a bit of the mountain section. The line which peels off into a tunnel on the right as we leave the station is actually a long loop, one of several in the mountains which I expect speeds things up as the line seems to be running near to capacity: about every second station we passed a passenger or freight train.
You can see the tilt capability clearly on the curves. The wobble caused by me holding one of the boys while filming. I really need to get a tripod. In this video the train accelerated to about 80kph, so I filmed the next one when we were on a straighter section and moving faster- about 120kph at the beginning...

It's as wide as a British coach, seats fifty in comfort, and rides like a dream, but honestly, this is a Narrow Gauge train...

More on the DD51 theme…

Nagoya region has lots of DD51’s. Unfortunately they were still being secretive last week, so all I got was the occasional glimpse: I saw two shoot past on a tank train and a red one was prowling behind wagons in Yokkaichi. Two more had taken cover under a bridge which made it impossible to photograph them, and I missed another on a freight in the hills. To cap it all I missed one in quite spectacular fashion in Nagoya: a kind conductor offered to take our picture: just as he returned the camera...