Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Railcar ideas- Class 650

Westerooge is currently a gooey mess: I've added some form to the basic board, especially around the lighthouse base and the track, and I've covered the lot with grass and other bits. I'm now hoping that it sticks to the baseboard and not to the track. I'll get back to you on that.

This weekend I had to go and pick someone up from the station in Metzingen, so naturally I went early to take a few pictures. Metzingen is a junction on the railway between Stuttgart and Tübingen: German railways are often rather picturesquely known by the places they run through rather than the places they connect, so this route is called the Neckar-Alb-Bahn, after a river and range of hills.

Most trains are class 143 locomotives hauling double deck stock and this blog already has lots of pictures of these, so I won't bore you with them, but I also got the chance to photograph a these railcars. DB calls them class 650, although the many private railways using them call them Regio-Shuttle's, the name given to them by Stadler, their maker. There is a branch line from Metzingen to Bad Urach (the Ermstalbahn, if you're taking notes) operated is DB ZugBus.

650 012-8, the rear of the pair seen above. Notice the buffers.

I've wanted to make a narrow gauge version of one of these for ages. RS1's have a fair bit of power and the ones with conventional buffers have been known to haul the odd freight wagon, which I imagine would make them popular with the accountants of the Körschtalbahn- especially as mixed trains are common on other modern narrow gauge lines. I could well see one of those pulling a couple of vans into the hills. The only problem is that they'd be hard to build: I think I could get away with having tinted glass, which would let me put a normal motor inside and avoid making loads of tiny seats, but The question is how I can find a way to make those angled window struts and compound curves on the ends work.

I'm open to ideas. In the meantime Westerooge will hopefully be a lot less gooey and I can post some pictures...

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Dark art of the sector plate -2

It works...

After some fairly intense bodging, filing, soldering, and at least one length of mangled track, the first train on 'Westerooge' wobbled and lurched its way onto the sector plate this weekend. This in itself was good, but that it managed this without spilling itself onto the desk in an unpleasant mess was a real surprise.

In the event, the biggest problem wasn't the sector plate but the join with the scenic section I made last week: the rear track goes up dramatically as it approaches the edge. As I'd already managed to melt rails off their sleepers in a previous soldering attempt I went for the bodger option and filed down the top of the rail a bit so it doesn't make the train wobble quite so dramatically, and decided to ignore the rest.

Extensive 'testing' (playing) by daddy and eldest son have got most of the bugs out of the system, although although the mess van has a habit of clouting the side of the box file when I pull it out of the middle siding. Never mind: I can finally get on with the fun part: scenery.

And I've got two weeks to do it...


I am still here, and working on Westerooge. However, during a coffee break last week I came across 'Behind the Water Tower' , which describes itself as “An Anglo-Polish railway blog” but which manages to squeeze in a lot of useful information on railways in general. Right now they are concentrating on the campaign to save the narrow gauge railway in Krosniewice which was running freight and passenger until it had the temerity to get in the way of a local politician's pet town centre redevelopment project, and had its operating licence summarily revoked. As the blog puts it:

"The Krosniewice Railway, one of the most interesting Polish narrow gauge railways - which operated regular passenger services and carried a substantial freight traffic - is closing because the Mayor of Krosniewice has teamed up with a property developer. Krosniewice Coucil is in the process of acquiring the railway land from PKP, the Polish State Railway Company, for transport purposes. But the Mayor is planning a big property development and the railway workshops are in her way. SKPL, the operator of the line, opposed the demolition of the workshops and, for their pains, have had their operator’s licence terminated by the Mayor."

Behind the water tower want us to join them in a letter-writing campaign to the local and national politicians responsible for the decision, pointing out that it would be better for the town to run the railway and reap the tourist income, and incidentally keep a useful transport link which will keep traffic off local roads. As this blog is partially based on the idea that narrow gauge railways can be a useful link in a modern transport network, I'm joining in. If you feel the desire to help, they have all the details that you would need like addresses for the Mayor, the Polish transport minister and others, and a sample letter to use as a basis.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008


If you've been following my mutterings long enough, you'll know that I originally set out to make a modern narrow gauge line in the Black Forest in 1:43 scale, using 16.5mm (HO) track. In theory this scale is great for making making narrow gauge trains: you get hold of old HO/OO scale models: you take the top off, build your own slightly larger superstructure on the chassis, and you have a narrow gauge locomotive (and if you chose the right model, a body you can hack up for later projects as well) This is fine as far as it goes, but small HO/OO wheels can look a bit silly under a big locomotive, and with my grandiose designs, the Körschtalbahn's locomotives tend to be pretty big. (they are the same scale size as trains on the Zillertalbahn railway, although I don't think any of you believe me) One solution to this would be bigger chassis, from places like 'Hollywood Foundry'. Hopefully I'll be able to save up and get one soon, but until then I'll have to keep getting second hand models from places like Ebay or similar, so the wheel problem remains -especially with bogie chassis.

I reckon I've found a solution though. If I go down a bit in scale to 1:55, it brings everything down to a manageable size and things which are huge in the larger scale, suddenly look more reasonable, so I'm going to try building a couple of of 1:55 scale models and see how they turn out. 1:55 has been around for a very long time, and is often called "The Ffestiniog Scale" because it started with a series of kits from GEM based on the Ffestiniog and Talyllyn railways.

1:55 scale version: suddenly it fits...

Once I can play trains on 'Westerooge' I'll make a start on this Rhaetian Bahn-esque motor luggage van, a model I've wanted to make since my first attempts at scratchbuilding in the 1990's. I eventually gave up because it always looked terrible in 1:43 scale when squeezed on to a HO gauge chassis, but when I tried it out in 1:55 I found that it fits rather well. Running on HO track, this would scale up at about 3 feet or 914mm. This is a bit small for metre gauge, but there are a few 900mm gauge railways around Germany, and anyway, I'm not going to worry about it too much- for some reason it bothers me less than tiny wheels.

I've been dithering about this for a while- building 'Westerooge' was partly to gain some experience in 1:43 so I have something to compare the result with (and also as an excuse for procrastination), but I did join the 5,5mm Association a while back, and they haven't thrown me out yet, despite my lack of interest in all things Ffestiniog. They are running a competition to build a micro layout this year, which I may just enter when I come back from the UK...

What happened to the weekend?

Well, I was working most of it so there wasn't much time to work on 'Westerooge', but there were some compensations like this artwork created by one of the teenagers I work with for a project focusing on abuse and forgiveness...

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Head of Steel

If I seem a bit excited today, its because a couple of nights ago I finally laid the track in the scenic section of 'Westerooge', making it not only the first model railway I've owned in the last 16 years, but also my first successful attempt at soldering in at least that time. I've decided I like variable temperature soldering irons.

I also moved into uncharted territory by using electrofrog points which have the advantage that they are live everywhere so your locomotives don't stall and embarrass you, but the disadvantage that if you don't wire them up the right way then they short-circuit the whole model and and embarrass you. After drilling a hole through the switch to take the brass rod, I wired it up to the track and turned the power on in the confident expectation of seeing the layout disappear behind a cloud of blue smoke. Remarkably, not only did that not happen, but the blue diesel moved, and in the right direction as well...
Point control and baseboard join: Not pretty, but it works...

So, having conquered this mountain, we can now start adding the ground cover and adding the bits and pieces that will hopefully make this look less like a box file and more like a model railway, and move onto the brave new world of the sector plate fiddle yard.

32 days to go.

Friday, April 04, 2008

Big Black Engine.

I've finished the baseboard for Westerooge, but three sheets of card stuck together are not that visually interesting, so thanks to the wonders of digital cameras, here's a couple of pictures I took in Stuttgart station earlier today.

101 141-0 is one of DB's crack express engines, and is currently in a black advertising livery as part of a nationwide campaign against hate and violence. I saw it as it entered the station and scuttled around with my camera. The things I do for you, honestly.

Deutsche Bahn is one of the enlightened administrations that still runs trains behind locomotives, and they often change them here, which is why 101 141-0 is is uncoupled from its train. This operation is quite common in Termini like Stuttgart where it's as easy to put an engine on the back and pull the train out again on the next leg of its journey. They are pretty slick at it too, with the new engine following the train into the platform as it arrives, an interesting spectacle for those of us used to 'only one train in section' working. One of these fine days I'll post a video of this.

As I was going to the S-bahn (Interurban/rapid transit) train anyway I wandered along the ends of the platforms and took some pictures. There were the usual locomotives for Stuttgart: a smattering of units, and a few local trains with class 146 units and the class 143 'Einheitsloks' pulling them. For some reason I really like the class 143 locomotives so despite having loads of pictures of them already, I added this shot of 143 963-7 to the collection.

Now to go and see if the glue dried on those sheets of card. If it has, and they don't warp overnight, I may even get some track laid tomorrow...