Thamshavnbanen: A Railroad You Can Model

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One regular feature in Model Railroader is the presentation of a prototype railroad under the banner “a railroad you can model”. In my time as a regular MR reader, I read those articles with great interest, and a couple of times I even started model railroads based on them. The interest did not last though, possible because of a lack of any deeper interest in the railroads described. I feel that to get any serious Modelling done, you need a genuine interest in the modeled topics, and a personal connection. To me things did not really click until I developed an interest in the Thamshavn Railroad located just 35 km from my home town of Trondheim. In hindsight, it is hard to understand that it took me so long to discover the qualities of this Railroad as a prototype for my modeling. What follows is an article first published some 12 years ago in the Swedish magazine “Smalspårigt”. I hope that I can convince a fem mote modereres that this is indeed a railroad you can model!
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Still Life With Rejected Body Parts

Still Life With Rejected Body Parts

In an earlier post I wrote about how I finally reached the conclusion that my mineral wagon bodies should be made of wood and brass.

It took me some time to get to that conclusion, and believe me, it wasn’t just a mental process. The pile of rejected body parts in the picture should be proof enough of that!

At the beginning of this project I cajoled a good friend into laser-cutting parts for the wagon body in thin plywood. The parts came out crisp and with very little black crud (or ash you might say) at the edges, but they had a two-dimensional feel that I did not care for. I thought about laminating two layers to build up more bulk, but as the edges of the ends and top of the sides are visible, it did not seem like a very satisfying solution. So those plywood pieces became the foundation of the still life.

The longest detour was due to a hang-up on 3D-printing. Several test parts were printed. First, I had a lot of very promising prints made by the pioneer company Print-A-Part. Print-A-part did unfortunately go out of business, and I have a sneaking feeling that demanding and rather uninformed customers like me were at least partly responsible for this. As amateurs, we demand the best, but are not willing to pay more than peanuts. Most frustrating, because when all the planets aligned correctly, the PAP parts came out almost perfect. But the results were not consistent. This led to a lot of frustating email exchanges about things like part orientation and other remedies to get consistent results. I fully understand that the parent company of PAP, Fine Line Prototyping, decided to concentrate on the professional market! So the PAP turned out to be a dead end in more than one way.

With PAP no longer an option, I decided to try Shapeways services. Shapeways has built their whole infrastructure to serve amateurs and semi-professionals, and they seem to have managed the challenge of creating a 3D-printing service for the masses. I have nothing but praise for the speed and reliability of Shapeways services. Their web-shop is excellent, it is very simple to upload .STL files and order prints. A lot of modellers use Shapeways with excellent results. The results you can get with their best material for detailed scale model parts, FUD (Frosted Ultra Detail) is almost, but only almost good enough for even the most critical modeller. So my test prints for sides and ends were reject for three reasons. First, the detail was not quite crisp enough. Second, they were not solid enough. And last, FUD parts has a sticky residue that is a pain in the proverbial to remove. So the parts ended up in the still life. But there will be some SW parts on the wagons, the coupler pockets are printed in wax and cast in brass by SW. This is a very interesting service that is totally dispruptive for traditional lost wax casting services. I can not wait for the next generation of Shapeways printing services!

The last of the 3D-printing test-matches involved a 3D printing service provider in Seoul that due to the wonders of Google translate ended up printing six wax masters for brass test castings of entire wagon sides. The results were again promising, but the Solidscape printer did not have good enough resolution for the cracks between the boards to show up. And a wagon completely out of brass would be rather massive. Heavy metal, indeed. Another very costly lemon for the still life.

I admit to having a CNC-hang-up as well. This hang-up is fuelled by the extremely good results modelers like Fridtjof (Check out his work on the Westlake modellers forum or Buntbahn.de) cranks out using hobbyists CNC-routers. This is pure modelling pornography, and it is impossible not to be inspired. So when I got access to a High-Z s-400 router I immediately started to mill profiles in brass for the frame. I did not quite get the results I had hoped for, so even if etched & folded profiles are not quite as crisp as milled brass profiles, I settled for this compromise as the etched profiles are much cheaper and simpler to make. Milling brass on light CNC-routers is quite nerve-wrecking and rather frustrating. I will probably try again, but for now the milled end beams belongs in the still life. Even if strictly speaking, they are not body parts.

I hope that this little tale does not come across as complaining. Quite the opposite, I really enjoy experiments like this. Every piece of the still life is a lesson learnt, and I really needed the reality check on 3D-printing and CNC-everything. But receiving all these little packages in the mail is better than most Christmas and birthday gifts. They really add a little excitement to checking the mail box. Even if the gift in the end turns out to be a trinket for a still life.

The tale of the accidental collector

I have never been a collector of model railway equipment. Or anything else for that matter. This is not because I do not find pleasure in vintage objects. Quite the contrary. In fact, I try to avoid becoming a collector because I fear that I can become quite obsessed, and develop a habit. (I also regard myself a smoker that never have started smoking. I guess you could say that I do not trust myself when it comes to certain things. )

But this is the tale of when I almost became a tinplate collector by accident. At our local model railway club every now an then people stop by carrying boxes of what they think are remarkable antique models. At best, it is Märklin equipment from the seventies, at worst it is plastic junk of dubious heritage. More than often the models are impregnated with an ugly smell of sigarette smoke. I never knew that the smell of nicotine sticks so well to plastic models!

So when I received a call from an elderly gentleman that said he had some old Märklin model trains that might be of interest to our club I was not too thrilled. I repeated our standard reply that we appreciated the donation, and would accept it if it was OK to sell it to raise funds for the club. Our benefactor had no problems with this, so I went to collect the loot.

To my big surprise this was not the usual Märklin H0 stuff. This was something far more rare; it was in fact Märklin, but 0 scale pre-war tin-plate models. I was not immediately thrilled by this, I had never seen models like this at Norwegian swap meets, and I my first thought was that it would be very hard to sell something like this in Norway. Almost out of politeness and not wanting to disappoint the gentleman I accepted the gift after admitting that I had absolutely no idea how much the models might be worth.

Back home I started to examine the models more closely. They were in remarkable good condition considering that they had been used as toys by generations of kids. The engines had working headlights and they ran fairly well right out of the box. Not mint condition, but definitively well-kept.

Märkin tinplate 0-scale model (anno 1936)

To get an idea of the value I turned to eBay. My pulse increased a notch or two when I saw what prices this kind of models fetched. We had been donated a little pot of gold!

But I did not only discover the monetary value of the models. During the cleaning and sorting of the models I started to take a liking to them that I had not expected. And after photographing the models I started to wonder if I should buy the models myself and start a little collection. There were something with the size of the models and their ruggedness that was very appealing. It was easy to imagine the joy these models must have caused when they were unwrapped that Christmas eve back in 1936. And that resonated well with my own experience of receiving a Märklin trainset for Christmas when I was a kid. To put it sort, the models gave me a warm and fuzzy feeling.

Märklin steam engine, anno 1936
Märklin steam engine, anno 1936

In the end I came to my senses and decided that I just could not afford to start a tinplate collection.  Fortunately, a Norwegian collector gave us an offer for the lot that we simply could not refuse.  The contribution to the club´s coffers was bigger than all membership fees that year.

But I really enjoyed my few weeks as a collector. And I know that I will get a little bit more excited the next time I get one of those calls from people with trainsets they want to get rid of!

Märklin steam engine, anno 1936
Märklin 0-scale tank car (anno 1936)

First cuts

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In the last post I mentioned my first experiments in carving rocks for a TB diorama. Even if I am not entirely happy with the results, I thought it might be interesting to see the development of the scene. The rocks are first modelled in wet, but fairly firm plaster. When the plaster has set enough I change from spatulas to knives and chisels.

The rocks are not painted, I just mixed some black paint into plaster.

This work was done with rather little reference material, but I can not blame the results entirely on the lack of good pictures. But when you have the prototype within visiting distance, it is just stupid not to do some research.

Creating rocks this way is a rather subjective process with a certain artistic element. I think tou can compare it to drawing a landscape. You have to practise a lot, and trying to “paint by numbers” will just not cut it.

So I hope to share some better work with you in the not to distant future!

Field trip!

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Those that have read most of the posts on this blog have probably discovered that I divide my modelling time between the freelanced H0 layout of the TMJK, and my efforts to produce some bits and pieces of the Thamshavn Railway (Thamshavnbanen).

Recently I decided to try my hand at carving some plaster cuttings for a TB-diorama. You would think that after several trips to the TB I would have plenty of images showing rock faces along the right of way. So did I, but after a long search through my not very well organized collection of images I found very little. I plunged ahead anyway, but the results were not what I had hoped for.

Trying to imagine what cut rock really looks like is not easy, so I decided it was time for a field trip.

One of the attractions of the TB is that it is just under a hours drive from where I live. If the mood strikes I can just grab my camera, notebook, yardstick and head out.
So last sunday I just left the lawn uncut and headed for the Orkla valley.

I really enjoy hiking along the old right of way, even if the the TB is an operating museum there is almost no activity along the track. So I could explore some of the cuttings undisturbed, except for a few very curious salmon fishermen!

A couple of hours later I could head home with more than 200 reference photos and a nice tan.
So now I have no excuses for not getting those rocks right!

Layouts vs. dioramas

I have always considered myself more of a diorama person than a layput person. But a layout can offer some great opportunities for dramatic depth in the scenes.

Here is a shot of the warehouse in the far background. In the foreground you can see the abutment for a road bridge.

With the bridge in place over the cutting it should be possible to frame the warehouse. Focus stacking will be a must!

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Putting things into context

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The warehouse is going to be part of a scene on the model railroad club of Trondheim (hereafter referred to as TMJK), so it was interesting to stage an image of it in it’s future surroundings. Even if the scenery is far from finished, it gives an idea of how it is going to look. Personally, I think it is going to look quite good, especially if I get those rock faces a decent paint job!