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)

A piece of model railroad history

As an Internet addict I sometimes wonder how much model building I could have done if I had not had access to the web.
It is just so much easier to just spend time surfing one of the many fine model-related websites instead of going down to the workshop and actually build something.

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Unfinished 1:24 live steam engine built in the late thirties by Arne Nordby.

What a contrast to the conditions Arne Nordby suffered when he built this model. Nordby was train driver with the NSB in the late . During the winters he was stationed at Finse as an engineer on snow fighting trains .
It is hard to imagine a more secluded life. No Internet, no cell phone, hardly access to a phone at all. And it could hardly have been many other model railway builders up there in the mountains. So where he found the inspiration to build a “live steam” engine in 1:24 is not easy to understand.

But with unlimited access to the railway workshop and a rather limited choice of leisure time activities it seems like a brilliant idea to dedicate yourself to some serious model building. The model is entirely scratchbuilt of steel, except for the boiler and firebox and which is made of copper. Wheel profiles are what we today would call fine scale. For a railway mechanic this was probably an obvious choice.
Even if Arne never finished the model, I guess this project was a great help for getting through those long dark winter nights at Finse. To me that is a comforting thought!

Finse station (early 1900)

Material vs. Virtual

To the great delight to the app. 2 readers of this blog, here comes the firs update of 2015. Fortunately, there is much more going on in the workshop than this blog reflects.

My modelling interest follow two main tangents, one is the Thamshavn railway in 0m and the other is NSB (Norwegian State Railway) in H0 scale at the local model railroad club.Lately, I am spending more and more time on the TB models. Thats just the way it is, and the reasons are proably not that interesting.

Just before christmas I received the etches for a chassis for a mineal wagon. A long time ago I ordered a batch of custom made wheels for these cars, so In time for the holiday season with the possibility of all nighters in the workshop I had a decent kit for this wagon. It might be a complicated kit with poor instructions, but it is very far from scratchbuilding. I think the difference between building a home made kit and scratchbuilding is quite big.

Underframe for mineral wagon. Etches by PPD ltd, custom made wheels by Erik Olsen

After spending countless evenings making the artwork for the etches is was nice to switch from the keyboard to the soldering iron. Suddenly all the theory is transfered into metallic reality. As on almost all etchings there are some errors, but on th whole the design have proven solid. It is extremly satisfying to erect a working chassis in a couple of evenings.

Underframe for Om wagon

I dont enjoy working on the computer that much, and the virtual models are totally uninteresting in themselves. It is only their potential for manifestating themselves in the material world that makes them interesting to me. I also like that even if the CAD drawings are essential for the etchings, there are very few traces of this digital heritage in the actual model. My modelling skills are sort of an analogue converter that adds quite a bit of “noise” to the finished result.

I dont want my models to be perfect. I want them to look like like they have been made by a craftsman (albeit maybe not a very good one).

But make no mistake, digital production techniques are essential to my modelling. I have already mentioned CAD artwork for etchings. 3D printing is another technique that are at the core of my models. But after a lot of testing I have focused much more on printing individual parts, and not entire models or even subassemblies. I also like to use the prints as masters for casting. Introducing extra stages in production and manually preparing and assemling castings removes the traces of the digital process. And I think it is interesting to use 21th century wax printing technology to make master for lost wax casting, a technique that is over 5000 years old.

Brass casting made from Solidcape wax masters.

Yes, you loose some prescision compared to printing resin parts directly, but in a way, thats the point. The prototypes for my rolling stock were built pre WWII when computers were still only a glimpse in Alan Turings eye. A high-tech feel to the models would not sit right with me.

In the same spirit, I want my models to reflect the materials of the prototype. Nickel-silver and brass to represent steel and cast iron. wood for wood when possible.

Wood & Metal: Test piece for wooden wagon body

As much as I admire the skills of plastic modellers, I still can not shake the feeling that even the best plastic model is 3D painting. Beauty is only skin deep. If the paint is chipped or scratched, the illusion is shattered.

My hope is that my models will not be ruined by a little wear and tear. Maybe you cold call it meta-weathering? Quasi-philosophy, I know. But what would a blog be without it?

First cuts

tb_skjaring_modell

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!

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!

140531_stenexpo_w

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!

Still at it! Progress on the big red one

Almost exactly a year ago I wrote that progress on the big red one is going nowhere fast. How true…

But more work has been carried out than a quick glance might reveal. 

The roof took a lot of work, not to mention the gutters and drainpipes! And those emergency stairs took quite a few hours to get right. 

Also worth mentioning (in my opinion at least) are the plaster parts. Those are abutments for the annex in the back and the drywall front of the loading dock. 

Ok, enough talk, show us the images! Here goes: 

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Closeup of gutter and downpipe. The gutter is from Teknobygg of Sweden, the downpipe is a 1mm brass rod: 

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I also built a little bumper for the siding serving the building. I would have prefered a finer track for the siding, but thee building is to be palced on a club layout where we use Peco code 75 for all track, so thats what I used. 

 

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The warehouse at its future location: 

 

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Ok, lets hope for more posts & better progress in 2014!

 

 

More modelling than blogging

My ambition to update this blog on a regular basis have failed miserably. Those few people that have visited from time to time have probably given up a long time ago.

Fortunately, at least some of the time not spent on the blog have been spent on modelling.

Since finishing my Om engines (see below) I have focused more on H0 scale. I am  a member of the local model railroad club here in Trondheim (Norway), and we are in the process off building a fairly large layout. My main interest is the buildings, and this autumn I have been working on a modl of large warehouse/tramway terminal.

As usual, I underestimated the amount of work it would take to finish this building. The model has a substructure of lasercut plywood clad with board-by-board panelling.

And it is of course the panelling that takes time… I have used more than 150 12″ lengths of Kappler 2″X6″ so far, and in additon some walls have a board and batten cladding made from scribed siding with 1″X4″ battens.  But I am quite happy with the results, and hope to find some time during the holidays to finish the woodwork, at least. A photographic essay follows.

Lasercut plywood substructure
Lasercut plywood substructure
Etched windows
Etched windows with lasercut framing. (Later substituted with stripwood framing)
Finished window
Finished window
Board and Batten Wall
Bored by battens…
Main facade
Main facade, temporarily erected for the photo.
The whole complex
The whole complex

Bob B vs. Bob B


There seems to be an awful lot of Bobs in the field of model railroad publishing. Today we will compare the efforts of Bob the American editor and Bob the English. Bob Brown is the grand old man of Narrow gauge and Shortline Gazette, and probably the longest serving editor of a model railroading publication. Bob Barlow of the Narrow Gauge & Industrial Modelling Review is probably better known for his work as an editor for the Model Railway Journal. The current isse of NG&IMR is only hos second as an editor.

I have been reading NG&SLG on and off since the early eighties, and I have a lot of respect for the effort Bob Brown has put into creating this very beautiful magazine.
But as my interest in actual modelling drifted from American prototypes to Norwegian ones, I expanded my search for good modelling information.
Only a couple of months ago I discovered the NG&IMR. I really do not understand how I could have missed this magazine for so long. As I have said, I am a magazine junkie, and I discovered the Model Railway Journal years ago. I have also been mostly interest in Narrow Gauge modelling, so the NG&IMR is really up my alley. But better late than never, I have now been a subscriber for the last two issues, and I have also bought all the issues back to no. 70.

So how do those magazines compare?
Both are high quality publications with excellent print and paper quality. Maybe NG&SLG is a notch better, even if they have compromised a little bit on the paper quality lately.

I might be a bit unfair in comparing the two magazines. Reading the NG&SLG for so many years have given me an overdose of everything Colorado related, but I have not seen enough of the NG&IMR to feel the same about the Welsh slate haulers. But I have a sneaking feeling that if I get my hands on all the back issues, that could happen!

But the magazines are quite different in important aspects.
Bob the American Editor is very hesistant to print any “foreign” material, while Bob the English Editor is quite interested in printing material on non-GB material.

I think this say more about the readership of NG&SLG than Bob Brown. I think that Bob personally would have loved to print more material based on non-US railroads. But for me as a reader, the reason is not important.

To me, the prototype for the modelling is of far less importance than the quality of the modelling. And a magazine that is open to all kinds of prototypes has a much richer vein to tap into.
Not only does the NG&IMR embrace a wider variety of prototypes, it is very clear that the editors look to other fields of modelling than just model railways for inspiration. A lot of the techniques are clearly inspired by the military modellers. This is a type of cross-pollination that very probably will propel NG&IMR even more ahead of the NG&SLG in the future.

But don’t take my word for it. Pick up both the magazines and head for the armchair. And then let us know what you think!

A tribute to Bob Hegge

I think that most of us can point to quite concrete influences for our choices in modelling. To me, starting to read Model Railroader in 1979 changed everything.
Especially the september issue that year is a major mileestone for me as a modeller. The coverstory in that issue was a big, rugged boxcab electric in 0-scale built by the late Bob Hegge. This model had a tremendous heft and precence that really hit home. Bob´s no-nonsense modelling techniques both in brass and wood made his work look exciting even in the construction phase.
I may have failed to keep things as simple as Bob did, but I still regard him as maybe my biggest influence.

Even if it is more than 30 years between that MR cover and the finishing date for my own boxcab!