Friday 12 July 2024

Landscaping Near Building

Long time followers of this blog will know that I like to model outside. Sometimes out in the open while the barbeque heats up or when weather and type of modelling project makes sense. During the last few weeks one of the two segments making up my Nystrup Gravel layout has been sitting on a pair of trestles under the roof of my double carport. A convenient place for many things (We usually only park the car there during winter). I haven't spent long evenings modelling, but 10 minutes here and there adds up.

Outdoor modelling in the carport a warm summer evening. I'm adding grass tufts in the point to the left as preparation for ballasting.

I have primarily been adding grass to the rear of the layout and around the relief building, building a wooden floor to the entrance area of the large wooden building and ballasting a point. I added static grass with my RTS Greenkeeper. Besides getting a tolerable cover of light green grass on the layout up against the backscene, I experimented with adding another layer of static grass on top of the first. I want part of the layout covered in tall thin grass and having the 12 mm static grass fibres stand 'on top' of each other creates visibly higher grass cover. Not 24 mm but recognizably higher than 12 mm. Detailed study of the results once the glue has fully dried will determine if the method works for me.

Adding static grass near the relief building and flooring at the entrance. The still wet glue is visible in the upper left corner.

Since the large wooden relief building was placed on the layout in 2022, I have wanted to add a wooden floor in the large entrance door. Not that much is visible when the layout sits in its usual place in my workshop/library, but I like that type of detail for close up viewing or photography. The floor was built from scraps of wood and some coffee stirring sticks coloured with dark grey stain dissolved in tap water. The scraps were used as a foundation to build up the floor area and correct length stirring sticks then glued down as visible flooring. A little gravel to make a smooth transition between floor and ballast as well as some light weathering finished off the work..

The complete flooring placed in the door opening of the large wooden building. Just some weathering before it's finished. The slight gap in the building's backplate over the floor can't be seen when the layout is installed in the workshop/library room.

Wood stain was applied carefully to keep the colour on the light and faded side. 

With the layout segment set up easily accessible from all sides in the carport I finally got round to ballast the first turnout on the layout. My last session with ground covering work had reached the turnout, where quite a lot of work had to be done. When I laid the track on the layout in 2021 I rebuilt the standard Peco points with wooden sleepers. For a minimum of risk I decided to keep the plastic sleepers in the frog section. To achieve some kind of uniformity between wooden and plastic sleepers the black Peco sleepers recieved a layer of acrylic medium grey paint and a thin wash of raw umber oil paint before any other work started. My layout is built from light materials and due to the plastic sleepers' height a lot of ballast would be necessary potentially challenging my idea of a light layout. As a weight saving measure I added strips of left over 2.5 mm foamboard between the sleepers. This allows me to use a much thinner layer of sieved gravel to achieve a realistic ballast profile - and keep the layout comparatively light. Before ballasting I added a number of grass tufts in the track. I ballast my track in the old fashioned way of adding gravel dry, adjusting it with a soft brush and then flooding the ballast with a thin mix of water, PVA glue and washing up liquid.

Close-up of a Peco turnout partly rebuilt with wooden sleepers. For a minimum of risk I kept the plastic sleepers in the frog section. The sleepers are painted medium grey with a thin wash of raw umber oil paint. 

As a weight saving measure I'm inserting scrap pieces of foamboard between the sleepers. The Peco plastic sleepers are higher than the wooden sleepers in the hand built track, requiring more ballast. Ballast weighs a lot in 1/19 scale and the light foamboard acts as a filler saving weight.

Ballasting in progress. The ballast to the right has just been flooded with a mix of tap water and white glue. The dry ballast center has been roughly levelled with a brush and will now be dressed with a mix of small stones before being glued.

With the layout back in its usual place I could enjoy a layout with two thirds of the surface covered with a kind of realistic cover rather than the painted kitchen rags that have making up the surface for far too long. Maybe the layout will be completely covered (not finished!) by year's end?

The left end of the layout is soon looking like more like a semi-finished model railway than the naked landscape of painted kitchen rags. Still a lot to do adding more vegetation and small details.

In this view from the newly ballasted turnout the wooden building towers over the small train. Just as it is supposed to!

My vacation is fast approaching and I will probably be taking a small modelling project or two with me in our summer cottage. If I will make any progress remains to be seen.

Monday 8 July 2024

Terrible Modelling

This is not about terrible modelling quality, but of modelling a terrible prototype: Human beings being gassed to death in a death camp. The model is not just any model, but a model exhibited in the Auschwitz I concentration camp near Krakow in Poland. The model is built to illustrate the process of assembly, undressing, killing and cremating over 1 mio (in Auschwitz alone!) Jews and people that the Nazi regime didn't like. A broad group of e.g. homosexuals, communists, trade unionists, Soviet POWs, Romas and mentally ill, but primarily Jews. 

In white the whole industrial killing facility is understated and the figures are anonymous. Yet it is easy to imagine yourself and your family waiting at the entrance of the undressing room. A pile of Zyklon B pellets is located in front of the diorama.  

How anyone has picked up strength to build a detailed model of the underground undressing room and gas chamber filled with struggling and dying humans is beyond my grasp. The cut-away building showing the crematorium is almost peacefully horrific compared to the other two heartbreakingly gruesome scenes. 

The diorama is L-shaped measuring approximately 8 by 5 meters. Scale is 1/15 and the diorama contains more than 300 full figures and even more modelled in relief and half hidden in the depths of the constructions. The figures may be partly built from commercial parts, but most are individually made and posed (as far as I could see through watery eyes).

I have mentioned historic models and dioramas before and the Auschwitz diorama is probably the most terrible model I have ever seen. No builder is mentioned on the display, but the modeller is Mieczyslaw Stobierski, who made the large diorama in 1948 for the Auschwitz Museum. Much later three copies of the diorama were made for the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C., the Deutsches Historisches Museum in Berlin, and the Yad Vashem Museum in Jerusalem. On this website a detailed description of the diorama can be found. 

At the 'Neue Judenrampe' at Birkenau a single G10 goods wagon stands as a symbol of the thousands of railway wagon that brought people from all directions in the German occupied territories to KZ and death camps.

Apart from the museum at Auschwitz I, I also visited the huge Auschwitz II (Birkenau) extermination camp. Despite have read a lot about the location, I hadn't imagined the size to be so overwhelmingly large. I think that only a visit can truely give an impression of the utter evil committed here.

If you have the chance, visit the Auschwitz Museum. It's a terrible experience, but sometimes that is just what is needed to beef up one's humanity - so easily being chipped away by fake news and confrontational social media.

Sunday 30 June 2024

TU7 and Closed Goods Wagons in 1/87 Scale

The packages from Ukraine keeps arriving, bringing my supplies for a little diorama of a mining location in Eastern Europe to new levels. This time I shopped at Retro Trains Models in Kryvyi Rih in the Donetsk region. The order took no more than a week and a half to travel from Eastern Ukraine to Denmark. Parcels from the UK often have longer shipping time.

Two goods wagons, a TU7 and a Tomytec drive unit have arrived on my work table.

RTM produce high quality resin kits of 1520 mm standard gauge Ukrainian locomotives (that would be broad gauge to us) as well as an expanding series of narrow gauge loco and rolling stock. The level of detail is quite high and the TU7 kit has more parts than my 1/19 Lister (even when counting all the parts I added myself). I think that illustrates the level of detail possible in the RTM kits. If I will manage to apply all those very tiny parts neatly remains to be seen!

Data sheet of a TU7A. Despite being in Russian, most railway enthusiasts should be able to interpret the info and see that this is not a tiny narrow gauge locomotive. 

The TU7 type was developed in 1971/72 at the Kambarka Engineering Works to replace the company's older 750 mm gauge locomotive types TU4 and TU2. The type is still in production at Kambarka, although in an updated version (TU7A) introduced in 1986. The production of TU7 reached well over 3000 units and several hundred were exported to e.g. Cuba and Vietnam. The TU7 was designed for use on on gauges ranging from 750 mm to 1435 mm and standard gauge. Cuba received standard gauge TU7s while the Vietnamese ones were 1000 mm. Like the TU4s at Western European heritage lines, a TU7 has also found its way west, as the 603 mm gauged Brecon Mountain Railway in Wales acquired TU7-1698 from Latvia in 2010. The TU7 is a versatile construction fitting in on railways with gauges varying from 600 to 1435 mm gauge! 

TU7 at Tver Construction Material, 180 km northeast of Moscow. As usual the gauge is 750 mm. Photo: Ilja Semonof.

The RTM TU7 is a resin kit with a high level of detail and designed to fit on the Tomytec TM-21. While the recently bought TU4 will be a static model the Tomytec drive unit will enable me to build a functional locomotive. 

A simple design with single end cab. Fault free casting with no flash at all. Test assembly of a few major parts shows a perfect fit. 

Well packed kit with an impressive decal sheet.

To accompany the TU4 and TU7 a few wagons was in order and I selected two closed goods wagons built by Demikhovo Engineering Works (Демиховский Машиностроительный Завод, ДМЗ) in Demikhov near Moscow. The plant was founded in the Soviet Union in the 1930's building machines for the peat industri including bogie hoppers by the thousands. Today the company is Russia's main producer of EMU's. The prototype goods wagons seems to be a type built from 1965 and into the 1980's with a load capacity of 20 t. From photographs and a single drawing the RTM kit looks very close to prototype. As the TU7 kit the wagons have lots of fiddly parts and a high level of detail.  

The RTM kit's upper body test fitted on the combined frame and floor part. A rather long 750 mm gauge goods wagon, but still a quite small model (compared to what I usually build).

The sudden investment i H0e models of Soviet prototypes is not a sign of a change of scale, but merely meant to be an enjoyable side show allowing me to model another field of interest in a much smaller scale. The Nystrup Gravel project moves on in its usual slow pace hampered by the usual time limiting factors of life (not that I'm complaining). This week I have been working (10 minutes or something) on track detailing before adding vegetation and ballast. 

Close-up of a Peco point partly rebuilt with wooden sleepers. As I rebuilt the two points, the frog sections kept their plastic sleepers. On one of the points the sleepers have now received a layer of medium grey paint. The upper right part has also had a thin wash of raw umber oil paint. Further weathering will hopefully help the plastic sleepers to blend into the rest of the hand built track on the layout.

Monday 10 June 2024

TU4 Diesel Locomotive in 1/87 Scale

My little adventure exploring Soviet narrow gauge in 1/87 scale continues to haunt me. I have aquired Peco H0e track and points for a small diorama, mining equipment in H0f and now a resin kit of the classic Soviet narrow gauge diesel locomotive TU4 has arrived from Ukraine.

TU4-2620 at the Peregruzochnaya 'Station' on the Pishchalskoye peat line in Kirov Oblast, 2018. Photo: Igor Kaisin.

As the PD-1 draisines the TU4 is a kit from K-Model in Kyiv via eBay. 'Haven't Ukrainians more urgent things to do than making resin kits of narrow gauge locomotives these days?' many may ask. Yes, there is a war going on, but Ukraine is a huge country and the economy is still working despite difficulties like temporary power shortages and more than a million men and women in the military. Pubs were open in Britain during the 'Blitz' so obviously miniature models can be produced in Ukraine during wartime, too. 

The TU4 kit is unmotorised and cast in good quality resin. There are small amounts of flash to be cleaned away, but nothing a semi-experienced modeller can't handle. I have found no warping or air bubbles in the castings. Most of the parts are quite small as can be expected in 1/87 scale. I'm quite sure it is possible to motorise the model using a N-scale diesel mechanism. My plans for the kit have yet to be formulated, but most likely the kit will end up a static model on a siding on a small mining diorama.

The kit's cardboard box. Although sold by K-Model it says SK Trains on the box lid.

The box contains three zip-lock bags with parts.

The major parts laid out on the cutting mat. The loco is shorter than a logging bogie in 1/19 scale!

Loco body and frame. Nice clean castings with very thing flash to be removed.

The first TU4 was built in 1962 (first prototype built 1958) at the Kambarka Engineering Works (КМЗ, Камбарский машиностроительный завод) in the Soviet Union. 3210 TU4 locomotives were produced until 1974, most of them in the Soviet standard narrow gauge 750 mm. The locomotives were (and are still) used on many narrow-gauge railways serving industries like logging, peat extraction and minerals. Regular narrow gauge lines in Ukraine had TU4 locos in service into the beginning of the 21. century.

TY4-1417 in a configuration looking very much like the K-Model resin kit. Image from USSR, 1970's.

With a production that size a number of changes occured to the design and 4 major subtypes of TU4 locos has been identified. It's mostly subtle external differences, like window shape, placement of headlights etc. and due to rebuilds and swapping parts at repairs there are often many individual differencies. The K-Model kit seems to be of a mid-production TU4 differring clearly from the first 200 produced and the last 1000, some of which had a TU5 cab.

TU4 production was distributed all over the Soviet Union and lately examples have been exported to vintage railways in e.g. Finland and Sweden. Here is Östra Södermanlands Järnväg's no 21 imported from the Haivoron line in Ukraine and rebuilt/regauged to 600 mm. Here shunting at Mariefred Station in 2023.

The kit parts go back in the box as I currently haven't time for yet another project. But I like to know the kit is safely in my stash for the future. One never knows with small kit companies, particularly those located in countries attacked by Russia.

Sunday 9 June 2024

Ground Cover Spreading Slowly

Due to a heavy workload at work, I have had precious little time for modelling. My only achievement has been minor work on the ground cover at the bottom of the gradient to the lorry loading ramp. Gravel and used ground coffee was glued down with PVA glue followed by different lengths and colours of static grass. The method I use is as old as modern railway modelling and I have described it before. Next up is ballasting the first point, something that will take several types of work.

Ground cover is slowly spreading. Only to be mostly covered again with vegetation.

Most of the gradient to the lorry loading ramp now has a first covering of static grass. 

More productive modellers will probably laugh at my speed of progress. But I am not in any great hurry to finish my little layout. I want to finish it and I like to be productive, but I have work, volunteering and a family to take care of. Modelling comes last. 

Practicing another of my hobbies: running a 5 km long 700 mm narrow gauge vintage railway. Ballast raking in progress. Frequent raking of the ballast helps keep the weeds at bay without pesticides.

Friday 31 May 2024

More Modelu Figures

In early May I received new Modelu figures to test as drivers in Nystrup Gravel's Fowler diesel. A lot more was in the package and I also mentioned the figures being sorrounded by supporting web of thin posts. They help the figure to remain firmly supported during printing and initial curing. Here is a closer look of how Modelu figures are looking before the supports are removed.

The two additional figures from the Modelu double figure sets 11208 and 11219 figures and a fox from set 31101. The maze of support sprues are evident. Unfortunately the right figure's right thumb seems to have suffered a fracture not even the supports could avoid.

The supports are easy to remove and shouldn't keep anyone away from investiong in one or several of Modelu's excellent large scale figures. I would count the Modelu figures as one of the most influential additions to 1/19 scale railway modelling. Modelu's figures are light years better than the usual caricature garden railway figures. They may be good enough in the garden, but on a small indoor layout like mine... never!

Apart from the loco crew I had the following sets added to the package:

0134 'Man with spade'

0148 'Man Kneeling'

31101 'Foxes'

'Man with spade' will be a good representation of track worker having been at work tamping a few sleepers with the spade. 'Man kneeling' could be representing a mechanic tending to a problem on a loco with a few tools laid on a piece of old cloth beside him.

Apart from the selected loco driver and a single fox the rest of the figures go back in a cardboard box for storage. I have plenty of other projects.

Sunday 19 May 2024

Playing Trains on the Porch

We've had lovely weather in Denmark for the last few weeks. While I like to model outside, I rarely run trains outdoors. Having finished a day's programme in the garden I fancied playing trains on the porch. I got out some Loco Remote straight track panels for a short length of track. The Lister was an obvious choice for propelling a U-tub steel skip back and forth. The birds were twittering and I had a glass of chilled rosé ready.

A small 1/19 scale model train on my porch.

The warm and quiet late afternoon had a good light and I took the chance to make a short film. Besides the sound of birds there isn't much sound on the film. I like the movement of the track panels where they cross some of the unevenness in the porch. It looks exactly how real track panels move in reality.


While I love to model and build stuff it's quite nice now and the to just sit and watch a simple train move back and forth on a length of track.