Saturday 27 February 2021

Track Works 1:1 Scale #2

Building one's own track naturally makes one curious as to how it was done on real narrow gauge industrial railways. In my last post about real narrow gauge industrial railway track building, I mentioned that the majority of Danish narrow gauge industrial railways saw very limited track works once built. One particular type of industrial railway in contrast, saw repeated laying, dismantling and relaying on a very large scale. In fact the whole rationale behind this type of railway was its ease of constant relaying. The marl transporting lines were supplying the chalk rich marl to farmers' fields in large parts of Denmark between the beginning of the 20th century until the 1930's. The marl was spread on the fields to improve the soil's productive qualities for farming.

Track laying with the help of (the so far) only known narrow gauge track building machine in Denmark. Timeframe probably 1928-1932. The loco is O&K 6283/1913 with 750 mm gauge known as 'The Flying Dutchman'. Thanks to Danish industrial loco expert Bent Hansen for identifying the loco. Image: Jerslev Sogns Lokalhistoriske Forening, B607.

Rather than rely on manual labour for the constant moving of track panels, one marl company used a specially designed and built tracklaying device to ease the burden for the track workers. The above image is the only known photograph of the device. The contraption is obviously based on a long, turning steel profile mounted in a 'turret' on a small wagon or a pair of skip frames. It's equipped with a counter weight to enable a track panel to be picked up with chains from behind the device, swung to the side and propelled forward along the profile, reaching in front of the track. Working from this principle the device could lay as well as pick up track panels, making the process of reaching the farmers' field with the marl much easier than with a purely manual handling of the track panels.

Wednesday 17 February 2021

Chief Mechanic Thorleif Petersen

Thorleif Petersen was chief mechanic and workshop manager at Nystrup Gravel in the 1940's to well into the late 1950's. Now he is once again keeping a watchful eye on all things mechanical at the gravel company, only in 1/19 scale. He is a 3D-printed figure from Modelu, item 1446 sold as 'Fitter with tea'. 

My interpretation of Thorleif Petersen, workshop manager at Nystrup Gravel here seen standing in front of the petrol pump.

Born in Copenhagen and trained as a mechanic at the Burmeister & Wain shipyard, Thorleif went to fight in the Spanish civil war as a volunteer. Upon his return to Denmark he looked for employment away from the capital and began working for Nystrup Gravel. He kept his socialist preferences and was part of a communist resistance group during the German occupation between 1940-1945. He and his group conducted small scale sabotage against the Germans around Nystrup. They even teamed up with a conservative resistance group and built the largest home made armoured car used during the liberation.

Modelu figure 1446 in a computerized illustration. I like the relaxed stance, coffee cup in one hand and the other in the pocket. Photo: Modelu website.

Modelu's figure is of the usual quality needing very careful painting to do satisfactory service in my 1/19 scale world. Where details were soft or lacking I tried to add them with files, sandpaper and a sharp scalpel. I mostly worked on the line between shoes and trousers that was very weakly defined.  Basically the work was no different to the work I did on my first Modelu figure back in 2018. Where weak definition of detail coulden't be fixed with hand tools alone, I tried to fix things with paint. My Thorleif-figure is painted in Vallejo Acrylic 963 'Medium Blue' for the overall, 70983 'Flat Earth' for the trousers and 860 'Medium Flesh' for the skin areas. Shirt is white, shoes dark brown and his cloth cap a home mixed light grey-brown. Folds in clothing were accentuated with a darkened colour in the bottom of the fold and a lightened colour on top of the fold.

Figure just out of the package and set up on the photo plank.

On the work table after treatment with files and scalpel. Three buttons fitted to the overall from thin plasticcard. Before being primed the figure was washed in warm water and allowed to fully dry.

After a thin layer of black primer, the main colours have been brushed on. A lot of work still remain.

The final brush strokes have been added. After a layer of matt varnish I added some general dirt, dust and oily spots to overall and boots. I'm no Claudia Everett-like master figure painter, but placed in the shadow of a building in the background I'm sure the figure will add some life to my little layout.

Thorleif Petersen was instrumental in keeping the gravel company's production running through the difficult years during the occupation, as well as the years immediately after. Somewhat paradoxically he made it possible for Nystrup Gravel to provide large amounts of gravel for the German airforce's huge air field, while he was also actively restisting the occupants. Always a loyal employee, he used his knowledge to help Nystrup Gravel to aquire all sorts of mechanical equipment cheaply. 

"Did you remember to oil the chain drive?" Always observant to correct maintenance and proper use of machinery, Thorleif spared no effort to instruct employees. Not all of them were used to treat equipment with care.

After the war, many from Thorleif's German network rose to management roles in the Soviet occupation zone in Germany - later to become the Deutsche Demokratische Republik. He attended several political schools in DDR and took engineering courses in Karl Marx Stadt as well. The Soviet invasion in Hungary in 1956 made Thorleif leave the communist party, but he remained firmly devoted to socialist values.

The early spring sun is casting long shadows on the brick shed, while Thorleif and worker Kjeld Hansen admires a Vespa poster - and the bikini clad driver. Thorleif was a devoted coffee drinker, seldom seen without his green enamel cup in hand.

Many years after his death Thorleif continues to inspire my modelling. His family has kindly handed over a stream of documents, photographs and items originating from Nystrup Gravel. Some of the information has been truely revolutionary in the way it has helped write small scale Danish industrial railway history.

Friday 12 February 2021

Electric Train Service Erratic

New sign in the collection comes in very handy, as the current track work is making train services somewhat irregular at Nystrup Gravel.

Old sign from The Danish State Railways saying 'The electric train service is erratic'. 

Tuesday 9 February 2021

Track Plan

Despite having had two posts lately about my track building, I haven't revealed the track plan for my small Nystrup Gravel layout. 1/19 scale requires a lot of space and consequently the track plan is extremely simple.

A simple pencilled sketch of the track plan with a few major objects inserted.

The line from the gravel pits enter at right. Loaded trains are taken through the relief building to be emptied, the gravel sorted and treated. Gravel for lorry transport is taken by skips to the loading ramp. As the layout is currently positioned, running will only be possible on the visible tracks as there is no room for fiddle yard tracks in either end of the module. In the future a move to another room in the house may be a possibility, and that will enable both enlargement of the layout and installing fiddle yards.

Back in 2019 I published a hand drawn map of the Nystrup Gravel lines from the gravel sorting facility in Nystrup to pits located to the east of the town. The map may help to get an idea of the scale and operation of the gravel line.

The track plan is a destilate of the real Nystrup Gravel facility in Nystrup. It too was streched out over some distance with the lorry loading ramp at an angle. I will never be able to recreate the number of tracks and every building from the prototype in 1/19 scale. A few tracks and some structures are fine, though. I've never been a fast modeller, and having a large layout has never appealed to me.

Here is a photo of the layout in its current state. It should help to interpret the track plan.

Friday 5 February 2021

Turnout and More Track

Next stage in track building for the Nystrup Gravel layout has been accomplished. The track that in daily use among the workers was called 'straight ahead' and used for storing surplus skips, has almost been finished as far as track laying concerns. I still need to solder on etched fish plates, but can't find my fancy folding tool needed to make the necessary bends to the fish plates.

Model track just as uneven as I aimed for. Sidings at the gravel sorting and lorry loading area in Nystrup wasn't maintained unless skips and locomotives began to derail.

After having made the first length of track in January, I carried on adjusting and connecting the Peco turnout. To make the turnout fit my primitive industrial line a little better, I replaced the switching mechanism with a simple piece of brass soldered to each tongue connected to the point lever with a piece of heavy NS wire. The original Peco plastic sleepers in the tongue section of the turnout were removed and replaced with wooden sleepers fitted to home made slide chairs from brass soldered to the stock rails.

The toe end of my rebuilt Peco turnout with rail ends masked before a quick blast of black primer from a rattle can.

With the turnout positioned and spiked, I fitted the long sleeper to hold the point lever. With a length of heavy NS wire I made a connecting rod from point lever to the tie bar. It turned out that I needed to do some resoldering of the tie bar to obtain the right amount of throw. The point lever still needs some final adjustments and painting before it can be fitted to its sleeper and connected to the turnout.

Sleepers and rails positioned with track gauges ready for the last half hour of spiking before the job is done.

Once the turnout was spiked I added further sleepers for the track nearest the baseboard edge. The sleepers were laid out with my sleeper spacing wooden block, their positions marked with a pencil and the sleepers fixed to the cork trackbed with white glue. I tried to represent a rather neglected siding with kinks and uneveness and I also added two fence post-type sleepers to create variety. 

Using the best parts of discarded sleepers to create new ones. Well, not quite new ones, but usable ones. With inspiration from 'Feldbahnen' by Paul Roloff I have built a few of these into my track.

With blue sky, sun and a nice covering of snow in the garden, I took the module outside on a pair of trestles for a short photography session. The large models in 1:19 scale benefits from the natural light and I don't have to worry about setting up artificial light.


Short video of the first test run on my newly finished track.

The garden is covered in snow and the module is also mostly white. I hope to see the layout covered in a new colour as spring arrives.

There is more track laying on the programme for me during Feburary, but I have also planned some work on a new figure that needs a bit of clean up and painting.