Saturday, May 28, 2016


A couple of hours south of Hamburg by car, is this quiet little town called Bad Driburg. Wikipedia calls it a "spa" town, but I'm far more intrigued by what's been built in the old freight shed across the tracks from the railway station.
Inside this unremarkable structure is some rather remarkable work.
A beautifully executed, fully automated model railway, with strong leanings towards prototype modeling.
Many of the locations and at least 2 of the towns modeled are based upon actual locations in the area.
Here's a sampling of some of the work;

And the prototype roundhouse still stands;
If you're ever over there, take the time to visit. In some respects it's more fun than MiniatureWonderland in Hamburg. But that's for another day.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

A whole new level of Prototype Modeling

While over in Germany I was taken to visit the home layout of Martin Mieburg.
He has really raised the bar on prototype modeling. It`s not enough that he`s doing it a rarer scale, 1/32 also known as #1 Gauge, he's doing it outdoors.
Martin is modeling a shortline from the Wuppertal-Begenburg region in his back yard.
Shown here is the station with most of the track roughly in place. Martin has eschewed toy like garden railway curves and turnouts and has prototypical sized items installed.

 Martin has been experimenting and discovering techniques and materials that do and don't work in an outdoor environment. Little things like ballast. Ballast in this situation has to perform the actual task it's meant for. Drainage control and track securing. Yet heavy rain can wash scale ballast away.
Thus ballast maintenance is an ongoing task.

For whatever reason, Martin has found that radio control is not a satisfactory option for his layout, so he's running current in the rails like an interior layout. Which means keeping the rails clean is important. You would think that that would be a losing battle, but by using stainless steel rail, Martin only cleans his rail twice a year. Now the stainless presents it's own set of challenges, like soldering rail feeders. There Martin has turned to industry and studied what is done in the real world with electrical connections in harsh conditions and has replicated those processes.

The rolling stock is a delight to behold. Magnificent models with lots of detail to behold. And the loop and screw couplers are fully functional.
I'm very much looking forward to seeing more photos as this labour of love progresses.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

This just in!

Overnight I got an email from my Friend and Fremo host in Germany. In the email were a series of links to;
The PDF of the entire Cloppenburg Fremo setup, including the HO scale narrow gauge and the O scale narrow gauge on the mezzanine;

A set of links to various photo galleries of the entire event;

And for the truly brave, a link to all the paperwork generated by the planning process,
you're on your own for translations;

Thomas Woditsch is a long time Fremo member who was responsible for the track plan and the entire operating scheme, schedule for the Cloppenburg HO scale layout. There were months of preparation involved to get the planning done. Thanks Thomas.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Happy, Happy, Joy, Joy!

I picked up the replacement frame today for the Bachmann Consolidation.
And it was indeed the correct part that I was looking for.
My thanks goes out to the fine soul in the Bachmann parts department who made a small effort for me and got what I needed.
So the engine is now back together.
 And sits on the programming track awaiting me to sort out the programmer. Bought a new laptop and the drivers aren't all installed yet. Not loving Windows 10 yet either, BTW.
I'm actually quite pleased to have this unit back in the roster. Once it's programmed and I get the work train built it'll be a nice variation from the F-7s.
This is the old frame. It was snapping into pieces as I handled it to extract the drivers.
Zamac poisoning indeed!

More stunning scenery from the other side of the pond

I actually had the privilege of taking in 2 Fremo events while I was over in Germany. The first one we went to was a smaller affair in a very pretty town called Petersburg.
There we met up with a few fellows engaging in Fremo operations, and again some really stunning modules with very nice scenery.

For me though, the highlight was a station module with a beautifully rendered filled in ravine.
Walburg is actually copied from a prototype with little or no compression and features a functioning hump yard.

The neat thing about these older German hump yards is that they didn't use retarders to slow the cars. Rather there was a worker for ever track and he had a supply of "rail stops" that he put down on the rail to stop the cars. He would then put his shoulder into the car to shove it against the preceding car and the consist would be built. I watched an old film of this happening and it was a sight to behold.
If I hadn't seen it, I wouldn't have believed it.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Some of my favorite bits of scenery

As I've said already, the quality of work that one sees on Fremo modules is remarkable.
The Europeans seem to be slightly ahead of us on this side of the pond when comes to the variety of scenery materials available to the modeler. Now Scenic Express is working very hard to fill that gap, to which I'm very grateful.
I've chosen a selection of some of my favorite scenes to share with you, that may help inspire you in your own efforts. I know I'm thinking had about my processes as a result of these images.

Later I'll share images from the other Fremo meet we attended, which has some really nice scenery as well.

Now this is Cool!

This little video clip shows a feature available on some European models;
What you`re seeing is a 3 axle switcher shove a cut of cars and then F2 was double tapped in the controller. The coupler disengages and then the loco rolls back a little bit and stops.
This feature works on either end of the unit, as well as being available to couple onto a cut of cars.
I found that I was using that feature quite a lot while switching cars in the station area of Holstedt, the Fremo module set created by Dieter Petschallies, the father of my friend in Hamburg who was also my host for the 2 weeks I was in Germany.
Here`s a couple more images of Holstedt for you.
More posts to come today perhaps.

Friday, May 13, 2016

I confess

I have a real soft spot for German steam locomotives, and my Fremo forays helped scratch that itch.
I love the black boilers and cabs with the red frames and wheels.

And German modelers are blessed with a huge array of well built and well running HO scale models. I've been told that most of the German steam locomotives are available as models. We should have such problems over here in North America!
For some time now I've owned a very charming German train consist.
This loco is nick named "Der Glashaus", or the "Glass House". It is an actual very correct model of a prototype created for servicing the multitude of Bavarian short branchlines. 6-8 kilometers long. The loco was designed to be run by one man, no fire man. Thus the coal hopper you can see. The consist is very accurate compared to the photos I've seen.
But one is never enough. So I came home with a model of my favorite German locomotive. The 86 class.
This Mikado wheel arrangement as a tank engine just turns my crank. There were over 800 of these units at one time. This was a lucky find. I got it cheap. Now to talk to my friends at LokSound and get a proper sound decoder installed.
The plan is now to create a German vignette, with these models and some German style structures, just for something different.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Welcome to the Fremo-drome!

It has to be seen to be truly believed.
I'm home now after 2 wonderful weeks in Germany. Lots of things were seen and done, but the main event was the Fremo meet in Cloppenburg.
Imagine a hall the size of 3 basketball courts side by each. Fill it with some the finest modeling one can see under one roof and then run trains to a carefully designed timetable for 2.5 days and then take it all down and go home.
That's just scratching the surface of the Fremo experience. I have lots of blog fodder from this trip and over the next couple of weeks I'll be sharing much of my trip with you.
But since I'm still a little bit on European time I will just cover the setup.
This was the hall at 9:30 am on the Thursday. As you can see a few modules are in the building. There are drawings of the full plan in a few strategic locations, telling the module owners where they setup. For now pay no attention to the surrounding mezzanine, we'll come back to that.
By noon about 60% of the modules are in the building and assembly is underway.
By 4:00 pm all modules are in place and are being electrically connected, as well as the LocoNet being connected. A small team is also going around and setting up the fast clocks and connecting them to the master controller, so operators can easily see the "time" from many locations.
All told there were over 227 individual modules, from about 50 different owners from Germany and Holland at this meet.
On the Friday operations began. A session would last about 3 hours with over 130 trains run from various staging yards and traveling through a number junctions and supplying many online industries.
There were 3 sessions on Friday and Saturday, with one session on Sunday then it was packup time.
All told there had to have been over 150 Fremo members taking part
Remember the mezzanine?
Well this space and the bit around the corner to the far right was filled with HO European narrow gauge and some standard gauge interchange. All told these guys had some 200+ meters of mainline to play with. I'd show more pictures but they've magically disappeared from my various devices. (Grumble)
I'll be sharing more as the weeks progress, for now, let me just say I had a great time, saw some great modeling and reconnected with some great people.
Thanks to all my Fremo friends!