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Die Ercallbahn - Fulfilling a childhood dream.

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Progress at Schönblick.




The station building is now in place. Gleis 1 has a wide range of facilities including a clock, next train indicator and timetables. There is also a notice, but I will come back to that when we discuss Gleis 2. The next train indicator always shows a passenger train to Neustadt - even on those rare occasions when it isn't.


The lighting cables are rather obvious. My defence is that when I was installing them the building was to be viewed from the street side. Ah well, at least there are lights.





I wasn't sure if I should install some walkways for the carriage cleaners but having unearthed some in the stockpile the cleaning crew wholeheartedly approved of them. I'll have to make up an infill.





One of the crew is tinkering in the shed trying to get the water pump to work. It won't help as the hose has become disconnected.

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As you can see Glies 2 is devoid of anything except lights. Being Germany there is, of course, a perfectly logical reason for this.


You may recall that the residents of Gipfeldorf and Schönblick don't get on. As Gleis 2 is for trains to Gipfeldorf and no right-minded Schönblicker would want to go there, there is no point in providing facilities. The only reason that there are lights is to aid Schönblickers returning from the junction.


This brings us back to the sign on Gleis 1 that I mentioned in the last post.





It reads 'Passengers must no cross the line' (albeit in German) - despite there being no way to access Gleis 2 other than by using the two boarded crossings. There is no equivalent sign on Gleis 2 thus any arriving Schönblicker can cross the line with impunity whilst a departing Gipfeldorfer must wrestle with his conscience and bear the guilt of disobedience. Mind you, the Gipfeldorfers don't tend to go to Schönblick  anyway so it is a moot point.





With the overall roof on the station looks more imposing.





And with the lights on it is even better.

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Meanwhile today I put this together:




The two halves of the tank don't quite align and the only way to smooth the seam would involve painting it afterwards - which is verboten in the Ercallverse (along with weathering). I have another of these to build - but one from when the world was young so it will be interesting to see how they compare.


This one will live at Neustadt to slake the thirst of the railbus and the diesel that works the local freight out of Maifeld. The other will be at Billshafen for the dock shunter.

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Well, that was interesting.


The kit from the stash that Noah took with him on the ark had less flash. Fit of parts was the same. The fuel hose was much thinner - and fitted in the hole in the side of the pump and holder - it also bent easier and took up a more natural curve. The colours are more pronounced - the old kit has a silvery sank whilst the new one is a more matt light grey. The older one came with different stickers (on paper, the new ones are on transparent film) but included 'No smoking' signs - strangely absent from the modern one. The old one also came in a much smaller box!


Given that the newer kit's colours are more washed out that will go to the docks (the effect of the sea air) and the older one to Neustadt.

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It was supposed to be quick and easy. Put down Faller self-adhesive cobbles, cut away the spaces for the buildings and pavements, stick them down, add street lights, wire it all up and plonk behind the station.

What could possibly go wrong?


Firstly - if you are ever tempted to use the Faller self-adhesive cobbles (Faller 170646) resist the siren calls. They are printed on a thin foam sheet backed by a very tenacious adhesive. Any attempt to adjust or move them once they have so much as brushed the surface will result in stretching the sheet and inevitable disaster. Laying a small length and then removing the backing paper from the next few inches stretches the sheet. Removing all the backing paper and trying to lay the whole piece at once is a nightmare. I needed, and acquired, two rolls which would cover the base in two pieces with lots left over. The first piece went down relatively easily, lining up the second caused problems and the process descended quickly into farce and bad language. This was followed by a hiatus awaiting the arrival of a third roll which turned out to be noticeably different in colour. Still, nil desperandum, eh?


If getting the stuff down was tricky, lifting it takes things to a whole new level. I placed the building on the far right of the board and cut around it. You can't see the cuts in the foam and as you try to pull it away the printed layer separates from the adhesive layer, streches and breaks. You are left grubbing it up bit by bit with your fingernails. This can result in some damage to the stuff that you want to keep and takes ages.


In comparison the right-hand building was childs play. Cut a large hole in the wall facing the backscene, create a roof for one of the shop units (a cafe), add an SMD LED with wires out through the hole (all this because with an interior light the whole building gave an errie glow). Stick down, place paving, cut to length, cut foam, pick away at foam, glue pavement down, drill hole for street lamp, cut down street lamp column to a more reasonable height, put in hole.


It got easier after that, although no less tedious. By the time I got this far (some of the ironwork from the building that surrounds the pillar has got knocked off and needs replacing) the 'hobbit house' on the left hand end had begun to grate and will need to be replaced. Early HO plastic kits were often to TT or smaller scale and this just looks wrong. So that will be another pause whilst a substitute is found.


Deep joy.:sad_mini:

Edited by ian
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We needed new lights for the kitchen so I described the benefits of LED panels to SWMBO and was under the impression that she had agreed to them. One look at them on arrival and she issued a nolle prosequi so they are going to replace the florescent tubes in the garage (aka layout room). With one in place (but awaiting trunking for the cable) the contrast is staggering - a real improvement and a definite win - even if the kitchen does still resemble the darker reaches of a cavern. The photo doesn't do the new panel justice - I am really impressed.


Anyway, it is about time we caught up with some of the residents of the Ercallverse.




A new (well, old) water crane has been installed at Gipfeldorf.


This was due to a couple of instances where a crew had to do an emergency top-up at Schȍnblick which messed up the schedule something rotten. To be fair to the crew, like the crane, they are hand-me-downs having been displaced from the main line by the on-going demise of steam. A bummel up the steeply graded branch with a few wagons to shuffle around on the way is a very different affair to a long steady freight drag on the main and on some of their early outings they were a bit heavy on the fuel and water. The good news is that they have now gone local and embraced parsimony as a way of life. The various railway staff on the branch have long reckoned that not drawing attention to themselves is the best way to ensure their survival - and not making claims on the corporate purse is a central tenet of that philosophy.

Back to the crane. It was rendered surplus elsewhere on the network and was diverted to the branch instead of being scrapped. Needless to say Herr Bolwieser is not happy about it and demanded that someone come up from Schȍnblick to sort it out. Now, water cranes are definitely not in Andreas's remit but, due to the admin staff playing at drinking game last night at Alfredo's Pizzeria he has got the dubious pleasure of listening to Herr B listing the problems with the crane, wet ballast, loco crews, running costs and myriad other topics. The bottom line is that Herr B will get it off his chest, the crane will stay and Andreas will go teetotal for a while.

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6 hours ago, ian said:

We needed new lights for the kitchen so I described the benefits of LED panels to SWMBO and was under the impression that she had agreed to them.

Well done!

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On 06/05/2020 at 02:02, St Enodoc said:

Well done!


I was when she saw them. She had imagined something more like 4" x 2" rather than 4' x 2'.

Edited by ian
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A little knowledge is a dangerous thing.

It seems that branch line goods trains normally had a van attached where the guard and shunters could carry their equipment, have lunch and do their paperwork. Marklin had a suitable vehicle in their range (4600) so, before deciding to buy a decent example, I exhumed an exceedingly tatty specimen from the sales box to see what impact it would have on the branch.


Trains from Schȍnblick to Gipfeldorf are limited to three wagons - the van does mean that it won't fit in the goods loop at Schȍnblick but it nearly fits! (I told you it was a tatty specimen - this is its GOOD side).



Testing the extreme scenario today we have three in and three out at Gipfeldorf. Six wagons and a van to play with.





The whole shooting match can fit in the sidings to let the midday railcar run. It is a tight squeeze though.



Having stations this close together does require you to concentrate your attention on the station that you are operating. This is the train after it has pulled everything out and got the deliveries at the right end.



And this is the scene at Schȍnblick. Fortunately you don't see this when you are looking at Gipfeldorf.



The out-going train was formed without too much bad language.



Disaster struck as the train pulled into Schȍnblick. The iron horse lost a shoe. Needless to say the stores don't have any of the correct size tyre. The local distribution centre doesn't either so the loco will have to be stopped until the parts are on hand.



Operating a model railway needs continual work to keep it in fine fettle. This point at Gipfeldorf was failing to respond to the control. The lantern flipped, but not the blades. A liberal dose of track magic on the pivot and sliding surfaces along with some wiggling restored normal operation. (That screw isn't fully home either - it is amazing what you notice in photographs that you miss in life.)

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4 hours ago, ian said:

The iron horse lost a shoe. Needless to say the stores don't have any of the correct size tyre.

Bullfrog Snot if you can get it. Plastic Padding or even Evo-Stik if you can't.

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They are still available from Marklin dealers so proper replacements are on the way.

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Sometimes it is just too nice to be inside working on the layout.

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The new traction tyres arrived so it was time to break out the secret weapon.


Marklin being Marklin you can buy a toolkit. It is a somewhat expensive way to buy the selection of tools therein but it has a couple of advantages.


Firstly - they are the right size and type for the various routine jobs that you might do.

Secondly - they are all kept together in a case so there is no hunting around for that particular size of nut spinner.


This is the first time that I have used it since purchasing it and it saved a huge amount of time that would normally have been wasted playing hide and seek with the tools. :good:

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Very ice work on your layout.


I too have used the Faller foam road and have been, shall I say, a bit frustrated with placement and removal. My first experience was slightly better that what you experienced, but removal is always filled with colourful language that is usually only spoken in front of sailors.


I have found that 400 or 500 grit wet/dry sandpaper models asphalt remarkably well and is much easier to apply and remove if needs be.


Cobblestone, not so much...


This is 400 grip wet/dry sandpaper and the foam cobblestone. I'm certainly glad I got it down right the first time because as you said, there are no second chances with this stuff:










Edited by MichaelE
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A friend suggested using the vinyl applicators' trick of wetting the surface before applying the cobbles. It certainly makes them more co-operative but what the long term effects on the adhesive are is a moot point. @MichaelE  - I like your roads. Fortunately I don't have much room for such fripperies - it is all needed for track! @Paul H Vigor - that;s mit not avec!


Meanwhile, in a garage not too far away,,,


After a little bit of a struggle (okay, a full-out battle) the street behind Schȍnblick station is now in place. The idea of making it as a unit seemed good at the time, and the base fitted easily into position but add buildings, wires and terminal blocks and not only is it less manoeuvrable but also doesn't fit through the gap between the station building and the shelf above. Much bad language was expended in the course of operations. But enough of that, let's have some photos.





The chemist always seems to attract a group of locals playing the ever popular game 'ill-health top trumps'.





Swinging to the left we can see the apartment block, Alfredo's pizzeria and Herr Doktor Munding's dental surgery.





A bit further to the left and you can see part of the hairdressers' salon that is opposite the station entrance.





Moving to an elevated viewpoint (by climbing one of the lighting towers at the carriage siding) we can see the hobbit house tacked on the end (as a temporary measure) and the railway admin block. You can also see some bare baseboard but if you would be so good as to ignore that for now I'm sure that it will get covered later. The temporary platform end is on the list of things to do as well.





Changing viewpoint shows just what an abomination the hobbit house is. It has got to go.





Night fell quickly whilst we walked back along the station. The cafe is open until the early hours. The locals are still comparing ailments.





That is probably the last train down to Neustadt for the day.





There is a feed for lighting but the hobbit house isn't connected to it.





The brewery has been placed roughly in position. I had to lop a bit off the chimney - it was either that or have it disappearing through a hole in the shelf above in a surrealist manner.





For some reason the operating department aren't happy about the current arrangenents at the current end of the line. It looks like the Neustadt baseboards are now a priority.





The hobbit house and its replacement. This antediluvian Faller kit consists of two shops of the same pattern but in different colours designed to go back-to-back. One shop just happens to be roughly the same footprint as the hobbit house.





See - and as it has one less storey it will fit in far better.

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The replacement building is now ready for installation - mind you that could be a while hence.




Before you get any funny ideas a Reformhaus is a sort of cross between a health food shop and a grocer that sells additive free and organic products.




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To celebrate the arrival of the new branch guard's van the crew decided to run a whole week's worth of freight. This gave me an opportunity to test a load generating system.


Apart from the eye-candy of the main line I have always intended that the layout should be capable of being operated with freight trains running for a purpose and wagons delivering loads to customers. There are two basic philosphies that can be used here - one is to give each wagon a pattern that it follows (e.g. North Fiddle Yard - Station A Goods Shed - South Fiddle Yard - Station B Factory - North Fiddle Yard and repeat), the other is to allocate wagons to carry loads that are generated somehow (dice throws, computer program, drawing cards). For this experiment I used dice throws (well, actually a computer simulation of dice throws - it was quicker than finding some dice).


First I generated a list of traffic and allocated values that would determine if there was a load to be carried. Each siding had one or more traffics allocated.


This is one of the entries for Schonblick brewery (the other two are coal in for the boiler and beer out)

Bottles/Kegs/Crates (Empty bottles, kegs or crates from the manufacturers)
Loads in/Empties out
F/M   1-4  (Friday load in/Monday empty out) Load if dice shows 1,2,3 or 4)
M/Tu  1-2  (Monday load in/Tuesday empty out) Load if dice shows 1 or 2)
Tu/W  1-3
W/Th  1-4
Th/F  <never> (No load in on Thursday or emply out on Friday)


The full list of traffic for Schonblick is:
Brewery (2 wagon capacity): Coal - in, Bottles/Crates/Kegs - in, Beer - out
Goods shed (2 wagon capacity): General Merchandise - in
Loco shed (1 wagon capacity): Coal - in


Whilst for Gipfeldorf it is:
Hard standing: (1 wagon capacity): Timber - out
Loading platform/goods shed: (3 wagon capacity): General merchandise - in, Beer -in


Gipfeldorf is a popular tourist spot, hence the need for large quantities of booze.


Train lengths are limited to 4 wagons up to Schonblick and then 3 on to Gipfeldorf.

The routine is for the run to start from Schonblick, run down to the junction, pick up wagons for the branch, work up to Schonblick, then Gipfeldorf, work back down to the junction and then return to Schonblick.


Anyway, enough theory - what happened on the layout?



Start of play at Schonblick the goods shed houses an empty van that brough general merchandise up on Friday whilst the brewery has two empties - a coal wagon and a van that delivered some bottles.



Gipfeldorf just has a beer wagon. The Carlsberg van belongs to the Danish State Railways so has to work back empty. If it was a German van it could be used for an outward load from the brewery.



The empties have been collected up at Schonblick with the new guard's accomadation bringing up the rear.



There wasn't much for the branch at the junction. Just some fruit and a consignment of loco coal.



The fruit is gently shunted to the goods shed.



Then the loco coal can be propelled alongside the coaling stage.



As there is no point in going on to Gipfeldorf just to pick up an empty the van is left on the coaling stage road and the loco can go to bed early. Let's hope that traffic picks up later in the week.



A new day, a new collection of empties.



This time there were three wagons waiting at the junction. More bottles for the brewery, a load of coal to go to the goods shed and an insulated van for Gipfeldorf.



The bottles are on their way to the brewery. The drasine is cowering by the buffer stop on its siding - it is convinced that one day it is going to be crushed to death by a careless shunt.



Okay, it should be general merchandise, not coal - but I didn't have a spare van or a convincing load for a low-sided wagon.



And now for Gipfeldorf...



...where the wagons are swapped...



...and we terminate at Schonblick early again. There is no point in wasting a journey down to the junction so that the beer wagon can sit there all night instead of here.

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9 hours ago, St Enodoc said:

A sad indictment of the modern world!

But pragmatic.


We have many dice, all with the games to which they belong, but retrieving same, clearing space on the desk then about 40 rolls and returning dice to their home...

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The morning's work starts with collecting the empty wagon from the goods shed and then the empty van from the brewery.



Rather than run around the wagon tying up one of the platform lines the crew put it on the goods shed line and then will run around the short loop and push the train onto it.



Three wagons come back from the junction, an empty stake truck to be loaded with logs at Gipfeldorf, an empty beer van for the brewery to fill and another van of bottles for them to empty.



The return working from Gipfeldorf is a single empty so that's it for the day.



The brewery siding is emptied as usual and the morning train is ready for its run down to Neustadt.



Today there were five wagons for the branch, so one had to be left behind. There are two empties for the brewery and one each of beer and general merchandise for Gipfeldorf. The Gipfeldorf wagons have to come up on this train.



The stake wagon has been loaded (only just by the look of the lorry on the hard-standing) so that is swapped for the two incoming wagons.



No early finish for the crew today as not only is there a load to go down to the junction but another one to come up as well.



The loco returns from the junction with some coal for the coaling stage.



Bright and early there is beer and an empty coal wagon ready to roll down to the junction.



And again there is a cornucopia of stock for the return. Beer and fruit for Gipfeldorf, coal and bottles for the brewery.



That's Gipfeldorf stocked up for the weekend!



And finally after a canter down to the junction with the Gipfeldorf empties the crew return with two loads for the Schonblick goods shed.


In the course of the week 19 loads (and the equivalent empties) were worked up or down the branch with varying traffic levels from day to day. The system could do with a little tweaking but I was very pleased with the first run.

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Tangible progress on the Ercallbahn has been all but non-existent of late but in odd moments I have been learning and cogitating.

First up, it appears that the crew van should be at the front of the branch goods, not the rear as in the UK (and US). That's nice and easy to sort out.

Next, in the 70s DB branches typically operated two freight trains each way daily. The morning one dropped wagons off, either for loading or unloading, and an afternoon one picked things up. The DB had its customers well trained and wagons were loaded/emptied quickly. Empties were centrally allocated and prioritised. The traffic generating rules and timetable will need to be amended to suit. Fortunately I had assumed a quick turnaround on wagons.

Gradually getting more serious we get to the signals. They need to go. A branch like this would be run by telephone block. Ah well, c'est la vie.

Now we get to the serious stuff. Germany's coastline is, on the whole, flat. It is part of the North European plain and often the highest you can get is to be on the first floor of a house, so mountains are right out if I am going to have a port. Given a port the line has ended up in Lower Saxony - on a fold in the map between Hamburg and Bremen or Bremen and the border with the Netherlands - I'm not sure which yet (but I have found a Neustadt North West of Bremen which is tempting). (Yes, I know that Lower Saxony does have mountains - but they are a long, long way from the coast). Gipfeldorf will need to be renamed - and get a new backscene - and loose the pine trees to become located at the end of a peninsula - and probably get new non-Black Forest style buildings! It is said that Lower Saxony is all cows and cars - agriculture and Volkswagen are major industries so there will need to be some changes to the planned traffic sources on the line.

Still, I've made another baseboard...

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No, the branch only runs along the back - the main uses the rest of it.




It fits!

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