Category Archives: Rolling Stock

Railex versus Z-Modellbau: Kof II showdown

Until Z-Modellbau took the challenge to manufacturer a Z Kof II with a Motor (!!!!) our choice was limited to mechanical rolling non-motorized Kof’s by Schmidt and Railex.

The Railex example here is cast brass (red paint scheme lettered for DB with open cab and black running boards) with fine detailing inside the cab, it was a very good example of a Kof II that Railex produced along with variations of this type.

Headlamps are non-working in both locomotives but Z-Modellbau rendered them white in perfect circles versus Railex which are hand-painted silver.

What to do with a non-working model train: use it of course! Before brushless motors manufacturers of Z gauge had certain limitations placed on their ambitions. Z gauge is already small in size so therefore modeling the smallest prototypes yield problem after problem including where to put a motor and gears. The solution with their larger steam locos and tenders was locating the drive mechanism within a passenger or freight car hence they were called “ghost cars” because they became hidden locomotives, but they allowed the locomotive to pull cars so to speak figuratively not literally. I collect Railex, they are beautiful and fun to behold. As for ghost cars I have never owned one, I understand they can be temperamental and many I see for sale are offered “not working”. Ghost cars can be built by industrious engineers with a clever creative side which describes most of us Z-scalers, if you choose the to take the challenge the rewards are big and stalled trains from 19th century Germany may come to life on your railway line.

Photo: no couplers on Railex, Z-Modellbau uses Marklin compatible couplers of their own design that unobtrusive in this small loco

Now the time is ripe for ambitious manufacturers to create smaller locos in Z that function, today brushless motors from Switzerland are available in a variety of small sizes so releasing new locos with this motor should be easy? Wrong. From idea to final market ready model is a design and manufacturing “Matterhorn” so to speak. Having the idea is the first step followed by researching the prototype’s blueprints, putting into scale, designing the parts and assembly. Every step is time consuming and difficult with a fair share of creative thinking, ingenuous problem solving and sheer expertise in tooling and production. The latter always flabbergasts me, how can anyone be gifted with such abilities that tiny tiny tiny details appear in such small locos at the same time concealing their build.

With the Railex Kof which is cast with add-on parts in cast brass the model is beautiful with a securing plate screwed to the undercarriage that simply holds the wheel-sets on: simple and beautifully designed. This example does not have couplers thus making it a stand alone model train.

Photo: Railex Koff hauling livestock boxcar both lettered for DB

The Z-Modellbau Kof II for NSB has an enclosed cab with glazed windows and their own unique design for a Marklin compatible coupler. A 10 volt coreless motor runs the show including gearing that allow smooth acceleration and deceleration but without working headlamps. Headlamps are beautifully modeled as if lit. Locomotive is weighted and balanced due to its metal nature throughout so pulling power is very good.

Photo: Railex Kof II is true to prototypical scale giving the boxcars the impression of great size

Small locomotives serve very important functions including shunting and branchline while others not covered here serve MOW (Maintenance of Way) service, they (speeders) are still smaller than the kofs  with one purpose: track inspection.

Siding: seen here are the two livestock boxcars comprising the Marklin 2 car freight set: 86602. For the first time this car type features interior detailing in the form of gates, it also includes laser cut build kit for loading ramp and movable fence sections.

FR: SJ BP tank car uniquely paired Marklin MSI

Ever wonder how many Marklin MSI’s have been produced? I have and one extraordinary collector has them all, his audacity in acquiring them is an achievement in itself winning him the Guinness Book of World Records for the feat in 2006, his name is Gilles Monk of Belgium.

One relatively obscure Marklin Special Imprint is a tank car lettered for BP and used on the SJ: type 8612 mini-club tank car lettered for BP Svenska released in 1989 with Koll’s #89717 and Miba/Monk #423 released in an edition of 200.

Here the 1989 MSI tank car (top) is paired with a superb repainting and lettering for BP/SJ by FR with item number 46.396.01 and produced in a total edition of 35 with black paint scheme.

This is a reworked Marklin mini-club tank car that is infrequently offered by FR to round out various types of Scandinavian rolling stock. Reworked and repainted includes newly designed and richly detailed metal add-on parts (more intricate than the original) and complete removal of original paint and lettering. This type of production is labor intensive from research to final car thus making these releases attractive historically, and small batch release makes them ever more collectible.

FR Week: NSB Auto Transport 47.819.02

Auto transport is one type of freight all world railroads carry as a load, but in Norway autos are sheltered from vandals and the elements in enclosed boxcars. Type Hccrrs auto transport cars are very interesting in design and function owing to their unique appearance. A bellows gangway connects the cars with signage lettering for Auto Transport Service A.s Drammen.

FR’s attention to detail and precision manufacturing is evident in these cars, much time passed between announcement of the new release and availability: several years in fact. Modeling the bellows connection slowed release until a perfect solution was achieved. Design and manufacturing are slow going processes that perfectionist manufacturers like FR have in common with other firms thus if not as many releases are coming out of your favorite manufacturer it is probably due to how much they care about getting it right.

Model: metal construction with permanent metal drawbar connecting pairs of cars with marklin couplers.

The cars in this set are sold in pairs with item ending in ’02’ indicating two pairs thus this item number is 47.819.02 (47 indicating country code for NSB).

FR 41.332.02: SBB low side gondolas for MOW service

Rolling stock representing MOW service cars can be found for Swiss Federal Railways manufactured by FR. The FR 2 car set with item number 41.332.02 includes 2-type Xs71 low side gondolas used in this example for hauling away old wood sleepers.

Featuring authentic weathering and aging the sleepers in these loads look like perfect examples to be removed and replaced with new ones. Maintenance of way operations are as important in Switzerland as with any other railroad in the world, but their exemplary track maintenance practices excel far and above other countries including the United States.

As with all FR rolling stock the chassis is constructed of metal, and body is constructed of injection molded plastic (*some FR freight cars are constructed entirely of metal, the rule for FR seems to be utilizing the correct materials for the design build). FR insignia is incorporated on the underside of chassis.

This set combined with FR’s and Marklin’s Sersa sets round out a track maintenance trainset used in Switzerland.

Marklin 88692

Marklin 82517

FR 41.331.12

Siding: Sersa is a privately owned company for the repair and maintenance of railway right of way in Switzerland.

82540 “Beet Harvest” car set and building kit

A long anticipated new freight car set has arrived for mini-club: 82540 “Beet Harvest” car set. Included in the set are 5 EANOS gondolas with completely new tooling. Also included in the set is a building kit identified by Marklin as the loading facility at Behringen, Germany. I am writing this post after having completed the building kit, and I decided to split the post into two parts: freight cars and building kit.

An introduction to this new release should first start with an historical perspective concerning sugar beets, its history is interesting. Sugar beet discovery in the mid 18th century with the support of the King of Prussia are the sweet alternative to tropically grown sugar cane. Today Russia stands as the world’s largest producer followed by France, United States and Germany respectively. Sugar beet harvest in the United States starts October 1st employing seasonal workers that help with the two week harvest. Two machines are used in the field including a defoliator to remove the green leaves and cut the beet top. A second machine is a “pinch wheel” harvester that pinches the root and lifts the beet to the harvester with some soil removal. From the harvester in the field the beets are offloaded to trucks for transport to a large processing plant. The Marklin model suggests a loading facility which would have been located near a rail siding for loading into high sided hoppers. Presumably a large farm or a group of farms can make use of this loading facility to expedite the transport by rail of this crop to the processing plant.

“Complete or partial new tooling” we hear a lot of from Marklin in recent years relating to the mini-club line-up owing to the many great advancements with new classes of locos, new types of rolling stock, motive power and in this case too a new building kit thrown in to an already outstanding set of 5 freight cars of completely new tooling. Set includes 5 type EANOS high side gondolas lettered for SBB with loads depicting sugar beets.  The finely lettered cars feature loads that are every bit accurate to real sugar beets in color and scale, google sugar beets and compare. Set gives a mighty fine impression of thousands of beets headed for the processing plant. A new advancement these days are close coupling featured with these cars.

A building kit is included with this set that Marklin describes at a loading facility from Behringen, Germany. Assembly instructions for the kit indicate Modellbau Laffont as the manufacturer, it appears that a similar car set was released previously by Trix with an identical ‘N’ scale loading facility. It is great fun to get cars with a building kit and vice versa, but this building kit is far from fun to assemble. First it is a building with filigree parts which form the framework along with several parts that require bending if you are to follow the instructions. Individual parts are numerous and made of construction paper thickness which can be difficult to work with. Add glue which expands and softens these parts along with their small size and your task is not going to be fun if you compare this kit to other manufacturers like Archistories. I give credit to the manufacturer for coming up with an interesting building, and I fully appreciate the tight budget that follows. If you get through the rather difficult construction you may be surprised at what an interesting finished building it is. Deciphering the illustrated instructions would be far easier a second time around so some mistakes I made would be avoided during a second build. I have a few suggestions and modifications that I would follow if I made another. So with the mistakes and modifications I am happy with the building which will be a great addition to my future layout alongside other laser cut card stock buildings which are rich in detail and color. 

Note: modifications that I made to the kit include two with the back wall – no angled roof partition and addition of brown strip to lower track side to hide cardboard bend marks. The first was a mistake and the second was to hide a rough part.

Start with the right tools, there are not many but don’t attempt to assemble this kit without magnifying goggles (not pictured)! Notice the exclamation mark next to the last comment.

Kit comes delivered in 8 part sheets of various color including one that are decals for “warning” stripes. Care should be taken separating parts as they are of very light gauge paper. Notice the large number of parts for this assembled model of just 1 1/8 x 2 13/16 inches overall.

Following the instruction manual I would make these comments in order of appearance to hopefully add some enjoyment and success for others putting this kit together: Steps A and B depict the filigree framework construction and attachment to the base, small drops of glue with a pin is all you need, I would suggest gluing after you have these parts in place followed by single drops below base where posts engage in holes in base. Step E requires bending conveyor belt, paper fibers will break in jagged edges plus may separate, I would suggest a small drop of glue to soften the ends of these fibers and bend back in place thereby smoothing the bend. Step F gives instructions to bend and contour a large part that goes across base and conveyor identified as part #D1, this part is flimsy paper and all the bends and contouring will give poor results and you may not be able to center the conveyor properly, I suggest cutting this part into three parts: along treads, beginning of conveyor, and back wall. After this part is carefully cut into four parts carefully glue in place starting with the conveyor which should be centered with the vertical conveyor shoot. Note: gaps can be filled with glue applied with a pin. Step M illustrates placing electrical box and storage box below conveyor, at this point it is awkward to place them, I suggest placing the electric box and carefully applying a drop of glue after placement followed by storage box. Step N part G4 is a roof partition for the back wall, it should be installed on an angle. Step P illustrates roofing material, fill gaps between sheets with glue. Lastly if you want to add realism consider weathering with dirt and grime, moving parts would be greased attracting dirt dust and static parts would have a layer of dirt. During loading a cloud of dust would be present. Dry brush techniques for dirt and grime on structure and conveyor, and application of dry pigments to roof and base by careful rubbing.

Siding: loading facility gives sense of scale to the massive size of these gondolas, a few figures and tractor with trailer or truck would give the impression of the operation. Wespe Models make a couple of nice tractors, a prototypical tipping trailer will be harder to model.