IT’S ALL A MAT­TER OF SCALE

CRE­AT­ING A MODEL TRAIN HARNESSES THE SAME SKILLS AS RE­BUILD­ING A CLAS­SIC CAR

The Shed - - Model Making - By Ray Cleaver Pho­to­graphs: Rob Tucker

They say that va­ri­ety is the spice of life. So it is in the shed. For Taranaki me­chan­i­calde­sign en­gi­neer Michael Wolfe this means work­ing on projects as di­verse as re­build­ing a high-pow­ered 1970 Amer­i­can mus­cle car through to in­tri­cate work cre­at­ing a model of a clas­sic Swiss 1960s train. Michael re­builds and main­tains full-size clas­sic cars, and in his spare time mod­el­rail­way con­struc­tion keeps him busy.

“The skills needed are much the same,” says Michael. “It’s re­ally all a mat­ter of scale.”

His hand­made creation of a replica of an iconic Swiss elec­tric train, the RAe TEE II, is unique — prob­a­bly the only one in the world. Panel con­struc­tion, lathe work, weld­ing, wood­work­ing, and even cre­at­ing parts with a 3D printer have all been part of the job. In the world of model trains, this is a big one. Each of the six cars that make up the lux­ury train is about 800mm long. Michael started off with some plans, pho­to­graphs of full-size trains, and books, all of which he used to cre­ate ini­tial draw­ings.

The build

These were put onto a CAD file so that the bod­ies could be cut out from 0.9mm thick elec­tro-gal­va­nized steel — steel with a zinc coat­ing — with a wa­ter-jet cut­ter. The steel was cut and folded, and then care­fully spot welded with Michael’s UniMIG 160 welder. “I had it on a real low set­ting, as this is pretty thin steel,” he says. “It’s re­ally the same as mak­ing a full-sized car body but all in minia­ture.” Some very care­ful fil­ing and fin­ish­ing with a fine putty-coat filler was next. The roofs of the cars are made of wood. Michael used pine. He used the wa­ter-jet cut­ter to cut thin strips of alu­minium that he care­fully glued to each roof to make ribs. Next up was a primer, then a top coat of au­to­mo­tive lac­quer ap­plied with the panel-shop spray gun and an air brush for fine de­tails. The metal parts for the bo­gies un­der

the car­riages Michael made from mild steel, and the wheel units, with tiny ball bear­ings, came from Amer­ica.

Grant Hall of Vi­tal Signs in New Ply­mouth made all the de­cals and sign­writ­ing us­ing his com­puter. He also made lit­tle vene­tian blinds from white strips of film, and frames for around the win­dows. The win­dow glass is made from plas­tic pack­ag­ing.

The de­tail is great — there are even lit­tle menus on the ta­bles of the dining car.

Fin­ish­ing plas­tic pieces were made on Michael’s 3D printer. The fig­ures in the train were made by Preiser of Ger­many, which spe­cial­izes in mak­ing lit­tle peo­ple for mod­els.

There are LED lights, front and rear, which change from red to white, depend­ing on which di­rec­tion the train is run­ning.

The Trans-Europ-Ex­press (TEE) was a premier train in its day, run­ning through Switzer­land and to Ger­many, Aus­tria, and Italy.

The train is a gauge-one model, built on a scale of 1:32. Gauge one is one of the big­gest model train sizes. It needs a very big track and Michael has built

“It’s re­ally the same as mak­ing a full-sized car body”

six units for the train, a power car, and five car­riages. The power car is in the mid­dle of the train, which can move in ei­ther di­rec­tion.

De­tailed work

Time-wise, he com­pares cre­at­ing the model train with re­build­ing a clas­sic car.

“It prob­a­bly took me about 300 hours to make the train. It’s very de­tailed work,” he says.

Michael has a big metal lathe for car restora­tion and a minia­ture Un­i­mat model lathe for turn­ing tiny pieces for the train. He shows The Shed the tiny in­su­la­tors on the train roof, each one a few mil­lime­tres long, that were made on the model lathe.

The power car has 16V AC mo­tor units and a com­puter that drives other func­tions such as sound ef­fects, in­clud­ing the hum­ming of the mo­tor, air brakes com­ing on, and an­nounce­ments for sta­tions.

Michael is also an auto re­storer look­ing after a col­lec­tion of clas­sic cars owned by Bryce Bar­nett (see The Shed, Fe­bru­ary/ March 2017). He has fea­tured with a mini car­a­van that matches his Mini Cooper car

(The Shed, May/June 2017) and his own

The de­tail is great. There’s even lit­tle menus on the ta­bles of the dining car

two model-rail­way lay­outs (The Shed, July/Au­gust 2017).

3D printer

Some of the fin­ish­ing parts were made on a 3D printer. Michael’s son Nick­o­lai is the com­puter ex­pert and he and Michael made up win­dows, vents, and cov­ers for the bo­gie wheel with the printer.

The printer looks like a sim­ple af­fair, with a base panel and a noz­zle, both of which move in­de­pen­dently. A spool feeds the plas­tic fil­a­ment into the printer and it is re­duced to a 0.2mm fine strand, which is squirted into the re­quired shape.

To make one of the bo­gie wheel cov­ers for the train the printer took about 15 min­utes.

“It’s a re­ally great tool,” says Michael. “If you break or need any parts, you can just make them your­self.”

Scan­ning the plans

Michael cre­ated the model for Welling­ton train en­thu­si­ast Dou­glas Parker, who has a gauge-one lay­out. There are very few gauge-one tracks in New Zealand. Due to the size of the trains, these lay­outs take up a lot of space.

Dou­glas scanned in the plans for the

cars from books and scaled them up to 1:32 (gauge-one) scale in height/width, but only to around 80 per cent of that in length.

“The coaches are shorter than scale­length, so they can more eas­ily han­dle the tight ra­dius curves on my model rail­way,” Michael ex­plains. “The power bo­gies on the driv­ing-trailer are from Aristo-Craft — their wheels were de­signed for the higher-pro­file rails of Amer­i­can gau­geone model rail­ways, so a friend in the Märklin Club turned the wheel flanges down for me so that they would run OK …on aMnä­draklpi­un­bgauge-one track.

“The wheels for the rest of the coaches are from Bach­mann, with ball bear­ings I pur­chased lo­cally.”

The de­coder is a LokSound XL de­coder, from the Ger­man com­pany ESU, mounted un­der the power car. The de­coder con­trols the motors in the power bo­gies, con­trols the light­ing in the coaches and head­lights, and plays re­al­is­tic sounds through the 78mm speaker also mounted un­der the power car.

“To get the sounds, I down­loaded the ESU sound project for the RAe TEE II from their web­site and up­loaded it into the de­coder. It con­tains sounds from record­ings of the real rail car, matched to the op­er­at­ing sta­tus of the train — ac­cel­er­a­tion, track noise, and brake squeal. Horn and sta­tion an­nounce­ments play when prompted by com­mands from the con­troller,” he says.

The six sec­tions of the Swiss train

Fit­ting the con­certina sec­tion that joins the car­riages The plans and pho­tos used to cre­ate the ini­tial draw­ings that were put into a CAD file

Above: The Un­i­mat model lathe Michael uses for minia­ture turn­ing Left: The metal frame of the train before fin­ish­ing work be­gins

De­tail of the roof. The tiny red in­su­la­tors were turned on Michael’s model lathe

Michael cut out the frames for the bo­gie wheels from mild steel

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