Building an European Railcar Part 1 – The Prototype

As I already said in an earlier post, I’m a big fan of railcars and I do believe they should get more attention. Locomotives are nice, but when they can’t haul a big rake of railcars, they just look silly, if you ask me. In the end, a locomotive is meant to pull railcars, not run around looking all nice and shiny.

However, I know it’s difficult to pull off a nice railcar, because in the end, they are all quite boring, definitely when it comes to goods railcars. By accident, I have been documenting my last railcar build pretty well, so I thought it could be interesting to share. This will be a three-parter with three easy topics: 1. The Prototype, 2. The Build and 3. The Bragging. However, let’s start at square one, OK?

Step 1. Making sure you know the prototype

First of all, if you have the possibility, do check out the railcar you are trying to build in real life. Making pictures of the prototype not only gives you an extra drive to build but also gives you the possibility to make very detailed pictures. Let me give you a real life example: The railcar that I build, a SDGGMRSS meant to carry trailers, was exhibited in Czech Republic in 2014 during the Czech Rail Days in Ostrava.

As you can see in these side overviews, there is some extended weathering going on in these railcars. Already from the start I decided not to mimick this for this rake, but it did give me the excuse to use Old and New Light Grey bricks. Next thing you immediately notice is the shrouding of one of the wheels; it even almost looks like this thing stands on only one axle. I immediately had to decide to scrap this feature since it wasn’t going to look nice, nor be functional due to the sharp curves within the Lego system.

The trucks, as you can see, are left open in the frame of the railcar. This is one of those things that really define a model, but are very difficult to find out if you just have to take your cues from rail-spotters.

The loading mechanism is the same story; normally this is covered with a trailer. Also, please note the internal ribbing, this we can use as an excuse for an extra layer of plates when we start to build.

This specific railcar rests on Jacobs bogies. Another vital part of this railcar, and good to see how close the frame is to the bogies.

Beams which are meant to transform the railcar from trailers to containers. Great greebles.

Step 2. Obtaining the drawings

This is a little bit cheating because there was a drawing hanging on the billboard next to the prototype. I cleaned it up a bit in Photoshop due to the camera on my iPhone  but other than that, this was a good picture to use and also shows you what type of containers a railcar can carry, and where the beams need to be placed if you want to carry containers.

However, even in this case I decided to look further on Google to try to find a better one, which I eventually did find at some Italian website that also turned out to have some great detailed and “in action” pictures.

Step 3. Scaling

Third step when building something is to decide what the size is going to be. Scaling has already been covered several times at BMR, however, since I’m using yet another technique, I thought it would be good to share this one as well. First of all, I have settled for a scale of 1:45. This mimics exactly the scale of 8 studs in the Continental European Loading Gauge. It also is one of the several scales known as O-scale, which ranges somewhere from 1:48 to 1:43.5 depending on your country and manufacturer. Also, it gives me the possibility to someday, if I would really want to, include model figures in my displays instead of the Hobbit-scaled Lego Minifig.

Anyway, instead of the previous mentioned methods of using online scaling tools, my method is a tad different: I take the blueprints, scale them to 1:45 in Photoshop and print them. I then use this long as an overlay from which I build my model. This gives me the possibility to as exactly as possible match the curves and sizes of my Legos with the prototype.

The benefit is simple: Ultra high detail possibilities. The downside is as simple as well: Due to this ultra high detail possibilities I tend to drown myself into the smallest design elements, meaning that it tends to take me far more time than other builders to finish a model, because I keep refining it. Or just getting stuck because some part needs to be 3,5 studs where I only have the option for 3 or 4…

Be on the lookout for Part 2, where the actual building with Legos will happen!


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