Not armour, but don’t know where else to put it…
This is the 1/35 MiniArt kit of a European Tram. I bought it at a model show in Peterborough earlier this month for £36.
The model’s part of a small diorama I’m working on, which apart from the tram, base and overheads, will have six to eight figures. I’m changing signage details to place the tram in the Warsaw Ghetto in 1940.
The photos here show of the underside with details of chassis, suspension, and track wheel configurations, a couple of MiniArt figures from a separate kit set, and a small roof panel section.
It’s one of the most detailed kits I’ve come across for some time. The sub-assemblies shown here comprise about 150 parts. The instructions, in a large booklet format, separate the two assemblies in the build sequence, but as they’re meant to fit together and are painted the same colour, it made sense to pull both units in together.
The engineering is first rate. My only complaint, or observation really, is that there are naturally many, tiny, delicate pieces, secured with many, heavy, sprue gates, but oddly this doesn’t follow through in all parts. I assume this is because of the mould technology.
Moving on to another build section, because it was impossible to remove roof panel handholds from the sprue without them disintegrating, I’ve replaced the handholds with lead wire, which I actually like, as they can be bent a little to indicate age and wear.
I’ve completed the tram suspension, chassis, etc. It’s been sprayed matte black, with a few pigments worked in as street dust. I’ve also begun painting the interior areas, which need to be completed before placement of the windows, as these fit into rebates with bars fitted across the window faces afterward.
The tram passenger compartment decking is now completed, the external shell sections, the conductor’s control columns, and the internal doors, panels, and benches. I’ve also done the overheads’ ornate poles, seen here simply balanced on the base. I read somewhere that they’re marginally too tall for the tram roof pickup mechanism; we’ll see.
The wood effect is a Vallejo tan base and transparent woodgrain, with Clear Cote lacquer, to finish. The transparent finish is wash-painted, left for a minute and then a small sponge pulled through dry. Afterward, the transparent colour is dabbed lightly and randomly to simulate wood burrs, and a lighter tan is also dabbed in to create contrast, prior to the Clear Cote application. Much of it will not be seen, but it seemed a waste not to detail such nice mould details. The door furniture is picked out in black, steel, and brass, as applicable.
The deck area had a ‘red brown’ callout, with several manufacturers’ products listed, but I used Tamiya’s Linoleum Deck Brown XF79, dabbed with grey and tan to simulate wear. Again, probably not much will be seen.
The external shell colour is listed as Humbrol 60 or Tamiya Flat Red, among others. The Tamiya colour I had to hand, but decided it looked too garish, and used Revell’s ‘Email Enamel 34’ instead, a shade similar to a signal red with a deeper red-lead tone about it, which looked more natural to me.
The driver’s controls are now in place. They’re a combination of matte black console, edged with graphite pencil, and timber facings, with tools. Note the tiny pedal insert.
The external shell has now been painted to show the colour split. The kit instructions indicate the glazed middle panel should be in white, but I think this is generic. Some period images for Warsaw trams indicate a dark colour in this area (tone is difficult to read as most images are gray scale), which may be a dark grey, like the roof. One photo showed the metal window frames in this dark colour and the windows themselves in natural timber. However, there are particular images, and a restored tram, where this middle section is yellow. I decided on this latter scheme, and painted it in Tamiya XF-4 Yellow Green.
Also completed are the two internal passenger compartment bulkheads, which are finished as a natural timber. The protective bars over the glazing – three one side, one the other – still have to be tidied up with a sharp blade as there is still some residue from where they were removed from the sprue. I thought they might be easier to deal with once they were fixed firmly in position.
The passenger benches are also in place, with a timber infill panel either end. It can be seen more easily now as the build progresses that the tram is a mirror image of itself along a transverse median. Effectively, you build two of everything.
The following four photos show the external shell pieces, now painted, glazed, and with the impact bars in place. These sections are fixed to thier respective points around the chassis/floor section. The fit in all cases is good, but the bars themselves are so small and delicate it’s important to use a new scalpel blade, to ensure the least resistance when trimming the sprue residue from the kit piece. To note, I used a fine-toothed saw blade and there were still small burrs remaining on the bars.
The next three photos make the point about the sprue gates and the small size of some kit pieces. In this case, the two ceiling light fixtures are depicted.
Here is a shot of tiny pieces of support bracing for the external luggage rack, and the hand bars that are fitted either side of the four external door sets. As you can see, for the time spent cleaning up such small sections, it’s almost worthwhile to use a similar diameter of brass wire, at least for the the relatively simple profile of the rack supports.
The main roof sections are now built. The overhead electric pick-up, however, is a separate build in its own right and will follow. The roof sections are made up of a perimeter frame in two pieces and two pieces of infill sections. The painting consists of a dark grey external colour, while the interior parts (ceiling) are picked out in grey, white, black, steel, and red brown – a lot of detail for something that won’t be seen to any extent!
The overhead line pickup is now built. It’s made up from about 15 pieces. Included here is a close-up of the injection-moulded spring – an incredibly detailed piece that actually has the ‘play’ of a real spring (and was attached to the sprue by about 10 gates!). The painting of the unit will be basic black, with a few metallic highlights.
The idea for this diorama is of a tram in Warsaw 1940-41 period. My research indicates the trams in the Ghetto began with in-vehicle signs segregating ‘Aryans’ from Jews, to indicate where each group could sit. Later, ‘Jews only’ trams were so-signed, and had a star of David fixed atop the tram either end, or simply as a sign tucked into the driver’s area against the inside of the glass. There were some variations, with tram route numbers set against yellow backgrounds. Later, route numbers were discarded. It can be seen from this process that the Jews were slowly being reduced from citizen level to one more basic. My version here is meant to show a tram on such a route, the vehicles by this time only one step up from cattle cars, in purpose and appearance.
I’ve located routes through the Ghetto, chosen route 28, and printed the end-destintation names that will be placed on signs either end of the cab areas externally. I think I’ll place the Star of David symbols in the internal cab areas.
Also here are the ‘for Jews only’ signs, in German and Polish, that will hang inside the main windows either side. The signs have been printed onto clear decal paper, and spayed lightly with Revell matte varnish to fix the printer ink.
I think perhaps I should have gone for a smaller font size for the ‘for Jews only’ signs, but they look OK. I printed the destination signs in two different font sizes as I wasn’t sure about exact spacing on the cab faces. The record images show trams without a headlight, whereas the kit is a more a specific type it seems, and includes the fitting, leaving less room for sign placement.
Here are a few shots of the signs in place. I still have to apply specific pigment dusts externally as the current weathering/discolouration is only generalised, but that will have to wait until the roof installation is complete, and I have to first install a driver figure before closing the roof void, as it’s the only access point now that the doors are in place, and it would have been too awkward to place the figure via the pedestrian access in any case.
In a spare moment, I did some work on the base, and brought forward the electric supply cables strung between sections of the overhead posts. Four insulators are supplied in the kit. They are set with nylon line. Everything will be in black highlighted in a metallic edge. The posts have also been pinned.
As the base is vacform, I added balsa to the underside for rigidity, and so that the pins on the posts and figures can be set firmly in position. The base top has been spot-sprayed with Tamiya TS48 Gunship Grey over grey Tamiya primer, after which individual cobbles have been picked out randomly in brown shades and a little green for highlights. the tracks are finished in Humbrol Metal Cote 27004, followed by a highly diluted matte black enamel to add shadow between cobbles. Pigment dusts will by applied in due course.
A shot here of the tram being test fitted for height against the supply poles, as the single feed line that will run between the insulated lines has to be the correct height for the tram roof pickup mechansim. I have seen that the kit connector piece between the rocker arm and the roof spring is a fixed angle, but as I’ll need to adjust the angle a little I’ve disengaged the piece and will just use a small piece of brass instead.
Also pictured are the poles, now painted and edged with a graphite pencil. The positions have been measured on the base, drilled, and are ready for the poles to be glued in place.
One thing I’ve changed from earlier photos and not yet re-photographed, is the Star of David signs against the cab windows. The first ones were too large. I located an archive photo that shows a small sign tucked up in the top corner of the cab windows. I’ve reprinted the signs on decal paper as before and they’ve been installed in the correct positions.
The transverse overhead lines (between the insulators) have an in-line device that carries the main line running between poles. The tram’s roof pickup mechanism follows along this longer route line. As the line for the insulators is nylon thread and therefore delicate, I had to find something that would provide the detail of the devices but wouldn’t add weight. In my stash I found remnants of 1/72 scale etch for German WWI parabellum guns, effectively a perforated disk shape, and glued to it a couple of right-angle sections with a strip of mesh – all very small indeed. I simply glued the pieces together and then attached them to the insulator line midpoint.
Pictured here is the placement of these units on the transverse lines, with the lines picked out in Vallejo Oily Steel, and insulators themselves finished in a ‘ceramic’ off-white.
Pictured here is the tram conductor figure, in fact a train conductor figure from Irish firm LJ Productions. The resin figure is well-sculpted, and, without a lot of exposed facial features, fairly easy to paint. I probably haven’t spent quite so much time on it, with shading the uniform, as I might otherwise have done, simply because the figure’s placement is inside the tram, behind dirty glass, and only visible from the waist-up. Still, a nicely cast piece.
All kit elements are now in place. The photos show the position of the tram on the base, and its relation to the overhead line. As all overhead lines were nylon thread it was difficult to maintain them in fixed positions when adjacent lines, and tensions, were applied. To alleviate some of the movement, at either end I added two short lines between the underside of the arch ironwork and the sides of the cable transfer hardware, which brought them back to the horizontal, although I allowed for some (assumed) natural movement; it looks OK.
I mentioned previously that I would use a small piece of brass as the link between the main roof spring and the overhead armature link, because the length of the adjustment between the spring’s points of attachment was greater than the kit piece. In fact, I decided to use a piece of electric guitar string, which has a metal coil around a central core strand. I also decided to leave it in its natural finish for contrast to the predominately black/grey finishes in the area.
I now will work the base and model wth pigment dusts. Apart from the completion of the final figures from Masterbox and Plus Models, these last photos are effectively the end of the construction phase.
In summary, I stated at the beginning of this WIP thread that the kit was one of the most complex and best engineered kits I’d seen for some time. I’ll stand by that; it’s remarkable value for money.
The instructions are neatly and logically set out in a convenient booklet format, with several colour call-outs available for those modellers who have a preference for a particular paint brand. The instructions have six or eight errors with reference to sprue part numbers, but these can be resolved fairly easily as the parts are quite specific in appearance and function.
There were a few fit issues, but I’m not sure if ‘it was me’ or whether there was a discrepancy between CAD and the reality of the physical build. The tolerances were close indeed, and even more so with primer/colour coats added. It was worthwhile, though, for the research that uncovered a wide range of historical detail of which I wouldn’t otherwise have been aware.
Because of its complexity and 600+ parts’ count, I would only recommend this kit to experienced modellers. If you want a break from Bf 109s, jet tubes, or Shermans n’ Germans per se, this might offer a refreshing change in modelling habits, as was this project for me.
Photos of the completed project will be posted under the Headlines tab in due course.
Thanks for looking.