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Scale Steam Locomotives

n by Rafi Ben-Shahar

The recent release of Trumpeter's 1/35 Baureihe BR 52 known as the Kriegslokomotive gave me the opportunity to examine my addiction to the Marklin steam locomotives from the world of HO model trains. The series of photographs that I present also highlights one of the ways that the brain plays tricks with "us" regarding scale perception of a model. Let's see if I can trick your mind, too...

Revell's Steam Engines

Two Revell 1/87 kits of the BR 50 and the BR 03 are fine examples of their line of steam engine kits in the popular and well established HO scale. The BR 50 is weathered whereas I retained the BR 03 in a factory-new representation to match other Marklin steam locomotives in my set. When compared to the metal BR 03 model produced by Marklin, the advantages of the fine metal mould that brings out the salient details of the relatively simple structure are instantly recognized. I added some more details and weathered the locomotive to bring it in par with the Marklin models and was curious to see how much I could achieve with a plastic kit.

Leichte Güterzug Lokomotive BR 50 was developed from 1937 onwards as a light goods locomotive for branch or badly maintained lines. From 1938 onwards the political developments in Germany led to the purchase of large numbers of these locomotives for military purposes.


Schnellzuglokomotive BR 03 was one of the fastest steam engines out of German production and pulled mainly passenger trains in the plains of Northern Germany.

Although not a bit weathered, the looks of the metal Marklin model beats by a margin the results that can be achieved by painting styrene plastic.

Trumpeter's BR 52

The Trumpeter kit is a class of its own. Here, the details have a close resemblance to the appearance of the real locomotive without exerting too much effort from the modeller. Yet, the eye instantly recognizes it as a model because of it's impressive size that forces the observer to view it from some distance, resulting in the model being disassociated from its intended background in the process.

BR 52 was a wartime development of the pre-war BR 50, with simplified construction which made better use of non-strategic materials. It was build in large numbers in support of the German war effort.

In conclusion, metal cast model steam locomotives of the 1/87 scale are the best representation of the real life counterparts. There are several reasons for that. First, in reality, we are accustomed to view trains from the distance and they appear as toys that blend well in the European environment. Second, the combination of metal cast and motion beat docile plastic off hand. And third, Marklin and the likes have been around for more than half a century while steam locomotives where phased out long ago. Therefore, our mind is conditioned to this reality and refuses to let anything else to interrupt with our illusions.

The detail incorporated in Trumpeter's 1/35 locomotive kit is in a class of its own


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