Re-modeling 3.0 – Part 2

As I mentioned before, I have to scratch build the holzgas setup featured in my third military diorama. I like to scratch build and utilize “found” materials in my projects. It stretches my abilities and it helps keep down the cost of modeling! I had no choice but to carry out some scratch building for this project, as I could find no 1/35 scale holzgas resin kits on the internet.

Images of holzgas-equipped World War II vehicles reveal that, while the science behind holzgas was the same everywhere, the appearance of the power generating systems that were cobbled together for it across Europe and the British Isles were anything but standardized.

Photos I gave me a good idea of a gassifier tower’s dimensions and appearance. I cut a 1/2-inch dowel to the height that looked correct to me. To obtain a metallic look I glued Mylar from a Maxwell House International Coffee container around the cylinder (not a product endorsement!), using thin strips of adhesive HVAC metal foil for the top and bottom bands to help keep the Mylar in place. Then I clipped a length of coat hanger, twisting it to match the down pipe on the cylinder’s side, super-glued the pipe into a hole I drilled into the tower.

Gassafiers featured a top hatch, by which wood chip fuel that generated the gas were shoveled in. Given that the holzgas rig would be located in the Citroen’s trunk area, I fashioned the hatch from the trunk lid’s spare tire bump out. Cutting it out with my trusty X-Acto knife was a laborious process but once I’d sanded the edge, and added a handle and hinge (courtesy of the spare parts box that’s a must for every modeler), it came out okay.

Its difficult to see in this picture but I glued several fittings from the parts box onto the gassifier. The flat black paint I brushed on the tower streaked nicely on the Mylar and the clothes hanger “pipe.”

The gassifier’s fittings are more visible in this shot, taken after I mounted it into the auto’s open trunk area. I decided to place the tower before I finished assembling and attaching the car body. I constructed a shield of sorts between the tower and the back seat, to mask the gassifer from view. It looks pretty rough-hewn but it serves the purpose.

I close this blog post with a picture of the automobile from a different angle. Of course, the interior remains in the colors in which it left the Citroen factory in Paris, as only the exteriors of German-appropriated vehicles were re-painted.

Let me know if you find the record of progress on my third diorama to be of interest!

Re-modeling 3.0 – Part 1

I have begun work on my third diorama. It will illustrate a street scene in Paris when the City of Light was liberated – by French armored forces – in August 1944.

The centerpiece of the diorama is to be a Citroen Traction 11CV sedan. After France fell in 1940 the Germans captured all manner of British and French tanks, trucks, and automobiles, which they put to use in their service. The need for these resources rocketed during the invasion of the Soviet Union: Germany couldn’t produce enough new vehicles to replace battle losses, or parts to repair those damaged while traveling the ramshackle Russian road network.

The Citroen I’ll be assembling represents one such captured French civilian car. Generally speaking, all that was done to refit autos like it was to repaint it in the appropriate German service colors; I will also be making several modifications to the model, as it came from the box.

The illustrations above show the biggest modification I intend to make to the sedan. Let me explain it to you. The Allies knew that petroleum, which was soon rationed in all combatant countries, was the life’s blood of any modern nation’s armed forces. Great efforts were made to choke the German’s access to oil, through aerial bombing campaigns and the destruction of railroad lines and tanker cars.

Early on the tightening fuel situation led the Third Reich to seek alternatives that would enable its vehicles to continue operating. Plants for manufacturing synthetic fuels were developed but demand far outstripped the supply. Another, more rudimentary, though effective method that became popular for powering vehicles was called holzgas, i.e., wood gas.

Wood gas can be used in furnaces, stoves, and vehicles. It is produced by a gasifier into which wood chips, sawdust, charcoal, coal, rubber and similar materials are placed. These burn incompletely in a fire box, producing wood gas, ash and soot. The gas, having been filtered to remove tars and soot or ash particles, can be cooled, stored in tanks, and subsequently directed to an engine. By the middle of the war hundreds of thousands of military and civilian vehicles across Europe and in Great Britain relied on holzgas. Gassifier towers and supplies of chips were a common sight.

Scratch-building a holzgas system for the Citroen will be challenging but I am confident that it is within my capabilities. Stay tuned for further developments!

New England Vacation – Part 4

I’m a trolley fan of long standing. I still remember, as a young child, riding a P.C.C. car in Pittsburgh with my maternal grandmother, as we embarked on a visit to the Heinz factory there. Many middle-aged men build HO scale railroad layouts in their spare rooms or basements. Me? I’ve got a trolley layout!

Quite by accident on our vacation in Maine, we came across the Seashore Trolley Museum, in Kennebunkport ( In 1939 a small group of railfans learned that, like many public transit companies across America, the Biddeford and Saco Railroad intended to replace its fleet of trolley cars with motor buses. (Numerous trolley companies’ rolling stock was then disposed of by being pushed over a rail siding and set alight.)

For $150 the enthusiasts purchased a trolley to preserve, moving it to a rented plot of farmland. Around the same time another group of railfans bought a trolley from the Manchester and Nashua Street Railway. The two organizations merged, formally incorporating in 1941 as the New England Electric Railway Historical Society.

The steady acquisition of vehicles in the years following World War II made the N.E.E.R.H.S. the world’s first and largest museum of mass transit vehicles. As of 2016 its 260+ item collection included trolley cars from around the globe (horse-drawn and electrically-powered), rapid transit trains, interurban cars, trolley buses, motor buses, and even experimental transit vehicles. In addition to trolleys from the United States, there are examples from Australia, Canada, England (including double deckers), Germany, Hungary, Italy, Japan, and Scotland.

As is usual with such organizations, what’s now known as the Seashore Trolley Museum is staffed almost exclusively by volunteers, who work hard to restore the museum’s holdings to their former glory. Three car barns on site house the numerous trolleys that have been restored to running condition. Some twenty trolley buses are also operational. Many vehicles are stored outside, where, sadly, they are prey to the vicissitudes of New England weather.

Museum visitors can ride one of the operational trolleys along a one and a half mile long demonstration track, which leads to a turnaround loop and thence back to the Visitor Center. The latter features an exhibit area, plus a store with trolley-related books, DVDs, toys, and souvenirs.

If you’re at all interested in the past history of mass transit, the Seashore Trolley Museum is a must-see. It is open from May to December.