The first military use of trains was during the American Civil War when the Confederacy prevailed in the battle of Bull Run/Manassas in 1861 by sending troops overland from the Shenandoah Valley by rail. Since then, military transport has increasingly relied on the rails, not just for logistics, but for concentrating overwhelming forces at the right point on the battlefield. Germany developed an elaborate rail system during the 19th Century, partly for economic development, but always with the possibility in mind of having to fight both France and Russia, her traditional enemies, in a two-front war. Which is what happened in World War I.
With everyone expecting an eventual re-match, during the 1920s and 1930s, the Germans continued to see railroads as strategic tools for making war. The Reichsbahn
was anticipating a role carrying men and materiel to the front(s). But after Germany's initial martial successes, increasingly the rails were needed to shift troops, tanks and other fighting vehicles to hot spots as the Wehrmacht sought to stretch its inadequate resources. As the war dragged on, entire divisions were transported by rail to act as mobile "fire brigades." The 1st SS Panzer Division (Leibstandarte Adolf Hitler), for example, went by rail from the Eastern Front to Italy after the Allies knocked Germany's erstwhile partner out of the Axis. After cutting a swath of infamy across the land, LAH was then shipped back to Russia, then to France to blunt the Allied invasion of Normandy, then back to the East.
You get the idea.
As tanks got bigger (and heavier), heavy-duty flatcars had to be developed. One of the most-common was the SSy Schwerer Plattformwagen
which could carry most anything up to and including the Panther (but not the heavy Tiger). Dragon has an OOP styrene version of the SSy, a kit I have used to good effect
, and Tank Workshop released a resin version a number of years ago. The cars were produced in Cologne, and their descendents are still in use on today's Bundesbahn.
Now L.Z. Models has blown the doors off the SSy with a resin & photo etch version that takes detailing to delightfully crazy levels of accuracy.
You get a lot for your money:
221 cream-colored resin parts
350 brass PE parts
ABS plastic rounds for handles, etc.
decals for three different cars
mini-CD-ROM with instructions, etc.
I don't think L.Z.'s diabolically-intense mastermind, Libor Zachoval, would be upset with my cautioning readers that this isn't a kit for the novice modeler or train buff. The price IS very competitive with the heavy flatcars of Tank Workshop, but the level of detailing is almost off-the-charts. Unlike most rail cars and locos for the AFV modeler, the bogeys and braking system's levers and cylinders are fully-rendered - to the point where it almost makes you cry realizing they will be only partially-visible when the model is finished.
I'm wondering if I shouldn't mount the finished car on a mirror to show off the underside?
This is a kit for the total railroad/armor/model geek. And I mean that as the highest form of praise! Nothing is "suggested" or simplified, and while you probably don't want to make this your first resin kit, it might be less of a challenge than Libor's box car
, since there are no walls to "true-up." In any case, this model is for the builder who demands the ultimate in accuracy, and it delivers.
One thing that makes LZ's kits stand out is they're pretty much self-contained: other than glue and paint, everything you need is included, right down to the 0.2mm brass wire for making springs, and the 0.6mm wire for tying down the air brakes' reservoir. Most other manufacturers require you to supply things like ABS plastic rounds or wire, but that's all included here. In a hobby where kit makers regularly leave out details and accuracy, figuring the after-market companies will deal with the "rivet counters," this is a kit that has all you need to make the most-accurate flatcar on the market. The styrene versions out there just can't compete.
The quality of the resin casting is excellent, as we have come to expect with dedicated manufacturers like LZ. The pieces have very small attachment points, and little of the "hairy" flash you will see only so many limited-run resin kits. The brass shows differing thicknesses, which is a plus in parts this small, though I would have preferred some of the lever parts were rendered a little thicker for sturdiness.
Old fingers are less-nimble.
The construction of the car is handled in a series of sub-assemblies, including the platform & frame, the brake lines & levers, the bogeys and finally, the detailing, including stanchions and stanchion-stowage. The frame fits together with interlocking pins, reducing the chance of a misalignment. The "wood" texture of the platform's slats is realistically rough but not "grainy" the way many manufacturers overdo plastic wood detailing. The trickiest part of the frame will be angling the various support beams, which are supplied uncut, and will require trimming to-length.
The most-complex part of the assembly looks to be the brake-line components, with a series of pressure lines and three control levers with corresponding rods. Then comes the bogeys, which are assembled from frames, wheels and axles. Nearly 40 PE parts make up the brake shoe assemblies, so this is another area that will take time & care, but will return the care with amazingly realistic detail. The bogey's leaf springs are beautifully-rendered without the usual seam lines that make the German predilection for for leaf springs the bane of my armor modeling experience.
A little plastic tubing is called for to handle the brake lines between cars, but which could be handled with electrical insulation or the thicker ABS rounds supplied with the kit. It's not the only down-to-the-smallest-detail provided by the kit, including brackets to store the stanchions, and both a brake release valve & brake switch rod. If I sound like an expert in these abstruse details, it's only because of the careful labeling from the instruction CD-ROM that calls out the various parts.
Speaking of the instructions, the 30 pages of color photos and careful diagrams are rendered on a CD-ROM PDF file. This decision allows LZ to include a generous supply of color photographs that would be simply too expensive for most small manufacturers if rendered on paper. There is a compromise in "portability," meaning you'll either have to print them out on your own color printer, or else keep a laptop handy on your workbench. In either case, it's a small price to pay for a kit that is so complex and detailed.
There are kits that are very good, and some that are exceptional. Then there are kits in a class by themselves. That's how I would describe the railroad creations of LZ Models: if you demand the closest to the real thing you can get in 1/35th scale, this is the kit for you. The styrene Ssy flatcars on the market don't even live on the same planet.
Thanks to L.Z. Models for providing this review sample. Please be sure to say you saw it reviewed here on Armorama when ordering.