I always wanted a really big steam engine, but was put off by the high price
of the hand made models from Dingler, Kiss, M&L, etc. I had been intrigued
by the Kesselbauer engines because they were...so much cheaper. Mind you, this
was three years ago, before Märklin and Kiss came on the market with decent all
metal large steam engines for reasonable prices. Now I had positive experiences
with the Kesselbauer wagons; they always need various repairs and extra parts
added, but nothing too bad. Eisenbahn Magazin ran a nice article about
Kesselbauer with impressive pictures of their BR 03 steam engine in their 7/98
issue. So, three years ago, I decided to order one. Silly me. It has taken three
years for my model building techniques to advance to the point that I had the
skills to actually make this model function. But I did it! It took a lot of
work, but now I have an impressive, big model. It was truly an insane amount of
effort. Would I do this again ? I doubt it. It's just easier to buy something
basically functional from Märklin or Kiss. Nonetheless, it was quite a project
as a pure model building exercise, and I learnt a lot from it.
The model is composed of a well made plastic tender, which has all the
strengths and weakness of the standard Kesselbauer wagons, a very heavy cast
metal frame, an equally heavy length of pipe for the boiler, metal wheels, and
all else is of plastic. At 74cm long and easily 15 pounds, this is the most
massive motive power on my layout. So why did it take me three years to finish ?
Let me count the ways:
No Packaging - Kesselbauer supplies no packaging for their models. They
wrap them in bubble wrap, and put them in a box. The problem is that this
way the model can slide around in the box damaging the small parts. In the
case of the BR03, this led to the massive metal frame and boiler going their
separate ways completely tearing up the fragile plastic pieces connecting
them. When I opened up the box, I did not have a model, I had a kit full of
parts. It had completely disintegrated.
Glue - Making the matter of the packaging worse, they do a crummy job of
gluing the parts together. Even without knocking it around it falls apart.
To give you an idea, even the rims of the wheels had come loose from their
cores, and those in turn had come off the axles. I wound up completely disassembling
the model, even where it hadn't fallen apart, and gluing it to together
Missing Details - Kesselbauer models while nicely proportioned often omit
various small details. I am still adding more parts to my model, such the
yellow boxes for the electrical system or the little white and red warning
signs for electric shocks. Obviously, after all the other changes made as
described here, lots of stuff needed repainting as well.
Electrical System - The electrical system was relatively worthless. Out it
went. I put an ESU decoder and speaker in the tender, smoke generator in the
boiler, replaced all the lights with 16V bulbs, added lighting for the cab.
There is a single plug from the tender to the frame with 8 pins on it, and a
4 pin plug from the cab to the frame.
Impractical - This model is huge and heavy. Given the fragile plastic
layer between the boiler and frame you can't just pick it up the way it is.
To lift it by yourself you have to separate the tender from the engine. But
out of the box, these are screwed together from the bottom, so you have to
lift it up first to get the tender off. Wait, there's a circle here. This is
silly! I redid things so that the cab/boiler just sits on the frame. It's
only connected by its electrical cable. There's a pin inserted from above
that connects the tender to the frame. So this way the locomotive easily separates
into three convenient pieces once you unplug the cables and pull out the
Connecting Rods - The biggest weakness of the whole model, and what
Kesselbauer models are famous for, are the plastic connecting rods. This
stuff is never properly aligned, it's loose, and what's worse, it's under
tension most of the time, so that when the engine runs the tension tends to
yank the little plastic pins that hold the rods on out making the rods fall
off . This is what stymied me for a long time with this model. Ultimately I
reengineered much of this area to remove the tension and make everything
work smoothly and without friction. The good part is I actually learned how
Heusinger steering works, and what all those little parts are supposed to
do. This has been the most challenging area of the locomotive to work on.
Another interesting point about this model is that it proves that no matter what the manufacturer
may claim, there is no sense in trying to squeeze these giant locomotives around 1020mm
curves. Yes nominally it might work, but just don't do it.It's bad.