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Faller Cathedral 130598

This Faller model of a cathedral bears a reasonable resemblance to the church in Bad Wilsnack, which is the town that I named my layout town after, so I decided it would be a very appropriate model for my old town. I have now assembled it and I report on how the construction progressed.

The kit comes in a large box and is said to have 666 parts. My first step was to open all the bags and check that everything was present. I stacked them in piles on my desk.

Faller modelled the cathedral on the church in Bebenhausen which they included in their monastery kit 130816, adding some flying buttresses to make it more spectacular. The parts in the kit are therefore used in multiple models and it is clear that the design of the kit is more oriented around their ability to make parts economically for multiple kits, than ease and accuracy of construction.

There is no base for the building. The main body of the building is constructed from 4 parts, each of which is made from 'standard' wall panels with almost no fool-proof way to ensure that everything is square. I soon realized that accuracy was going to be very critical and I proceeded with utmost caution.

Some of the walls are made up from two parts, the joint between the parts being right in the middle of a course of stones, so no matter how carefully one glues them together, there will always be a line along the wall. 

The walls are molded from a mottled gray plastic which looks way to clean and sterile for an ancient building, so I weathered the pieces, sometimes before assembly and sometimes after joining smaller parts together. I do this by painting them with black acrylic paint and wiping most of the paint off before it dries.

Due to the expected difficulty in getting the four main parts of the building joined perfectly square, I decided to leave them unglued until I had completed the interior light masks. The kit supplies seven heavy paper light masks that are to be folded up and inserted into the various parts of the building. The masks are mostly black and have very nice printed glass details for most of the windows, and perforated edges to aid accurate folding. 

Previous experience has taught me that light can leak out of the perforations, defeating the whole aim of the masks, so I added black paper along all the folded edges to ensure that the boxes were light tight. I also glued some 12 Volt LED light strips on the inside of each paper box to provide the interior light.

One end of the church has a massive complex window with stained glass panels. It was at this stage that I found that the motif printed on the paper for this big window looked absolutely awful when placed against the plastic frame.

I decided I wanted something better than that so I tried making my own, which certainly looked better, but still somewhat unrefined.

I wanted to see what the prototype window looked like and started doing web searches on the Bebenhausen Kloster, and found a few images of the window. I then also stumbled (again) upon the great site of Frits Ostertun who had also assembled this Faller kit and had found out that the 130816 model of the Kloster includes a foil with the correct colors for this very window! I wrote to Faller and ordered the part from that kit and they sent it to me for €9,50

This is how the proper part looks:

I thought that there would be a way to see into the kit (especially since Faller sells an interior details kit 180346) so I designed some pews with a Wilsnack emblem on the ends of each pew to give it a local touch.

Unfortunately, the design of this kit does not allow for any open doors and you can't see through the windows, unless one makes the big stained glass window clear! So instead, I decided to make my own doors since I had gone to the trouble of designing the emblem.

In order to keep everything as square as possible, I used some magnets to hold walls at 90° wherever possible.

I test fitted the paper mask boxes to also ensure that everything would line up well since some parts have to be glued with absolutely no guidance. I also made some of the buttress parts out of sequence so that I could use them to determine accurate positioning:

Once the main parts of the building had been attached to each other with their mask boxes inside, it was time to work on the roof.

Faller likes to 'weather' brown parts with some sort of white paint. I cannot fathom why they think that white is the right color dirt for any building that is not part of a cement factory, but they do, and this kit is no exception. The roof has splotches of white paint on it. In addition, in their pursuit of making generic parts they include duplicate, identical, sections of roof that have to be joined together leaving a clear straight line visible at the join.

When making parts Ⓤ and Ⓥ the instructions tell one to cut bits of the roof off. Close inspection determined that there is no need for this at all since the buttresses have a slot to fit over the roof at those points.

Other parts simply are not designed to fit together properly:

When attaching parts Ⓕ to the building, I needed to cut a bit off the roof for it to fit against the wall properly.

The whole roof is not glued to the building so that one can service the lighting and also the small servo motor that is included for moving the bell mechanism.

I opted to leave the flying buttresses off until I had the roof done and I also deferred attaching the two smaller side rooves to the main roof until I had the base of the spire ready. This is because there is no other way to know that the rooves are properly aligned, and the chance of the building being perfectly square as well as the parts of the roof being perfect is almost zero.

After placing the spire in place, I added the side rooves, using the base of the spire as a guide.:

As mentioned, a small servo motor is included to actuate the bell in the spire. There are two mounting brackets to mount the motor:

I found however, that the manner of mounting as shown in the instructions will foul the roof and it is better to mount them reversed like this:

There are lots of columns and gargoyles that go into the spire. I did the weathering of them after gluing the tiny parts together.

Once it was time to attach the flying buttresses, I saw that we are expected to cut pieces of wall trim, and glue them around the base of  the walls, including all the bases of buttresses, etc. Small inaccuracies in cutting the length, or gluing them, could result in the flying buttresses being positioned unevenly. The distance between the buttresses have to be exactly 50mm so I decided to glue them in place and leave the bits of additional wall trim off. I'll use the pieces for a wall somewhere else.

As it was, I had to do some clamping to get some of the tops of the buttresses to meet up properly due to the walls not being 100% square/vertical.


I decided that I would control the bell servo motor using a RemoteSign ESP module. It could also control the lights, including dimming, and possibly also perhaps a sound module. I decided to also add some lights to the bell tower and spire too. The RemoteSign ESP needs a 5V power supply and the LED strips need 12 Volts to run so I needed both 5V and 12V power and a common ground.

Five LED strips plus two spire lights and three wires for the servo motor, calls for a lot of connections, which I laid out in the 'attic':

Once I had the roof assembled I could do the first light tests and determine how bright the LEDs needed to be.

Running the main light at about 5% seems to be about right.

I like how well the big window turned out.

The final steps were to add all the fine details on the bell tower. The top of the tower comprises 8 sections with a rod on top of that made of two parts. Then two fancy bits get threaded on top of that. The holes in those last bits need some adjustment to get them to fit.

There are small crosses and orbs supplied to decorate the apex of the four roof ends. I decided to add another Wilsnack touch by 3D printing a version of the Wilsnack hosts that they used to sell to pilgrims in the middle ages, and add them instead:

The details of the bell tower are quite intricate

Because Faller supplies parts on multiple identical sprues there are spare parts in cases where fewer than the number of sprues are needed. I cut them all off and bagged them for possible use on other projects.

This left me with a huge pile of sprues for recycling:

Overall feeling on the quality of the kit

I was disappointed at so many steps with this model. I find the following issues inexcusable from a leading manufacturer:

  • Joints between pieces running along the middle of a course of bricks/stone.
  • Substituting an awful stained glass paper print when a beautifully detailed translucent foil has been designed and manufactured for the exact protype and shipped with another model.
  • So-called weathering of one color (brown roof) with white paint.
  • Very little design care to ensure accurate construction. Any inaccuracies will accumulate from the walls, to the roof, to the spire.
  • Roof panels to be joined with nothing to cover the straight and visible joint running through roof tiles.
  • Tiny parts to be added when they could so easily have been incorporated in other parts.
  • Generic parts that have to be cut accurately, instead of being supplied in the correct size.
  • Parts that have to be joined without any way of ensuring that once joined, they will be straight.
  • Completely unnecessary trim parts (that could have been molded into the parts being glued onto) that only serve to introduce inaccuracies through inaccurate cutting and gluing.
The completed kit depends on the accuracy of its construction. It is sad to see that Faller no longer cares how the product turns out after construction is complete.

It can be constructed well if you take extreme care in the construction.


Plastic cement applicator

I have been using a bottle of Model Master plastic solvent cement for building plastic kits for about 25 years. The bottle has a very nice metal tube allowing very precise application of the 'glue'.

I put some red and yellow paint on the black cap so that I could find it easily on my workbench.

Sadly this week it came to an end. I did however have a very similar bottle of Testors solvent glue but alas, it does not have such a fine application tube, but rather a plastic tube. I used it a few times and found that it kept getting clogged, something that never happened with the "Model Master" bottle. 

I looked about online and could not find the "Model Master" glue available, only Faller and Revell seem to have the metal applicators. I ordered a bottle of Faller cement but delivery is not expected for 3 to 6 weeks!

I came up with a plan to transfer the content of the Testors bottle to the old Model Master bottle.  I initially tried pushing the metal tube into the plastic nozzle of the Testors bottle and letting the solvent run through, but of course there is no way for air to escape from the lower bottle, so I decided that was not working.

Sixteen years ago a train friend Eric Joerg gave me some small syringes and 'stubby' needles. These are not sharp, but attach to the syringes just like a hypodermic needle. They have been very useful for adding smoke fluid to steamers, etc. and I decided to use them for this task too.

The stubby "needles" appear to be the same size as the metal applicator, so I pulled the tube out of the old bottle.

I then drilled a small hole in the new bottle.

I then drew solvent out of the new bottle and pushed it into the old bottle.

When done, I inserted the applicator tube into the bottle.

Well, overall, it worked but here are some important things to know:

  • I am merely reporting what I did. I am not suggesting anyone does this as there are risks involved. If you do this or anything similar you do so at your own risk.
  • The cement does not flow easily, it is very hard to draw the solvent out, it takes time for it to come up into the syringe. I removed the cap so that air could get in. It is also slow to squirt the solvent into the destination bottle, there is no way for air to escape. I tried squeezing some air out of the bottle before inserting the needle but solvent always seemed to ooze out. I also tried pulling air out using the syringe but it is hard to judge where the air is.
  • The operation took me an hour to transfer the glue.
  • Solvent does spill out. This task should be done outside, I ended up sniffing glue for an hour.
  • I tried replacing the cap on the new bottle so I could squeeze the side to speed up the transfer of solvent to the syringe, but I think I may have ruptured a seam because the next thing I knew the bottle was covered in glue. I got solvent all over my hands. Gloves would have been a good idea. I used some cloth rags to soak up spilled glue, and disposed of them outside (in rain) until they could be placed in the trash.
  • To speed things up, I used a second syringe so that one could be drawing solvent out while I used the other to put solvent into the other bottle. It was tricky holding each bottle, so it would have been better to clamp the bottles so that they did not have to be handled.
  • Bits of solvent did spray about, either through syringe operations, or caused by air escaping from the destination bottle. My reading glasses acted somewhat as safety glasses.


1960s model lighthouse

Though this is not actually part of my train layout, it is very much a model and close to HO scale.

When my paternal grandfather passed away in 1975, I said I would like to have ‘The Lighthouse’.

This was a model lighthouse that he had made, many years before, possibly in the 1950s or 1960s, and it used to sit on their mantelpiece in their living room. Standing about 29cm high it includes some rocky terrain and a small lighthouse keeper's house. The magic thing was that one could pull a small shaft on the side and the shed and tower would light up, the lighthouse lantern room light would go on and off periodically. I recall that it simulated the occluding type, meaning it was off for a longer period than it was on.


3D printed LED exterior light

While assembling a plastic building, I decided it would look much better if the exterior lights actually worked, so I set about designing some exterior lights.

I used OpenSCAD to design a half hemispherical shade (5mm diameter) with a small wall mount. A 1mm diameter hole allows for the wiring of a surface mount 0402 LED. After three 3D printing iterations I ended up with a usable design.

I painted the inside with silver acrylic paint, and threaded an LED in to test it out.


As expected, there was a lot of back scatter of the light, so I decided to paint the top black.

At this stage they look rather like toilets.

I threaded in the LEDs. In order to keep the LED facing the right way I found I had to tape the wires to the work surface.

I then added a drop of super glue to each LED and let them dry.

To add them to the building, I drill a small hole with a pin vice.

After threading the wires through the wall I could see that a second coat of black paint was in order to ensure complete coverage.

A drop of super glue holds the light in place.

I will use these on the row of Vollmer buildings I am constructing. I will probably run two 5V power circuits to the buildings, one, always powered, for internal lights and the controller for the butcher shop and the other, switched, for night time when exterior lights are appropriate.

A 5mm light in HO scale represents a 43.5cm light - a reasonable size. I could probably make them even smaller.


Butcher shop - Metzgerei

I was given a set of Vollmer buildings called "Bahnhofstraße" (Station Street) item 3675. It is a box of five buildings that were/are also available separately. I started with the butcher shop which is an end building with two large shop windows. The building is also sold as item 3674. This post describes how I built it and added super detailed interior.


Extension tracks landscaped

Now that I have installed all the turnouts and three sensors per track, I have added the cable ducts, indusi magnets, and some weeds to the storage area known as Oberbad.

There are cabinets for storing additional lengths of signal cabling too..

First trains have arrived.

I still have to design and manufacture the dwarf shunting signals, and the little connection boxes for the magnets and signals. The software to control the signals is all done and ready.

I ran an S-Bahn train from Oberbad to the underground station (Wilsnack Tief) and it was nice to see 'Oberbad' appear as the origin on the station platform sign!

Previous post on Oberbad: