Miniart
European Tram
Miniart 1:35 Scale Kit #38001
Review by Terry Ashley

Miniart
The kit:
While this new “European Tram” kit from Miniart is not purely military the diorama possibilities in conjunction with military subjects is virtually endless and we rarely see such items produced in 1:35 scale so let’s leap in and see what we get.

The Tram represents a Triebwagen (Railcar) 641 produced by MAN/SSW of Germany from before WWI until after WWII and ran on the standard German Tram track gauge of 1435mm which equates to 41mm in 1:35 scale with the Miniart track gauge on the street section provided and kit wheel track measuring out exactly to 41mm.

I have to say up front, this kit is certainly not for the inexperienced modeller as there are many very small parts included for the fully detailed undercarriage and suspension assemblies, most of which is not that visible after assembly unfortunately but adds to the overall detailed feel of the kit. Added to this are  many fine parts for the cabin such as the fine guard rails and grab handles and some intricate sub-assemblies with the cabin with pre-planning of the assembly sequences a must, I have deviated from the instruction assembly in a few instances to make things a little easier hopefully.
There are numerous separate doors and cabin panels that have the fine guard rails and small latches added and completing these is one of the most time consuming parts of the assembly as the clean-up of the 44 fine guard rails needs extreme care in removing from the sprues as each has multiple attachments and also the clean-up of the burs to avoid breaking the guards in the process. It’s advisable to only remove the guards from the sprues when needed to avoid mixing these up as they are mostly different lengths for the different windows.

The kit consists of 25 sprues with:

The design of the tram basically sees each end of the cabin a mirror image of itself and so it is with this kit where in most instruction steps for the cabin you make two of the sub-assemblies shown to be brought together during final assembly for the full cabin and roof, this being the reason a kit with over 600 parts only has an 12 page instruction booklet.

The standard of moulding is excellent with flash free parts and virtually no pin marks visible after assembly and just the usual fine mould seams to contend with. The many small and very finely moulded parts in the kit and these along with the larger parts have numerous sprue attachments and care will be needed removing the smaller parts from the sprues, I used a sharp blade for most as clippers were just too extreme for the finer parts. One thing to watch along with the many attachment points some of the sprue attachments have a small overlap on the parts and you need to trim this as well as the normal attachment bur, this overlap is only minor but needs trimming.

Also it is advisable to clean the mould lines from the finer parts such as the guard rails etc. while they are still on the sprues so the attachment points give some support during clean-up. A quick tip with the longer thin parts as these can often have fine cracks/breaks and come apart as you cut them from the sprues and by running a small amount of thin liquid glue such as Tamiya Extra Thin Cement along the part while still on the sprue will repair any weakness before they become a problem.

The detail on the parts is also very nicely done with fine wood grain on the inside panels and nice rivet and bolt head details where applicable as well as the clear plastic “glass” being quite thin and extremely clear but you do need to take care as it’s harder than the grey plastic in the rest of the kit and can crack if not careful. The grey plastic is of the ‘softer’ type making it quite easy to work with while still having excellent fine crisp details.

Before we start there are a couple of things that should be mentioned in tackling what is a quite intricate build to hopefully smooth over any potential problems during the build.

Bloopers:
There are a few Instruction sheet bloopers with parts numbered incorrectly and I’ll list these first so you can update your instructions before you get to the steps:
Step 22: The windscreen wiper is parts B30 not Fa7 as indicated. Image
Step 23, 24: The large side windows are parts Fa6 not Fa4 as indicated. Image
Step 34: The small roof braces are parts E7 not D42 as indicated. Image
Step 44: The brake linkage cross beam is part Gb7 not Gb3 as indicated. Image
Step 47: The lower door cross guard should be part C26 not C29 as indicated. Image

Painting:
As I mentioned some planning will be needed when painting the kit, this is due to the many clear windows which also have thin guard rails over the glass and this will make masking difficult as there is little room for the mask tape to be fitted under the guards. It’s not possible to fit the clear glass after the guards as there is simply not enough clearance under the guards and fitting the guards after painting could be an option? Also the inner cabin bulkheads have clear windows with more guards and some pre-planning will be needed to determine to painting regime as may well be the most difficult part of the whole kit assembly?

And so onto the kit itself:
The kit can be built in sub-assemblies such as the undercarriage, central cabin, forward cabs and the roof that are all then brought together as assembly moves along and this does aid in both construction and painting and as mentioned I have deviated from the instruction sequences to assemble some steps as completely separate sub-assemblies as I will describe below. The part fit is very good overall with only some very minor trimming needed on a couple of areas and this good fit helps with the more intricate assemblies.

Undercarriage:
This is a self- contained sub-assembly that can be easily fitted at the very last to the cabin and includes the two electric motors, final drives and full wheel brakes and linkages along with detailed suspension springs, mountings and axle mounting boxes, unfortunately most is hidden after assembly with only the springs and axle boxes easily being visible after assembly.

The two large chassis frames have numerous small brackets added and apart from the sprue removal and clean-up of these smaller parts they fitted precisely into place without any problems, the electric motors and final drives also fit well but watch the direction of the full axle that is trapped between the motor halves. The four outer axle boxes are made up of three main parts along with two very small wing nuts that will need extreme care removing from the sprue and in fitting but the end result has excellent detail definition.

The four wheels have nice spoke detail but the odd thing is the central axle holes don’t go all the way though the wheel and you will need to fully drill these out to fully open out the axle hole to fit the wheels. When fitting the wheels to the axle make sure of the direction to get the wheel outer lip on the inside as it’s easy to fit wrong if not careful.

The two motor assemblies are positioned between the side chassis frames along with four cross members and it’s easier to glue all of these to one chassis frame letting the glue almost dry and then fit the other chassis frame, you must ensure the assembly is perfectly square and level but the good fit and the large central cross members (parts Gb12) made for a nice square assembly straight off. Make sure not to glue the wheels if you want these movable after assembly.

Added next are other cross members and the brake linkages with separate brake shoes and you should note the brake linkages only attach at the centre on parts Gb10 with the brake pads resting against the wheels so let the glue dry completely on the linkage join before proceeding. The outer frames are then added to complete the assembly with everything fitting precisely without any trimming needed anywhere.

Cabin Floor Underside:
This like most of the cabin has two mirror image assemblies so you simply do everything twice, the floor (parts A5) itself has a lot of plastic pour nodes on the underneath that need to be removed but don’t worry about filling any small scars after removing these as you can’t see the underside anyway after assembly. The top side has nice wood slat embossing but one thing to note that didn’t become apparent till later but should be attended too before starting the floor build. The locating holes for the small side cabin panels (C3, C4 in step 11 and 13) are actually on the underside of the floor and not the top where they should be and you will need to extend the holes through the floor so they are open on top when it comes to fit the cabin panels later in step 15.

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The four part steps fit together well with nice detail including open slits on the rear step plate and these should be glued to the floor and the glue allowed to dry completely before proceeding. The underside details all fit well but you should leave the forward sections of the frames (parts D4, D5, D45) unglued at this stage until fitting the front bumper later to ensure they line up precisely. It’s also a good idea to allow the glue on the spring mountings (parts D35, D36) be dry completely before fitting the springs as this makes it easier when fitting the separate springs mountings which give excellent detail definition to the mountings.

There are two brackets (parts E38) that fit into the long channels (parts D40, D41) but you need to fit the linkage arm (part Gb5) first to determine the correct location for the E38 brackets as there aren’t any actual locating makes for the brackets and you also need to ensure the brackets are parallel and to this end I glued the brackets to the rod Gb8 before fitting to the channels.

There is a long coupling bar with two very small brackets that is glued to the underside box (part D27), this is the only attachment point for the coupling bar with the end that sits under the bumper left unsecured. The attachment to the box (D27) is substantial and holds the bar very securely and the fact the end of the coupling bar can flex is quite handy as it often will gets knocked during handling and this flexing prevents any damage.

The three part bumpers were first glued together before fitting to the floor as this made fitting easier once the glue had dried and the fit of the three bumper parts was spot on and added to the bumper are two small outer lights. The fit to the front of the floor was also good with the underside frame ends fitting into the notches on the back of the bumper and leaving these frames unglued as mentioned above aids in aligning these to the bumpers and when fitting the bumpers ensure they are level with the floor line. All other parts fitted without any problems and once completed the two floor sections can be joined with the large top parts (B9) being used to strengthen the join and help making sure everything is aligned perfectly.

Seats:
The long bench seats are fairly straightforward to assemble but you should fit the legs (parts B19) before the underside lockers (parts B32, B33) and there are a couple of things to watch for, firstly the seat backs (parts B21) must be set parallel with the back of the lockers to form a straight vertical line. I had to trim small amounts off the back of the locker parts to get a perfect flush rear side profile; this is to ensure they fit snugly with the large cabin side panels when fitted. To aid in this I only glued the seat legs stubs to the floor at this stage; this allowed the seat backs to flex inward a little to mate vertically with the side panels when fitted if need be.
Another small thing is there is very fine arm rests (parts D44) for the seats and I’d advise not fitting these till the seats are fitted to the cabin as they just ask to be broken off during handling otherwise.

The large cabin side panels have nice outside panel detail and two small lights are added on each side along with the four large clear windows on either side. These fit neatly into the panel recesses but you may wish to leave these off until after painting as they can easily be fitted later before the roof is attached. The fit of the side panels to the floor is very precise by way of two locating lugs on the lower panels that fit neatly into the corresponding holes in the floor leaving little or no movement, you just need to make sure the side panels are perfectly vertical as the glue dries.

Driver’s Stations:
The two driver’s stations are both identical either end and consist of four main console parts, the top, two lower panels with wood panelling and the central fairing, the fit of all these parts is excellent without any trimming needed. Added to this main assembly is the top instrument panel with separate control lever and the smaller right side fairing, this does need care removing from the sprue as the attachment point overlaps the lower lip on the fairing and you need to carefully remove the excess plastic to not damage the lip.

There is another control lever added to the fairing and a very fine hook along with two tools on very small separate hooks that again require care removing from the sprue and in the clean-up prior to attaching to the right side panel but the detail definition from the separate parts is very good. At the bottom of the right panel is a separate small foot pedal that again needs care in handling and this is attached from behind the panel with the pedal extending out through the hole for again excellent detail definition on something that is hard to see once everything is assembled but shows the attention to detail evident throughout this kit.

The two completed driver’s consoles fit without any problems to either end of the floor but you may wish to paint these before attaching to the floor for ease of handling and painting?

Inside Cabin Bulkheads:
The two inner cabin bulkheads are in two halves that are sandwiched together with a separate sliding door trapped between the two; this allows the door to open or close as you wish. The panel detail on the bulkheads and doors is very well done especially the recesses on the doors.

The two bulkhead panels and the door have clear windows added along with the four thin guard rails on the bulkhead windows. A point to watch here is all the exterior clear windows sit into small indentations on the inside of the panels which makes gluing the overlap easier but the windows on the inside bulkheads sit flush with the window opening meaning you have to be extremely careful when gluing to avoid glue marks on the clear windows. Apart from the windows and guard rails the only other addition is a small light added to the top outer corner of each bulkhead.

There are four small side panels (parts C3, C4) that fit either end of the larger cabin side panel and due to the locating holes issue mentioned above I deviated from the instructions by attaching the panels to the inner bulkheads to form a small sub-assembly as I had no locating holes for the side doors. It’s not possible to open up the holes once the underside detail is added and so it’s your choice to do this or follow the instructions once you open up the locating holes as indicated.

Detail on the small panels is again well done with separate wood panelling on the inside as well as the clear windows with three fine guard rails on each panel and again painting planning will be the issue here. There are also three very small latches added to the edges of the panels that again need care removing from the sprues and in clean-up prior to fitting.

The fit of the inner bulkheads and small side panels was again very good with the only minor issue being small gaps between the edges of the large cabin sides and the small side panels, these gaps were so small I was able to fill these by running beads of thicker plastic cement down the join to eliminate the gaps without resorting to filler.

Cab Front Panel:
The two large curved front panels (parts C8) have quite thin outer window frames and both were slightly warped or damaged (one was cracked) on my kit due the upper left corner sprue attachment not actually being an attachment and this left the frame free to move on the sprue causing the minor issues. I straightened these before assembly but fitting the glass sections actually aided in re-aligning any issues with the frames resulting in a perfect fit ready to proceed, so take care here if the frames on your parts are similarly affected? I checked a second kit and there didn’t appear to any problems with the frames so my review kit may have been subjected to some rough handling in transit?

Added to the front was the single headlight and the recess has the moulded bulb included and you should make sure the glass is aligned correctly with the clear section to the top, added to the light is a thin top guard (part D43) and this needs  careful removal from the sprue but the fit is excellent. The large windscreen wiper is incorrectly numbered in the instructions as part Fa7 but in fact should be B30 (Fa7 being the clear headlight) and there are two more thin guard rails added to the inside of the panel as well as a small lever.

I made a slight deviation from the instructions but fitting the two large forward side panels directly to the cab front to form a small sub-assembly as this made assembly easier and you can also paint these before fitting the cab sub-assembly to the floor. The fit of the side panels to the front was excellent with a seamless join resulting and the side panels also have glass windows with a single thin guard rail on each, just take note the incorrectly numbered windows. they should be Fa6 not Fa4 as indicated.

There is also a total of 20 very small separate latches to be added to the rear edge (5 per panel) of the side panels and again extreme care is needed with these while removing from the sprues and in clean-up as they are very small and using a good pair of stout tweezers will certainly make life easier. The position of these small latches is clearly indicated on the panel edges so there shouldn’t be any problems getting them in the right place.

Side Entry Doors:
The eight smaller folding entry doors also have glass inserts and 2 guard rails each with the instructions showing the doors in the closed position only and if you want these open for a diorama they can easily be repositioned in the open folded position. On each door opening is a four part folding guard frame and this again is in the closed position, if you wish to show this in the open position you will need to assemble the frame in the folded up position with the hinge point being on the front panel edge. Unfortunately the instruction don’t show this alternate open position so I have assembled one frame open to show the position.

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The thin guard rails again need care removing from the sprues and in clean-up and assembly but the location of the guards was spot on into the various larches previously added the panel edges providing you fitted the latches in the correct position so take care while gluing the latches.

Also the forward section of the floor had a slight downward tilt which meant when you first fit the front cab section the rear edge isn’t vertical with the central cabin side but this isn’t a big problem as I found as you assemble the front sections and doors they tend to pull themselves back into line along with fitting of the roof also ensuring things are level. I only mention this as it may be a bit disconcerting if you first encounter the front cab at an odd angle but so long as all the other parts such as the side panels and doors are aligned correctly there shouldn’t be any problems at the end of the day.

The fit of the entry doors in the closed position is again very good without any gaps and this completes the cabin assembly with just the roof to go.

Roof:
The roof again is in two mirror halves with a lower roof section and an upper roof section that includes a row of side windows with the instructions indicating to assemble the lower section and attach this to the cabin and then attach the upper section. I would strongly suggest to assembly the two roof sections as a separate sub-assembly and then attach to the cabin as one unit later. This is due to the way the lower and upper roof sections fit together with small tabs on the lower section that clip into slots along the upper section window panel which is extremely difficult to do with the lower section already attached to the cabin as you need to flex out the lower roof to fit the tabs. Leaving the roof sub-assembly separate from the cabin till last also assists with the interior painting as you have full access to the interior with the roof separate.

The lower roof sections have three part gutters added with the side section fitting precisely but the curved end sections were the only part of the kit with any fit issues and you will need to firmly hold the ends as the glue dries so they mate properly with the side gutters. Other details added to the lower roof are on the inside with large bulkhead panels (parts B26) and these need to be set at right angles to the roof, there are a few smaller detail items easily attached along with two fine T shaped fittings (parts D6) and these just hang out there waiting to be broken off so you may want to leave these off until just before fitting the roof to the cabin. Also added to the upper side of the lower roof are long luggage racks with small grab handles and there were no problems fitting these.

When you glue the two lower roof sections together you should do this on a perfectly flat surface to ensure the halves are perfectly level when the glue dries.

The upper roof sections have long inner panels added that have four small wonders each and masking these for painting will need some planning. The clear glass fits neatly into the openings and there are three small braces each side that are numbered wrongly as D42 when they should be E7. When gluing the window panel to the roof leave the ends closest to the middle unglued as this will help align the panels when fitting the two roof halves together.

On the inside are the roof light clusters with three lights on thin legs and once again care is needed removing the from the sprues and with clean-up with the lights fitting to the hexagonal base that in turn glues to the inner roof. There are also four fine grab handles hanging from the panels and the locating points for these are just butt joins so care is needed when gluing these into place and to make sure you don’t break them off during handing as they stick right there waiting to be broken.

Before fitting the tow upper roof sections together I glued the top frames (parts D2, D3) to one roof half and let dry as this gave added strength when gluing the other roof halve in place and fitting the other half in place was trouble free just ensure the window panels align perfectly as mentioned above.

Fitting the upper roof to the lower requires a little care as you need to clip the small tabs into the window panel holes, there are 4 tabs on the lower roof but I cut off the two at the front end as they were very difficult to fit and not really needed. The other tabs clipped into place by flexing out the sides of the lower roof to slip the tabs into place and when gluing the front curved sections you will need to firmly hold the roof parts together to get the best fit as it is fairly tight as mentioned but the final fit was gap free. With the roof halves together the other ends of the top frames can be glued in place to secure the roof join. The three small top panels and grab handles are easily fitted as are the lights on either end of the roof.

The top electrical pick-up frame can be made as a separate sub-assembly and added to the roof as one unit, this makes assembly easier. There are some small brackets added to the lower box frame which are best added first and allow the glue to dry before proceeding and the one piece plastic spring can be assembled with the end brackets and connectors added as the glue on these need to dry completely before adding the spring unit to the frame.

The springs is superbly moulded in one piece but care is needed removing from the sprue and in cleaning up the attachment points, another point with the spring is you need to cut off four coils if you want the pick-up frame in the raised position as indicated in the instructions or left as is for the lowered position.

When adding the pick-up bar (part Ea2) to the frame be careful of the direction in relation to the notch on the base of the frame as shown in step 47 and there are four very small bolt heads you need to cut from the sprue runner and add to the ends of the pick-up bar if you are game. Electrical wire is also added using stretched sprue or thin wire to the pick-up frame and bar with the frame clipping into small brackets on the base allowing the frame to pivot after assembly, the plastic spring works like a real spring so there are no problems with the frame moving.

The assembled pick-up frame assembly can then be glued to the roof top frames to complete the roof sub-assembly and the roof sub-assembly can be fitted to the cabin either now or after all painting is completed? The roof sub-assembly fits very snugly over the upper cabin bulkheads and you need to carefully easy it into place with the front cab window frames fitting snugly under the front of the roof for a very good fit. The fit is snug enough to not need glue as shown in the build images but you may need to glue to get the tightest fit once all painting is done.

The final step once the cabin is complete is to fit the undercarriage and this is by way of attaching the four U brackets on each corner of the chassis frames to the top of the four underfloor springs, the fit here is again spot on and will hold in place without glue if want to separate the two at some stage. There is also the two debris catchers (parts G8, Gb9) added under the floor and again the fit is very good although there are a lot of sprue attachments on part Gb9 that need care in removing.

Roadway/Electrical poles:
The kit includes a large vac-formed brick roadway section with the tram rails as well as two overhead power line poles for the basis of a city diorama. The brickwork and tram line detail is quite crisp but there are a number of raised pips on the surface as a result of the vac-form process and those on the rail lines will need to be trimmed, the ones on the brickwork not so important as they may be covered with groundwork or rubble, it’s up to you on this.

The power poles are in six parts with the ornate overhang arm to which is added the electrical cable attachment line and you also get two very small insulating connectors for each end of the line which is a nice touch. You have to provide the cables from fine wire but there is one major issue with the poles, that is they are too tall by about 20mm to be able to mate the tram electrical pick-up frame with the power lines and you will need to reduce the pole height by that amount. It’s best to cut a section of 10mm from the lower and upper pole segments to keep these even in perspective and that shouldn’t be a big problem. Just a quick note when gluing the two post parts A3 together, I trimmed off the top locating pin as this prevented the parts from aligning properly but other than that everything fitted fine.

The assembled power poles simply glue to the road surface and the Tram wheels fit perfectly into the tram lines with the rest of the diorama as you please.

Instructions/Decals:
The twelve page A4 sized instruction booklet has the usual exploded view drawings for the assembly steps and other than a few part numbering issues listed above they are quite clear and easy to follow, but you should of course study the sequences beforehand to avoid any issues.

The small decal sheet has a selection of numbers in both black and white to cater for whatever paint finish you may wish to put on the Tram?

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Miniart

Conclusion:
This is a superbly engineered and detailed kit of a typical European Tram and more specifically German Tram of the first half of 1900’s with extensive details in most areas although sadly most of the undersides are hidden after assembly.

The kit as mentioned is not for the inexperienced modeller due to the many small and fine parts and quite intricate assembly sequences in some areas but the fit of the parts is excellent overall with only a couple of very minor issues which makes the task a lot easier not having to worry about trimming or filling as you go.

The main area of any concern will be with the painting due to the many windows needed masking with some having the fine guard rails over the glass just to complicate matters, building the kit in sub-assemblies as outlined will help lessen the painting dramas but you will need to plan this before tackling the kit proper.

Overall this is a superb kit that will have endless diorama possibilities for NW Europe scenes and should be welcomed by both German and Allied modellers alike.

Rating 9.5/10

Build Images
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The Sprues:

Click on thumbnails for larger view
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Sprue detail images
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Instruction booklet
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Thanks to Miniart and Lucky Model for the review kits.


Page created January 7, 2014



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