Mörser Karl-Gerät 040/041
on railway transport carrier

Trumpeter 1:35 Scale Kit No. 00209

including comparison with Dragon Mörser Karl kits #6179, 6181
First Look Review by Terry Ashley

Dragon has had the Karl game to themselves for a while now with their two kits, #6179 60cm 040 with raised suspension (lowered hull) and #6181 54cm 041 with lowered suspension (raised hull). The first big difference between those kits and this new kit from Trumpeter is that both mortar calibres (54cm / 60cm) and suspension states (raised or lowered) are options included in the Trumpeter kit, but the differences don’t stop there as the Trumpeter kit also includes the two railway transport cars which are really kits in themselves. Trumpeter have gone a lot further than just give you two barrels, they have also included other subtle differences between the two as we will see below and it is clear they have spent much of the time developing this kit really doing their homework.

Back when I first reviewed the Dragon kits I highlighted the many simplifications and detail errors/omissions and these were confirmed with Dave Parker’s excellent kit build in Issue 12 of AFV Modeller Magazine and now this superb new kit from Trumpeter further illustrates this. But this simple approach may be preferred by modellers for the ease of building and who aren’t too fussed about the lack of detail as the finished kit does look big and impressive.

The 18 month gestation of this kit is more than worth the wait as even a quick inspection of the parts will show and so I will do this a little different than the normal comparison in that there will be a detailed review of the Trumpeter kit with comparisons with the Dragon kit parts added along the way, so we can kill the proverbial two Karls with one stone.

We will first look at the Mörser vehicles themselves and then at the rail transports as obviously there will be no comparison of these as they aren’t in the Dragon kits.
I have included detailed images of selected parts and sub-assemblies that best show the level of detail in the Trumpeter (TR) kit and the corresponding Dragon (DR) parts and the details in these examples can be extrapolated to the rest of the kit parts.

The kit:
The TR kit comes in the same sized box measuring 635mm (25in), 335mm (13.5in) and 170mm (6.75in) deep as their Leopold kit with three smaller boxes inside containing parts which are in turn all packaged in plastic bags for the usual good packaging from TR. The kit contains 1251 parts in light beige plastic with metal axles and springs for the gun recoil plus about 95 etched parts as well as a herd of poly caps for the rail truck wheels, the decal sheet, a set of vinyl one piece tracks and large 39 page instruction booklet along the lines of that in their Leopold kit with clear exploded view drawings of the construction sequences.

Etched parts
Other bits

The standard of moulding is excellent with crisp detailing with many parts having bolt head and other details on both side of the parts, there are some pin ejector marks on the reverse side and these may take care to remove without damaging the detail but overall the pin marks are kept to a minimum and only where they can’t be avoided and also the pin marks are often positioned Sto be hidden by other parts such as on the carriage sides.

The Lower Hull/Suspension:
Starting from the ground up both DR and TR hulls have the same length, width and height so at least we start from and even playing field.

The major difference here is that the TR hull has the correct offset for the torsion bar suspension while the DR hull has them parallel on both sides and the TR hull has the final drive housings and idler wheel mountings included on the hull sides while these are missing from the DR hull.

The DR hull has the axles included, moulded in either the raised position (kit 6179) or lowered position (kit 6181) while the TR kit has separate axles that can be position raised or lowered as you wish.

The road wheels and return rollers in the TR kit have much finer details than the DR counterparts but again are the same diameter in both kits. The TR return rollers have considerably more details than the DR parts with centre hub details and embossing on the tyre section.
The idler wheels on the TR kit have again finer details and the ribs details better match those in photographs than those on the DR idlers and there are also two small fairings on the underside of the TR kit for the idler mounts.

The drive sprockets on the DR kit are adequate but the profile on the insides of the inner and outer sprockets are again different from most photos, while the drive sprocket on the TR kit not only matches photos but have a separate outer cover plate with superb rendering if the intricate gears inside the sprockets with details also on the inside of the cover plate and would look good if modelling the vehicle undergoing maintenance.

The inside of the DR hull is empty while the TR hull has two sections of flooring with torsion bars and connecting brackets to fill the void, as well as side plates and connecting bulkheads above the torsion bars and the reasons for including this inner detail will become apparent as we move on.

The tracks in the TR kit are continuous length vinyl while those in the DR kit are plastic link and length. But given this the TR track is better detailed with end pin connector detail and the round hole in each guide tooth which the DR track doesn’t have nor does the TR track have the two big pin marks in each track link as on the DR track so overall the TR track is better detailed.

Upper Hull:
At the front the driver’s compartment is quite detailed in the TR kit with the correct instrument panel layout and control levers as well as foot pedals and two part seat with etched details as well as separate rear plate with bolt head details while the DR compartment is very simplified in comparison with instrument panel and gear levers that don’t match photos while both come with the separate compartment cover.

The large circular engine intake on the TR kit has a separate bulged part on the hull side as this protrudes outside the hull width while the DR intake is inside the hull width and the TR intake has etched screen for the top while the etched screen is only included in the second DR kit (6181). The three engine compartment top intakes have better rendered details on the TR kit and are a bit heavy on the DR kit and also included in the TR kit are the two wood planks that were fitted between the intake covers to form a full width walkway for the crew, this feature is not in the DR kits.

The upper hull sides are separate parts and all the side walkways are separate parts and can be positioned lowered or raised on the TR kit as well as the finely moulded hand rails that can be positioned lowered or raised in accordance with your choice of walkway position? There is also separate side hull panels with nice tread plate pattern included and hinge details while the walkways on the DR kit are fixed in the lowered position with raised hand rails and would take considerable work to show in the folded position.

The two TR kit side mounted exhausts give you a choice of short or long exhaust pipes and it’s best to check your references to which applies to the vehicle you are building while the DR kit 6179 has the short exhaust and kit 6181 has the longer pipes.

Moving to the rear hull panel we see the TR panel with separate wiring ducting with attachments as well as finely rendered weld seams and delicate boarding ladder while the DR part has very basic details with no weld seams and most of the ducting moulded on while the ladder is twice as thick as the TR ladder, these details are translated to the front plate with the twin boarding ladders and details similar to the rear panel.

The remainder of the hull details are much finely depicted as either moulded on or separate parts on the TR kit with the details on the DR kit being adequate to basic.
But this could create some problems where things like the side hand rails are so thin they could break easily if not handled carefully, but who’s going to complain about detail being too finely done?

Gun Cradle:
This is where the detail really kicks in on the TR kit; the whole cradle is designed like the real thing in that the assembly can be removed from the hull as in the road transport mode while the DR cradle is only depicted as the section above the top hull.

This is the reason TR have included the interior hull details as you can display the gun segments separate if you wish, that would make for an impressive diorama.

The two TR side cradle panels have the same level of bolt head and panel details on BOTH sides with the problem of pin ejector marks cleverly dealt with. On the outside the central detail panel and supports are moulded as a separate part and when fitted to the main panel hide all but one of the pin marks and also allows excellent detail definition due to the two parts. The upper section with the trunnion support is a separate part on the left side to allow the inclusion of the additional detail items on this side.

The intricacy of this part does result in some extra cleanup compared to other parts but the complex shapes are well done.

The TR front and rear upper flanges on the cradle sides are again separate parts with bolt head and other details on both sides with only a few small pin marks to contend with. These flanges also correctly straddle the cradle side panels unlike the DR part where they extend only from one side and have absolutely no detail at all except of the lifting shackles.

The TR front and rear box assemblies are again very well served with bolt head and other details with the front box including the elevation gear wheel and as most of this detail is below the level of the upper hull it don’t exist on the DR kit.

There are numerous other details parts on the TR kit from manual elevation winders, crew steps, the main sight (which isn’t on the DR kits) and two superbly moulded double hand wheels which again are very basic on the DR kit. Again similar detail on the DR kit is not as finely moulded and is quite basic in some areas.

Test fitting of the TR cradle parts indicated very good fit of the major components and there shouldn't be any problems during assembly other than to stop drooling over the level of details.

Main Gun/Recoil Housing:
As mentioned you get both the 54cm and 60cm gun tubes in the TR kit with etched parts around the front sections and as the gun tubes come in the traditional two halves there is separate inserts with rifling to fit into the muzzle. This overcomes the join line in the DR barrel halves rifling but both kits depict the rifling parallel to the barrel as it’s virtually impossibly to do anything else in injected plastic and does give a good impression of rifling inside the barrels and there are different mounting collars for the different calibre guns with the TR kit.

The main breech is engineered similarly in both kits with the large end section with shell opening and upper and lower recoil cylinder attachments. The contours around the shell opening are much better depicted on the TR part as are the recoil attachment “bolts” with DR depicting all three the same when in fact the middle one is a different shape as correctly depicted on the TR kit.

The two breech side panels are much better detailed on the TR kit with again only basic details on DR kit which extends to just blank off parts on each side to represent the breech block while the TR kit has the breech block as a separate part so can be shown open if you wish.

Both kits include springs to animate the recoil mechanism but these are more substantial on the TR kit and as I haven’t tested this feature I’ll take their word that it does recoil.

The large recoil/buffer assemblies are in two main halves in the DR kit with basic detail while the sides in the TR kit are split into upper and lower sections which allow for additional detail definition but the rough texture of the upper section could do with some more work. The intricate securing “bolts” on the front of the recoil housing are again better detailed on the TR kit with three raised square mounting plates correctly depicted which aren’t on the DR parts as well as far better details on the central extended cylinder as well as additional small details on the TR parts not present in the DR kits.
The difference in detail between the two kits can best be seen around the gun pivot points and the wiring included on the left side of the assembly.

Construction Update:
One minor problem that has come to light during initial construction in that the four recoil springs provided in the TR kit are unfortunately too small to fit over the plastic pistons in the first release kits. These springs have now been re-issued by TR and subsequent kits will have the correct parts. If you have an early kit, contact your place of purchase and they should be able to provide replacement springs, I received mine in the mail from Rainbow Ten without having to ask, that's service, thanks guys.

Loading Tray:
The side panels on the TR loading tray again have bolt head details on both sides while the DR part has basic details on one side only and is also markedly smaller than the TR parts.

One feature TR have identified and included is that the left tray panel on the 60cm Karl is of a different design to that on the 54cm Karl and TR have included the two correctly detailed side panels to use depending on which kit you are building while DR have got by with the same part for both kits.
Also correctly identified by TR is that the shell rollers on the tray are spaced differently on the 60cm and 54cm trays and again they provide alternate trays and separate roller parts to correctly depict this difference with the TR tray having a finely moulded lower panel and additional details such as the two raised guides on the front of the tray. The tray on DR kit is very basic with the shell rollers simply included with the tray moulding and don’t have the two raised guides while the lower panel is really quite crude.

The loading tray is also designed to be removed from the TR vehicle if depicted in the transport mode.

TR provide you with a single light shell and heavy shell which includes a separate end plate with the correct embossing and is simply the best plastic 60cm shell you will see this side of the resin shell from Nuts’n’Bits and does make the metal shell in the DR kits look quite plain, as it is.

That completes the section of the vehicle themselves and we will now move on to the railway carriers and obviously all comments here apply to the TR kit only.

Railway Transport Carriers: Rail Trucks:
The same level of detail in the Karl is carried through to the railway carriers with the lower truck assembly being similar to those in the Leopold kit with separate leaf springs, side brake assemblies and wheels attached to the axles with the poly caps supplied.

The top, front and rear truck panels are new and feature superbly moulded details especially on the top truck bed.

The large bearing assemblies for the arms are very well detailed with an intricately moulded upper section and base with excellent bolt head details with the finished bearing assembly designed to be movable on its base and also to rotate on the bed central mounting bracket. The two side fold up crew steps are also designed to move after assembly providing you take care when gluing.

The two truck assemblies are the same so when you have finished the first the second should be easier due to the practice and they build into superbly detailed assemblies.

Arm Assemblies:
The main arm side and top beams again have bolt head details on both sides with a few pin marks to deal with and so long as care is taken the detail shouldn’t be compromised.

Assembly of the arms is very straight forward really with them having the two sides, top and bottom panels with reinforcing plates in between plus additional smaller details including some etched parts.

Due to the level of detail on both sides of the parts the arms look excellent and just add to the overall good impression of the kit.

Also provided with the truck and arm assemblies are the large connecting rods that join the two trucks together when not carrying a Karl and allow you to correctly depict the truck in transport mode too and from delivering a Karl and gives another dimension to the kit as you can build the Karl on its own and have the transport trucks in transport mode separately as well as rigged up transporting the Karl.

Rail Sections:
The sections of track bed, rail track and sleepers are the same as those in the Leopold kit although the track gauge has been reduced to 41mm wide, the same as in the Dragon Leopold kit.
Included are just enough straight track sections to sit the full length of the trucks with Karl loaded and being the same as the Leopold track can be easily joined if a large diorama was the go although you had better buy a new house first.

The TR decal sheet has markings in both Black and White for Karl-Geräts III, IV, V and VI with vehicle names, again in Black or White for “Thor”, “Loki” and “Ziu”. Also included on the decal sheet is a selection of stencilling for the rail trucks with two paint schemes shown, one a 60cm Karl on transport carrier in overall German Grey and the other a 54cm “Loki” in three colour cam scheme but obviously you can choose any scheme to go with the decal provided.


The DR decal sheets have basic vehicle names only plus the vehicle number.
Trumpeter Trumpeter

Well there you have it folks, a stunning example in the art of injection plastic and if Trumpeter weren’t considered a major player before well they are now.

The Trumpeter kit has superb details everywhere with finely rendered surface details and detailed parts and also includes the choices of mortar calibres and suspension states for good measure. There is scope for added finer details to make it even more impressive and the inclusion of the rail transports just makes it better value.

As you know I always look for the positive in any kit I review but not wanting to be unkind I simply can’t find anything to say in the Dragon Karls defence other than it is easier to build and will look impressive due to its size.

Even though this kit from Trumpeter comes 18 months after the Dragon kit and you may already have the Dragon kit(s) this new one would still be worth the money and I can see quite few Dragon Karl kits appearing on E-Bay in the near future.

Trumpeter have now released kit #00208 of the Mörser Karl-Gerät 040/041 (Initial Version) on railway transport carrier which features the first suspension layout as well as the rail transport trucks, see review for updated details.

Highly Recommended.

See the Mörser Karl-Gerät Subjects listings for reviews of additional update sets available for the Mörser Karl-Gerät kits.

The Sprues:

Click on thumbnails for larger view
Transport Carrier Parts
Karl Mörser Parts
Close new window to return to review
Detail Images
TrumpeterClick for larger viewTrumpeterTrumpeterTrumpeter

"Bertha's Big Brother Karl-Geraet (60 & 54cm)"
by Thomas L. Jentz
ISBN 0-9708407-2-1

AFV Modeller Magazine
Issue No.12
Detailed buildup of the Dragon Karl
with usefull details

German Heavy Mortars
Schiffer Military History Vol.39
ISBN 0-88740-322-0
Allied & Axis No.9
Ampersand Publishing


Thanks to my credit card and Rainbow Ten for the review kit.

Page created September,26 2004

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