A Story Of The Developments Of Heavy Payload Flatbed Railroad Cars in Germany
The T-Models SSyms Koln represents the culmination of mass-produced heavy flatbed railcars during the war. Logistical needs for heavy load-bearing wagons arose in the later years of WWI on the Western Front. The transport of British and French tanks to the field became a major task for railway logistics. These early tanks were slow, sluggish, unreliable, difficult to maneuver and needed direct transport to the front. Additionally, they broke down very frequently and often managed little more than 500m. Hence it was important to get them as close to the front as possible, without their own power supply. First developments of the so-called ‘Tankflats’ began during the war. These wagons had a short length and were heavyweight bearing.
Early development in Germany was slow on the other hand. Reparations, restrictions and crises stalled all developments of these types of wagons. Additionally, the low weight of early German tanks made new developments obsolete. Moreover, the Wehrmacht, not particularly on good terms with the Reichsbahn, planned to transport vehicles by road and trucks anyway. Therefore the railroad never played an important role in the military’s planning, until Barbarossa that is.
Early German Developments Of Sskra And Ssy
Westwaggon of Köln was the first German company that manufactured a heavy load flatbed in 1941. Eventually, factories in Germany produced a total of roughly 100 of these wagons. But low demand by tank units led to extensive use for other duties like railway artillery and other goods. As the war progressed and the T-34 entered the battlefield, the Wehrmacht had to field and answer. These new Panther and Tiger tanks weighed significantly more than all previous tanks. The SSkra could only carry 48.5 tons and was too light for these new designs and additionally, there were too few of them. Henceforth the Wehrmacht and Reichsbahn were in serious trouble as the lacking transport capabilities and also steel allowances were a major issue now.
Subsequent modifications of the SSkra resulted in a payload increase to 52 tons. The Fishbelly long carrier received major modification and the resulting design named SSY Köln and built by SAP Graz. An initial batch of 120 of these vehicles left the factories in 1942. These new vehicles were suitable for all Panther derivatives and lighter tanks. However, these wagons were not strong enough to carry the heavier tanks that would soon roam the battlefields.
SSyms Development And Production
While other manufacturers worked on the fabrication of the SSys and other wagons, Westwaggon won the bidding for a new 6 axle heavy payload flatbed. The demanded vehicle required to have a payload of 82 tons, should fit onto the normal two-way structure gauge, and be able to run 80km/h. Altogether, the High Command placed a request for 671 and 690 units for 1943 and 1944, to service the ever-growing distances in the East. The SSyms Köln was the only flatbed with a high enough payload to transport Tiger I’s and II’s and their derivatives, after all.
But Tiger tanks were very wide and on top of the SSyms, this was too wide and the ‘LÜ Dora’* (structure gauge) for two-way traffic would have massively hindered the national railway system. Every Tiger modeler knows, that the transport tracks were a result of this problem. They are 520mm wide instead of 720mm and allow transport in two-way traffic. In contrast, Tiger II transport tracks measured 680mm. Every wagon had its own set of transport tracks, they remained with the wagon, not the tank or company! Its also important to realize that Tiger I SSyms had a fat green line painted on them while Tiger II SSyms a red one.
A Brief Look At Wagon Nomenclature
Before jumping on to the modifications of the wagons and their changing specifications, let’s have a quick look at the nomenclature of railroad stock. The purpose and usage of the manufactured vehicle played an important role in the respective classification. Wagons produced around that time were classified into two groups, geschweißte Bauart (welded type) and the older Austauschbauart (normed type). Further refinements to the ‘geschweißte Bauart’ led to wagons solely produced for military use and henceforth classified as Kriegsbauart. The SSy, SSys, SSyms Köln and others were classified as Kriegsbauart wagons.
It all gets more complicated, however. All SS-type wagons are part of the S-Group and the ‘SS’ stands for the ‘Gattung’ (Köln) of wagons within the S group. The SS Köln are flatbed wagons with a loading length of more than 15m, while Gattungsbezirk S (Augsburg) were only 13m. The addition of the ‘Nebenzeichen‘ ym reduced the loading length limit to 11.2m but increased the loading weight classification to >=50t. The suffix s indicates maximum speed limits of 90km/h. However, the maximum allowed speed was 80km/h for some reason.
Designation from 1944
|SSyms Köln 14 435 – 14 824 and |
19 266 – 20 386
60 001 – 61 824
|Max speed||80 km/h|
|Last year of service||1994|
|Loading weight / L. capacity||80 / 82 t|
|Truck type||Bauart 928|
|Journal boxes||bearing/roller bearing|
Three War-Time Production Batches Between 1942 And 1945
With this background knowledge at hand, let’s evaluate the three different production types of the SSyms. Over time, modifications led to dozens of different vehicle appearances, similarly depending on production batch, manufacturer and time period. Additionally, modifications were not limited to wartime production but continued post-war. The two graphics below this section show the three different variants from different points of view.
The first batch of 50 Wagons of Westwaggon and 100 of Waggonfabrik Uerdingen had early-type SSyms features. These include the four pole handrail, early-type stanchions, with tapering shape towards the top. They also feature a three-spoke hand brake wheel and a special design deck. The wooden deck had two distinctive holes at the sides of each end of the wagon. In this case, the holes were used for the mounting and fixing of the towing cables which measured 1,000mm. Standardization was apparently not as important because the front and the end of every wagon had different shapes. If more than the first 150 vehicles had the first features, should be clarified.
Later type decks had full wooden planking without such gaps and used 1,300mm cables. Increased length requirements arose from a larger span over the edges of the wagon. The handrail was simplified and one pole was rationalized so only 3 were left. Ultimately, the stanchions received a double T-profile, an easily visible mid-SSyms characteristic.
The latest type, on the other hand, did not carry stanchions at all. As a final model change, the discontinuation of the stanchions happened sometime in 1944.
The trucks had the early type journal boxes and used standard bearings and the simple l shape leaf spring stopper group (Federfangbock group). The trucks went under the name geschweißte Pressblech Drehgestell Bauart 928, later in the war referred to as Drehgestelle in Kriegsbauart, just like the SSy trucks post 1943.
Post War Developments
After the war, many SSyms were modified further, depending on their use. One of the most visible changes is the removal of the track pulling devices. Some wagons still had them in the 1970s, but most wagons did not have them any longer after tank transports with transport tracks were not needed any longer. The trucks changed significantly also. They received different journal boxes with roller bearings for instance and more modern designs and the leaf spring stopper group (Federfangbock group) got modified, too. In addition, the Austrian ÖBB manufactured a new design in the late 1950s, the ÖBB 55 SGP 3x.
The Box is fairly small compared to other railway kits, which is a good thing, resources management is important and good for the environment. It is full to the top and has a simple design and very solid and strong cardboard and as such, I like the design! The naming of the wagon and the way it is referred to (GERMAN 80TON TYPE SSYMS FLATCAR SCHWERER PLATTFORMWAGEN) is not that good and should rather include ‘SSyms Köln’, as this is the correct name. As a suffix, ‘Offener 80t-Wagen’ can be used, as the DRG used this in the official documents, also. This is a sad thing as wrong naming and nomenclature are a big problem. Hopefully, more thoughts will be given to the names of further kits.
T-Models Ssyms Koln Inbox
The parts in the box are nicely packaged, well wrapped and protected. No problems should arise during transport and shipping. Included are 2A, 4B 4C 2D one set of decals, 2*wood and one set of PE (Beware: Only the gold version, which does not release yet, contains the second PE set for interior support beams and more) The Boxart is a bit misleading as it shows all these PE parts, though they are neither included in the normal nor the silver kit (same box).
One word, wow, the wooden deck is a treat and looks very good. T-Models have unquestionably produced a very nice extra here. Above all, it is easy to work with and the structure is superb. The sprues are nicely molded, with no signs of flash or sink marks where they would be noticeable. All molds are crisp, with fine details, not brittle and easy to work with. The decals on the other hand are problematic, as 2 of the decal options show numbers that were not even existing, another two show numbers that belong to early-type SSyms and as such not useful also. This leaves only one number option, and consequently, 14 802 is the only set of numbers a modeler should use. However, T-model is aware of this and Decals will be modified and added to new kits.
All included PE parts look good and it is also easy bending them in their right shapes. T-model includes a colored instructions booklet with 10 pages and 12 steps for the wagon and an additional one for the tracks. This review covers this kit in detail and is a full analysis for the detail lover as well as suggestions for casual modelers. The critique is heavy, as is the praise, but bear in mind that this is a full review, looking at all aspects of the kit. The last section covers AM parts, modification suggestions, literature and more interesting links.
The sprues are sorted for minimization of space and are not sorted in categories. As such, I have added the sprue shots in a separate section.
Sprues Bx4 & Cx4
Wood, PE and Decals
A Detailed Inspection of T-Models SSyms Koln
Kit TK 3501 by T-Models has an 11-page instructions booklet but as the rear page is empty, only 10 are of importance. The front page features a short and very brief generic description of the vehicle and some not so accurate parts about German Railway history. They are ignored at best. Page 1 in the booklet covers the parts of the kit and has some color for the PE and wooden parts added to it. a nice feature. The print could be a bit crisper, but they are totally adequate.
The instructions are easy to follow, have a good layout and all necessary parts are easily spotted and orientation is easy. Page 10 shows suggested colors and they are spot on, however, the color of the wooden deck needs to be analyzed. ‘Anlage 17 and § 22(2) of DV 984 T8′ of the Reichsbahn clearly state an oil-based coat of “dunkelgrau” for all wooden floor planks. As such, the suggested brown tone might not be accurate, but this needs deeper analysis.
The first two steps of the thorough instructions lead to the finished trucks of the kit. The trucks are very basic, lack almost all interior parts and have the correct bearings and journal boxes. However a minor issue is the 8 level leaf springs, in all photos at hand only 7 were used, a source quotes 8, but finding a proof photo would be important. Additionally, they do feature the post-war leaf spring stopping mechanism, but not the one used during the war.
The Spring Arrestors Or Federfangbock-Gruppe
Spring arrestors block the maximum travel of springs and the respective truck. There are war-time drawings with the U-design of Fwg 506.04.15. This is depicted on the left-hand side in the drawing below. It must be said however that all period photos show them in this configuration only after the war. During the war, they usually featured the simpler shape, found on the K4T30 and various other rolling stock wagons, also. The RZA, Reichsbahn Zentralamt (Central Office of the Reichsbahn) had other drawings, like Fwg 506.02.1 that show now spring arrestors at all.
The ÖBB later used the 30979 04.10 variant. If you plan to go for a detailed and historically accurate wagon with an interior, you will need to modify and work on these trucks. All casual modelers can build this kit OOB, it has all visible parts and no additional parts are needed for a good finish! Post-war trucks also featured roller bearings without the lubrication caps.
Steps three, four and six walk you through the frame construction. In sum, the parts are basic and lacking detail and explanation. For instance, many of the interior frame strouts are missing in the standard and silver kit. Only the gold kit contains the set ‘Pa’, which includes them. I built them with white styrene for representation purposes, so you will easily spot them in the photo below. The frame dimensions however are correct and the wagon superstructure does have tapered ends. In step four, make sure to drill and cut out the holes (top right of the instructions). If you forget it, it will be very tricky to do this later.
The exterior modifications of the long sides are difficult. They are fine as shown in the instructions for an OOB build, but the wagons show quite substantial differentiation. If you plan to represent a specific wagon, do the research and don’t do the cuts of step 4 before you are sure about it. i marked a few possible locations of a few wagons and their numbers for the track pulling devices. This should show you how tricky it is. Passenger vs goods transport and empty/full load bearing levers are in a wrong position in general however. Their placement should not be done as shown in the instructions. A slight correction is necessary as shown below.
Deck and Frame
Step five is the merger of the wooden deck with the frame. Nothing special happening here. The deck level is 1mm too thick however, instead of 2mm it measures 3mm already without the wood. It will be difficult to correct this but it is not really noticeable.
In steps seven through eleven the buffers and other wagon head parts are added. For the deck and wagon numbers up for option, only the three pole hand rail makes sense. The 4 pole version was an early type feature. The kit, rightly provides the three pole hand rail. The buffer mountings are at the correct level, their circumference and other dimensions are all correct (except for the concave interior rounding on the convex buffer). Neither any AM manufacturer, nor any kit maker has this molded correctly. The track guidance and loading ramps are included and measure up to historical counterparts. They are made from wood, too and their look is just great.
Step 12 adds the stanchions. The early type should be neglected and only the double T-profile ones should be used. For post war variants, no stanchions are needed, only a few had them after the war. I advise you to use parts B17 and not B6.
For details about the braking system and all related matters, follow the HIK link.
Finally, the last step of the instructions. The 13th step on page 9 deals with the tracks and their shape is off, though. German S49 track – the one T-Model obviously tries to copy, as seen by the fastening system they use was the most widely spread track and official standard in the Reich and all their tracks. In particular, the height of the track is a problem, while the other deviations are well within reasonable limits.
|Width at head||67mm||70mm|
|Width at the thinnest part||14mm||35mm|
Another major issue is the length of the track. The DRG used 15 and 30m track sections, they are 42cm and 84cm long in 1/35 respectively. The track of T-Models is 17.9cm long, two added together are 35.8cm long. This makes no sense as this is 15% too short, but other manufacturers do not have better options, either, as of now. The sleepers are 71mm wide, which is 2485mm, so right around the normed and standard sleeper width of the wartime in Germany of 2500mm. Post-war, standards are anywhere up to 2400-2700mm.
Construction And Analysis
Finally, we discuss the building stages and possible modifications and adjustments. Super detailers and those interested in historical accuracy will find them very interesting. Before starting the construction with the long I-beams, beware of quite severe modifications.
Bogies And Trucks
Building the trucks of steps one and two is fairly straightforward, but there are a few errors here. I find the order of construction not ideal and switched it in order to have more freedom adjusting the wheels. I started by adding parts C4 to C3. Like the photo with a top-down view on parts C3/C4 shows, the gap between the leaf spring and the Pressblech is not present. After adding parts C4 to C3 in step two, add the brakes, namely B2 and B3, before moving on to the wheels and axles. I suggest adding parts B9, B10 and A11 at the very end, but you may follow the instructions just as well.
Next clean parts C4 with a fine file, a screwdriver, or a drill, this is really important as there is quite a bit of stuff to be taken away. I broke it off with the pressure of a screwdriver, it snapped clean at the bottom of the hole. The connection part of the springs of part C4 is too thick and parts C2 will not fit on top of it. The only solution: Filing lots of it away. Do this when C4 is glued onto C3, it adds stability and C4 won’t break. We can now go on to the wheels and axles in the next step, but dry-fit them beforehand to see.
Wheels and Axles
Add the wheels B1 onto the axles B4 and I suggest you glue them. Afterward, place 3 axles into the journal boxes, but don’t add any glue here, they need to be able to rotate. Once you add parts B9 and B10 will add stability and fix the frame after A11 is added. You can now add parts B15, B18 as well as the PE parts Pa5. I added the PE at the very end after I finished the rest of the wagon, but that’s just personal preference.
The trucks or bogies do show some differences over the course of time and manufacture. They are all based on the Pressblech Bauart 928 and drawing 506.04.1 is just one of them. T-Models used this as a basis for their design and as this was an official Reichsbahn drawing but photo evidence suggests that another design for the spring bolster/planks was used as discussed earlier.
Please read these paragraphs before starting the assembly. The frame, steps three and four, is simple and easy to construct, but will require a lot of thought for the super detailer. If you own the gold version, the PE parts Pb1 will be included, if not, you will have to make them yourself or just omit them. As the undercarriage is not detailed at all, there is no reason to add them, though. Weather you do add them or not, beware of step 4 before gluing them to the frame! Cut out the stanchion holes in the deck now, before you add the side beams. If you do not do this now, you have to spend a considerable amount of time fixing this later. It can be done, I did it for test purposes, but it is tricky and a waste of your time.
Side Wall I Beam
Also, the I-beam’s (Parts C5) appearance and detail depends on the wagon you are building. These differed by production batch and manufacturer. If you intend to build a specific wagon, make sure to check out its features. As such, no-fit-for all guidance can be given other than the removal of the ring mount crosses used to fix the rings (B7) on. They are shown on technical drawings from 1943, but only very few war-time wagons do have them on photos I have seen. As such, I’d recommend the complete removal of all of them in most cases. Bear in mind that the offical marketing SSyms in 1943 of Westwaggon had none of the rings. The instructions add a lot of parts to the frame now, I would add the wooden deck first, however. There is less chance of breaking parts off or damaging your progress.
We will now move to the most amazing part of this build, the wooden deck! it is so awesome, I had to take quite a few photos of it. The adhesive is amazing and you do not get a second chance placing it, be careful and dry fir it many times before removing the security foil. I started in the middle and went to the outside on one side and from the outside to the middle on the other to test it. I can’t make out a difference and would say that both methods are the same and either one should lead to a good result. Make sure not to pull lengthwise on it, or it may rip, it is fragile after all. If you want the correct height of the deck, you will need to sand it down 1mm, it is too thick.
PE Parts and Details
The PE parts P7A can then be added at the four corners of the wagon. They will require some filing on one of the short sides to get the angle correct, as the wagon gets slimmer towards the ends. Dry fit and you will see it. Add parts Pa4 and Pa6 but beware of their orientation! Parts WB will also fit nicely on parts B12. it is easy to align them along the side with the L beams, then go from there. Beware of the handles of B12 on the side, they are endangered and will break easily.
More Frame And I-Beams Discussions
Let’s jump back to the I-beam, now that the wooden deck is in place. You should only add part Pa8 for certain wagons. Beware that many SSyms did not have it, some did. The handwheel for the brakes is also of interest. You may want to use the three or four sprockets one, depending on your wagon. The position of A3, (G-P lever) and A12 (load lever) is also not really ideal and should be modified based on the wagon you wish to build.
You will now need to decide if you want to depict the wagon with stanchions on the I-beam, attached to the deck or without them. Important is that you not need the double T-beam stanchions, the other ones are for mid SSyms and as such for this type, so I’d not suggest using them. There might have been an odd wagon with the double Is but as they were discontinued in 1943 after the first batch, no mid and late SSyms should have them. If you chose to place them in the brackets alng the I-beam, you are in trouble, as this does not fit. Part A20 is not wide enough and scratch building skills will be required.
If you decide to add them to the wagon, good luck placing them, it will be annoying as the holes are wrong and the cutout in the I beam is missing. As a side note: A mix of stanchions B6 (lower part) and B17 (upper part) would lead to a correct early SSyms stanchion. The mounting hooks of B6 were part of the historic B17 part also. I added a photo below just tpo show this. I will add a few graphics soon, to explain it in a better manner.
Front And Rear
In parts A6, you need to drill two different versions, please pay attention here. Now we get to the juicy part. The handrail goes to the side of the wagon, where you will place the handwheel (part A2/A14). This is correct in the instructions, but not explicitly mentioned. Also, make sure that A2/A14 are exactly opposite of each other. I added the connection rod in the last photo of the below gallery, to show it. Parts A15 may also be placed at many different locations, the instructions ons is the least likely one, however.
Now on to more problems, the handrail. The good thing is that it is the mid and late-type three-pole handrail. It is bad however that parts A23 need to be glued together from two pieces to form the top rail. This is not a good solution. Part A22 is too long and needs adjustment. As a result, I cut away the top part, just beneath the handle which I marked in red. Also, you might want to remove this gigantic block of plastic and replace it with a piece of plastic card. I suggest mounting all A17 parts to the frame first, then adding the rails of double A23 on top. I have dented mine a bit on the top, I guess sth fell on it or so, I have seen a few dented ones.
Last but not least, this leaves us with a comparison of couplings I happen to have at hand. In the second and third picture below, the top light grey shows Sabre’s (Ommr wagon) kit coupling, in the middle, the bad parts are LZ models resin and below is this kit’s version. Sadly, no kit has the correct dimensions. Evidently, LZ models molded their screws in a fixed place, for disengaged couplings. That is to say, these are not useful to use on coupled trains at all! The design of Sabre is the best but lacks accuracy (dimension-wise). T-Models have the whole set as one part and it needs cutting and gluing to change the position, which is a sad thing. A separate analysis deals with couplings in detail, with a link provided below.
Thanks for reading and leave a comment or get in touch with us forfurther details. A. Emde 2021
More Information And Further Suggested Readings
- For further analyses and research about tracks, follow this Oberbau K link.
- A comprehensive list of wagon manufacturers of the German Reich
- Nomenclature of wagon parts by WAN
- German trucks
- Hildebrand Knorr Bremse
- RAL colors, RAL gGmbH and Reichs-Ausschuss für Lieferbedingungen
- 2cm Flakvierling 38 on BR 52s K4T30 analysis
Sources for T-Models SSyms Koln
- Drehgestelle.de 25.5.2019
- HS Merseburg 23.5.2019
- Sleepers and more – Theoretische und experimentelle Untersuchungen an Spannbetonschwellen 25.5.2019, VGB Verlagsgruppe Bahn GmbH, 4 p
- Gattungsbezirke 20.5.2019
- Güterwagen Band 8 Drehgestell-Flachwagen, Stefan Carstens – Paul Scheller, 2016
- Anstrich und bezeichnung von Güter- und Dienstwagen, Wolfgang Diener, VGB Verlagsgruppe Bahn GmbH, 2017
- DV 984 T8 of 1941/1944 of the Reichsbahn – DV für die Erhaltung der Wagen in den Reichsbahn-Ausbesserungswerken Teilfeft 8: Anstriche und Anschriften