Rail Served Industries In Europe #1: Salzgitter Mannesmann Stahlhandel, Hamburg, Germany

I was taking a virtual tour around the railways in Hamburg via Google Maps today and spotted this interesting looking building at the end of a seemingly abandoned line in an industrial area:

From what I can glean web searching and Google translating, this is part of the Salzgitter Mannesmann Stahlhandel facility that manufactures and sells a range of steel products, some of which, despite the state of the track in places, still appear to arrive or depart by train. A potential shelf layout here I think…

On looking at the satellite images you can see it’s actually quite a big facility but for modelling purposes it’s still an ideal candidate for being the centre piece of a small shunting layout. Why?

Well, firstly you can easily recreate modern warehouse buildings like this in low-relief (a very shallow version of the building) by scratchbuilding with styrene sheets or printed photo textures. If you place the low-relief building against the backdrop it only takes up a minimal amount of the space needed to run some trains.

Secondly, warehouse buildings like this are prevalent, seemingly everywhere in the World, so most viewers imaginations can easily ‘fill in the blanks’ and add the necessary depth to the building even if you’re only creating the face of the building to guide them.

That leads nicely into the third reason which is again related to the prevalence of warehouses like this: apart from the signs, there isn’t really anything about the warehouse that makes it uniquely German and you could easily find something similar almost anywhere in the World; off-putting for architecture fans I suppose but it means there’s no reason why you can’t use rolling stock from any country. If you want to keep it authentic you could even make things like building signs and road furniture detachable and switch that out when changing the rolling stock.

Anyway, here’s a satellite overview of the facility as it is:

In this satellite imagery, the section of the building furthest from the camera has the large loading ‘window’ and gantry crane that can be seen in the first picture in this post. If you zoom in and look at the loading window you can see a pair of flat wagons on the tracks. I think its reasonable to assume that steel products are loaded and unloaded using the crane. Interestingly, the Streetview imagery at the top of the post shows an open wagon under the loading ‘window’. Would this be for receiving/dispatching some kind of baled steel product or perhaps dispatching scrap?

At the right end of the blue warehouse buildings there’s a siding and a full-height ground level shutter that leads inside:

This means there’s a good chance you’d also see covered flat wagons entering the building to have their weather sensitive cargo loaded and unloaded. That’s quite a variety of rolling stock and potential shunting operations for a single building.

I think the brown office building in the picture above would be an interesting scratchbuilding project in itself but it also does a good job framing the scene, its colour also acts as a nice contrast to the blue warehouse buildings. Colour is actually quite important when creating realistic scenes. Not only that, if you look closely, there’s a wealth of small details in this view such as the gate across the railway, the crossing barriers up against the blue wall and parked trailers/cars that would be a lot of fun to recreate in miniature. All of these things have the potential to add visual interest at this end of the layout to counter the visual interest of any loading/unloading activity at the other end of the scene.

So here’s how it could all work. As shown I’ve included a hidden area behind the warehouse to store wagons that are moved into the warehouse siding but you could omit that if you wanted to add more depth to the section of the warehouse with the crane at the left of the layout.

You could have hidden fiddle yards at either end or make this scene part of a larger layout by connecting more modules at either end. This might be a good idea, especially for the right end as the pointwork for the siding is very close to the edge of the layout. Another module at this end would give viewers more time to see/watch a train before it pushes a wagon into the warehouse siding. There is another way around that problem though and that is to make sure any train arriving on the layout has to deliver or collect a wagon/s from under the large warehouse loading window before delivering or collecting a wagon/s from the covered siding.

Now the other obvious question with such a compact scene is: how do you hide the end of the layout?

Luckily the Streetview imagery suggests a few options. The first option is trees, clichéd I know but it’s actually prototypical in this case despite the industrial environment. As you probably noticed there is a large tree to the right of the brown office building but there are also younger trees planted in the grass verge between the tracks and the road in front of the office building. Simply making these foreground trees bigger would be quite an effective way of disguising the join at the right end of the layout. The second option is billboards; if you follow the road to the left or west you’ll see a group of billboards alongside the tracks, these could always be brought forward and positioned between the tracks and the road. Advertisers wouldn’t want their posters hidden by trains after all…

Another more radical suggestion would be to move the large loading window slightly and end the tracks in a growth of weeds at the edge of the layout avoiding the need to hide a join at that end of the layout as shown here:

You could even move the buildings around and have the office building in the centre of the layout with a group of warehouses either side. The siding could run into the warehouses on the left as it does now but the large loading window could be moved to the warehouses now on the right. Moving things around in this way might be less prototypical though and that’s because however you arrange the siding, with a central office building and split warehouses, any wagons under the loading window are either going to block the main track and/or block access to the siding.

As you can see for such a seemingly simply location it’s got quite a bit of potential whether you want to create a replica or employ a bit of model-makers license and switch things around.

Thanks for reading and I hope that’s given you a few ideas of your own.

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