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Panther D in Transit

When I started up modelling again, my wife asked me "what are you going to do with them once you're finished?"

I didn't have a good answer at the time, but in the interim, I decided to look for real-world ways to display the kits I build. Reading Wolfgang Schneider's Tigers in Combat, I was struck by how often the Germans moved their tanks into battle (and backwards in retreat) using the Reichsbahn rail network and tracks laid down over the wider Russian railroad gauge. In fact, the Tigers were so wide, crews had to remove the outer road wheels and equip the tanks with special, narrower "transit tracks."

Fortunately, the Panther wasn't as wide as the Tigers and could fit onto a heavy-duty flatcar without special tracks or modifications. And good news for modelers! Dragon put out a styrene version of the four-axle, medium-duty Schwerer Plattformwagen Typ SSy 60ton ("Heavy Flatcar Type SSy 60 ton") that was used to transport the Panther (the Tigers required a still-heavier six-axle flat car). Unfortunately, the kit is OOP, so when I found one on the Internet, I pounced.

The flatcar kit comes with a fairly unrealistic styrene molded roadbed, which I replaced with one made of styrofoam covered with different grades of gravel, all held together by white glue. Making the road bed was one of the trickier parts of the entire build, since I wasn't sure what size gravel to use. I tried real gravel, but ended up using model railroad ballast, which is more to-scale and easy to find in any railroad hobby shop. I would put down a layer of glue, then sprinkle on gravel, layer upon layer until it looked "right."

The tracks included in the kit were fine, especially after painting the rails with Testor's Model Master buffing metalizer paint (gun metal), then highlighting the places where metal-to-metal contact occurs with MIG gun metal pigment (it's just graphite, so a soft #2 pencil will work, too). For the ties, I used a light base color, followed by drybrushing with darker oils. I used the same technique on the wooden flatcar bed, but with different overcoats.

The usual combination of pigments and washes followed to give the whole car a look of heavy usage (including splinters caused by the tank treads). A few leftover Friulmodel track pieces, some Tamiya gas drums (improved with Aber PE brass ends), some scale medium-weight chain to "tie down" the tank, along with linen twine to act as rope for securing the gas drums, and the whole thing looks ready to roll.

The Panther D kit itself is heavily-altered with AM PE sets and accessories, including:

Friulmodel tracks
brass tow hooks (though I used the kit's base metal hooks in the rear)
Archer dry transfers
brass radio mast
PE anti-aircraft armor for the air intakes
an AM PE cleaning rod tube
a turned metal barrel with brass muzzle brake

It turned out the AM barrel was wasted, since I put a "cloth" cover over the muzzle brake once I decided to put the beast on the rails (the cover is tissue "painted" with white glue). I banged up the Schurzen, wrecked a few of the tools and tried to give the whole thing the look of hard, fruitless fighting, including "damaging" the molded-on Zimmerit and cutting out dings in the rubber road wheels. If you compare the "before" and "after" photos, you'll also see how I had to re-do the PE transit lock for the barrel, which is shown in the "open" position in the photos of the unpainted model.

Again, the usual washes and pigments give the tank the look of long service in the field, including three shades of "rust."

If I can find another one of those Dragon flatcars, maybe I'll do up a brand-new Panther heading off to the Russian front. And if I can find the money for the Tank Workshop Schwere Plattformwagen Typ SSyms 80ton, I'll put one of my Tiger kits on it!
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About Bill Cross (bill_c)
FROM: NEW JERSEY, UNITED STATES

Self-proclaimed rivet counter who gleefully builds tanks, planes and has three subs in the stash.