by: Robert Blokker [ ]
On the Eastern Front the freezing conditions of winter and the searing mosquito-filled heat of summer are neighboured by respectively spring and fall. Nothing weird there. That happens in a lot of countries you might say. But in the land of extremes these periods are not very ordinary either. The spring suffers from the melting snow, ice and the flooding of rivers as result of that while the fall suffers from the heavy rains. And both seasons get the exact same situation. The roads turn into big muddy quagmires. The soviets even have a name for it. It is called Rasputitsa. Literally translated “Road Loose-ness”. When the German army followed in Napoleons footsteps they eventually found themselves up against the same adversary “General Mud” stopping any advance for at least a month every spring and fall.
The muddy conditions were a problem for the big tanks with their interleaved road wheels neatly filling the gaps between the wheels and in winter they froze solid. Enough to turn your Panther into a 45 ton paperweight. The light and medium tanks faced an altogether different problem. Surely they did not suffer from the blocked wheels. But the small width of the tracks caused them to sink so deep in the mud that it was nearly impossible to get it going again. Especially for these conditions a new type of track was designed in 1944. It got the designation Ostketten. Tracks designed specifically for the conditions on the eastern front. With a width of 560mm they were roughly 160 mm wider then the “standard” track links making for a more effective spreading of the tank’s weight. Ostketten are not to be mistaken with Winterketten. The standard track with an extension attached to it which was designed in 1942. That type of tracks was used for the Eastern Front winters only.
The Riich Models Workable Ostketten tracks come in a Neatly designed box measuring 26cm wide, 16,3 cm deep and 3,5 cm high. The front shows 2 sections of the Ostketten tracks Left and right. It also mentions the following things.” It is a detailed model for adult collector, not a toy”, “this box contains parts to make one model kit” and last but not least “Actual model may vary from image on box”. Please keep these words in mind.
The back of the box has the assembly and paint instructions.
All that is in the box are the tracks. You’d probably never guessed that. You get 4 sealed bags. 2 for the left run and 2 for the right run. Each bag contains 8 light grey styrene “sprues” holding 7 track links and 8 sets of track pins that need to be attached into holes of the sides of each track link. The tracks themselves are cleanly molded. Not much flash is present and there are no push out marks. Everything clear so far.
Drumroll........ my anticipation for this set was very high. So I took one of the bags out of the box and try to put some links together. The sprues themselves have L and R stamped on them. So it is easy to identify which is which. Needless to say better built one run first and the second after that to avoid confusion on the bench.
To start with the start. I began cutting the track links from the sprue. This leaves you with 4 attachment points to sand. So far no problems. Looking at the tracks I noticed that the holes for the pins are running through and through the side of the link basically making it a tunnel to where the other track slots in. If you assemble your tracks first and then glue the track pin parts the chances are extremely big that the glue creeps through and this will limit the workability of the tracks. So better to glue in the trackpins first.
Enter problem #1
The way Riich Models designed the track pins in all his wisdom the designer for the Ostketten tracks thought it a good idea to design it in such a way that the bolt head is on the end. So the part that slots into the hole is attached to the sprue. This means you have to cut off the pin first. You might have noticed. Each sprue comes with 7 links and 8 sets of track pin sets... Boy are you going to have to do your best to even make that enough. The track pin parts are tiny and cylindrical. The only way you will be able to put them in place is with tweezers and from my own experience this will result in several of the pins flying off into infinity and beyond. Never to be seen again. Even if you simply drop it you will spend quite a bit of time with your nose pressed on the cutting mat to find it again.
Enter problem #2
The mold may have shifted a bit on my review sample but I had a thick moldline on the side of the track pin parts. No problem no problem. Moldlines are part of styrene kits. Only problem was that the pins did not fit the intended holes anymore. The only solution here was to carefully scrape the moldline off the already fragile part, cutting it off, picking it up with tweezers and praying to the gods that it wouldn’t launch off to the lair of the carpet monster.
Enter problem #3
The track links really don’t fit together very well. The tracks have 2 tiny nubs that slot into the next track. And that should ensure the workability of the track... Well not really. Since the holes that the next track slots into are suffering from a bit of moldline/flash problem at the bottom side of the slots. This in turn has a tendency to push the next track link up on one side. To solve this problem you have to cut/scrape away the little amount of flash on the bottom side of the slots, and even then you will have tracks that will easily separate from each other. So you still have to glue them in place.
Another thing I noticed was that they bend inwards better then outwards. Curving them on a sprocket or idler goes perfectly fine. Track sag might cause a bit of a problem with the track separating so easily.
Enter problem #4
Time.... These tracks are immensely labour intensive. A small run of 7 links did cost me nearly half an hour. For example. I can do half a run of similar Friul tracks in the same amount of time. And they cost pretty much the same as well.
Is there any good news?
Yes there is. The original Ostketten tracks were 560 mm wide. Translated to scale that measures out to 16 mm and the tracks are exactly 16mm side. I fitted the tracks to sprockets road wheels and idlers from both DML Panzer III and IV’s and they fitted perfectly around and through those as well. So there you have it. The good news. Does it weigh up to the bad news... Not by a long shot.
Well where to begin. I wish I had nicer things to say about this track set. As I said my anticipation was high. But sadly it didn’t mount up to it. Yes the links are correct size. They fit around sprockets, idlers and road wheels of the tanks they are intended for. But after half an hour I was halfway mount frustration and decided for the sake of my own sanity to go back again. I really wonder if any of the execs at Riich Models tried to build them themselves without starting to curse and throw things. Why Riich Models decided to design the track pins like this instead of what Modelkasten and Trumpeter do? With the bolt head attached to the sprue allowing for a good hold while placing the pin is a complete riddle to me. They even could have molded the track pin part directly onto the track link. It wouldn’t have made any difference at all to the end result and would have made assembly a little bit easier. The separate track pins only make assembling the tracks more tedious then it should be. And that is even besides launching them on the floor. In the cobwebs on the ceiling and in the cats fur.
Riich Models claims them to be workable but again... not really. They require a lot of clean-up to come even close to that designation and even then looking angry at them is enough for them to separate again. It seems Riich Models tried to open the attack on Friul but in my eyes this set isn’t worth it’s 30 dollar. You’ll buy a box with your own personal Rasputitsa.