Electric trams are a fixture in most European cities today. They were even more so in the years leading up to and during World War Two when personal motor cars were more the exception than now. While not, strictly speaking, armored fighting vehicles, trams were often caught up in urban fighting, either as collateral damage or when used for cover or barricades in street fighting. With the exception of an expensive, limited-edition resin kit that has long been out-of-print, urban diorama builders have been left with scratch-building a tram as their only option for including these ubiquitous fixtures of modern city life.
Now Ukrainian manufacturer MiniArt
has released two
trams, and the results show the company is fast becoming one of the modeling world's innovators.
Inside the largish box are over 600 parts:
19 sprues of gray plastic
6 sprues of clear plastic
1 vacu-formed plastic "cobblestone" street base with tracks
1 sheet of decals
The first thing that struck me about the kit is the imagination brought to its rendering in plastic: all the internal details of the tram are present, including the electric motors that power it, the undercarriage, the braking system, as well as interior and exterior coach work. They have even included the trolley driver's controls, tools and the lights in the ceiling.
I have now built two of these kits, and can say that it really delivers on the promise of its many parts and details. The molding is crisp, the only knock-out plugs are on the bottom of the floor, and almost no seam lines require cleaning up. The plastic is soft and sands easily when removing attachment points. However, the parts are tightly wedged into the sprues, so care should be taken when removing them.
One suggestion is to first label the trees. Because the tram was designed to go in either direction, the kit is really a pair of half-trams joined together. Almost every sub-assembly is built in two identical versions. While MiniArt
has tried to keep the amount of tree-searching for parts to a minimum, it's advisable to label the trees.
A further step would be to plan carefully how you intend to remove a part before wading in with a sprue cutter. Clipping away an attachment point may apply excessive pressure to the part and snap it. And many of the thinner pieces crumbled when removed from their trees despite my best effort. That is perhaps the most-serious criticism I have of the kit: its handles and thin pieces are almost impossible to remove safely from their sprues. For example, out of 12 components for the interior lights, the legs of ten were already broken or broke when being separated from the sprue.
And it's a challenging project: building a tram isn't going to happen in an evening, and it's not a kit for the novice builder! Its detailing is remarkably complete, so that results in many small parts and complex sub-assemblies. But with so many items molded separately, the crispness of the detailing is excellent.
The build progresses from the floor assemblies through to the undercarriage. Once the frame is completed, the coachwork is put in place. There are a lot of windows, so masking them inside and out will be time-consuming. If one of the aftermarket mask makers puts out a set for this kit, I would highly recommend purchasing it.
A note on the "windows": the plastic is a bit thick if you plan on having any open or broken, but otherwise is high-quality and very clear. I suggest spraying on a coating of Future to remove imperfections and enhance the clarity of the panes.
Once the coachwork is finished, the build moves to the interior details and the roof. Painting should be done in stages, as once the interior is done, you will seal it up and then finish off the exterior.
The wheels, electric motors and framework are both detailed and complicated, especially "truing up" the assembly.
The final portion of the kit is the cobblestone base with tracks, and power poles. As with all MiniArt
dioramas, the base is vacu-formed. While keeping costs and weight low, the challenge is finding a way to support the base without it sagging. My solution is a layer of thin polystyrene. The surface of the base is also dotted with tiny "nipples" that will need to be cleaned up; some of them are on the tracks, so care must be taken not to ruin the rail detailing.
decals & painting
The kit suggests a lovely red & white finish, but color choices are almost open-ended. Check your sources. The kit is based on a German design that was restored by the Nuremberg Tram Museum
. It turns out that MiniArt
has discontinued this particular kit, but only to replace it with one that has advertising placards included (Kit #38003). The ads are in German, which limits the tram to within the Reich, whereas this kit would not be totally out-of-place in Poland, the Ukraine (think Kharkov) or Arnhem. A small sheet of decals has route numbers for customizing your look, and will work in most national settings.
It has been a long time since a kit was in my hands that brought me such pleasure and joy. There are usually multiple manufacturers and variants for just about every AFV, but this is the only tram currently on the market. The skill of its design and execution place MiniArt
once again at the forefront of innovation in the styrene model category.
Our thanks to MiniArt
for providing this review copy. Be sure to mention that you saw this kit reviewed on Armorama when ordering it.