Paper Terrains: Paper Terrain Does Trains | Print |  E-mail
Written by Don MacVittie   
Friday, 19 October 2007
Don takes an in-depth look at the new 15mm Paper Terrain Trains, complete with a game and our impression of how well they go together, look on the table, and work during gameplay.

In case you missed it, we're Paper Terrain fans. The company's European Village is very pretty, and compared with the cost of making a comparable Euro-village from resin, it's unbeatable. That's particularly true if you count the ruined versions of the buildings�which would double the cost of a resin village. And, Paper Terrain is a lot quicker than building your own from scratch (though arguably less fun).

A sampling of the train and track sets

We got our hands on the 15mm version of the new train sets that Paper Terrain is offering (available in 6, 15, 20 and 28mm versions), and spent a few nights assembling to offer you a picture of what you stand to get if you purchase them.

We received both the train set and the tracks set. The tracks set is several pages of just tracks, mostly straight but with some forked and curved pieces. The train set is huge, coming with an engine, a coal tender, a caboose, two tankers, four flatcars, ten boxcars and four gondola cars. The engine and caboose each have their own sheets, the other cars are two to a sheet.

Closer view of the cars

This set is up to the same standard as other Paper Terrain products, meaning it's detailed and reasonably well-scaled. The colors are bright and well differentiated in our copy, but of course this will vary with the age of the ink cartridge used at Paper Terrain headquarters. Presumably as the cartridges age they will be replaced, and reprints will be performed as necessary, but we have no way to know that level of business policy detail. The one complaint we had about colors was the limited colors of cars: lots of red, some faded red that looks orangish and green. Perhaps that's technically accurate, but it's boring in our opinion. Not so boring that it made us think less of the product, mind you, but we'd be happier with some variety.

Track with HO scale tracks

The tracks package is not too complex, so we'll cover it first. The tracks are exactly what they purport to be: rails running over ties on a rock-colored background. There is plenty of track in the package for wargamer needs, and six rail splits (switches) plus 40 feet of track mean you can run the track all about a standard 4x6 or even 6x8 table. If you're mostly going straight track, you can use this set on much larger tables. We use regular HO railroad tracks to represent tracks in our games, and these are in-line with those tracks for size. With that said, they are flat, which is a little odd for me because I'm used to having model railroad tracks on the table.

We ran a Poor Bloody Infantry game with the train set in use. PBI uses a 4-foot by 4-foot table, so we got a decent feel for the amount of train and tracks necessary to make a good game. To our pleasant surprise, very little. We used about one third of the rolling stock and about ten percent of the track in the following photos.

The Paper Terrain railroad on a 4x4 table

The same picture from a different angle

The train package is astoundingly complex in comparison with the Paper Terrain European Village set. Since most issues occur in more than one car type, we will cover each issue separately and mention which cars it applies to.

We'll get the bad out of the way right upfront. The worst part of this 12-hour assembly experience for me was putting together the tanker cars. The problem is that paper�particularly cardstock�is difficult to make into cylinders without causing creases in its surface. We used a 1/2-inch outside-diameter pipe followed by a 3/8-inch outside-diameter pipe to wrap the cylinder bits about, but the process of folding the side tabs and gluing still caused some creasing, which left the marks visible on the tanker in the pictures.

The Engine suffers from the same basic problem, but by the time I had done it twice, I had learned to minimize the marking, so my advice is to assemble the tankers first, both of them, because your train will work much better without tankers than without an engine should your learning curve match mine.

Train with tank car

The other little oddity are the bumpers. They're optional, and you won't see them in our pictures because we didn't put them on; after the first one, we realized that they're optional for a reason. They require that a tiny circle be glued to a folded-over piece of cardstock. That arrangement is a bit flimsy, and we opted to skip it after the first one. Imagine gluing two pieces of cardstock so that the edges form a T. Now imagine doing that on cardstock where one piece is a 3mm diameter circle and the other is a 2mm wide strip.

The other odd bit is the instructions. They're adequate if you spend a little time and are careful with assembly, but we would like to see a few more details. One of our problems was figuring out what was meant by some of the instructions. Could be I'm an idiot, but likely it means more detail and a few more diagrams would ease assembly. We'll forward our notes to Scott at Paper Terrain in the hopes that he'll consider our suggestions. In our case, the instructions indicate that the undercarriage should be glued upside down into the bottom of the flatcar bed. We actually prefer the look and height if the bottom is glued to the flatcar bed, and the instructions weren't very clear which way it went. Only the lines showing how to glue the wheel base onto the undercarriage made it clear to us that it was to go upside down. In fact, the intention is that you score along the back of the cardstock and then fold and glue.

Guarding the train � Russian FoW figures

That's the worst of it. If you're okay with a knife or very patient with a pair of scissors, most of the rest of the set is easy to assemble. Watching our video ( of assembling the Euro Village will give you some tips, but it's not that complex a process.

The only thing that is a bit different about the trains vs. the village is the number of little bits you have to put together. On top of the abovementioned bumpers, there are many little details that Paper Terrain has included for the locomotive. These bits require some precise folds and careful gluing to get together and keep looking good.

The engine sheet. Note the detailed bits.

At this point in the review, you're no doubt going, "Wow, why should I buy this?" Well, the answer is the rest of the train. The squared-off cars are the usual Paper Terrain great stuff; the only thing you have to watch for is cutting out the wheels and keeping them round.

These models look good on the table, are scaled to fit with your 15mm miniatures, and for $30.00 (for the rolling stock set) and $15.00 (for the tracks) you get more cars than you're likely to need, unless a scenario in a railroad yard is contemplated. If you've got some spare cash, go right ahead and buy model train cars. But the cost of the engine alone will likely set you back more than this set, and it won't be perfectly scaled to 15mm (though 1:87 works okay for us, so that's not such a huge problem). We did stop at our favorite train shop and check some prices�the least expensive car you can get is an unassembled short flat car kit for $7.50. That's four flat cars for the price of the entire set.

Flatcars transport BT 5 and BT 7 tanks to the front

There is certainly no lack of detail on these models, with the engine having quite a bit of work put into it, both in add-ons and in detail on the main parts of the body. A look at the wheels of the engine and the gearing behind them says it all.

Our PBI game did give us one bit of insight we might not otherwise have had. The train cars are far too light. Bumping a car�even brushing it with a sleeve�shoves it off the tracks or rolls it over. For the house sets this is no problem at all because they are based. The train cars, however, cannot easily be based, so they tip rather easily. For us, reaching around the table a lot, this was a negative. You may have a better solution than we do for this problem. If so, send it on.

In the final analysis, I have decided that the common-sense recommendation is the best recommendation to offer. If you already have the cars for a train set to use with your military wargames and can pick up tracks for a couple dollars (or a couple pounds) a four-foot stretch, this set is likely a waste of your money. But if you don't yet have trains and want to save your hard-earned dollars for miniatures, this set will allow you to use trains in your games and still save most of your money for figures. In short, for the price it is a win, but only if you don't have an investment in another solution.

Still guarding the train.

2.5 stars out of 5.0

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