K F Modell

This publisher had several diverse paper models, many of them railway related, designed by Kurt Fehling, the proprietor. Sadly in 2011 he appears to have decided to give up distributing his models, and they are now difficult to find.

Flying Merkel 1910

Flying Merkel

The subject is a racing motorcycle made by one of the leading motorcycle companies of the early 20th century in the United States. The business was started by Joseph Merkel in 1902, and made single-cylinder road bikes, and later on these very successful one- and two-cylinder racers. It was taken over by the Miami Cycle Company in 1911, but almost immediately got into difficulties. This was partly due to external influences - the rise of the motor car and the effect of the war on demand - and partly because of unsuccessful innovations which destroyed its reputation for quality and reliability. The last Flying Merkel was built in 1917.

The kit consists of nine A4 sheets of thin card, one printed in colour, and the rest in black on coloured card - three red, two buff and one each grey, brown and white. There is also an A3 sheet with assembly diagrams, an A4 sheet with a black-and-white photograph of the real thing and a brief description, and an A4 title page with two colour photographs of the completed model glued on.

The scale is given as 1:10 so in order to achieve my unified scale of 1:14 I scanned all the sheets and printed then at 71% scale. I construction started with the frame, and it became clear immediately this model was not going to be straightforward. The top tube, which has a marked bend in it, merely had a series of cross lines suggesting knife-cuts to form the bend. This instantly failed to work. The corners of the frame were constructed with the tubes cut square and card gussets covering the joint, making it quite ugly. I was going to have to rework at least part of the frame.

So, on to the internet to find some photographs to guide me, and get some surprises. Firstly, and most glaringly, all the photos I found, and all the descriptions I read, said that Flying Merkels were painted bright ORANGE, nothing like the rich red of the parts sheets. However, the old b/w photographs, as well as the one in the kit, all showed very dark paintwork. Then, by chance I came across a web site containing the original of the photograph in the kit, in colour and bright orange. Then light dawned; in 1910 the predominant type of photographic film used was orthochromatic, which was mainly sensitive to blue light, and almost totally unaffected by yellow and red. With this film, orange would have been rendered almost black. As an experiment I took that original colour photograph and processed it with the GIMP plugin Eg Black and White - the result was almost identical to the photograph in the kit. Below that photo the description says "... für ihre leuchtend orange-rote Lackierung ..." ("... for its bright orange-red paint ..."), but the "-rote" is in a different typeface, and the "Lackierung" does not line up with the "orange". It looks very much as though the text and the photograph have been doctored to justify the use of red card, which the designer knew to be wrong. Rather naughty.

Several other discrepancies appeared:

All in all, I had a good deal of redesign work to do. On the way, I decided that the simple cylinder-and-cone representation of the engine cylinders was a shame, so I made an engine with separate cooling fins and the correct bulbous shape of the side valve chamber. More work, but I hope you consider it was worth it.

Right rear Front right
Rear left Left rear
Front left Left side

Finally, the last photo above processed as though on orthochromatic film:

Right side