Container traffic on the RTM, in H0e (2015)

Jan van Mourik

In the 1920s the 3'6" gauge RTM started using a form of container traffic, in common with other railways. They used containers in the shape of a closed van body, put on specially adapted flat wagons. Such a container could be lifted off the undercarriage using a crane, and put on board one of the numerous inter-island ferries the RTM operated to the south of Rotterdam. The container was transferred to another such carriage which ran on the separate island tramway system. The photos below, made in 1979, show a restored example at the RTM museum tramway, then still situated at Hellevoetsluis. Photos taken from

The container on its undercarriage was attached to the steam tram and brought to the destination station on the island. The container has four lifting hooks on its roof, attached to the underframe by tension bars inside the body framing, and can be lifted off using a specially made spreader. Apart from these closed containers the RTM also operated open containers for bulk cargo, which were transported the same way.

I made a model of such a container and its undercarriage, running on 9mm gauge track which I use on my Mouburg layout. The photos below show it being constructed.

After completing and painting, it looks like this. The container is fitted loose on the chassis and can be lifted off by a crane, just like its prototype. I made a model spreader with chains to do the lifting:

The container has been ballasted to 40g, and the wagon chassis weighs about 15g. I added some weight to the chassis so it stays on the track and isn't lifted off with its load. The weight of the container is 40g because it needs to pull at the hook of the crane when it's lowered - otherwise the chain will stick in the mechanism of the crane. The weight might possibly be halved, but as it is it works all right.

In addition I made a H0M (12mm gauge) chassis, so it can be used on the single H0m siding of Henk Wust's Smeerdijk layout, which has a motorised Artitec crane. I may move on to make a load on a pallet, covered with a tarpaulin, weighing at least 20g, with four lifting ropes. That might enable me to load or unload a normal open wagon with a pallet load.

For Mouburg harbour station I made a crane with winding and slewing gear. This is a freelance interpretation of the RTM cranes that were present on RTM ferry terminals at Anna-Jacobapolder, Numansdorp, Hellevoetsluis, Middelharnis and Zijpe.

An example of such a crane is shown below. In the model I only use the heavy lifting hook with the chain doubled back. The other one is a dummy. The operating hook has a thin chain running back to the winch drum inside the crane superstructure. The winch is driven from below by a vertically placed worm. The shaft goes through a hollow tube.

The crane is slewed round by turning the bottom of the superstructure. The hollow tube mentioned above is the rotating shaft, which has a big gear under the crane superstructure. This is driven from a pinion in the base of the crane, which is driven from below over a gearbox. As mentioned above, the drive to the winch goes through the hollow shaft - see diagram below.

The reduction ratio of the motors' turning rate has been achieved thus:

The mechanism has been set up so the crane superstructure can be lifted off without having to disassemble anything. All you need to do to reposition the crane is carefully drop it into place. The lifting gear will engage with a claw and the slewing gear will engage the pinion of the drive.

The Artitec crane on Smeerdijk can be seen lifting the container on its H0m chassis in the video made by Ted of the Rijswijk show in 2016, at 13m 50s.

More photos  

Video: (jump to 13m 50s)