My Lisbon tram 28 diorama

Started 24Aug2022, in group MODELS. Updated 11Mar2024 (Aside: a tram kit from Rolife. [10], Escolas Gerais 4-6 (take 2 and 3)). Observe Standard disclaimer exception.
(Google tradutor para o português ela)

Escolas Gerais 4-6 (take 1)

Fig.1 – 6-4 Escolas Gerais (take 1)

When my oldest daughter, Silje, visited Lisbon (“Lisboa”) in the summer of 2022 she sent a picture back of a full shelf in a souvenir shop. Crammed with these nice touristic model trams. Without hesitation I indicated that one of those to the right might be a holiday gift, if she wanted to give me one.

She came back with this very nicely built 1:87, H0m (HOm) 60 gram model by Amarélis Lda (more below). According to WorthPoint it is an unmotorised die cast model, made in China. It represents a 4-wheel car, being a compromise between the “Standards” and the “Remodelados”. I think this means that the model is a combination of the original, American built cars and the locally modified and built cars from after 1924 [6]. I think the re-modelados are the newer ones, and the standards are the traditional, older ones.

Fig.2 – 6-4 Escolas Gerais (take 1)

Being used to high quality models, I thought that this souvenir model was surprisingly well detailed and built, and a joy to hold and rest the eyes on. It is as playable as it could be. Amarélis seems to have turned the wheels inside out, so that the flanges are on the outside of the track. I guess this makes it more stable to play with. I made my road bed to respect this, assuming that they really did this on purpose. It looks strange once you look at it, but I like it. (My adult son’s boys also got one, but when I told my son about this, he smiled and said that he quietly had unmounted the wheels and turned them the “right” way..)

To make a naïve 3D/2D diorama of this I thought I could find a nice street and then draw a house and do some water-colouring. I found a picture of the tram by a nice building at Flickr [1]. It said that it was in Alfama, so I found a map of route 28 [see Wiki-refs 28E_CCFL, below] and went to Google Street View and followed the line until I found the building. The problem was that going down the hill, Street View stopped quite far away from the building, at Escolas Gerais 22. It was not easy to visually reach the street facades. I didn’t even think that going up the street or going directly to an address (by number) might yield any better result. Now, later on, I have named this nice try as “take 1”.

Because, when I started to prepare for this note, I discovered that if I gave Street View lower house numbers, it would get there. Kind of going uphill. When I finally came to Escolas Gerais 6 there were these really nice pictures [2]. I also discovered that going down the street from #22 all of a sudden worked! I (now?) may indeed reach any house all the way down. The moral is not to give up on Street View. These new photos may just become the basis of a future “take 2”. I could even see that the central house #6 to #4 (left to right), had had its facade refurbished in 2014. Before that “MINIMERCADO FERREIRA CHARCUTARIA” was on the ground floor’s rightmost two parts. The rest was (and is), from left: two garage doors and one central main entrance.

Fig.3 – 6-4 Escolas Gerais (take 1)


H0m means H0 (1/87), but on a 1000 mm narrow gauge. See Wiki-refs (below). Early tram lines were often built as narrow gauge, and I guess most of them remain as they were built. Like in Trondheim where I live, the tram line’s gauge still is 1000  mm. Remember that normal track for railway and some tram lines is 1435 mm. The track used for H0m is 12 mm inner width. 12 * 87 = 1044 mm. However, in the “Elétricos de Lisboa” Wiki-ref it tells that the tram line system in Lisbon have a gauge of 900 mm.

By the way. The length of the tram model is 96 mm, times 87 = 8004 – meaning that the car should 8.00 m long.

My track is not N-scale (1/120) of normal gauge (which also is 12 mm: 1435 / 120 = 11,95) that I could have used. Instead I found a track from Bemo which is 1/87 of 1 m track. This would mean that the steel profile and sleepers would be prototypical. But still, how this would match the track in Lisbon I don’t know. I think tram lines have steel sleepers below the cobblestones or setts.

How and with what?

Fig.3 – 6-4 Escolas Gerais (take 1) – some details (1) to (10)

  1. The base is cut from a yoga block. I don’t do yoga. Instead I fall asleep fast and well and easily get into the flow state by all these kind of details. And my lotus position I guess is when I do programming. But I did buy one yoga block when I discovered them in a shop. Just for the material. Mine is from casall and was 8 * 15 * 23 cm, one half egg white and the other half yellow. 240 gram and hardness durometer 55. It was ok to cut with my FET saw, and did not melt in the cuts
  2. This H0m track is straight and 162,3 mm long: Bemo 4281000 here. I removed each of the connecting sliders at the ends
  3. The base is 16 * 7 cm with a rise of 8 mm. This is about 50 ‰. I have a feeling that the real elevation there is steeper – but there is a limit to this for the diorama (below)
  4. The street is made from an 8 mm grey PVC board cut from a larger one I had. I cut it thinner, so that the street surface should be course. I did attempt to make any paving by having it look like street stones or setts. It’s too easy to get that wrong
  5. The grey parts, including the sidewalk, is 55 mm
  6. The sidewalk is 15 mm only (* 87 = 1.3 m). It looks rather narrow there, but this might be too narrow
  7. I cut a groove into the sidewalk and street for the rail’s sleepers. The depth needed to be rather accurate, to that the space for the wheels’ flanges could appear on the outside (as mentioned)
  8. I had to sand the protruding part of the sides of the wheels to make the tram run on the track. I guess the wheels might have been some 0.25-0.5 mm too short apart. First, unscrew the body. Then fasten the frame in a rubbered vice (?) and start with some 2-3 mm wide strips of very fine sandpaper that you “sand” into the tight space between the end of the wheel and the frame. I think pull “only up” at the start. Then finish with a wider strip of coarser sandpaper. Repeat on the other side. This will have increased the distance between the wheels just enough to make the tram run on the track.
  9. Now the the base again. The space between the rails I filled completely with a thinner PVC strip
  10. The elevation could be problematic for the easy-rolling tram. I stretched the elevation to as much as I could before I started to do anything smart. Still I wanted to increase the margin by increasing the friction. So I screwed a 10 mm diameter, 0.8 kg pull force, neodym magnet with a hole, to the middle of the tram (where the fastening screw from the container box had been sitting). I had to remove some plastic from the tram. (The frames are originally made from wood [6]. Is this unusual?) I then took some steel from some chocolate box and cut and placed underneath the track. I had to make some “ears” to stick into the the vacant space between the sleepers. This seems to increase the friction so much that the model doesn’t seem take on its own down the hill. But should this still happen, it will be stopped by these steel wires:
  11. I used some steel wire from a used egg cutter to fasten the street and the rail. I twisted them together below the base. It does not look nice. A thin guitar steel (E?) string would also be nice, I guess – but I don’t know bending properties. To be precise about my impreciseness: “steel” probably is some alloy of iron and at least nickel. Update: For take 3 I used 0.6 mm resistance wire. Search for “CuNi44” here
  12. There is a 1 mm space for the paper between the sidewalk and the somewhat higher rear or back. This fits nicely in place without any glue
  13. For the masts I took some steel from a used umbrella. I filed the ends and bored new, 1.2 mm holes for the catenary wire. The steel was so hard that I broke several drill bits. But when I put one of them into the drill and let it stick only 5 mm out, and used oil, I was able to get through
  14. I bored holes in two plastic screws that I fit into larger holes to become the ground bases for the masts. This way the masts won’t tear the base apart
  15. The catenary suspension then is part of the rear mast, bent 90° where they come through the buildings. It’s possible to unmount all of this, nothing is glued
  16. With a very fine and very sharp knife I carefully cut a groove in the top of the overhead pantograph arm, to have it sit on the wire. Carefully pull it off the roof and then carefully place it in a rubbered vice. Observe that the arm is painted, and you don’t want to spoil more than necessary of it. A magnifier lamp with light is handy at this stage. It seems like route 28 has a special trolley type requirement [6]. The model’s arm has some flexibility that makes it press nicely against the 62 mm above ground wire:
  17. The catenary overhead wire is 0.5 mm black carbon fibre rod that I found back at work when somebody had crashed a model airplane, helicopter or drone. I simply revealed more empty space in their waste bins. So much nice stuff left after these guys! I wasn’t able to find any steel wire that was stiff or straight enough, without any bends. The carbon wire is just perfect! By the way, I did find a company that would sell such carbon rods (here). But beware, the 0.5 mm carbon fibre rod does not fit into the 1.0 (0.5) mm microtube, they checked for me
  18. Since the wire wasn’t long enough I needed to extend it. For the ends I couldn’t find any shrink wrapped hose in any shop, but I did find a wire in one of my drawers, with black insulation that fit perfectly
  19. i used a 1 mm thick watercolour paper, plus all the stuff you’d need to do water colour
  20. I glued two vertical wooden lists to each side on the back, since the paper bent more than I liked
  21. I have a separate note on different materials at My materials science notes, where both the carbon fibre and the yoga block have been mentioned
  22. I made a document in Apple macOS Pages first, so that I could see the sparse pictures I had and try to get things correctly. But I only made it to take 1. I will of course update should I attempt a take 2


Amarélis Lda (“Yellows Ltd.) (“eléctricodelisboa”) is a one-man company owned and ran by Fernando M. Silva. There is an interview with him about how this model came to life, in the Danish magazine SPOR OG BANER [9]. The model was designed around 2000. Mr. Silva told in a mail that:

“You will laugh if I tell you that all measures of the real tram were taken by me and my son with measuring tapes from a tramcar exposed for entertainment in a great children’s playground in Monsanto Park, Lisbon. We had to climb up to the tram roof top to start measuring and after nearly one hour or more a security agent came to us to ask what were we doing by measuring everything.”

He continued with this interesting fact about what is now happening with the trams in Lisbon:

“The city council and Carris Transport have finished with at least more than two thirds of the tram network in Lisbon (replaced by underground and increase in the use of public buses) and dozens of trams have been sold or offered to European museums and also supplied most of the charming and famous trams at Sóller (Maiorca Island, Spain). But today we still maintain 5 or 6 regular lines including the celebrated no. 28 very well known because of its charming long route.”

I did find the Sóller tram system at Wikipedia, see, Tranvía de Sóller.

Escolas Gerais 4-6 (take 2 and 3)

Fig.6 – 6-4 Escolas Gerais (take 2 and 3)

It’s always nice when somebody says with delight that “oh, I’d really like one of these as a Christmas gift!” Impossible not to give in. Anders: thanks for daring to!

I decided to go on with the new details which I had collected of Escolas Gerais 4-6. Like two narrow garage doors – “there”, to the left. Not one!

Of course, I still had to improvise and guess. I haven’t been there.

But once finished I saw that there was something wrong. Oh no, not wide enough! It simply wasn’t possible to shorten the base to rectify. I already had made the base from the other part of the yoga block, the yellow part. The tram already kind of covers too much of the artwork; making it shorter was a no.

Fig. 6’s top shows the finished but failed take 2. The bottom shows that I’m an my way on the water colour paper with the new front. Yes, the narrow garage doors I then had space to make more realistic – not as narrow as in take 2.

Take 3 had started. I basically followed the same recipe as for take 1. But I made the side lists longer, so that they go into the base and all the way to the bottom of the base.

Fig.7 – Take 3 of the diorama

I added the iron beneath the rail, but I did not make the tram ready for a neodym magnet. It simply wasn’t necessary. And the visible wires that hold the grey base matter, this time I used resistance heating wire of 0.6 mm diameter. The alloy is CuNi44 (here). I advice to have wire like this in a drawer, you can bend it and bend it and it doesn’t seem to easily break.

Drawing and colouring the artwork I hope has ended in something pleasing. How prototypical it is I assume is for the people who live in this house to decide. The photos I found on the net are good as starting points only. Thanks for letting me use your house, even if I never asked for permission!

Aside: By some coincidence Anders and Randi gave me a bottle of white wine from Lisboa, as a Christmas gift, called Porta 6. It has a humorous drawing of a yellow tram (“VIDIGAL P”) with this happy driver and equally happy man sitting outside Porta 6, grilling something that the local cat also seems to like. I haven’t found Porta 6 on the Lisbon map, so it may just be some colourful marketing stunt. But I agree, I did lose out on the cat.

Aside: a tram kit from Rolife

Fig.9 Rolife tramcar TG505

You will find this very nice and decorative, quite precise, but also rather free model of a tramcar from Rolife at [11]. On the flat packed box they call it a “3D wooden puzzle”. The box states that the built model is (in mm) 180 (length) x 58 (width) x 140 (height). The base is 180 * 46 mm and the length of the tram is 140 mm. The track has an inner metric of 27 mm. If this were a Lisbon tram the scale would be 900 mm / 27 mm ≈ 33/1, the closest being gauge 1 (1/32). If I look at the length of the tram, it is of course (?) much shorter than any real tram, so inferring the gauge from the track is dubious. I would guess that the gauge would be between gauge 1 and gauge O or 0 (1/43). Who cares! The height to my rubber band catenary wire is 139 mm. Plus 2 mm for the aluminium I have glued on the base, to make it 100% flat, like even the rather badly built model on the top of [11] would show that it would have needed.

I am impressed by the precision of the laser cut parts. All fit 100%. And by the sophisticated artistic taste of the designer, who took this model from somewhere and transformed it to a model where all the sides of the veneer had to be invisibly visible, ie. kind of not noticed at all. The veneer sides kind of define the model. The result is delicate and successful, I’d say!  A few parts needed some glue; glue comes in the box. The building instructions were very detailed. It was a thrill to build it!

The wheels all roll. But the doors, even if perhaps intended to, do not open.

The sign says “ROUTE 12 station”. Might that tell me something about where the original tram might be? Plus the text on the sides is “Welcome to the minibus”. And on the ends: “Rolife” and “tramcar”.

Thanks, Linnéa and Jenny, for eager helping hands at the start of the project! And to Anders and Randi, who found this tram in England and immediately made it a Christmas gift for me!

In Norway you can buy products from Rolife at Panduro (here), but the tramcar may or may not be there. They may call it “3D DIY”. Observe my Standard disclaimer.


Wiki-refs: H0m gauge (see photo there, more at [4]). Shore durometer. Trams in Lisbon (Portuguese: Elétricos de Lisboa , 28E CCFL)

  1. Street Tram #28 in Alfama – Lisbon Portugal, by mbell1975 at Flickr, see here
  2. Google Street View of Escolas Gerais 6, 1100-608 Lisboa, Portugal, see here (Jul2009 – Nov2020). However, my “take 1” was drawn on the basis of what I was able to imagine from Escolas Gerais 22 (here – update: which now doesn’t stop at #22 at all!)
  3. LISBON Tram 28 Ride, Portugal by ExploreTheWorld at 26:36
  4. On Flickr: fairlightworks, see here – a really nice Portuguese layout with this tram. See one of them at Wikipedia H0m gauge (above)
  5. Motorising a Lisbon Remodelados Tram for H0 by HStrab, see here
  6. Lisbon – The Remodelados posted by PaulTurner at Sunday, October 17, 2010, see Also some at …/portugal.html
  7. Taking Lisbon’s Tram 28 At Night – Like A Roller Coaster – Pure Excitement! by For 91 Days Travel Blog – see – 6-4 Escolas Gerais is passed uphill at 6:24. This also reveals two lanterns on the building
  8. CARRIS’ Collection (“Coleção CARRIS”) at MUSEU DA CARRIS (Lisbon tram museum), see where Miniature of Yellow CARRIS Tram (“Miniatura de Elétrico da CARRIS Amarelo”), Miniature of the green TRAMTOUR (“Miniatura de Elétrico TRAMTOUR Verde”), Miniature of the red HILL TRAMTOUR TOUR (“Miniatura de Elétrico HILLS TRAMCAR TOUR Vermelho”) are being sold.
    Update 27Sep2022. The green and the red trams appeared in my mail box today. Had Mr. Fernando asked me if I wanted these for free, I would gladly have accepted! Now my Standard disclaimer exception list is even more colourful! Thanks a lot! (The wheel flanges are also on the outside on these. But all three share the same sensual quality.)
  9. Om Lissabon-sporvognsmodellen (“About the Lisbon tram”), in the Danish magazine SPOR OG BANER #35 (okt. 2017) p.17 (at or Facebook here), by Flemming Søeborg (FB here)
  10. Facebook group Abandoned miniatures, see here. This point I have not mentioned in this note, but if you have come so far: do go there!
  11. Tramcar TG505 by Robotime. Also called Carriage TG505. See page at Robotime:

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