Recently I acquired a Lima N-Gauge Class 86, not to run as a serious locomotive but in part out of curiosity about older N-gauge motor mechanisms, and possibly to experimentially modify. It was sold as a non-runner with a missing coupling; the coupling was easy enough to replace with one from Kato, and the non-running was caused by the brush having come loose from the motor (luckily it was still held in place against the motor body by the spring, though I do have some spares).
It runs somewhat better (or less badly) than I expected and seems to cope with the Kato pointwork reasonably well. It definitely needs some maintenance, which I'll get round to some time. Here's a video of it running on my temporary layout:
The motor is the ancient pancake type and mounted directly on one bogie, which means there's not much space for it to turn inside the body, which gives it a tendency to derail on tighter curves. The electric pickups are from the non-motorized bogie only, which increases the risk of stalling, particularly across points.
Hornby has some great childhood memories for me - my "first" was admittedly Lima, but for a long time Hornby was the model railway company with its entrancing catalogues (the layout featured in the 1980 edition was the thing of a young boy's dreams, and their Zero 1 control system was something I had to have - but way outside the available financial capability...) Though I still have a few Hornby items, for me OO (aka 'Orribly Oversized) is history and it's hard to imagine any other way but the N-gauge way, so I wouldn't really want to go out of my way to look at Hornby. However this shop, the only Hornby dealer in Japan (and probably the only one in East Asia) is a few minutes away from my house by bike so it would be rude not to pay a visit:
On the left: a Modemo Hakone-Tozan Tetsudou MoHa 2 (モデモ 箱根登山鉄道 モハ２形 2輌セット, model number NT44). Built in 1927, 3 of these cars are still running on the Hakone Tozan line (link). This is a two-car set from a 2004 batch; while the bodies are identical, only one car is powered. Though second-hand, it was in mint condition (including the additional supplied parts, which were all present and unused) This is my first Modemo train; it's a very nice, fairly quiet runner and handles my steepest gradient just fine. As it should do for a mountain climber. It's evidently designed to be run as a two-car set; the headlight only works on one end of each car. It does have problems with some of my Kato #4 points, but that's not its fault.
On the right: a MicroAce JR 203 EMU (マイクロエース 「ありがとう203系」号 基本6両セット, model number A8280). These trains were built in the early 1980's for through-running from JR's Jōban Line to Tokyo Metro'sChiyoda Line and the last one was taken out of service in 2011. This model represents that final train and is decorated with a "Farewell 203 Series" headmark. It's a lovely model and runs very smoothly, though it has also taken a dislike to some of my Kato #4 points, albeit different ones to the Modemo.
Hobbyland Pochi, a reseller of second-hand model trains (and the odd bit of miscellaneous paraphenalia) is holding one of its regular sales events (鉄道模型フェスティバル / tetsudou mokei fesutibaru) in Yokohama from Saturday January 10th to Monday January 12th, 2015. This is a holiday weekend.
The event is open from 10am - 6pm on Saturday/Sunday and from 10am to 5pm on Monday. Entrance is free and prices are usually reduced compared to the normal shop price; often there are bargains to be found, especially if you go early.
The Hobbyland Pochi website doesn't seem to carry any information (I'm quoting from the leaflet I was handed earlier this week, pictured below) but it should appear on this page soon.
I never realised before, but there's an underground passageway which traverses across the top of the Chiyoda Line platforms at Meiji Jingumae station, leading from the entrance at the top end of Omotesando close to JR Harajuku Station all the way down to the crossing with Meiji-dori and the new Fukutoshin Line concourse. Omotesando runs downhill, so the passageway - which has presumably been there since the Chiyoda Line part of the station was built - has quite a deep stairway roughly halfway along, of which half has been crudely converted into this "stairlift":
The other day I got the Hanzomon Line from Jinbocho Station, possibly for the first time ever, and my first impression was how dirty the Hanzomon Line platform is, at least compared to other stations in Tokyo. The picture below gives an idea, though it doesn't really catch the dusty atmosphere.
The above-ground station entrances are a bit dingy too. On the other hand I've used the Toei Shinjuku Line from there a few times in the past and don't recall it being unusually dirty.
One of the things I like about the railway system in Japan is the variety of through-running operations between different companies. On the Tokyo Metro Chiyoda Line you can see trains not only from Tokyo Metro but also JR's Joban Line and the Odakyu line. A couple of years ago the Chiyoda Line became the first underground line with its own express train service - Odakyu MSE 60000 series trains, specially designed for tunnel operations, operate a variant of the popular "Romancecar" service between Tokyo and the popular Hakone resort area. There are up to four services a day, with weekday operation biased towards "Homeliner" evening commuter express services, and weekends more for tourism. The current timetable can be viewed online here (Japanese only).
This is the first time I've been able to snap one of these trains - apologies for the blurry image.
It passed through the station at a stately pace - the Chiyoda line wasn't designed with fast trains in mind and doesn't have any places for trains to overtake, so presumably the Romancecars have to trundle along sandwiched inbetween normal services. Still, it provides a convenient way to access the Odakyu route from the busy Otemachi / Marunouchi / Tokyo station areas without trailing across town to Shinjuku, and each time I've seen the train it's been fairly full.
This is something you don't see often in Tokyo: a train with snow on the roof.
Unusually it snowed heavily on Monday, and has been cold since, meaning much of the snow is still lying where it fell. This Chūō-Sōbu Line train E231 series (I think; it could be a 209-500 series) was evidently stabled in the open air when the snow came down and has remained on the roof since. (Apologies for the poor picture quality, by the time I'd noticed and got my camera out the train was already in motion).