Japan Train and Rail Blog

A website about trains and model railways and associated subjects in Japan and other countries.

Sunday, January 12, 2020  12:42 AM

Scaling ballast

One of the perennial issues with N scale is laying ballast which doesn't look unplausibly oversized when viewed close-up (such as through the unforgiving lense of a digital camera).

The grey ballast here is Kato 24-331 (video in Japanese):

Ballast, laid without treatment

which is the finest ballast I've come across (I understand it's actually by Woodland Scenics) and doesn't look too bad, but still gives the impression the truck has driven up to the side of a river.

Assuming it's dried firmly in place, I've found vigorously rubbing it down with coarse sandpaper breaks down the individual ballast stones and smoothes it down giving something more akin to the "compacted ballast/aggregate" effect I'm after:

Treated (above) and untreated (below) in comparison:

Close-up of a treated section (left; the ballas next to the rails has not been treated yet):

Tomix dummy manual point lever

Overall I'm quite pleased with the effect.

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Friday, January 10, 2020  12:59 PM

Layout progress, 2020-01-10 - Tomix manual point levers

Today's small but surprisingly time-consuming task was to install the dummy manual point levers Tomix provide with their points.

Tomix dummy manual point lever

I went to the trouble of painting the lower half of the "indicator disc" (for want of a better word) white, as that seems prototypical. See e.g. this picture (from this page showing DD13 allocations).

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Saturday, January 4, 2020   5:01 AM

Chuo Line platform extension work, January 2020

As part of the project to add two double-decker cars to Chuo Line E233 sets by 2023, lengthening them from 10 to 12 cars, most Chuo Line platforms will need to be extended.

Until very recently however there was very little sign of any construction activity. Most recently (2020-01-04) I noticed that the platform at Asagaya is being extended on the western end:

Asagaya Station Chuo Line platform extension, 2020-01-04
Asagaya Station Chuo Line platform extension, 2020-01-04

Other than that, currently I'm only aware of work at:

  • Kunitachi (platform extension work)
  • Nakano, where an extensive construction site has appeared at the western end of the station
  • Ochanomizu (ongoing comprehensive rebuild)
  • Ogikubo, where a small turnback siding on the west end of the platform has been resited somewhat further to the west, to create space usable as a platform

By the looks of it, most stations east of Tachikawa (other than maybe Ochanomizu and Nakano) have sufficient space at either end of their Chuo Line platforms for extensions without significant infrastructure work other than relocating various lineside equipment etc. currently occupying the space.

Stations which are limited express stops (Tokyo, Shinjuku, Tachikawa, Hachioji, Takao etc.) will presumably not require any major work as these are already equipped to handle 12 car expresses (Azusa etc.).


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Thursday, January 2, 2020   9:55 AM

Layout flashback, January 2019

I've been working on this layout in various forms for the last 5 years or so, and it seems to be taking an awful long time. Mind you, my free time has been quite limited due to work and domestic reasons, and it probably doesn't help that I've changed the design quite a bit as I go along. It occurred to me recently that it would be nice to look back and see how far things have come in 2019, so we'll start off with this piece of under construction embankment from January of that year:

Layout: embankment construction, January 2019

A couple of weeks later it looked like this:

Layout: embankment construction, January 2019

Following a change of plan, the embankment has since been moved 180 degrees around the layout (it's in the background of the picture in this recent post, with the above bridge just visible on the far left). Meanwhile, the lower level station was looking like this:

Layout: lower level station, January 2019

but has since also been relocated. Originally I wanted a wide-ish road with a tram line running down the middle (visible on the left), but that left very little space on the other side (right hand side as seen here) of the station for any kind of "town". The tramline has been relocated so it runs off to the right through the built-up area, and the station shifted to the left.

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Wednesday, January 1, 2020   1:32 PM

Layout progress, 2020-01-01

Some minor modifications around the rear of the train depot.

Layout, train depot rear, 2020-01-01

Locomotive is a MicroAce 9600 class.

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Monday, December 30, 2019   3:10 PM

Layout progress, 2019-12-30 (part 2)

Following the earlier post, a couple of impressions of the current state:

Train depot, 2019-12-30
Layout: local line to rear of train depot

Obviously quite a few things still to do, but the general area is starting to look reasonably complete.

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Monday, December 30, 2019   8:29 AM

MicroAce DD51s

A recent auction find was this pair of MicroAce DD51s - ca. 3,000 yen for the pair, unboxed.

MicroAce DD51-1156 and DD51-1805

DD51-1156 (on the left, catalogue number A8528) in JRF livery is currently a non-runner as it causes some kind of short circuit when placed on the track. The end railings are also somewhat loose and need fixing.

DD51-1805 (on the right, catalogue number A8521) was the last DD51 produced and the model is in as-delivered livery. Runs fine but one set of end steps is missing.

However these issues should be fixable, and at that price it's hard to complain.

Monday, December 30, 2019   1:38 AM

Layout progress, 2019-12-30

Concentrating on the rear of the train depot area at the moment, where it borders on a section of road and the lower-level loop.

Train depot rear

The depot area is 5mm higher than the base scenery level, which is not a huge amount but enough to convey a subtle change in elevation and avoid the "flat baseboard" effect. It also helps give the impression that the lower-level loop beyond the crossing is in a shallow cutting.

Next steps are to fill in the gaps in the train depot ballast, finish off the transformer mast (the brown structure behind the truck with the square grey body) and add some detailing to that area.

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Tuesday, December 17, 2019   9:49 PM

Layout progress, 2019-12-17

Currently mainly working on the depot area, which consists of five storage sidings and a short headshunt-style spur which will serve as a diesel fuelling point.

Train depot, 2019-12-17

The sheds consist of a pair of Tomix train sheds intended for longer units, and a Tomytec single unit wooden shed, which doesn't look too incongruous next to the modern Tomix ones.

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Friday, October 25, 2019   2:11 AM

Recent random acquisitions (October 2019)

It's amazing sometimes what random overseas stuff pops up on Yahoo Auctions...


Somewhere I have an identical or similar Farish coach, also acquired via Yahoo Auctions (as part of a job lot, if memory serves correctly).