Japan Train and Rail Blog

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


Saturday, February 15, 2020  10:11 AM

Layout flashback, February 2019

Lower tunnel, front right, 2019-02-02

Around this time last year I was working on extending the hilly scenery on the front right corner of the layout.

Fun fact: the scenic section in the centre, above the lower portal, is adapted from my first ever attempt at scenenry by doing a "dry run" on a spare piece of board.

Meanwhile this was the state of the train depot, tracks laid roughly in place but nothing else:

Train depot area, 2019-02-12

For a more recent view (albeit in the other direction) see Layout progress, 2019-12-30 (part 2).

Since the above shot I've rearranged the lower lines, so the incline just visible in the centre-rear runs in the opposite direction. As part of the rearrangement, the bit of scenery with the bare rock face has been transported to the other end of the layout, visible here.


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Tuesday, February 4, 2020   9:18 AM

Layout progress, 2020-02-04 - filling more gaps

Nothing spectacular - a return to the hilly scenic area on the left-hand side of the layout (here removed to the workbench for comfort), filling in various gaps between the bits of hill. Some of these vegetation-covered scenic sections have been salvaged from an earlier layout attempt and I'd previously cut them more-or-less to shape, but there were still some ugly gaps and exposed ground-forming bits of foam.

Onsen area, 2020-02-02

Adding plaster cloth to fill in the gaps (1)

Onsen area, 2020-02-02

Adding plaster cloth to fill in the gaps (2)

Onsen area, 2020-02-02

Plaster cloth painted green/brown and some mixed scenic scatter scattered onto the paint before it dries, to provide a base ground cover


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Friday, January 31, 2020   1:20 PM

Akihabara junk haul, January 2020

In clockwise order, starting at the top:

  • A Kato Marunouchi Line 500/300 series bookcase (empty)
  • A Kato 205 Series Musashino Line bookcase (empty)
  • A Tomix ED61
  • A Kato 205 Series Musashino Line end car
  • A Tomix ED75

Akihabara junk haul, January 2020




Sunday, January 19, 2020   2:17 AM

Railways in Berlin in the late 20th century

An ad-hoc collection of links with information and pictures of Berlin's railways in the late 20th century.


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Tuesday, January 14, 2020  11:20 PM

Layout progress, 2020-01-14 - filling the gap

As mentioned in the previous post, the gap between the extended road section, which is slightly elevated, and the rails (which are at "ground level") needs filling - this is how it looks now:

Layout: lower station approaches (left side), 2020-01-14

I'll use some GreenMax stone embankment sheeting to cover the transition.

Meanwhile, looking back in the other direction:

Layout: local line to rear of train depot (2020-01-10)

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Monday, January 13, 2020  11:55 AM

Farewell, Yamanote Line E231-500 series

As of Friday January 10th 2020, all E231-500 series sets have been withdrawn from the Yamanote Line and the replacement with E235 series sets is complete (though some of the additional and relatively new E231-500 series cars ordered to replace the 6-door cars have been integrated into the E235 sets).

This is my pair of N guage E231-500 sets, on the left the Kato version (catalogue number 10-890) and on the right the MicroAce version (catalogue number A4070):

E231-500 series (Yamanote Line) - Kato and MicroAce sets

The Kato version is the newer and better of the two, particularly when seen from the front. The MicroAce version does however have some details it does better than the Kato one, such as the front skirt (the narrow white supports on the left and right on the Kato version should not be visible) and the door windows are not tinted (the Kato version uses one single coloured plastic sheet for the windows, the MicroAce one uses transparent plastic with coloured plastic added behind each large window).


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It only takes a few simple steps to transform the brilliant white foamboard into something more road/railway-like - simply paint with grey acrylic paint, and where ballast is required, shake ballast over the still-wet paint. It sticks very well, and any surplus can be shaken off onto a sheet of paper for recycling

Layout: lower station approaches (left side), 2020-01-12

The gap between the new road section and the running line still needs filling in, slightly more complex as the road runs 3mm higher than the baseboard level so a separate ballast strip will be required.

Layout: lower station approaches (left side), 2020-01-12

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Filling in a few more gaps in the "ground" on the left end of the lower-level station:

Layout: lower station approaches (left side), 2020-01-12

As elsewhere, using Tamiya 3mm foamboard to build up a "base level" up to about sleeper level on the Tomix track. Once cut to shape, each piece can be removed to do scenic work on it in the comfort of my own workbench, rather than bending over the layout. Not a very conventional method, but makes life a lot easier.

The segment on the left will become an extension of the road which currently ends in the foreground.


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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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