MicroAce N gauge E231-500 series (Yamanote Line)
This MicroAce E231-500 series model is from that period in the early 2000s where MicroAce was able to leverage China-based manufacturing to bring models to market quickly. As far as I can tell, this is the first model E231-500 series Yamanote Line model to reach the market. Since then, both Kato and Tomix have since released their own versions, both of which are superior to the MicroAce one.
The main issues with this model (in common with other MicroAce renderings of the E231/209-500 design) are an exaggerated roundness to the passenger door windows, implausibly shiny roof-mounted air-conditioning units and a very dark interior (in common with many MicroAce releases of the time, the interior fittings are moulded in a dark blue plastic). Additionally the directional lighting still uses bulbs rather than LEDs (not surprising for a model produced in 2002) and the destination indicator board stickers, when attached, let through too much light (this could possbily be ameliorated by adding a filter layer somehow).
Mechanically this is a typical MicroAce design for the period; motor has no flywheel and is difficult to start smoothly. As is common with these models, after a few years without maintenance they start to sound like a bucket of spanners; this is however easy enough to fix and this model actually runs more quietly than the Kato equivalent.
On the plus side, MicroAce have taken the trouble to represent the window tinting pattern from the prototype, where the large passenger windows are tinted, but smaller windows such as door windows are not; they have done this by attaching transparent coloured sheets to the relevant sections of the interior glazing. On the equivalent Kato model, each interior glazing part is coloured. Addtionally, the front skirt on the MicroAce model is closer to the prototype, with some parts coloured black (the skirt on the Kato version is all white).
Anyone looking for the best possible E231-500 series Yamanote Line model should consider the newer Kato or Tomix versions. However this model is available second-hand very cheaply and with a little maintenance makes an excellent "layout set" for running round and round.
See also Farewell, Yamanote Line E231-500 series for a brief side-by-side comparison with the Kato version.
Like most MicroAce N gauge models, this E231-500 series comes fully assembled, and the only parts for installation are the front and side destination blinds.
However, as with many earlier models, the standard Arnold couplings leave a substantial gap between cars (front). This can be easily resolved by replacing them with Tomix TN couplings, here using part 0337 (rear).
Cab end close-up
Side window "tinting"
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