Saturday, December 4, 2010

Railfanning in the desert

This has nothing to do with this project.  I am in a motel room hundreds of miles from home and being able to work on this project. 

Yesterday I had a little spare time from what business brought me on this road trip.  I drove out to Banning, California.  Banning is on highway I-10 about 20 miles west of Palm Springs.  It was the home of one of my grandmothers and I had spent a lot of time here as a child.  Driving around the town many memories came back to me.

The Southern Pacific railroad went through Banning but the passenger trains did not stop here.  My mother and I would ride the Greyhound bus to get here from Los Angeles.   I liked to wander the town with the skate board that I would carry on the bus with me.  It was down hill from grandma's house to the SP line and that's where I would go to watch the trains.

These memories returned to me as I drove and I found myself at the San Gorgonio Road grade crossing when the gates came down as a train approached.  I turned my truck onto the old frontage road that runs between I-10 and the tracks and then onto a dirt road and sat for awhile.  There is a signal here and watching that one can get a good idea of when a train is approaching.  It was about one every 10 minutes.  In the half hour I was there I saw 4 trains, they were all Union Pacific now.  I also noticed that the rail ties were now concrete.
  • East bound - Trailers on flat cars.  3 GE engines pulling
  • Westbound - Containers, mostly 3 unit well cars, 3 GE engines pulling with 1 at the back pushing.
  • Westbound - Unit hopper car train,  good mixture of hopper car types with many rotary coupler type cars in the mix.  I think this was a train of empties as there was no pusher.  There were 3 GE engines pulling.
  • Eastbound - Mixed train, pulled by 2 GE engines.
Over 40 years ago I had sat there on my skate board watching trains.  In those days they where mostly EMD engines but I do remember a few GE's as they stood out.  I even remember seeing a U50 once.  This was a great trip down memory lane, I wish I had brought my camera.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Starting the arcade

It's Thanksgiving Day today and I've started on another one of the key parts of the scenery for this module set.

The Palm Arcade is one of the best known covered shopping districts in Tokyo and it's main entrance is just outside the Musashi-Koyama station.

Here is a view of this entrance from the station.  The orientation of the module scene will place this entrance just behind the station.  Besides the station itself, this is a key landmark.

I've started to assemble the arcade entrance using a couple of modified Tomix buildings on a separate base like I have done with other groups of buildings on this module set.  I'll update and post pictues in the near future.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Mystery Train

Nothing new to report on the Musashi-Koyama modules as I have been working on some DCC decoder installations.  On a short break from that I was looking through my train collection and came across an odd set of Japanese passenger cars that had been given to me years ago and that I've never been able to identify what they were.  So I created a seperate page with photos on this blog in the hopes that someone will see them and let me know something about them.

Friday, November 5, 2010

3 Types of Track

First an update on the station.  Today I painted the roof of the station building, the roofs of the platform awnings, and the concrete part of the platforms.  A friend in Tokyo is checking for me on the proper colors of the platform supports and the outside walls of the station before I paint those parts.

This evening I put the work on the modules aside for awhile so I can catch up on some DCC decoder installations and get some things ready for a train show on Thanksgiving weekend.  As I have enjoyed making regular updates to this blog,  I wanted keep this up by going back to something I skipped over earlier and that would be track.

Peco code 55
M/E code 55

Within the 6ft of double track line I am using 3 types of track - Peco code 55, Micro Engineering code 55, and Kato Unitrack.  The way this came about is the AsiaN Rail standard uses Peco code 55.  I was already familar with it as I am using the wood tie version on my home layout.  On this project I am using the concrete tie version.   Thing is I wanted to have a couple of cross-overs so this module could be a passing siding or stub end station if it were on a single track line of AsiaN Rail.  I decided to try out the Micro Engineering code 55 turnouts on this small project because I am also considering them for a future large layout project. I got the cross-overs made up to my specification by someone who was selling on ebay.  So far, just with test runs they work as advertised.

As mentioned in prior posts, I am using steel wire connecting rods inside plastic tubing to make the linkages between the turnouts and the Tortise switch motors.  The tubing sets into the 1/8 inch cork that covers most of the area between the tracks and the skyboards.

Then I decided to use the Kato adjustable length sections for the connecting tracks at the joint between the two modules to make setup quicker.  The photo below shows this area of track without the connecting tracks or the platforms.

Peco code 55
to Kato Unitrack

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Continuing with station & platforms

With the station and its stairways and supporting structures finalized I turned my attention to the platforms.  I had already cut the platforms to the desired length and installed them on the modules prior to installing the station.  Now I needed to go back and customize the platforms for installation of the awnings as I was not placing them in the pre-drilled holes on the platforms.

The photo on the left shows the "asphalt" surface of the platform removed from the concrete platform structure.  Notice the screw showing near the right end of the platform.  These attach the platform to the module and is hidden by the surface piece.
Kato does not offer a tapered awning to match the end platforms so I had to make my own by modifying a standard awning.  After cutting the angle with a razor saw, I cut the edge off a scrap piece of awning and glued it to the cut edge of the angle part of the awning to give it a finished look. 

Some white styrene was cut to match the cut end of the awning. 
Here's a look from the other side.  On this side the stairway between the station and the platform goes through the awning.  I still need to complete the tapered awning on this end of the platform.
This is how the right end of the station platform looks right now.  Once all of the structures are just the way I want them, they will come off of the module and go to the spray booth for painting before being re-installed.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Building Protective Covers

When portable layout modules are not set up on the leg system for display or to be worked on, they need to be protected during storage and transport.  With my pair of Ntrak modules, I had solved this problem by arranging them in a way so that the sky board of each module was aligned with the front of the other module.  Then I added end boards with bolt holes and when everything was bolted together, all of the modeled areas were on the inside and protected.  That box is 48 inches x 24 inches x 18 inches in size and weights over 90 pounds and I am not able to handle those modules easily by myself anymore.

For the Musashi-Koyama modules I wanted to try something different.  Last Sunday was spent in the garage making sawdust.  After having had several near 100 degree days at the beginning of the month, last weekend the cooler weather took hold and I never got out of my sweatshirt while working in the garage.

My efforts got me a pair of covers made from 1/4 inch plywood that I found at Home Depot.  Each cover used most of  a 4 x 4 ft sheet plus some 1/2 x 3/4 inch strips that hold it all together

As this photo shows, the covers have a front, top, and ends.  What does not show are the holes in the end rails of the modules and on the ends of the cover so I have used Photo Shop to point them out.

The holes are to bolt the covers to the modules with 1/4-20 bolts.

This closeup shows how the bolts goes through the cover and into the end of the module.  I like to use Tee nuts where I can.

Here are the two Musashi-Koyama modules with their covers attached and with the leg system in it's folded up transport and storage state behind them.

Each of the modules weigh less than 25 pounds with the leg system weighing about 15 pounds.  I CAN easily handle these.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Starting the station

The most important structure on this module set will be the station itself.  At this point it would be good to take a look at a screenshot of a Google satellite photo.  The photo is a few years old because the station no longer there.

From the scale given on the photo it can be determined that the dimensions of the station building are about 60ft x 80ft and that the platform is about 450ft long.  Also the covers over the platform are a close match to the ones that come with the Kato platforms.

The Kato overhead station is a close match to many of the overhead stations in Japan that serve two tracks.  I had one left over from the T-Trak module and had started to modify it to more closely match the original Musashi-Koyama station but in the end decided to scratch build the station and support structures and use the stairways from the Kato station. Another thing that makes the model of this structure critical is that it sits on the seam between the two modules and will need to be removable.

This is how the model of the station structure looks right now.  The basic pieces are complete and I came up with a way of attaching the stairs and the structure to the module so that they can be removed.   It still needs an additional set of columns that will attach to the platform and of course paint and detailing.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Attaching Buildings II

It's a holiday weekend so I've had a little more time to get things done and also to create another post on the blog.  Here is another method I have been using to attach buildings.  Sometimes on a module, you need to hide things under a building.  In this case I have mounted two Tortise switch motors inverted on top of the module.

I used scraps from the module construction to make posts that will reach the roofs in two places.  Because the walls of a structure without a solid base tend to bow, I attach plastic angle to the module along where the inside of the wall will be to help maintain alignment.

Once everything seems to fit right, I drill a hole through the roofs and into the tops of the mounting posts.

A small wood or sheet metal screw is then used to secure the structure to the module.  These can be easily hidden from view with rooftop details.

Here is this structure secured to the module but easily removal if access is ever needed to the electrical and mechanical components inside.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Attaching Buildings

I have been working on attaching these buildings to the modules.

It's an advantage to attach as many structures as possible on a module so they don't have to be placed on the module when setting up.  I use a couple of different methods and here is one of them. 

On a structure with a solid base and that is being placed on a flat, solid module surface I drill and tap holes through the base of the structure before attaching the roof.  I then screw in long screws matching the size of the tapped holes.  In this case I used 4-40 screws.

When the holes are in the structure base but before the screws are installed, I place the structure in it's spot on the module and mark where the holes line up on the module base.  Then I drill holes through the module base slightly larger than the screws. 

Then the structure can be placed on the module base and secured with nuts.  I use threaded nylon spacers like these because they can be worked by hand, they grip and don't come loose, and they are light weight.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Quick buildings

While on the right end of the module set I am attempting to model several structures accurately enough to identify the scene, on the left end of the module set the plan is be more free-lanced and to use mostly ready made buildings and hopefully capture a typical Tokyo scene.

The Tomix model 4034 Condominium and the Kato 23-485 Office building are a couple of staples of Japanese model buildings and are very adaptable.    Also seen here is the Tomix 4038 Pachinko Hall.
These buildings have been attached to the modules for now in their stock condition.  They come with quite a few detail parts and stickers.  The way I attach them, they can be quickly removed for painting and detailing.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Streets and Buildings

While I already had several completed Kato, Tomix, and Green Max buildings, I wanted to scratch build some key buildings that are close to the Musashi-Koyama station.

This is a photo that I took just outside the station in 2005.  I decided to focus on the block of buildings seen in this photo.  I  also found it helpful to use  Google Street View images to observe the placement and details of some of these buildings.
During the fall of 2009 I laid out all of the streets using .020 styrene and began placing some of the buildings that I already had and also began to scratch build a model resembling the block of buildings shown in the photo above. 

This is the model of that block of buildings as shown in January of 2010.  These buildings are actually all one assembly.  The taller buildings are scratch built and the 2 story buildings are made from Green Max modular kits.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Wood, track, & Wiring

Between January and July of 2009 I built the 6ft module pair and leg system based upon a design used for lightweight modules in Peninsula Ntrak that have proven to be both durable and reasonably easy to handle over the past 15 years of use.  This design uses mostly 1/4 inch birch plywood.  I was able to purchase a pneumatic cabinet stapler and used this and yellow carpenters glue to assemble it.  The AsiaN Rail standard allows for any module depth so I made these 18 inches deep.

The track was laid out as a dual track line with crossovers at each end.  This will allow these modules to be used either as a dual track or single track with a passing siding.  The standard for AsiaN Rail is Peco code 55 and I used the concrete tie version with Micro Engineering code 55 turnouts for the crossovers.  Control of the turnouts is done with Tortoise motors mounted upside down on the surface of the modules and piano wire connecting rods running through Plastruct 1/8 inch square tubing to the turnouts.  The Tortoise motors will later be hidden by buildings.  Yes, there are going to be many buildings.

Sunday, September 19, 2010


How did an American guy like me get into modeling Japanese railroads and start building modules of Tokyo ?

I've always been interested in model railroads, have been in N scale since 1968, and active in Ntrak since 1992.   Nona, my wife is a native of Tokyo and on a visit to her native land in the 1990's she bought me a gift of several Japanese N scale model railroad cars.  

In 1999 I made my first trip to Japan and was so impressed with the system of railroads.  There were so many different trains all running on schedule.  On that first trip I started what became a habit of collecting models of the trains that we rode.  I had wanted to photograph the models in an appropriate scene and thought about building a station diorama.  Then I decided why not build a set of T-Trak modules for this purpose and have something of a Japanese layout that I could actually run these trains on.
As I did not know of anyone else in my area building T-Trak I knew I would need to build enough to have a complete layout by myself  This photo shows part of my one nearly completed T-Trak module.

Visiting the International Railfair in Roseville, CA in 2008 I saw a most impressive Asian themed modular layout called AsiaNrail.  I already knew the owner of most of the modules as he is a member of Peninsula Ntrak which I also belong to.  He invited me to build Japanese themed module(s) that could be used with the AsiaNrail layout at future shows.  This was a turning point and the T-Trak modules were abandoned.