Thursday, September 10, 2015

Surprise package from Japan

It's common for Japanese people to exchange gifts, especially when visiting or being visited.  Recently we received a package from some of our friends in Musashi-Koyama, Tokyo, Japan.   And along with a couple of purses for Nona and some food items, there were some N scale items.

I received a Tomix suburban house, and a transit bus, and a set of baseball players from Tomytec.  I know our friend Tamami picked these out because she always gives me N scale items when we visit Tokyo.  Even though she is not a modeler herself, she seems to know just the right items that I can use.

Both the Musashi-Koyama modules and the Hot Springs Junction Ntrak module have items that Tamami has given me.

I've got a couple of old modules that were given to me that I've been wanting to refurbish and perhaps I can make more suburban scene on one with a baseball field.  The inspiration for this idea is one of the first Japanese dramas I saw years ago.  I can't remember the name of it now, but it was about some high school baseball teams and where they played was next to some railroad tracks which we were fairly sure was the Chuo line.

Friday, August 7, 2015

The JR Nikko line

In my previous post which was now almost a month ago I mentioned taking the Shinkansen on the way to Nikko.  When we arrived in Utsunomiya we made a connection to the JR Nikko line to complete the trip to Nikko.  This is a very short line of only 40 km and serving 7 stations within Tochigi prefecture.

Since 2013 the trains running on this line are 4 unit sets of the 205 series.

At one time the 205 series were very common in Tokyo but have been steadily replaced by newer models.  This photo was taken at Utsunomiya station.

The Nikko station has one of the old foot bridges similar to the one I built from a Greenmax kit for my Hot Springs Junction module.

Here is a look up one of the stairways of the foot bridge.  These type of bridges used to be more common then they are now and I don't see them much around the Tokyo area any more as things have been rebuilt and modernized.

Tobu has it's own line called the Tobu Nikko line that connects to central Tokyo with a transfer.  The Tobu Nikko station is very close to the JR Nikko station.  At the end of the JR platform the Tobu line passes over the JR line.  This 2 unit Tobu train is approaching the Tobu Nikko station.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Riding some of the newer Shinkansens

On one of the days we were in Tokyo in late March we made a day trip to Nikko.  We purchased Shinkansen tickets from Tokyo station to Utsunomiya to cut the travel time but also we hoped to ride one of the newer trains that are now running on the Tohoku Shinkansen line.

We were not disappointed and got to ride two Shinkansens that we had not ridden before.  The E5's running in 10 car formations are common on the Tohoku Shinkansen line as seen on the board shown here.

On the trip back to Tokyo we rode on this E3 which is not exactly new but we had never ridden on one before.  They also appear to have a new paint job from ones I've seen before.

I noticed that the E3 had these little steps that fold out when the train came into the station.  The E3 is a bit narrower than the other Shinkansens we had ridden with the seating arrangement being 3 + 2 as opposed the normal 3 + 3.

 I later learned that both the E3 and E6 Shinkansens are narrower so the trains can fit through narrower clearance areas on both the Akita and Yamagata Shinkansen lines.

As I often do, I got a photo of the train guide that is  in between cars.  As seen in the guide, this was a 7 car formation.

So it looks like now I"ll have two more Shinkansen models I will  want to add to my collection.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

AsiaNrail at the NMRA Covention

The annual NRMA convention and National Train show is coming up in less than 2 months.  This year it's in Portland Oregon.  While I won't be attending myself, Paul Ingraham will.  He will have a smaller version of the AsiaNrail layout in the Layout Design SIG (Special Interest Group) room.  He will also be presenting several clinics on modular layout design and modeling Asian prototype during the convention.

This years convention will be between August 23rd and 29th.  Click on the logo to the left to access the convention website.

This LINK goes to page on the convention website that has the location and times of Paul's clinics.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Back from the N Scale Convention

I recently attended the 2015 National N Scale convention that was held in Sacramento, California.  This was the 23rd annual event put on by the N Scale Enthusiast organization and each year held in a different location.  Besides a show with layouts, they also have clinics, tours, auctions, manufacturers and sales tables, and other activities.  It's a busy several days and not easy to do it all.  This years event had almost 500 N scale modelers attending from all over the US and a few other countries.

The event was held at a Double Tree Hilton hotel.  One decent sized room was just for the layouts.  There were 4 layouts each representing something a little different in modular layout standards. Each layout group there could have put up larger layouts but we had to keep them small due to space constraints.

  • Peninsula Ntrak - From SF Bay Area, about 130 miles away.  Uses basic Ntrak 3 track standards. This layout had Nn3 on one module, a large staging yard with lots of trains running, and plenty of detailed scenes. 
  • San Luis Obispo Model Railroad Association - Brought their Bendtrack layout from about 300 miles away.  Lots of great scenery on this layout.  Bendtrack is a double track standard and uses end loops.
  • Silicon Valley FreemoN - Also from the SF Bay Area I see them at most of our local shows.  FreemoN is a single track standard using junctions and end loops and track is code 55.  This group has fine scenery and details on all their modules.
  • Sacramento Valley Ntrak - This is the local Ntrak club which uses some optional Ntrak standards such as the mountain division track and alternate blue.

It would have been great to have had the AsiaNrail layout set up as it would have been a 5th type of standard and of course being Asian prototype would have offered something completely different.  Paul was out of the country and could not make it to the convention so I had my Hot Springs junction module in the Peninsula Ntrak layout as the only representative of Japanese or Asian prototype.  The photos below are all from the Peninsula Ntrak layout.

The club I belong to, Peninsula Ntrak had this unusual triangle shaped layout to fit the space available to us.  We did this using a pair of 45 degree curved modules one of which is seen in the foreground of this photo.

My Japanese themed Hot Springs Junction module was in the layout without any of the AsiaNrail modules attached to the mountain branch line.

Next to my module was this new module done by Tom Knapp that had a Nn3 narrow gauge line looping behind the sky board.

Peninsula Ntrak's Julia Jackson won the award for the best module of all of the layouts with her 6 foot Jackson Corners module shown here.  This module has been around a few years now but still attracts a lot of attention.

Another new module that was in it's first layout was this club corner with a vineyard / winery and a festival.  The scenery was done by Julia who has been rebuilding the scenery on many of our club modules.

I really enjoyed attending this convention. The last one of these I went to was in 2005 in San Diego. I'll try not to let another 10 years slip by before attending my next one.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Hot Springs Junction wrap up

Over the past few weeks I've been working on finishing all the little things that I wanted to have done on the Hot Springs junction module before the N Scale convention in Sacramento.  Some of those I have covered in more detail in recent posts.  In this post I will wrap up the rest.

Traffic Mirrors

I wanted to add a couple of traffic mirrors on the winding narrow road between the station and the hot springs hotel.  These were scratch built in a similar way to the one I made for the Musashi-Koyama modules in the December 2011 post Seeing around the corners.

Wood rail fence

I felt the edge of the cliff in front of the hot springs hotel should have some sort of fence.  I wanted some sort of wood fence that would fit in with the scene.

I found the Peco NB-45 fence set to be just the thing.  Like the Kato gutter set featured in the last post, this set gives you plenty of material to work with.

Overhead wires

In last Novembers post Overhead wires for Hot Springs Jct. I had identified Tomix 3005 overhead wire structures as being just the right fit for the Ntrak lines.  6 structures were assembled, painted, and installed along the Ntrak right of way.

At this point, the module is packed up and ready to go the N Scale Convention.    This has been an on and off almost 3 year project from the time I started to rebuild the old module and I consider this module to now be 100% complete. I don't think I've ever been able to say that about any other layout or module I've built and it feels good.  Of course there will always be something to be repaired or renewed on the module, or prehaps some tempting new products that come along that I will want to add.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Installing Kato 23-227 gutter set

Back in the fall of 2012 in the post Previously unnoticed track side detail I had mentioned the long row of concrete tiles that run along for miles next to some of the railroad tracks in Japan.  In that post I had also speculated that these may be covered cable ditches for communications cables because I had noticed pipes connecting sensors and signals to these rows of tiles.  At that time I had also identified a Kato set that had parts for building something similar.  Recently I picked up a couple of these sets, Kato part number 23-227.

The set includes 4 spues of parts like the one shown in this photo.  The tiled sections are about 5 inches long and there are 4 each of 2 different widths.  There are also a couple of vaults with lids and tees and 45 degree bends.

For this project several sections were attachd together and reinforced with .030 x .060 styrene strip underneath.  A vault section was added to one end of each assembly.

After brush painting concrete color overall, and aluminum color on the vault lids.  I used the clear E6000 adhesive to attach the assembled sections to the roadbed between the yellow and blue Ntrak lines.  Here D cell batteries held things down while the adhesive sets.

This photo shows a finished section after installation.  There is a vault on each side of the river.  My theory is that one or more conduit pipes would exit the vault and go under the road bed and under the bridge to the vault on the other side to continue the path.

This was an easy and fun project, and added a nice touch to the Hot Springs Junction Ntrak right of way.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Adding a water feature

When I finished the river scene on the Hot Springs Junction module last summer, I left a waterfall that did not seem to have a source.  I had run out of time before a show and just put down some quick scenery.  What I had imagined was to have a stream enter the module feeding into a pond which then fed the waterfall.

This photo I took in Kyoto this last March shows a type of concrete stream channel that I had seen in many places in Japan and wanted to include as part of the added water feature on the module.

To model a channel like this I cut out a channel in the existing scenery parallel to the road and between the road and the Sake shop.  Then a concrete painted styrene channel was glued in and scenery built around it.  The bottom was painted with Floquil Gunmetal and then with acrylic gloss medium.

I dug out a little depression in the existing scenery and covered it with plaster cloth.  That was painted a blend of blue and green acrylic. For the water I gave the Envirotex product another try and it came out great.

The stream bed was done in a similar way with the plaster cloth and acrylic paints.  Several coats of acrylic gloss medium was applied.  After the gloss medium dried, Woodland Scenics Water effects was applied with a brush to get some flowing texture, then a final coat of gloss medium.

Here is an overall view showing the area around the Sake shop.  The concrete channel enters from the upper left, passes the building and empties into the pond.  Then the natural stream leaves the pond to become the waterfall.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Finishing the 2nd type of retaining wall

Last fall, I finished the first of two different types of retaining walls that I have been working on for the Hot Springs Junction module.  That post can be viewed HERE. Now it's time to finish the second type of retaining wall which is a more simple design but there is a lot of it.  For the background on both types of walls see the post Japanese Style Retaining Walls.

Again as I did when finishing the first type of wall, I show here the reference photo I started with for this type of wall and pick up where I left off on the original post.

After the Evergreen tile styrene sheet is assembled to fit the shape of the hillside were it will be installed, the edges are covered with .100 x .100 L channel strip.

On the front facing and top edge of the L channel, I cut a groove as shown in this photo about every 10 scale feet with a razor saw to simulate expansion joints.

When doing the front facing surface I set a thin sheet of scrap over the tile surface to protect it from being scratched by the saw.

Each assembled section of retaining wall was air brushed with Testors acrylic concrete color.

The next step before installing the wall is to give it some basic weathering.  I like to highlight the grooves between the tiles by using diluted India Ink.

A few drops of ink into a Dixie cup filled to the level shown in this photo.  This solution is spread evenly across the wall assembly.  With the wall laying flat it settles into the grooves and that's why I did this before installation.  Brush strokes should be up and down the wall so it will look like natural streaks.

The completed wall sections are attached to the foam land forms with Liquid Nails adhesive.  After the adhesive has set, the scenery is built up as desired to the walls edge and as shown in this photo sometimes over the edge.  This 4 foot module has about 6 feet of large retaining walls of both type presented here.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Hot Springs Jct. at the N Scale Convention

My Hot Springs Junction Ntrak module will be part of Peninsula Ntrak's layout during the 2015 National N Scale Convention being held in Sacramento.

Over the next few weeks I will be working on completely finishing the module and will be posting on some of those projects.

The location of the convention is the Double Tree Hotel, 2001 Point West Way, Sacramento, California.   Besides our layout there will also be other layouts from around California representing the Ntrak, FreemoN, and Bend Track modular standards.  The layouts will be available for public showing on Friday, June 26th from 12:00pm to 4:00pm and on Saturday, June 27th from 9:00am to 4:00pm.

For more information about the 2015 National N Scale convention click HERE.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Smart Sushi Train

Nona and I have always enjoyed eating Sushi together and I especially like the restaurants where it is delivered on some sort of conveyor belt or boats.   This last March we were out walking around near Meguro station in Tokyo and happened across this place called "Smart Sushi"

It's a fairly large place with the kitchen behind a wall so not visible.  The "Train" is more like a monorail, with the guide way made of wood that goes around the counter and through the wall into the kitchen.  There is an electronic beeper and a lighted push button is at each seat.  There is also a touch screen display terminal at each seat for the customers to enter their orders.  The orders arrive on a two car train of sorts.  It's really two trays that ride on the wooden guide ways and are connected together.  A total of 4 dishes of Sushi can be delivered with each trip.  When your order arrives the push button flashes and the beeper sounds.  When you have removed your order you press the button the send the train back to the kitchen.

I have put labels on this photo to point out the features of the sushi train mentioned above.  No, the beer is not delivered by the train.

This was a fun place and the Sushi was also quite good.

Here's a short YouTube video showing the delivery of an order.  This was my first video with my new camera and I'm quite happy with the results but I just need to hold it more steady.

Friday, May 8, 2015

Adding to my Tokyo taxi fleet

While in Hong Kong, I spotted a tiny shop at the Kowloon Star Ferry Terminal called 80M Bus Model Shop.  They had all kinds of bus and vehicle models in several scales.  I picked out a couple of 1:160 Hong Kong taxi cabs.  The cabs in Hong Kong are basically the same model cars that are used in Tokyo so I thought they would make be a good stand in.

The 80M Bus Model Shop has several locations around Hong Kong and this English web site.
Having seen this new TomyTec set out on ebay before we left on this trip, I thought I would look for it while in Tokyo and found it at TamTam in Akiharaba.

I had always thought that Tomytec would come out with a big set of taxis the way they have with other vehicles but so far just these small sets.  This new set like the one before it, has two Crown models and two Prius models.  I hope they do the green one next.

At another Akihabara hobby shop I was also able to find this set of Showa era taxis that I was looking for to use on the Hot Springs Junction Ntrak module.

I took these first three photos while packing to come home.  Our luggage situation was such that I had to take all of these out of their packages to consolidate things.

The 80M Bus model actually a tiny bit larger than the TomyTec model. This would not be noticeable unless they are side by side.   It also has rear view mirrors and a bit more painted detail. Overall it's a very nice model.

Friday, May 1, 2015

While I was away.....

While I was in Asia, the annual Trains and Planes exhibit took place at the Hiller Aviation Museum in San Carlos, California.  This year it was an 8 day long event with up to 7 operating layouts in N, HO, O, and G scales represented.  Last year, using my Hot Springs Junction module we did a combined Peninsula Ntrak / AsiaNrail layout.  But this year with my module and myself not being available, two separate layouts were set up.

Here's Paul Ingraham with the AsiaNrail layout at the Hiller exhibit.  The Peninsula Ntrak layout is in the background.  We have often run point to point operations on the AsiaNrail layouts but with Paul having to run this layout by himself this time he went with an oval.

Here are a couple of YouTube videos of the AsiaNrail layout done by Julia Jackson of Peninsula Ntrak.  Paul explains the concept of his modular design and the scenery on some of the modules.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

The layouts at the new Kato Store

One of the things that makes the Kato shop different is it's operating N and HO scale layouts.  What better way to promote your products than to show them set up and operating.

This view is of the largest N scale layout.

That's a lot of Unitrak !
It would have been great if they had a lot of trains running on this layout but when I was there they only had a couple of trains running.

As most of my photos of moving train models tend to come out blurry, I chose to photograph some of the many detailed scenes on the layouts.

Modeling a station scene in Tokyo, you need taxi cab models and lots of people.

In the upstairs part of the store, there were several smaller layouts and displays along with enough room that they could host club setups of modular layouts.  I have no idea if they actually do that.

One thing that caught my eye was this display of a section of clear acrylic pipe with a platform inside wide enough for a double track section of Unitrak - for a Subway ?

While not all of the buildings on the layout are weathered or detailed, this small group of older style buildings were very well done.  Are those solar panels on the roofs ?

The Kato Hobby Center is certainly a great place to visit when in Tokyo.  In my previous post, I show a map of how to get there from the nearest subway station.  Here is another link to a great collection of photos done by John Sing in 2008 of  the old store and also has photo directions on how to get there from the subway station.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Shopping at the new Kato Store

My first visit to the Kato Hobby Center in the Shinjuku ward of Tokyo was in 1999.  I went again in 2005 and both those times I took the Sebu-Shinjuku line from Shinjuku as I was not yet comfortable with the subway system.  This required a bit of walking up hill from Araiyakushimae Station.  The past couple of trips I used my shopping time to explore some the the hobby shops in other parts of town such as in Akihabara.  On this trip I was aware that the shop had been complety rebuilt since the last time I have visited and was better than ever.  Also I needed to find a replacement for a broken coupler on one of my Japanese Shinkansen trains so this was high on my list.  By now being more comfortable with the subway system, I took the subway this time only needing one transfer.

This map shows my route from the Toei Araiyakushimae station to the Kato Hobby Center.

It's a short walk on level ground from exit A1 of the station to the Kato store.

This is the view approaching the shop from the subway station.

This was an entirely new building since the last time I had been here.  Only the railcar in front is the same.

As I was looking for a replacement for a broken coupler on my N700A power car I was drawn to the parts aisle.  In the old shop, much of these parts were behind the counter but it seems it's all self service now.

And I was not disappointed.  I found the part in this aisle, picked up two packs of each type of coupler for this train so I would have some spares.

As these seem to be positioned in the aisle by part number, it's helped that I had the part numbers for what I wanted written down.

Besides having Kato products, this is a full line hobby shop.   It's quite spacious inside with wide aisles.

As they did with the old shop, there are also operating N scale and HO scale layouts.  I will show something of that in my next post.