Monday, December 19, 2011

Ch..Ch..Ch..Changes... Yet again

So once again, I've changed my plan of attack. That said, I can for sure say this is the last time, because there is actual progress. No camera right now, so I can't post pics, but hopefully soon.

It all began on the Japan Modeling forum. Ulrich Abramowski started a small desktop loop layout based on the work of a Japanese modeler. The layout was composed of a series of micro modules built from plywood. As I watched Ulrich's progress, and visited the site of his inspiration, I decided that this was the way to go. As I currently had a loop of 145mm radius track, this seemed the best to base my dimensions around. I also designed a straight module at 260mm long. This was based on a 200mm piece of flex, a 60mm split in half to give a connection, and 15mm at each end for a 30mm connecting piece. I was just going to butt the ends together, but early experiments showed that the intermediate joiner piece was the way to go.

Next step was to figure out benchwork. I was going to use plywood, but decided after some thought to try an experiment in foamcore. A bit of research on the net showed that it would work reasonably well for the smaller modules I was planning, so I decided to give it a go. More details once I get pictures.

In the meantime, I'll post a quick trackplan showing the completed modules and the planned scenery for each. The one with the track off the edge is to meet with a planned station module.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Curse You Mike Danneman!

Unbidden yesterday, I was thinking about the possibilities for a North American themed layout as a "what if I wasn't doing Shintahara" post. That said, it got me thinking about the NA prototypes available, and with F7's, E8's, passenger coaches and RDC's, I thought "Alaska Railroad". Innocent enough... then track plan ideas started rolling through my head, not so innocent. Let it be known that I love designing track plans. Apparently even moreso than building them. The plans I've designed over the years would fill a storage locker I'm sure...

I remembered Mike Danneman's small 5'X9' N Scale Rio Grande layout from MR and Model Railroad Planning. After finding an image of an expanded version on Google Books, I set about to adapting it to T Gauge. I drew it manually first, and then loaded up Anyrail. Below is the result.

The layout is designed as two 18" X 30" sections that mate to form the full layout. Now I'm looking at it going "Hmmmmm" and just like that my shelf module plans go into doubt.

This is what happens when I have too much time. I still want to model the Shintahara line as I've planned, but what if Baiji became a station on a 48X30 inch layout with a branch off the edge. I've already adapted it with the branch line off to the right from the short siding. Possibly the long stretch along the back could be hidden behind a backdrop and used as a storage yard. Even if I don't build this layout, I put it out there for others to mull over. Mr. Danneman's small plan has alot of potential, even though now he's moved onto bigger and better things.


Sunday, November 20, 2011

Shintahara Reborn...or...Yet Another Trackplan!

It all started innocently enough with a doodle. I sketched out a small 9"X72" branchline layout split into 3 modules. Then came the doubts on the loop layout design... and so began the unraveling of yet another seemingly firm layout plan! I finally think I've hit pay dirt though.

So... I sat down and I wrote out my preferences for a layout. A continuous run, surprising to me, was pretty low on the list when I prioritized. I do have the track if I want an oval loop and want to run trains round and round, but overall, that's not my ultimate goal. The initial plan was to focus on a branchline, with the mainline loop serving as a public display. That said, running trains back and forth on a branch can be pretty interesting too. Rural railways used to be all over Japan, now there are a handful left. I've always been partial to shortlines, especially those that have a run-down character all their own. The simplicity of the Ryugasaki line outlined in my previous post is fine, but I wanted something a bit more complex. That brought me back to Shintahara. Drawing inspiration from the Kominato Line, and the fact that several of the stations have abandoned tracks, I redesigned Shintahara slightly. Gone is the loop from the original layout design, and a more gradual (and realistic) climb into the mountains is planned.

After deciding this, it was back to Anyrail. Those 3 modules I initially doodled became Baiji Station and Atakami Station on the Shintahara Line. They were separated by a single track rural length that I imagined running through rice padies on an embankment. I added a double track JNR main at Baiji Station, and switches may be an option there in the future. When I added the JNR line, it initially curved off the edge over a bridge, but I thought "Why not make an 'L' shaped layout" and I quickly drew a 9" square curve module. Not only does it break up the straight line of the branch, but it also gives me a possibility of eventually building a larger modular setup to do some mainline running. These four modules will form the basis of the Shintahara Line. The mainline in Baiji will be elevated from the Shintahara line, with no interchanges. I may add a future module in front that has the interchange track to the JNR line.

The era is still planned to be the late 70's/early 80's. A time when rural freight service has been phased out, but the main lines are still pre-nationalization.

Rolling stock will be simple in keeping with the nature of the line. I had initially planned to purchase a new 103 set, but with the change in plans, I think I'll be adding a KiHa47/48 combo instead. Dual tracks and a passing siding ensure I can run 2 cars on the layout. Passing sidings are located at all stations except Baiji Park and Itohara. Eishido's passing siding will be intact but abandoned.

More as things progress...

Hopefully I don't change things again...

Sunday, November 6, 2011

The Perfect Shelf Layout?

I've mentioned the Kanto Railway's Ryugasaki Line in these pages before, but I've been thinking about it more and more lately. While I still plan to build the layout shown below, I would also like to build a scale model of Ryugasaki Station.

At 4.5 kilometres long, the Ryugasaki Line is the perfect size for the modeler with very little space. While the entire line could be modeled inch for inch in T-Gauge, it could be compressed in almost any scale. Ryugasaki station today has 4 tracks, but looking at images from 30-40 years ago, it was an entirely different story. There were double the number of tracks at the station, and it was host to both passenger and freight service. Today, the line is passenger only.

Ryugasaki Terminal -
Image from Wikimedia Commons

The line from Ryugasaki to Sanuki is single track with no passing sidings. There also used to be an interchange track with the Joban line at Sanuki, that has long been removed.

In T-Gauge, the Ryugasaki terminal and surrounding area would be just under 30 inches long. I want to do this as a diorama and I plan to handlay the track to get the track geometry right (handlaid T-Gauge turnouts... Yay!) I do plan for them to work as well.

On the layout plan in the previous post, I may extend the branchline off to the side to allow me to place the terminal section next to it. More locations may be added in the form of additional dioramas. Ireji station would be simple, but Sanuki Terminus would require a lot more planning.

In theory, Sanuki could be part of a modular layout with the Ryugasaki running off of it. That said, that's a far in the future thing.

If you're looking to model a Japanese prototype but want something easy to manage, I'd definitely recommend the Ryugasaki line. A lot of information is available out there on both the modern and historical operations on this tiny line. Just be sure to have Google Translator handy ;)

Friday, October 28, 2011

Wow... how time flies...

Alot's been going on over the last year and a bit, and my T-Time has been severely curtailed. A move has resulted in the dismantling of Shintahara, but a new layout is on the way. At 18" X 36" it will be slightly narrower than Shintahara, but will be a bit more generic.

The abundance of cool stuff coming out in T has made me want to seriously think about a generic layout that can switch locales by changing the buildings. Below is the track plan as designed in Anyrail.

I currently have a KiHa 40 and a Sky-Blue 103 set. I plan to get a yellow Sobu set as well. I realize they're not as good as the KiHa/Hankyu mechanisms, but as they're out of production, it'd be nice to have some "first generation" T Gauge stuff.

The layout is designed to handle a train running around the loop, with a small stub end branch (possibly with an abandoned switch to hint at a previous connection) in the corner. This is to give something like the KiHa or an RDC something to automatically run on.

There is also a storage track for a second train off the main line.

The dummy track is intended as strictly a spur to show off equipment like freight cars. I hope to begin construction in a few weeks, just need to order more track. The base loop however can be completed I hope before that.

I'm not dead, just been sleeping awhile. More surprises to come soon, including what I hope is a T-Gauge first ;)

Friday, July 30, 2010

Progress - Slowly but surely...

I've been making slow and steady progress on Shintahara as of late. The track is down and my KiHa 40 has been happily running around it, much to the amusement of our two cats. The river area to the left side of the layout has been mocked up and a precursor to my station building can also be seen. The station will be a modified model of the historic Nijo station, the oldest wooden train station in Japan. I decided to take part in the Summer Project Party over on the JNS Forum, and that inspired me to get moving on the station area of Shintahara.

The mountain still has to be roughed in, and with it, the branch line roadbed. The approximate ridge line for the mountain has been drawn in though. The branch roadbed will be cut from foamcore and the mountain areas will be cut to fit. I also plan to have the top of the mountain removable to allow access to the hiddedn track in back.

The shot here shows the bridge mockup outside Shintahara. The bridgeitself likely won't get built until the 157.5mm curves come out and I can get the outside loop in place.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

What's in a Name?"

The layout, which up until now, was nameless, finally has an identity. I wanted something that sounded Japanese, and yet wasn't necessarily based ona real place. The name that came unbidden into my head was "Shintahara". It definitely sounded Japanese, and a bit of Googling turned up a couple of people with the name Shin Tahara, but not a place by that name. I started with this and decided to run with it. For me, one of the important factors in my design strategy is why a railroad exists. It's all about the story behind a model railroad. Why was the railroad built? What purpose does it serve. What towns did it go through?
It was with this theory in mind that I developed the history for my T-Gauge layout. After much thought and planning, I've taken my rough layout design and plotted it in Anyrail. This new layout design has some elements of the previous sectional layout. It's basically a 24" X 36" base with extensions for the branchline. The branch is the main focus of the layout and is what gives it its name.

Based on the layout design as I have it with the branchline up-and-over loop, I decided to incorporate that into the actual prototype history. Loops are rare on Japanese railways, but not unheard of. One famous example is actually a combination loop/switchback at Okaba on the Hisatsu Line on the island of Kyushu. The exact location for the Shintahara remains shrouded in mystery at the moment aas I'm not exactly sure where in Japan I'm going to put it.

I started with some route icons from Wikipedia and began working in both directions from this point. As I did this, the line took on a life of its own and the Shintahara Railway was born. Basing the history on a number of other current and former lines in the country gave the Shintahara a plausible reason for being. The line's history as it exists now is below.

Shintahara Railway Company

The Shintahara Railway company was chartered in 1893 to connect the villages of Shintahara and Atakami with the Japanese Government Railway at the town of Baiji. The original portion of the line began construction in 1895 and was completed by late 1896. A branchline to the village of Kintubo was constructed in late 1896. The line initially began operation with a pair of 0-4-2 tender locomotives purchased used from the Japanese Government Railway (JGR). The line also had a few passenger and goods wagons as well. In 1900, the JGR built a line through Shintahara, and constructed a second interchange with the Shintahara Railway.

The village of Echindo several miles into the mountains northeast of Shintahara had a small coal mine operation. The short line saw this as an opportunity and constructed a line to tap this resource. The line was partially funded by the JGR as well. The terrain heading out of Shintahara dictated either a switchback or a loop configuration to gain elevation. The Shintahara Railway opted for the loop. The line passed through the small village of Itohara on the way to Echindo. A total of three tunnels and one long trestle were needed to reaching Echindo, which was reached in early 1904. In 1906, the line extended further into the mountains to the villages of Katangi and Ryabuko. There was another coal mine ay Ryabuko, so the four tunnels and one trestle used to get there were warranted. In 1907, the Shintahara Railway was completely absorbed into the new Japanese National Railway.

A Hot Springs bath house was opened in 1914 in Shiku and became a source of much traffic on the line.

Due to the secondary nature of the Shintahara Line, it was never electrified. Steam lasted on the line until 1970, after which passenger duties were taken over by a number of KiHa 30 diesel railcars. Freight service was taken over by diesels. The Ryabuko coal mine closed in 1970, and few freight cars travelled between Shiku and Ryabuko.

A tunnel collapse in 1974 on the line just north of Shiku sealed the fate of the line to Ryabuko. Passengers still continued to travel by rail to the Onsen in Shiku, but improved roads through the mountains diminished this traffic.

The closure of the Echindo coal mine in 1984 had an impact on the line as well. Freight service was reduced to a trickle, and only a couple of years after the mine closed, all freight operations on the line were discontinued.

JNR was looking at various options to purge itself of the line, and when the company was dissolved, JR East took control of the Shintahara. Wishing to divest itself of the line as well, JR East sold the Shintahara line to a group of local investors. The new Third Sector Company, Shintahara Railways Group took control of the Baiji to Shiku section on May 1, 1988.

The line operates with a pair of KiHa 40 railcars with a pair of KiHa 30's on reserve at the Baiji shops. Also on roster is a single KiHa 47/48 set.