In the first part of this article, I introduced the Bandai B-Train Shorty series and how to get these compressed train cars running. In this second part of the article, I'll walk you through a layout I built that takes advantage of these compact trains.
When planning the layout, I tried to maximize possible town and station placements. In early mockups, I also found that placing a town that was not parallel to the edges was far more visually appealing. To this end, I set out an area in the lower right for the main town where the inner loop would pass through at a diagonal.
Layout Landscaping and Scenery
I researched a great deal and watched many YouTube videos before deciding how to actually build my layout on my 2.5" x 5" coffee table. I didn't want a totally flat surface, but I also didn't want something with big mountains because I wanted to be able to store the layout under my bed if necessary. I studied YouTube videos on construction techniques and I realized that I needed to focus on things that were within my modeling abilities and interest. Some techniques were cheap and seemed easy to do (e.g., making trees using Woodland Scenic products), while other techniques were cheap but seemed difficult to do well (e.g., making roads with the Woodland Scenic products). There was also the issue of labor intensity and personal interest. I realized I was ok making my trees because it was fun for me, whereas electrical wiring would not be fun for me.
To this end, I decided to use a base created with ReadyGrass and then landscape with a variety of Woodland Scenic products. I first glued together several 1-inch thick foam cores to form the base. Then I laid out my tracks and structures on the bare foam to make sure everything fit. Once I was happy with the layout, I used a screwdriver to drill small holes through the foam for the track, turnout, and light wiring.
In terms of structures, I was quickly drawn to the older, Showa period style buildings, and particularly to the Tomytec collection. In fact, I began purchasing some of these structures to put around the Shorty cars before deciding to build an actual layout. Compared to other Japanese structure options, the Tomytec collection is notable because the buildings come pre-painted and pre-weathered, enhancing the realism of the scene at a relatively low cost. For example, this set with a post office and a pharmacy is only USD 9.
The next step was lighting. Tomytec sells 3 types of easy-to-use lighting kits. I used normal LED bulbs for lighting buildings from the inside. I then used the eaves lighting for the station eaves. Finally, I used spotlights for structures that could not be lit from the inside. All the wiring goes through the holes in the foam drilled out earlier. While Tomytec offers both white and yellow colored bulbs, I found the white bulbs to be more flexible as I could always color them yellow with paint or markers if needed. In my layout, I wrapped some masking tape around the bulb to dampen the bright glow, help diffuse the light, and add a tint of yellow to the light color.
The final step was adding the figures. As much as possible, I tried to use figures to create small scenes with their own story. For example, couples would be walking to the train station, or a woman carrying a baby is walking to the temple with her mother-in-law.
Other Thoughts on Scenery and Landscaping
Landscaping and scenery are constant works-in-progress. Don't worry about filling in all the details at once. I added in the trees, rocks, bushes, and figures in stages. Start with the core elements--the track and the main town, and then add detail around these areas. Once you get a basic layout running, it becomes much easier to see where details should go.
Use vertical elements to add visual interest. Catenary poles, telephone poles, and tall trees of different height add much needed visual variances in height, adding interest to the layout.
Laying out tracks and structures in a square grid parallel to the edges makes your layout look smaller and more rigid. As much as possible, lay tracks that don't parallel the edge and set some buildings at an angle.
Obscuring parts of the layout engages the observer by encouraging them to guess where the train may reappear. In this layout, the viaduct acts as a visual divider between the front and back of the layout, obscuring the far station from observers in front of the layout. This obscuration also makes the layout feel larger than one where you can see the entire layout at once. Forests , hills, and viaducts are all ways to obscure parts of the layout.
A Final Thought
I hope this article was helpful to you. If you have any questions, I'd be happy to answer them at contact AT nickyee DOT com
Acknowledgments: A big thank you to all the helpful folks at JNS Forum, and a special thanks to "nickhp" who gave me the heads up on the differences between the Bandai and Kato running trucks.
Article and Photographs all copyright 2011 Nick Yee