A Japanese Layout Using Bandai Shorty Trains
Part 2 - My B-Train Shorty Layout
by Nick Yee


Figure 1. A Bandai Shorty train in the finished layout. Copyright 2011 Nick Yee

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.

Track Plan
At first, I did far more reading in terms of structures and landscaping than I did for track layout, and perhaps this was a good thing. The biggest lesson I've learned is that it's most important to figure out what would make you happy rather than focusing too much on what experts are doing (e.g., a point-to-point switching layout, using realistic incline grades). In any case, the track plan I settled on was a double-loop with crossover. I wanted to be able to run multiple trains at the same time, and I'm not too interested in complex operations. The outer loop is a viaduct loop that I designed to cross over the ground tracks at 4 locations to create visual interest. There is also a passing siding in the inner loop, and a spur that provides two storage tracks. All the tracks use Kato Unitrack and most of the curves are 216mm or 249mm.

Figure 9. The Track Plan. Note that right turnout on the top of the inner loop uses a custom-beveled R216-15 piece, which you can do yourself with a dremel tool.

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.

Figure 10. Front view of the layout.

Figure 11. Back view of the layout.


Layout Landscaping and Scenery


Figure 12. Base Layout. Copyright 2011 Nick Yee

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.


Figure 13. Layout with initial landscaping. Copyright 2011 Nick Yee


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.

Figure 14. Tomytec temple structures overlooking the town. Copyright 2011 Nick Yee

Figure 15. Town Area with Tomytec Structures. Copyright 2011 Nick Yee

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.

Figure 16. Lighting up the town with Tomytec lighting kits. Copyright 2011 Nick Yee

Figure 17. The temple lit up. Copyright 2011 Nick Yee

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.

Figure 18. Figures walking to temple. Copyright 2011 Nick Yee

Figure 19. Sweeping the balcony. Copyright 2011 Nick Yee

Other Thoughts on Scenery and Landscaping


Figure 20. Plaster rocks made with Woodland Scenics materials. Copyright 2011 Nick Yee

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.

Figure 21. The temple buildings are not set along a straight grid, and the viaduct in the background is also curved along the edge. Both help break a rigid, grid-like look. Copyright 2011 Nick Yee

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
And finally, it's important to keep in mind that serious model railroading (especially in the US) revolves around getting as close to prototype as possible. These ideals (such as using broad curves or inclines no steeper than 2%) are often at odds with creating a small layout especially for beginners who would likely get more out of a continuous run layout with mild switching than a point-to-point complex switching layout. When using viaducts in small layouts, you often have to use steep inclines. For example, this layout uses a 5.6% incline. As you plan your layout, rather than worry about what the guidelines say, see what curves and inclines your trains can handle and let that be your guide.

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

Part 1 - A Chance Meeting with Bandai B-Train Shorty

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


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