It is hard to believe that 10 years has passed since I wrote my first article for JRM "Japanese Model Trains And Trams Are Lots Of Fun!". The second article will provide an update of my activities with Japanese Model Trains and Trams. My enjoyment of this hobby has continued to grow over the years. It provides me with many hours of fun and satisfaction.
The "Next Layout"
At the end of my first article there is a track design for my "Next Layout". Here is a few details and photos of the finished result. Most of the buildings and structures were used in my earlier layouts. I believe in reusing layout elements whenever it is possible. I did acquire some new digital images of N scale buildings which I downloaded and printed using my computer. These images were then added to the background to create the illusion of a much larger layout. This is a cheap and effective way making a small layout appear bigger.
A few new trams were purchased for the layout although they arrived towards the end of the project. The Erfurt Combino made by Hoedl-Linie8 (Germany) in conjunction with Leo Halling (Austria) was the first five section tram in my N scale collection. Many people have reported it becomes very hot after running. This problem has not occurred with my unit. The tram uses a modified Halling H0 motor which may cause excess heat depending on the voltage of the controller. Although it is not a Japanese prototype, it was a great addition to my rolling stock. The tram is a very smooth runner although it lacks lights and an interior.
I also purchased the Modemo Hiroshima Green Mover articulated tram from Japan. There were several production delays with this unit. Unfortunately Modemo also made a few design mistakes with this tram. The chassis does not sit evenly on the track and the motor is very noisy. Despite it's shortcomings, it looked great on the layout. The led lights and paint job are outstanding. I think Modemo could have learnt a few things from the Hoedl/Halling tram.
In 2020 Kato released a three section version of the Hiroshima Green Mover. A excellent model in all respects. The appearance and performance are fantastic! Well worth adding to your collection.
Kato Unitram Layouts
The Kato Unitram embedded tram track was a real breakthrough. It looked quite realistic and offered a complete system for a model tram layout in N scale. I got started with the Unitram V50 Basic Set and a couple of Kato Portrams. The results from my first layout (photos above) were quite impressive but I found that the Unitram system did have a few limitations. I put a lot of thought into the second Unitram layout with the aim of creating something a bit different.
After considering various options, I decided to create a park area in the centre of the layout by adding a grass mat to that section. Normally you would fill that space with multi story buildings. By adding the park I increased the ascetic quality of the layout. I then used the tall buildings as a background at the rear. This worked quite well to "frame" the layout. It also made it easier to see the trams. I purchased the Tomytec Shrine and Temple buildings to add some diversity with structures. There was also a small lake with a canoe on the left of layout which created a nice variation.
Next I decided to add some Unitrack track pieces. The purpose was to again break from the Unitram limitations and add some interesting options for operation. By adding terminus areas on the left and right of the layout it allowed me to have trams switch between the inner and outer tracks. The layout allowed both "point to point" and "roundy round" operation.
As I planned the layout in AnyRail it became obvious that I should create a video of the end result. The aim was to make it available on YouTube to share my work with others. The video component of the project involved a lot more detailed planning. I had to think out the camera angles, lighting and best places for the tripod. Even though this made the project more involved, it was well worth it in the end with over 950,000 views on YouTube.
Tomix Wide Tram Layout
Another approach that I found works quite well is by using the Tomix Wide Tram track. It can be combined with the Tomytec Moving Bus Track to achieve a realistic urban road/tram solution. I incorporated it with some Tomix Fine Track pieces for the curved sections of the tram line. The idea was to have a single embedded tram line running through the front and middle of the layout. This is not possible with the Unitram system which uses two lines.
Two ovals of Kato Unitrack were added to the outer area of the layout to run some trains as well. A train station was added in front of the tall buildings. The overall effect was of a dense city environment. Many of the design elements from my previous Unitram layout were incorporated into this project.
Kato Viaduct Layout
In 2020 most people found themselves at home with some spare time on their hands. I was in that situation too and decided to build a new layout to keep myself busy. I had nothing in mind and wanted to try something different. Rather than spend lots of time planning in AnyRail, I decided to create something based around a Unitrack [V13] Double-Track Viaduct Set that I purchased from a local hobby shop. Even though I call this project the "Kato Viaduct Layout", I generally refer to it as the "Lockdown Layout".
The initial layout was created in 12 hours. I experimented with a few things over the following three months and it gradually evolved over time. By adding the basic V50 Unitram layout in the centre and a oval of Unitrack running under the Viaduct, it made a compelling layout to use. Have a look at the videos to get a better idea.
Narrow Gauge 80 Layout
When Tomytec released it's Narrow Gauge 80 range (1/80 scale) I saw a new area of Japanese model trains that I could explore. The scale uses 9mm track like N scale. The idea is to simulate 762mm narrow gauge railway track. It is similar to H0e or HOn30.
The Tomytec Narrow Gauge range now offers a good selection of locos and rolling stock to choose from. Along with other makers such as Toma Model Works and Minitrains, there are plenty of options to choose from! I use Peco OO9/H0e track for this scale rather then Tomix or Kato sectional track. At the moment I am experimenting with a small layout in order to develop ideas for a larger layout in the future.
As always, I am still having heaps of fun using Japanese model trains and trams!
all text and photos copyright 2021 by Bryan Carey