Japanese Dreams

by Paul Meredith

Hi, my name is Paul Meredith from Chester in the UK and I m 61 years old.

Firstly I'd just like to say that my knowledge of trains and their systems is virtually zero, I'm more about modelling and creating something nice. Anything I write here is based on my experiences and not necessarily the right way! It's more of an article on why you should'nt be afraid to make a start and "have ago".

As with most of us, as a child I had the normal basic train set and when my boys were about 6 and 9 I started to build a HO layout in my garage but it was cold and it leaked so I gave up! So with my children all grown up and driving themselves I became redundant as a carer and a taxi, and with all this time on my hands I decided it was time for a hobby. When watching YouTube one evening I stumbled across the Nozomi 500, I was blown away, the colour, the shape, everything about it was just beautifull. I was amazed when viewed head on at just how similar in shape it is to an aircraft fuselage, then I guess that's as much to do with the aerodynamics of both of them. So I started to research the market for Japanese trains, tracks and accessories, and while doing this I came across the JNS forum and it's been an invaluable source of help and information ever since.

I went with Kato track for the simple reason it's more readily available in the uk. I started on the dining table but soon realised I needed more space so bought my train shed, 12'x8' with all the usull luxury's of a man cave, tv, music and a beer fridge. Trains and controllers are also readily available but the choice is huge, on all these items I guess it's a case of personal choice as most are quality, proven products. I like to keep things simple so I went for dc operation.

I started small and built up to a bigger layout. There s a ton of stuff available from the Japanese stores and eBay and I have used most of them. So a few pointers for anyone starting out;

  • Get yourself a track plan program for the computer, I use any rail and it cost me £30, it's a one-off payment and is for life.

  • Go as big as you can with the layout, if you don't there will come a point when you wish you had.

For the layout that's about it. Accessorising it and adding detail is the best bit for me. I use 3v street lights from China, cheap as chips but at 3v they require a diferent power supply than the normal 12v that comes from the accessories outlet on most controllers. There's two ways of doing this, fit an in line resistor or if you re lazy like me, buy a 3v power supply. This will also apply to 6v or any other diferent voltage.

Scenics is a minefield, there s so much stuff and techniques,try them all and go with the one you re most happy with.Do nt be afraid to try it,worst case scenario is that you dont like it and you rip it up and start again.

My usual plan of action is this;

  • Measure the space you have and go to the maximum, that way you wo nt regret not going bigger and it's easier to accept that You just do nt have any more space.

  • Decide on a track plan and plan it out, fit as much or as little as you want in here, but one piece of advice I would give is this, people frown upon loops, plain boring ovals. I'm not one of them. You have a choice when planning your track, space in the middle for buildings, trams or what ever you want, or you use it for track work and forfeit the space and have less scenics. If you go for the loop, I guarantee you that by the time you've got everything else on there no one will even notice because there ll be too much other stuff to look at.

Most of my layouts have been just loops, my last one, Fukuoka Station was 6 lines of L shaped loops, but there was so much stuff on it no one noticed, including me! There s not much more to say really, but I went from a small tabletop layout costing about £400 to a 12'x8' layout costing about £11,000 in five years. Be under no illusions, you'll make mistakes and do things you do nt like, but all of it is easily put right, believe me, I speak from experience.

I have now switched my attentions to smaller layouts. The larger layout was proving dificult to maintain with my arthritis so I decided to down size. The train layout is on a 5'x3' board and is called "just for fun". I've done the prototypical stuff and this is just me having a bit of fun and self indulgence. It has Jurassic park and a Kennedy space Center. It has Four small loops and I run pocket line and b train shorty's.

Another current project is a small Unitram layout which measures 4'x2.5'..This is still a work in progress. All layouts follow my normal rules, plan the track, lay it then fill in the gaps. Most of my layouts are on YouTube. Hope this is of some help to anyone wanting to have a go, remember, don't be afraid to try!

Regards, Paul

So here are a few of my layouts detailed in order in which I built them.
My First Layout
This was my first attempt.The hills/mountains were my first attempt ever at mesh and plaster cloth.

My First Tram Layout
Next up was my tram layout,loosely based on Japan but with a "German"village.

Swiss Layout
Next up was my Swiss alps layout. This is one of my favourites and it went to an autistic boy who was 27 with a mental age of a6 yr old.I ended up giving him the trains for free and we still keep in touch today,five years later. View the photo gallery of this layout.

Japanese Dreams
Now it was time to get serious. My first large layout called "Japanese Dream" This was a four track layout with two tams.I used almost 600 meters of cable on this one. You can read about the contstructionof this layout on my JRM topic about it. View the photo album of this layout.

Japanese Dreams II
Japanese Dream version 2 I decided to alter the original and add in a 3 tier track system. It took some doing but I was really happy with the outcome but towards the end I was struggling to climb under. It had 8 tracks running in total plus two trams and could house 34 trains in total. You can read about the contstructionof this layout on my JRM topic about it. View the photo album of this layout.

Fukuoka Station Layout
After deciding that getting under was too dificult in my old age I decided to completely dismantle Japanese dream and start again,so Fukuoka station was born. This had 6 tacks running with two tram lines in the city area.Lots of sidings and large freight yard. You can read about the contstructionof this layout on my JRM topic about it. Also you can view more pictures of it in the Fukoka Station photo album.

Just For Fun Layout
And so to my current train layout,my "Just for fun" layout. Based on no where in particular and multi cultural buildings and trains it s just a bit of self indulgence and fun,the grandkids love the space Center with the thunderbirds rockets and Star Wars space vehicles and the Jurassic park with the dinosaurs. This is almost complete and alongside it will be a Unitram layout.

Just For Fun Unitram Layout
And so to my present project,just for fun Unitram. A work in progress I m hoping to keep this as Japanese as possible.the Unitram was laid and I used 5mm foam board and 2mm card to bring the rest up to track height. With the current pandemic it's proving a bit of a challenge getting the buildings for it,however,I m going to use Outland models and detail them up myself Like the ones here.I have another 21 on the way. The two trams are Kato pocket line which only come in green but i stripped one down and painted it Ferrari red,it does nt go any faster tho! You can read about the contstructionof this layout on my JRM topic about it. Also you can view more pictures of it in the Just for Fun Unitram photo album.


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