Wakasa - a small Japanese N scale rural layout

by Graeme Goodsell

Emperor's train arrives in the station.

After 50+ years of modelling my local (New South Wales, Australia) scene in N scale I decided that I really should have somewhere to run all my Japanese locomotives and rolling stock. I had bought models of steam locomotives to convert to Australian prototypes but finally could not bear to throw away those beautiful body shells. Then Kato released a new highly detailed version of a C12 class tank locomotive scaled at 1:150 and I had to have somewhere to show it, and the other models, to full effect.

Scratch built engine shed

As I live in an apartment the layout had to be compact, yet big enough to allow for continuous running, some shunting and a staging (fiddle) yard. When visiting Japan I was, of course, impressed with its modern rail network but I also enjoyed the charm of railways in the countryside. A Google search of Japanese rural railways turned up the Wakasa Railway, near Tottori, whose terminus contained a compact track plan, railway heritage items, a row of cherry trees and a C12 locomotive on display!

Overall view showing two modules with scenery and six track staging (fiddle) yard

Track Plan
I decided to use Kato Unitrack, with a minimum 249 mm radius, #4 turnouts and developed a track plan that resembled Wakasa station, yard and turntable. A continuous loop was justified by assuming that a proposed extension had been built and a hidden six track staging yard was incorporated. To facilitate continuous running, as well as shunting, I would need to have two controllers operating on isolated sections of track. Unitrack lengths were chosen to ensure that connectors fell on the module join and power feeds and isolated sections of track were defined.

Baseboard construction
Stacking Modules

Allowing for station buildings, a baseboard of 2400 mm x 660 mm (approx 8' x 2' 2") was required. For ease of storage and transport, I constructed two 1200 mm x 660 mm modules from high density foam boards. Unsure of the strength of the board and to allow for contours in the landscape, I glued two layers of board together. This allowed me to overlap one layer at the module joint, to cut into the upper board to lower the land form below track level, to cut a slot for the backboard and to cut into the lower board underneath to contain wiring runs. The resulting sandwich was quite strong and very light. I made up a frame of aluminium angle to protect the outer edges of the foam and to provide a slot to slide in styrene sheets to separate the modules when placed face to face for transport.

Track laying
Rather than use Kato's rather expensive feeder sections I soldered power feeds to Unijoiners and used insulated Unijoiners to isolate sections of track. Feeder wires and turnout wires were fed through holes made in the foam boards, the track pinned and then glued in place.

Station buildings, maintenance platform, Wakasa Railway DMUs, Heritage Series 12 carriages and DD16
Kato station buildings, scratch built sheds & DMU maintenance building, cherry trees & vegetable gardens
Scratch built DMU maintenance shed with interior lights, small scale detail & cars

While Kato power packs and switches could have been used, a second hand H & M Duette twin supply unit and a purpose built control panel with a track diagram provided a DC two 'cab' control system and turnout power. Double pole double throw on off on switches were wired for 'cab' A or B selection and double pole double throw momentary on-off-on switches were wired for turnout control. A separate switch controlled building lighting. The mass of resulting wires was fed through D connector plugs and sockets to each module. Before commencing any scenery I made sure that all the electric turnouts, power feeds and isolated sections worked.

The foam board was cut away or added and shaped to create contours and a slot cut to take a curved and painted styrene back board. A Kato station kit and Greenmax maintenance platform were assembled, added to and repainted and a Peco turntable and inspection pit modified. I scratch built two engine sheds, ancillary buildings and water tower from styrene and a coal stage from scale lumber. Buildings were positioned, lighting wiring fed through holes in the foam boards, and glued in place. A base coat of acrylic paint was applied to the base, other colours blended in, ground foam and ballast scattered and finally glued in place. The vertical faces of rails and the formation were painted with acrylics to try to tone down the Kato track. Cherry trees in blossom, both ready made and assembled from kits, were planted along with other trees and vegetation made from a variety of materials and colours of ground foam. Fields were defined with paint and ground foam and rows of vegetables planted on painted strips of PVA glue. Finally people, cars, oil drums and wood stacks were added and glued in place. Over time I plan to add more detail to enliven the scene.



Wakasa DMUs, Series 12 carriages, DD16 & C12

Rolling stock
Trains are run to represent the current Wakasa Railway and trains that could have run in the period 1930 -1987. Current operations are represented by Tomytec DMUs WT3001 and WT 3003. Kato DD-167, C12-167, three series 12 class carriages, an open goods wagon and a guards van represent the heritage stock. Kato C11, C50, Microace C51, C53, C55, C56, C57, C59 and Kato D51 (too many steam locomotives are never enough) and appropriate Kato, Microace & Tomix carriages, stabled in the staging yard, also get a run.

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