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On 3/16/2022 at 10:36 AM, JR 500系 said:

Here, no prizes to guess what i did to improve the 215 series ~






There's a hint in the picture, although we really cant see the difference in the before and after .... X_x  Not a really good upgrade for the amount of work that goes in i must say... 

Could have a go at painting the pantograph fins yellow too. Pictures i’ve seen have yellow tips. 

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@JR East,


Like @disturbman already mentioned, the Nara ward 103 series formations were divided into two distinct formation groups, the 4 car NS4XX (though I believe the NS 4XX numbering is something which was introduced during their final decade, but don't quote me on this) and the 6 car NS617~NS619 groups, with both being used for different services on different lines.


The NS4XX group of formations was probably the most diverse group out of all JR West's 103 series formations, and the composition and number of these formations, or at least the 4 car 103 series formations used on the Nara line, would change numerous times between their introduction in 1994 up till the introduction of former Tōkaidō/Sanyō Honsen 205 series 0/1000 between 2017 and 2018 led to the retirement of all but two (formations NS407 and NS409, which in turn were retired on the 11th of March of this year ironically) of the remaining NS formations. They were composed of an eclectic group of former Yamanote line (1973 built KuHa 103 type cars displaced by the introduction of new (high-cab) ATC equipped KuHa 103 type cars built for the Yamanote and Keihin-Tōhoku line post 1974), Tōkaidō/Sanyō main line (Kyōto/Kōbe lines), Kansai main line, Hanwa line and Ōsaka Kanjōsen (Loop) cars, containing numerous production batches (though all KuHa 103 type cars, and the handful KuMoHa 103 type cars were all 1973 vintage or earlier). As such there was a lot of variation between the different formations, as we'll see later on.

In terms of operations, the NS4XX formations were primarilly used on the Nara line, though they could occasionally be found on Ōsaka Loop services, though usually with two coupled formations.


In contrast to the NS4XX group of formations, the NS617~NS619 sub group was a bit more uniform with the formations being composed of former Ōsaka Loop line formation cars, which in turn had been displaced by the introduction of former Kyōto/Kōbe line 201 series and 103 series (40N and 30N constitution improvement) cars.

these 3 formations were primarily used on the Yamatoji line prior to their retirement between 2017 and 2018, however as with the NS4XX formations they were also used on the Ōsaka Loop line from time to time.


As the Yamatoji line runs between Nara and JR Namba stations, they did indeed terminate at Nara, hence the inclusion of the destination board for the Yamatoji formations, however the Yamatoji line of course enters Nara from the opposite (south vs north) direction in comparison to the (JR) Nara line.


As for trying to reproduce the 103 series formation in your picture, there are some aspects which may make this difficult, if not impossible for you, depending on how critical you are with regards to minor details like these, so you

The JR West 103 series fleet, or at least those which were expected to remain in service into the 2000's and beyond, went through a variety of life extension programs between 1994 and 2005. Though there were a number of similarities between these programs, in general we can divide them in 2 distinct sub-groups; the life extension programs, which includes the N, NA, NB and N40 improvement programs, completed starting in 1994, and the constitution improvement programs, 40N and 30N, which were completed between 1996 and 2005.

Now with regards to the Nara ward 103 series, the 40N and 30N programs aren't really all that important so I won't be going into more detail regarding their content, but the N/NA and 40N programs are relevant to the question at hand, so please allow me to expand on those.


As I mentioned before, the N/NA/NB and N40 programs were instituted from 1994 onward, and can, in terms of their general scope, be considered to be more or less part of the same group of improvements. That being said though, there are a number of differences between both the cars that would be going through said improvement work, as well as minor differences between each program.

The N and NA groups would be composed of 103 series cars which had already received special maintenance work [note1], i.e. 103 series cars of the 1964~1969 batches (1964~1967 and 1967~1969), 1970 batch, 1971~1972 batch and a small number of the 1973 batch cars. They would receive, among others, the usual improvements [note 2]: removal of the door pocket windows, removal of the car end windows, stainless steel protective covers over the cab windshield and roll signs, protective skirts, interior improvements etc. The thing which makes the cars which have gone through the N and NA programs stand out in comparison to the later NB and N40, is that the window sash retained their bare metal finish.


The N40 program would contain cars built between 1973 and 1976, which included 1973 batch (primarily KuHa 103 cars) and 1974~1981 batch cars (Primarily MoHa 102 and MoHa 103 type cars)[note 3], and would contain more or less the same improvements as the N/NA program, with the exception of some interior differences, however one of the more noticeable changes compared to the other program, was the fact that the N40 cars had their window sash replaced. In contrast to the replacement sash for the N/NA cars, which as mentioned retained their metallic finish, the ones installed on the N40 cars were painted black. This remains one of the easiest ways to recognize cars which have received the N40 improvement work.


The NB program, like the 40N and 30N programs aren't really relevant to the Nara ward 103 series, but for completion's sake, this group contained cars built in 1970 (1970 batch, kinda obvious but still...), and differed mainly in the use of distributed air conditioning units (WAU102 type, as opposed to the centralized (W)AU75 type units installed on the cars built from the 1971~1972 batch onward), as well as the use of black window sash as with the N40 cars.


Now why is all of this important you may ask? Well, it's simple actually, the 103 series formation you experienced at Kyōto, and the 103 series model as released by Tomix differ in a number of important details, with the Tomix model representing a different composition in comparison to the 103 series formation you came across in 2010.

The formation in your picture, consisting of (if the roster I'm using is correct) KuHa 103-119, MoHa 103-394, MoHa 102-550 and KuHa 103-120, contains two 1967~1970 batch cars (both KuHa 103-119 and 120 were built by Kinki Sharyō on the 9th of September 1968, and were originally used on the Hanwa line) and two 1973 batch cars (MoHa 103-394 and MoHa 102-550 (MoHa 103 and MoHa 102 pairs would usually remain together throughout their lives, though there were exceptions to this rule) were built on the 17th of August 1973 by Kawasaki Sharyō, and would've been originally used on the Ōsaka-Kanjōsen prior to being transferred to the Hanwa-sen after the introduction of the former Tōkaidō/Sanyō Honsen 201 series cars between 2005 and 2008). As such, the KuHa 103 type cars have gone through the N/NA improvement program, while the MoHa 103/102 pair have gone through the N40 improvement program, note the black window sash on the MoHa 103/103 pair (N40) while the KuHa 103 type cars are fitted with metal colored window sash (N/NA).

Furthermore, as the 103 series was the most numerous of all the new-performance type trains introduced by J.N.R., with 3,447 cars built between 1963( 103 series 900 sub-type)/1964~1981/1983~1984 (0 sub-type (as well as the 1000/1200/1500 sub-type cars built for subway corresponding through service)), there were numerous differences between the different production batches, some of which can be clearly identified in your photograph.


One of the interesting aspects of your photo, at least for me as a 103 series fan, is that KuHa 103-119 can be clearly identified as a pre-1970 batch car. I already mentioned the windows with regards to the improvement programs, but there's another little detail hidden in them. The 1970 production batch was a bit of an experimental batch of cars, they were the first 103 series cars to be fitted with air-conditioning, and as such were originally fitted with a number of different AC systems (of which the Mitsubishi design would be chosen, becoming the ubiquitous AU75 type(adding more useless factoids here😁), but they aside from the AC units, they were also the first 103 series cars to be fitted with unit-sash type passenger windows. This meant the passenger windows were constructed as a single unit, which was then fitted as a whole during construction, this made construction easier and would also be used on other J.N.R. new-performance type trains from that point onward, e.g. the 113 and 115 series. As such KuHa 103-119 (and 120 obviously) were still fitted with the original, integrated, passenger windows as can be clearly seen in your pictures. Note the rounded edges on the passenger windows of the KuHa 103 in your picture, as well as the smooth side plating surrounding said windows. Now compare this with the more angular windows on the MoHa 103 directly behind it, the window unit as such is also easily visible with the contours of the (bulky) square frame clearly identifying it as a unit-sash type. Also note the black sash.

Another identifier for early 103 series cars, or at least the KuHa 103 types, is the headlight. Prior to the introduction of the 1971~1972 production batches, all KuHa 103 series cars (and the KuMoHa 103 series by default, but as no KuMoHa 103 series car was built after 1968, they never received the change in headlight I'm about to mention) were fitted with a single, large, incandescent headlight fixture. With the 1971~1972 batch, and all production batches after this, this was changed to a double, shielded beam type headlight. Older cars were retrofitted with shielded beam type headlights during the 1980's, but whereas the late-type cars only had a rectangular headlight casing, for the converted cars this was mounted on top of the original fitting, resulting in the famous butahana or pigs nose/snout shape as can be seen in your picture.


The Tomix model on the other hand only contains cars which have received the N40 improvement work, e.g. cars built between 1973~1976, hence why they provide the car numbers for formations NS411~NS413, which were the only NS4XX formations made up of N40 cars in their entirety, as well as NS618/619 for the NS617~NS619 group (though all 3 formations were exclusively composed of N40 cars). The limited edition contains a mix of NA and N40 cars, but those are all of the later 1971~1972 and/or 1973 batch variety (the recently released Ōsaka Kanjōsen limited edition set does contain pre-1970 batch cars, though that is of course of no use for the formation you are trying to recreate). Though like I said before, whether you let details like these bother you, is of course entirely dependent on the amount of rivets you are willing to count (or would it be counting welds in case of the 103 series... though perhaps being a weld counter sounds even worse than being a rivet counter...).

So long story short, your model represents a (slightly) different group of cars compared to the formation you're trying to model.


Anyway, I hope this short answer (I swear I intended to provide a quick and concise answer, but well...it took on a live of its own again...did I ever mention that I'm a massive 103 series fan?😁) answers your question.





[note 1] Special maintenance in this case refers to a life extension program J.N.R. established during the mid 1970's. As the 101 series cars were ageing, and would be scrapped en masse starting in 1979, the earliest 103 series cars were also approaching their mid life point at between 10 to 15 years of service. As such it was decided to send them through a life extension program, which became the special maintenance program, with the first cars completed around 1976.


[note 2] Though a number of those changes, like for example the removal of door pocket windows, were common for all JR West 103 series cars which survived into the mid 1990's/early 2000's, even the ones who didn't receive any form of life extension work, those changes were still part of the different improvement programs and hence I've included them.


[note 3] None of the, JR West owned 1974~1981 batches (all of them high-cab) KuHa 103 type cars ever received the N40 improvements, as far as I'm aware. Most of them were included in the 40N, as well as the later (simplified) 30N programs. A number did receive the standard modifications as mentioned above, including a couple of former JR East (Musashino line) cars.

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4 hours ago, disturbman said:



Kuha 119 seems to have been scrapped in 2011, https://raillab.jp/car/21846


The picture was shot in 2010, thus they repaint it roughly one year before scrapping it. Sad. 


@200系 Many thanks for such a detailed review, you're definitely a living library.



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On 3/16/2022 at 2:36 AM, JR 500系 said:

no prizes to guess what i did to improve the 215 series ~

So? I know there was no prize, but you never confirmed/said what you did to your 215.


Accents and running numbers?

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2 hours ago, disturbman said:

So? I know there was no prize, but you never confirmed/said what you did to your 215.


Accents and running numbers?


Haha yeah i added tje numbers and darken the lines with the panel paint... although it is quite hard to spot. The panel lining works better on white based model like 885 series instead of silver ones..


Looking at this comparison, we can really see the difference between the Tomix and MA models of the 215 series... I quite like those dark panel lines, gives more 'depth' and adds more realism to the model



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My AN8800 saga continues. I tried spray painting the skirts with Tamiya fine gray base colour. It works but I don’t know if I like the effect or not, as it’s noticeably clearer than the other underfloor parts, which is not totally unprototypical. The spray paint is obviously also messy, and did obscure some details. I still have more to perfect the technique, or switch to a small air brush.






The couplers are GM long shank and works very well, better than Kato knuckles. Just need to add a hood or two to bring the gap down and be more prototypical.

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Yeah not really dark enough. Maybe dark gull grey or similar?


I guess all you can do is take the original part into a hobby shop and try to match it to something in the paint rack.

Edited by katoftw
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Inspired by a conversation with @Wolf, I ordered a Gundam paint marker to try and paint the skirts.


The marker was a bigger success than the spray can. It takes longer to fully paint but the colour is darker and the details are better preserved.






I think I’m sufficiently satisfied with the end result.


I only need to add the antennas and gangways and my AN8800 adventure will finally come to an end.

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Damn, I wish I hadn't seen @200系's post about the Nara Line 103s. I found out that I put the wrong number on the windshield of one of the driving cars and will need to replace it with the correct one. TBH that was the one I didn't have a photo of though, so I'll put that down to beginner's mistake and not do that again. Slightly off topic, are there still any 103s running in the Kyoto-Osaka area anymore?


Back on topic, and a little while ago, I decided to dismantle my Kato C56 for some grade-upping work:


You have to admit, it does look sort of funny as an 0-6-0! Not that I plan to convert mine, of course. The work consisted of replacing the damaged C56 144 plates with those for C56 149 (preserved at Kiyosato Station on the Koumi Line, very appropriate) and installing new spoke wheels. Still managed to goof up one of the plates and take a little paint off, but it's on the back of the tender and it's so slightly damaged, I could touch up if it ever bugs me. Not that it does, I imagine that these locomotives' number plates would have taken some damage during their working lives.



And the finished product with three 31-series coaches. The spoke wheels look so much better than the old disk wheels with the faux-spoke insert. I didn't put it away straight away though, it took a quick trip through to the garage for a photo op with a H0-gauge BR24. Now safely boxed up again, and waiting for the next running session.



Edited by ED75-775
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Thanks to Tomix for including an extra, relatively unnecessary, 10 car hard case with the 215 series add on set. I was able to repurpose it and reduce on plastic trays inside cardboard boxes inside drawers. The Tomytec trams are all beautifully made but would be nice if they’d consider to other storage options. This particular box is not ideal as there are lots of small pieces that needed to be glued together, but at least it has found a use and it makes the stock easier to get out and put away.


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Tony Galiani

Worked on my Kato Pocket Line freight train set a bit this weekend.  I found photos showing a red oxide finish to the interior of the open wagons so added that.  It took two coats to look good (to my eyes anyway).  Still a ways to go with this set - - I want to replace the couplers, add a flat finish on the entire train as well as some additional details.  And maybe some light weathering.  But at least I made a start.


Tony Galiani

PW train on CH 2.jpg

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Kato 813-200 3 car


New roofs, lighting board and new spec couplers


Second photo show old grey roof vs new stainless roof



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Finally... upgraded the old Kato E351 set; now:



Kato E351 "Super Azusa" by Rail Squid, on Flickr


For comparison, the equivalent car from the add-on set in original condition:



Kato E351 "Super Azusa" by Rail Squid, on Flickr


Not so visible is the swapped out chassis and leading bogie, which presumably resolve the derailment issues common with this model. It's been ages since I had it out so don't recall if it was that bad, either way it runs fine across the challenging S-curve on the layout.

Edited by railsquid
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Upgrading the basic Tomix Chiki 7000 models. 


The model itself comes with some rail loads which actually work as the weight for these flat wagons. Without the rail loads, they are extremely light so the first step was to weight them down. 


Not having anything else to hand, I decide to simply use the rail pieces, cut down, hidden and glued between the underside struts that give the wagon rigidity. The rail pieces can’t be seen once the wagon is on the track but this could’ve been painted black for those extra conscious. 




As I mentioned in the delivery thread, I ordered some of the YSK loads through a seller on Amazon called Kuro chan, who does have his own shop website too. He seems to sell mainly scenery parts with some trains too. There was a link to his website from YSK but I assume it was an older link that no longer functions. 




The loads are not amazingly cheap but factor in that YSK seems to be a relatively small, possibly, one-man manufacturer and production runs relatively small, they are not terrible. The order for essentially 8 loads cost about ¥11,000 which would buy you another 4 car motorised set. The other big factor is the lack of options for producing this kind of train. I did also research Komatsu LAV armoured vehicles on Shapeways but the cost and detailing was not as good.




The parts arrive nicely packaged with a painting guide. There is a fair bit of flash to clean up, especially between wheels as well as sprue remnants. The Type 87 come in 3 parts, vehicle body, turret and loading pallet. All require a sharp knife, file and sandpaper to sharpen them up. Once cleaned up, the details, panel lines, door hinges etc.. are very well depicted. 


The Howitzers come in 2 parts but do not include a loading pallet, which they appear to be loaded on in photographs. 




Scale wise, they are IMO, unnoticeable with the 1/144 scale vehicles. These are moulded at 1/150 according to the information but I’m not the sort of person who wants or needs to check their accuracy. To my eye, they look comparable.




Loading pallets were painting with a sand (Vallejo Iraqi Sand) colour and then added a brown wash to pick out some detail. These were then glued to the wagons. The centre wheel block actually fits perfectly between the centre deck boards on the model to give even spacing. The FH70 guns needed something so i cut some Tamiya 1mm square beams to length, painted and glued.




The models do have a slight sheen and most advice when painting resin says to prime first. I just used Tamiya fine primer in white. This does also aid in identifying any missed errors in the mould. Generally this was trouble free although I did need to fill a hole on the underside of one of the turrets. There was obviously a bubble in the resin at manufacture. Parts were drilled underneath and stuck on brass wire spikes to help with painting. Removed Kato foam is extremely useful so don’t throw it away.



To paint I found Tamiya produce JGSDF colours. The basic brown (XF-72)was airbrushed but I found the green colour, is probably accurate, but doesn’t really show up that well at this scale so decided on a deeper green with some artistic license. (Vallejo Gunship Green)

A wash of black panel line accent tones down the colour and I’ll probably give everything a dull coat to finish once everything is painted and wagons weathered. Some of the flat Tamiya paint can appear a bit shiny when hand brushed. This is true with the Tire Black colour. (XF-85)




2x Type 87s are now fully painted, so only 4 to go. The blue and white parts are tarps and covers seen on the real loads. Cannon is removed for transit. There is also further protection added around the drivers hatches but this is not represented on this mould, so I left it off. 

The howitzers will be sprayed in the JGSDF olive drab colour and the covers are a light shade of a yellow-green. Still to do. Wheels on the wagons will also be replaced with blackened ones.




Edited by Kamome
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Does anyone have any good suggestions or resources for making n scale securing cables for loads?


I am considering using fine wire as I have some EZ line but it’s not really thick enough to look like cables. I like what this modeller has achieved but there’s no explanation as to how he did it, especially what is used to make the tensioners. 



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Your train drove me to order a few more vehicles and some flats and have been thinking about rigging as well! For turn buckles I was just hinting of splitting a cable and separating it a tad and splicing it together with two pieces of wire on either side. Some of those other winch blocks I think just a tiny 1-2mm bead might work or just some small buts of carved plastic. I was going to look at model ship blocks as well. I actually have a box of model sailing ship parts I need to go thru that came from a friend’s father when they cleaned out his house. Hoping there maybe a few bits in there that might work.

could get the heavy ez line, it’s about an inch scale. Nice thing it’s easy to make it taught. 

formthe life on me I can’t remember what odd bit had super thin and supple plastic wrap that I had found and put away for just this sort of detail as a tarp, but now can’t remember what it was from or where I tucked it away!




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Thanks @cteno4

Maybe ship models are the way to go. Why are the most obvious answers sometimes so out of reach?


One option that could work is a real metal chain kit for one of Tamiya’s 1/12 Honda motorbikes. The outer chain parts could be used as details. The downside is it’s ¥3000 and 95% is unrequired.

I also managed to find a couple more  CHIKIs so will extend the train by 2 and purchase a couple more howitzers. 


The actual train I’ve been using for reference had 2 of the Type 87 recon vehicles and then about 10 flats with artillery. I just quite like the look of the loaded vehicles so mine will be 6x Type 87s and 4 howitzers. 


I’m semi tempted to get a set of the Type 73 APC, as well as military bulldozers to put in TORAs just to give me a variety of running options.  I’ve quite enjoyed painting these units up. 

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LOL, I’m a little odd, growing up on a ship and building tons of ship models before I got into model trains sort of hard wired my brain that way!


yeah this is the sort of thing those little bottles that contain collections od all sorts of odd bits that look interesting but are usually tossed is great for! I try to keep snagging little things like that an just put them away, but like the tarp material at times they get lost in the entropy slope here. I also will go to the craft shop and go thru the jewelry parts section as at times odd findings can be use or chopped up for some details.


there are a few options also on shapeways for turnbuckles and ratchet tie downs but a it overscale. Sometimes folks will set it to a smaller scale for you.





i have a vague memory of someone in the us doing n scale load tie down detail bits for flats. I think I’ve also seen some for model planes.



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I have some 40 and 50 lpi chain I fiddled with a long time back for some loads, but it feels a bit too heavy, I think as the diameter of the link cross section is too beefy. Link size also is bordering on very heavy 5-6” links scale (that’s good sized ship anchor chain and that stuff is really heavy I’ve laid a lot of that in Chain lockers on ships!). I did a lot of looking around then and not a lot of alternatives. Few etched brass things (traincat was doing some interesting stuff right before they closed down) but may are of big heavy anchor chain and not right for a tie down chain. Might be a detail that could get 3D printed with a flat side you would hide. 

i think you could find the small 0.55mm thick chain in japan modeling places. It’s around 40-50 lpi size, but still big and beefie.

my thinking now is more doing the fixed custom rod and turnbuckle design that may be easier to make at scale with fine wire and gets around having  larger details like ratchets and no issue tensioning chains or cables. Then thinner ez line for tarp tie downs.





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