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Martijn Meerts

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Martijn Meerts

I've had this project split up over multiple threads, and they're a bit hard to just combine now, so I'll just start a new thread since it's not really useful having separate sections of the layout in their own threads. The previous threads (in more or less chronological order):

 

Storage yard: http://www.jnsforum.com/community/topic/3241-jr-chiisai-storage-yard-modules/

 

Helix: http://www.jnsforum.com/community/topic/10992-jr-chiisai-helix/

 

Main station: http://www.jnsforum.com/community/topic/12533-jr-chiisai-main-station/

 

 

With that out of the way, the past week(s) I've spent cleaning up the hobby room, putting up some storage shelves to store all the things that were previously stored on the floor, and I've started sorting through a lot of the non-Japanese trains, many of which have no boxes since they were bought used from various places. Actually turns out I have more trains than I thought I had ... (still not enough though, but that's another story)

 

 

I also came across several moving boxes full of CDs and DVDs. They've been packed in the same boxes and stored on the attic ever since I moved into the house like 8 years ago, and they've never been used again since moving. So, probably going to end up going through the DVDs, pick a few of the more special ones I want to keep, and get rid of the rest. The CDs I'll keep, but I'll move those into storage cases and get rid of all the jewel cases since they're just taking up large amounts of space.

 

While putting up the shelves I managed to drop a hammer onto the yard, which smashes a turnout. A new one was ordered and installed. A couple of the servo' rods had also popped out of the turnouts, so those had to be fixed as well. I found out that Peco not has a unifrog version of their most used turnout. Previously they had versions with an electrified frog or an insulated frog. The advantage of the electric ones was of course that the frog was powered, great for short locomotives. The disadvantage was that it required some work to get working well. The new unifrog takes away some of the work, and on top of that trains seem to go through it a little more reliably.

 

 

After that was done, I installed a couple of stop sections in the upper ring of the helix, which was really the last bit of track I could put down before starting on the base of first section of the main station. The helix is now almost fully wired, the yard is still missing several occupancy detectors.

 

I then ended up cleaning the entire yard and helix, first using a track rubber to get the worst junk off, then went over it with a cloth with some isopropyl alcohol, wrapped around a block of wood, and then the same block of wood, but with dry cloth. Also vacuum cleaned the whole thing to get rid of all the dust and whatever else had settled.

 

To test the yard, I initially grabbed my Kato GG1 with the 14-part Broadway Limited. It ran up and down the helix without issues, and the yard was no issue either (as I had expected, since I've tested both with the same setup before) I also ran Kato's EF58-61through the helix and yard without any issues. After that I noticed my Morning Daylight sitting in the box on the shelf and figured that'd be a good test, so I put all 18 cars on the track, and then remember I still needed to finish replacing the wheels on my Kato GS4. The original wheels were small plastic tubes as axles with the wheel stuck on. The wheels weren't quartered well though, and ended up breaking the axle rods and the wheels would spin freely on the axles. Kato made a replacement set of axles and wheels available which were quartered right, and the axles changed to metal with the wheel installed solidly on the axles. Replacing the wheels was a pain of course, as working with N-scale drive rods and small 2mm pins to hold them onto the wheels is not fun. Worked out eventually though, and while the GS4 still wobbles quite a bit while running, it's running pretty smooth at least, even at very low speeds. 

 

 

So, the first run of the Morning Daylight was terrible. On the very first turnout 1 of the articulated coaches derailed. Fixed it, ran it again, and this time it worked. However, it derailed on the helix and I spent about half an hour getting all the cars out of the helix and back on the tracks. Again, it was the articulated coaches that was the problem. Even on very wide curves they'd sometimes derail. Ended up taking them apart and checking the shared bogie, but no issues there. Then I noticed that on the roof there was a little bit of flash from the manufacturing process. I cut that off and sanded it smooth, then tried again with a single articulated coach, and slowly adding more. Eventually I managed to get the entire train up and down the helix without derailing. The GS4 itself is still a bit problematic here and there, but that's because the wheels are very rigid and have no vertical play, so any minor difference in the height of the track is very noticeable. There's 1 section between a single crossover where it can derail, so I need to fix that.

 

 

So, quite a bit of things got done. Within the next couple of weeks I'm hoping to be able to get the wood cut for the first section of the main station base, and then figure out which height it needs to be, and then start actually working on the station. Sorry for lots of text and no pictures, but I'm at the office right now, so while I did take some pictures, I don't have access to them. I'll add them to a new gallery later.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Martijn Meerts

Haven't been able to do much, since I really need to get some additional wood cut for the base of the main station. Of course, since I have no car, I need to rely on others to help me get the wood, but none of them were available this weekend. Hopefully I can pick some up next week, so I can build the bases during the long easter weekend. I have been running some trains though, to see how they go through everything, and it's still really just Kato's GS4 that's causing issues. I need to do a little experimenting to see if it's just specific turnouts that are causing the issue, or if the loco has issues on all turnouts. In the end, the Morning Daylight isn't a train I would run a lot, since it's too long to fit any of the stations I have planned, but it would still be cool to at least be able to run it without it derailing 🙂

 

I did end up starting to go through some of the older stuff, and the trains we used on other layouts. There are a lot of them where I either don't have the original boxes anymore, or I haven't found them yet. There's also a lot of things I didn't even really know I had anymore. The idea is to eventually get cases for them, probably the Casco ones, but it's difficult to find the correct sizes since they're not really meant for non-Japanese trains. I did get 2 cases for testing a while ago. I was hoping to use 1 for coaches and the other for freight cars, but of course, the one for coaches ended up being for bigger freight cars, while the one for freight ended up being for some really small freight cars 🙂

 

Some pictures:

 

large.various_cars_and_coaches_1.jpg.2f2

 

large.various_cars_and_coaches_2.jpg.057

 

large.various_cars_and_coaches_3.jpg.817

 

large.various_cars_and_coaches_4.jpg.480

 

 

 

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Martijn Meerts

The Kato GS4 saga continues.. I tried running it through various turnouts in both directions, and while it didn't derail, it was definitely for more bumpy that I'd like it to be. Decided to give it another checkup, but the only thing I noticed was that 1 of the pins holding the drive rods in place wasn't pushed in fully. Obviously this had nothing to do with how the thing ran.

 

Went and did a little more research, but nothing I found was really relevant to my issue. I watched a couple of videos of it running, also on Peco code 55 track, and while I did notice the locomotive wobbling a little, it wasn't nearly as bad as mine. So, I placed it on the little service cradle, powered it up, and notice that 2 of the wheelsets were all over the place. The main powered driver, and the front driver. Now, I don't know if this happened when I installed the wheels, or if it was like this right from the start, but of course a locomotive can't run smooth when the wheels / axles aren't straight.

 

Either way, I'm going to have to order another set of replacements, hope they arrive in good condition, and then be extra careful installing them. As an added bonus, it looks like I may have to order the wheelset from Kato USA directly, can't find any stores in the Netherlands that stock them, and shipping from Germany (if a store there stocks them) seems to be even more expensive than from Kato USA.

 

I do hope this fixes the problem though, because it's starting to become annoying now. Another option is to buy a new GS4 considering Kato did a re-release in 2017 which fixes all the known problems. Then again, the wheelset is $15 with $7 shipping, a new GS4 is $240 without shipping.

 

Edit: shipping is apparently $16 instead of $7. Their estimate when I entered the Netherlands as destination somehow decided to use domestic shipping rather than international. Didn't know the Netherlands was part of the US these days 🙂

 

 

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Sheffie

US automated systems seem to exhibit the stereotypical American flair for inventive and original notions of geography.

 

Just the other day I received text messages saying that my package would be delivered that day, and that it had just landed in California (on the wrong side of the country). I was not surprised when it failed to get here. 

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Martijn Meerts

Actually, there is a town very close to where I live that's called America, maybe they thought they'd be shipping from there 😉

 

 

Anyway, not much happened, I've been measuring the train room a bit again to see what I can fit in there layout wise. My initial first attempt at a main station is probably going to be a bit problematic to comfortably fit, so I might need to revise that. I initially wanted to do a 4-track shinkansen station, but I might need to cut it down to a simple 2 track one. For the other tracks I'm not really sure yet. I sort of want to simulate a large station that has shinkansen, express and local, but focus most of the layout on more the local lines. This would mean however, that many of the shinkansen and express trains I have will hardly ever be visible on the layout, only really at the main station, and possibly in 1 or spots elsewhere on the layout where they emerge from a tunnel, just to go back into another tunnel after a couple of meters. The shinkansen and express line would basically go from 1 hidden yard, through the station, through some mountains, and then to another (smaller) hidden yard. 

 

For the local trains (or at least, shorter trains), there will be a lot more visible track with 1 section sort of based on the Sagano Scenic Railway, and then a mostly terminal station with a fairly sizeable steam engine servicing terminal that's more or less located in a valley. From the (mostly) terminal station there'll probably be a single track local line going on and up a mountain towards a Ghibli inspired area.


All in all, there's a good change the track plan will be really complex just to be able to get to and from the various hidden yards, but a lot of it will be hidden, and there'll be a lot of focus on scenery. It's rather hard to visualise the actual space available though, and what does and doesn't work. I did once again start trying to design something using Railmodeller, but I'll have to see how far I get with that.

 

In the meantime, I ended up paying a visit to my insurance company to have the insurance of my trains increased. It's not set at around 30000 euro, which includes all trains, track, digital components, scenery material etc. That's likely still lower than the actual value, but they really needed some proof beyond that amount. They normally wouldn't do 30000 without proof, but my family's been using that insurance company for well over 50 years, so we get some benefits.

 

Of course, the whole requiring proof thing reminded me that I have this online model train database project floating around somewhere that I should probably work on a bit...

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Martijn Meerts

Got my 2nd set of replacement wheels for the GS4 today, out of the 4, it seems 3 are not straight. I'm starting to believe I'm just not meant to run the GS4. Should just wait for a re-run of the Alco PA/PB I guess.

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Kiha66

I'm amazed kato just cant get the gs4 to be as reliable as their other locos.  Out of the two I have one will continually fry decoders while the other bounces all over the place.  

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Martijn Meerts

Yeah, it's a problematic locomotive it seems.. My first one had the original plastic axles with the wheels pushed into the axles. The axles were too brittle though, so they cracked open, allowing you to freely spin the wheels. That meant terrible running of course.

 

Replaced the wheels with a new set where the axles were metal, installed those and it was definitely an improvement, but it was still bouncing heavily when running. Then I noticed that the wheels were crooked, and at some points the wheels were actually lifting of the track which caused derailments. I thought maybe I had bent them when installing them though, so figured I'd get another set of wheels.

 

Those came in today, I take them out of the box, and they're also not straight.

 

So, either they're not meant to be straight, and installed in such a way that the crookedness of 1 set equalizes the crookedness of the other set, or there's something very wrong with their production process of these wheels. Of course, their FEF-3 is said to have similar issues.

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Martijn Meerts

Well, it took a lot of effort, but I think I've got the GS4 to the point where I'm happy with it.

 

I spent some time figuring out which of the 2 sets of replacement axles were straight. I did manage to find 3 straight axles, but the main driving axle was pretty crooked and still cause a bit of a wobble. Ended up removing all the drive rods on both sides, and then testing the various axles. Since the main drive axle wasn't straight, I very carefully tried bending it a little after installing it in the frame. In the end I think it took about an hour of bending and putting some power to the wheels to test the wobble. There's still some wobble in it now, but I think it's pretty acceptable, and more importantly, it runs smoother through turnouts, and hasn't derailed yet. Of course, after all that, I still had to spend quite some time carefully re-installing the drive rods, which is a pain in the butt because the little pins you push into the wheels to hold the rods in place really like to go 'PING', and they're impossible to find once they drop to the floor.

 

Next step was a test run, so put it on the track, put it in front of all 18 coaches of the Morning Daylight, and up the helix it went. It ran smooth, with no derailing, but forwards up the helix, and backwards down the helix (backwards because there's nothing at the upper end of the helix yet 🙂 ) Following is video proof (with not so great quality …)

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N1wIA8Peflc

 

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cteno4

The dreaded PING!

 

jeff

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Martijn Meerts

Soooo.. This project hasn't seen much progress at all for quite a while. Since starting the H0j / H0e project I've not had much inspiration to work on this at all. I've also had the problem where I didn't really know where to go with the layout, and have even considered taking it apart / selling it (and most of the N-scale rolling stock) and focusing on the H0j / H0e project instead.

 

Doing some additional thinking and talking about it with other people, I've been looking into doing a double deck layout, with the N-scale being the lower deck and the H0 one being the upper deck. Initially I wanted to do a large-ish modern city with some tall buildings, but with a double deck layout that's probably not doable. So I went back to the idea of going for a late steam era layout, still with a large-ish city, but just no tall buildings. I'm also considering shortening the station somewhat. It won't be able to do 16 car shinkansen / long express trains, but I could make it a station where only shorter shinkansen / express trains stop, and focus more on the somewhat shorter trains. Obviously, the idea of running the Toyama trams on a dedicated line will likely be trashed, since it wouldn't make any sense in a mid-60s setting. Not much of an issue though, since integrating that into the layout was challenging anyway.

 

I'll likely not be building on it anytime soon, especially considering it's a bit of a challenge getting the required materials for building additional section tables, but I might see if I can put up a little temporary thing with some wood I have around, so I can at least do a temp loop and run some trains.

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Martijn Meerts

After cleaning the train room a bit and running some trains on the yard and helix, the motivation to work on the N-scale layout is slowly coming back. I still can't quite start actually building the station, since I still need to get some wood cut for it. I've been wanting to do this for quite a while, but things keep coming up. Since I don't have a car I depend on family / friends to help out, but obviously they have their own stuff to do in the weekends as well. I've not really tried either since I didn't really know where to go with the layout.

 

However, in the past few days I've been thinking about the layout and the main station. I've removed some loops I added in the original design that would make for some more interesting running, but after thinking it over, it didn't really add anything at all. Removing it meant I had some more space to work with, so came up with the following:

 

main_station_idea_01.jpg

 

The top lines (in green) are the shinkansen lines. The middle 2 are for passing trains, the other 2 are for stopping trains. These can hold 16 car shinkansen. To the left, they'll go into the helix and down to the yard. To the right they split with the top-most one going into a mountain pretty much instantly, and the other line going along a mountain for a while before also disappearing. Eventually the 2 ends will be connected to make a big loop.

 

The next 5 lines (the single orange and 4 blue ones) are for freight and express / limited express trains. The orange track is a passing track for freight trains in both directions, as well as for special trains that are too long to stop at the station, such as the Morning Daylight (I know, not Japanese, but I'll still run it) and the Orient Express. This track is just over 3 meters long. The blue tracks all have a platform, so trains can stop on all 4 of them. Platform lengths will be just over 2 meters. Just like the shinkansen track, to the left the express tracks will go into the helix and then yard. To the right it'll run along a mountain for a bit and then disappear into the mountain. It'll become visible here and there on the rest of the layout, and will just loop back on itself in the end. There will also be some hidden sidings to store some extra trains.

 

The remaining tracks are the rapid / local line. The yellow tracks are around 1 meter long, the pink tracks are terminal tracks for short single and double car trains. Again, to the left the tracks will go into the helix and yard, to the right they'll follow a mountain and then continue along the rest of the layout (which I haven't designed yet). The rapid and local lines will be the main focus for much of the layout, although there will also be another station that can hold some of the shorter express trains which will also have a steam loco servicing area.

 

The express and shinkansen tracks will be raised, the express at least 5cm, the shinkansen a little more, probably around 7cm. The rapid / local line will be at ground level.

 

Time period wise I'm not really sticking to anything. I will focus mostly on JNR era with regards to which trains are getting decoders, but I'll also run the modern stuff which is why I want the shinkansen tracks to be able to hold 16 car trains. I won't go with any really tall buildings on this end of the layout. It's supposed to be a somewhat large city that's growing fast, which is why they have the shinkansen station. I might do a couple of large building sites where they're laying the foundation of a tall building at least, but other than that mostly tightly packed homes and small offices. The rest of the layout will be a bit more mountains, and a small town around the station with the steam loco servicing area.

 

In the design, especially the rapid / local line doesn't really flow very smoothly, but has some sharp curves. Since I'm using flex track for everything I might adjust that a bit while building. But designing a layout is much easier if you can use some Tomix or Kato track for example to get a general idea, before that building it with flex. Most of the sharper curves are also based on Tomix curve radii. As for size, the part visible here is about 5 meters long and 90cm deep. I know it's fairly deep, but the layout will also be fairly low so I can reach in. And of course it's built in removeable sections. Since the hidden yard is underneath the main station, I've also made sure not to have any hidden tracks where I wouldn't be able to reach them without removing the yard.

 

 

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Martijn Meerts

Minor update.. No pictures yet, but, FINALLY building the N-scale layout has resumed. Yesterday I managed to get to the local hardware store to get some plywood sheets cut to size. Due to a certain virus making the rounds, they couldn't do it right away, but eventually managed to pick it up a few hours later.

 

I think I mentioned it in another thread already as well, but I have enough wood for 2 sections. The first is basically a lid for the helix. It'll cover up the whole thing, which allows me to build a city there. In the picture above, it's the partially visible rectangle on the left, where all the tracks converge. The second section is the rectangle directly to the right of the helix, so this would allow me to start building both stations. Initially I'll just do a temporary loop though, so I can run some trains and start programming (and finishing up wiring) the yard.

 

First thing to do however, is cut some plywood to shape for the shinkansen and express tracks entering and exiting the helix. Essentially this is the top most layer of the helix. The difficult is of course that I've used threaded rods to build the helix, and they're getting a bit in the way with my current track design. I've printed my current design on a 1:1 scale and tape it all together, so I can experiment with it a little bit.

 

Once that's done, I can then work on the frames of the 2 sections, and determine the height of those sections before cutting out some openings for the various tracks to go through.

 

There is actually a pretty hefty height difference between the shinkansen and express tracks, and the local tracks, about 13-14cm. I really want to lower that height difference, but the only way to do that is either increase the height of the local line pretty sharply to the right of the station, or build one or both of the stations on a slope itself. Not sure a station on a slope makes any sense though 😄

 

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Martijn Meerts

Well, here we go. First visible evidence that the layout is being worked on again. I think this actually the first time I added something in several years, other than some additional wiring here and there. It's been a LOOOONG time since I worked on this thing.

 

 

large.jrc-nscale-0001-covered_up_yard.jpg

Covered the yard and helix with some thing plastic sheet to prevent sawdust from getting on it. On the front, a plywood sheet with the 1:1 scale printed track plan temporarily taped on it. There's this whole saying of 'measure twice, cut once', I think I measured about 40 times (then changed the track layout, and measured a couple more times just in case 😄)

 

 

large.jrc-nscale-0002-helix_entry_exit.jpg

Cut the plywood sheet to size, and test fitted it. Went on really well, even the holes for the threaded rods lined up well. Now I just need to cover the plywood with some cork for consistency purposes, and then buy all the turnouts and the double slip. With this in place though, I can also work on finalising the slope of the helix, and the height between the various levels, which is currently around 67mm. Might lower it to 65mm to make calculations somewhat easier. Once that's finalised I can then make the frame for the lid and based on that, the frame for the first section of the main station.

 

The good thing is, I should have everything I need to get all that done (apart from time possibly ...)

 

 

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Martijn Meerts

Built the very basic outline of the top of the helix. It still need to strengthen it, but I needed to test fit it to get the height of the legs figured out. I do have adjustable feet with something like 8cm of travel, so I have a lot of leeway there.

 

large.jrc-nscale-0003-helix_top_test_fit.jpg

 

For now I've used some old legs I had around to temporarily hold things in place. The height is actually somewhat reasonable on this first attempt, but it also depends a bit on thee final height of each level of the helix. There's approximately 6.7cm in between the layers, which gives enough space to get in there and clean track and do some minor re-railing of trains when needed. I was thinking of going down to 6.5cm to make some calculations easier, but with this test fit I don't really need to calculate anything.

 

I just need to cut the helix entry/exit to size now so I can test fit that with the frame in place as well, that should give me the final height. I'll also test the cross braces I need to add to make sure those have enough clearance as well.

 

I realise it's not a lot of progress, and definitely not much to look at, but at least there IS progress 😄

 

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Tonytramman

looks really impressive 

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cteno4

Martijn,

 

that is the most impressive helix I’ve ever seen! I don’t think I’ve ever seen a 4 track one.

 

kudos dude

 

jeff

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Martijn Meerts

Pretty sure there are 4 track helixes around. Of course, mine starts with 2 tracks in the bottom, which splits up into 4 track, 2 of which exit/enter on the 3rd level, and the other 2 continue up the helix. Those 2 then split up again into 4 tracks, 2 for the shinkansen line and 2 for the express line. If a turnout or crossing ever needs the replaced, I'm in trouble 😄

 

Did a bunch of measuring today for the actual legs. I'll likely cut those tomorrow, as well as some more wood for strengthening the frame. Then I need to make some cutouts for the track on the 3rd level and 5th level, and some other quick cuts and cleaning up. With a bit of luck I should be able to get all that done tomorrow, or if not, at least this weekend.

 

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Martijn Meerts

Due to reasons (visitors, pre-cut wood not actually being the correct length), I didn't get everything done that I wanted to do, but I still did manage quite a lot.

 

large.jrc-nscale-0004-helix_top_support.jpg

 

Cut the actual legs to size and added the height adjustable feet. After figuring out the height, I screwed them to the frame. Also installed the cross braces for support. This actually took a while since I had to line them up with the threaded rods which go partially into the cross braces. Once everything was in place, I cut the top bit of the threaded rods so they don't stick out. This was actually quite a pain in the behind, since the Dremel couldn't get through them, so I had to cut them by hand with a small metal saw. The worst thing is, I still have 6 more rods to cut ...

 

 

large.jrc-nscale-0005-helix_top_sheets_test.jpg

 

Test fitted some of the plywood sheets. There are several problems here, they're ever so slightly too long, so they only fit in the middle where there's still a little bit of play. I'll need to go over them with a planer to shorten them like half a millimeter. Another "issue" is that the sheet that goes in the middle, and is supposed to be removable, is currently in 1 piece. The idea was to cut it into 3 pieces, so that only the center section is removable, but if I cut it into 3 parts, it'll likely be slightly too short. Only a few millimeters of course, so not sure it's really an issue, and the other option is to leave the whole thing as a single large piece.

 

Another "issue", is that when installed the cross braces, I left 1cm space on the top for the sheets + cork. However, when I had the sheets cut, I wanted 8mm plywood, which they didn't have at the time, so I ended up going with 9mm plywood instead. Of course, 9mm plywood + 2mm cork means all the cross braces are actually 1mm too high. I could take off a millimeter with the planer of course, I'll need to remove the braces at some point anyway in order to comfortably be able to install the final bits of track.

 

At least there's quite a bit of progress again, I've been quite motivated working on stuff actually 🙂

 

 

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