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Martijn Meerts

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Yavaris Forge

Yeah that's true😅 You could save houses by adding a park maybe, or just try to 3d print big office blocks. I don't think the Japanese were that creative with their concrete structures back in the 70s😄

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Martijn Meerts

I'll have to see. I might also add a simple tram line, and maybe instead of a small shrine area do more of a bigger temple or something. Once I get to the point where I start working on some scenery, I can just put together all the TomyTec buildings and check exactly what I have of them. Quite a few were never taken out of the box.


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Martijn Meerts

Made a little more progress. First, I bought a handheld circular saw because doing straight cuts on larger sheets of wood with a jigsaw isn't really great. The circular saw came with several sections of guide rail, so it's really easy and really accurate to get straight cuts. I also ordered some of the turnouts that I need, but the store didn't have all of the ones I need. Of the ones I ordered, it turned out they didn't actually have all of those in stock either. It seems some of the Peco track is a bit difficult to get at the moment.




Using the circular saw, I shortened a sheet of plywood to the correct length, and then the jigsaw to cut the contours. This is the first cross section of several that I need. I'm not sure yet how much yet. I was initially thinking 2 would be enough, but I'll likely add a few extra for this section, considering the front of the section is going to be pretty low.




Added the 2nd cross section, and then used bits of wood I had around to see how the various levels look. From left to right here the first level would be the local line, then scenery, then the express line and finally the shinkansen line.


The local line will only be a few centimeter higher than the bottom of the section, so after cutting the contours in the front, there will be a part where the front is somewhat fragile. Then again, I used 15 high quality plywood, so it should be fine. This wood destroys sawblades pretty easily 😉 ... I could've gone with some taller sides I guess, but I didn't want to go down too much in order to still be able to access the hidden yard. I could also have made the entire layout higher, but when I decided on the height, I went with a height that would work for when you sit in front of the layout. I did that so my father would be able to view the layout while sitting down. Changing it now would be too much work, plus I still want to have enough space on top for a possible 2nd deck for the H0 project.


The scenery sections will for the most part be made in small sections, and removable. This is so I can easily get to the back of the hidden yard from above. It also means I can do everything in small sections on the workbench, and then put them in place, and possibly switch them out at a later time.


The express line is 5cm above the scenery sheet, which means I can use Kato's overhead station entrance and stores etc. The shinkansen track starts off slightly higher than the express tracks, but will eventually go down to the same level as the express tracks.


Next steps now are to determine and cut the contours on the front, the rear and the right side / end plate. Then possibly add some cross sections, and then work on getting the track in place.

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Martijn Meerts

Playing around a bit with how the contours on the front of the section could look...



From left to right, there's first some hill / slope area, which can partially be used as a garden area for a small temple or shrine. Then there's a retaining wall, then a (single direction) road and sidewalk, another retaining wall going down to a small river, and then back up to the level of the local line. The local line is several centimeters below ground level at this point.


The river is more a small stream at this point as well, very much like Meguro river which on some pictures looks to only be a few centimeters deep at certain places. There's a pencil marking on the bottom, which marks the height of the local line. This line will go through the retaining wall, cross the river, and go into a small station.


I've not cut anything yet, since I'm not sure this is how I want it to look, but at least I don't dislike it 🙂



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Martijn Meerts

Some minor updates. Been a bit under the weather the past days, so I didn't get all that much done.



Cut the contours in the front face of the first section of the main station and local station. Apparently my jigsaw's blade was rather dull, since in some parts it burnt the plywood pretty well. Might also be it just had a hard time getting through the plywood in general, considering it's the high quality 15mm variant. The section definitely went from 'it looks really weird with this really tall front' to 'this might actually work' ... Strength wise it's also fine, even around where the small river is going to be.




I printed a full scale version of the track plan some time ago, so I did a quick mockup of how things might look once the track is in place. There's definitely not as much space between the 2 stations for scenery / structures as I thought, but it should work. Definitely a LOT of track going on here.


Connecting the local station to the lower helix exit / entrance is going to be quite fiddly, not much space there, and I built the helix before I had a full idea of where I wanted those tracks to go. I really hope I don't need to remove a couple of levels of the helix to get it all lined up. I need to cut some more plywood now to use as a base for the remaining part of the local track, as well as the express and shinkansen track, should be able to get that done during the weekend.

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Saber saw blades go dull pretty fast as such a small blade area is used over and over to do all the cutting. Finer blades on thicker material tend not to clear the sawdust well and that gums up cutting and burns.



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Martijn Meerts

The blade was already several years old as well, so I guess it's up for retirement 😉



Made a little more progress, mainly still measuring and cutting wood, slowly starting to get better at that 😄



Cut out some plywood to use as base for the track and platforms, and glued on the cork. Overall it fits rather well, just towards the river the sheet needs to be raised about a millimeter or 2, but that's no problem at all. I quickly laid out some bits of track to get an idea of what it's going to look like. The 4 tracks to the right actually need to be a little close together, since the platforms go on the outside of the tracks, with the 2 center tracks being passing tracks. The 2 stations will definitely dominate this end of the layout, but that was the general idea.


I've also started making some preparations for the small river, mostly just trying to figure out where exactly it needs to go, and figuring out a way to mock it up and then eventually keep it in place.


There is a minor issue tough, I'm running out of track, and from what I've gathered is that the Peco factory has been closed down for a while due to the whole corona situation. So getting Peco track is a bit difficult at the moment, but it seems like they're slowly ramping up production again.


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Martijn Meerts

Made a little more progress. Using some of the recently acquired plywood and some plywood I've had for many years, I managed to build the 2nd section of the large main station. As you can see with the legs, the wood from the local shop isn't the best 🙂




I've also done a little bit of cleaning up, and removed the plywood sheets on top of the helix, so I can get access there again. I've started working on the track for the local line, I have all the track and turnouts for the left side of the station. On the right side I'll use the 2nd section as a base for a temporary loop. This way I can run trains in a loop (after another round of track cleaning anyway) and start working on getting things set up in the computer control software (iTrain at the moment, but I might give TrainController a try as well)


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Apart from the one curve, those legs look pretty good. What are the dimensions?


I don't understand what you're doing with the helix and yard. Is there going to be a lift out section to access them? It doesn't look like it comes out like a drawer. Or were you hoping the trains would just dutifully not derail on you. I'm sure you've got a clever rationale. But I'm baffled.


It all looks very nice btw.

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If I remember correctly the helix can be accessed from below. It's the same with our club's layout where you have to climb into it most of the time to get derailed trains out.

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Martijn Meerts

The legs are 44x44 mm, plenty strong.


The helix is indeed accessible from below, it's big enough to be able to stand in. It does require a little bit of crawling to get under it, but it's not too bad. As for the yard, it's mostly straight track, so derailments should be kept to a minimum. The sections on top of the yard will have multiple lift out sections for quick access to various parts of the yard, and for bigger maintenance, the top sections can be disconnected and put aside. All the wiring is done on a per-section basis, and whenever wires need to cross sections, I'll use connectors between the sections. They're all sort of like modules, except bigger and with no specific dimensions.


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Martijn Meerts

Since I've had holidays for a while now (and another week to go), I've managed to get some things done. Laying track was easy enough, but wiring up the occupancy detectors and turnouts required a little bit of research again, as it had been quite a while since I last wired any of that up. In the end it worked out fine though, and I now have a temporary loop set up, so I can run trains continuously from the yard, up the helix, onto the local station (track 1) where it will then go through the temporary loop, back on the the local station (track 3), back down the helix and onto the yard. 



This is the transition between the helix and the station sections. It was quite a pain to get this to line up, and I have had to adjust it several times already. It's still not optimal and might need a little more tweaking, but I need to try some more trains first. Of course, that means installing more decoders first too. I have tried with a GG1, EF58, BR 103, BR E.10, VSE50000, 151 series, C62-2, D51-498 and GS4. Only the GS4 had major issues, which is to be expected since the inner curve it just too tight for it. The 151 series sometimes derails, and while that will never run on this line, I might still look into what's causing it, since the same can happen to other trains.




Overview of the local line station and the temporary loop.




Some test trains in place. 1 of the Shiki's did derail at some point, but I wasn't paying attention at the time, so I'm not sure if that happened on the transition between the sections, or because of some other reason. 1 of the Yo8000's for example doesn't really run freely at all, so that might have caused enough resistance for one of the bogies of the Shiki to derail, considering how finicky and sensitive those are.


Also, a little weird seeing how long I've been working on the layout, but those local station tracks are actually the first tracks that will not be hidden, everything else I've done up until now was yard and helix, and none of that is actually visible in the final layout 🙂


Next steps now are basically testing and fine tuning some things, start setting up iTrain to test some automated running, and pick up some decoders to install into some local trains, preferably from around the JNR / steam era. For setting up iTrain, I'll also need to do some speed measurements, for which I've ordered a μCon Railspeed. I can do speed measurements using occupancy detectors as well, but a device like the Railspeed is more accurate, and above all, much faster per locomotive.


Other then that, Peco has some supply problems so I'll have to wait for a while before I can continue putting down track for the express and shinkansen lines. In the meantime I'll pick up some of my brass kits again (both N-scale and H0j/H0e) and continue working on those a little bit.

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Martijn Meerts

Not much progress recently, but I've been testing some more trains to see if they'll go through the somewhat finicky track where the 2 sections meet up. I had some trains derail, so I made some minor adjustments. I raised the outside rail so the curve is slightly banked, and I also glued on some styrene to 1 rail, because the gap was a little big. My 151 series (which will never run there anyway) had quite some issues, it would derail in both directions. After the adjustments it seems to go through rather well. I'll be doing more testing in the coming weeks, while I figure out which trains have decoders and which don't, and which trains need some maintenance.


In the meantime, I've picked up an old project that I stopped working on a while ago due to some issues. An N-scale World Kougei C55-27 steam locomotive kit. I had started building the tender and the frame of the loco. Looking at it now, it seems my soldering skills have improved quite a lot. Luckily, all the ugly soldered bits are inside the tender, so once completely you won't see them. I've added most of the details to the tender, apart from the lights. The kit comes with 2 transparent red lenses for the marker lights, but no light pipe or LEDs or anything, so it needs some custom work to get the marker lights to work. The tender also has a regular light, but this is not prepared for any sort of lighting at all. I've already drilled a tiny hole in it for some wires, and I'm going to attempt to install an LED.


The locomotive itself has had hardly any work done on it. I did however notice some issues already. When I started building it, the trailing bogie didn't seem to go together like the instructions said, so they turned out rather crooked. Since I'm a bit better at building these things now, I'll likely take it apart and see what I can do to make it look right. There are also some stainless steel detail bits that are near impossible to solder, so I'll need to carefully glue those in place instead. (It IS possible to solder stainless steel, but it requires special flux, which I haven't been able to find in the Netherlands)


Earlier this week I also received the uCon S88 master and uCon Railspeed. The S88 master is meant as a dedicated occupancy detection interface which connects directly to the network. That means I can offload the occupancy detection from the ECoS. The Railspeed is a little device that allows you to measure the speed of trains. This can be done with occupancy detection as well, but the Railspeed is a lot quicker, and if you have a lot of trains to measure the speed of, that saves a lot of time. The Railspeed is also a lot more accurate, considering it doesn't have any delay, unlike occupancy detectors. The Railspeed will be used to measure the speed of all the loco's, so the software (iTrain in my case) knows the speeds in km/h, which is very useful for automated running / stopping at specific spots on the layout. It's also required for decent multi-traction running.


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Martijn Meerts

Been quite busy again with work the past weeks, but I did manage to get a bunch of stuff done.


First of all, I started working on a simple, general purpose plank for speed measurements, scenery experimenting, decoder programming etc. Turned out though, that the length wasn't nearly enough to do speed measurements above 100km/h. The plank was scrapped, and instead I went with some wood I had left from the old Tomix layout. Made a simple oval using some flex track, wide enough for trains to go through at high speed. Eventually I'll also add an oval of TT track for speed measuring the H0j stuff once I have something that can actually run... The Railspeed unit is mounted on the test board, as are the Mini Manager and ESU's Lokprogrammer. Of course, I forgot to take a picture of it all (not that it's much to look at 😄)


Once everything was set up, I gave Kato's GG1 a quick run and measured its speed profile. The Railspeed makes it a lot easier, more accurate and especially faster to measure the speed compared to using occupancy detection. It's a bit of an investment, but I think it'll be worth it. Also, the GG1 looks to be a rather well running training, ended up getting the following speed profile:




I also worked on the C55-27 quite a bit. Since I started it several years ago, my skills (and patience) in building these things has improved quite a bit. So, I first ended up fixing a couple of issues, and then continued with the build.



The tender was already partially done, and wasn't looking too bad. I did add most of the detail bits, which back then I thought I would have to glue on, but I've been able to solder them all on. For the loco frame, I added some stainless steel parts, and started working on the cylinders.




Front of the frame, with some additional detailing added. The cylinder sides I actually had to bend on the bottom, which was somewhat interesting 🙂 




Added some more details and some of the rods to the cylinders, worked on the front bogie, fixed a shoddy job on the rear bogie, added the drawbar for the tender including the weight, and finally added the drivers to get a general idea of how things look.




Started working on the body, mainly a lot of test fitting before soldering things in place. Most things went together better than I expected really. Obviously there are still a LOT of details to add, but at least it's starting to look a little bit like a locomotive...





... Now I just need to get an IMON H0j C55 so I can compare the 2 kits 😄


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Martijn Meerts

I'm using the µCon Railspeed from LSDigital. I got the starter pack that comes with a so-called Mini Manager which connects to the local network. iTrain has full support for it, so it does the speed measurement fully automatic. I made a separate test track for mine, but it's also possible to mount it in a layout.


As for the loco, it will be painted yes, which is whole different set of challenges. For one, acrylic paint doesn't stick on metal well, but I do have some metal primer that looks to work well. It also requires quite a bit of planning, since I can't add all the drive rods and everything until I've painted the frame. Of course, once painted, you need to be really careful not to damage the paint when you're installing the rest of the parts.


These kits can be frustrating, but it's a nice feeling once you get them to run, and a lot of them are models you can't get from Kato / Tomix / MicroAce. 

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Martijn Meerts

They are quite fun, but can also be very frustrating. I'd definitely start with some cheaper kits if you decide to build one (or more), since it's likely you'll ruin the first 1 or 2 kits while you figure out how to read the instructions and get all the correct tools and materials.


Test fitting and checking several 'steps' of the manual are very important, since quite often it's not immediately clear that certain parts shouldn't be soldered until other parts have been added. The instructions don't always make that very clear. While you can de-solder things, it's not always easy, and you really don't want to bend bits back too much, as they'll snap off easily.


Tools and materials wise, I've gathered quite a list (most obtained from abroad, seems the Netherlands doesn't have any stores for a lot of this stuff):

  • Digital temperature controlled soldering station with hot-swappable tips (It's really an SMD rework station, but the small tips work great for these kits)
  • Rosin core non-lead solder with some silver (high melting point, mainly for electronics)
  • Rosin core solder with lead (lower melting point than above)
  • Solid solder pellets in 2 sizes (I think 1mm and 2mm) - These are great for general purpose use and small detail parts where you wan to limit the amount of solder
  • Low temp solder - for soldering white metal parts
  • Regular flux, very liquid and does the whole capillary thing, excellent for most things. Does leave residue, but it's not very acidic
  • Stainless steel flux, essential for soldering steel and stainless steel. Needs good cleaning after soldering, residue will destroy metal
  • Solder scraping tool - really simple chisel like tool, but very sharp. Scrapes off excess solder easily
  • Heat resistant soldering board with some small bits and pieces to hold things in place
  • Heat resistant silicone sleeves to put on your fingertips, since brass gets really hot really fast 😉
  • Small table mountable vise with a ball mount so I can move it the way I need to easily reach places I need to solder
  • Low strength thread lock (purple loctite) to keep screws in place for the drive gears
  • Ultrasonic cleaner - not really necessary, but helps with cleaning and preparing for paint
  • Pin vise and small drill bits
  • Tap and die set, or at least taps in 1.0, 1.2 and 1.4mm. They can be used in a pin vise
  • And of course, various small tools just as files, tweezers, small clamps, fiber glass brushes, lubricants, good quality nippers, desk lamp, 3rd hand, etc.


And, for painting, you'll want a good metal primer / metal prep, as well as probably an airbrush, some good quality brushes, good quality paint, thinners, flow improvers, etc. Interestingly, Japanese steam locomotives weren't actually black, so you'll want some mixing tools as well.



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Martijn Meerts

So, once again many things have been going on which meant no progress on the large N-scale layout. Motivation has been very low to non-existent for a while.


I've been cleaning up the attic / hobby room once again, due to it constantly being used as storage area. While cleaning I've also set up a 27" iMac and connected all the digital components to it. I haven't actually got the latest version of the layout installed on it (that's on my older 21" iMac), so I've not actually ran anything. I'll probably also need to clean the track before being able to run anything anyway, but I can't reach the whole layout just yet.


I also had a Minitrix layout in the garage which I cut up into several sections since I needed the space in the garage for the home renovations. Most of that layout is also up on the attic now. I was planning on turning it into separate sections and then fix it up, but I think I might actually dismantle it completely. It does have some sentimental value, but as it uses tight Minitrix curves and turnouts, very few Japanese trains will run on it. I also don't really have the space to set it up either.


As for the large layout, I've been rethinking it a bit. I was planning on being able to run 16-car trains, but I'll likely go for shorter trains. Scenery wise I'm also going to focus more on steam era / JNR era. I've also been thinking of not using any main line trains, but the helix and yard would look a bit weird (and be a giant waste of space) with just short trains 🙂

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Martijn Meerts

Well, not really much of an update, but I finally managed to order some track so I can finish up the track work of the upper level of the helix. These are 2 tracks for the shinansen line, and 2 tracks for the express line. The express will split into 5 tracks in total, 4 will get platforms and the 5th one is a runaround for freight and extra long trains such as the full Morning Daylight.


The shinkansen station I've also adjusted to be 2 through tracks and 1 siding. The siding is a bit shorter, just long enough for 12 car trains. Previously I also had the shinkansen line split into 2 double track lines and for a big loop, but I've changed that around. The line will now just be 2 tracks, and shortly after leaving the station will head into a tunnel where it'll go straight into a small terminal hidden yard. So essentially the shinkansen line will be a point to point going from the large hidden yard, through the helix and station, and onto the small hidden yard.


For the express line, I haven't quite decided yet what to do with those. I'll likely have most of it hidden as well, and possible have some trains pop up out of a mountain somewhere, go back in the mountain and onto a yard. Shorter trains on the line will split off and go into a smaller station at the other end of the layout.


The urban line has also been changed a bit, as it'll change to a single track line at some point. There will also a secondary scenic line branching off the urban line.


Hopefully I can do some actual building again soon-ish 😉



As for other projects, the Enoden T-Trak stuff is still mostly in the experimentation stage. For the H0 project I'm still working on the C55, looking at a good way of adding all the pipes and detail around the boiler, since those need to all be shaped from brass rods and other tiny bits. And hey, I'm even working on the model trains database once again.. Or at least, I am when I'm not busy with actual work, which is still rather more common than I would like ...


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