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Yamakai Railway (DCC Layout)


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Last year I completed this steam depot:





It was mainly from parts supplied through a magazine subscription.  I removed the original double-loop concept so I could run trains from it onto my main layout and have a second line onto the turntable.





As the cat has always shown a keen interest, I have at long last found enough pieces of wood to build a box over it to protect it.  A front flap gives access to the trains.




A couple of 'port-holes' in the flap allows me to view it without having to open it each time.  

... the cat is not happy!

Edited by gcmr_new_zealand
Amended thread title to include 'DCC'
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added a couple of photos with the blue light on for a night effect - which also hides the mistakes!




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My next project - The Yamakai Portable.




I saw a YouTube layout some years ago that inspired this plan.


Concept:  A busy, computer controlled, short distance local commuter service.  An opportunity to learn DCC.  Layout to be light and portable. A no-rush project.



  • Size is 1 x 1.9 mtrs.
  • Base will be from 50mm polystyrene sheets with some type of strengthening for transportation.
  • Reuse existing trestle table.
  • DCC controlled - most likely a Zephyr Express starter set.
  • 16x block detection - possibly the BDL168.
  • Stationary decoder for points - investigating - 16 controlled points + 2x child points + 2x non controlled but use spring action.
  • Train decoders - Kato drop-ins where possible - keep it simple!
  • Investigating JMRI as the train operating method using a Windows PC.


  • Track is Tomix finescale.
  • Trains are Kato - no car lighting planned.
  • Stations A & B will be Kato platforms.
  • Station C will be a Tomix platform.
  • Station A is underground and will utilise Leds.
  • Scenery will be urban based.


  • Train schedules: 2-car local trains will shuttle between stations A, B and C via the tracks on the right.
  • The hidden tracks on the left will contain one or two longer commuter trains which will do a loop or travel to station C. 
  • Construction timescale - long term as funds allow.


Current Status:

  • Trackwork (not points) currently on order.  Points to be ordered at a later date.
  • 2x short trains held:  Kato's Echigo Tomikeki ET122 and ET127  (the ET122 is not listed as DCC friendly but should be convertible). 
  • 1x short train on order:  Kato's Ainokaze Series 521.
  • 1x Kato 7-car E231 held and being evaluated for use - most likely as a 5 car unit.


Photos of trains to follow shortly.




Edited by gcmr_new_zealand
Track plan revised - additional siding at station B - makes better use of 2 x island platforms. Now 12x points. 4.5% grades.
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Very interesting project. I am also building a computer controlled layout I'll be happy to follow the development of yours.

What are the automation capabilities of JMRI? I am currently using Rocrail and, although the learning curve was steep, I am quite happy with it. I use a Digikeijs module for feedback (https://www.digikeijs.com/en/loconet/loconet-feedback.html), as it looks more affordable than the BDL168, and this LDT module to control the points: https://www.ldt-infocenter.com/shop/en/Decoder/Turnout-decoder/


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Hi Madsing. 
Thank you for the links, I will look into them.  I already have Train Controller software for my analog layout and I can also use it for this DDC one.  But I am keen to try JMRI as it does require some programming and this learning experience appeals to me as a hobby in itself.   It is free software and has a large following  http://jmri.org/ .   At the moment I know little about it - only what I have learned from watching some of the tutorials. 

The LCD displays for your layout are mind-blowing - I have been watching your progress with interest.


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Thank you!
I am also interested in programming so I might give a look to JMRI in the future too.

Interestingly, Rocrail does not require any programming for automating the layout. You get tables and dialog boxes to set up switches, routes, signals, locos, ..., that also allow you to set rules, limits and constraints telling where each train can and cannot go. Then you press "Start all locos" and you watch the whole layout come to live...

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Martijn Meerts

Never got into JMRI myself, when I tested it, they didn't have a traditional (European style) switchboard. I did play around with Rocrail for a while, but I really disliked the user interface, and their source code is pretty much unreadable. I've also started working on custom software, but due to time constraints I didn't get much further than experiments. I could control trains and turnouts, and had started working on the switchboard, so I did get quite a bit done.


In the end, I decided to buy iTrain, which has a rather pleasing design, isn't overly complicated, and seems to work rather well.

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On 7/14/2019 at 2:08 AM, MichiK said:

Oh, poor kitty - serves you well if she doesn't bring you dead mousies anymore! 😂


A rat at the door today - all is forgiven!

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The last 2-car set arrived and I now have:

  • Kato 10-1510 Echigo Tokimeki ET122 - for DCC conversion (?) - top in photo.
  • Kato 10-1437 Ainokaze-Toyama Series 521 - DCC friendly (has green markings on the other side)
  • Kato 10-1516 Echigo Tokimeki ET127 - DCC friendly.

I would love to have another 2 trains from the same region but to save costs I will use from my main layout:

  • Kato 10-520 Series E231 which will run as a 6 car unit - DCC friendly
  • Tomix 98028 Series 313-2300 - 2 car set - for DCC conversion. To be padded out to a 6 car unit by using my 4 of my Tokaido line, Series 211 cars.  Not prototypical but the livery is close enough to pass the untrained eye. 

Getting there!




Edited by gcmr_new_zealand
corrected train series
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On 7/27/2019 at 3:23 AM, gcmr_new_zealand said:


A rat at the door today - all is forgiven!


Phew, that ended well at last - but don't overstretch your luck in the future!

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I have now decided on the final final track plan which now includes a yard.  This is the largest size I can build and still transport as one piece (190 x 108 cm). The gaps in the trackwork will be connected with 'gentle persuasion'.  The branch/yard is slightly out of position for clarity.  This now takes the number of points to 17 but I can still make do with controllers for 12, as 1x will be uncontrolled (spring action); 8x have a dedicated controller and 4x sets of 2 can be thrown together.

The coloured tracks are occupancy detection areas.  All of the yellow can share the same sensor as the power routing points limit activation to the one powered line.  The red also share a common sensor. One sensor position is not shown yet (total of 16 sensors).  Gradients will be 4% which all of the chosen trains are rated for, but I will do some practical tests to confirm  this.  The use of 3x station levels, hills and buildings should ensure that only 2 of the 3 stations can be seen at the same time from any position.



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Have now done a mock-up to confirm dimensions - still need a couple more pieces of track.  The station on the left is out of position as it will be modified to be a subway station between the tracks on the lower level.  The throat of the yard will be above it. Buildings and a hill go behind the branch station/yard  to block any view of the far station.




Fitted Kato decoders to the 3 DCC ready trains.  One FL12 light decoder was dead so will need to order another once they are back in stock.  Now to test gradients.

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A Control Panel drawn up so I can test operating scenarios using train Controller.




Have to start thinking about baseboard / modual design and figure out where the money will come from.


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Now ready to fit isolating joiners, wire up and lay the track.

Cleaning the foam floor matting with a solvent was not the thing to do as the self-adhesive cork did not stick so well even though the solvent had dried.  I laid the rest of the cork direct onto the dusty foam matting and it bonded tightly.  Where I had cleaned the matting it was left looking blacker so perhaps it removed a film or reacted with it.




Edited by gcmr_new_zealand
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Decisions - life can be so differcult...


Track on levels 1 and 2 now have isolation joiners fitted for the detection blocks and the track has been glued down.

I am reviewing the plan for the top level and need to decide between a layout that visually fits well together or a revised plan that provides more running interest.


Original Concept was to provide a balance view when looking from the top / bottom with only 2 of the 3 stations view-able at the same time. 


Main view would be from the bottom of the plan - here you see the subway and the branch / yard. Town Buildings are a backdrop and intended to block the branch  if viewed from the main station side.
Hills on the left create the feeling of hilly terrain hence the need for inclines / tunnels and housing on terraces.
Short run to the branch.
Branch is not much higher than main station.









Longer run up to the branch.
Branch can be on higher ground.


Buildings partly obscure the branch when viewed from bottom of plan.  View from the top is now cluttered.
Run up to the branch is not very scenic as buildings are above.
Lacking hills above the tunnels to the hidden track on the left.
Getting a little 'track heavy'.


.. a sleepless night ahead.



Edited by gcmr_new_zealand
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Thanks for the video. Very interesting to see the layout in its early stages. And it’s nice to hear a kiwi accent—that makes a nice change for me as a Brit living in America. 


Weird to see that Kato aren’t driving all their wheels on these models. I hope there is a better reason than cost cutting. Because for me that crosses the line between cheap & cheerful and cheap & nasty. 


Was that the ET-127 that was failing? I wasn’t sure whether I recognized the paint job. 

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What's the gradient there? It looks somewhat on the steep side. (Apologies if it's mentioned in the audio, I only had a chance to skip through the video with the sound off).

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40 minutes ago, railsquid said:

What's the gradient there? It looks somewhat on the steep side. (Apologies if it's mentioned in the audio, I only had a chance to skip through the video with the sound off).

6.46%. STEEP!!!

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  • Bob_NZ changed the title to Yamakai Railway (DCC Layout)

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