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Kamome’s Adventures in HO


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So thought I would start my own thread regarding progress I make to my HO trains. The thread will be ongoing and perhaps a little disjointed at times as I pick up and put down different projects but the plan is to go over what I am doing to the stock, usually beyond the norm of adding the detail parts. 


I will begin by documenting some steps for adding additional details to the Kato Kiha 80 series. The models themselves are superb but do lack some of the finer details seen on HO trains with much larger price tags. There are a wealth of user fitted parts and decals included and this thread won’t be discussing those apart from anything that goes beyond the standard process on completing the regular model.


As I have mentioned elsewhere before, the particular Kiha 81 consist I have chosen to model, is the 7 car Tsubasa formation which ran between Ueno and Akita.

Kiha 81 - Kiro 80 - Kishi 80 - Kiha 80 - Kiha 80 - Kiha 80 - Kiha 81


One of the main areas of interest for modelling this particular train, rather than the more famous Hatsukari or Kuroshio is the fact it required support from an EF71 over the Itaya Pass. Thankfully Tomix saw fit to release HO versions of the EF71 at a similar time to Kato releasing their 81s. 


So what has been done so far?


In addition to adding all the necessary detail parts included, 


I have added panel line enamel to all 7 cars, a mix of black and dark brown Tamiya panel line accent, which is generally my go to for adding a little depth to the moulded details.


All car numbers, destination boards and Express and Tsubasa signage has been added to the coach sides in their relevant holders. The adhesive stickers were mounted on to 0.1mm Tamiya plastic paper, cut and glued into position with a tacky but slow curing glue. 




The external of the train is pretty much where it needs to be until i weather the soot coated roof. 


Todays job was doing some testing with the seating. Photos of the Kiha 81 and attached 80s had white plastic head rest covers. These looked to be designed to be wiped clean rather than removed. 


There are 36 seats in a standard kiha 80 and i could mask and paint each one in each coach. Others have suggested that i look at Washi tape as an option. Washi tape is decorative paper tape, often patterned for craft activities. It is similar to the paper masking tape without the waxy feel. 


Todays testing was seeing how best to apply the tape to replicate the head rest covers. This way, i wondered need to mask and paint, but rather just apply tape instead. 


Although done relatively quickly, this is using pre-cut tape at a width of 3mm. I will need to be very conscious of keeping it straight as well as ensuring the amount of tape on each side of the seat remains consistent. I think once the seats are populated, it should look good.


I have decided before i proceed with this proper, the blue used for the plastic seating is too light and will need painting with a darker blue. The coaches will eventually be lit and keeping the mid tone blue plastic that Kato use in their seats will look worse under white coach lights.


At this stage, figures are just to give it some reference .






Edited by disturbman
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More trials and the Washi tape and green car seating work pretty well. I am still not 100% convinced about the regular seating and the tape, but i will persevere. 


Again laid quickly to see the effect rather than meticulous lining up at this stage. 


The 6mm wide tape is a little too wide and the 3mm slightly too narrow. The magic number seems to be 4mm width for the green car seats. A 7mm length gives the right look of length from back of the rest to just below the headrest on the front of the chair. 


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So while I contemplate what to do about the standard seats, (moving towards possible painting white, masking and painting blue at present)

I continued with the green car seating. 


I remembered I still had a lighting kit that I had bought some time ago intended for a Kiro 28 that was running dark with some lit Kiha 58s. Opening the Kiro 28 model, it had the same seats as the Kiro 80 so decided to use the opportunity to actually complete a coach, test the process and see how it would look under lighting. 


All tape was cut into 4mmx7mm sections and then applied to the rear of the seat first, then folded over to the front. There are some nice moulding lines which give you a point of reference and disappear once the tape is applied. Doing it this way also allows the tape to be lined up on the seat much more easily than front first. 

Arm rests were painted with white enamel. This allows any overspill to be easily cleaned up with some thinners and q-tips to give sharp lines.


I omitted painting the sides of the seating grey this time. I added this detail with the other 58s but once lit, everything has a blue hue from the reflection of the seats so it gets lost. Also the eye is draw to the white arm rests.


Upon completion, I rediscovered how bothersome the Kato HO lighting kits are. Also the Kiha 58 series have off centre pick up points so one lighting prism has to be broken off half way between the usual snap points. 


The ones in question are the white ver. 2 but it seems that they have been designed to fit into all Kato HO old and new, so seem a little bit convoluted for what could be a relatively easy addition to a model. Hopefully they don’t flicker as having to open and close the shell again and line up current collectors into their respective shoes for a second time does not fill me with happiness. 



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Very nice work! I've got some of the Kato lighting units stashed away somewhere, I should get stuck in and install them. The panel line accent looks very effective, something else for me to try. 


All the best,



Edited by marknewton
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  • Kamome changed the title to Kamome’s Adventures in HO.
On 6/25/2021 at 12:04 PM, marknewton said:

Very nice work! I've got some of the Kato lighting units stashed away somewhere, I should get stuck in and install them.

They are temperamental even once fitted. I still find my 12 series and Kiha 58s needed an encouraging tap to occasional wake up the connections.

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So started the monster task of detailing the DF50 today. It’s not something i wish to rush so decided to first remove the body and cabs, the latter to allow me to detail them. They are a bit tough to remove and need some carefully placed wedges to unclip them. 


The cabs were painted with Vallejo acrylic. I also added some further cab details with some styrene beams, mainly to represent some of the additional equipment on the top control panel. I then mixed a blue green colour to match photo reference, once dry perhaps a little too blue, but looks ok against the vivid vermillion. 38564B69-6429-4984-B812-741C8C23913A.thumb.jpeg.96b69abee99641f3f5b6a8e1dbb75875.jpeg


Anyway it’s running day and so i’m taking the half finished loco for some exercise. Please forgive the lack of hand rails,

 builders plates and numbers. 47DBDEDF-7C55-4967-9834-90F14F8BEF68.thumb.jpeg.2ae679abbf54cc2bef9acfa8a4e5e4f1.jpeg

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Excellent! Always jealous of these kinds of details in HO!


colors look good, I think it’s fine to push the color a little to have some contrast and make a little scene like pop a bit more than prototype as it’s so hard to see them and makes them more enjoyable when the eye finds them.


How did you do your panel lines with the tamiya paint? Dilute it and let it run around the lines and then wipe off the excess? I’ve only ever done this with dilute ink. Really adds nice depth to the HO door. I’m always a bit shy with N scale as panel lines are usually a bit oversize and I worry that accenting them may end up too heavy looking, especially on lighter colored cars.



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6 hours ago, cteno4 said:

How did you do your panel lines with the tamiya paint? Dilute it and let it run around the lines and then wipe off the excess?

Hi @cteno4. If you follow youtube clips or indeed the instructions on the bottle, it’s supposed to be used neat, then wipe off the excess. I find the pigment way too strong for my taste in HO and certainly not suited to N.

I always dilute it with Tamiya enamel thinners. As mentioned before i usually mix dark brown and black to give a general dirt colour. The extra thinners help it flow really well into all of the recesses but also because of the more transparent colour, you have a filter that you can build up as you go. Adding more into areas that would accumulate dirt and lighter in areas that would get washed off every few days. 


Clean up is done with a brush, damp in thinners but not very wet. I find that as the medium is being used thinner than originally intended, clean up is also much quicker and easier. I occasionally use a q tip over large areas but the brush gives better control, especially with N scale and ensures you don’t lose some fine details.


For white or lighter colour cars I would be tempted to use the light grey or light brown, or just dilute well and again build up colour to your liking. I’d avoid black as the pigment is quite strong and tends to remain once dry.


I’ll add some photos when i do another n gauge locomotive and tag you into the post. Recently completed a N scale DF50 and early type DD54 from Kato.

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Well took a break from detailing the last few remaining Kiha 80 externals and finished the last additions on the DF50. 


Without all the white handrails, the loco really didn’t look quite as it should. I think you can agree, they add quite a lot to the look of the locomotive.


So I found an image of DF50 572, which gave some inspiration. It looked pretty banged up towards the end of it’s life. I will try and replicate a similar look through weathering be it slightly less, distressed than the picture. http://artpro.jp/railway/df50/


Just like the photo, this one has been marked as belonging to Yonago Engine Works in Tottori prefecture. A lot of the DF50 in this area retained the larger snow plough which is included on this model. I think Tomix missed a trick not providing 4 foot steps in the box, so it could’ve been converted to another region, especially as it includes Kyushu type hand rails, shed plates and a head mark for blue train usage. 


The Kadee #58 has been painted with some thinned enamel. It does chip a little but that adds to its appearance. I will try and pick out some of the details next with the usual Tamiya Panel line Accent and then decide how best to weather.  I actually had to touch up quite a number of scuffs on the grey underside and the place roof which for a brand new model was a little disappointing. Looks like the shell may have got a few light bangs or the sprayed paint during manufacture missed some of the recesses when the mask template was applied.  Paint around access panel details is also a little sketchy.


I’ve actually been quite impressed by a seller on Yahoo Auctions who sells weathered Tomix locomotives and Kokis. Locomotives up to this point have largely been JRF but he’s recently posted an ED78 which i’ll use for some reference for mine. Also gives some ideas for picking out certain details on the underside.



Eventually, I need to get back to the originally intended reason for this thread, the Kiha 80 coach seating details. I have concluded i will spray on the head rests in white. The challenge is I have 15 coaches to do so masking will take a while. 

4x Kiha 82s

2x Kiha 81s

9x Kiha 80s

 The remainder, 2x Kiro 80s will have washi tape rests and painted arm rests and the 2x Kishi 80s don’t really need anything, unless i can find some decent 3D printed table setting items. 





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Great work!  How hard did you find installing the details?  I'm always worried about marring the finish when trying to get them placed. 

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Generally not too bad. I made a few errors but managed to rectify them. The worst part is always getting numbers lined up correctly.  The ED78 and EF71 have silver lines around the cab and the numbers fit between, so are easy to position. The DF50 doesn’t have these.


I first followed the measurements indicated in the instructions for getting the numbers at the correct height. I used masking tape with a measurement mark on to get the correct height. Once completed, this looked too low compared with photographs of the locos, so i had to do it again by eye.


The numbers had to be removed and i used a q tip and some Kato Unicleaner. This is a plastic safe solvent and also works to remove finger prints. Just don’t scrub too hard or you will eat into the paint.


To help line up numbers a second time, I drew a fine marker line across the bottom of each loco number (on the plastic layer which is later removed) , to allow me to line it up more accuratel by eye. I actually had a lack of numbers due to the initial measurements error, so i had to redo the front numbers using a combination of parts. Luckily it included DF50 572 and DF50 57 along with individual numbers. In my initial photo you can see the number 2 is slightly skew. I corrected this later with a cocktail stick/wooden toothpick.


The side numbers were easier but due to my initial errors, i checked photos and drawings of DF50 500s. The 50 in the DF part is positioned to the left side of the builders plate, whereas it’s in the middle on the DF50 0s. This isn’t illustrated in the Tomix instructions so i’m glad i checked.


Hand rails were reasonable easy but once removed from the sprue, I cut a pointed wedge into the ends to help them go into their holes. I needed to go back and adjust one as the drill hole wasn’t quite deep enough. I later realised the notch to keep them in place was in a slightly different place top and bottom and my last picture shows a few upside down.


Pictures we’re not intentional mistakes for the forum but do highlight the minor errors to watch out for. 😂 Taking close up photos really helps.


The metal etched grills and wipers were very nicely made and slot into their places quite easily.  More so than the Kato plastic ones ever do.

They provide 2 different sets of wipers as some units had asymmetric ones.


For the builders and end plates, i first position them and use scotch tape to keep them in place. This way i can peel one edge up so that the small metal parts flap up to have glue applied, then placed back down in exactly the right position. Need to be very sparring with the glue as it will spread widely under the flat service. The cab end plates (1&2) are a real challenge as they’re tiny. Also very difficult to get all of the excess off where it has been joined to the sprue.


With this particular model, you get two drilling templates. One for the roof flare and one for the external radiator hose found in some units. I only used the roof flare one but it was perfectly moulded to fit between the edge of the loco and the light housing. 


White steps were painted with enamel so any overspill is cleaned up with thinners and you get sharp lines. There were a few chips on the roof and grey base of the shell again painted with enamel. Colour match slightly off but could look like minor rust repairs.

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Well the continuing procrastination goes on as I try and decide how best to apply details to the inside of relatively uninteresting seating moulds on my passenger coaches. The weather is now extremely humid in Kyushu so i will avoid airbrushing anything until it gets a bit drier. 


I came across this blog of someone who does a lot of detailing using printed textures, similar to the N Goya detail sheets. Their school excursion 155系 looks quite attractive and cutting and sticking errors can be easily rectified. 




I came across it as one of my freight wagons arrived. Kokifu 50000 and i was looking for some reference photos and a way of detailing a very grey, boring interior. 


I have some more Wamu 80000s, a couple of 2 wagon 90000s and a couple of Koki 50000s on their way so should now have a decent length JNR freight train for the 70s-80s sort of era.  

12x Wamu 80000s

4x Wamu 90000s

2x Tora 45000s

4x Taki 1900s

2 or 3 Koki 50000s


To this end I have been adding some details from my spares box. Namely air hoses to the ends of Wamus as well as finishing the underside details (brake pads, foot brake highlights etc..)before i add a layer of crud to everything. The Musashino brass model website played a big part in adding details.







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Continuing with some Kiha business this week and finally getting around to cleaning a lot of very dirty wheels.


As the weather is unbearably hot and humid, i’ve been turning my hand to various touches i want to add without the need for airbrushing. Again there are some nicely weathered HO articles on Yahoo auctions which give inspiration. The seller also explains his comprehensive list of what parts he has added and some of his processes. More to put off buyers expecting a box fresh model I think. 


To this end, when i think of something, i immediately make a digital note on a ongoing job list on my phone to update or improve the HO stock I own. 


So this week, it was time to get around to adding the washi tape to the Kiro 80s. Here is what it looks like, and Kiro 28 to give an idea once lit. I shall try and get some more coach lighting, which will probably be more Kato units at this point. 



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  • disturbman changed the title to Kamome’s Adventures in HO
3 hours ago, Kamome said:

So this week, it was time to get around to adding the washi tape to the Kiro 80s. Here is what it looks like, and Kiro 28 to give an idea once lit.

I had missed the thread before, but it works really well. I'm glad 🙂

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Yes, great recommendation @disturbman


It’s slightly too raised for the plastic white covers that the standard seating has but works very well for the removable green car head-rest covers. 


Oh and thanks for correcting my lack of punctuation in the title. 😂

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Hahaha. Sorry, titles should never be punctuated. I had hoped my edit would be left unnoticed 😉 

How long did it take you to do a full green car? I can imagine it takes some time, between the cutting and the placing. Will you change methods for the non-green cars?

My only wonder is how well the tape will hold in the long run, some washi tapes are rather cheaply produced and don't hold long, whereas some do stay in place for what seems forever. I also fear that Japanese humidity associated with the plastic of the seats could prove problematic.

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Once you get settled in to it, not as long as you think. I layout a 6mm wide strip on my cutting board, cut 2mm off one edge and then cut into 7mm lengths. If you can find 4mm wide tape, it would save the first step. It probably took me about 25-30 minutes to tape one coach.


There’s a mould line at the back of the seat which is where I line up each piece. 


It’s hard to know how long the tape will last. I hope, as it’s more porous than masking tape, that it helps control how much humidity gets into the adhesive and loses moisture rather than trapping it. I guess we’ll have to see. I bought the tape from a reasonably good bookstore and stationers rather than the ¥100 store. Fingers crossed it’s worth the extra ¥130. 


I’ve not experienced any moisture in my model boxes up to now. Hopefully this won’t be the case. 

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Looking good Kamome, I'll have to give this a try!  Maybe this will give me the motivation to actually finish detailing my HO KIHAs.

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Prototyping streamlining ideas for an express 9600 or replacing and clear coating some damaged dry rub markings? You decide!



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Nice work, they blend in quite well!  I've never coated mine cause I'm never quite sure how to match the factory finish.


What method do you use for securing your numberplates on these models, I've been afraid to try it with mine.  

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Yes, i was surprised there is almost no transition between the clear coat and the rest of the model. I used Mr Hobby Premium Top Coat (Semi-gloss) from a rattle can. On Kato and Tomix, I usually get a hint of a clear coated box if it catches the light, but in this case it matched perfectly.


As it was bought used, the number plates were already attached to this model. I had to remove and straighten the middle shed plate and I use a rubber type glue for plastics. This way you have plenty of time for alignment and the plates are semi permanent if you need to remove them again. The one I use is Tamiya Multipurpose Cement Clear. It dries crystal clear and doesn’t string much at all. You can also clean up any overspill without ruining paint surfaces.


I use the same glue to attach the roll signs and numbers on coaches too.


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nice work! 


have you ever tried using a thin mask with a rectangle cut into it and held just off the surface of the model (like with a sheet of paper behind the mask paper with a larger rectangle cut into it) and the  airbrush? I’ve seen this talked about a few times in airbrushing stuff to get a more beveled and random edge than with a tape mask where you can get that sharper, taller edge all around that can catch the eye more. I’ve always wanted to try it but never have gotten around to it.





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Thanks Jeff.


I need to get more competent with airbrushing. I would say I have a reasonably basic set up with a non-adjustable compressor. It’s fine for base colours and basic weathering but I probably need something more substantial for enamel and lacquer based paints. At present I am using rattle can clear coat.


The reason for the masking tape overkill is the lack of control you get with rattle cans and I have to hold the model with one hand, outside whilst spraying with the other.

I usually just mask the area and then wrap newspaper around large areas that don’t require painting. In the case of this model, the tender is attached relatively permanently with wires and a coupling rod so the tape gave the whole thing rigidity which allowed me to hold it by the tender whilst painting.


I too am keen on the airbrushing techniques explained on Youtube for example and I probably need to spend some time trialling them on some old models. I think the technique you are describing is known as a soft mask or something like that.


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No posting for almost a month as I haven’t really had a lot of time to get anything substantial done. Thanks to the delay in the Kato HO 20 series coaches (now being released on Sept 14th) it gave a bit of wiggle room in the train budget for the Tomix ED76, which I was intending to buy, but not quite yet. As I write this, there is still stock available but due to the 15 year gap since the last production run, I’m glad I jumped on it now. I bought the standard (not Prestige) version of the JNR specification.DC91C7FF-133C-4C1F-918F-BF2E1D614D2A.thumb.jpeg.7755fa7ef6e0610d1436b617027bc1e9.jpeg


The detailing was the usual for those who have Tomix HO locomotives and know the process. For those not yet inducted, there is a wealth of plastic and metal etched parts to fit.


I tend to start with the underside first and remove the body from the chassis. The body has the most amount of parts to fit but is much easier without the weight of the locomotive. I paint foot steps and air hose taps copying reference photos. 


The detailing went relatively smoothly.  I was a little apprehensive about bending the metal number plates to fit to the front of the locomotive. Instructions state that it has to be bent to an angle of 10 degrees between the 7 and 6 of ED76. This was easily done once I realised the top 3 of each included loco numbers were factory scored already. These were positioned with scotch tape and then glued with my usual Tamiya Multipurpose cement clear. This gives a little fine adjustment before setting, dries perfectly clear and can be cleaned off if you do make a mistake.


I really like the head mark hooks used. You can’t beat the Kato magnetic head marks but this is still very well designed. I wish Tomix would provide this on all of their locos instead of the mentality of just using double sided tape. Great that you can change this one easily. 4580D951-38EC-4A76-8378-F3276D024216.thumb.jpeg.194e98b9e38386c96ecda0fa979c0649.jpeg


My only niggle with this one was the handrails (grab irons). The sprue had a lot of flash so I would suggest it was an older mould. There were also 2 lower front handrails that had not moulded properly and had gaps in making them unusable. Thankfully Tomix provided 6 so with the wasted ones there were still 4 usable and no margin for error. The plastic used was also very soft so I will eventually source some Fuji Model metal ones to replace these with. The handrails under the windows just won’t sit straight. I was looking at replacing all of my locos with metal handrails but i’ll certainly prioritise this one due to the poor quality of the parts. 


All other plastic parts fitted easily and were well made. Another area I’ve had issues with other Tomix locos were the air hoses but these were well produced with square pegs to put them at a suitable angle. Foot steps were also reassuringly sturdy. 


The prestige model has metal parts for all handrails, air hoses and pantograph. This model’s pantograph has a mixture of metal and plastic, certainly better than the EF71 which is mostly plastic. There are always a few short cuts that Tomix do on their standard models. Kato always have a metal pantograph so this does bug me a little, especially as Tomix locos cost a little more. The prestige versions cost almost 2/3s more again for some fitted wire and white metal parts but I do wish they would sell their metal pantographs as an upgrade part. Models Imon do a PS102 but they are about ¥3500 each. Anyway I’ve painted the ends red, which seems to be a common procedure in Kyushu. Not quite sure when this started, it may be more of a trait once JNR was privatised. 3E9AD3AF-168E-4AB3-B5F2-FCF6A8070C79.thumb.jpeg.b4130bad381537967229665e16c56d0b.jpeg


Other than a couple of minor but ever present Tomix irritations, she’s ready for service and looks very nice. She will of course be sporting the Fuji head mark for the majority of her time.  


After posting pictures, I now realise I still haven’t fitted the uncoupling bar.D967F84C-917E-4D16-BF4B-120FB251EA10.thumb.jpeg.a91c18ccc828f3196b22f65717b7a381.jpeg


Edited by Kamome
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