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Two Levels


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Hello all,


I've started working on a project that should fit on the length of a small IKEA Billy shelf, but is a bit deeper to allow curves and a runaround. The size is 760 x 450mm and will feature two levels with a 280mm length train elevator. On the pictures you can see the different level layouts and the track plan. This should be a quite unique mini-layout.


The reason for making this layout is that I'm planning to move to my parents in about half a year and there I probably don't have much time and space to work on a layout. This layout is just about big enough to move along with me, as opposed to my previous attempts to making a module based layout (which proved be be quite voluminous).


Picture 1: this is the lower level layout (tracks at 0mm in hight) where a loop and two sidings are made. A connection to the train elevator provides contact to higher atmospheres. One of the sidings is going to feature a freight station to simulate an exchange of goods between the higher and lower level. The scenery is divided into two parts (front and back) and will feature a cityscape and an industrial landscape. Maybe one of the two will be changed to a densely forested area.


Picture 2: the higher level layout (tracks at 150mm to 210mm in hight) with a factory (or some other industry) and a terminal station. Of course there is no room for a runaround headshunt, so this should provide interesting operational problems. I could also go for a freight EMU service, but that's of later concern. My ED17s need a workout from time to time you know. The setting is probably going to be a hilly suburban scenery with a beach side or some other tourist attraction (as an excuse to run special trains).


Pictures 3 and 4 are a more detailed capture of the train elevator. The thing is going to be hand operated, so no difficult electric mumbo-jumbo.


Trains that will feature on the layout are mostly Enoden trams and other short trains for passenger transport. Cars over 16m aren't allowed as they should look ridiculous on the tight curves. Freight service is provided by ED17s and 2-axle freight cars. Maybe I should find a small diesel loco somewhere for switching (Tsugawa just announced a new one).


I think there is going to be some considerable work in this layout and I'm already out of wood strips... This isn't going to be a cheap one. :lipssealed:





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What is the curve radius? It looks like 140mm or 103mm. Does the ED17 (Microace I assume) work on the super-mini curves? With my own micro-layout I found that anything smaller then 177mm severely restricted what rolling stock would work (even a few "short" locomotives can't make it around those curves because the truck mechanisms aren't designed to turn that sharply).

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The minimum radius is 140mm, as my Enoden presumably don't like 103mm. The ED17s from MicroAce don't have much problems with the 140mm radius due to the small wheelbase and so. I bought these because I felt the need for small electric engines as others I have don't really fit through the tight curves (DD51 and DD54). The ED17s were also the cheapest on offer at the time on Yahoo! Auctions, so that could also be a reason.


Also for the lift, I'm going to operate it by hand. Just a simple rope pull system for upwards action and gravity for downwards action. The lift doesn't run so smooth (with intention), so that means there is little chance for derailment. Of course this will be safeguarded by the rope, as a 115mm drop is still quite high. I've thought about motorisation, but that would be too time consuming and probably take the fun out of hand operation. None of the switches as well are motorised. All manual labour.

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Nice idea, but the track grade at the upper level seems quite steep (approx. 12%?) and the space between both levels is pretty small...

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That's an interesting idea.  Is the lift going to simulate an off-scene length of track between the two levels?  In other words, trains disappear (into a tunnel or behind some trees) and then reappear after lifting on the other level?

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The grade is just a setup. I've experimented with grades and the maximum I can get that looks okay is about 6%. The slope is going to be much longer of course. It's not as extreme as the 8% grade at Hakone Yumoto from the Hakone Tozan RR. :P


Also, the trains are in the lift 'off-stage' of course. Trains disappear and appear again. They disappear behind buildings, trees and in tunnels.

The elevator can also function as a fiddleyard.

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Nice idea .

I looking forward seeing your Layout grow.



By the way , we two have the same basic outline (finishing in the next few months) and a small Japanese layout. Though your little thing is much more challanging then my small thing:

My Little Japan "Higashi - matsuyama"


The lift looks very interesting, and nice to see another German "face" arround here.


Where did you get your inspiration on starting with Japanese modell railroad? Did you spend some time there?

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Thanks for the replies :)


I'll post some pictures tomorrow. The bottom half base is done now and everything has had a test run, but I had to do some extra filing at tunnel entrances and so on. So far the whole structure looks stable, feels quite robust and is still quite lightweight.


@Christian: I guess we are quite in the same situation I'd guess. I'm now working on my thesis on the development of Jômon ceramics (probably Dogû and pottery), doing some model train stuff and hanging around with friends.


I've been a long time Japanese model railroader, but until recently I hadn't started a real layout. My inspiration comes from this forum,  Carl Arendt's Micro Layout website and the internet in general. I've once visited the Enoshima RR and the Hakone Tozan RR quite some years ago and got inspired by these local short trains twisting through narrow curves and quick shifting scenery. These are ideal examples for a minimum-space layout.


Also, I started my student life in the Netherlands at Leiden University and am now writing my thesis at Bonn University in Germany as a Japanologist, so that could also have influenced it, right? :cheesy Next to that and a former unhealthy interest in anime and manga, it seems quite obvious. In the end, modeltrains have won over my interest in animated pop-culture, but I'm still working on a web comic that should go online next year or already in December. (too busy for that stuff now).


Aaaanyway, tomorrow I'll post some pictures on my layout's progress, because now it's nothing like the photographs in the first post!


Time to hit the sack.



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Have you thought about the electrical part?

I.e what basis you will use?


But impressive how much spare time you have, given that I  also write my thesis as well.

But in software engeneering, more exactly real time stereoscopic image generation .

-> lots of work...



looking forward to the new update.

Which reminds me to post my latest achivements...

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Electrics are simple. One switch to put power on the elevator and one switch to switch power between the upper and lower part. No tricks, just good old simple DC control. Maybe I'll consider a split between two controls later, but that can always be changed if needed.


The basics are done and I've uploaded some pictures of the progress as well now. The top part is just a set up and will be worked on when the bottom half is done as well.


In the coming few days there's not much I can do, as I have to work on my thesis outline and prepare a few songs for a first DJ session in a bar, but at least I can think about landscape detailing and stuff in the meantime.





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Very impressive work, Tony. And a very interesting concept too. Look forward to seeing more updates!


All the best,



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@Mudkiep 'd Orange: you have a good eye Sir! 4mm plywood is good for all sorts of stuff. It's going to be covered by a layer of paper or plastic to hide the wood, but the basis is the plywood. I'm going to do the same with some buildings to save on expensive plastic sheets. I still have to figure out how then to provide them with interior lighting...


@Mark: thanks. I wanted to do something different you know.


Now I'm pondering on what kind of extras I'm going to order from Japan. I need garden and industrial walls, signposts, some industrial stuff (probably all GreenMax) and maybe some other stuff... Nice things :)

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Mudkip Orange

garden and industrial walls, signposts, some industrial stuff (probably all GreenMax) and maybe some other stuff... Nice things :)


Indeed indeed.

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I really like this project. It would even be greater with a double lift and two controllers, duplicating possibilities... but then you'll need two brains to.


I'm excited to see what's coming next. :)

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Fun project! fun to follow!


i have often noodled on doing a series of yards that are on an elevator like this so you could choose which level to get trains onto the layout from! i have seen the big rotary, gatling gun train storers, but they just dont feel right and you have to have each track on a good gimbals. the only way i could ever have all my trains out to play with easily! other option was the display tracks on the wall where you could pull down individual trains on a display track and hook it into the layout to run, but that requires a tricky transfer of the long display track with train from the wall to the layout. even more difficult with a 8' 16 car train!





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Some work I did today on the station and basics on the industrial buildings next to the station. This was in between my readings of my difficult and quite irregular thesis subject. One needs some distraction, no?


The platform is paved with dark-grey paper and needs some detailing like lines along the sides or so. The station building is a rough setup that is going to be coated with white paper and paint, as well as a dark red roof with shingles or corrugated steel plates. The same will happen with the surroundings, but then a few layers thicker to represent blackened out windows. These few buildings will not feature interior lighting. Others will most likely have it. The platform roof supports are way too thin to function as such. These will be replaced later.


Thanks for all the interest :)



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Tony, your layout is looking even more interesting with the structures roughed-in. I've always been a bit ambivalent about mini-layouts but yours has made me change my views. Keep up the good work!





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@Mark: thanks :) Nice to hear it brought a change of perspective on your view on small layouts. Makes me a happy man!


Also, I haven't done much the last few days; adding a background, a part of foam for the front (rice field, one or two houses and a parking) and a roof basis for the station building.


I've been active as a DJ for the first time last night and that takes up quite some energy, I can tell you that! At first a friend of mine was spinning the records in the bar and the atmosphere was a bit daft, but then DJ Toni turned up the heat and the beats were pumping until dusk! A nice prelude for my grand début at the students association party of Orient Asian Sciences the 9th of December.


Tomorrow I'll be visiting the Modellbahn Messe in Cologne and look for some cheap options of basic walls (corrugated steel plates and rough concrete surfaces) for industrial buildings. If I succeed in that I can seriously start working on detailing the industrial part and move on to the other parts (I'm trying to do this project in stages).



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I bought Evergreen sheets, but I'm very reluctant to use them as a part of my models. Expensive, but good stuff, so I've used them as a basis. An overlay of thin grey cardboard and an awl to reproduce corrugated plates. Then spray it with silver paint and voilá! A steel plate. Cheap, not very fast, but convincing and rewarding.


The first building to be subject to this technique was the station building which received a steel roof. The walls are also almost done (white paper with brown paper to simulate wooden beams). It needs a bit of cleaning of glue residue and weathering. Some details, like advertisements, a chimney and such will also be added. The roof supports need a lick of brown or black paint as well. Progress is looking good :)




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Wow, that's cardboard?  Excellent looking roof. It looks just like a metal kit I built once; very realistic.


And the rest of the building looks good too.

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Wow, that's cardboard?  Excellent looking roof. It looks just like a metal kit I built once; very realistic.


And the rest of the building looks good too.


Thanks. I think cardboard is a very under appreciated material to build with. However, this weekend I saw an increasing number of manufacturers offering cardboard kits at the model train fair in Cologne. Anyways, IMO with cardboard you can achieve the same level of a more professional kit, but with much much lower costs.

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