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My Japanese N Scale Diorama - NEW Dinning Table Layout

JR 500系

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Hi people! Finally got some time and decided to post up my WIP (Works-In-Progress) Japanese Diorama which i would like to call '高橋町' which translate to 'Takahashi Town'. As the title suggests, it's only 15% completed to date. I thought it would be nice to see the diorama start out from scratch to completion, hence please bear with me while i show some embarrasing photos here...

Here's the first layout plan:
As you can see, my initial plan was to have the local lines run on the outside and the overhead shinkansen lines on the inside, but it didnt look nice. The controllers are at the wrong place too... Hence..

I changed the position of the controllers, and the overhead tracks to run on the outside instead.

The overhead station will be directly in front of the local station, which over-laps the local station using pillars & cross beams.

The overhead station layout which i would like to make. This will allow 4 lines total and have 2 trains waiting with 2 trains running, and switchable at any time.

Here's the loop for both ground and overhead tracks. There will be a cross beam here so that the overhead runs beautifully over the local lines.

The overhead station will be in front and directly overhead the local station lines, which will also have 4 lines.

I place the entire layout on top of styrofoam board, so that i can easily create holes and 'bury' the wires for the turn out points and the lights. Everything will be concelled below ground, with the final road surface covering the entire layout.

Abit abstract right now and hard to imagine, but as i do not know how to crreate a software version for the layout, i had to work practically along. There will also be a mountain on the top left corner of the layout, with the Kinkakuji temple sitting on the summit and a rural layout surrounding the temple. Thinking of making a gradual slope up the mountain too, with track for the Kirara to travel up the mountains for a 'rural' local line.
Oh so much to do and so little time. Any input is valuable to me and thanks for viewing! Cheers! :grin

Edited by JR 500系
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It's a nice design, but have you considered that by placing the elevated station in front of the lower one, you are going to make it difficult to see trains in the lower station unless you're standing right in front looking down. It might be better if you could overlap the two ovals, so the lower track were in front of the elevated station at the front and the back, passing under it at the ends?

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Thanks KenS for the comment!


Yes i've thought about that hence the initial plan of placing the local lines on the front and the overhead lines on the inside circle... However, it felt wierd running longer trains (since my shinkansen are about 8-cars long) on the overhead track running on the inside circle and the shorter trains (my local trains are about 3-5 cars long only, except for the Super Hitachi which is 7-car long) running on the outer circle... Besides, the Overhead station entrance is also blocked off by the outer 'not-so-fantastic-looking' ground platform... With the switch to the outer, the Overhead station could also act as a station entrance to the local lines, with the shinkansen lines running overhead... I felt it seems better this way.. However, now i foresee a major problem of the difficulty to 'bridge' to support the overhead track without compromising the ground level tracks... Seems the only way is to use single pillars and beams of different sizes to bridge over for support...


Wished i had a software to visualise this before actual construction...


Meanwhile, the roads will be running on the inside of the local track lines, and the tall buildings will signify the downtown core area. There will also be a housing area with the apartment flats and Tomix Condomiunium, and my dream house alone out in the lower right hand corner ~ Cant wait to actually build up the roads!  :grin

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This would be the option I would go for, track-wise. Maybe put the siding below instead of where it is now though. It's not at scale because I don't know what track you have lying on your layout, it's just a sketch I made with Anyrail (free software limited to 60 track pieces but doable if you compress the straights).


The visibility of the trains of lower level is really low with the plan you have now.


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Thank you Densha for the plan! Really appreciate that! It's very easy to understand now ~


There's a good idea, but it limits the length of my station... As my trains are about max 8-car for shinkansen and max 7 car (Super Hitachi) for the ground level, the stations tend to be a tad 'long'. Example, it's almost 3x 248 long excluding the platform ends to beautifully sit in the 7-car Super Hitachi. Having said that, it limits the length and furthermore have to accomodate for the 'elevated' curves i have at the turning ends. This means it's difficult to try and 'squeeze' in the sliding to the front of the elevated station... Also, the ground station will then be in front of the overhead station, and because the overhead station has an entrance, it would look kinda wierd that the entrance faces the ground station with tracks running in front of it... If i turn the overhead station entrance then to be back-facing, it will then take away the beauty of the entrance with all the people and LED lights i have placed inside.. It was with this thinking that i decided to run the ground level station on the inside, although sacrificing not being able to see the trains on ground level easily... This though can be easily countered as this right in front of my layout and usually people will be standing right in front, hence you should be able to get a birds eye view of the ground level station from the top...


Wordings are very tedious to understand what i mean, hence i draft out on my picture to illustrate better what i meant.




Thanks Densha again for the plan! Very nice of you!  :grin

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I had no idea you were going to have 8 platform tracks, that makes it more difficult to fit it all. I don't understand how it limits the length, you only make changes vertically, not horizontally.


Have you ever looked at prototype stations? I know there are several examples of low level tracks with high level viaduct tracks in Japan, but don't remember which.

In my opinion the overhead station entrance facing forwards like this looks also weird because there's the layout immediately ends in front of it. Personally I wouldn't like that.

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you have it right lots of time the big viaduct station entrance is on one side and then on the other are the lower, ground level, local tracks and a local entrance and services. just in the layout its always tough. if you want to show the big shinkansen station entrance then you need the viaduct out in front and the local platforms behind, but then it hides the local platforms! if you reverse it it gets harder to do a local entrance in the front or be as spectacular an entrance. No perfect solution there!


on the new jrm layout we struggled with this and had the local platforms in front, but luckily we had 3m of length for the station so after about 1.5m at one end the local tracks angle back under the viaduct so we have about 1m length at one end of the viaduct to do a viaduct station entrance.


one solution that you do see in japan is the local lines go at an angle under the viaduct station. this way you can have some of the local tracks popping out in the front at a shallow angle (15 or 30 degrees) and the rest under and behind the viaduct. then at the other end of the viaduct put the station. not sure if you have the room for this jog, would be sort of what densha showed but have the front left corner of the ground loop keep curving more and then the station part at an angle under the viaduct and then the front right corner of the ground loop inside the viaduct loop.


keep playing with this like you have set up, thats the beauty of unitrak, you can try a configuration, plop down a bunch of buildings (or even boxes or cardboard cutouts) to see what it feels like and what the sight lines are (thats super hard to see in 2D programs and even ones that give you 3D views dont give the eye the same feeling of space and relationships in the scene). You can also experiment with scenery this way before you get too far in by just crumpling up paper and tape it up with masking tape. make a card board tunnel for the tracks and you can even run trains through your paper scenery to get a few of how trains might appear and disappear. some times on smaller layout having the trains disappear even for a short bit can really help things feel larger. this is a very tired and true method of exhibit design, gets you so much more info than any cad drawing will, its very intuitive and really finds the intuitive bits that are so important to the eye, computer is really bad at that (its a great starting point, but should not end there!) Its also very easy and fun to do and you find yourself getting much more creative in looking at things, gets it out of the mind and back to the eye, they are different but inter-related.





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Thanks Jeff for the suggestions! That would certainly be very helpful!


With the arrival of my HS order, i can finally try out how it really looks like physically, and yes Densha & KenS are right on!



The overview, with the viaduct station in



Here's the viaduct station clearly...



View from the front



The ground station is barely visable from here...



Here's the main issue. I CANT span the other side of the overhead track/ station through over the ground station! ARGH!  :lipssealed: 



Terrible planning on my part.. Couldnt get the overhead where i wanted it...


So now i have to change the layout again to suit it. The ground station really have to go to the opposite now to make way for the overhead support.. Thanks KenS & Densha for the ideas and yes you are right, it totally blocks off the local station... Stay tuned for more updates soon after i change the layout! More suggestions highly welcomed! Thanks! 

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While I like your layout, something has been bugging me. It's all so 'straight'. If it was my own layout I would want to divide both main lines from each other at some part and/or do some crossing of the viaduct and ground level tracks to make it more interesting to look at. Also there's so much space left in the middle.

Do you still intend to use the station building in the front scene that was there previously?


Again I'm coming up with my plan from before, of course you have to decide what to do with it because it's your own layout. IMO it's more creative and interesting I think. It's horizontally compressed again and there's weird blocks instead of tracks, but I think you get the grasp of it.

I noticed how you use a straight in the middle of the curves of the viaduct track, I think after removing them my plan should be possible, but I don't know the exact measures from the photos.

That black bar at the overhead station is something I thought of: In case you think the station building looks weird if it's against the ground level tracks you can always make some kind of plate that you use to cover it up.

Perhaps the extra curve will make use of the space more. That way you can also have a road crossing and put buildings in the space behind so you have the commuter trains going through a city instead of around the city, I think that would look really nice.


I hope I was helpful! :grin


P.S. I'm really liking the apartment building.


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While I like your layout, something has been bugging me. It's all so 'straight'. If it was my own layout I would want to divide both main lines from each other at some part and/or do some crossing of the viaduct and ground level tracks to make it more interesting to look at. Also there's so much space left in the middle.



Curves, even small curves take up a lot of space. Gentle realistic curves take up even more space.

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I know. But I think he has quite a lot of space available, lengthwise, and the width is not bad either I think.

Rather I should ask, what do you exactly mean with that curves take up a lot of space? That my plan would be difficult to do?

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Thank you Densha for your layout!  :grin  You have a very good point about the trains running through the city and not around the city; i didnt thought of that~! However, the overhead tracks are meant for the Shinkansen only, hence local ground level tracks would mean alot of crossings, and i think that wouldn't look or function so realistically, right? Indeed bill937ca is right about the curves; unfortunately i do not have enough space for your proposed layout, and using the Kato canted track takes up even more space. The middle portion will be filled up with buildings for the main core city area on the right side of the table, and immediately switches to the residential and cargo terminal area on the left side of the table. Thinking of adding also an additional rural line that would run through the city easily (smaller curves and short trains like the Kirara) and eventually up a mountain to the absoluate rural area with the temple. (planning stage) Currently, only a short 124mm straight stands in-between the two curves.. My length is almost a 2.8m long, but the width is only like around 1.2m and not is not enough to place both stations together. Hence i have re-modified the layout to have the ground level station on the other side of the table (the inside) instead. Here are some more pictures to show what i meant: 



The overview now, with the full viaduct station.



The viaduct station top view. There is a slight problem of the inside track due to insufficient support from below (due to the straight ground level tracks running below)




There is spanning over on both LHS and RHS of the turning tracks. That should add a little variety with trains passing on top of each other ~



The new location for the ground level station~



S70 viaduct to provide for train signal lights.



And finally, another problem surfaces. The station is not long enough for 7-8 car trains! Need more extension paltforms to sit in my 500, 700 and 300 shinkansens...  :lipssealed:


More suggestions very welcomed! Thanks!

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1.2 meter deep? Well I hope you have long arms because with such a length you are not going to be able to rescue any derailed trains very easily.


I would also, if I were you, make one loop out of both. It will give you some more running length. I know it won't be very prototypical mixing traffics like that but who cares? The important is to have fun right? Or maybe you should thing of a subway, then you could have your second station under the shinkansen one, to extend your local line and just leave the lines separated.

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That's also a way to solve the problem. It's a pity you can't combine both stations though.

Could you post a picture from beneath the overhead station? I wonder what's exactly the cause of the instability/what you could change.

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Well if the layout is movable then 1.2m deep is not bad as you can just pul it away from the wall to work on it or rescue a train. I did this for one of the JRM members. His was a 6' x 4' (2m x1.3m) layout out of 3 of our old 2'x4 JRM modules. I just built him a frame work for the modules to screw onto, a drawer hanging off for controllers, and the 4 ikea metal legs with wheels on them. He could just roll it out to work on and play with the roll back into the corner of his living room over a large chest when not in use. Worked swimmingly!



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@ disturbman - Yap, i thought of that problem before and here is the solution: IMG_1562.jpg I pulled out my entire layout from the wall, so that i have a little accessway into the other end. Helps in setting up the layout, & also a great vantage point for views to go in and take photos!


@ Jeff - HHmm that's a great idea! Placing the entire layout on wheeled table that can be easily wheeled around! However, my layout consists of 3 separate tables joined together, so getting them to move together will not be easy at all, even with wheels... I'm thinking this might be it's permanent resting ground until perhaps either i move house or a kid comes along...


@ Densha - Sure Bro! Here's some picture to try & get the cantilever portion in view:




I hope you can see the cantilever portion clearly... Here's another shot that should show it clearly:


IMG_1564.jpg Basically, i used unauthorox method of using the viaduct support legs to support the station, hence there is a cantilever portion above the double track running below. It's actually not that bad, and i've tried parking my 8-car 700series on the cantilever portion just to ensure it doesnt topple with weight, and luckily it doesn't. It actually makes it look rather nice with the ground level trains running just below the shinkansen station!  :grin 


Now, should i lengthen the overhead station by another platform (280mm) just to sit in my 7 & 8 car shinkansens?  ???

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Taking a little break from my layout building, i had a little fun here like this:



I really hope it's visable! The photo was taken with my 4S, hence it cannot focus the minute details...


Let me try to get a better picture here:


Now i trying to place people into vehicles. Shown here is a local bus,



A highway bus with a lady guide,



And a long distance delivery truck!


Now i need to get a REALLY good camera for these marco shots... Placing people into vehicles certainly liven up the vehicle and made it look even more realistic! Now i'll need to get ALOT of people to fit them into all the vehicles perhaps?

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What you want is something like a Olympus pen with a macro-lens. It's a really good and compact digital camera with a range of lenses to fit it.

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disturbman - After googling it seems to be in the same price range as low-range dSLRs. Or you must mean a different model then I found.

But I really don't want to have a deep discussion about cameras here actually...

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what i did for fred was to just screw together the three 2'x4' modules (just 1"x2" frame around 1" thick poly styrene foam top, very light but stiff units). then made a frame out of 1"x4" that was 2" smaller than the modules all around so it was recessed a bit. the modules then just screwed to the frame and the frame gave it the support for the top modules. then the legs and the controller drawer bolted to the frame.


is there a little lip under each edge of the table that you could screw in a strip of wood to attach each table to each other? if so then you could get those little plastic disc thingies you can put under table/chest feet/legs to easily slide them on flooring or carpet. then if you just need to pull the layout out from the wall to work on the back side or rescue a train its pretty easy. dont need to roll all over the place just get that 18" behind the layout to fiddle back there easily and not have a magnitude 11 quake on the layout if you try to do that!


painting yourself into a corner is not fun!



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I like the cantilevering over the lower tracks!


The Tomix viaduct design is more flexible than Kato for supporting the viaduct over other tracks, for tracks curving underneath a viaduct, and so on. The downside of this flexibility is that you have to plan harder to figure out exactly what support pieces you need...


Rich K.

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@ disturbman & Densha - Yap i need a really good marco camera soon... Hard to take photos of thos minute details especially on the vehicles..


@ Jeff - Thats a great idea! But the wheels would need locks on them in case someone got over excited and released a magnitude 11 earthquake!


@ Rick K - Thanks! It was unintentional initially, but the usual pillars couldn't fit below the station below as supports without blocking the tracks running beneath it.. I decided to use an 'unofficial' method of just placing the station on the viaduct supports without any securing points, hence the station tends to move abit... It does however, create an unintentional cantilever effect over the track which turns out to be rather nice ~



Wouldnt be updating the layout for about 2 weeks as exams are coming up... It sucks when you're working and studying at the same time...   :lipssealed:



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I didn't want to write about, but I did anyway. - I bought myself an dSLR recently. The main problem I had was that if I counted how many trains I could get for the same money, I didn't want it, but I'm still glad I did now. I want to note though that you really have to reflect on if you really want it or not because it's a lot of money, perhaps there are even cheaper (macro) cameras available. I know many (relatively) cheap compact cameras have macro modes too. If you select focusing on one point with macro mode on you can usually take photos that are at least focused correctly. I'm wondering if there's no option for that in your iphone. Over here the cheapest dSLR (Canon 1100D with 18-55 lens) is available for about €325, but that's here and not where you live.

Anyway, you decide what you want and I should stop being off-topic.

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Martijn Meerts

My point & shoot can do great macro shots (it has a macro mode), heck, even my camcorder can do good macro shots :)


The disadvantage of macro on a point & shoot is usually that you have to be close to the subject (no problem with model train photography), and often you don't have any control over depth of field. With a DSLR and a good macro lens, you have a lot more flexibility, but it comes with a hefty price. Not just the DSLR is costly, but a good macro lens isn't cheap either.

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disturbman - After googling it seems to be in the same price range as low-range dSLRs. Or you must mean a different model then I found.


No. I did mean a Olympus Pen. It's a really good camera and a good compromise for who wants a camera as manageable and powerful as DSLR but without sacrificing the size/portability.

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