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KenS

A Simple Display Layout

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KenS

I had an interesting idea, but I'm having trouble taking it anywhere, so I'm looking for comments.

 

I was talking to one of the guys at a local hobby store. They do a in-store "show" every year, mostly featuring model-builders (not just trains, but those are part of it). This is the store that carries a lot of modern N-scale as well as the more typical historic stuff.  He knew I was working on painting/lighting ready-built Kato/Tomix structures and Tomix kits, and suggested I bring some of them in to give people a flavor of what you could do with relatively little effort.  He's always trying to find ways to interest people in N-scale and modern stuff.

 

I didn't really have anything I wanted to show off at this point, so we ended up saying "next year" with the thought of doing some kind of multi-building display (I may have one section of buildings on my layout that's removable, complete with streets, and I thought I could bring it in).

 

Then, over the weekend, while I was working on the Arduino program to run a pair of trams on my urban scene, I had the idea: build a short display layout using the tram track and controller, with spaces where I can put the buildings I'm preparing for my large layout.  Each building is going to have it's own small base anyway, with a plug to connect it to wiring for lighting, so moving them from one prepared location to another wouldn't be that hard.  And having a pair of trams running back and forth would add some visual appeal, and show off some of my modern single-car equipment (Modemo trams and my JR West 125-series EMU).

 

So I figured I'd build something about 1.5m long and 20-30 cm wide (it can't be much shorter given the requirement for three stations on the tram line, which comes from re-using the Arduino program I'm writing for the urban scene).  I mocked something up in RailModeler using TTrack dimensions (30 x 154 cm). And then "writers block" set in.

 

I can't decide what I want it to look like. Two rows of buildings with track between them?  A row of buildings and a street with track behind the buildings (shown)? Two rows of buildings and a street, with track behind or in front?

 

And do I put a more urban/commercial look on one end, shading to residential in the middle and rural at the far end, or mix it up with an overall suburban / light urban look?

 

The goals are to (A) show off the buildings I have, which mostly means the ones I'm planning to use in my Village area, plus some houses, although I could mix in a few others special-built for this, and (B ) to show people modern, Japanese-themed scenes, structures and trains, to show that model railroading isn't just F-units and boxcars.

 

I'm not in any hurry to finish this, so I'll probably let the ideas percolate for a while.  But I'd be interested in any opinions anyone might have.

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tossedman

Ken,

 

I saw John Kosma's HO Gypsy Trolley Line in the May issue of Model Railroader. It's got some neat features that I want to adapt to N Scale but with a Japanese setting. Here's the track plan. It's 32 feet long and most of it is only a foot deep. I like how for the most part he has the buildings at the back but has many interesting things at the front as well. Like girls watching boys skinny dip!

 

You can get a better idea of it in this video.

 

 

Cheers eh,

 

Todd

Edited by tossedman
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bikkuri bahn

Ken,

I like your 3 scene proposal (urban, suburban, rural) as you want to give visitors a taste of the variety, despite the necessary scene compression.   Especially for the urban end, may I suggest an elevated terminus (like the Enoden terminus at Fujisawa)- having some variation in the grade profile of the line (or rather, the surrounding scenery) makes for a more impactful scene.  You can also model stores/restaurants under the viaduct, which is such an important part of the Japanese railway scene.  This involves some scratchbuilding and/or kitbashing, but the results I think will be worth it. The middle suburban scene can be flat, but the rural terminus should have some undulation around the scenery edges (the line itself will be level the whole length).

Edited by bikkuri bahn

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bikkuri bahn

Another suggestion, and this doesn't involve any scratchbuilding- shift the track so that it traverses the board(s) diagonally.  You may have to add a little width to your boards to make this feasible.  But having this configuration avoids the "parallel tracks and parallel buildings" effect, which looks toytrain like and less realistic.  By having the track cut across the board, it naturally makes the viewer eyes follow the scene in a more natural way with the board edges being less apparent.  Also, the roads crossing the track can be diagonal to the board edges, which makes them seem longer.  The buildings will be less uniform in placement, so much closer to the "real thing"- the section you model will look more like a slice of railway lifted off a much longer stretch of ROW.

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KenS

tossedman: Kosama's layout is well beyond my level of modeling.  Beautiful work. Thanks for the video link.  He does do a very nice job of making little scenes, and that's something I need to do better, and a layout like this may help my work on that skill. He also does a very good job of disguising the lack of depth.  I wasn't planning any backdrop at all for this one, but perhaps I'll rethink that. Small micro-scenes with individual backdrops and very-low-profile scenery (fences and vegetation) could make a backdrop work.

 

BB: diagonal track is an interesting idea.  I'm not sure how feasible it is with this layout (it feels like I'd wind up with too much "too small for buildings" space, unless I made the layout quite wide.  But definitely something to think on.  I do like the "put one end on viaduct" idea.  I have some Tomix "under the viaduct" shops I was eventually going to build for my urban scene, and I could work those in.

 

There's a lot to think about here, and I have a lot of other incomplete projects.  But this one is definitely taking root.  Thanks for the comments.

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tossedman

Ken, I like the idea of little scenes as well. I'm also thinking of building some modules a foot deep. I've got the house from My Neighbour Totoro so that's on my list of things to add. I think my clay modelling skills will allow me to make a scale Totoro to hide in the trees somewhere. I'd like it to be mostly rural but not really prototypical. Just Japanese scenes as I imagine them to be. Good luck with yours. Hope to see something soon.

 

Todd

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KenS

I've been quiet regarding this layout idea for a while, but that doesn't mean I haven't been thinking about it (although I've mostly been working on the control system).

 

But I've also been considering the track plan.  My first stab at adding the diagonal section and an elevated station at one end, achieved by dropping the ground level a couple of inches down an embankment, looked pretty good to me.  It did have a lot of open space in the middle that I couldn't figure out what to do with, because I have a limited number of buildings planned for the Village area of my main layout (and those are the ones that will do double-duty on this one). See the first image.

 

The real problem with it was that, per my original design, it was going to be 5' (154 cm) long.  And that's an awkward size.  I could fit it in the car as one unit (the rear seats fold down), but I was probably going to have to make it in two sections for purely material reasons: I didn't want to buy a whole 8' sheet of thin plywood for a couple of 6" (15 cm) high sides.  And, as it turns out, my local store only has the kind I want in 4' sheets anyway.

 

The more I thought about that, and the problems with wiring my IR occupancy detectors and signals, not to mention getting the track to join up without having to hack at it, the less I liked the idea.

 

So my thoughts have turned to trying to fit it into a 4' long (122 cm) format. Like the original, this would also be 1' (30cm) deep, and have the same basic track plan and overall design, and even the same curvature track (R280 curves and PR140-30 turnouts).  It would just be compressed in length (see second diagram below).

 

The main drawback is that the three stations are going to be fairly close together, but that was true of the 154 cm version too.  And I want three stations for the middle passing section.

 

I'm tempted to go out and get the lumber tomorrow (I've been thinking about this all weekend) and make a start on the physical construction. I almost did it today.  But I decided to sleep on it, and while I was waiting, post here in case anyone can think of a good reason why this is a bad idea.

 

I may end up procrastinating to next weekend. But I'm getting close to buying and cutting lumber. So if anyone has opinions, don't hesitate to share them.

 

BTW, I'm also continuing to work on the Arduino-based control program which I mentioned briefly on the Arduino Experimenters thread back in May, along the way deciding to add trackside signals.  That whole thing turned into quite the time sink and I keep changing my mind as to what electronics to use, but I am making forward progress (there's a set of pages on my site about it, if anyone is interested). This will let me run two trams back and forth for unattended display (it's a display diorama, after all). Mostly that controller is intended for the tram line on my big layout, but this will be a good way to get some extra use out of it, as well as giving me something now, rather than years from now, to work with.

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tossedman

Ken, have you looked at Baltic birch plywood. It comes in 5' X 5' sheets up here. Looking forward to seeing how this all pans out. Looks great so far.

 

Todd

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cteno4

Baltic birch is great stuff. Very dimensionally stable,cuts and finishes nicely. Amazing how well it holds up without any finish as well.

 

Made some nice pull out pantry shelving units with it last fall and they have held up very well without any finish.

 

Bit more expensive, but its worth it compared to other alternatives out there these days.

 

Jeff

Edited by cteno4
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KenS

The stuff I was looking at was/is birch I believe, but I've only seen it in 2x2 and 2x4.  Maybe I'll look around a bit and see if anyone has 5' sizes.

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cteno4

Ken,

 

the baltic birch has 7 plies for most stuff above 1/4" and all the plys are the same thickness so you dont have the uber thin outside veneer skins you see now on most hardwood plys that if you hold an orbital sander with 220 (i know i recently did) for more than 2 seconds on youll go thru it!

 

some shops do sell 2x4 sheets of the baltic birch and some larger places will have it in full 4x8 sheets as well. but the main size for cabinetry i guess is 5x5. the woodcraft stores sell it (one near you in walpole) and the price is pretty good. we have a larger exotic ply supply place here that is maybe 5-10% cheaper but out of the way and a pain to deal with (like ripping sheets in half for you). 

 

the plys dont delaminate easily at all so you can drive screws into the ends well. also comes in 1/8", 1/4", 3/8", 1/2", 5/8", 3/4", and even 1" but oddly no 3/16"! its nice having the intermediate thicknesses to fit jobs, wonderful for doing furniture. im starting a table/cabinet out of it for our entry area and its going to probably use 3 different thicknesses of it. the ends are pretty and durable enough to leave exposed as well for a contrasting detail.

 

you can go really fancy and get it in a marine grade in 1/2" with 11 ply. that stuff is really really nice, but expensive and only thru marine suppliers usually or high end cabinet shops. its super strong and rigid. i built a fold out desk and also a fold out kitchen table with it in grad school and the suckers held up for 20 years of abuse and were still dead flat with minimal support. i use to buy it off the loading dock of a small cabinet shop out in CA (i think the owner would just pocket the cash) but i did see it in one marine place.

 

jeff

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KenS

The Walpole store doesn't have 60", at least not per their website. But I found another local store that did, got there 30 min before closing, got my wood cut into 6" strips (and trimmed a bit off the remainder so it would fit in the car), and got out before they closed.

 

I've now got the two sides cut for the lower section, and a bunch of 5/8" square dowels I'm using for the inside bracing cut to size, and all the rough edges filed off.  I almost started gluing tonight. But I need to make one cut in the back (for a control panel) and I haven't finalized the size on that yet.

 

Should be able to get the side bracing glued tomorrow night, let it set for a day, then glue the endcaps and crosspieces in (to hold the sides 12" apart) the next night.  By next weekend I should have it in primer, and maybe even painted.

 

toddedman: thanks for the tip. The Baltic Birch is very nice wood, and definitely what I wanted.  The stuff I picked up was 6mm with five plys.  It's not cheap, but it's definitely worth it.

 

I've revised the track plan yet again (I spent some time roughing in the viaduct plans this afternoon, and decided I was going to use the Kato Station Entrance building (I bought two of them at some point, and only need one for the big layout), which made me lengthen the lowered region a bit so two segments of the viaduct platform would fit with a small overlap up top.

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tossedman

Ken, isn't that great stuff. I picked up a sheet of it here not long ago. I've got a plywood specialty store not far away that are great to deal with. They'll cut anything you want no problem. I've got three 5' X 1" pieces I'm going to work with. Actually I'm going to make two 30" by about 16" end pieces and make a layout vaguely similar to Kosma's Gypsy Trolley line. Looks like I'm buying another sheet. I think the only similarity will be that it's twin track back and forth. Lol. My basement is 15' wide so I'm going to make a layout right across one end at some time. Seems like the Mrs. doesn't really relish the idea of the whole basement being taken over with a layout. This one'll be for trams and B Train Shorties. The long trains will be on the door layout.

 

Keep up posted on your progress. I'm really curious to see how this all turns out. What kind of table/bracing are you putting under all of this?

 

Cheers eh,

 

Todd

Edited by tossedman

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KenS

The unit will be designed to sit on a table or shelf,  Each end has a full-height board (1/2" x whatever) connecting the two sides as an end cap.  Along the inside run two sets of 5/8" square dowels keeping the sides rigid, the upper set also used to hold the the surface of insulation foam up. The bottom set will likely have some kind of feet attached. More dowels run side-to-side to cross-brace and maintain the spacing in the middle.

 

The whole thing is rather overengineered for what it has to do: support its own weight and a couple of pounds of foam and models. But I wanted to ensure it would stand up to repeated moves and rough handling.

 

I just finished gluing the side dowels in.  Those have to set up, then I can put the sides together.  I'll take some photos when this glue had dried to show what it looks like.

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KenS

Here are the sides. The photo-stitching software had a bit of trouble merging the right-most piece in, but I think the structure is clear.

 

The cut-out on one side will be covered with a metal plate (taken from a Radio Shack kit box) with the switches and knobs required by the controller. The Arduino will be mounted outside in a transparent box, with wires run in through the circular hole. This is both to show the electronics, and to allow me to connect a USB cable to them fairly easily.

 

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KenS

I glued the sides together last night, using the end caps and one cross-brace. Today I glued the other two cross-braces in, and that's setting up now.

 

The thing is BIG. Somehow it looks larger assembled than it did flat. It's also exactly 12" (plus or minus about 1mm) between the walls. I was very careful with the gluing, probably more than I needed to be; I can trim the foam to match, after all. It's also surprisingly light and VERY rigid, which is what I wanted.  I'm quite pleased at how it's turned out.

 

It's too darn big to get far enough from it to take a photo in my basement (except end-on, which doesn't look very interesting).  Once I get some paint on it (in another couple of days) I'll haul it outside on a sunny day and take a picture.  Maybe I'll even have the foam cut by then.

 

After that, things are going to slow down. I'll spend time planning the scenery in detail, but I also need to go back to working on the control system.  I'm going to use this as my test track support for that (one reason for all this work is that I couldn't easily fit the test track on my "workbench").  I also need to figure out if I'm using the Tomix platforms, or something scratchbuilt, and how I'm going to hide all the IR LEDs and sensors around the layout (I'm thinking styrene boxes that look like lineside relay cabinets, with a tiny hole for the sensor lens, at least that's the current plan).

 

The latest diagram is attached.  I'm going to have the tracks in the middle section on an island between two sides of a wide avenue, in part so the roads at the end will help break the continuity between the three portions of the layout, without simply being two horizontal roads across the width of it.

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KenS

And the latest status: the box structure is all glued together and painted. The insulation foam "ground" is cut to shape, although presently being stored separate from the box structure so the paint can fully cure (which takes about a month with interior latex paint; until then it's easy to scuff it).

 

But this morning before work, I dragged the whole thing outside, put the foam in, stuck some buildings down to give a rough impression of the three scenic areas, and planted two trams (a white Kato Centram and a Tomytec Tetsudou Musume Portram) in the middle on some Tomix FineTrack. The purpose, aside from getting a photo, was to help me visualize what my current plans are likely to turn out looking like, to see if I'm happy with them.  I'll stare at that photo over the next few weeks, and if ideas come to me I may reassemble the mock-up and rearrange things to try out changes.  Or I may just leave it sitting for a month while I work on the control software and ordering things I don't yet have (I need signals, for one thing).

 

My track plan ideas have evolved slightly, with a small stream or storm drainage ditch setting the residential section more clearly off from the central part, and the houses rearranged in a back-to-back setting with a small alley between them (so they're facing out to the two sides of the layout). I've also made the residential section more residential (the "Bike Shop" model might still move back, as it's the sort of small commercial enterprise you'd find mixed in with homes).

 

I've also been working on the control software. Last night I had it changing the colors of the four signals (just some LEDs on a breadboard at this point) as I blocked the IR sensors with my hand.  There's still a lot to do there, but it's starting to come together.

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tossedman

Looking good Ken. I'm liking what you're doing with the control part of it as well. Keep it coming. Mine's still in the thinking about it stage as I build an RC crawler at the same time.

 

Todd

Edited by tossedman

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KenS

Another mockup.  I think I've decided to use the Kato Viaduct Station Entrance building and two sections of their station viaduct (the one that's just a flat plate without track) for my elevated station. I've waffled about also using one of the "shops" buildings under the viaduct, but the more I look at this photo, the less I like that idea.  It just makes the station look too large for a simple tram station.

 

I'm going to kitbash it a bit though.  I need to put in an elevator on the platform (whatever platform I use, probably not the high-level one shown here) and maybe a set of stairs as well, and I want a matching elevator inside the station, both because I plan to light the interior so it would be visible, and because the shaft will let me hide the wires I need to run up to platform level.

 

More thought required, but I'm getting close to breaking out the styrene and glue and going at it.  I need to do that before I can paint it, and I need paint both as a light barrier (two coats of flat black followed by a coat of white inside) and because I don't like the beige plastic look. I'm thinking a light gray exterior, maybe with a bit of color on the stairs or someplace, just for contrast.

 

Interior lights will probably be LED strips.  I had a random thought this afternoon: what if I put some colored EL wire along the joint where the viaduct sits atop the station?  Just a long (248mm) horizontal line in one color, maybe green or blue. It doesn't matter if it looks like it's a foot in diameter, since it's a building accent rather than a fluorescent tube, and it would make a really nice splash of color to break up the gray.  More thought needed on that too, but the idea is gaining traction.

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Mr Frosty

Thats looking good. I like how you have a lower ground level to the left side. Makes it much more interesting.

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KenS

The was Bikkuri Bahn's suggestion, and I agree it definitely improves things to have more than one level of "ground", even on a layout this small.

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