What is this Site?

This site is an online notebook for my model railroad. In the past I’ve kept notes about my model railroads on paper, often lost, or stuffed into a 3-ring binder and rarely consulted. This time, I decide to try something different, and keep the notes online, where I could easily update and rewrite them, and where others might find them interesting or useful. It also made incorporating reference photos from online sources (wikimedia, flickr) very easy.

But while there is a blog on the Musings page, and I do update it regularly, this site is not a sequential series of posts. I’ll leave the musings as they are written, and some pages chronicle events such as layout construction that aren’t likely to change, but anything else is subject to revision as my thoughts, or the railroad, changes. For a similar reason the pages don’t bear dates, or a revision history. Information online is mutable and ephemeral. I don’t know how long this site will persist, but while it does I hope it will be a vital, changing, creation that reflects my current ideas about urban railroading in Japan.

And, just so you know, I’m no expert on Japanese railroads, or even model railroading. I make no claim that the facts here are true, they’re just my best guess at any given time. I don’t read Japanese, and I’ve never (yet) been to Japan. So my sources are books, and online information (so right there, I’m standing on quicksand). Read with skepticism, and apply your own common sense. Maybe it’s better than mine. Or not.

What I’m going to keep here is roughly described by the section headings to the left:

- Musings - The blog.
- Photo Albums - Any photos of interest. Many of these duplicate ones on other pages, but not all.
- My Movies - Links to the videos I’ve put on YouTube.
- Prototype - Information about real railroads, and other things, in Japan, and particularly around Tōkyō.
- The Model Railroad - Pages describing my model railroad, and the ideas that formed it.
- My Other Layouts - I have or have had others, these pages say a bit about them.
- Model Trains - General info about model trains themselves.
- Collection - My collection of Japanese model trains.
- Other Elements - Things other than model trains used in the layouts (buildings, etc).
- Layout Construction - A record of the model railroad as it is built, along with some of the design ideas.
- Electricity for Modelers - Information about electricity as it pertains to model railroading (details of my layout’s wiring are in The Model Railroad).
- Tools - The tools I use to make and modify the layout and the buildings and trains on it.
- Reference Images - these are thumbnails (most of which point to larger-size original pictures) of interesting details relevant to my modeling.
- Contests - Mostly this is for the JNS Forum annual challenges.

The material on this site is licensed under a creative commons license (see the link in the page footer for details). There are two reasons for that. The first is that anything put online will inevitably be copied (assuming it’s any good, and perhaps even if it isn’t). Trying to fight that is about as effective as building snowmen on the equator, so trying to enforce absolute copyright rights is a waste of time. Creative commons licensing lets me keep commercial rights (not that I really expect them to be worth anything), while graciously acceding to the inevitable.

The second reason is that, since I don’t have any photos of Japan of my own, I’m going to need to use online ones to illustrate my prototype influences. If I’m going to make use of other people’s generosity (and I am largely limiting myself to images licensed by their creators under creative commons or similar licenses except in a few cases where I note copyright but consider my use allowed under Fair Use doctrine), then I think it only fair to return the favor, should anyone find my content useful.

There’s a third reason, actually. I think copyright law is in serious need of an update. It fails to deal with the ease of informal use of digital information, and over the years it has become a tool to control information rather than the enabler of creativity that the authors of the U.S. Constitution originally envisioned would “promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries.” Of course the U.S. hardly originated the idea of copyright, but our founders intended our version of it to allow eventual elaboration of ideas by others. With the ever-increasing copyright duration of the last century, we’ve lost a vital part of that. Perhaps creative commons licensing won’t win that back, but at least it’s a step in the right direction. Enough of the soapbox. I don’t intend to get into any form of politics here, just railroads.

Website Creation and Hosting

Should anyone be interested: this site was created on a Macintosh MacBook Pro, originally using iWeb but after two years it was converted to RapidWeaver (not without considerable effort) when Apple announced the discontinuation of iWeb and their hosting service. I'm presently hosting this site on Little Oak, a small but apparently well-regarded hosting company located in California. Two years after moving to them, my experience has been a very positive one. The service works, and they don’t make unnecessary changes or add unexpected charges.

Like iWeb before it, RapidWeaver isn't the greatest tool out there, I’m sure, but for just throwing text and images down on pages you can’t get much simpler. And unlike iWeb, it’s much easier to customize the look, although this can get you in trouble and some things are still very difficult. iWeb was better in some ways, and worse in others.

And in any case, I’m not interested in sophisticated site design; I just want a simple notebook, so a tool that gets out of my way and lets me write is pretty much all I need. I did heavily customize one of RapidWeaver's default themes, originally planning to approximate the original iWeb look-and-feel of the site. Along the way I decided to "fix" a couple of problems and probably did far more customization than was needed (I'm not a CSS designer, and I really hate programming in scripting languages, and I ended up doing both), but that was a one-time effort which should not require too much subsequent attention. I hope.

If you're interested in the nuts and bolts of the software tools used, see the Building the Website page.

I've tested this site with Firefox and Safari on a Mac, Safari on an iPad, and IE8 running on Windows XP SP3. I mostly use Firefox, so that's had the most checking. Also, IE7 and IE6 are both obsolete and known to have problems with modern website design. If you use a PC, you really owe it to yourself to use something better. I make no attempt to be compatible with IE versions prior to IE8, in part because that's the oldest version I have now. But if you encounter problems viewing it with any browser, drop me an email using the address on the About This Site page.

I haven’t tested the site on small-screen mobile devices, and it isn’t really intended for viewing on a small screen so it probably won’t work very well there. Something with zoom capability like an iPhone might be usable (and since the iPad works, the iPhone likely will, too).

Viewing Japanese Text

While this website is written in English, some Japanese names are also shown in the original Japanese, to allow them to be cut/pasted into search engines or for similar uses. To view these properly, you need Japanese character sets installed on your computer.

On a Mac, this is now standard, unless you performed a custom install and omitted the Asian Language Support package, in which case you can use the OS X install disk to add them (or whatever the 10.7+ replacement is now that they’ve gone diskless). Just insert the disk and run the Additional Installers package (or whatever it's called; Apple's renamed it a few times) and select the Japanese Fonts package.

On Windows XP, open the Control Panel and double-click the Regional and Language Options control, click the Languages tab, then check "Install files for East Asian languages" and click the OK button, then follow the instructions. A reboot may be needed for them to take full effect. You'll need the XP install disk for this. I expect Vista and Windows 7 and later are similar, but I don't have those to test with.

If you can see the Japanese text in quotes for "JRグループ" (JR Group) and "東日本旅客鉄道株式会社" (East Japan Railway Company) then you have the needed fonts.