December 2013 Status Etc

Another month plus, and not much to show for it. I’ve hit something of a wall, and just don’t feel inspired to work on any aspect of the layout. That’s really the first time in four years that this has happened. I’ve gone through slack periods before, but I was always able to focus on something else and get motivated.

I did spend some time on investigating DC power packs with the new oscilloscope, and I’ve updated the Power Pack Testing page with results so far. This has got me thinking about DC power in general, so perhaps I’ll write something more about that in another post. But for now, that’s about all there is to say.

Well, one more thing: I did get motivated to pre-order an E7 Shinkansen. Both Kato and Tomix currently have these available for preordering, with Tomix’s model due out in March for about US$323 for a 12-car train, and Kato’s due out in April for about US$302 for the same (both pre-order prices in Japan before shipment, at the current exchange rate).

Tomix’s model, the one I ordered, is available in both the full 12-car set, or as a basic 3-car set, with 3-car and 6-car expansions to make the full train. Kato is doing their usual basic 3-car set, plus 3-car and 6-car expansions also (they don’t have a full set in one package). Tomix’s version has two motor cars in the 12-car set (typical of their longer trains), while Kato has only one (I think, but the info isn’t really all that clear; however one motor is typical of them).

As is usual, there’s no mention of DCC. Tomix doesn’t really do DCC (you need to wire-in a decoder if you want it). Kato sometimes does DCC using their own decoder, but those don’t fit in very narrow bodies so some of their recent trains haven’t supported them. Unfortunately, DCC isn’t seen as an important attribute in Japan, so the absence of this from the product description doesn’t really mean anything. We’ll need to wait until someone buys one and opens it up to see if there’s a socket there.

The E7 Series Shinkansen is interesting to me because it is for the Nagano Shinkansen line, operating out of Tōkyō and eventually replacing the older 8-car E2 trains there. Construction is being split between JR East and JR West, with half of the planned 24 trainsets designated E7 and half designated W7 (the models are both described as being of E7 trains, although I’m not sure there’s any obvious difference between the two). One benefit of the E7 is higher power, allowing it to maintain speeds of 210 kph along the mountainous Nagano Shinkansen line, where apparently the older E2 series was restricted (although Wikipedia fails to note that).

Also, thanks to it’s somewhat lower maximum speed compared to the flatland Shinkansen routes (275 kph vs 325 kph), it has less of the “duck bill” front-end design characteristic of recent Shinkansen trains. I’m not really a fan of the duck-bill look, although I understand why it’s necessary (noise reduction of shockwaves called “tunnel boom” caused when a train exits a narrow tunnel at high speed; a particular problem with tunnels in dense residential areas).

The Nagano Shinkansen line opened in 1997 to serve the 1998 Winter Olympics there, crossing Japan from Tōkyō on the east coast to Nagano in the mountains near the west coast. In 2015 its extension to Kanazawa is planned to open, under the name of the Hokuriku Shinkansen line (the name will also be used for the combination of the two lines). This completes the line to Japan’s west coast, and takes it partway down the coast paralleling the existing Hokuriku Main Line. Another extension is planned for 2026, to Tsuruga, which won’t quite complete a west-coast link to Kyoto, so there’s probably going to be some additional construction eventually.