Dec 2010

How Not to Make Backdrops

I bow to no one in my ability to screw up a simple task. Complex tasks, no trouble, but the bleedingly obvious escapes me every time. Case in point, the backdrop photo on the right above, which you’ll note is nearly a foot higher than the backdrop it’s supposed to be attached to. There’s a story here.

Website Cleanup II

As I mentioned last month, the website had become rather disorganized as a result of gradual growth over the last year. I’ve reorganized the material about the layout this time, creating a couple of new sections, and linking them all under the master “The Railroad” page. I’ve also put the prototype scenery section underneath “Prototype” (the new name for the general section for prototype info, formerly known as “Background”), which is why it no longer appears in the list of section headings across the top of every page. I also promoted the information about model trains in general to the masthead. A subset of what I think are the more interesting pages are linked from the Home page directly, in addition to appearing on various section pages.

What is a Model Railroad? The Design of Sumida Crossing.

What is a model railroad layout, as opposed to a toy train set? Is there a distinction at all? Are they clearly separate or just two ends of a range? I think most people who consider themselves “model railroaders”, even if they will admit to “playing with trains” (and most of us will), would say that there’s a very big difference between a child’s “toy train” and a model railroad layout. Where I suspect we differ is in just what that distinction is. And further, I would also say that model railroaders in different parts of the world have differing views.


DC Motors, Poles, and Skewed Windings, Oh My!

So, what is a “5 pole” motor, and why should I care if my models have one? And do they? That question occurred to me a few weeks back, and I’ve been doing a bit of reading since then. What I discovered was a mixture of fact and Internet lore of uncertain origin. I also discovered that some models do have “5 pole” motors, while others have “3 pole” ones. But oddly, at least in the case of Kato (and possibly also Micro Ace), the “3 pole” motors are the better ones. Or at least the newer ones, although I think they’re better too.

Model Comparison: Kato and Micro Ace E231 Commuter Trains

The train that got me started in Japanese modeling was the JR East E231, and specifically a Kato model of the Yamanote line version. The E231 is a workhorse of the Tōkyō scene, with over 2,600 cars built since its introduction in 1998, gradually displacing many older commuter and suburban trains to secondary uses or the scrap pile. The train itself is a DC design, typically used in 10-car trains, although the Yamanote line uses 11-car trains and some suburban lines use 10+5 sets that split into 10-car and 5-car trains away from the city. Internal seating is along-the-wall in commuter models, and a mix of that and transverse “booth” seats in suburban ones. In both applications, this is a no-frills train designed to move masses of people efficiently. The Chūō line commuter trains (which use the later E233 variant on Rapids and the Chūō-Sōbu E231 on Locals) carry over 90,000 people per hour at peak hours, in standing-so-close-you-can’t-move crowds.

Kato, Tomix and Micro Ace all make models of these, but not all of them model every variant. Kato tends to model the “current” consists in use on major lines, but they have some gaps. One significant one is that Kato has no model of the Sōbu Local (aka., Chūō-Sōbu) E231-0 version. Tomix has modeled many of the standard versions as well as a couple of specialized ones. And Micro Ace has modeled several specialized variants.