Original Sumida Crossing: The First Version

As of 2014 work on the original Sumida Crossing had largely ceased, and planning (or perhaps daydreaming is a better word) regarding its successor had begun. That would be a slow process, and in any case the original was in use for more than seven years, from 2009 to the beginning of the new railroad. Information about the new layout can be found here, these pages are left as a document of the original.

The purpose of a model railroad is to run trains. That’s not the only reason people build them; the creation of model buildings, landscape, and scenery can be rewarding in its own right. And for some, model railroading is a social activity they share with their friends. But you could do all that with a diorama, and save the cost and complexity of power wiring and motorized trains. If you go to the bother of creating a model railroad, it’s because you want to see them run.

And for me, this is about seeing my trains run in something that approximates their native environment more than a loop of track on a tabletop. I’m not going to obsess about minor details, well, not much. Nor will I worry too much about the fact that few of these trains would ever be found in the same station, much less on the same line.

My collection is mainly composed of trains found in and around Tōkyō, and I plan to continue that (mostly) to give some focus to my collecting. I’ve drawn heavily on the urban railroads and scenery of Tōkyō as inspiration for the model. That doesn’t mean I’m going to try to replicate specific prototypes or landscapes, or even that I’d pass up inspiration from somewhere else in Japan. But I am trying to create something recognizably “Tōkyō” rather than a more generic “Japan”.

The landscape of trains in Tōkyō is quite varied. There are elevated lines, street level lines, underground lines (both subway and conventional), with freight mixed in with local, suburban and regional inter-city passenger service. Then there are the long-distance high-speed Shinkansen trains, on separate tracks. Stations routinely service multiple lines, often with dozens of platforms. It all makes for a richly varied tapestry of railroading. See my History and Railroads of Tōkyō pages for more on this.

Since I mostly operate trains alone, I can’t really run more than a couple at a time, unless the others are just running in circles. Still, running in circles can provide a bit more visual activity (and a couple of Shinkansen looping on their track while I run my commuter and subway trains is appealing), so the goal I set out with was to be able to run several (at least two, preferably four) trains without any kind of computer control or auto-reversing systems. And I may add computer or auto-reverse controls (particularly for the subway).

For visual appeal, I wanted to vary the possible uniformity of city blocks and tracks with some landscape, and Tōkyō, despite being one of the worlds largest cities, doesn’t lack for landscape. The city itself is built around the edges of Tōkyō Bay, with several rivers, both large and small, feeding into the bay. Although the land is relatively flat, and much of it is flood plain, there are small hills within the city. Additionally, much of the land is “reclaimed”: man-made islands in the bay with narrow canals dividing them, which provided access for cargo ships back when the area was more industrial in nature. There is greenery along the waterways, and sometimes on isolated plots (such as temple grounds) between the buildings. And while concrete, glass and steel dominate, wood, stone, and even brick (despite its vulnerability to earthquakes) are present, if you look off the beaten path.

The name, in case you were wondering, derives from the Sumida river, a branch of the Arakawa which bisects the city, and which lines headed north and east have to cross. It’s not Tōkyō’s largest river, but in some ways it’s the most iconic.