Friday, December 30, 2011

Downtown: Version 02

I keep switching my work layout around, moving buildings around like puzzle pieces to try to get more of the look I want. I've recently been trolling Japan with the help of Google Street View and it's obvious that my Japanese layout will have to be more congested if I REALLY want to get a Japanese look to it.

Tokyo is just packed with buildings, streets and alleys. On top of that, there are bike racks, vending machines and MANY small details all over the place. I've been trying to keep the layout open so every building can be seen from the front, but I might have to bite the bullet and "get crowded".

At any rate, here are the latest and greatest shots. Comments welcome!

More on my FLICKR:

Thursday, December 29, 2011


A fantastic layout from the East Ham and District Model Rail Club!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Happy Holidays!

Happy Holidays from N-RAIL!

Monster Railroad

Big Al Mayo is awesome. He's a model railroader who features his HO layout and detailing skills on his YouTube channel. He's from Connecticut and is currently starting a new career as a fire fighter. Very cool.

As of October 31, 2011, Al has 4800 Subscribers! Not shabby!

He is back in the loop after some time in fire fighter academy, so we're starting to see more videos coming through again. He has a fun and interesting style - playing rap as a music bed in his videos and walking through steps in detail to show what his processes are for his amazing, detailed engines - many based on real engines and graffiti he's taken photos of. Side by side comparisons are fantastic and really show off his skills.

~ Click to Enlarge ~

I have to say that, as a "person of color" myself (light as it may be :::grin:::) it's cool seeing another person of color in the hobby. I have not seen many folks doing this, but maybe I just have not run into them yet. :)

Check out Al's YouTube Channel!


Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Parking Lot Payment Office

My parking lot payment office turned out to be a fun little project. I used the Blair Scale House Kit (Laser Cut - Part #BLS-084 Based on a C&O Railway prototype scale house in Lynchburg, Virginia.) and built the kit base out of styrene.  The rock sculpture is a real rock my 15 month old brought me when i was working on the project. (So sweet!) I used KATO decals to detail it up and weathered it to work with the Old Town setup. There is no "Asian feel" to it, but I think it will still work with the Old Town area.

The kit went together well and was a lot of fun to work with. I had worked with laser cut metals before, but never wood. It was a fun experience, but I think I still prefer something a little more rugged when I'm working due to my big, dumb fingers. :)

I still need to work out the actual lot itself. Right now it's just too white. I plan to dull it down with a darker tan color and some details.

More photos here:


Friday, December 2, 2011

Hiroshima Electric Railway Green Mover

Dear Santa,
Can I please have the Hiroshima Electric Railway Green Mover for Christmas?
I've been a good kid. 
Respectfully Yours,
Malcolm Johnson Jr. 

I love this! It has some great detail and the overall design is a lot of fun. It's snake-like and awesome tram goodness. Currently, things would be a little boring for this tram on my office layout. It would just loop dreamily around in an oval and stop from time to time at stations. however, in the bright and glorious future when I connect Old Town and the City in some larger house space if and when we get it, the Green Mover would have a lot of little curves and things to snake around. Then it would be a worthwhile addition to the set as a whole, not just another detail to sit idle on the tracks like my current tram does, poor thing.

I want to hunt down videos of this model running to see if it does the slow, realistic run I like. I have the Portram unit and loved how it ran....when it was running :(...and the fact that I could do slow pull ins to station areas, then slow pull outs before ramping up to speed. The Portram seemed to have an issue with a break in the middle that took the wheels off and broke the connection. I think that if I fix that, then add some weight to the unit, it will run better. (Yet another project)

I was concerned with the first image above for the same reason. It looks like the tram is pitching up in the front and back and I thought that I might run into the same issue with it that I had with the Portram. If anyone has experience with this, drop me a comment and let me know - I'd love feedback on that.

All in all, the detail and look of this unit has me drooling. Two would be fantastic, but at $150 each, that might be a stretch. No need to rush it of course. This is just going on the WISH LIST for sure.

Available at HOBBY SEARCH:

And here's the real deal running in Japan!

Wednesday, November 30, 2011


I may have already posted something about the blog of QUINNTOPIA, but that's ok. It warrants a double if not triple posting! The amount of time and effort that is placed into this blog fascinates me. You have the blog which is a fantastic source of information and content, then you have the YouTube Channel which has MORE content. It's fantastic.

The QUINNTOPIA layout is wondrous as well. There's a guided tour on the Channel where you can check out the space he's working in, the layout and the workbench area where the magic happens.  :)

My favorite aspect of the work found here is the lighting. I can't get over the detail and time put into lighting the scenes and buildings on the layout. There are some grand cusomizations on the layout as well. Buildings taken from the box and altered wonderfully. He has some super cool custom buildings that have been transformed from OK to awesome.

All in all, QUINNTOPIA is a must see for hobby fans. There are detailed breakdowns of processes, great articles and many photos of the layout and items being talked through. You need to check it out.

Blog -
YouTube Channel -


Monday, November 21, 2011

Parking Payment Kiosk - Detailed


I got my Parking Payment Kiosk done - I really like the results. Now I just need to build out the actual parking lot this goes into. Maybe sometime over the holiday break. Hmmmm...

The main structure was created using styrene, plastic model parts I had laying around and detail stickers from old KATO kits I purchased a while back. 

Of course, the Kanji is a complete unknown and is bound to be completely wrong, but it has the look I wanted. I'll be fine as long as no Kanji readers show up. :)

Comments welcome!

(Note: The red bar next to it is a wall that has yet to be completed.)

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Statue and Payment Center

I've been working with styrene again and still love it. Love it more and more each time I use it, really. Today I was doing more work with those panels for the KATO roadbed sections (coming together well) and I saw some small shavings laying in a small pile on the table. It dawned on me that my desire to have some sort of sculpture could happen with the styrene as well - avoiding another purchase. I made the sculpture piece on the left above and think it will look pretty cool when painted and detailed out. 
Then I thought about the parking area I want to have in the Old Town area and the small shed space I planned on having as a parking payment center. I was going to buy something, but thought the styrene was the way to go there as well. So, I designed up the payment center on the right above. It will have KATO supplied stickers that look like vending spots, a map space on the back and will be painted and detailed out as well. 

I love being able to just make what I want for the set even if it is the simple stuff at this point. I figure I've saved about $15 or $20 bucks tonight alone.  Not bad. :)

Friday, November 18, 2011

Train Sims

Man, maybe I should just sell all my train stuff and use the money to buy a PC with a great train sim program. :) These are looking really nice.

Of course, I kid about a switch to virtual trains. But, these do look very cool.




Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Styrene Filler: Paint Up

The paint up is rolling right along save one small error. I was rushing and used enamel over the acrylic paint I started using. Second time I've done that - I really need to separate my paints!  (...and stop trying to watch BIG BANG THEORY while painting, evidently...)   :)

I dig the result, however.
The stair area and planter boxes are working out well. I've used the styrene planter box build up before and it works with the scale and is really easy to do.

Once I get people and benches and the like into the scene, I think it will have the action and life that I want to have going in my Old Town section. Additional painting details will be added once this layer drys, then I'll start looking at people and other detail parts.

Styrene Filler Project

I'm working on my Old Town section a bit finally!

I've made the choice to use the gray plates for the Downtown section and the tan plates for the Old Town section. MUCH better with the unified look and feel to the bases of each section. It was starting to look very strange due to the major differences in color and height.  The issue now is the plate itself.

You can see to the left of Image A. that there are clips that hold the plates together. The clips fit into hols in the surface. Event when the clips are in place, the difference is very noticeable.  Then there's the color of the plate itself. The tan makes the whole look very toy-like, not like dirt. I'm using the cover method to deal with the situation, but using styrene instead of ballast this time.

Styrene is awesome. I've been using it to build floors for my empty shell buildings and bases, so it made sense to use it for this filling in project. And, while I could have just cut big squares to fill in, I thought it would be more interesting to create a little more depth to the scene in general.

Image C. shows what will be a park area in the Old Town verse. I plan on having a tree, benches and people selling food. Image D. shows the height I'm adding and the "stairs" and raised areas where additional greenery will reside.

First, however, I need to paint up the styrene so it's not polar white. :)

I think this will work rather well once it's all dolled up. I have about four plain sections to work on and some other spots where the building bases don't cover the whole thing.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Feather River Trains

 I'm an N Scale train guy and have searched around the Bay Area along my routes to find shops that carry the illusive n scale merch. Sure, some places have sections devoted to n scale items, but most would only have enough merchandise to fill a small suitcase.

The most awesome Chuck at FEATHER RIVER has managed to create a shop that mainly focuses on n scale. I like to call it Heaven. :)

He has buildings, rolling stock, figures and my personal favorite - DETAILING PARTS! A huge selection of details for n scale buildings and the like that really add to the overall look of the layout. Sure, you can use Feather River's GREAT website to order these parts online. Convenient for sure. However it's awesome being able to roll into the shop and actually browse the items - holding them in your hand and looking them over before buying. Man, it's just so nice being able to do that and not having to hear some shop owner chirp, "Oh, we don't have those, but I can ORDER it for you!" 

Feather River is a must stop shop.
Call for times if you're traveling a long distance.

A+ shop.   A+ service!


25 Mitchell Blvd., 
Suite 14 San Rafael, 
CA 94903 
Phone: (415) 499-0664

Chan's Trains and Hobbies

Chan's Trains and Hobbies is a fantastic little train shop. It's not huge, but it's packed to the ceiling with trains and train items in many different scales. I've seen everything from N to Garden scale in the shop and they have a selection that ranges from the affordable to "HOLY COW! How much?!" :)

The staff is reasonably helpful and responsive. It can suffer from small shop syndrome at times where there is one guy working there and he happens to be helping someone else when you walk in, so you may have to wait. More often than not, I'll head in and be the only guy in the shop, so that's rare. The staff is always friendly and very helpful without looming and annoying.

As an N-Scale guy, I'm pretty happy at Chan's, however the selection can be a little lite with small items like cars and figures. They have them, but not much. As a matter of fact, on my November 13th, 2011 visit, the primary selection of cars they had were firetrucks. A lot of firetrucks. They carry Woodland Scenics and the usual terrain fair and have a great selection of KATO track. Again, it's not like N is a huge pull for train people, so the selection they offer - while somewhat limited in parts - tends to be more than what most shops in the Bay Area have unless you roll into FEATHER RIVER TRAIN SHOP which is primarily an N shop.

All in all, there's a reason Chan's has been in business since 1973. They do it right!

2450 Van Ness Avenue
San Francisco, CA 94109
Neighborhood: Marina/Cow Hollow
(415) 885-2899

OPEN 7 DAYS A WEEK!  Hours: Monday - Saturday: 10 - 6pm Sundays: 12 noon - 5pm 

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Shuttle and Programming

More amazing work from Miniatur Wunderland and Gerrits Tagebuch, their resident hobby genius! Listening to Tagebuch talk about having to go through the programming to find a small error that would happen once a week is wild. Just seeing the control screen for all the events and vehicles is mind blowing.

I love the model railroad hobby. It brings me great joy. I sit and tinker on my little N scale projects and build my little empire one tiny building or scene at a time.

Then I see things like this video and my mind melts. Computers driving planes, cars and scenes through an intricate environment of tracks and tunnels. Timed events and happenings that go off like clockwork as thousands of visitors pass through.

It shows just how wide the spectrum of model railroads (and airports) really is. Some truly amazing work here.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Project: Building Basher

I'm trying to get the nerve and tool set to saw the building on the right in half after the first story area and slip it onto the top of the building on the left. Then, I'd build out the roof area on both buildings. Might be cool. I have a corner shop building that might replace one of the structures as well. I think the sawing aspect is a bit daunting. I just need the right tool set.

This project will be back burner-ed, I think. Maybe I'll take it up with us when we go on holiday in the snow. I don't ski and my daughter takes a 1.5 hour nap in the morning at times. Hmmmm.... :)

Storyline: Temple News

Good news for the people of Old Town!

Funds have been diverted and it looks like the remodeling and town revisions will be going through as planned. The schedule is tight and the process will be disruptive for sure, but the new look of Old Town will be well worth it. Tourist lines and additional bus routes will help keep Old Town thriving.

And, the plan to move the Hiburi Temple area to Osaka has been overturned - the temple will be staying in Old Town after all.

Businesses in Old Town will remain open for the majority of the remodel and city renovation.


Office Layout: Downtown

I was sitting in my office on a pone call that didn't really involve me anymore and I glanced over at my office layout. "ESCAPE!" I thought, so I moved over to the set (thanks wireless phone headset!) and had a look at my little empire I have going there. I have to say, I was a bit shocked. It was looking pretty good.

It snuck up on me - the fact that the layout was so complete. I had stopped buying buildings a while back and my main focus has been detailing and figures. When I took a look, I was pleased with the progress to date.

The overall layout is not bad. I like it for the time being. Large buildings at the North end, smaller buildings in the center with a bus station towards the back. The Downtown area of Briddon has a cineplex for showing mainstream movies and a smaller venue for classics like 8 1/2.

There's a helipad at the hospital for emergencies, a few hotels, a government office and a few small businesses. They even have places to eat ranging from a burger joint to a fancy restaurant called DRAKE'S in the downstairs area of the ultra-fancy INDIGO HOTEL. (My son and daughter.) :)

My 14 month old has a toy store named after her - Talia's Toy Town.

But, I think the thing I'm most interested in is the fact that everything came together slowly and calmly. There was planning involved, but it wasn't painful. I love that aspect of the layout coming together. It went from "I really don't have space for a layout" to "I have an office now - I can put some sort of train there" to "Whoa...I love this." Really nice. But, far from done, of course.

The bus terminal area.

The heliport hospital.

Waiting at THE INDIGO HOTEL for lunch at DRAKE'S. :)
As you can see, I've used blue tack for the people all over the layout. This will be replaced later - slowly over the course of months, most likely - with small plastic sheets that the figures will be glued to. This will be less obvious for one and will still allow me to move figures around at will. I've played with the process for the Woodland Scenic Picketers and it works really well. True, it takes some time, but that's the beauty of this layout now - small details and the like. That's what I want to keep me busy in the hobby.

My plan of action is to go in and do more detail work on the set. I've started to focus on people, continuing to populate empty buildings with people and floors and making "action spots" where things are happening. The bus terminal area is one of the featured spots. I want to have people waiting and getting dropped off for bus travel.

I also want to continue making this very Japanese. I had a fantastic suggestion from Tom Barbalet of the MODEL RAIL RADIO podcast. He suggested using GOOGLE MAPS and STREET VIEW to see areas of Japan for my modeling. It is working really well and actually seeing where these building and street styles are coming from is a huge value.

The hardest part about the layout being at work's at work. If I have the desire to work on things, I need to remember to bring them home. Having a set at home is nice. It keeps a balance going. (Pictures to follow later)


Comments welcome!


Monday, October 17, 2011

Office Layout Revised

I've revised my office layout yet again. It keeps me out of trouble and manages to get me a little model rail hobby in. It seems to be the only time I get these days, honestly.

I followed through on my plan to bring my Kato Unitram to work, take out all the tan roadbed parts, and keep the gray Unitram look going at work. I now have the mega layout at work, taking up the whole utility table i have it set up on right now.

I have two more large buildings that I'll bring back to work (I took them home to detail them, but just don't make time for it) and once they are here I'll do one last bit of arrangement to make everything visible and interesting.

As always, I'm faced with the issue that I want to be able to see everything from the front, so it tends to have a somewhat unnatural feel to the whole of it. You just don't tend to see nothing but the fronts of buildings unless you're at someplace like Disneyland. :) However, I'm sure I'll be able to come up with some arrangement that works for me.

Now, to take the tan road plates home and reset my Old Town layout!

Some additional photos can be found here:

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Work Layout Reshuffle

Well, I moved into an office at work. Fantastic! I love having more space.

Now, I have taken both sections of my office sections and combined them on a table. Let the reshuffle begin!

Here's the first pass. It needs a reorg, however. I don't like the look.

I have more room for additional pieces, but I'm going to limit them. I don't want to do the sprawl, but i may get additional roadbed parts to fill in the space on the right. Currently, I have both the KATO Unitram gray pieces and the KATO road plate tan pieces. The gray is what I'm leaning towards - the look and layout is better, I feel.

I have more space for additional buildings as well. Dangerous. :)

I may do something crazy and bring my Unitram and the roadbed it has into the office, then keep all the gray parts here and ship the tan home and use them for the Old Town layout pieces there. If anything, it will keep things uniform and might be a nice change. I'm just not sure I have enough of the tan pieces to contain all the Old Town buildings I have going at home.

I think I'll give it a go, however. It's been a while since I've made any major changes.

N•Rail - Temple Ad

Saturday, September 24, 2011


I had it in mind to make a Batmobile for the set after seeing someone else that purchased a TARDIS for his set. I thought it would make a nice little "Easter egg" - a Batmobile chasing someone down in the streets of Briddon. :)

I wanted to just bash a Batmobile and had to search out a good base. I remembered that I kept a horrid, shell of a car that came with the burger stand and thought the shape and make of the car was perfect. The Burton Batmobile used a corvette as a base, so this would work well.

I made fins from styrene, painted it up and used a pencil to put in some detail and paint highlights.

Then, of course, Batman needed someone to chase down. I whipped up a Joker Mobile for Joker's people to use to do crimes. :)

Check out more custom detail work on my FLICKR site.

Hospital - Details

Part of the model railroad process for me right now is going back in on buildings that I already own to add weathering and details. This cuts WAY down on spending and - seeing as I was rapidly running out of space to show items - it allows for some hobby work without adding to the overall footprint of the sections I have going currently.

Many of the buildings I purchase are pre-built, but the majority don't actually come with internal details. Some don't even have floors within them, leaving them looking like hollow boxes when placed in the scene.

This hospital did have floors, but it didn't have figures. So, this was a rather simple internal fix. I added figures, some walls and some desk details and it really helped with the overall look of the building. It looks like there's something going on inside now.

The weathering was the next step. The first layer of weathering got a little heavy handed. (Note: Best not to weather a building after drinking a bit of whiskey....) :) I had REALLY over-weathered the building and it just looked far too dirty for an active hospital. This was easy to fix, however. I just tossed a little turpentine onto a Q-Tip® and started removing some the the paint. The effect was actually exactly what I wanted, so I may use this as my go to weathering method from now on!

The final result:

Kato 23-310 "Industrial Building"

Another Briddon Downtown building ready to go! :)

Check out more custom detail work on my FLICKR site.

Monday, September 19, 2011

My Appearance on MODEL RAIL RADIO!

Whew! I think I sounded like I knew what I was talking about, thank goodness.
With the exception of saying "whatnot" FAR too many times, I dig how this went! :)

Model Rail Radio is not only packed with amazing content, but the participants and hosts are friendly and knowledgeable. It's a wondrous show with something for everyone.

It's a REALLY long show this time. I'm at the 2:49:00 mark and manage to go on for 40 minutes or so. Check out the whole show, however!

See More

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Happy Birthday, MiWu!

Miniatur Wunderland has been open since 2001. Happy Birthday! :)

This MiWu News Segment talks about the celebration. (Make sure you click the CC for English)

Saturday, September 10, 2011