Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Soyokaze Stories: Miko, My Miko

(There is music at the bottom of this post to play while reading if so inclined. :) )

Miko Takara started to fish another cigarette out of her purse, but thought better of it when her stomach growled.

She crossed her legs and looked at her watch again. The next tram was due in 30 or so minutes. She told herself that she was done after that. He had his chances - three now - and this was it. Making her wait in this old station - it was a crime. A travesty.

A man in a white blazer stood at the far end of the station. He leaned against the railing and puffed at the stub of a cigarette before flicking it onto the tracks. She hated people who didn't take responsibility for their own waste. She was sure that he was leering at her as well.

She looked away as the white blazer man moved towards her. This was the topper for the afternoon. She was fuming.

"The next tram doesn't come through for another 30 minutes. You might want to consider getting on this one. It seems like you've been waiting for a while." The white blazer man motioned to the tram behind Miko. She absently glanced back.

"Yes, I know. I'm waiting for someone." She managed a polite, dismissive smile.

"Ah..yes...yes...sorry to disturb you. I just wasn't sure if you were waiting for...." He waved his hand and laughed the rest away. His waving hand slipped into his blazer as smoothly as a snake and slipped back into view with a packet of cigarettes. His fingers popped against the case and a single cigarette popped out from the top of the packet. Miko was sure this was a practiced move set to win over the hearts of college girls. Ridiculous.  Yet, before she knew it, she was reaching for the proffered cigarette and nodding her thanks. She slipped it into her mouth and waited for him to light it.

"I'm very sorry for bothering you," he said as he lit the cigarette with his silver lighter. Was that a robot on the side of it? Miko held back a laugh. A grown man with a robot lighter.

"Not a problem." She nodded again and checked her watch. He seemed nice enough, but she didn't need company right now.

"Gundam." He smiled a wide, silly smile as he showed her the lighter. "My daughter bought it for me. I have a passion for Mobile Suits."

Miko chuckled. She was caught off guard by the man's honestly. "Who doesn't?" She smiled.

The man looked at the lighter and his mouth curved into a sweet smile. A smile created from fond memories and cherished moments. "She's a sweetheart. She'll be on the 3:30 along with your friend." He pocketed the lighter. "I'm treating her to a night in Soyokaze. Big spender, huh?" He chuckled. "When your friend gets here, you two might want to try Kogane no - the food is fantastic."

Miko nodded again, slightly embarrassed and wondering if he had heard her stomach from way over there. "We'll look for it. Thank you."

"Well, take care." He bent forward slightly and nodded his head. He meandered back to his spot at the railing and she watched as he lit another cigarette and checked his watch again.

Chimes twinkled brightly and a voice drifted over the small speaker above her head.

"The next tram from Kokubunji will arrive in 30 minutes."


"I'm so sorry! I missed the train. I couldn't get out of work. I'll get the next one?" The man's voice crackled through the phone like he was talking through paper.

Miko held the phone to her ear, but only half listened.

She stared off down the platform as the white blazer man hugged a lovely girl with a ponytail. He pulled her to his side as they made their way towards the path. He was much taller, but she could see the resemblance in their faces. As they passed, Miko smiled toward them as the girl chastised the white blazer man playfully for still smoking.  The man waved to Miko, but said nothing.

"Miko-san? Miko-san?" The voice again - buzzing in her ear like a mosquito. A fly.

"Don't bother coming." Miko's voice was sad and tired.

"Miko-san, I--"

Miko hung up and turned off her phone before slipping it back into her purse. She stared off towards Soyokaze Temple and took a deep breath. "Bastard." Her stomach growled again and she glanced around to see if anyone was in earshot.

Miko stood and made her way toward the path in search of food.  Maybe that Kogane no place the man spoke about.

She wished she asked what his name was.


Monday, June 25, 2012

Gentle Breeze そよ風

Soyokaze, Japan そよ風 

Soyokaze, Japan - Progress Photos

Soyokaze progress is being made! Whew.

I've done a little more work on Soyokaze Station and I'm pretty pleased for the most part. I think another detail pass will be good - weathering the building walls and roofs and adding in a little more grass and gravel work.

I have a few things going on here in the scene. The base is just plywood (sadly, slightly warped). I have the Bandai chibi tram, Portram and two Gashapon Trams (non-runners) in the front area. The awesome, laser cut metal fence runs along the front side. The buildings are both Tomytec "kits" as well as the station platform and I love them. I'm a big fan of the Tomytec stuff. It's made modeling Japan possible for me.

I shot most of these photos outside and the natural light made me very happy. I hope to drag the rest of the layout outside this summer to shoot it as well once I make a little more progress.

Soyokaze Station circa 2012

Soyokaze Station circa 2012

Sadly, my PORTRAM broke. I got it overseas and don't have the box, so getting it repaired will be a challenge. :(

Somewhat shady business dealings at the station?

Gashapon tram

The station in place

FIG 8 - The station in place
To be added:
• Additional people
• Additional foliage
• Path tie-in to the main set - Seen in FIG 8, the station path will tie into the white hill path and the sidewalk area that wraps around the front of the layout. 
• Building weathering




Comments welcome, as always.

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Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Soyokaze Station - Round One

Keeping the momentum rolling forward with some work in on the Soyokaze Station. The idea is simple - the Station is the main line into Soyokaze. In the wondrous future, the station will be connected to the main train line and trams will come in packed with Soyokaze visitors. :)

This was round one to set in some ground work, fencing and the general arrangement of the buildings. I need to go back in and clean some items up, dust some over ballast off and set in some of the finer details and some more people. I like where it's going so far.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Soyokaze Bridge - Painted!

The big Soyokaze Bridge paint up is DONE! Whoo hoo! :)

I was slightly scared to go in and paint this. I didn't want to have to go back in and RE-paint it if I messed it up. However, I thought it through, planned it out and went into it calmly and slowly. That really helped. I didn't have grand lighting for the photos, but you get the point. :)

Figure 01
 I had painted the main structure of the bridge brown as a base, leaving the walkway bare styrene. I thought about keeping the brown for the whole of the bridge, but thought that it would fade the bridge back and into the scene too much. So, I decided to go with the traditional, Japanese red look for the bridge.
I started with a base of an almost "salmon" red. I wanted to get something that would make the red pop more than the brown would have as a base. (Figure 01)
Figure 02
 Figure 02 shows the Model Master Clear Red  I used for the popping red color. I had it left over from my 1/6th scale figure building days and it worked like a charm, giving me the popping, bright red I really wanted. The clears are an interesting way to add color to things. I recommend experimentation with them if you're using acrylic paints. They give some cool looks. 
Figure 03
 I went in and hit the walkway area with a grey stone with some green in it. I'll end up going in for touch ups on the whole bridge for areas that need some more attention. It's hard to see in these photos, but I also did a dark green trim in the area just under the bottom red area. A thin line of green that I've seen in many of the reference photos I've collected.
Figure 04

I weathered the whole bridge up a bit as well, adding some grime and drip areas and making sure there was some wear on the edges and the like. (Figures 03 & 04)

The Soyokaze Bridge will go over the lake area. I had thought about putting in pillars to support the bridge, but I'm going to use styrene to create support struts that will build into the gray block seen in Figure 04. they will drop into the hillside. I think this will add to the overall look and feel of the bridge curves.

I'll post photos of the paint bridge in place.


Soyokaze Roads

I finally painted up the roadbeds I laid down. I was being a little sloppy about the process initially, but then I thought it might make more sense to work cleaner in general, then go in with additional fine details afterwards. (Road lines and side foliage and the like)  I'm pleased with how the road and the area under the houses seemed to tie things together nicely.

The pad for the bus parking area was painted gray even though I plan to overlay it with gravel. The same was done with the area where the gray truck is parked in front of the shack in Figure 01. I'll go back in on those areas for future, mini-projects.

Figure 01

Figure 02
Figure 02 shows the gate in place and the bus pad area. The story behind the the gate is that the vendors are allowed to drive trucks in to drop things off and special cases are made for special guests of the Temple, but most traffic is not allowed beyond that point.

Figure 03
In Figure 03 you can see a figure (very small, of course) at the bottom left. They are standing on the sidewalk area that runs in front of the hillside area. This will run around the left side of the hill from the station. There will also be another path up the hill directly in front of the station area. (Seen in the bottom of Figure 05) The street areas of the hillside area will be gone over again for weathering and details, but the general colors will be the same. These were based on some reference photos I found. The brown hill areas will eventually be covered with grasses and bushes.
Figure 04

Figure 05

Overall, I'm really happy with the way this is working out right now. It's moving forward enough where the smaller, quicker projects are coming up and it will make quick hobby times easier. Grass, bushes, scratch built styrene shacks and details and various other tuning items will go on for the rest of the year.  I also have some larger projects like the station and the area towards the bottom left of Figure 05 with the three buildings on it that will be larger, longer projects.

Comments welcome, as always!


Sunday, June 17, 2012

Soyokaze Bridge - Painting 01

If I had thought this through, I would have painted some of these parts BEFORE building! :)
Tough first round of painting. Second round will be painting this to match a traditional, Japanese style.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Soyokaze Bridge

The bridge in place.


After popping a figure on, I see that I need another railing. :) I can't wait to start painting this up!

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Soyokaze: Bridge Building

I started building the SOYOKAZE FOOT BRIDGE last night. I had purchased the materials and drawn up a plan of action a while back, but I didn't want to start because starting the project meant that there was a possibility of failure. :) I finally just dove in and put it together and I'm rather happy with the results.

The plan was based on the classic, Japanese curved bridge design. Curves and arches. Drawing it up was easy after looking at a few examples online. The hard part was looking at the scene, then putting the bridge together in my mind to match it. Honestly, it's a little more modern that I originally thought it would be, but I thought that I would craft a story and a paint job that might mask that a bit, sticking with a weathered wood feel rather than a metal.

The building itself was easy with the plan in mind. The main bridge is foam core. I sliced one side of the board at one inch sections, then curved it. This is a classic trick with foam board. The sides and arches are styrene. I love working with this material. I use the hobby glue that melts plastic (Model Master Liquid Cement) and the styrene goes together with ease.

However, this doesn't work with the foam core, so I'm trying out a product called Aleene's Clear Gel Tacky Glue and I'm pleased with it so far. While it's not super quick dry and set like melting the styrene is with the other glue, it seems to create a great bond between parts with very little showing when done. (If you're being clean about it! :)  )

Another thing I was making sure I thought through was real world walking over this bridge. It's so high and so long that I needed to put in some side rails so my little, N-scale folks don't fall to their deaths while sightseeing!  I may add some additional safety features later, but the scale offers some slippage here. I could just SAY that there are small rails present that you just can not see due to their size. We'll see.

I've set down a bit of "TILE" styrene for the actual walking area. I'll paint that to look like stone.

The arches will be painted in the weathered wood style and I'll use a fine pen to make it look like they were built with several curved wood pieces to try to get more of a natural feel to the whole of it.

My wife pointed out that this is not like me - building something from scratch at this level. But, seeing the masterful work of this artist really inspired me.

Watching him measure and cut to create something that was truly unique and new was very cool. I am going to add to the Soyokaze module with little buildings and small items I build myself following his lead. I think this will add to the custom feeling of Soyokaze along with adding hours to the hobby time needed to complete it.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Woodland Scenics Road System

I'm giving the WOODLAND SCENICS ROAD SYSTEM a shot and really have mixed feelings about it. Overall, it's doing what it's supposed to do, however the videos posted about it's ease of use are only true if you have done it a few times before, I think.

The steps are simple:
• Lay down their tape on the far sides of your road lines
• Mix the powder
• Pour
• Drag the scraper and fill
• Sand and remove tape
• Paint

Easy, right? Well, yes for the most part it is.

I used a milk container for the mixing. That way I could just toss it when I was done. This stuff is plaster, so it'll wreck your pipes if you're not careful. That worked well.

But, the ease of the fill scraping was not 100%. A video for the product showed an expert laying itall down with ease, but, like anything else, practice makes perfect. It was much easier by the end of the process.

The Nightmare of the Tape! Horrid!
The most frustrating part of the whole system is the tape. It goes down with ease - I was very pleased with it. It went around curves well and was easy to lay out. However it is NOT easy to remove. The glue tears away from the tape, the tape sticks to the layout and breaks and the pull off works about 10% of the time. I'm now having to add a painful scraping of glue and tape bits to the process. Maybe the tape is old? It's REALLY making me frustrated. I need to listen to MODEL RAIL RADIO and chill out when I do it, I guess. :)

I think the results will be worth the headache, but I'd be interested in knowing more about the tape and if this is common or the product of the tape being old or stored in the sun too long at the shop. The "Smooth It" product portion of the set is grand and stood up to all the things being said about it so far. I'll see how painting it goes. It did crack in a few small spots as the tape came off, but it was an acceptable amount. Not much at all.

Have you used this product? If so, what were your thoughts?

The Train Shop

I made a return trip to THE TRAIN SHOP in Santa Clara, CA and they seem to be making a real effort to be less...cold.

I've had several reports throughout the years that people I've sent there have been greeted with blank stares and have received pained looks when they've asked questions.  I've had the same thing happen when I've gone through. A "WHAT do YOU want?" look that's made things somewhat unfriendly.

My last visit in was far different. Even the somewhat gruff man in the baseball cap stopped to ask if I needed help and managed to smile. When i made my purchase, the lady there made small talk and bid me a good day. :)  It made the shopping experience much better. I didn't feel like a sucker walking out having spent money in the shop.

With that said, I feel fine giving the TRAIN SHOP a big thumbs up. You should make an effort to get in there if you're in the area and looking for model train related items. The place is HUGE and caters to most scales from large to small. They also carry various hobby items like magazines, books, DVDs and building supplies.  They even have a Thomas aisle packed with all sorts of Thomas gear. 

A fantastic shop that seems to be making a real effort to be more customer friendly. Check it out!