Friday, December 13, 2013

Scenes and Interactions

Part of my slight paralysis with the new layout is thinking about all the scenes and interactions I want to have going on. I love scenes and human interactions on the modules I've done so far. When I extrapolate what I've done into a whole layout situation, it gets scary. But, that's not how you do it, right? You do small scenes here and there over time and eventually you have a "complete" story. When you make a feature film, you don't shoot it all in one day all in one shot. Well, unless you're shooting the film TIMECODE or RUSSIAN ARK.  :)

The process will take a long while and will happen in section and pieces. And, before ANY of that happens, I'll need to actually complete the area under it - base and scenic elements fired in first. So, in short, none of that is happening any time soon!

That being said, it will be fun to get some of these sorts of scenes going on the layout at some point. That's what I had the most fun with when working on the layout modules in the past. It's fun to think through.

What are they talking about? 
Are they friends? 
Are they making plans to visit other areas of the layout? 

I love the story behind the interactions. I plan on doing more writing based on these interactions as well - perfect for those times where I want to do something rail related, but can't bring myself to model anything.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Layout Action plan

I've been thinking through my layout plan. It seems to be about all I can actually do at the moment. :::grin:::  I have a few "big ticket items" I'm looking at at the moment.

Harbor Area
The Harbor Area is going to prove to be the most challenging overall, I believe. Basically due to the water space involved. The water issue I faced on my shelf layout looms for me. I'm still not sure about the cracking of the water and I'll need to block off the water area to avoid the horrid leak and drip issue I ran into. "Knowing is half the battle", however, so I'll do some additional planning there.

I have my submarine launch area underway. That's a fun aspect of this area. The other buildings need to be addressed as well - adding some elevation and getting the bases set to the landscape properly and taking the water into consideration as well, of course.

I need to raise the walking bridge, think through the gate leading into the area (the area is closed to random through traffic) and I think that will lead to the Temple area on the hill being higher and a bit more dynamic as well. I see it being nestled into the landscape with trees and lushness all around it. Raising that area and the Village will give the track between a nice depth as well.

Soyokaze Village
I want the village area to have some variation in levels as well with streets running through the hills and the buildings peppered among trees, hills and walkways. It won't be too drastic in this space, but it needs to have some height variants to make it more interesting overall.

There will be a tunnel under the track to lead into the village area from the outside roadway area. I want to see about including a small farm area in the space where there is currently a statue space, but it may be a bit crowded. The "Farm Scene" I want may move to another small shelf scene instead of trying to cram it into the spot.

The road will wrap around the outside of the layout with a bridge in parallel to the train bridge at the front. I think this will be a fun little detail with a lot of potential. (I just hope my toddler and baby girls don't end up playing the role of Kiju Babies after it's built - ripping it out Godzilla style!)

I'm still not thrilled with the transition between the Soyokaze (Old town) and Shizuka (City) areas of my layout. Of course, what I really would love is a long, field area space between the two areas to really get some distance going. Yes, I have thought about blocking off one of the two doors into the converted garage/office space this lives in and pushing out the area so that this could happen. I may do this after really thinking it through. If I did, I'd have space to do everything I wanted to take on instead of chopping bits out. However it's an additional expense and would require some additional heavy planning to accomplish.
As it stands now, I'd just like to tweak the Shizuka tracks so that the City shifts a bit at more of an angle instead of how it sits now on parallel to the table edge. Not only will it be more interesting, but it will give me a little more play around the surrounding area of it and through it. I might then try to move the main station area to the outside space and drop the current, small station that is in front back to the back space. I could also build up the back portion of the city so that it has the same height variance that I want to have in the village area. Far more interesting.

I have more buildings for the Soyokaze town area as well, so more space might be a good things for that as well. Food for thought for sure. I would love to have a little more space especially if it's only a shelf layout sized strip that extends the layout a bit. I already have some of the pieces I'd need to make this happen. I just need to look over the space to see if it would be a viable option. We're already looking at door additions to weatherize the space, so maybe closing off one of the doors would be a great thing.

 More to follow.

Comments welcome, as always. 


Friday, December 6, 2013

Submarine Dock phase one

I'm making an effort to add some fun and interesting detail elements into my layout space. I love how my old Harbor scene turned out on my mini-layout, so that's becoming a major feature of my new layout with additional buildings, boats and rail service added.

I saw an opportunity to add something else as well - a submarine dock! :)  I love submarines and thought that I'd make use of some sub gashpon toys I had picked up.


I was lucky enough to snag several submarines ( some of which are already making a show on the layout ) and the submarine launch which is the back of a ship. So, I thought that I could build a building around the center piece of the launch and add it to the harbor area. This was also another great chance to try my hand at some styrene building construction.

I started out by thinking through what the building needed and how the design was going to work with the existing launch parts. Later I'd revise some of the plans for rounds two and three, but it was a great start. I wanted to keep it simple. I'm not a super-modeler and I wanted to continue my minor success record! :) 

As you can see, what I have going is really just a simple box with doors and details here and there. The details are what I'm hoping will take this from being fine to kinda cool. I want to snag some EZ Line and do some wire work and ad some other details to make this building pop. I've started by adding some walkways and the like for realism.

The great thing about working at the table inside after the kids are in bed - access to weights and items to lean up against when the glue is drying! :)  ( Whiskey is present again on the left. The key: SMALL amounts! )

I've taken to keeping anything and everything that gets broken, gutted, chipped, or otherwise altered to use for the hobby.  This has come in handy time and time again. KEEP ALL SMALL BITS somewhere. Stick them away - you can always use them.

I plan on adding this cannibalized, gray part to the rooftop as a sort of gangway. 

 I took the current build down to my layout and checked spacing and the like after the base was glued in place. Overall, the fit was right and worked as planned. However, the "real world" weight of the launch got me to thinking about trying to make this look like it might actually be able to work.

The weight of the crane and sub needs a little more behind it than a small building, so I'm going to add some additional structure areas to the front of this piece. Large pylons might sink into the ground. Maybe some additional building structures out in front to make it look like there is some groundwork in place to support the weight of everything. Something. I think this will help me to buy into this little fantasy I'm building. :)

Background buildings help sell the scene. I need to re-work some of the way the buildings are set, but that's later.

I'll be adding railings and safety barriers here and there as detail elements.
All in all, I'm really excited about this progress. Again, I'm not a master craftsman! heheheh My efforts are paying off and I'm really happy with how things are looking. Once I go in and paint things up, I'll add the other detail elements and signage and I think the building will really pop. cut windows without crushing the whole thing. :)  My original idea was to fake the window with a real world photo of a warehouse looking spot Photoshopped up for depth and the like, but I have not tried it as of yet. The size of N allows for some slush, but I'm not sure I can sell a 2D window as a real 3D opening. We'll see.

I'm also going to slip in some other 2D elements at the large, rear opening door to make it look like things are actually inside without actually placing items inside. It worked well for my fish building.

More photos to follow. I hope to get more work in on this this weekend.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

November 27th Report

Things are moving along in the hobby. The weather is getting colder and the hobby momentum is moving along.

I recently build a building from scratch from styrene and it was fun to get something together so quickly. I wasn't meaning to complete an N scale structure. I was chatting with my wife and mother-in-law and meant to crank out a prototype building. However, next thing you know,  I'm holding a a small, modern structure. Sure, why not?! :)

It was meant to stand up vertical, but after looking at it, I thought a horizontal building would work better with the design and design flaws within it. :::grin:::  Not bad for a first pass. and doors need to be added.  ((My signature whiskey is present as well, of course.))  :)

I also built another building from scratch. It was rather basic and boxy, but I did what I set out to do. I've been finding bits of plastic and saving parts from other buildings and kits and saying things like, "Hey...this could be some widget on a building or something...," and brainstorming things up for the saved bits of plastic and the like. It's been working well. A part I didn't use became the roof for this building for my harbor area.

I was doing some planning and saw that I needed to flesh out my town area a bit - the transition between Old Town Soyokaze and and the Shizuka City. I was placing an order and was checking prices and saw that I could get one building for $22 or six Greenmax, unfinished buildings for half the cost. Building and painting the structure kits seemed like something I should be progressing to, so I got the Greenmax 2136 Shops Assemble Set. I'm looking forward to applying some of the techniques used by the great Akihiro Morohoshi (

Sure, it's more work, but that's what I want now. More work and more time to spend on my hobby! 
It's going to be a challenge, but it will be worth it. I'll take the building I like the least and do that first as practice, then I'll fine tune the process and - in theory - I'll get better and better with each round. 

It's great to be getting some hobby time in these days! 

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Rios Tam Interview

Hong Kong resident and model railroader Rios Tam was nice enough to meet with me via WebEx to talk trains. I was meeting very early and Rios was meeting late in the day, so please forgive my sleepy tone at times. I really needed to be on my second cup of coffee instead of my first. :)

Rios has been into the hobby for a relatively short time, but he and his girlfriend have made some major progress on their main layout - the third for them.

I've put together some supporting graphics to go along with the audio portion, but I've also included a simple version of the audio file in case you would like to listen via iPhone, iPod or other MP3 players.    The MP3 can be found here.

There are also additional links that Rios provided below.


Little Display Layout

First Mini Layout with KATO CV1 + Tomix Bus Running system

Second Mini Layout with Tomix R150 + Tomix Bus Running system

Z Scale Display layout

My Main Layout Track Plan

DIY Optical Fiber Railroad Cross

DIY Wooden Bridge

Layout Overhead Lighting System

Layout Cover System

Buildings LED lighting System

Layout Backdrop

DIY Optical Fiber Signal Light

Modular Layout 1

Modular Layout 2

Method on Storing the Modular Layout

Display CD Rack Layout

Dust preventing system for the CD Rack

Using Transparent Plastic sheet and fixed with a Strong Magnet.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Raymond Loewy

GOOGLE's awesome Loewy doodle for today

GOOGLE let me know that Raymond Loewy celebrates a birthday today. Besides the little things this industrial designer did like the design of the bottle for Coca-Cola, the Lucky Strike cigarette packets and the logos for Exxon and Shell - you know, small things like that - he designed some BEAUTIFUL trains for the Pennsylvania Railroad.

Now, I'm not going to cut and paste a bunch of facts here from the internet. You can search for more information yourselves I'm sure. But, when I saw these trains I just had to pop a few photos up. I love the deco, streamline look of these machines. They represent an era I love when it comes to design. Things had a style and grace that can be lacking in some of the items produced today.


Saturday, October 26, 2013

Soyokaze Shelf Layout Outdoor Shots

Soyokaze River Shelf Layout - Outdoor shots

I love the natural light. And, seeing as my hobby efforts have slowed to a stop at the moment, taking shots is something at least. :::grin:::

Hungry folks have a hard time choosing where to eat.

The only cars allowed on River Road are delivery vehicles.

Workers talk through water issues.

Small trams service the Soyokaze River Township.

First kiss. :)

Locals have conversations in the sun.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Modemo Tram

A little video of my Modemo tram.
The layout is in its infancy, but it's still SO MUCH FUN!

I waited for this for years and it's nice to have it slowly come together after all this time.

N-RAIL - Modemo Tram Video from Malcolm Johnson on Vimeo.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Soyokaze River Shelf Layout: Sept 25th Update

Faked in backdrop. I'm going to print something as a backdrop to the shelf that's very close to this.

Well, things are rolling right along on the Soyokaze River Shelf Layout. I'm excited about the progress. I've gone through with multiple scenic passes, dolled some items up and have laid in two rounds of people and scenes - my favorite part of this. After taking a look at these photos, it became clear that I need to roll through one more time with some major touch up work. The camera is BRUTAL when you get down deep and start taking close ups. I want to hit small areas like building foundations and "dust off" streets and the like.

I also noticed that I have some "leaners" here and there - people that didn't quite make it vertical in the scene. I need to roll through and fix that. I used a new cement for the people and the results were better than I've gotten in the past from standard white glue or plastic cement, so I'm happy about that. I recommend it. Duco Cement. It's like Super Glue, but it's a little thicker and I found it to be much easier to work with. (Even fixed a broken vase top that my Mother had)

I plan to hit the plants and trees with scenic cement after everything is where I want it. I have not used it yet, so I'm planning on testing it out on my old Soyokaze layout first to make sure I'm using it properly.

Then, another detail pass on buildings, water, people and roads. I'll put in some lines and rooftop variation here and there. I think that will be the final step. We'll see once I'm done. Another week or so for sure.

This has been a grand process for me and I've added some new skills to my virtual toolbox which is always good. I'm pacing myself and accepting the time that is available to me instead of whining about not having time to work on hobby stuff.

An oldie but goodie from an old Landmark Forum class I took at one point: It's not that you don't HAVE time to do the things you want, it's that you are not MAKING time to do them. If you really break things down and look at them earnestly, you'll see that in most cases this is correct. Watching TV? That is potential hobby time. You're just choosing to watch TV instead of doing hobby items. Which is FINE, by the way. It's just more "empowering" if you say that YOU are the one doing it, it's not being done to you. Anyway....

Looking at this small layout shelf, I can see how a full layout - about 11 times the size of this shelf in my case - can take a long while to "complete". I have trains running, so it'll be an ok wait! :)

More photos can be found here:


Talk about work plans or lunch plans? :)

Grandmothers brag about their grandchildren   :)

Pedestrians and vehicles share the road. The road is not open to all through traffic.

Things tend to move a little slower up in the Soyokaze River area.

Poets, lovers and tourists love the Soyokaze River Bridge