Monday, January 27, 2014

Ground replacement

Man, I did a simple replacement of the Harbor Area ground and it made a huge difference.
I had this green foam in and it was...not what I had in mind. Placeholder.
I sprayed some foam core and dropped that in and it's FAR closer to what I was wanting. I'm going to go back in on it and detail it a bit - drawing in lines to suggest large, cement blocks. I'm really liking the look.

I did the same under a block of shops and the Shizuka city area and it ties things together well.

Simple. Quick. And getting me fired up over the layout. :)

I'm currently working on the Temple area mountain and thinking through another "hill" area for the Shizuka side that can have some buildings and a road running up and into it.

After working out the Temple hill / mountain, I want to work on the water in the harbor. I'm going to shoot for this sort of coloring and depth coloring - showing some shades under the water surface like there are items deep down under.

And...I might need more boats.....   :)    

Saturday, January 25, 2014

A great East Bay rail fan spot

I was heading to my Mother's house today and found a cool rail fan spot to see trains with my daughter. (I've been grooming her. She's three and loves trains!)

Point Richmond has a spot where the tracks are right on the street. We parked and a train went by 20 feet from us. Made my daughter's day...and mine, really. :)

For Bay Area folks, you may want to roll by and check it out. There are several spots that provide great train viewing.  Wright Ave off Cutting Blvd was great! The other train yards are cool as well.

Wright Ave

Wright Ave

A bit hard to get to, but cool

The BNSF yard is way cool as well. Easy access

Friday, January 24, 2014

Another scratch build building

I've made a few scratch build efforts in styrene so far, but I have not taken the time needed to REALLY do things correctly as of yet. So, on my next build I'm going to try to raise the bar a bit - taking more time and being more careful all around.

I've been looking at this Sankei paper structure for a long while. I love the design, but I've worked with these Senkei kits before and the complexity of it will pose several "I WANT TO BURN THIS KIT!!!!" moments based on what I've done previously. :::grin::::

 I love the overall design and I think I can manage to create it from styrene even though I'm no pro-builder for sure. I think it will make a great addition to both my layout and my skill set if I can pull this off. I'm going to simplify some aspects of this design as well. All in all, it will be a fun challenge.

I think I'm going to try my hand at this simple parking structure first. Again, it seems simple, but I'm sure I'll find some issues once I start building.

 If I can start building structures instead of buying, my layout and my wallet will benefit!

As always, I'll post progress photos as I go along.



Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Shizuka - January 2014 Update

Shizuka is coming along. I've rethought a few things and it's all making more sense to me now.
For a minute, I was thinking that Shizuka was a larger city space. A huge area near the smaller tourist spot that shared the benefit of the fishing industry being so close. However, I've flipped that script a bit, making Shizuka a smaller city space that is there primarily due to the Temple and Village spaces - not the other way around. This is making this a bit easier from a "what I want" standpoint. I can have cool city things going on, but I don't have to make it a major city center with a huge populace. 

I had a larger, flyover station located dead center, but the way things play now is that it will be further out and to the back of the layout, if it remains at all. A much smaller modern station may take it's place and the flyover may get boxed for a future module.

I've set down the new way the streets will run, removing several Unitram panels and replacing them with a simple (placeholder) sheet of foam board. I was able to angle the buildings to emulate the new angled street and it's MUCH more interesting to me. The angle not only provides an interesting viewing arrangement, but gets away from the building area just being a series of squares.

The idea I had about having a track dedicated to shipping and another dedicated to the tram didn't work out. It might have if I put more effort in, but as it stands now, it's not going to happen. I'm ok with it based on the "what do you REALLY want?" mantra I've had of late. The mantra that reminded me that what I REALLY want to get into is the scenery and the train aspect - while fun - is secondary. So, I have several "dead" lines that look like they go somewhere, but really go nowhere. I'll flesh them out with a cool background that makes it look like the line goes off somewhere. I've seen it done and it's very effective.

And so, Shizuka is ready for things like the streets being worked on, sidewalks and other base items as next steps. I can't wait to get into the smaller detail work on it. It should be fun crafting little parking areas, vending machines and the like.

I'll be adding more advertising elements to the layout as I go as well.
Scenes like this will be hidden around the layout for sure. I love these little "slice of life" areas

Yes, this copter WILL be hung from the ceiling over the layout! :)

 Thanks for reading!

Soyokaze Village: New Track design

Meanwhile, in Soyokaze...


I have a new track layout going and I like it. The changes make things a little more interesting visually and make sense in the grand plan.

Things are not running as high as they were. I've dropped everything down to the deck and I've raised one section of the village area for now. It may actually go higher, but I'm good with the height for now.

The station area will be fun to run pathways to and from with people waiting and walking from one point to another. There may be some street vendors set in this area - welcoming tourists to Soyokaze with the smell of fresh food and trinkets to buy. :)

The track is a simple loop with a switch that takes the tram to the little station track. I can "park" the tram there and switch over to the Harbor train for some cargo and "operations" stuff on a micro level, moving things around on the two Harbor tracks and into Shizuka for fun. It works well for me. I have some switching going on without getting too crazy with it.

The bridge in the front of the photo above will be set over a small ravine area. I may also have a roadway running between it and the village with another running around the very edge of the layout. It might be a fun little design. There would be a road bridge crossing that same ravine area in the front.

 The Temple area was unaffected by the track change. I think the whole of this area may be raised "mountain style", taking it up another two inches from where it is now. This will give me a huge view block for the Harbor area.  I want to get more foliage and trees in around the area and pack it with tourists walking around and taking photos. Something like...


I'm looking forward to some great photo scenes. :)

Thanks for reading. Comments welcome!

Monday, January 20, 2014

January 2014 Video Update: Temple and Village

Note: Photosynth did it's best with this image, but failed in several spots  :)

Well, I'm posting this video because it was already done, but yesterday I ended up changing the whole village area around. I'll post photo updates at a later date.

These videos were fun to produce, though I rushed them a bit. ( usual)  Busy busy most of the time, so I fit things like this in where I can. :::grin::: 

I like having the back area open so I can get behind the layout. I found myself wanting to have all the buildings facing out and into the room, then realized that having some facing back towards the wall will open things up for additional photo opportunities. I can't wait to get the background in so I can stop seeing that wood panel nightmare behind my scenes! :)

As usual, comments are welcome.

NRAIL Jan 2014 Update: Temple and Village from Malcolm Johnson on Vimeo.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Greenmax Buildings

I'm super happy with the offerings of GREENMAX. I tried out one of their sets a while back, but I wasn't as patient as I am now as far as process and production. :) I rushed through and got frustrated with the way the Greenmax buildings were supposed to be put together - a very modular style. There were a few areas that were tricky and they couldn't be rushed through, but of course I tried to rush through so I could complete the project. Very messy. It was fun building out each floor, however.

More images here:

I gave the Greenmax product another spin recently and it was a different experience all together. Now, I'll never build one of those "box of sticks" kits. That's not me. However, these modular kits are a lot of fun to put together.

This time, I paced myself and didn't rush and things went far better than my first round.

The instructions are very basic and, in usual Japanese instruction fashion, they were very easy to follow. The kit came with materials to build six houses. There are a few styles of walls and roofs to select from and you mix and match to taste to a certain extent.

When I did some additional research, it turns out that there are folks who also take the kits to another level where they just freestyle the buildings - making them longer and higher.

I did my usual overkill and built out the insides of the buildings as well. Most of the details I added are difficult if not impossible to see...but, I know they're there.

They have a selection of signs and markings that you can apply as well including small things like sale signs and vending machines for the fronts of the buildings. It really tops things off nicely. I have round one of weathering going on these including some tricks that my idol...Akihiro Morohoshi...((takes a moment...places his hand over his heart and looks towards Japan))  :::grin:::...did in his Greemax kitbash video.

Of course, now I want to get another set of these buildings to work out the larger building kitbash and to seek out the first building set I get to try it out again. See if I can do a little better and cleaner job with it this time. Luckily, I have a birthday coming up and I just LOVE buying my own gifts. :)

 I'm really loving how Old Town is coming together. I'll be able to get some great scenes going.

More Greenmax goodness

Buy enough kits and you can go wild

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

January 2014 Video Update: Overview and Harbor

 It's been a while since I've done a video, so I thought I'd go over some areas of the layout with the camera for those interested. After I shot the thing, I thought I'd break it into more digestible chunklets, the the first part covers the overall layout and the harbor area of the layout. I'll follow up with the Temple, Village, Old Town and Shizuka sections later.

As always, comments and suggestions are more than welcome.


Monday, January 6, 2014

Unitram Plates fix!

AH HA! The Unitram plates solved!  :)

Instead of changing out ALL the Unitram plates, I'll change out the plates in the very front of the layout - setting the roadways at an angle and adding a LOT of interest to the overall look of the layout. It's huge.

I'm going to keep some of the plates - the Unitram plates are grand. But, I'll swap out sections to have some angles and fun alley areas where I'll be able to do a lot of cool detail work.

The green area will be roadway and the blue and white will be the new building areas

I'm going to build out all new areas for the markets and hospital areas (in blue)

I think this will solve my issue with the block-style of the plates, but I won't have to build out everything. However, if the process is easy and has the right look, it might be worth redoing the whole of the plate sections with leaving the track areas. Again, I'll have to do some tests and research.

Now...what to build out the roads with that I can match the road plates a bit. :) Suggestions welcome!

Friday, January 3, 2014

January Update

Well, this was supposed to be an "End of Year" update. Shows you where I am with things.  :)

Submarine Launch Progress

I've made some more progress on the Sub Launch. I added some additional details and I sprayed it with a soft blue color that seems perfect for a seaside building. Now I need to roll back in and do another layer of details and detailed painting and weathering of objects before I toss some people into the mix. I'm really happy with the results and with the re-use of items I already owned to create something new from scratch. Not bad for a first scratch build styrene building.


I have gone back and forth with Shizuka and the Unitram/Unitrack arrangement. While awesome in many respects, it's proving to be a little more limiting now that I'm actually on the main layout. It was fantastic for my office space on my little table and provided many hours of fun (especially during long, painful meetings on the phone at work!)  But, after looking at actual areas of Japan and how things are laid out, I'm starting to rethink the Unitrack and plates.

I thought that I might do away with the building plates and go with something a little more custom for the building areas. I'd keep the tram track and try to blend the two. I'm going to do a little test of this to see just how it might work together. I'd like to have more angles and variation in the street and building arrangement and the Unitram plates just don't allow for it.

The actual street arrangements in Japan have many interesting items like this. Not so square and blocky.

The subject of people has come up a few times as well. I'll need a lot of people, but I figure that between birthdays, Christmas' and work bonus situations, I can slowly add more and more to the scene. :)  I want the Shizuka and Soyokaze areas to really look lived in and populated. I'll also need to implement Rios Tam's system for keeping the whole of it clean. I'm already running into dust issues.

I broke away from the plates for the Shizuka Station area and I find it to be much more kinetic and interesting.

Soyokaze Harbor Area

I wasn't super happy with the harbor area. The two tracks rolling in just didn't seem right from a operation standpoint. Now, I'm in no way a proto-modeler with attention to real world flows being top-of-mind. I like buildings and scenes and people and don't really set things up to match real world situations. However, I do keep half a mind on how things would work in my little reality. Streets need to go somewhere. Sidewalks and paths can't lead off cliffs or into tracks. So, when I saw the two tracks side by side with a small space between the temple hillside and the actual track, I was not happy about the look. "How would vehicles get in there to DO anything?"

I had a long strip of water running down the left side, so I thought I could pull that back to utilize the back area for more track and another place where "things could happen" instead of just boats floating about. So, I rearranged some buildings and stopped the water area a bit sooner.

Shorter water area on the left allows for more land in the back (brown in top left of layout)

Then I did some switching around of switches and the like and came up with something I like a lot more. I have two lines of track now - one servicing the back of the harbor area and the other running parallel to the temple hillside. Now I have a lot of space to play with loading and unloading, fishing scenes and some other harbor goings on. I still need to sort out execution, but I have the base down. Again, most of my efforts to date have been small shelf scenes and modules, so I need to sort out how to do things like...well...building the groundwork for a layout. I'm sure I'll be referencing Marty McGuirk's N SCALE RAILROADING book often!

The farm at the bottom if the photo was just plopped there. The sub launch building will occupy that space.


I rearranged Soyokaze when I tackled the harbor. I pulled the station from the back of the space and moved it into the scene more. I also pulled the bridge and reset the track to make an overpass situation that I really enjoy. I'll play with the heights of the main square as well, chopping the foam so that the main village area is lower than the station area for the most part. A small hill section will lead up to the track at the back section to create a little more interest and the foam where the trestle is set will also be cut away. It will be a nice little valley area.


Overall, I'm a bit happier with the arrangement. It's a bit more broken up and the areas are more defined.

I hope that you all had a wonderful new year and that you managed to get some hobby time in - even if it's just dreaming about what you are planning to tackle in 2014.