Monday, June 29, 2015

Budget negotiations

I was crunching numbers on the new extension and it dawned on me that it wasn't just scenery I needed to get it to where I wanted it to be. I wanted to branch out into a bit of an industrial look for part of it. Something I could sink some grunge into, perhaps. Something less picturesque than Soyokaze and it's lovely temple.

I have been eyeing this factory setup for a long while now and would really like it to feature in my layout, but at a little over $100 for the whole set, it'd be a bit of a budget hit.

However, I had a talk with my wife about the whole extension saying I may have to sell off some of my other hobby items to fund it a bit. She suggested not selling anything, but spreading the purchases out over the next few months to make the extension work the way I'd like it to.

In short, my wife is awesome. :)

So, I'm going to start in on the thought process behind where this factory will be going, what's leading to it and what is tucked in around it.

Tom Barbalet of the MODEL RAIL RADIO podcast even suggested that the factory may be the cause of my Kaiju monster attacking the military under Soyokaze in the other underground section. A brilliant idea! :)

Knowing that I have a budget for this new section is making me really happy about this project.  I'm still planning on taking my time with it. But it allows me the freedom to think about things I'd like without having to figure out where the money is coming from to make the purchases.

Good news indeed!

Friday, June 26, 2015

NRAIL Layout Extension Tour - June 26th, 2015

 "When life gives you lemons..."  :)

I originally recorded a full layout extension tour video with narration, but the camera on the iPhone kept going out of focus, so I've chopped it down to just the train running around the track with some call outs to what might go where. Short, sweet and to the point.


NRAIL Extension Tour June 26th, 2015 from Malcolm Johnson on Vimeo.

I'm going to start bolting the "benchwork" down because it's working well so far. Then I'll start the long process of doodling and planning for what is going to go where and how it will be executed. This way, I won't get into the same situation I got into with layout 01 - tossing stuff into place, locking it down, then thinking about all the items I'd have to give up.

I have my laundry list of items I'd like to see in this section - they are rather straight forward. If I can plan them out properly, I should be able to fit them all into this section without cramming or having to give much up. It's a fun process.


Thursday, June 25, 2015

Back Room

I tried out a little environment design recently with the new extension back room section of my office. The issue was that I needed to cover up the ceiling area, but there were many little bits and bobs jutting out here and there.

So...seeing as I'm not a carpenter and have little to no skills in that area, I thought I could approach things from a creative level.

There are some super cool and interesting designs going on. (By real designers, of course)

I thought I might be able to emulate them a bit in style - like a sloppy chic feel.  It's ok, but it needs another layer of work done to finish it a bit more.

The cardboard over the windows will be replaced with curtains.

Additional designs and texts will be added into the mix as well as some artwork. I wanted it to have the feel of a little, Japanese shack somewhere. I might even have a little wet bar situation stocked with Japanese whiskey out there for visitors and working sessions! heheheh

We'll see how it turns out.


NRAIL music playlist

I have a little N-RAIL MUSIC PLAYLIST going for fun.

It helps add to the overall ambiance when I'm working on the layout or fiddling with something layout related. (When I'm not listening to MODEL RAIL RADIO, that is. :) )

I'm partial to A-POP and K-POP (Asian popular music) along with other music from Asia like some of their trance and trip hop, so if I hear something I like, I'll add it to the list.  I'll also add various soundtrack tracks or instrumentals that have a Soyokaze or Shizuka feel to them.

 It's a fun little additional level for my N-RAIL antics. :)

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

New Layout Extension

I've started construction on the layout extension!

I stopped moving forward on the subway section a while back after running the longer KATO train for a while and loving it. ( the dirty track issues) I was excited to get longer runs with wider curves in that didn't happen to be UNDER my main layout only. After looking at several options from grand to minor, I went for the "bust into the next room" option.

•• I wrote a post about the plan...and promptly forgot to publish it. :) I just saw and published it today. It can be found here: 

I'm making an effort to do things a little smarter this time. I was so excited about my main layout that I crashed into the project like a bull on steroids with six six-packs of soda in him! HAD to get it done so I could play! This time, I'm slowing things down and thinking through both what I want and the various ways I can get it done. I've been measuring, tinkering, and thinking through the various needs and execution stylings that are involved here.

With all that in the works and wood sourced from a few areas (...for the grand price of $7 since some of it was free!), I started in on the building.

The first step was to line up the extension platform that was going to run from the current subway section over to the wall to the other room. I had this section from the original layout plan which used it to join two tables. I changed that plan around when I saw that I could get more space by making use of a larger section between the tables. So, with a mere 2 inches cut from it, it spanned the space perfectly.

Now that I knew where my hole was, I got to chopping. No small task seeing as I didn't have all of the proper equipment lined up. I had to...improvise. :)

I still have my old old layout module piece that I played with using for this section at one point.

Bouncing around a bit, I moved over to my outermost area of the space. Here I planned to use the free wood as a super solid base for more wood later. This is super thick pine that was given to me by a neighbor. He was happy to hear that it was going from "never used raised garden bed" to "used n-scale layout base"! :)

I have a much photographed module / section that I had at my old office space. It was one of the first pieces I had done and I really like it a lot. My plan was to keep it together as is and build it into the space, but after playing with it, the new tack will be to pry it up and off the board it's on, then build the parts into the scene separately.

The track will run under the current layout and be built out as a subway section still. It will have a side track on it for additional train storage so I can switch things up a bit without having to toss trains on and off tracks all the time.

The main subway station platform may be moved from the current location. I need to think about how it affects the layout above it. It may just stay right where it is and leave me more space for my KAIJU MONSTER scene - the military discovering and battling a giant monster underground! :)

The background is being done and placed as well. THIS TIME, I'm NOT going with canvas. It was a nightmare last round! hehehe  I'm using this panel board and I just tacked it with one nail so i can go in later (post-planning) to repaint it and rehang it properly. Super easy to lay in.

I went with a super basic paint up - not stressing over the overall look this round. It was a far more pleasant experience for me.

Once I have a better idea of what is going where. I can block things in, pull the backgrounds, repaint, then rehang them with the background matching up nicely.

I've taken a new approach to the deck as well. As I said, I had some donated wood and wood that I got for $7 from URBAN ORE here in the East Bay. I'm not building this to last for years. As it currently stands, my wife keep talking about moving in a few years, so I've built this to be in place and workable. Especially since I'm not a craftsman. I'm a flighty, art type. The bench work just needs to stay up under my scenics! :)

I tossed in the wood bits on top of the current shelving that's in place and the "raised bed wood" I placed just so I could start playing with the track on top of it. This is allowing me to see if I like the overall space of it BEFORE bolting things down. ((Filed under: LESSONS LEARNED FROM ROUND 01 OF BUILDING A LAYOUT))  

This has been a fantastic way for me to plan, personally. Really getting into the space after playing with the track in real time on the living room carpet to get an idea of what I want. I can moving things around, get down to deck level to see how things are working, and move around the space to see if the room is still "livable", as it were.  This has been huge and I plan to take time with it for sure. I did a little playing with track with my current layout, but didn't think a lot of things through and paid for it later with my tight curves. Now, I'm folding things in that I missed in round one and also things that I didn't get to include due to lack of space in the first layout planning.

I'm planning on several items for this extension:

• An additional station that can support the longer trains
• Track running through an area of hills and water with lush green around it
• More road scenes running through countryside and more rural areas including an underpass
• Homes close to the track 
• More small detail areas out in the middle of sections
• More raised areas of track running past lower areas 
• MAYBE even another small planted area! 

Reference photos. (SO MANY photos in SO MANY folders! :)  )

 I love these patchwork areas of land. I'm thinking about adding in a few at the layout edge to imply that it goes on further.

 Trains on hillsides with lush green all around them - another favorite of mine that was left on the "cutting room floor" in round 01 of my layout. 

Again, more train hill action. Here, I like the steepness of the area and the greenery on the retaining wall. Very cool. This is my target for the area by the "hole-in-the-wall tunnel" area of the layout.

I might have to fit in something like this little series of scenes. Small, industrial spots with little details like the ramp to the right of the green gate and the little service road with thin, two story house. I compile all these wants and needs and ideas, I start to see that this is going to take a long, long while to get things where I want them. Phase one will be setting the track like I want it, building it out with the base for it like I want it, and making sure all the track is working properly. (UNLIKE last time where I had track in place that just wasn't 100%, but started working on scenery anyway! hehehehe)  And the money behind it. Whew. I need to pick up more freelance work! :)

The nice thing is that I have SOYOKAZE and SHIZUKA to work on for scenery and the like. I'll be able to juggle between the locations depending on what I feel like doing.

Now...what to NAME the new section.....?   :)


NRAIL extension plans

((NOTE: I wrote this ages ago, but it looks like I never pushed it live. :) Oops ))

I'm inching closer to committing to the NRAIL extension plan of taking the subway section and pushing it through the wall to the other room of my office.I'm current;y working out budget items with the Mrs. and trying to sort out the execution. It's a bit tricky and I'm trying to do it without a drastic change in the current setup. (This might be a long winded article today! :)  )


My first thought was to rip everything up and start over with a new Master Plan®. I'd basically start from scratch, rethinking both the top deck and subway areas, ripping out all the work so far and rebuilding the whole of it to work in all the items that I learned AFTER building what I currently have. While this is somewhat exciting, it's also a bit...disheartening. I'm finally at a stage where I'm working on scenes and adding people and small items and it would be a rather major step backward in the process. Not sure I want to do that at this point.

So, the idea was that I could take what I have and work with it, building a sort of visual story for the reason why it was set up the way it is. The top deck would not change - it would operate the way it currently is with maybe the exception of opening up the center station area - removing the Modemo (which doesn't run well on my layout) and making it somewhere I can run the Portram to for "operations". The Modemo unit would be addressed in the future - maybe dropping another electrical pickup on it...once I figure out how to do that. :)

The subway section would be extended (the green areas in the images below) and would run through the wall into the next room.

I'll have to work out where this desk would go. A logistical choice, really.


The new space that I've opened up with contain some of the things that I wanted to have in my original layout plan three years back. I'm going to look back on some of the things that I had to omit and see which ones could be folded into this section. Lush green spaces that creep in on the track areas is one thing I want to make sure I get in. Elevated track running past trees and water is another. Hillside vistas. I had the bridge section pictured below a while back and that may be a lovely centerpiece to the hillside / tree / water area.


 The idea is somewhat simple, though not linear. The subway section is in Shizuka and the story will be that it's traveling to another location miles away. Passing through and under the current layout is simply traveling underground and under the water. Then, when it passes through the wall, it's miles away in a new city or town area - TBD. I was giving through to how I see it if I want to do things like stop at stations and the like if the control is in the other room. Well, I thought a simple webcam might be fun at some point. CCTV style. It will still be fun to see it roll through at speed even if I can't stop it in the exact location.

And, yes, down the line, I can run DCC. :)  That would solve that issue 100%. Watching the guys walk around with handheld throttles during MODEL RAIL RADIO SHOW 100 was an eye opener for sure. That combined with on-board power would make me so happy. :)

Need to break through this wall...without hitting wires! :)


Like I said, I had some items I wanted on my layout scene wise that I had to bail on due to space constraints and building priority over nature. However, opening up the back room might provide a great opportunity to get some of the more natural and scenic looking area. Lost of trees, bushes and green. Some of the images below reflect the look I'm researching now.

This is a great chance to do a train line that's higher up on a hillside or mountain because then I don't have to worry about switching elevations from the level the subway is on to the current height of the table space in the back room. I can build up a mountain/hillside, have the track up on it like the image directly above, then have a nice space for small water areas, houses and roads below it. I think it would look super cool. :)

I was originally thinking that my Hillside Tram would fill in another part of the back room area in the far future. This is a cool, yet somewhat complex idea.  A few MRR folks have been playing around with it. In Japan, there are areas where trams and trains run up hillside areas. There are stations in various locations. When the trams pass, they pull into the station area, then switch to either the higher or lower track and proceed on their way. It's a cool little system. I'd love to get something like it going. I have it worked out in my head. I just keep plotting.

So, I'm making an effort to keep my eye on the goals and tasks at hand. It's fun to think through and think about. I have to admit, I'm still thinking about long term changes and how they can work with what I'm doing now. (SEE: Hillside Tramway :::grin::) For example, in the future if I want to expand some more, I can move MORE stuff out of my office and build the mountain for this tramway project. That, in turn, may even be connected to my current layout - taking the spur that runs off past my harbor area, pushing it through the wall, then running it over to the mountain for use in the tramway area. Pretty slick. :)

But....for now....this extension.  Time to look over old notes and see what I can weave in here! 


Thursday, June 18, 2015

Memories of Tokyo

More amazing reference material for my layout! :) A fantastic little film from .

It's good for me to remember that reference material can come from many sources.

Memories of Tokyo from Miguel Santana on Vimeo.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

June photo flood

A flood of photos and small bits of information for entering June.



New Section Module
I'm giving thought to using this old module as part of my new extension.  I really like it and it stands alone well, but it might be fun to use it directly on the new section. Jury isn't out on it yet.


O SCALE shelf
I have a space now in my office for this bad boy. I'd like to get some O scale items to go with it. People, a car or truck and a building or two....might be fun.

Soyokaze Harbor is still plugging along. Nothing new, really.


Naze hashi なぜ橋

Gundam made an appearance on the layout recently. The scale is right for N and it's fun tossing them on from time to time for photos.   I don't like leaving them on the layout ALL the time, but I dig seeing them stomping around from time to time. :)

Love this shot :)

I've finished my ceiling panels...for better or worse... and cleaning and I can start in on my extension construction. Now I just need to keep planning and plotting for how to execute. I have a general idea, but I need to sort some things out.
• How to cut through the wall in my office?
• What are the levels going to be?
• What can I fit into the space without making things too cramped in the back room area?

I've started pulling reference images for what I want, but still need to figure out the general layout scheme. We'll see how it goes. 

I have track and I've started playing with layout options.