Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Ring out the old, ring in the new...

Well it's certainly been quite the year.
I would have never thought last December 31st that I would have built a T gauge layout in the forthcoming year, as well as have quite a bit of stock to run on it too. On top of that I even exhibited the layout as well...
T gauge as a whole has had quite the year. Barely known of outside Japan at the start of the year the rise in interest has been quite something. Yes, its still a minority scale but there are more minor ones about that have been around longer.
Eishindo, the manufacturer has listened to the modellers buying the stock and has had a programme of continual improvement for its products. With flexible track and points on the way as well as more different, improved trains coming. It might not be long before they are able to shed the "Toy Train" image.
The Talking T gauge forum now has grown to almost 80 members in a matter of a few months. A very friendly bunch of modellers of all levels of skills and abilities sharing experiences and techniques that we all benefit from. I've learned a lot from them all. Some of the work produced by them has made me feel like quitting, but mostly I've been inspired to build and not just in T. My enjoyment of the scale has passed on to my HO scale project that I'm building. I've even leared a few things about Japan along the way.
Quite the year all round then.
So what will the forthcoming year bring?
Well, we know what Eishindo plan to bring. As for me, a new layout is on the cards, on the drawing board in fact. So there will be something new for you all to keep tuning in to this blog for. So thanks to you all for dropping in to read this, for all your words of encouragement, and if I've inspired a few of you to have a go at T gauge as well then thats even better.
Happy New Year everyone.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Hitsu, Part 2

So, I have to admit I'm pretty fired up to get working on the development of Hitsu. As I think more I begin to realise how I need to change my thinking because the scale is so small. Hitsu version 1 was built using experience gained on larger scales like OO and HO.
This was one of the main causes of having to make 100+ trees. Would I have made a HO scale model of Hitsu? Not with all those trees in it. So why did I? Because I was considering the small size of the layout over the construction involved. I'm pretty sure that if I'd worked out I'd need to make 200+ trees to populate the layout I'd be having a rethink.
I also think that the layout was too big. Those long straight sections that I had along the front just served to emphasise that fact. Some gently meandering curves would have helped that.
So what do I do next?
A layout with less trees perhaps. Japan is a very afforested country. So unless I model an urban scene I'll still be needing trees. The 100+ that I have can be recycled onto the new layout anyway.
So I need a smaller layout inspired by a less afforested location something like the coastal location in these pictures .
It's when I start to think about the planning that I realise how difficult it is to visualise a layout in this scale. I can't "see" layouts the way I do in the larger scales. Which is a little frustrating. I think the way to go about things is to just lay the track on a board until I get something I like. Then perhaps something will come to me.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Granite City Train show report.

What can I say other than T gauge is a hit. A BIG hit.
For the 5 1/2 hours of the show Hitsu ran almost perfectly. The viewing public were very taken with it indeed. There were cries of "Oh my!" and "Look at that!" every time someone passed by and a train ran though the scenery.
Some people knew it was T gauge and others thought it was Z (so I had to put them right) Everyone was amazed at the small size. 
I also had a dismantled power car to show interested parties just how the trains were powered. Once again there were cries of amazement as I explained the workings.
The organiser of the train show does a great job with his publicity and he had made a couple of appearances on local radio publicising the show and the appearance of T gauge. People who stopped by told me that they had heard about T gauge from the radio. To that end I even made an appearance on one these stations being interviewed about the layout. Then later in the afternoon people came up to me and said. "I heard you on the radio"
Much of my time was spent dispelling myths about T. 
Myths such as "I bet the trains are difficult to get on the track." I lost count of the times I explained that because of the magnetic wheels re railing was actually quite easy. Many folks were convinced that you needed a magnifier for everything. While I agree that a magnifier is helpful in some aspects. I pointed out that I always have a magnifier on hand whatever scale I work in and I then pointed out that the trees were made without the use of any viewing aids.
Of course people wanted photographs and I posed my finger in shots of the train many times.
What was great is that the running of the trains was wonderful. They ran without fault the entire time. I went to great lengths to keep the track and wheels clean, cleaning the entire loop of track hourly and the wheels of the cars after every session of running. 
One thing is very clear. the more powered cars you have in a train, the better the running is. At one point I ran 4 powered cars together and the running was excellent.
I learned a lot from showing Hitsu and there will be some changes before I exhibit it again. Changes that will necessitate a rebuild. The layout will still be Hitsu, just Hitsu version 2.0.
What was wrong? Firstly, and I knew this one anyway. I had at a couple of points laid the track too close to the edge of the baseboard and when on the very odd occasion that a car fell off the rails it fell on to the table below. But it would have been oh so easy for it to fall onto the floor.
Secondly, for this show I had added overhead catenary poles to the running line. because I thought it looked rather good. But this made cleaning the track rather awkward and I actually bent and broke several of the catenary masts and overhead arms. I bent one arm so badly I didn't see it snag on the pantograph of one of the cars and it pulled the car off the track, also pulling the coupler out of the coupler pocket. (This was the coupling between the two powered cars so the one that snagged on the overhead arm stopped whereas the other kept on going.) As the track work had to be cleaned hourly getting around the catenary was awkward.
Still overall I'm very happy with Hitsu and T gauge as a whole. The layout certainly proved in no uncertain terms that it was very capable of standing up to a busy exhibition. Now I'll take a rest for a while and come up with a new concept for Hitsu 2.0

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Spring is in the air... erm the carpet...

A cautionary tale for all prospective T gaugers.
This week I am beavering away working on bits and bobs getting Hitsu ready for Saturdays showing in St Cloud.
Last nights task, after some track cleaning. Was to change the couplers on my Yellow (Sobu line) Class 103 set, as it was prone to pushing cars off the track on the curves. I managed to change out a couple of them easily enough. Probably too easily in fact. Using a pair of tweezers the old couplers just twist out and you remove the spring, place it on the replacement coupler and twist the new unit in place.
Easy peasy, Lemon squezy...
Then I got over confident and poingggg! The spring, well it sprang. Where I don't know. I didn't hear it hit the gound so it must have fallen in the carpet. I looked but I have a dark carpet in my model railway room so it's impossible to find. Even with a torch (flashlight) and my binocular magnifier. Thank goodness no-one was around with a camera what a sight I must have presented...
So there you go. I now have two 2 car emu's. Good job a Chuo line set is waiting to be collected from the post office.
So the lesson is always be careful, have a light coloured floor covering and don't get over confident!

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

World news

A new T gauge blog from Australia has popped up called Victorian T gauge. Now for me this initially created images of a extremely small figure of an old British monarch dressed in black.
This is some incredible work by a couple of Aussies, Paul and Adrian wanting to recreate the railways of the state of Victoria, Australia in T gauge. The standard of work is amazing. Scratchbuilt coaches and locomotives! Utterly incredible.
From Japan Talking T gauge member Shinichiro has started modelling Japanese trains in T gauge using paper models. Once again incredible work. That has inspired me to have a go at some new stock for Hitsu in the near future.
So what of Hitsu? As a reminder to you all it will be appearing at the Granite City Train show in Saint Cloud, MN on December 13th. Where in addition to running the trains on the layout I will be showing how (relatively) easy it is to model in T gauge. Producing some trees both simple and more complex and buildings perhaps I'll even try to assemble one of Shinichiro's paper train models.
So if you're a Midwesterner curious about T, pop over to the show. It really is a rather good one and I'll answer as many of your questions as I can about modelling in T.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Too much excitement

What a day!
Things were abso-flippin-lutely crazy in the T gauge world this morning. Talking T gauge was on fire with posts.
What hapenned to cause this? Did Cameron Diaz announce that she was an avid T gauger?
Nope. (I wish...)
We got wind of the proposed new releases from Eishindo. Let me tell you there are some very exciting things coming.
Flexible track is slated for January 2009.
Manual and electric turnouts are on the way too. Which is great for layout planning and building.
But for me the most important news was the fact that there is an N700 Shinkansen under development. This is exactly what I wanted. Put me down for a couple of them without a doubt. My first ideas for a T gauge layout centered around the Shinkansen. But I was baulking at the idea of building those. Now I can reconsider my plans. Excellent!
Mind you, lets not get too carried away. It could be another 18 months before we see them.
Apart from that Eishindo have quite the programme announced. A Railcar, some trams (streetcars) and even steam locomotives.
Now is the time to get into T gauge.
Get going what are you waiting for?

Friday, November 21, 2008

T thoughts

Things are pretty hot in T gauge at the moment.
The "talking T gauge" forum now has over 60 members from all over the world. The US, Australia, Europe and even Japan. It is exciting times. News is reaching us of "second generation" models to be produced by Eishindo. Quite exactly what that means we don't quite know yet. Hopefully it means improved drive trains and performance. We'll wait and see. But as we are still waiting for the second EMU set to be released (The Hankyu 9000 series model) we shan't hold our breath. But its good to know Eishindo are serious about this scale.
All this positivity is bleeding down into the T gauge modellers. Myself included. I just planted another 40 trees on Hitsu and much as I feared it wasn't enough. So I'm now developing what can only be described as a tree-top mat. I'll expand more on that later when I've decided how effective it is. It's much quicker than the toothpick trees, and I've got that down to doing 40 in under an hour. So watch this space on that one.
I have the wheels cleaned on both my class 103 sets and they've circumnavigated the layout. Watching trains run is always good for the enthusiasm. Things couldn't be better.
A couple of new websites and blogs have appeared too. this first website is from Japan and this new blog is from Jes in the Netherlands
All exciting stuff. I hope it's getting to you as much as it is getting to me...

Thursday, November 20, 2008

All quiet on the (mid) western front

The more astute of you will have noticed a distinct last of activity on this blog over the last couple of weeks. Logic therefore, would decree that there has not been much activity with the construction of Hitsu lately and you'd be right.
The fact that I'd made close to 100 trees for the layout and needed more was a bit of a blow so I took a break from it to refresh myself. So the layout stood untouched while I went and did some work on my HO scale layout "Oneota Yard".
But last night I felt like I could face the manufacture of some more trees and set to and stained 30 more tree trunks ready to add some foliage over the next few days/nights.
To spur me on I decided to give the little trains a lap or two of the layout. I set a car up, switched on the controller and... Nothing. I gave it a poke or two got some life out of it and immediately thought.
"Dirty wheels." I took a look and my suspicions were confirmed. I hadn't cleaned the sets since I bought them so it was really a no brainer.
So I decided to sit down and clean the wheels.
The Eishindo sets come with a wheel cleaner but I couldn't get mine to work. No bother. I thought. I'll clean them by hand.
Oh Boy. This is one tough task. The wheels are 3mm in diameter and the treads are just over 1mm wide. So cleaning the wheels is a long, slow task. One hour to do one car. Obviously as it was my first one I was being extra careful. But this is the kind of task you take for granted in the larger scales. Here it's almost microsurgery.
Still I'll keep at it. Make a few trees, clean a set of car wheels, make a few trees, clean a set of car wheels...

Friday, November 7, 2008

More Trees please.

Lately I've been planting trees on Hitsu. Let me tell you that even on a small layout such as this one the 40 trees I had already made do not go very far at all. So I need a method to make lots of trees fast. I found one and its really, really easy. All you need is some wooden toothpicks and Woodland Scenics clump foliage.
First take your toothpicks and stain them with a weak indian ink wash. This takes away the whiteness of the toothpick. Then grab hold of a bit of clump foliage and tear it about until you get something approaching a tree shape and just stick it onto the toothpick. Thats it. Nothing else. No fancy twisting of wire. No nothing. The British band the Cure wrote a song called "A Forest" and in the time it takes to listen to this song you could make a forest this way.  OK that's a slight exaggeration... But I did make 50 trees in about three evenings.
Above shows a simple deciduous tree and below a coniferous tree the two sorts of tree defined just by the way you shape the clump foliage.
Group them together and you get the makings of a forest...
I know some folks are daunted by the small size of T gauge but I hope that this tree making method shows that T gauge scenic work can be quite easy.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008


Of course, I've not just been making trees. All this time I've been messing around with blocks of polystyrene, slicing them up to make them look like hills. To come up with some kind of landscape for the layout. The real Hitsu is in a tree lined valley. So I decided that was the way I wanted to go. It wasn't as easy as I thought translating what is in reality a fairly straight railway line into an oval and developing the scenery around that. In the end I came up with something I was happy with.
Here we are then, the start of 4' x 14" of rural Japan. The polystyrene has been cut and crudely shaped to form the hills that dominate the layout. I suppose they could have been taller but I still have to cover them with trees yet. The polystyrene was then covered with lightweight spackling and once dry given a coat of woodland scenics earth undercoat. 
Trains will appear from the right from behind some trees curving around, passing a level (grade) crossing and arrive at the station. On pulling away from the station the train will negotiate a slope upwards before rounding the curve and disappearing out of sight behind the hill covered treeside. The 40 trees I have made so far aren't going to make much of a dent on this layout.
You may look at some of the slopes and angles and think that they are a bit steep and even but like I say most of this will be hidden under forestry.
Well If I have more trees to build I'd better get going .
I'll catch you all later

Monday, October 27, 2008

The T tree Saga continues

Those of you who have been following this blog will know that I have been somewhat occupied with making trees for Hitsu. The current total stands at 40 of various types and styles. 
The most important project has been to recreate the large Sakura (flowering cherry) that are so typical of Japan. Now I've got to the stage that I can show you the results of my work.
Above: This one stands approximately 25mm tall
Below: This one about 35mm to give you an idea of size.
They follow my standard construction method. Wire armature coated with caulk and painted. With a foliage base made from stretched out kitchen scourer. Except this time instead of sprinkling green scatter onto the foliage base I found some white and used that instead. This made it look like the trees had been in a snowstorm. So following the advice of my wife I then dabbed some pink acrylic paint on top of the scatter. The effect I think is quite pleasing and I'm more than happy with them.  Even more so considering the small size.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

The story so far..

Sundays are always a good day for working on a model railway layout. There's not anything worth watching on the TV. So I disappeared into the basement and set about with more fiddling with hills, cuttings, trees and buildings to get something I liked. The right hand side really seemed to come together quite easily. (The left hand end however is another story.) There will be lots more trees on the hillside to the rear. Making them a lighter green will also push them into the distance making the layout seem deeper than it is. I will probably even cheat and put down a solid covering of Woodland Scenics light green clump foliage material as there won't need to be any detail back there.
I now realise that the three storey buildings will have to go. They are definitely too tall for rural Japan. But some 1:450 scale paper building kits have been pointed out to me on the internet So I will use some of them instead.
All in all a pretty good days work.

Friday, October 17, 2008

..and so it begins...

Today was the day I have been waiting for for quite a while. The day I start work on my T gauge layout- Hitsu.
On my way home from work I dropped into DIY Superstore Menards and picked up a sheet of 1/4" birch ply and some 2 x 1 pine and some miscellaneous bits to enable me to construct the baseboard. I shan't go into a "how I blew my nose" description of how I built it. But this is my standard method of construction, using foam as the actual base for the scenic work. I glue the foam to the wooden substructure to give it some rigidity. Plus when it comes to making the carrying case I will be able to bolt/screw it to the wooden subframe. The method has served me well over several layouts. 
Once I had the foam glued to the wood and it had set I couldn't resist laying the track out immediately to see how it fit. As you can see it fits. Just. I could have done with an extra inch of baseboard width but no problem. The size of the layout is 4' x 17".
The rest of the afternoon was spent running trains. Not for fun mind you. This was serious stuff. I was trying to get a feel for where all the scenic development should go. Hills, cuttings embankments, gradients etc. All these features will add to the effect and I need to get it right. The features were placed around/under the track and the effect of the train passing them watched very closely. Then I went to the internet and studied photos of the Japanese countryside for some more ideas. 
I have to say however that after several hours of watching the train go around I'm not much closer to deciding things than I was before I built the baseboard...
But it was still a good day. I'm excited that the layout building process has started and that I will soon have somewhere to put the 40 or so trees I have made!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Hello to all you new visitors

A warm welcome to the site to all those dropping in for the first time as a result of a mention on this months mid-month update at Take a look, read the history of entries, follow some of the other links over to the right. I hope you find something of interest to you. Perhaps you will want to take some T gauge interest further. I do hope so. 

Sunday, October 12, 2008

The postman calls twice

On Thursday the postie had tried to deliver a package from Japan that needed my signature. A signature required meant that it could only be from Hobby Search. So on the way home I passed by the post office to pick it up. It was my people, trees, road signs and bikes. Now normally you'd expect me to wax lyrical about the incredibly small size of these things. But honestly this time it is pointless. The people and bikes are scarily small. So small in fact that for the first time I serious asked myself what on earth I was playing at. There is no way I can photograph the bikes or people without resorting to macro photography. So just take a look at the pictures in the products section of the Eishindo website. For the first time I said to myself. "I don't think I can do this".
Then shortly after I'd opened the package the postie arrived again. With another box from Japan. A fact that she remarked on as she handed the package over. I didn't have the heart to tell her to expect another one in a few days...
This was my Sobu line Class 103 in canary yellow. A very nice looker indeed much brighter than my original Hanwa Blue unit. Look for my header photo to be replaced soon.
So that cheered me up no end and got me looking forward to some T gauge modelling again.  The next package should complete the track that I need to build Hitsu. Then I can get on and assemble the elements of the layout ready for the St. Cloud train show in December.

Friday, October 10, 2008

An new day dawns...

The mist clears, things aren't as bad as they seem. Blah blah blah...
Well things aren't as bad they first seemed.
The track plan will work I just need a wider baseboard. I can just glue a strip of expanded polystyrene along the edge of the layout to achieve the desired width.
No problems...

Thursday, October 9, 2008

The joys of flexible track

Oh for some T gauge flexible track!
I've just received a stock of track to enable me to start track laying for Hitsu.  Things are not going as well as I hoped. (I was going to say planned but that implies that I have an accurate trackplan, which I don't)
Needless to say that the nice sketch I had won't work with the limited geometry and track sections available. There will be some serious head scratching going on over the next few days trying to work out how to lay something other than an oval on my baseboard...

Tuesday, October 7, 2008


Just an excuse for another play on words.
But in a way we T gaugers are trailblazers.
T gauge at the moment is defintely seen as somewhat of a novelty.
What with there only being one type of Japanese EMU available that has two speeds - fast and faster, and that have couplers that can make the stock derail. No points and only a limited range of set track. You can understand other peoples point of view.
It would be nice to think that at some point it could be taken seriously but until the range increases and the running quality improves that won't happen.
This looks like I'm terribly down on T. I'm not. Far from it.
There are positives to be taken from T. Take a look at the body mouldings and lettering detail on the class 103 (OK so you have to take a magnifier to do so). Detail is there and its legible. Probably understandable too, if you can read Japanese. Likewise the trackwork with its integral ballast base is another masterpiece.
That leads us smoothly on to what is really exciting about T - The adapting and scratchbuilding. David K Smith has shown in his blog, that the T track can be turned into something quite realistic. I'm looking forward to doing that for the permanent way on Hitsu. Michael Denny has produced the first scratchbuilt American outline locomotive and Robert Ray has produced some lovely Northern Pacific Railway Coaches and if I make so bold as to include myself with these skilled gentlemen, your humble scribe is getting pretty handy on the T gauge tree front.
For me there's something very exciting about taking T and and going beyond the train set, to hopefully produce something that can be seen as a proper model railway layout. That way I can do my bit to help T gauge be taken seriously.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

insert bang head against brick wall smiley here

Oh dear. That will teach me to interfere with things I don't understand. Yesterday evening I was experimenting with gradients to find out what would be suitable to use on Hitsu. These T gauge trains have some kind of magnetic traction so they can climb good steep grades.
I didn't want anything too steep, just to be noticeable. So I was playing around. Setting up slopes and running the trains round and around, up and down the various grades I was making. I think at times the running was actually improved by negotiating these slopes. One time I hit the reverse switch (much as I had done countless times before) and the train didn't move no nudging or anything would budge it. I thought perhaps the gears had jumped out of alignment or something so I fiddled with the wheels a bit and it worked again no problems. Until I hit the reverse button again and the same thing happened. So I fiddled with the wheels again. But this time there was no improvement. So I thought I'd take the body off and see If something had happened inside. Well to cut a long story short I've lost one coupler hook and destroyed a spring and the car still doesn't work. But at least I still have a 2 car set that I can run...
I've ordered another set from Japan ($45 a set is nothing, for some people that's 2 weeks worth of  large low fat double decaf vanilla latte's). I'll try to get this car to run and also convert the body to a KIHa 54 Diesel Multiple Unit. That is something I was going to do anyway so I've not really lost anything. Things have been pushed forward a bit thats all.
Anyway on a brighter note this episode allowed me to see inside the body of the tiny T cars and what a sight it is. Below is the chassis. You can see the tiny 4mm diameter pager motor in the middle there complete with miniscule spur gear on the drive shaft.  The springs above the bogies take the current from the wheels to a busbar in the roof of the car to take the current to the motor.
Here's the tiny gear box the housing fits snugly inside the body of the car.
Here you can see how the gear box fits inside the body and you can also see the busbars inside the roof of the car. It's amazing it really is.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Tree time...

As I write this posting. I've been waiting over 4 hours for the furnace repairman to arrive. But the waiting time has not been wasted. Oh no. I've been developing my T tree production method. The pictures below are the fruits of the 4 hours waiting...

Construction is as follows. The trunks are the same wire armature established in one of my earliest posts. I've taken that one step further by coating that in latex caulk before I spray painted the trunks. It's the foliage that is a big departure from before. On those early trees I used Woodland Scenics "fine leaf foliage", a very nice product don't get me wrong. But for my purposes it was rather fragile and not cheap. This new material is cheap however. It's those green all purpose scourers that you can buy in your local supermarket. Mine were $1.50 for two. I started by tearing one in two depth wise, so I had two pieces just half as thick. Then I tore out irregular patches of foliage that I stuck onto the branches. Quick and easy. Once the glue had set I trimmed the foliage with scissors as the tearing makes the material rather hairy. In fact you can see that even these trees are still a bit hairy so there's more trimming to do yet.
After that I gave them a spray with Spraymount and sprinkled some ground cover foam on them. I used Woodland Scenics blended turf light green and coarse turf in medium green. Spray, sprinkle. Spray, sprinkle. It's as easy as that and a pretty darned good result to boot.
They also seem a lot more robust than the previous trees. 
There were are then some pretty good trees for next to nothing. One scourer could maybe do about 12 trees of this size. Great as I have a production line of 40 lined up at the moment.
I was also working on the platform and shelter today but that's a story for later I think.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Hitsu on show

I really enjoy my T gauge modelling. Despite the small size I'm very comfortable with working on most aspects of the building of my layout Hitsu. With that in mind I dropped an email to the organiser of the Granite City Train Show in St. Cloud, MN on December 13th this year to see if he'd like me to bring my T gauge to show instead of a planned british outline "OO" scale layout. He was very agreeable to that idea.
So, if you want to see T gauge "in the flesh" so to speak then drop by at the National Guard Armory in St Cloud on December 13th between 9 am and 2:30pm. Marvel at the small size and I'll show you how easy it is to make trees...

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

The long and the short of it...

I'm sure most of you are pretty tired of seeing pictures that exploit the small size of T gauge (or T-porn as I like to call it.) Well this one is pretty exceptional. It really hammered home to me just how small T gauge is when I saw it. Bob Hughes over at Cheshire Railway Modellers saw this blog and was taken by my header picture. He just hapenned to have an N scale Class 101 KUHA not dissimilar to the 103 produced by Eishindo. So he photographed that in a T spoon and placed it alongside my photograph the size differential is quite staggering.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Correction time

You know how in yesterdays post I stated that the buildings are held together by a clear plastic rod? Well. I have now been corrected by David K Smith of the "talking t gauge" forum.
These clear, ribbed, plastic rods are designed to diffuse the light from a LED placed underneath the building, thus lighting the whole structure up! So not only do these tiny buildings have detailed interiors they can be lit up too. 
This would light the whole building up mind you so I wonder if some careful use of black paint on the plastic rod you might be able to make it appear like some rooms have the lights switched off...
Thats something to work on...
Actually this cautionary tale is a very good advert for the "talking t gauge" forum. I would never have known this fact about lighting the buildings if it wasn't for the forum. So, if you are reading this and are interested in the idea of modelling in T gauge. Then get over there and sign up. It's free and it's friendly. Any questions that you have can be answered over there. 

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Time to be amazed (again)

Once again, it's time to be amazed. This morning a package arrived from Hobby search. It was my three building kits. Excellent delivery service. I even had to sign for the package. 
I ordered these to help me gauge the style and architecture of Japanese buildings for when I build my own structures for the layout. Here's a picture of just what was in the package.
You can see each kit contains several buildings, houses or tower blocks. The mouldings are clean and tidy. What sets these kits apart is the details. They have interiors! You can barely see them. But there they are. Detailed interiors. Beds, sofas, cupboards and tables. All painted. One of the tower block kits even has a metal fire escape for an exterior wall. Amazing. I could never hope to do that on my structures. But they've chosen to do it. It's like looking at the trains for the first time. You know these things are small but you just can't be prepared for how small they really are. Perhaps it might be possible to illuminate the interiors with fibre optics so you could show them off.
As you would expect the kits are simple. They go together perfectly with a minimum of cleaning up edges with a needle file. The interiors line up on a plastic rod supplied and with a couple of dabs of Testors plastic cement they are done. I did 5 structures during the second half of Stoke City v Chelsea on telly just after I took delivery of the kits. They are certainly more than adequate to be installed on the layout and I will be using them as guidelines for making my own later on. 
So lets finish this entry with a gratuitous shot illustrating the small size of the structures. 

Friday, September 26, 2008

A page from my sketchbook

I'm a busy little chap today aren't I? Having had my little play with the train set for the day. I set about seriously looking at developing a layout design for this little model. I've decided on a layout size of 4' x 14" approximately. Four feet is over 1/3 of a scale mile. How much space would you need to model that length of run in HO scale? Twenty feet is it? (looks for a mathematician) So here then is the first page from my sketchbook.
Describing the drawing from the right side. A train appears towards the rear from out of  a clump of trees, navigates the curve, perhaps on an embankment, crosses the road and pulls into the station. This station scene will hopefully as pictured in the first photograph I found. The train will pull out of the station and pass in front of buildings and trees, perhaps behind a few of them as well to break the journey up and make it feel like you are traveling further, before rounding another curve and heading towards the rear of the layout, crossing the road again and exiting from sight. The road that travels along the rear of the layout will have some typically Japanese houses lining it and a tree covered hill in the distance to hide the fact that when the line disappears at the left it joins up with the line at the right. 
Nice and simple. No point work to worry about. The houses will come from the Eishindo range to start with. Hopefully I will be able to build some myself as well to complement those. 
With the design nothing is set in stone yet as I'm still learning about the smallness of it all. The trackplan certainly fits but when I get the houses things might change, as I've no idea how small they really are. It's exciting to have something down on paper. Something to aim at. I want to start now but I need some more track to arrive first.

Trees and Trains

As I write this my class 103 EMU is circling my oval of track at a not unreasonable speed. Like several other days in the week since I got it. But this time things are different. I've got some scenery! Well, of a sort. I thought it about time that I compared the trees I made earlier to the train to see how they looked size wise. Anything to give me a feel for developing a layout design for my model of Hitsu station. So I found a nice sized piece of white insulation foam, plonked the track on it and pushed the tree trunks into the foam. Here's the result.

All in all, they don't look too bad for the size. The Woodland scenics fine leaf foliage is very fragile and I think I'm going to look for something else on other trees. 
This 4' x 14" sheet of white foam looks pretty good as a size for a layout and I think this is what I will use for it. I don't often use wood for my model railway baseboards and I don't see why this layout should be any different. There's certainly no weight to worry about in the trains, that's for sure. So with a baseboard and some scenery I'm now getting some ideas and it looks like I need to order some more track.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

I might be on to something

See this? Beautiful and atmospheric isn't it? Those cherry blossoms really scream "This is Japan" at you don't they? It's Hitsu station on the Matsuzaka to Ise Okitsu branch line.
I think that this is the kind of scene I'd like to recreate in my first T gauge layout.
Nothing too complicated. Just a nice scenic display for the trains to run through. Something to keep me interested as I develop my T gauge modelling skills. After all I don't expect to be able to model an E3 Shinkansen set immediately.
A quick trawl around the internet has revealed several other pages of photographs of the station and its environs. There's a wikipedia entry(in Japanese) that has a very nice overall shot siting the station in the landscape. I could really get to like it. Now, I wouldn't go for an exact copy. Just something that recreates the feel of the pictures. So that would mean the cherry blossoms for a start. I do like the idea of modelling one (indeed several it appears) of them. In fact there are an awful lot of trees thereabouts. It's a good job I have a nice production line of them going already.
Well I seem to have convinced myself for the minute. Time to start sketching a few ideas and thinking about the building of my first T gauge layout.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

The Class 103 EMU

The class 103 EMU is the subject of the first T gauge R-T-R model from Eishindo. What is a class 103 EMU? I had no idea. I thought it best to find out what I could. As I have stated in earlier posts deciding to model Japanese Railways means I have to learn about the prototype and where better to start my research than with the stock that I have.
Research was not as easy as I thought it might be, as much of the information out there is in Japanese and had to be read through google translator to make sense of. So if I have some facts the wrong way around let me know and I'll put it right.
To start with, the Class 103's run on the 3'6" gauge rail network. Built for commuter service, each set consists of two motor cars (MOHA) and two trailer cars (KUHA). The cars are 20 metres long (approx 66') 2.8m wide (9'4") and 3.9m (12' 10") high. The MOHA has a capacity of 136 (48 seated and 88 stood) people and the KUHA 144 (54+90).
The basic design of the 103 is based on principles established before the second world war. The 20m body length and 4 sets of double doors on each side and bench seating along the walls of the cars. This, I would think, would allow for rapid boarding and detraining of the passengers during the hectic rush hours.
The 103 was a development of the earlier Class 101 EMU, the first of the modern post war classes. Externally quite similar the most noticeable difference between the two classes is that the 101 has one single headlight at the front, whereas the 103 has two smaller ones.
The main advances over the 101 were in the power. The electrical motors were more efficient allowing the 103 to accelerate quicker than the 101 and travel faster.
The new design was a huge sucess and in its 20 year production period from 1964 to 1983 some 3447 units were produced. Some of which can still be seen in service in Tokyo and Osaka today.
I wondered when I bought my set why Eishindo chose to produce this as their first model instead of a Shinkansen bullet train for example. Now I see why. Highly sucessful and long lived a model would not be out of place on any layout set in the last 35 years.

Sunday, September 21, 2008


That was the T gauge bug biting me...
Eishindo don't just make the trains and track. They also have a large range of accessories to enable the T gauge modeller to build a Japanese outline layout. Buildings, people, cars, boats, road signs, etc. Knowing nothing about Japan or its railways I took the plunge and bought one each of the three building sets A, B and (not unsurprisingly) C. Each set contains two or three buildings of various sizes from small houses to large apartment buildings. Some even with detailed interiors! 
Getting the buildings will help to give me an appreciation of what a T gauge layout could feel like. I'll be able to gauge what I'm getting myself into when I build some T gauge houses myself. I've built some trees, so it will be nice to get some buildings to stand alongside them. I ordered these from Hobby World in Japan. 
Also through the "talking T gauge" forum I got wind of the fact that PlazaJapan was selling T gauge track. I decided to get some so that my little train would get to stretch its legs a bit instead of just chasing its tail around the oval of track I bought. I placed an order for three packs of three straights. Each straight section is only 60mm long. So that's only 180mm (7 inches) of track. It doesn't sound much but when you think that each car of the EMU is only 45mm (less than 2 inches) long. Relative to the car length it's a nice stretch of track. The three pack of track is about as long as the 4 car EMU. So that means that I'll be able to watch the entire train on a straight section of track rather than a part of the train always being on a curve. But I'm getting off the point here.
I hopped over to PlazaJapan's ebay store. There they were, 18 packs for sale. The temptation to buy quite a lot of them was strong. I could get a really good start on a layout then. But good sense prevailed and in the end I settled for three packs. So that some other T gaugers could buy some. I went back to the store the next day and the remaining packs of straight track were all gone! 
T gauge is hot stuff at the moment...
So there we are. I've got buildings on the way. I've got some track on the way. I really should start thinking about what sort of layout I'm going to build.

Friday, September 19, 2008


Pornography can be seen by some as pretty exploitative and this subject matter exploits the small size of T gauge so I thought T-Porn was a good a title as any for this post... 
Well, I've had a few days to think about this. About what subject I could use to be photographed alongside T gauge equipment to illustrate the miniscule size of the stock. The car on the little finger has been done to death already and alongside the penny coin is a bit obvious too. So I tried hard to think of something different. Here's the first one. Two cars on an iPod touch...
I was sat for a while thinking what else I could use and when I'm deep in thought I sometimes fiddle with my wedding ring. That's when it hit me. A car running through my wedding ring.
I'm happiest with this last one. Being as how the title of this site "More T please" alludes both to T gauge and the propensity of the British to drink tea. It seemed stupid not to picture a car in a teaspoon... 
Now if you'll excuse me I'm off for a cup of tea...

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

It's Here!

I arrived home from work today and there was a big white box stood on the doorstep. From Japan no less.
I was almost trembling with anticipation as I opened the box up to find two smaller boxes inside. The larger of the two contained the oval of track, controller, wiring and wheel cleaner. The smaller box contained the 4 car EMU. I knew it was going to be small. But nothing, nothing in the world can prepare you for just how small it is. It is scarily (yet in some strange way amusingly) small. I barely wanted to touch the cars but my wife and I couldn't resist smiling as we looked at them.
It seems to be a quickly developing tradition amongst T gaugers to post some photos illustrating the small size. I'll post some of mine later but I had to take the batteries out of my camera to use the power pack to run the trains. There is a mains power transformer option for the controller but that is a separate item.
The oval of track comes ready assembled (thank goodness) and all you have to do is hook the power supply to the track and you're good to go. The track is incredibly well detailed and moulded. You can easily make out the sleepers and stones in the moulded ballast base.
You'd think that putting such a tiny thing as this on the rails would be nigh on impossible. But to be honest I found it easier than N gauge. The key I think was the magnetic wheelsets that grab the track for improved adhesion and pulling power. You can definitely feel the magnetic attraction as the wheels touch the rails. If you can't feel the attraction then the wheels aren't on the rails. Its as simple as that really. The oval of track does come with a railing tool if you need help getting the vehicles on the rails.
I've heard that coupling the cars together can be a problem with these miniscule couplers but once again I had no real problems there.
So I got the 4 cars on the rails turned the power on and off it went. OK. So I just had to give it the tiniest initial nudge to get it going a couple of times. I think it starts of better when both power cars are on the straight track rather than having one on the curve. Nonetheless it is amazing to see something as tiny as this going around this tiny track. The speed initially was rather fast but after 15-20 minutes of running in I could get it down to something approaching acceptable. There was at times, a bit of wheel spin on the curves from the power cars. But its early days yet. We'll see how the cars behave after some serious running in. One of the two power cars does seem to run better than the other one at the moment. Perhaps some longer running sessions will sort that out too. Also its worth mentioning that these tiny motors exhibited no external signs of heat. The motors sound to be spinning like crazy and after 15 minutes running I was expecting to feel some heat in the body shell but no, it felt fine. 
Something else to mention is that the driving cars have running lights that change with the direction of travel. One white light at the front, two red lights at the rear. That's amazing on something so small. 
Everything comes very well packed and presented. In fact I ran the trains on the track without removing the track from the plastic tray it came in.
When I think that I paid less for this set than I paid for my last HO scale locomotive. Well the quality and value for money for this is just incredible. I don't know what else I can say about it. I'm in awe at the moment. I'm rapidly running out of superlatives. I just had to write about it straight away.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

The waiting is the hardest part..

So sang Tom Petty I believe.
I'm pretty certain though that he wasn't singing about the delivery of some T gauge model railway stuff from Japan.
I'm still waiting though. It was September 1st that I was told that my parcel was on the way and should take 5-10 days. Two weeks passed and nothing. So I contacted PlazaJapan to find out what was hapenning. It turns out that the 5-10 days is only a guideline and the package could take up to three weeks to reach me. If nothing has arrived by then, then PlazaJapan will do an investigation.
Who knows it might be there on the doorstep when I get home. Good things come to those who wait...

Sunday, September 14, 2008

T- thoughts

First things first. Another T gauge blog has appeared fellow tgauger Michael Denny, from Canada has started a blog detailing his experiences. It is linked to over on the right here. The T gauge circle is widening. Why don't you join in?
Recently I've been doing a lot of thinking about how my T gauge modelling should develop. What sort of layout, what prototype, etc. and I think I've reached a decision. 
Firstly prototype wise. I think that I'll model some kind of Japanese railway scene. After a while of thinking about it this became a quite logical decision. I remembered back to all the other scales I've been involved in, be it OO, HO Gn15 or what ever. I've always learned about a new prototype. When I started in HO scale I learned about American Railroads. Gn15, I learned all about the work of Sir Arthur Heywood. So it seemed  quite natural given that T gauge is Japanese to want to learn about Japanese Railways.
Up until a few weeks ago all I knew about Japanese railways could be summed up in one word Shinkansen,  the high speed train network. That was it. I've since learned that there are/has been 15 different types of Shinkansen. From the very first E0 series to the N700 tilting trains and beyond. I'm not even counting the experimental vehicles such as the MagLev types. 
But there are no Shinkansen available in T gauge, not yet. Though it wouldn't surprise me if one did appear at some time.
So until then I have to learn about the different types of EMU offered by Eishindo and where and how they operate on Japanese Railways. Learning about the prototype is one of the fun aspects of railway modelling that can often be overlooked. Its something that I enjoy and I am looking forward to it.

Friday, September 5, 2008

T -Trees

All this heady excitement during the week got me wanting to finish off my tree project. Now the popular method for producing bespoke trees in any scale is to make up armatures from wire and cover them with some sort of foliage material and these T gauge trees were to be no different. I found some small multi strand electrical wire and after cutting off the outer plastic layer I bent the strands up to a tree shape. Like below...
Already these were looking good and I was feeling pretty confident about having a workable finished product. So next I sprayed some primer on them and a light overspray of earth and dark green to kill the grey of the primer. Foliage came next and for this I reached for some woodland scenics fine leaf foliage that I happened to have to hand. I stretched it and shaped it a bit and draped it over the branches. To give the following result.

For a first effort of making trees in any scale I have to admit to being rather pleased with myself. As prototypes they certainly prove beyond any shadow of a doubt that scratchbuilt trees in T gauge are a viable proposition.
To give you an idea if scale and size, the tallest tree is approximately 30mm tall. This scales out to about a 47' tall real tree. 
On thing I did learn in the making of these is that the original armatures I built were too complex some of the branches just got in the way when I placed the foliage on them.
This definitely makes me feel even more confident about working in T.

The T gauge express gathers speed

Things have really been moving in the past week. It was only last Friday when I ordered my track and train set from PlazaJapan via ebay. The items haven't arrived yet but I've already started this blog, David K Smith has got the "Talking T Gauge" forum up and running (link over there on the right) and I have started work on making T gauge trees. I'll post some progress shots on them soon. 
It's really exciting to be at the front end of a developing model railway scale. If that sort of thing appeals to you you should be signing up at talking T gauge.
See you there.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

A random thought for the day

Through the Yahoo! Japanese Z-scale list I got wind of some T gauge track for sale. Now I won't be buying any track just yet. But it is interesting to note that the track sections are sold in packs of three. Which, when you think about it is a little unusual. If you're building a set-track layout then more often than not you need an even number of track pieces to balance up the layout. It makes sense in my mind to sell packs of four.
Is this a ploy from Eishindo to make sure you buy more track packs? Or is it just the Japanese way of doing things. I don't know. It just seemed strange to me.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

A plan of action

Right then.
I've ordered the train and track and received a nice email from the supplier in Japan telling me that the items are on their way. So now I suppose I should give some thought to what I should do with it.
I know the models are small, but at the moment I have no idea just how small. There are incredible things that could be done in this small scale. A scale model of a Lake Superior Taconite loading facility springs to mind.
We have to bear in mind that at the moment there is only one type of Japanese prototype EMU available, with others promised. So any project like the taconite dock would depend on some serious scratchbuilding all around.
Eishindo are producing a full range of scenic details - buildings, trees, people, animals etc; So a prospective T gauge modeller wouldn't have to worry about building things. So in theory I could buy all those bits and bobs and have some sort of microscopic Japanese outline novelty layout.
But more than anything I love making buildings and working on the scenery of model railways. So some kind of scratchbuilding will definitely be going on with me.
I've found some multi-strand electrical wire that I'm going to use as a basis for trees and I intend to reduce one of the downloadable scalescenes kits ( to 1:450 scale and make one to see how that works. Once I've got a handle on those projects. I should be able to have an idea of just what I can do with the scale.

First steps.

OK I did it.
I went out an placed an order for a T gauge train set and track set.
T gauge, (for those of you that don't know) is the worlds smallest commercially produced model railway system. Manufactured by Eishindo of Japan, the "T" signifies the three millimeter track gauge. This makes for a scale of 1:450 or .637 mm to the foot!
This is tiny and I've always been fascinated by the smaller scales in railway modelling. I clearly remember the first time I saw "Z" gauge in a toy shop on Steep Hill in Lincoln. (England not Nebraska)
"Look at that!" I shouted. More than likely embarassing those people with me. I was fascinated by the tiny little 0-6-0 and wagons circulating the little oval and I just had to have one. It was not long before my bank account was lighter to the figure of the cost of the little set.
I kept that set for a long time. But now I can't remember what became of it. I did build a little layout with it that I showed at a school open day in Lincoln. But after a while interest waned. I think it was to do with the cost of the stock more than anything. Marklin was, and is, rather expensive and in the days when I bought the set that was all there was. So the track got dismantled and the stock was put in a box and forgotten about. I think I passed it on to a friend when I emigrated.
Now it's a quarter of a century later and the smallest thing is now T gauge and I had to have some. This time some things are different. This stuff is cheaper (or seems so now I earn a proper wage). My model railway skills have certainly changed for the better.
So will this mean that I'll be able to build a proper model railway layout with this equipment or not?We'll have to find out...