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 (www.scalescenes.com) 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...