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...