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.