Monday, April 30, 2007

The Elusive DD51

Tomorrow we head off to the hills to visit some of my wife’s relatives. We’re going by train, naturally, so expect a few more pictures. In my continued quest for modern narrow gauge I’m hoping to get some shots of the tilting diesel and electric MUs that run into the mountains. I travelled on these last time I was here and they really are fantastic units, comfortable and spacious, and pretty fast. I’m also going to keep an eye out for the DE10 C-B units that I’ve seen briefly on previous visits.
However, I really would like to Photograph an example of a Japan Railfreight (JRF) DD51. This shouldn’t be too much of a problem in theory: they are one of JRF’s main locomotives and they infest the Yokkaichi/Nagoya region which we’ll be travelling through. The DD51 class were built in 1962 or 1972-77 (accounts vary) I originally thought they were B-B-B wheel arrangement but it turns out they are B-2-B, which seems a bit odd but there is some cunning method for changing the overall axle weight from 14-15 Tonnes by by altering the pressure on the springs, according to the Japan Modern Transport Museum. They aren’t exactly beautiful, but they do have a very impressive presence with their long hoods and big centre cab (they are in fact 18m long over buffers). I have some vague idea about making a B-B-B locomotive, based on the general design, for the KÖB’s steep diesel-only section between Dachsburg and Spitzenwald, the rationale being that the container and wood traffic needed a powerful locomotive in the 70's but an early C-C unit had tried to straighten out the curves. I know I could ask for pictures, and there are a few online (The one above is from this Wikimedia Gallery), but very few show the side of the locomotive (Which I think is the most impressive view) and it’s nice to have your own picture anyway.
The probem is that DD51’s seem to be shy. Last week I saw some skulking behind a billboard in Shio-Hama which gave a good view of their wheel arrangement but very little else. As we left the station two more disappeared under a bridge. Naturally after I put the camera away. However, we will be covering a lot of mileage on a Japan Railpass and most of it on the 3’6” system, so hopefully there will be some chance to finally get a good view of a DD51. I’ve got a fresh SD card for the camera, Just in case.
I'll report on my success (or lack thereof) on Saturday…

Mystery Engine, and Where have all the pictures gone?

Firstly, I’d be interested to know the origins of this loco in the Kintetsu station at Shio-Hama (I think). All I’ve ever seen on the Kintetsu line is the endless procession of EMU’s so this got my attention. I suspect it’s an older loco retired into the depot to shunt EMU’s about, but any info is appreciated. I'm sure someone out there knows.
Secondly, I’ve realised the Blogger has started limiting the amount of space I have for pictures, so from now I’ll probably just have a small one like the one on this post, an it will be a link to my Flickr Gallery, unless the prototype is relevant for my own modelling purposes. However, I'm still taking loads of pictures: have a look here for more JR images and a set of shots of the standard Gauge Kintetsu line, with detail pictures of things like pantographs and overhead power supplies.

Halfway Point

I’m about halfway through this time in Japan, and I’m starting to twitch. I really want to get back to building models.

I’m filling the gap a bit by reading the current issue of “Narrow Lines”, the bi-monthly issue of the 7mm Narrow gauge Association, and “Model Railways on a Budget”, which was written a long time ago by C.J. Freezer. Some of the ideas may seem a bit ‘dated’ like the suggestion to use Post Office relays (Remember those?), but to be fair that’s not a fault of the book –it was published 20 years ago after all. It remains a useful item for those of us who have to really consider every expenditure and besides I’m a bit of a dinosaur with technology and naturally warm to suggestions like using bicycle spokes for point control.

I picked up my copy in a second hand bookshop on the Wensleydale Railway in the UK for an appropriately miserly four pounds. I don’t know if a similar book has been printed since- it would bee an excellent idea, and a good antidote to the style I see frequently in Germany, where everything is available off the shelf and model making is known as the rich man’s hobby. I was able to start again because I had just enough knowledge to keep my costs down, but anyone walking into my local model shop in Stuttgart would get the impression that you need to mortgage the house and have a handy spare barn to make a decent layout -which cannot be good for the future of the pastime. Hopefully there will still be a few of us bodgers who follow the less well travelled paths and are willing to compromise on perfection in order to have our ‘own” railway at an affordable price. Bicycle spokes and all…

Perhaps there is a “Low cost model making conspiracy”. Come to think of it, “Model Railways on a Budget” is a small red book. Is there a subliminal message here?

Virtual Modelmaking

This week I did a Very Silly Thing: I signed up for the ‘Gnatterbox’ after lurking about for some time. This is a forum full of very good and very friendly model makers, all building minimum gauge models of various descriptions. The main focus is Gn16: G-scale models on 16,5mm track (Used by some misguided souls for 00/HO standard gauge modelling) but last week I found the 09 section (Same scale as the Körschtalbahn but with 9mm gauge track) and I was hooked. Even worse, Colin Peake has updated his “Shifting Sands” gallery, which is built in this scale/gauge, and is beautifully modelled and detailed and pretty small too. Now I keep thinking about the 9mm gauge chassis I’ve got lurking in a drawer at home, and it occurs to me that it wouldn’t cost much to get a few Black Dog Mining wagons, and I could just transfer figures across from my main project when I want to... I’m sure a small shunting layout won’t take up much space…

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Sunset on the Crossing…

I told you there would be more pictures here… This crossing is a favourite location ever since I first wandered across it a few years ago. As an added plus the sun shines along the track as it sets. Here’s some first attempts at linesiding there. Funny how you see some things after the event: I didn't notice the utility pole behind the barrier until afterwards. Ah well...

View towards the station

Toba bound train passes. Notice that this is about the same width as a standard gauge "sprinter" in the UK. So much for "narrow gauge is small" I set this up to quickly and cropped the top of the "X"

Cars crossing the line showing the cramped nature of the site. Just after I took this picture another car turned up from behind the camera.

After the sun went down one of the more modern two-car units turned up. Of course.
(Anyone who has information to add on any of the pictures please feel free to comment)

Monday, April 23, 2007

Reading Matter.

Now and again I have a good trawl through the Internet in the hope of finding some interesting model railway related websites, and this time I stumbled on a couple of very interesting sites. First on the list is the well known 7mm scale Narrow Gauge “Teetering by the Well” by Dave Balcombe, which is quite well known in 7mm circles and should have been on my links section ages ago, especially as Dave has been very encouraging about my own beginners efforts. The site is well written and entertaining: worth a visit even if it isn’t your “area of interest”.

I noticed the site belonging to David Mallot primarily because of the “.de” at the end of his web address, denoting a German domain, but stayed just because of the quality of his tiny 2mm finescale model, "Chapel Wharf". His aim was to show that “a small layout can be interesting to operate” his model is a bare 95 x 19 cm (38 x 7 1/2 inches) when in use and can fold down to fit in a 50x40x15mm carrying case. Staying with the ‘small’ theme, have a look at Bob Blackcloud’s micro layouts, which are many and various so I’m not going to try and describe them. Just have a look…

Finally a mention of John Teal, of the RJR branchline, (In the links section) who has sadly abandoned 7mm scale/0n30 and now runs something called “00” on his track. Never mind, it remains an interesting small scale garden layout, and the LMS train on his homepage does look pretty good. It will also be interesting to see how the transformation takes place...

(Update: I realised the link to Bob Blackcloud's layouts was broken. Should be fixed now...)

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Finally, pictures...

I’ve not had a lot of time and decent weather, but I was able to get a bit of linesiding in a couple of days ago before severe Jetlag kicked in.

There is a railway there: The black and yellow signs mark a crossing on the lump in the road. I like this location so there will be more pictures here.

Two railcars approach Ise Station from Toba on the 3’6” JR line

Ise is like a full-size model railway, with the sort of features that "Don't happen real life": 2 Track gauges, two big stations a train's length from each other. Railways climbing over each other on steep gradients and sharp corners, curling around a big railcar depot. which is accessed by a headshunt crossed by a busy level crossing. And it has a Junction.

Having dropped off the passengers the railcars pull forward over a crossing to the depot headshunt

Best picture so far- the railcars on the headshunt while the points are changed. The orange blur is a Kintetsu train passing behind. I'll post more Kintetsu images when I have time.

Back across the crossing into the depot. I think I may video this operation sometime as it doesn't really convey the atmosphere in still pictures.

The city is served by the Diesel operated 3'6" Japan Railways (JR) Line to Toba and the Standard Gauge, private Kintetsu line to Kashikojima. What it doesn't have is any kind of freight: Japan is a leader in passenger trains, but the rail freight tonnage is very low as a percentage of the total. We'll be travelling later this month and hopefully that will be a chance to get pictures of some of the impressive DD51 Co-Bo diesels and a few tilting trains into the bargin. I'll keep you posted and keep adding pictures. Anyone with more knowledge on Japanese Railways is more than welcome to throw in comments and corrections, and further info.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

In Japan…

The ferry we used to get from the airport to the railway. A bit off topic, but I needed a picture and it's too wet to go and watch trains.

I’m over 9000km from my modelling bench, which slows down modelling a bit. I can’t even take the boys and do some line siding: monsoon was delayed this year and it’s walloping it down with rain. Even if I was prepared to get my camera wet, I doubt you’d see the results.

After we arrived in Japan we managed to use a ferry, bus, and train to get to Ise. The sea was a bit rough so the catamaran was thrown about somewhat, but once we were on land we were all fine again and walked from the railway station to my inlaws house. It’s very satisfying to finish a 9000km journey on foot, even if it was only 500m.

I was able to see the JR (Japanese Railways) station briefly as we arrived. It still has the same 2-car stainless steel DMU’s, which look like a Sprinter built by Budd, and the geriatric single car units that crawl around the coast. Alongside the JR system is the private standard gauge “Kintetsu” line.
It’s a bit like an interurban line with a fairly extensive network running to the coast and into the hills, electrified at 600vDC or 1500V dc depending on which source you read. I hope they know the difference. It also runs 1067mm (3’6”) and 762mm (2’6”) lines. It's interesting that the lines were obviously built using imperial measurements, but pretty academic as I can’t get any pictures. Hopefully the weather should improve tomorrow...

Monday, April 09, 2007

Contain Yourself 2

I was trying to make a highly original and witty title for this: as you can see I failed.

Finally the 20' ISO container is orange. It’ll have to wait until after Japan for transfers, but at least it’s the right colour. For a while it was a sort of sludgy brown- far too foul for public viewing.

The white box sitting atop the container is the result of some concentrated modelmaking on Saturday. Eventually this will be a swap body. Unfortunately the “Postal” idea flopped this time because I failed to make the side doors properly, so this one is a more traditional single-door unit.
The postal one will be the next project...
The most likely possibility is that it will be lettered for a farmers cooperative, but as you know I'm not terribly decisive on these things, so that may change.

The Swapbody is awaiting feet at the moment. The monster inside is some salvaged roofing lead from a friend's building project. Hopefully this will hold the unit on a wagon without having to resort to bluetack like I did as a teenager. For more pictures of model and prototype, click here

I had hoped to be able to report progress on a wagon but it seems that will have to wait until after the Japan trip. This Japan trip isn’t all bad: apart from a chance to see my two adorable little nieces, I can have a good look at the Japanese rail network, which is largely narrow gauge. Even better, my wife’s home town has a station with a sizable railcar depot so I expect I’ll be doing a fair bit of line siding, and posting more than a few pictures here.

I wonder if I can find a model shop…

Sunday, April 08, 2007

New Links

Web 2.0. is great, even for non-technical people like me who live in the prehistoric world of DC control and think “Chips” are something to be ordered with cod. I don't even have to know what I'm doing. Yesterday, for example, I added three new sites to the blogroll, without supressing a desire to shove the keyboard into the screen...

The first addition was the Dutton Bay Tramway, which is quite well known as an exhibition layout and has recently moved to a permanent home. I was sold on this one as soon as I saw the fleet of large diesels gracing the homepage.

Also from Australia is The Shelley Railway Company, a H0n30 model which by the looks of the current project will be hosting some big and very finely detailed trains fairly soon. (The line has its own gallery here, as part of the Australian Narrow Gauge Web Exhibition.)

Back in the Motherland, the Rhyd Ddu Railway blog has regular and entertaining updates from Colin Lea is on his model of the Welsh Highland railway, some good links, and interesting thoughts about model making in general. Thanks to Stephen at Fairlight Works for passing the last two along.

I’ll keep adding links as and when I find them or when kind people pass them to me, so if anyone reading this has a model, let me know the link and I'll have a look... I'm also getting the sidebar more organised so it’s quicker to find what’s where.

After all, it’s so easy to do...

Monday, April 02, 2007

Underground Modelmaking

I made it to the Exhibition. I think they were a bit bemused by me taking pictures of the wagons and leaving out their superb scenery. I didn’t realise it but the model is big, permanent (as in “part of the building”) and based on the Rhätische Bahn between Bergun and Filisur.

Notice the 2 well wagons to the rear of the train. I finally discovered they are carrying containers and swap bodies of all kinds, especially heavy ones (The thinking seems to be that the centre of gravity is as low as possible). They often get tacked on the back of the next passenger train so that consignments can be delivered quickly when there isn’t freight on the way. I’ll be going back to visit soon so I’ll inflict more pictures on you then. Here's a few in the meantime with more on the Flickr gallery.

Krokodil in Filisur

Refrigerated Swapbody on spiral

I said it was big...

And yes, I will get around to posting pictures of the half-finished container soon…