Quinntopia Expansion! Again!?

I've been struggling with the idea of expanding for some time.  My original intention for my 'Version 3' (building off of "Version 2" naturally) of my layout was the trolley, viaduct, downtown expansion, and a 12" extension to the existing yard to add more storage and a passenger terminal.  Below is the previous "Version 2" and those planned changes to "Version 3"
The above Version 2 was my expansion of "Version 1", what was where I was at when I started this blog!  The new stuff, sort of highlighted in yellow,  3 is below:
The good news is that three of the four 'big items are, if not complete, at least at the stage where buildings, wiring, and the other final details need to be complete after major construction.  The challenge I was facing with the final addition, the Passenger Terminal Extension, was that an additional 12 inches would make some of the areas on the 'southern' side of the layout more difficult to reach.   I also started to think, or at least convince myself, that this layout doesn't need to be as 'temporary' or portable as I have - to date - been designing it.  So I decided to push out the boundaries and expand.  Below is my plan for "Version 4":
And what continues to keep me away from running trains or wiring all the buildings I've been working on has been this fundamental obstacle.  The good news is that this summer I decided to bite the bullet (and overcome some interesting feelings of futility and doubt!) and move on to "Version 4" construction!
There were some nerve-wracking moments....smashing out the foundation on a section of my viaduct was not fun, although recalling the interesting stuff I can do with the extended main line kept me going!
Something else which will add more enjoyment to operations, is that the Red Line, which was pretty much land-locked within the green line on the lower level, now gets some elevation and a cross over.   Just out of view on the left is  really nice bridge I got from a company called "Hack" in Germany.  Decently priced metal bridges!
The above explains my rather limited modelling posts over the past several weeks...I've been spending whatever precious hobby time I can get in the dust trying to move this along.

I've also realized something about my planning process with this project.  I tend to create my plan in Rail Modeller as more or less a guide, but then plan on improvising or changing the actual plan once I start laying things out.  I've got a more less 'fresh canvas' now so I don't know if I know for sure at this stage of planning what exactly I want to do. 

I do know that I'll be using a bit more flex track...the beautiful sweeping curves that these afford compel me to bite the bullet (partly inspired by Pascal's beautiful work)!  I'll also be converting my existing yard and installing the new Passenger terminal tracks using Minitrix's track rather than Unitrack (which was inspired by this).  The reasons for this is that Unitrack - despite its great looks - just doesn't look completely right to me for a yard.  Perfect for main lines and routes but-in a yard- the high ballast wasn't working for me.  I chose Minitrix track as I really like the simplicity of their switch machines which allow them to be more or less 'hidden' from view without the complexity of installing under-table motors.  We'll see how that goes in the future.

That's all for now!  All I have to say is...goooooo N SCALE!!!


Paris Hobby Shops

I had the great fortune to spend some time in Europe this Summer, and one of the highlights for me was the chance to visit a couple of good hobby shops in Paris!  Yes, the City of Light is well-known for many things, although its model train shops are not one of them, it certainly makes a visit to this city that much more enjoyable.

Based on recommendations from in some earlier posts, I was able to identify and visit several shops all within close distance to one another.  All of these shops are within easy walking distance of the Place de Clichy metro station, and the largest cluster is just a block away from the Moulin Rouge. 

Transmondia; Trans-Europ Trains; Decotrain
These three stores occupy separate storefronts along the Rue de Douai just one block south of the Moulin Rouge.  Transmondia (shown in the picture with the brown/maroon awning) is the shop that focuses on N Scale, with the other shops focusing on H0, O Gauge, and scenery items. 

One of the most enjoyable aspects of my visit to Transmondia was that I had the opportunity to meet the owner, Claude, who not only spoke excellent English, but was also able to share a lot of interesting stories about her parents opening this shop years ago and being one of the first importers of American model trains into France.    She also had stories of Con-Cor's relationship with Kato (who apparently produced the Con-Cor ALCO PA's back in the 'old days, among other things), before Kato decided to leave Con-Cor and produce and distribute its own models directly.

The shopping experience for me was like a kid in a candy store.  The internet is a fantastic thing and allows me to have access to models from just about anywhere in the world, but I don't think any of us would ever confuse that experience to actually seeing these models in person, in stock, and on display on the shelves.   I picked up an older Fleischmann 7360 (an SNCF BB 15000 in dark green), a Kato/Hobbytrain 25106 set (very cool SCC IC 2000 set!), a DM-Toys crane, several French grain cars from Arnold, and several French language hobby and train magazines.  A good haul!

Les Cheminots

Directly across the street is yet another hobby shop, Les Cheminots ("The Railroaders" in French).  They don't appear to have a website, but do have a lot of N and HO in well-displayed cabinets.  Among the expected imports from Germany, there were also several Tomix and Kato Shinkansen sets as well as American trains.  A nice selection of buses and cars from Rietze AutoModelle, miNis and other hard to find brands as well as trains.  I picked up some buses, trucks, containers, and an Auhagen 'two wornhauser' aparment building kit.

Located next to Les Cheminots is this small store apparently focused on automobile collectibles.  Mostly die cast and others.  I didn't find much there for me, but another shop that adds some interest to this neighborhood

A short walk back down Rue de Douai to Boulevard de Clichy and then down Rue de Amsterdam is...
Au Pullman
With a storefront reminiscent of a streamlined TEE passenger car of the SNCF, its unmistakable what Au Pullman has in store.  Plenty of nice displays of stock, clean and air-conditioned (!) this was a nice environment to browse in.  Of course, browsing wasn't all that I did, and while my French and their English were at about equal levels (which is to say, not good), Visa and Mastercard and universal languages that are gladly spoken, so I walked away with a Piko/SAI BB 12600 in the modern 'multi-services' livery in addition to several boxes of Viessmann street lights and other accessories.

Unfortunately, time (and budget!) didn't allow me to get to some other neighborhoods to visit other shops that were recommended (Opherline, Central Train, or Citerne) but that leaves more new opportunities the next time I get to visit!

Of course, I went 'shopping' with the expectation that a 'real' hobby shop will always have a necessary premium in price over what can often be found on the internet, so 'value' was not what I was looking for (although, considering that I didn't have to pay the typical 25-35 Euro shipping cost was sort of a 'discount'!);  what I was looking for - and found - was more of the experience of being able to see all the inventory in stock in a shop and, of course, being able to get a feel for these hobby shops in a major metropolitan city, and being able to take home a bit of the "SNCF" with me from my fun trip with my family.   I also have to say that compared to New York or London, Paris is quite fortunate in its selection of hobby shops, which again, provides additional incentive to visit (its not just Louis Vuitton!).

UPDATE: Check out my post on another visit to Hobby Shops in Paris (Part Duex!)


Faller 2293 Project: Part 1

I usually post about my scratch-build's or kit-bashes after I complete them, but as I seem to have a lot of unfinished or half-complete projects, I thought I would at least share one or two posts on projects that I haven't finished, but are pretty interesting to me nonetheless.

The Faller 2293 has been one of my favorite structures ever since I first came across it on eBay over a year ago.  I picked up an already built version and, having 'discovered' this for the first time, really liked its clean '1960's modern' lines and generic, corporate architecture look.   Actually, this building opened my eyes to a lot of the modern structures that Faller produced between the 1960's and 1990's (they don't seem to produce these as much anymore).

This structure is far from perfect.  Most obvious to my eyes is that its obviously under-sized for N Scale.  The below photo compares this building to a couple of Kato structures (yes, they're allegedly 1:150 so they should be expected to be larger, but the floor heights of these Kato buildings are identical to my Atlas and Hilltowne Hotel buildings) and the 2293 seems like it has 5 foot floors relative to the two Kato structures!  The 4-story structure on the right has the equivalent of 6 of the Faller 2293!
Additionally, the ground floor of this building is pretty underwhelming.  I haven't exactly worked out what I'm going to do, but it feels like something needs to change there.

I've thought about several solutions for the height issue...the simplest and most direct method seems to be to replace the existing 'blue plastic' structures that separate the windows on each floor with something between and an eighth to a quarter inch larger.  This would make the distance between the floors (that is, the windows) roughly equivalent to the Kato and other structures.

This does mean that I'll be losing a lot of the supplied pieces (all the cast blue sections) and will have to replace this with new strip styrene....sounds like fun!

I also wanted this to be a bigger, and potentially wider building than the as-provided 7 story structure (surprised by that? :-) )  so I would need several kits.  So over the past year I've been fishing for Faller 2293's on eBay.  If I found one, I tried to grab it.  I'm a little afraid to add up the total cost, I think the average cost was usually between 15 and 20 Euro's or 20 and 25 USD.  This hobby can get a little out of control at times. Below is my stash, I think I ended up with 8 or 9 of these total:
I finally decided I had enough and wanted to get to work.  The process of separating the window sections from the 'blue' pieces on the already built buildings proved to be more aggravating than I expected....the plastic on these kits is pretty brittle and doesn't like any sort of tension!
But I discovered a 'weak spot' in the design on a lip on the back of the windows where the plastic is very thin and can easily be sliced with a hobby blade:
At this point I have a box full of disassembled window sections from the 5 or so 'already built' structures that I found on eBay and still need to 'cut up' the un-built kits.  I already have the styrene strips I want to use, a decent tool (finally) to make precise cuts, and I just need to make up my mind about what colors to use before I start attaching everything.

The main challenge now is to keep focused on taking this project to completion and avoid the distraction of my new Kato buildings that really want my attention, and my layout expansion plans which have been in the works forever (and have prevented me from talking about trains!).


Tokyo Hobby Shops!

Last month I shared my little trip to Europe...I'll provide some more updates on that at some other time, but in the meantime, a friend I met through this blog (Steve) has generously shared with me some of his exciting photos of his recent trip to Tokyo, and he has graciously allowed me to share them with you (Steve is working on setting up a blog of his own).  I hope I can do justice to his photos, and I'll try to accurately pass along Steve's commentary from his trip.

I asked Steve to share these photos as he took some really interesting photos of various train-centric hobby shops in Tokyo.  While I've been to Tokyo a couple of times, I wasn't 'into' trains so the hobby shops never were a priority for me...Now Steve shows me what I missed!  The good news for me, and hopefully you, is that these photos provide a nice idea of the experience.... plus, its kind of fun to shop vicariously through Steve's photos!

The Greenmax Store
According to Steve, this is a 'destination site'!  Lot's of stuff not available in the US, but unfortunately.... there are no discounts.  Some of the staff spoke a little English, which is obviously beneficial if you don't speak Japanese and plan to visit some hobby shops.  
In addition to their own material for sale, Steve shared a lot of photos of the dioramas set up in the store.... (Correction, these diorama photos were from the Greenmax booth at the train show at the Matsuya Department Store...they were NOT in their store!)
Excellent work on this 'modular' Greenmax kit!  Every time I see what folks have done with these kits, I get a little depressed at my own uninspired attempt (which I've never shared on this blog as I'm so unhappy with it!).

Models IMON
So, if you're at the Greenmax store, in the very same building-just 2 flights down- is Models IMON.   

From Steve's description, this seemed to be quite an upscale hobby shop, with sales staff in ties behind the counters.   Of course, with this level of service, Steve's impression that prices were full price as well!  Cetainly very interesting that there exists even is such a thing as an 'upscale' hobby shop!  Only in Japan!?

Tenshodo in Ginza

Okay, on that last topic of 'upscale' model train stores...just the storefront of Tenshodo blows me away!  Even if the prices are full price...what does that mean about this hobby in Japan when you can support this level of elaborate/stylish retailing? Amazing!

No interior pictures of Tenshodo unfortunately, but N Gauge is on one floor, and HO on the floor above (so you can save yourself the stair climb if you're just looking for "N"! Thanks Steve!).

Rail Center Chiyoda
Apparantly on the other end of the spectrum (and something more similar to what I usually expect from a good train store!) is Rail Center Chiyoda.

Here's Steve's summary:  "Tiny. Up a flight of stairs, over a restaurant. A lot of trains, not a lot of structures. With my focus on structures, I looked but found little. If I were looking for trains, this would have been mecca. They knew maybe 10 words in English, so shopping and asking questions was difficult."
Tam Tam
According to Steve, this is the best.  Big shop, big discounts, huge selection...AND it looks like they OWN a real life KATO high-rise!!!

Steve also sent me some photos of some of the new items from Kato and Tomix, in addition to some dioramas, at a train show that was being held at the Matsuya Department Store in Ginza.   I think I'm very near to 'maxing' out the number of photos allowed in one blog post, so I'll save those for later!

I want to personally thank Steve for sharing these pictures with me, and allowing me to share them on my blog.  I have to admit, its a lot of fun seeing all these shops and I hope I get to make the journey in person some day (again! this time I know better!).