2010 Wish List

I thought it might be fun to write out a 'wish list' of those items announced for 2011.  However, before I did that, I thought I would write out my 2010 list first since I realized that before some of the 2011 items are released some of these 2010 items are still in production (or I'm procrastinating and/or running out of money!). I like the idea of creating a list as it'll be interesting to look back on this list a year from now to see how much of this I actually got- and what I chose to purchase instead. 

At some point in the future, I'll talk about my 2011 release hopes, but for now, here are the '2010' items I'm waiting on or that occupy my wish list!

Flirt RRX Eurobahn from Modellbahn Union (via Lilliput)
A surprise announcement from Lilliput (a Bachmann brand) which typically only produces HO and HOe models, is this really great looking EMU.  The version I have on pre-order is the RRX Eurobahn version (shown in the photo above, courtesy Modelbahn Union).  Initial reviews of the already released Duetsche Bahn version have been very positive.

X73902 in Alsace Scheme from Arnold
A neat-looking modern railcar from France.  I like the interesting color scheme that is used in Alsace, although there are other version in equally interesting liveries.  Not yet released, although various sources seem to indicate it should be here by this summer.  We'll see.  Arnold (now reborn after the requisite bankruptcy maneuverings under the Hornby brand!) had a lot of interesting releases in its catalog last year, although I have to say I wasn't as impressed with the 2011 announcements).

Series E259 Narita Express from Kato
The new look of the Narita Express is pretty cool, and the translation into N Scale looks just as cool.  I expect more of the usual great quality from Kato which, naturally, is at a price point putting most European models to shame.  Photo courtesy of Kato. 

Duwag Tram from Kato

More Kato making this list is a good thing!  I like just about any one of these neat little trams.   In fact, that may be my problem...choosing.  The fact that its Kato - which means good quality at a reasonable price - also helps!

BB 26000 from Piko

Piko, a brand known in the US mainly for its line of G Gauge trains and accessories has also recently stormed into the N Gauge scene with a surprising diversity of French models.  Hah! Caught you napping Minitrix/Fleischmann!  These orange-painted electrics seem quite numerous around France, and I've found photos of these faded machines hauling freight and passenger trains to be quite appealing. 

BB 66000 from Piko

As I mentioned above, Piko has been busy producing French locomotives!  The color scheme on this locomotive is somewhat reminiscent to me of the Great Northern Railway's "Big Sky Blue" scheme, which is another reason I really like it.  I don't necessarily find 'hood units' the most interesting, but this is a good looking model of what appears to be a staple of the SNCF diesel fleet (and it will look good next to my CC 72000 can BB 67000 I'm sure!).

I think that about wraps up the 2010 items....at least for locomotives.  There's a list of freight wagons and passenger cars that I also have my eyes on, in addition to details and automobiles, but there is only so much time and, importantly, money (!!!) so we can't have it all!  In fact, that is not really the point, but it can be fun sometimes to dream!

One other observation....I noted above a couple of items from Piko (their first N scale locomotives in, what? 20 years or more?) and from Lilliput, which are - by any measure - positive signs that new manufacturers are stepping into the market!  Add to that some of the potential new releases from A.C.M.E., Mabar, Rocky Rail (Mehano) and Star Train and you would have to be somewhat optimistic for N scale in 2011.  Its a good time for N Scale!


Locomotive Roster: SNCF CC 72000; Minitrix 11125

Of all the diesels in all the world, this big, six-axle monster from France has to be my hands down favorite.  Not as well known as its similar looking electric cousins with the famous 'broken nose' of the SNCF, I first came across this class in the 2001 Minitrix catalog...unfortunately this was well after this model had been produced and would only be available on the second-hand market.  Nevertheless, its extremely distinctive styling (especially for a diesel) and dramatic paint scheme impressed me and I hoped that one day I would have a chance to get my hands on one.
Fortunately, Minitrix re-released this locomotive as part of a digital set in 2006, and I was able to get an 'open box' version from this run.  On the down side, Minitrix is using the same mold for this model from the 1980's (based on what I've learned online- so it must be true!), so some of the casting and details are not up to the higher standards of today.  On the other hand, especially considering how old this mold is, there's nothing too embarrassing about it (like some of the models from the 1970's would be) and it actually stands up pretty well (if you don't get too close).

The CC 72000 is a cool locomotive.  They were produced between 1967 and 1974 by Alsthom.  They seem to be still running today, although it seems clear that they are entering the end of their service life (remarkable to me that they are still in service....If I picked a US counterpart...say an Alco Century 636...most of those were retired back in the 1980's!  Okay...you could say Alco isn't a fair choice, but this wasn't really a mass-produced locomotive along the lines of the thousands of SD-40's made by EMD in those days.  So I think is pretty amazing they're still running at all!).  I also note that they produce about 3400 horse-power, which is certainly respectable from a diesel of this era!
But what I really love is its looks!  How does the model hold up?

Well what is most obviously wrong to me is the size of the headlights...which seems like a typical over-sized element on many N Scale locomotives (although newer production is getting better).  Even more 'wrong' - especially to those of use spoiled by today's LED's- is the really archaic method it uses to light the two front lights.  An incandescent bulb rests horizontally parallel to the front of the locomotive...which means that you get more light from one of the headlamps than the other.  Kind of makes the engine look like it has a 'sleepy eye'.
Minitrix has really invested in digital, and nice to see that they retrofitted this model with a new board to allow for a decoder (as mentioned above, this locomotive had the decoder pre-installed).   Operational it isn't as smooth as newer, high efficiency motors-nor as quiet.  However, its not bad either...certainly not as noisy as some of the 'coffee grinders' that I own!
Cosmetically, the hand rail under the nose also looks too thick and too shiny compared to the prototype.  Its a relatively minor flaw, but is somewhat distracting.  At some future point a bit of weathering will solve this I think. The third lamp (top) does not light up.  Not sure if this reflects the reality of the prototype, or the reality of Minitrix production and cost-efficiencies!
Don't get me wrong....this is one of my favorites, and I would gladly get another one (In fact, I already have...the newly released version in the "En Voyage" scheme is now in my possession!)!  It seems strong too...it certainly seems to be able to pull a lot of cars which complements the solid feel this model has!
With a line of grain or passenger cars behind it, this locomotive really looks good making the rounds of the layout.  Tough, yet sophisticated - with a hint of classic 1970's design in its striking paint scheme- one of my favorites!


Backdrop Part 2

After some good feedback-which confirmed some of my own concerns-I did some 'editing' on the backdrop today (and other stuff, but no pictures of that for now!).   I had too many mountains so I leveled out one half of the backdrop, airbrushed a bit more Tamiya "Sky Grey" and some other grey tones to add more of a misty blend to the hilltops and mountains in the distance.  Again the photo looks a bit more 'blue' than it does in real life, but it has the atmospheric, misty look I was going for!

The black plastic on the layout is to protect track and stuff from overspray.


Backdrop...and New Additions

I completed my 'stormy sky' backdrop last month and today I decided to add in the mountain landscape.  This was a nice break from ballasting and wiring!
Painting backdrops is somewhat counter-intuitive as objects further away are 'lighter' than the landscape closer to you...
I go back and forth on how well I've done on this...sometimes it looks a bit too....turquoise?   And than sometimes it looks perfect.  I'm not sure (sitting here looking at the photos also makes me think the color is not quite what is actually on the wall either).  I may airbrush a bit more Tamiya 'cloud gray' over the landscape further in the background to get more of 'misty' look and have it so that the mountain range furthest away is almost impossible to differentiate from the sky.  More to come.
On some other fun news....I've been looking to find a Nederlandse Spoorswegen Koploper for a long time.  As it would turn out, I was able to find not only one, but another version in the same week! I found two great gentlemen on the Dutch Marketplaats site  (forget eBay if your looking for model trains from the Netherlands...clearly all the Dutch use Marketplaats instead...which is hard for us non-Dutch speakers as the process is different than the universal eBay experience!) who were willing to package and ship to the USA!  So not only did I get a traditional Koploper in the NS colors (and its the recent version with the NEM 651 interface), I was also able to get an even more rare (at least to me) version in the KLM colors!
I installed the decoders in the two Koplopers today, in addition to finally getting my Graham Farish Class 150 Central Lines DMU working (more on that later) and digitized, which you can see in the below photo to the left.  Of course, the two EMU's in the center are the Koplopers.
Yes, with trains on the layout...trying to take a break from switch-wiring, ballasting, and some of the more challenging tasks associated with layout building, and taking a little time to enjoy the trains!


Whoops! Another Quinntopia Mistake!

Hopefully my mistakes can help others avoid repeating the same thing!  The photo above shows some straight track sections between the leads/turnouts for the freight yard and the passenger terminal / locomotive facility.   These straight track sections are new, as they replace a couple of switches that I previously had installed between the curves.  Knowledgeable track-planners and layout builders will have spotted my error where the previously installed turnouts were located in the image of my original track plan below....
The problem with the above alignment has to do with physics or something.  It doesn't matter though, what does matter is that the placement of the left hand turnout was a derailment magnet for many locomotives that should have been going straight through.  Diverging was better, but a switch needs to be reliable in both directions. Fortunately, this switch was redundant and unnecessary so I could remove it.  It did require that I re-ballast and repair the area (also means I have to patch my brand new control panel already!).  Ahhh....such are the joys of layout building.  I remembered reading about this type of placement after a curve following the 10th derailment (and checking the alignment of the points, etc...),  even though it was mainly my Class 03 and Class 44 that were derailing, my Tee and Class 66 also had problems. 

Speaking of the passenger terminal...here's a shot of the stub end itself with a few members of the fleet lined up....
The 'platform' in the above folder is just a sintra template until I can build - or buy - real 'platforms.  I'm thinking of building most of them myself, although I expect I may buy some butterfly platform covers.   This is fun stuff!

The locomotive facility is basically a two track stub...haven't decided if I'll add a 'shed' yet...that can wait.  For now its just nice to have a place to park locomotives 'out of the way'!   The area behind these two locomotives is plain....lots of scenery still needs to be done of course!
And finally- after over a year- cars have returned to the streets of Quinntopia!  People haven't made it yet...I'm still concerned that I need one more final vacuum with the shop-vac before I start applying people!  Although I had the streets lettered and decal-ed since the Holidays, I needed to add some 'weathering' to the streets to give them a more realistic look.  It turned out okay, but its good enough for now....sometimes its nice to stop a project at a certain point and move on to something else....I can always do more street weathering at a later time.
Just a quick update today!  Happy Training!


Locomotive Roster: SNCF CC 7100; Star Train 60129

The Alsthom CC 7100 was the worlds high speed record holder for just about 50 years.  Yes, this somewhat unassuming (what we would almost call a 'boxcab' in the US lexicon) set and held the world high speed record for a locomotive for 50 years.  Yes, its true...I read it on the internet.
This model is from a 'new' name in the N Scale business...Star Train.  Well, in truth, they only seem new because many of us are not in Espana modelling tren miniatura, in which case you would know that Star Train is the model train division of the Spanish toy company Soldat.  At least that's what I can determine...its really something of a mystery.  As I peruse the internet trying to track down who this company is, everyone from Roco and Mehano, to Hobbytrain seem to be involved (or rumored to have been involved) in the production of this locomotive.  In fact, I was surprised at how big model railroading-even N Scale- is in Spain.
This is an SNCF locomotive of course.  The model is really well done, and its the somewhat surprising yet consistently good quality of these smaller producers that amazes me (by 'smaller producers', I'm thinking of Piko's N Scale offerings compared to traditional giants Minitrix, Kato/Lemke and Fleischmann).  Colors, detail, printing and all the castings look correct (to me, I've never seen the prototype, but what I see looks convincing), 
The paint is actually really well done....it may be hard to pick out in the photos, but between the silver trim work that extends the length of the locomotive, there is a neatly applied strip of blue (like the prototype).  Again, really nice work by Star Train on this model.  It also features reversing white/red LED lights, although this is one area where I think the model falls a bit short...the LED's are the older 'blue-ish' type and are fairly dim.  They are on in the above and below photos, so you can get an idea of just how 'dim' they are.
My model came pre-installed with a decoder from CT Elektronik, so I haven't had to yet open it up and look at the guts (this is a feature in my book!).  The locomotive runs really nice and leaves little to be desired.   I like it so much that I am tempted to get the similar Dutch versions of these locomotives, but there are budget limits and with so many other interesting trains available these days, I may have to limit myself to just this one.