Bookcase Diorama Project #4

Since my last update I've been able to lay roadbed and track for the bottom and second level, and have started to work on the structure for the 'third level' of track and the street (or top) level.

In the below photo you can see me using the tried and true method of using white glue (actually, I used carpenter's / wood glue version of white glue just because it was handy) and pins to hold the track in place.  I wasn't sure how the ends of the track were going to work, but with the help of my Dremel was able to get a nice even cut of the track to match the front of the diorama:
You might also notice some 'pipework' that I added to the top of the retaining wall.  It seems like major retaining walls you see in urban areas always have some sort of stuff attached to them, so I figured some piping (created with styrene rods) would add another level of authenticity!

Below is the cork roadbed applied for the second level, a Kato two-track girder bridge, and another section of unused Kato double-track that I will convert to another bridge:
 And below is the track laid down on the second level:
 Finally, a shot of the last level of track (this time a single track line) which abuts another retaining wall which will be where the city level / street level facades will go:
From the other side, I am thinking of adding a road bridge over the tracks on the other end of the diorama to add more depth and dimension to the diorama.  I'm intentionally trying to make this diorama as 'busy' as I can make it!


Quinntopia Featured in Trackside Model Railroading Magazine!

I've been asked a couple of times in the comments on this blog if my layout has ever - or will ever - be included in any of the model rail magazines.  Well, today I am here to tell you that it has!  The good folks at Trackside Model Railroading visited me in October after hearing about my layout from my Dad after doing a feature on his HO model club for their magazine last Summer.

Not only did they shoot some awesome photos (that put to shame my attempts!) and put together a nice overview of the layout, they also shot some gorgeous video and created a 10 minute long overview of the layout complete with 'real' train sound effects (so if you get a bit worn out by the over-the-top dramatic music of my own videos, you may like this approach! I do!  They did a fantastic job and has a completely different feel from my own videos).  Below is a two minute sample - see below for how to access the longer video and the entire December article:

Trackside Model Railroading is a digital-only magazine and is subscription based, but the publishers have allowed me to share a free copy of the December issue with readers of this blog simply by sending an email to the below email address (copy and paste the below into your email):


After emailing Trackside Model RR at the above email address (which do NOT go to me!), you will shortly get an email response from Trackside Model Railroading with links for getting a free copy of their December issue as well as the links to the longer 10 minute video.  Please note that I am not associated in any way with Trackside Model Railroading.

I tested this out and it seems to work fine!


New Montage Video for 2013

It has been a long time since I've created any layout videos (over a year), mostly because there have not been a lot of major developments on the layout for quite a while (a few buildings and structures notwithstanding, they are not really the most dynamic content for videos!).

So I put together this video which captures some of the layout running in the past year or so.

Hope you enjoy it!


Bookcase Diorama Project #3

While it seems like I have been spending a lot of time on this diorama in the past week, the actual results seem somewhat sparse!  Isn't that the way with this hobby!

Well, I got the airbrush out to give some color to stone walls for the bottom level of the diorama.  I have a base layer of flat black paint (above), and painted on some Tamiya Medium Grey (below) at a sharp angle to preserve as much 'black' in the shadow areas as possible.
While the airbrush was out, I also gave the track a shot of Tamiya Red-Brown for rusty rail look. This is the same color I used on my layout and I think it looks really good.  Side note that after just using the grey, and then switching to the red brown, the air brush then started to get all problematic on me.  It seems with Air Brushes that you spend as much - or even more? - time cleaning them than you actually use them for painting!
Wallah!  Now with a bit more concrete color, the bottom level starts to take on a bit more shape...but I'm not done yet!
 Using my homemade decal sheets, I applied some graffiti to the stone work, tunnel portal, etc...
 That graffiti should give me just enough of a gritty, urban environment that I want with this diorama!
I'm not sure when to do the track work or ballast...I still have to work out the middle and top layers, so I am thinking of getting all of the mechanical aspects out of the way before I go too crazy with track and ballast and that sort of thing.  Hopefully I will have more progress to share shortly! 

As always...thanks for reading!


Bookcase Diorama Project #2

Progress is under-way on the new "billy" bookcase shelf diorama!  The top photo shows the (now primed/painted) shelf diorama unit with some glue to apply an additional layer of foam core....

...and below is the extra foam-core layer applied with a 'cut out' section in the left corner to provide more elevation for the tracks on the diorama (this makes more sense if you look at the bottom photo):
Once the foam-core bottom layer adhered, I then worked out where my flex track would go, applied some cork roadbed, glued it down, and then cut out more foam core for the retaining wall (the blue clamps are holding some plastic stoneware sheets to the foam core in the below photo).
I've finally got the cork roadbed and enough of the bottom level retaining walls to start to get an idea of what the second level will look like.  You can see in the below photo where the second level tracks will cross over the bottom level.    You may also see why I added in the additional layer of foam core....this diorama will sit at eye level, and as there will be some sort of fascia along the front, I didn't want the tracks to sit right at the same level as the top of the fascia.
The retaining wall is the black area just behind the cork roadbed.  They are black as they just have a base coat of black primer on them right now.  I'm going to paint them a stone/concrete color and add some homemade graffiti decals as part of my next steps!


The Bookcase Diorama Project

One of the ideas I've been thinking about for a while is a way to better display some of my train collection in my 'Billy' bookcases (from IKEA) as well as try out some different modelling techniques or ideas - without haveing to build a whole new layout to accomplish this!

The top photo shows the diorama 'insert' that I've been working on. This will fill an entire shelf. The bottom base is some 1/2" foam core material that was leftover from signs from my workplace and was going to be trashed!  1/2" foamcore is like the normal 1/4" except really solid (and I can't even find it at normal outlets).  The background section is made of Sintra (a standby favorite material of mine!).  It will be primed, and then I'll start adding various diorama elements.  I have a vague plan in my head of what I want and will play with a lot of different ideas before I settle on what do.

Below you can see the empty shelf (I used to have some of my locomotives lined up next to each other on the glass).
As you can see, I also use some LED strips to add light to my bookcase shelving (this is way more cost effective and - I think - better quality than some of the kits you can buy at furniture stores).  One of the features of this diorama is that it will tap into the 12v DC power supply currently powering these LED strips so that lighting effects can be used on the diorama.

Below is rough sketch of what I am thinking....three levels for the trains, and then some urban backdrop.

This seems like a fun little project that should be a nice way to keep up on modelling during the long winter nights!  


Modernization Plans for E.D.O.

As we all know, Earth is vulnerable to all sorts of evil and calamity.  That's why the Earth Defense Organization exists (read here for more details).  If you're not familiar with the E.D.O.,  you can see the first (and only, so far!) adventures of the E.D.O here!).

Clearly, you can tell from that old movie that the E.D.O was heavily dependent on primarily the German Leopard I (from Arnold 4970), Leopard II (e.g. Roco 25595 or Herpa 741880),  and even the M109 mechanized artillery (Roco 25596) seen below with their standard transport vehicle, the E.D.O. Class 47 (Minitrix!)  While these machines were able to successfully fend off threats in the old days, they have begun to show their age and its time to modernize E.D.O. and prepare for new threats our planet will face!
I had previously added three APC's from Pendraken, which are in the 10mm scale as well (site lists this as 1:150)! But as you can tell, when placed alongside a typical N Scale car, the scale looks about right!
The below photo shows a little better the prototype color scheme of these new vehicles.
Below is the Reaper Wolverine  (07091) which is part of the "CAV" war-gaming universe and is in fact referred to as N Scale.  The Wolverine, shown below next to a Porsche, very much appears to be a heavy battle tank!
Some more shots.  The APC's will likely get a new livery before they are approved by the appropriate leaders at E.D.O.
Now in the works are a couple of new vehicles: a "Ballista" rocket launching vehicle from Dream Pod 9's Heavy Gear Blitz line (which is in the 'close enough' 1:144 scale) in addition to the Hawk WarGames model of a "Kodiak ACV" from the Dropzone Commander war-gaming line (these are 10mm scale models, which seem pretty close to 1:160).
Part of the fun of working with these machines is the relatively low cost per piece, so you try out some new things.  In fact, I am attempting to install lighting with some fiber optic cable in both of the above vehicles, which will be a first for me (and if successfully, could open up whole new worlds of interesting applications!).


New Locomotives Added to the Roster!

Hi again! Yes, its been over a month since my last post and (as some of you have noticed!) my frequency of posting has slowed down a bit since the Summer.  As I've mentioned in some previous posts, I am reconsidering new layout options and have been taking a slight break from the hobby while I seek inspiration.

Today was part of that inspiration! I attended the Great Train Expo in Puyallup Washington (about 20 miles south of Seattle) and did some casual browsing of both dealer sales and layouts (I've posted overviews of these train shows in the past if you are interested in what you would typically see).
I made a great find!  After watching eBay for a chance to capture one of the rare occurrence of a Lima D.341 in decent condition, I happened to find one sitting on a dealer's table with other older N gauge material!  Needless to say, I jumped at the opportunity to pick this up for $25 USD!

Its certainly NOT a locomotive that I would convert to DCC or even consider operating (I haven't tested it yet, but it does seem nearly unused!), but rather I like the older styling of these first generation Italian diesels (I think some of these models were built by Fiat, which is pretty cool!).  The brown and green livery with the red highlights are really interesting too!

This is actually a little bit of some of the 'sidetracks' I've been taking with the hobby in the past several months.  A couple of months back I picked up a brand new, mint, Bachmann E60.
What a brute this model is! Yes, its the odd American locomotive in my fleet, but the fact that its probably the last American attempt at building a mainline, electric locomotive, has signifiant heft and raw power in its looks (it was designed to replace the GG1 after all), and was also something of a commercial failure (giving it a sort of romantic industrial tragedy) made me interested in this locomotive.
Besides acquiring the 'odd locomotive' here and there, I do have some other mini-projects in the works:

  • I am working on a modernization scheme for the Earth Defense Organization (remember them? No, its still not safe and Earth still needs them!).
  • I was inspired by some of the 4dNtrak clubs Ntrack modular system - after watching what they have done, I am getting more ideas for "Quinntopia 5" - or whatever I call it!
  • I have some other projects that are a bit, well, crazy.  More to come!I still update my Flickr account with new photos here and there....please feel free to visit my Flickr site to see photos of my layout and other stuff....here's a sample!

That's it for now! Hopefully it won't be ANOTHER month before my next post, but don't worry, I'm still here! Just 'regrouping' as they say!   


Extending the City

Ahhh... Fall is here! And with the coming of Fall, its time to spend more time in the train room!  Despite my lingering ideas about building a new layout, this weekend I chose to clean the track, run trains, and take care of a few details.

One of the things that I decided take care of today was to finally do something about the 'blank space' referred to as the 'negative zone'.  What I did was added in three buildings that, since completion, have say idle on shelves!  Above (and below) are some photos showing where I placed the two Vollmer buildings that I completed way back in December of last year facing the tram line with their backs to the main rail lines.

I also placed the "Quinntopia Hospital" across the tram line from the Vollmer buildings.  Yes, this alignment now makes absolutely no sense (did it make sense before?) with the tram line running right in front of the hospital!
There's some open tarmac around these buildings and the tram line that, I suppose, is just really poorly utilized parking spots right now; a good location for a future tram stop I think!
Looking 'down the road' (miraculously, the below is one of about 20 photos I took from this angle that was NOT blurry!) you can see the Dali-esque inspired urban layout that the hospital/Vollmer neighborhood of the layout experiences!  Ah well....at least they do get access to public transit (and at least there is now a reason for a tram to visit this line!).
The above experience should make clear why I am considering a new start for a layout...I've just run out of room but - unfortuantely? - not ideas!!!!  No fear, I find it hard to part with things, so I am sure the layout will continue to stay well for quite a few more months or years!

That's it for now! Hopefully I'll have a few more updates on the layout and other N gauge hobby stuff shortly!  Thanks for reading!


N Gauge News - Fall 2013

As work on the layout grinds to a halt (see my comments at the bottom of this post), I thought I would share new product announcements that I have missed over the summer in case others (particularly in English!) did not hear or see some of these news items! 

I'm going to try and briefly capture some of the 'big news' (new locos, new buildings, etc...) but not trying to be as ambitious as my 2012 video review of new release items!

Second, the 'news' section of the German N Scale forum "1zu160" is one of my pre-eminent sources of N scale manufacturer news outside of the normal North American sources.  Check it out if you haven't before, you may find it interesting.  Of course, its in German, but through the magic of the Interweb, you can have Google Translate it right into the language of your choice (although the translation is sometimes weird and makes no sense), here it is translated into English.  If you are looking for product announcements from Japan, I would use the Japanese N Scale Forum or subscribe to HobbySearch's new products email for model trains.

Glacier Express in N from Kato Start Set 
This is not really new news as this had been announced some time ago, but there is an alternative version of the Glacier Express set from Kato being released as a starter set.   I'm not into narrow gauge and have not ridden or seen this line myself, but I understand the excitement a lot of folks have for this (particularly those who have ridden on it!).
(Photo from the Kato website)

Another article on this new train release and its accompanying cars on the 1zu160 site covers some of the scale questions that arise from the production of a narrow guage train that will run on standard 9mm N gauge track (a common occurance for Japanese modellers, but it appears a newer scenario for some in Europe).

Arnold coming back to America!!!??

The increasingly global model train super-power of Hornby is now re-entering the US N gauge market with its Arnold brand!  While I don't model American, I think its fascinating news!
Photo courtesy of HornbyAmerica.


One of the things I like the most about passenger transit in Europe these days are the sleek, modern looking rolling stock and their colorful schemes!  The new Piko GTW 2/6 Diesel railcar (if it looks similar to the FLIRT its because they are both made by the Swiss firm Stadler) in this scheme for "Val Venosta" fits the bill for me!

N Gauge Wind Turbines - Solar Powered!

Yes you read that right! Nowadays I think if you are a modeller on any continent wanting to reflect modern era scenery these wind turbines seem to be popping up everywhere!  From Tomix in Japan come these N Gauge Wind Turbines...that are solar-powered! Okay, yeah, its sort of a gimmick! But also sort of cool.  Photos from HobbySearch Japan.

Faller from Germany also makes a wind turbine, this time with a standard electric motor, although it seems to be a little pricier (but might be worth it if you really don't care to pay extre to have a totally unrealistic solar panel base on your wind turbines!).

Modern Blue High Rise from Cosmic
I still have to build by Cosmic Apartment building (links to my unboxing post), but I see that Cosmic is
continuing to release product in the N Scale range, now with these very blue and very modern high rise structures.  I am not certain if the 'window material' (or blue plastic) is something that could be lit from behind - so its not clear these would work on my layout.  Interesting idea! Photos courtesy of HobbySearch Japan.

They've also got a shorter, wider version of the same building available as well.

Spiral Elevating Bridge sections for Kato Unitrack and Tomix Finetrack
These are brilliant ideas for anyone who is contemplating building a layout that will require a hidden spiral to add some elevation to their layout and is also using Unitrack (or Tomix track).    The radii (right now for what appears to be just single track sections) are pre-designed for what Kato or Tomix track you are using (but seem limited to the smaller radii right now).  Of course, there are plenty of how-to's on the internet to learn how you can do this yourself, but this seems to me a much more complicated carpentry and engineering project that I would probably not enjoy or do a very nice job with! That's why I think these (again, available from HobbySearch Japan) kits (they are some thing you build and are made of engineered wood) from Cosmic could be a huge aid for lots of layout buildings.  Really cool idea. 

From the World of Sci-Fi Wargaming....(near) N Gauge Modular Building Kits?
This bit of news or information may seem like something WAYYYY out of left field for many of you, but I don't think it is.  As I've been publishing this blog and posting my videos, I've actually connected with quite a few war-gamers who, if not as thrilled with our trains and track, do appreciate the landscaping, modelling and structure work of our 'model train' layouts.  So its no surprise that some of them use N scale structures for their wargaming tables

In this case, its going the other way maybe!  A war-gaming model company by the name of Hawk Wargames has a 10mm 'scale' game called DropZone Commander.  The 10mm scale is (as I understand it) somewhat close to N Scale size...maybe 1:150.  The '10mm' refers to the height of an adult figure in the scale.  This is pretty close to many of our N scale figures so the scale seems about right and is confirmed by others.   So that means you now have access to a pretty cool futuristic army for your N Scale Empire (yes....perfect for the Earth Defense Organization, no?)!

 Or what is probably more realistic for many of us more traditional modellers is the building kits!  And what an interesting variety (and some great modelling and photos on their website!)!
What's interesting is that it reminds me a little of the old 'modular' systems that Arnold and Busch used to produce back in the 1960's and 70's, but not quite.  Its a modular system, but they are opaque/solid (like the blue high rise above from Cosmic maybe) so they present a little challenge for me and my interests in lighting.  Its possible to mill out windows but not fun.  You can also order complete kits or choose what pieces you like the most....I do like the variety!  They also have various details as well which could be useful for anyone looking for extra touches for modern buildings!  These are a lot of fund and I can definitely see myself spending money on these (they also have some free buildings you can print out, so you can test the scale and look for yourself as well).

All Photos from Hawk Wargames/Dropzone Commander are their property and come from their website.

That about wraps up some of the new or interesting things that I've seen over the summer! Thanks for reading!