N Scale Cars! Part 2!

Almost four years ago I wrote a blog post on my then collection of N Scale cars*, which just so happens to have been one of the most popular posts on all of Quinntopia!
              * "N Scale" being used loosely here as some of these are from Japan and are a slightly larger 1:150 or from the UK and 1:148 'scale', although I don't see a horrendous difference once on the layout.

So now that its 2013 I thought I would provide an update on some of my N Scale cars with the sole purpose of sharing information, opinions and thoughts about this fun and relatively inexpensive area of the hobby!

In fact, given how inexpensive these little cars are (usually, not always), its easy to assemble a nice little collection fairly easily, so I'll break this post up into two posts!

Also....remember that these cars are REALLY small and the photos of these vehicles are like 50 times larger than what your eye would normally see! So details look bad, tiny fibers look like cables, and bits of dust look like boulders!  Its like Fantastic Voyage all over again!

I.M.U. / Euro Modell
I.M.U. was a small European manufacturer that made an interesting range of vehicles based on European prototypes apparently based off old Wiking molds?  I first got exposed to these models a couple years ago when I bought a lot of used N scale cars off of eBay which include several I.M.U/Euro Modell and Marks cars I haven't seen before.  The problem with identifying these models is that they have no markings at all, so its a bit of a puzzle!  I think the company is now called Euro Modell, however all the packaging I've seen for these models still says I.M.U., so I don't know.

Below is an unidentified (Trabant maybe?) vehicle which may or may not be I.M.U. plus a Citroen DS (the sporty green car!) and a Citroen HY van.
One of the few Volvo's in N scale is also an I.M.U. model; the blue/purple vehicle on left is a Volvo "Buckel", while the vehicle on the right is the unmistakable Citroen 2CV.
But its not just plastic, IMU also makes several Ferrari models in die-cast metal!  Again, there are no markings on the cars, but as I ordered this one new, it came in an official I.M.U. case! 
In general, I.M.U models lack moving wheels and details and casting are fairly crude by today's standards, and window glass (for the most part, the die-cast Ferrari is the exception) doesn't sit flush at all.  They are not particularly cheap either (the die cast ones are fairly pricey

A definite step up in quality is Busch.  Windshields, finer printing and overall better appearance - although sadly no turning wheels!  Their range seems really focused on emergency or police vehicles, so they seem somewhat limited in terms of how much you could put on your layout (on the other hand, maybe Quinntopia is just the place where every private citizen drives around in their own little emergency vehicle?).

Below are two different Mercedes models, but they have some cool looking Opels, and a 1950 Buick and Chevy Pick Up that I think a lot of folks would be interested in.  Check out some of their current offerings here.
Taking a bit of a smaller step back we have a couple of sports cars from Fleischmann.  As may not be surprising from the quality of these cars, I suspect they go back to the 1980's or earlier as they are fairly crude.  But you can add a Porsche 911 or a Ford GT to your N scale layout...it'll give all of those people in their emergency vehicles something to chase!
One of my favorites lately are these NSW Sport Prinz models from Herpa!  Better known for their small airplane models, not surprisingly Herpa does a really nice, quality job with their cars.
Herpa has also in recent years taken ownership of Roco's famous Mini-Tanks line of plastic military vehicles (which was primarily an HO scale venture, although they had a few 1/160 items).  So you can now get this terrifically named and looking "UniMog" in a Herpa package (along with some Leopard tanks and M113 APC's if you need them).

Need some buses? Needs some buses for Tourists?  Surprisingly, there seems to be a disproportionate number of buses in N Gauge than cars (Check our the offerings from Mini's, Rietze and others), but a couple of my favorites are these die-cast metal and plastic buses from Kyosho from Japan.  If the name Kyosho sounds familiar is because they are probably better known for the Radio Control products than their N gauge models! 
If your road transportation needs are more from the 1950's-1960's era,  and you don't mind a preponderance of Mercedes and other European vehicles (along with primarily German advertising on the trailer sides), then Minis is a great brand to check out.  They make some really beautiful trucks with trailers as well as other commercial vehicles.
They are not limited to just commercial vehicles, as this really sharp, precise VW van demonstrates!

Marks is an interesting company.  Again, a focus on European prototypes, they have some of the most expensive cars in N scale available!  The one 'premium' version I have, is another Volvo. Amazingly similar in some aspects to the much cheaper and cruder plastic version from IMU.  Although the photo does not represent it well, the detail and printing on this rally car Volvo are really sharp.  It also cost me too!  I think this one car was the same price as 3 or 4 cars from other manufacturers.

That's if for "Part 2"!  Part 3 is coming! Thanks for reading!


Model Power Kitbash: Triangular Building (WIP / Part 1)

I continue to pluck away at filling in the building gaps in my background behind the passenger terminal.  My approach has been to find unusual facades or kit-bash / scratch-build my own facades for this area of the layout.

Currently I am working on filling the gap in the triangular space you can see in the above photo.  This structure would fill a gap between the bridge and road to the 'country side' (on the left) and the end of the urban area (which is mostly to the right in the above photo).

I am having a bit of an internal debate on the why/how of the actual need for a building in this location as I could just as easily have the street above the passenger terminal merge into the other road.  Yes, that would be the easy thing to do!  Well, if this doesn't work out, that'll likely be what I end up with!  But I like the idea of a building sort of 'blocking' this street as I think it sort of creates a 'bookend' to the urban area while (seemingly) being a realistic issue where city streets and railway tracks don't always result in good plans.

My victim for this kit bash is a Model Power "St Mary's Hospital" that I've been sitting on for years.  This is a ubiquitous, cheap kit that is easy to find in the US, so its a good candidate to play with.

My first decision was to realize that a mere three-story building (as provided) was far too short, so I've decided to make the building a total of 5 or 6 stories by adding all the front and side sections together.  The below photo shows the combined result for the front and sides.  But what to do about the other walls?
As this building will be triangle shaped, and one side won't be visible from nearly any viewing point, I decided to create a semi-fake wall for the back of my triangular building.  You can actually see the final, cut version (on styrene sheet) in the above photo on the right.  Below is the markings and measurements for the windows to match the window spacing of the other floors in the middle of the tedious scoring process to cut the windows out of the styrene.
I did not want this building to be a hospital (really an 19th century hospital looking at the kit!), but not sure what it will be.   Something generic I suppose.  What I did want was a large sign with big letters at the end of the street advertising whatever name of the company inhabits this street.  You've seen these sort of mid-century sign/facade additions to real buildings I'm sure.  Basically an older structure with a clearly mid-century bit of signage covering up parts of the lower floors.

On another sheet of styrene (this sheet a type with small grooves in it that would resemble wood slats in a larger gauge) I marked off the spaces to be cut out where my 'letters' will go (which will also be back lit).
You can see the painted letters (in red on the blue tape) and the clear plastic rectangles they will get attached to on the left in the below photo.  I'll be using "Slater's" letters for the sign letters.  The word to get placed on the sign is "Stern".  Doesn't really mean anything, but seemed ambiguous enough to be just about anything in multiple languages!
After getting all of my black base coats done (for both the interior and exteriors), I'm still debating the right colors for the building, sign, trim, etc...  I want a sort of weathered, older building look.  My first attempt at the building base color was a bit too green and therefore too obnoxious, so I'm going to tone it down a bit with a more buff/tan color.  The trim sections are placed on top of the green to see how they will look together and won't be glued down until I can decide on the right colors!
So that's it for this project! Looking at the photos...wow that's a lot of ugly photos!  Yikes! Well, hopefully the finished project will not only be done soon, but will also be more photogenic when its completed versus these construction photos!


Amsterdam Hobby Shops

Late last month I took advantage of a business trip to Europe to take a day off for train-spotting and (maybe) some shopping!  On my way to visit the Nederlandse Spoorwegmuseum (Netherlands Railway Museum in Utrecht) I spent some time in Amsterdam and scouted out a few hobby shops.  Since my interest is mainly N Scale, I'll give you my review and some general directions based on my own personal interests in the hope that they will help other fellow travelers!

I was able to visit 4 model train specific hobby shops, three of which are located fairly close to the central Amsterdam area, while one (Harlar Modeltreinen) is located about halfway between the central area and Schiphol airport.

Schaal Treinen Huis: The fist shop I visited had the appropriately named "Schaal Treinen Huis" and is easily accessible via Tram Line 3 (or 7).  Note that I found the Tram drivers to be extremel helpful and friendly and made this trek for this English traveller quite easy.

The shop had a lot of nice materials for layouts and a decent selection of HO, but not too much in the way of N gauge.  Its probably worth a stop if your in the neighborhood as it is really convenient to the central area (perhaps a place to sneak off to while your wife visits the Rembrandt museum?), but for N gauge materials, not too much.
Hobbyland: The second shop I visited was called Hobbyland, which is fairly easy to get to from Tram line 1.  Located across the street from a park, I had hoped to find more N Gauge here, but alas, it is primarily an HO shop.  Rumor has it that the owners will be retiring soon and will be shutting their doors soon, so check ahead if you decide to visit to ensure they are still open!
Marklin Store: My third visit was a bit further out on the periphery of Amsterdam out near Amstelveen.  Tram line 5 was able to get me to "Station Zuid" where a 5 or 10 minute walk found me at the Marklin Store in Amsterdam.  Of course, a Marklin store can't be expected to have more than a few Minitrix items, and this store did indeed have a nice selection of Minitrix locomotives and rolling stock.  I had a nice chat with the clerk who was working there, who encouraged me to visit their 'bigger store' further out from Amsterdam. 
The quest for Harlar Modeltreinen Getting to Harlar Modeltreinen using public transit (or at least the tram lines) requires taking Line 2 all the way out to the very end of the line at Nieuw Sloten.  Once off the tram, follow the bike path through this very suburban area.  Eventually this bike path T-bones at a roadway named "Vrije Geer" where you take a left at this roadway.
Walk alongside Vrije Geer for a while which will take you in a West/Southwest general direction.
Vrike Geer eventually T-bones into another street in a more commercial area, where you again take a left and walk along for a few minutes (head towards the windmill) where you will cross a small bridge over a a canal.
Once across the bridge, you are in the little hamlet of Badhoevedorp, where you will find the street Badhoevelaan. which looks like a residential street with a few small shops along the way.
Almost to the end of this street you'll come across this sign - which means you have arrived at your desitnation (perhaps after a 15 minute walk).
The shop is actually down a driveway behind this blue house.
A large display window makes the shop quite obvious!
The store manager was kind enough to allow me to shoot a few photos of their very clean, nice shop layout!
The good news for modellers like myself, was a very good selection of European N Gauge materials, with a very healthy selection of Fleischmann and Minitrix locomotives, as well as Hobbytrain, Brawa, and others. 
Plus, plenty of rolling stock!  Definitely the best destination for N scale in terms of breadth and depth! And well worth the walk and tram ride to get to the shop! Important to note as well, is that its also pretty close to Schipohl International Airport as well.


Locomotive Roster: Hobbytrain H2654 SNCF G2000

Greetings again fellow N Gaugers (and other scales and hobbies of course)!  Today we review something that was quite an enigma to me.  Announced last year by Hobbytrain was a release of the G2000 locomotive in several different liveries.  Upon first seeing this announcement by Hobbytrain, like many people I wondered if this was the same model previously marketed by Mehano?  Mehano, like several other manufacturers in the past several years, has going through some financial difficulties, so it seemed possible that to raise some cash Mehano would let someone else take over marketing of one of their finer locomotives.
I already had one G2000, of course, in the black MRCE livery.  I've enjoyed this locomotive so much that getting a second one was always an option, and having seen that Hobbytrain was releasing this in the SNCF Fret Benelux livery, it was definitely on the list!  So last Christmas, this locomotive arrived with several other items!
One of the first questions I had (although my this time my suspicions that this Hobbytrain model was basically the same as the previous Mehano version) was to see how it compared to the MRCE G2000.  Other than some basic details (the livery, of course, as well as the Hobbytrain stamp on the bottom of the fuel tank instead of a Mehano mark) its the same model.  Which is good news as the Mehano model was excellent!
So I won't go into too much detail on this model as I've covered this in both the video and in the previous G2000 review, although I will talk more about one of the challenges with this locomotive (removing the chassis for the decoder install).

I will mention one thing.  The green color of the cabs was a question of some debate on the forums, and (notwithstanding my own challenges with 'white balance' in my own photographs!) I think the green color looks correct when compared to the prototype photos I've seen on the web compared to this model.  Of course, that's my opinion and I could be way off! It does seem to be a shade of green that is very susceptible to the ambient light conditions so it can be sort of distorted based on the lighting, camera settings, etc...
Removing the Chassis from the Mehano / Hobbytrain G2000:
I briefly explain this process in my video review, but I think a post is much easier to follow.

Something else of interest is that I removed the chassis (for what should be the same model!) in a completely different manner than I did the first time for the black MRCE version!  With the MRCE version, I was somehow able to remove the cab sections on both end, which allowed me to remove the 'center' shell section.  This time the cabs seemed to be on much tighter than I remembered, so I looked for other ideas on how to remove on the web and discovered this approach.

What I discovered with this approach is that you need to remove three parts on each side before you can remove the chasses to get to the decoder: the side facade, the walkway, and then (and only then) the handrails.

Step 1:  Gently pry off the facade section below the walkway.
Using a very fine tip point, this covering piece snaps out of little connections that hold it to the side of the locomotive.  The first photo below shows the start of this process.
Once these side pieces are removed, you then have access to the diamond plate walkway section.
Step 2: Gently pry up the walkway section.
This step is actually quite tricky as the walkway (at least on my model) was inserted very firmly and some firm - yet gentle - pressure was needed to lift the walkway out of the plugs that hold it down.  Unfortunately during this process some of the 'plugs' snapped.
In the below photo, you can see that the walkway has been removed, but also notice the two small white bumps on the left side.  These are two of the connecting plugs from the walkway that snapped during removal as I mentioned above.  So be careful! Not really sure how this happened (and it did not seem to adversely affect my re-installation of the walkway later, so no apparent harm done).

Step 3: Remove the metal handrails:
Somehow I thought that the handrails could be removed without taking out the walkway first.  As it turns out, this is impossible.  And my efforts to try and remove the handrails WITH the walkway in place led to some unnecessary distortion of the fragile (but very nicely done) metal railings.  So lesson learned...handrails come off AFTER the diamond-plate walkway!  And they come of very easily (just by lifting up, as its the same walkway plugs that hold the handrail sections on).
Step 4: Gently pry shell up at the little tabs holding the shell to the chassis.  As I recall, this was a really easy step.  The only thing that slowed me down here was stopping to take a photo!
Once the shell is off, of course, you can remove the 'dummy' plug from the NEM651 socket, and add in the NEM 651 six pin decoder of your choice!
And thus, we close on yet another review!  Coming soon is a review of another new train set I received at Christmas - but this one is from Japan!  As always, thanks for visiting Quinntopia!