Hello again modelling friends! As you can tell from the title of this post I've hit what others might call 'writers block' with the layout.  And its this blog that's to blame.

Let me explain.

One of the many benefits of blogging about your hobby (trains, slot cars, war games, doll houses, exotic fish collectors, etc...) is that it gives you a nice overview of where you've been, where you're going, tracks your progress, documents things you want to refer back to later and (most importantly) connects you with others with similar or other interests (one of my personal rules about this blog is to keep a certain amount of discipline with regard to the content - it must be somehow related to N scale, European or Japanese modelling, or the pursuit of this hobby - I also have a small slot car track as well as a passion for Gerry Anderson and other sci-fi models, a growing love for the Naruto anime series, etc... but you won't find me posting about that here!).

A certain form of self-awareness also is created as you sit down to compose your thoughts on what you did in your hobby for 'the blog' and as you write it down you can't help explaining why you did it a certain way, or what others might suggest when you post some embarassing bit about your sloppy/rushed modelling job!

It was actually something I only thought of while posting on my "Model Power" kitbash back in the middle of March that has cuased me to fall off the cliff of creativity and cease all layout activities!  Here is the original comment I made in that post:
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.  
Here's the photo that accompanied that comment for some context:

The truth is, I REALLY did not think about why I was adding a building to fit that triangular spot until I started writing up the post about my Model Power kitbash attempt.  So once I finished this post, I started thinking more and more...."why would a building be here? It does make more sense to have the street continue through to the bridge".

The problem is that I've already put in a lot of time into the Model Power kit bash, street arrangements, sidewalks.

So I have gridlock: I am stuck between doing what I now believe to be the 'right thing', means scrapping a lot of work, time and effort from the original flawed (I now believe) plan.

Does that sound familar my fellow hobbyists?  I think this is the hardest part of the hobby, and maybe the reason a lot of people 'stop' at some point.  You invest a lot of time and energy, attempting to do what you think is the right thing, only to discover you did it wrong (need examples?  Too many switches, too much track in tunnels can't be cleaned, baseboards not even, not enough wiring to track, etc...etc...  fortunately I have learned or am in the process of learning more of these all the time!) and it just can be sort of discouraging after a while.

And that's why we need to be tenacious.  And this is why hobbies, any hobby, is good.

Tenacity is, frankly, not something that comes easy any more in our society, its just so much easier to 'give up' on so many things of rather trivial importance.  But I also think that this can result in a bad habit.  So that it becomes easier and easier to give up on important stuff as well. 

Okay, I may be reaching here, but I think 'tenacity' is a key character trait that our hobbies can both develop and require and share in common with other activities, like sports.  It is seldom recognized or understood in most hobbies however, although we can all appreciate some of the amazing results of people who have 'stuck with it' through all sorts of trials!  And therefore, the tenacity we 'learn' in our hobbies has a positive impact on the rest of our lives? 

Personally, I know that if I don't get back into that train room and decide to 'heck with the Model Power Kitbash!' I may never go back!  And then the whole investment is 'wasted' (okay, that's a bit over the top, but you get my point I hope)!

So that's a quick update on the layout.  And explains why all of my blog posts for the past month and a half have been about cars, hobby shops, loco reviews....anything other than layout updates!

If all goes well, my next post will be about the destruction of the Model Power kitbash! Hoorah!


Another Manhattan Hobby Shop Visit & Review

About three years ago I posted a review of a hobby shop in midtown Manhattan.  At the time I thought this was the only remaining hobby shop left in Manhattan.  As it turns out, this is incorrect.  Gotham Model Trains is located a few blocks south of the Times Square area, technically not too far from Red Caboose.
As you might have guessed from the above photo, I caught the M Line to get to Gotham Model trains, alighting at 34 St - Penn Station in the 'Garment District' where a short walk over to W 35th Street is an easy 5 minute walk to the building where Gotham Model Trains is located.  Below is looking West on 35th:
Continuing to walk west on 35th....
Finally arriving at the addres at 224 West 35th....where's the store?  Does that cryptic sign on the right mean I was too late? Has another hobby shop fallen by the wayside? No, not really....in this case you need to enter the lobby at 224 West 35th....
And then take the elevator to the 13th floor!
On the 13th Floor, you will find a clean lobby, with a well-marked entrance to the hobby shop!  Street level real estate apparently being well out of reach for a hobby shop in modern day Manhattan (even the aforementioned Red Caboose is in a basement after all!), this high-rise location seems to make sense! however I would have missed it if I hadn't decided to take a chance and go into the lobby and ask the doorman!
I was pleasantly surprised to find a well-stocked hobby shop up here on the 13th floor!  As you can see from the photos, scenery materials, paints are available. 
Probably of more interest was what appeared to be a very nice collection of HO brass locomotives, as well as a nice selection of European HO gauge materials from Marklin, Roco, etc....  This I did not expect!  They aslo a small but very nice HO layout on display!
A smaller selection of N Scale items included recent offerings from Minitrix, Arnold and others, in addition to a good selection of materials from Kato (not only Unitrack, but several of the more recent and larger buildings were for sale).
Given its relatively convenient location just south of Midtown and nice selection if you're in the middle of Manhattan for pleasure or business, a visit to Gotham Model Trains is probably a very welcome diversion from Broadway plays and overpriced meals!  A special thanks to the friendly staff for their kindness and permission to take some photos for the blog!


Locomotive Roster: KiHa 261; MicroAce A-8673

Time for an overview of another new addition to my fleet! the KiHa 261 from MicroAce!
About the Prototype:
This is a MicroAce model of a DMU set that is operated by the Hokkaido Railway Company- or JR Hokkaido- which is based primarily on the northern island of Hokkaido (the nationalized Japan Railways were privatized in 1987 resulting in the establishment of several regional railway companies...sort of the reverse of the French nationalization of 1938 or the British nationalization after the Second World War).  Apparently, and not surprisingly, Hokkaido's isolation from the rest of the Japan railway network results in some unique Japanese trains, including these DMU's given the relative lack of electrification compared to the rest of Japan. 
The KiHa 261 (I still don't know what "KiHa" stands for) is apparently a more modern version of the KiHa 281 and 283 series (Kato makes a similar model in the 283 series).   There is also a very similar looking EMU used by the Hokkaido Railway in the 789 series which, with its contrasting green colors, would look cool next to the blue KiHa 261! 
In fact, it was this model's striking good looks and its excellent color scheme that caught my eye years ago and which fortunately arrived 'under the tree' this past Christmas! 
Printing and details look good, at least as far as I can tell not being very familar with the prototype.  I'm not sure if they are just as good or almost as good as a Kato model (or Kato's 283 specifically) but I'm satisfied. An extreme close up photo below shows pretty crisp lettering!
DCC Conversion:
I go into the DCC conversion process in the video, so I'm not inclined to repeat the same information if its unnecessary (let me know in the comments if you'd like to see the steps in a 'non video' format), but I followed a conversion process nearly identical as that which I did for the Kato Sunrise Express EMU which I followed from a post on the always useful JNSForum.

I have only added a decoder to the motor car, leaving the cabs in their default 'always on' mode for the time being.  The additional time/cost to add two additional decoders into the cabs for a barely noticeable change from white to red lights is something I don't prioritize too highly (yet, I usually save these projects for later retrofit type things).
Overall, I really like watching this little DMU set run around the layout.  The colors and shape have a nice appearance on the layout.   As this was my second MicroAce product (the Rap:t being my first) I knew that I could expect a good quality product at a decent price, so no disappointments.  The only problem I've experienced, and I'm not sure of the cause, was that one of the axles fell out of the bogies and disappeared somewhere on the floor!  I've spend a lot of time crawling around on my stomach trying to locate this lost axle, so until I do, this set will be operating a coach short! According to the Wikipedia article on this class, they often run as four car sets, so I'm okay with this! At some point, I will need to try and order a replacement axle, however.
And finally, I have to mention the 'family resemblence' of these units to the Dutch Koplopers.  I mention this in the video, but wanted to add a photo hear just because I think its sort of interesting!


N Scale Cars! Part 3!

And here is Part 3 of a survey of some of the different vehicles on my layout!  Part 2 was posted here last week, and Part 1 is from all the way back in 2009!

As I put together these posts, I've tried to think what makes this topic interesting.  There's probably a lot of factors:  They are colorful and unique little toys, they're relatively cheap, and they represent something we are all rather familiar with!  I think why this is interesting for many folks is that while the selection of vehicles in N Scale is by no means comprehensive or complete, I'm surprised at how much can actually be found out there! So that's really the main purpose of this series of posts: sharing some of the unique, obscure, or otherwise less-well-known brands and vehicles that can work on an N scale layout.

Fleischmann (again)
On my previous post I misidentified an IMU Ford GT as a Fleischmann model, thankfully MK caught it and pointed it out in the comments!  As compensation for that error, I found a couple of other real Fleischmann models...of what, I am not precisely sure.  Anyone know what these are?
Oxford Diecast
Coming from the UK, is a wonderful selection of buses, wagons (as in 'station wagons'), lorries, and various sedans with a distinctly British flavor!  Yes, they are also in that abominable 1:148 scale but as with buildings and other non-rolling stock related items, I find the actual scale differences between 1:148 and 1:160 production to be mostly indistinguishable. 

Anyway, what's great about Oxford Diecast is that they truly are metal, a bit like the Mini-Metals available in the USA in that sense.  Paint, graphics and details are excellent.  And each vehicle has real turning wheels so you can have pretend races between Steve McQueen and Roger Moore!

Unfortunately (and expressed by yet another good point by MK in the comments on this previous post) is the fact that Oxford doesn't really make a whole lot of cars common to the modern era.  Buses? Yes.  Cars? No.  Perplexing given my sense that more and more modellers (particularly in N Gauge as opposed to the larger scales) are more prone to modern era trains, making N Gauge an ideal area for modern vehicles!

Oh yeah, I also have to say I love the packing of the Oxford vehicles. In fact, I love how this little Land Rover was presented that I haven't been willing to open it up to disturb it from its packaging! 
Oh no! Am I becoming a ....gasp!....a collector????
Rietze is another European manufacturer who, for whatever reason, seems to have little presence outside of the Continent (on the other hand, Busch, Herpa, Wiking are not unheard of in the US; Rietze is just never seen).  Despite this, Rietze has a decent line up of cars, and in fact a few vehicles that tend towards more contemporary styles like their Ford Transit Van, VW Golf, or their Audi A4's.

I don't have either of those, but I do have a large "Star Liner" tour bus to shuffle some group of annoying tourists through Quinntopia!  The below is a very large, very plastic, modern bus for all your charter needs from our friends at Rietze! Plus the wheels move! Yeah!
Did someone say they needed a bus? Below is just a sampling of a few different VW vans from several manufacturers.  The bus on the right is the Minis version profiled in the last post.  The bus on the far left is a Wiking ambulance version.  The one in the center in the very bold blue and red colors is from Rietze!

One thing that hasn't changed in the nearly four years since I first wrote about N scale cars was my affection for Tomix.  And to this day, I must admit, they are still the best at N Scale cars.   Every car has exceptional detail (at least relative to the cost/price!), wheels that turn, windows, features and details painted appropriately, etc... All at the same, and often much less, than you will get from any other manufacturer.
What is also awesome about Tomix is the super-cool way you can purchase a collection of these through one of their "Car Collection" sets (or "truck", "bus", or "trailer" collections) which containt between 16 and 24 vehicles.  Below is the "Car Collection V 13" which contains 24 vehicles (mainly from 4 basic families of vehicles, so you do wind up with some duplicates).
Tomix does an equally impressive job with its truck/trailer sets!   I purchased one of the above mentioned 'collections' several years back and have happily populated the streets of Quinntopia with these vehicles.
Van/Trucks of slight smaller capacity area also available - in a distinctly modern look!
And there is just an amazing amount of diversity...the older, pink station wagon in the back, the yellow cab, and the two smaller cars in front...well, I don't know if I've ever seen any of these models in real life (all Tomix vehicles are created primarily for the Japanese market, so you'll see models, or at least names of models, that may never have seen the light of day outside of Japan).
On the layout, they look absolutely perfect.  Again, this "1:150" scale issue I don't see as a problem.  That could be because some/most of the vehicles are ones I'm not familiar with.  I don't know what exactly the below vehicle is but, who cares? It looks right (almost looks like a Fiat) and the detail and look of the vehicles at this cost are perfect.

It seems like Wiking is one of those brands that has been doing the same thing for years and years, and in fact has been making plastic-injected scale car models since the 1950's.  I don't know when they first jumped in N Scale models, but it seems to me like they were one of the first.

The diversity of their catalog can be surprising, for example the two Mercedes Benz vehicles surround a Chevy Malibu!

I tend to be something of a sucker for older style packaging (or "N scale nostalgia"), so these older style trucks with trailers really caught my eye as I think they are quite cool (not sure how old these models and packaging actually are!).  Yikes! Another potential symptom of becoming a 'collector'!
Wiking does have a catalog of both old and new vehicles, with their 'new Beetle' (below) and Passat doing a nice job of providing some contemporary models.  Of course, they make the old Beetle as well!

Okay, so that about wraps up my 'overview' of N gauge car models as of 2013!  Looking back at my first post in 2009 on this topic, its surprising both how much has NOT changed, and yet, how much there is available to discover!  It makes me wonder what my "N Scale Cars" update in 2017 will look like! Maybe we'll have remote controlled cars without wires, lights and sound?! Nahhh.... Probably not!

Let me know if there are any other major manufacturers that make cars (primarily cars, as I know trucks and other industrial vehicles get into a whole other area) that I missed in eigther these two posts, or the older one from 2009.  I'm sure I'm missing someone!

As always, thanks for reading!