Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Happy new year!

First of all, I would like to thank all visitors who have found my little blog the past year, in total a little over 900 unique visitors from 51 countries. Thanks as well for all reactions! It's always nice to get some feedback and encouragement every now and then.

I'm really looking forward to the new year, which already promises to become another great tramway modeling year with loads of exciting new models announced. As for me, I'll be in Canada for the next few weeks, but after that I hope to make some good use of the long winter evenings to do some fine tramway modelling. I'll keep you informed!

Have a great 2011 everybody!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Saturday, December 4, 2010

T7B5 from Oslo (2)

Lileau residents are very happy with the arrival of the new Oslo tram in the city.
Shorty after the arrival of the transport from the Czech Republic, the T7B5 was spotted doing test runs. The opinion of both staff and onlookers: A great gain for the city!

Read more about the model and prototype in a previous post.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Tomytec Kumamoto 9700

Tomytec will be releasing a model of the Kumamoto City 9700 series articulated tram in march 2011.
Like the previously released Portram/ Centram the shell fits on the TM-LRT01 powered chassis. Two colours will be available, early livery (white/light blue) and late livery (white/black).

Introduced in 1997, the 9700 series were the first low-floor trams in Japan. I think they have quite a European look, as they were build in Japan under license from German manufacturer Adtranz.

Become a member of the Tomix Yahoo Group to get more news like this first hand!

Monday, November 29, 2010

Lighting up

These streetlights are very cheap ones from Hong Kong (eBay, 10 for under € 10,-, and free shipping as well!) but I think they look quite okay on the little layout.
The wiring is nothing fancy, I just connected them to two AA batteries, which are hidden inside the module. A little switch turns them on. I chose to go for battery power because the tiny LED's will probably last almost forever on a battery charge and it keeps connecting modules in the future very simple.

I'm really enjoying this stage of construction in which the city gets more and more alive with every detail added.

And my T7B5 should be arriving shortly! Looking forward to running it. Hope to get some more track in soon as well, so I can start on the turning loops. Then the enjoyment of watching the trams go by can really begin :)

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

How 'bout a little triangular layout?

Just an idea. I think it'll look quite good with a couple of these in the middle :)

Design made with Tomix 103R and 140R curves/turnouts. Size 50 x 50 cm.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Tram stop construction

Got these really nice street fences from Sankei today. Sankei (from Japan) makes high quality laser cut paper models and various interesting details like these fences. The figures are from Preiser.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Auhagen 14464

Got this kit at the local hobby shop today. It contains two 4 storey 50's/60's German apartment buildings. The design is generic enough to make them useable almost anywhere in the world.
The kit comes with a white/greyish and a light yellow building, but the rather shiny plastic definately needs a coat of paint.
German manufacturers have a good habit of casting the window frames seperately, which always makes the painting process a lot easier. Also nice: all side walls in the kits are moulded together.

It's not the most detailed kit but it's cheap (€ 16,-) and has a big plus: it's completely modular, you can build the buildings any way you want really. The builings can get a tiled roof or a flat roof, fitted with balconies or without, the ground floor layout can be changed, and the best of all: buildings can stacked on top of eachother and multiple kits can be combined.

I really like this modular approach. This is my first Auhagen kit and I must say I'm pleasantly surprised, looking forward to building it!

A couple examples:

Ah, and the alcoholics were on sale :)

Friday, November 12, 2010

A small turning loop

Figured out what I believe is about the smallest possible turning loop based on 140 R Tomix Finetrack. I avoided an S-curve in this design, which could mean trouble for several coupled trams. The tram stop can be situated either along the diagonal S99 or along the S280 at the bottom.The baseboard for this loop should be about 50x35 cm.

My plan is to make two modules based on this design to get a basic layout, which can be extended with new in-between modules in the future. Decided to go for these instead of the Y-turns because of the ease of operation.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Croncrete slabs and rusty masts (2)

As promised in my last post, some more pictures. I have been unable to use any pictures made with my mobile phone, so I took some afterwards. These don't show all stages of building, sorry about that.

The catenary masts. I decided to go for non-functioning overhead for now. In the future these masts can be easily replaced with live wire ones, as the masts are attached to bolts wich slot in holes in the track plates. This also makes replacing a damaged mast very easy.
The base was made from 2mm dia styrene tube, with a drilled hole in which the 1.2mm dia brass tube fits. The 0.5mm brass wire was soldered to the tube. Some insulation from electric wire finishes the mast. I sprayed the whole mast a light grey colour, and then painted the wire-hanging parts black with a little drybrushed rusty colour. After all, Lileau community isn't spending much on maintenance ;)

The track, before and after. Tomix Wide Tram Track is really easy to use but I don't like the shiny rails and plastic. These had to be re-painted. The inside of the flangeways were brushed dark brown (be careful to whipe excess paint off the rails afterwards). I didn't paint the rail joiners and last centimeter of the pieces before joining them together to ensure electric conductivity. When dry, the rails and flangeways were masked and the plates sprayed concrete colour. A light wash of black ink and voilà! Washing all pieces seperately makes the tramway look very lively.

The zebra crossing is a rub-on decal from (I believe) a Busch set. To get some of the whiteness and shine away, I gave the crossing some local weathering after applying.

This picture also shows the top of the M4 bolts the masts have been attached to. They look a little big, but I've seen examples of these in real life so I'm not that bothered about them.

By the way, the platforms aren't glued down yet, this will be fixed soon.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Concrete slabs, rusty masts and brand new Combino's

I've tackled two jobs this weekend: making overhead masts (design based more or less on these) and painting the tram track.
I would like to show some of the process, but I'm having trouble uploading pictures from my mobile phone to blogger, so you'll have to do with this picture of the results for now.
Will upload some pictures of the work in progress when I have figured out the problem.

By the way, really looking forward to the release of Modemo's Combino. Some mouthwatering pictures of the prototype can be found here.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Ah, some progress!

It's been one of those good days: a day off from work and plenty of time to do some modeling. A nice day to make some progress on the road and trackwork of the downtown module :)

My initial plan was to use ballasted Tomix Finetrack, but as the new Tomix Wide Tram track was released recently, I decided to go for that. I gave the rails a dark brown coat of paint. The surface will get concrete colour at a later stage.
Next up were the sidewalk and the two platforms for the tram stop.

I also made some good progress on the Artitec building at the right. It's an incredibly fiddly job to paint all those window frames and architectural details, but I'm happy about it so far.

Ah, and I've also been in contact with Hobbytrain/Lemke. They think the new Düwag M6 will be released in about 5 to 6 months. Looking forward to it! :)

Friday, October 15, 2010

Fresh tram news

From N-Gauge Information:
In spring 2011, Tomytec will be releasing a model of the 2000 series tram in Kyoto and Matsushima liveries. If I understand it correctly, a new chassis is being developed for this tram, which will be adjustable in lenght. This would make it great news for modelers, definately worth following!

And then there's also news from Modemo. Plans are to develop a model of a 5000 series Hiroshima 'Green Mover' LRV, a Siemens Combino. The tram will have a flywheel and working head and tail lights. A model which will undoubtedly look good on many European layouts as well.

Good modeltramnews just keeps coming these days :)

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Ivanovo tram: just another sad story

I came across these videos (by Trolleway) shot on the last day of tram service in Ivanovo, a Russian city that has closed down its last remaining tram line in june 2008. Sadly a story in  more Russian cities, unwilling/unable to invest in track maintenance and new stock: Arkhangelsk (july 2004), Astrakhan (may 2007) and Voronezh (april 2009).

Last day of Ivanovo tram - cabview
Tracks on closed lines and last two trams in service

Monday, October 11, 2010

Work in Centre-ville

Lileau's first module will be a downtown setting with several late 19th century and early 20th century buildings. From the left to the right these are Artitec's Kaufhaus 14.160 (status: needs detailing and glazing), Faller's Stadthaus 232307 (status: done) and Artitec's Gable 14.140 (still needing a lot of time, but the time-consuming job of cutting out all windows is done!). There will be a fourth, very narrow, building, probably a modified DPM kit.
In front of the buildings, there will be a pavement and single lane road with some parking places and a bus stop. I have planned a tram stop in the front of the module, with platforms on both sides of the double track line, connected with a level crossing. I hope there's space for some trees left after all of this :)
When the track arrives from Japan, I'll probably cut slots in the plywood for it to fit in, in order to get the top of the rails level with the streets. That should give the track a bit more a tram-like appearance.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Recent developments

I have gotten rather unhappy with my micro tram layout lately. Not only because some rolling stock doesn't like the tight curves, but also because of some design errors like the curved platform (causing huge gaps) and the limited room for buildings, giving the layout not quite the look as I wanted it to have.
Well, I decided that I won't finish it the way it was intented, but instead use the layout as a base for a new layout in G9 scale (1:22,5, running on 9 mm track). Read about these developments in the thread I've started on the Gn15 forum. Now I just have to find a nice prototype to model :)

On the N tram front meanwhile,  I'll go for the modular approach, using 15x35 cm modules which together will form a small tram network. This allows me to work on a manageable, small project at a time, while not having to compromise on urban look, curves radii and platformlenghts. I have just started on the first module, depicting a downtown scene, with a double track tram line in the front. The buildings in de background are just 3.5 cm deep. I'm very happy with the way things are looking so far!

The story*
As I think every layout needs a story behind it, here's mine:
Alfred Mongy is known for constructing the grand boulevards between the french towns Lille, Roubaix and Tourcoing, giving the towns a connection by tramway. However, little known is that he also did a similar project in Lileau, a town with roughly 50.000 inhabitants on the French/Belgian border. Finished just before the beginning of the 20th century, the boulevard and tramway (althought slightly less wide as in Lille) connect the city center with its suburbs.
Originally, two-axle vehicles drove the line, which were later replaced by 4-axle units. In the 1970's it became clear that much had to be invested in new trams, to replace the aging stock. However, the city counsel made plans not to do so and replace the trams by cheaper city buses. An end had come to 80 years of tramway history in Lileau...
...if it wasn't for the Lileau people. They were outraged and absolutely weren't going to lose their beloved tram. By the smallest possible majority the plans were rejected and the tramway was saved, be it that not much money was invested in maintenance and rolling stock. The community transport authority had to purchase trams second hand from many European and even a few US cities, making Lileau a favorite city for tram enthousiasts. Düwags, Tatra's and even PCC cars can be seen operating on a single network.
Things have been looking good for the tramway recently. Although mostly second hand stock is used, rumours have it that the transport autority will be investing in brand new light rail vehicles. A tram from Toyama has even been spotted during test runs...

*This story is completely fictional and not by any means final. It may be changed without prior notice ;)

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Some (new) products

A couple of N scale tram-related products I recently learned about:

New from GHB International is this model of a Birney Streetcar, in the double truck variety. Prices of this nice model start at $ 39,- for an unpainted shell and $ 59,- for a motorized model, add $ 16,- for a working trolley pole. A painted model will cost $ 20,- extra per colour. But for that, you can get the model in any livery you like. I'm shure this model will find its way to many US trolley layouts!

Finescale und mehr does these brass N gauge tram rails, both in a NEM (=N standard) and finescale variety. A package costs € 23,-, which is enough to make a meter of track. Not a bad price! Note: the cobble stones have to be ordered separately.

Speaking of tram track, Tomix Wide Tram Track is slowly becoming available in online stores. Hobby Search lists the following items at the moment:
0113 - Rail Joiners
1790 - 140mm straight 2x
1790 - 70mm straight 2x
1796 - R140 curves, 2x 30 degrees, 2x 60 degrees
1797 - R177 curves, 2x 30 degrees, 2x 60 degrees
91085 Mini rail basic set
91086 Super Mini oval set

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Turning trams: the triangle

The easiest way to turn uni-directional trams on a layout, of course, would be the turning/balloon loop. Just the polarity of the track would be a factor to consider. And if the tram line happens to be double track, even that wouldn't be a problem. The only drawback is that balloon loops are quite space consuming, epecially when not the smallest curve radii are used.

I have been looking for alternatives for the balloon, which there aren't a lot, but found the turning triangle quite useful, and also very easy to construct using the Tomix line of track:
The left design is basically a main line with a facility to reverse into and head back the other way. Several tram systems use these for backup turning options in case of a blockage further down the line. Note the use of an S99 piece at the end, which limits the length of trams. Of course any longer straight piece of track could be used here. (making the triangle considerably less compact though...)

The other option is the use of a turning triangle at the end of a (single track) line. See this video for a tram that uses exactly such a turning facility. By the way, I love the traffic lady and her little shelter in the video :)

This drawing shows a possible double-track solution. Left a balloon loop, using Tomix components (140mm radius minimum).
A turning triangle does require some action from the operator, but makes a great scene for spectators!

Friday, September 17, 2010

Going modular

If you already have plans to expand your Ikea-frame-based layout even before you start building it, why not start modular in the first place?

To see how things looked, I made this plywood base for a 15x35 cm micro module (which, conveniently, is the lenght of five 70mm Tomix straight track pieces).

And I must say I'm starting to like the idea!

Sunday, September 12, 2010

T7B5 from Oslo: A unique prototype

On the Japanese Modelling & Japan Rail Enthousiasts Forum I read about Michal from the Czech Republic who has build an impressive collection of mainly Eastern-European and German trams in N scale. I think he has done a great job on his models, like various ČKD Tatra types as the T6A5 the KT4, the Polish Konstal 105N and the German KSW tram (which is also produced by Kato), all etched in 0.3 mm brass. He even sells most of them, both as a kit or build (some even motorized) on his website. Interesting for US modellers: Michal also does a Škoda 10 T, which runs in Portland, Oregon and Tacoma, Washington.
If you click on kolejiště, you see some pictures of Michals very cleverly designed tram layout.

My eyes fell on this little tram. It's a ČKD Tatra type T7B5, a uni-directional tram. The livery is quite unusual because it's that of Oslo Sporveier, the Norwegian capital's public transport authority. Only one was ever purchased for Oslo, which was actually the only Tatra ever to run in Scandinavia, or even the whole of Western Europe!

I like both Eastern-European and Scandinavian prototypes so I just had to place an order for one of these, which will be powered using a Tomix TM 03 chassis. Can't wait for it to arrive! :)

The Tatra T7B5 was never a successfull series. Only a handfull were build at the end of the 80's, mainly for Moscow. Oslo Sporveier, at that time, was looking for a replacement for its old Høka cars. One of the original two prototypes was shipped to Oslo for testing, after it got a new interior and paint job.
The order finally went to Ansaldo/Firema, who build 32 articulated low-floor trams, the SL95 series.

The T7B5 was used for a couple of years, after which it was converted into a party tram. The tram was shipped to the Swedish city of Göteborg in 1998, where it kept being a party tram in its blue Olso livery. It's believed to be still there, although not in service any more.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Collecting for my new layout...

I found these two facade kits, by Artitec. They're highly detailed resin models of a 30's department store and a late-19th century townhouse. They also have some nice etched details.

Guess that solves the dilemma whether my new layout will be European or Japanese ;)

A couple of pictures of the resin castings (I just started on the department store):

Monday, August 30, 2010

A new idea

Just an idea for a new tram layout. It's designed to fit on a 30x88 cm Ikea picture frame (Ribba series). Yes, I love using these for layouts. Not sure about the upper left corner, this could be either a terminus with platform, or a car barn (or both...).

Overhead: the easy way

As I did not want to waste my energy putting a lot of effort in soldering together working overhead for a layout on which my only trams with working pantographs will not run properly, I decided to go for dummy catenary poles. To stick with the 'wood' theme on my microlayout (I used it on the platform sides and level crossing) I thought it would be nice to use wooden poles.
The big advantage of not having to pull all overhead wires is that it's done in no-time, while the layout still has the looks of a suburban tram terminus.
Construction was quite simple, for one pole I used a 2mm diameter wooden stick, some 0,5mm brass wire and some pieces of insulation, pulled from thin electric wire. The brass wires were soldered together, the insulation slid onto the ends, and then the whole thing was stuck into small holes I drilled in the poles. A paint job and voilà! I made ten of these in just one afternoon.

I know the placement of the masts is not entirely prototypical, a lot more of them would be needed to keep the wire over the track. On the other side, putting them closer together would also unprototypical...
I hope I found an acceptable compromise here.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Tight radius stress (2)

Okay, I'll finish the layout I'm currently working on as soon as possible, and then start to work on a new one. One on which all of my models will actually run. There are just too many that don't make it through the tight 103mm curves. Anyone interested in a 30x40 cm microlayout? :)

Bybanen (2)

When travelling through Norway for the past few weeks, I had a chance to visit Bergens recently opened Bybanen, a lightrail line linking the city center with its southern suburbs. The line's current terminus is Nesttun, but extensions as far as Flesland airport have been planned. Ticket selling is completely done on the stations, which means stopping time can be kept to a minimum, making the Bybanen an extremely efficient way to travel. The frequency is about every ten minutes, even on sundays.

203 at Nesttun terminus. Note the temporary platform.

Matching lines on seats and shelters

Clearly a lot of thought has been given to every detail. The 12 Variotrams from Stadler Rail have nice little features like artwork on the ceilings, for every station's announcement a different specially composed tune and matching stylized contour lines, both on the seats and engraved in the glass shelters. A spectacular return of the tram in Bergen!

There's an extensive Wikipedia article about the Bybanen.

German tram from France

The newest addition to my European tram fleet is this model from Arnold. It represents the Düwag 6-axle tram as they were used in the 80's and early 90's in the French city of Lille. The trams were purchased second-hand from Germany as a temporary solution for operating Lille's dated tramway system before major modernization in 1991-1994, after which new lightrail vehicles from Breda took over. On their arrival in France the Düwags got this flashy TCC (Lille community public transport) livery.
Click here for a nice video of these trams in action.

The two now still existing tramway lines in Lille were opened 1909. The line starts in the city center, and then branches off to Tourcoing, while the main line continues to Roubaix. The system was named after its engineer, Alfred Mongy. Mongy was quite ahead of his time, as the double-track lines were placed in the center of the boulevards, not having to share their right-of-way with other traffic. Probably the reason why these lines are still there nowadays, fuctioning side-to-side with Lille's VAL, and have not been closed down like in so many other French cities. Read more about the Mongy's history.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Tight radius stress

After a recent discussion on the Yahoo N scale traction group about minimum radius curves for N scale trams, I thought it would be a good idea to make a list of trams which make it through a 103mm radius (the tightest commercially available) and which ones won't. Test location was my little layout-to-be. It turns out that all trams make it through really, but the Bachmann PCC and Arnold Düwag are quite noisy, which indicates stress on the gears. Definately not healthy in the long run. And especially the Arnold is a little too expensive to ruin this way...

No problems with 103mm radius:
Kato 'pocket line' tram chassis
Kato 'shorty' 4 axle chassis
Tomytec LRV chassis (Portram, Centram etc.)
Bachmann Brill trolley

Noisy on 103 mm radius:
Bachmann PCC
Arnold Düwag (and a little smelly as well...)

This really makes me think about using 140mm as a minimum for future layouts.

Monday, July 26, 2010

And another new model!

According to Kato's production scedule this cute little tram should be available soon. Apparently, Kato is re-releasing their Pocket Line series, giving it a fresh new look here and there. The toy-like model could be an interesting base for kitbash projects. Unfortunately, it uses the 2-axle tram chassis, which is not know for its good performances, but then again, the retail price is just under €30,-!

Thursday, July 22, 2010


Some jobs appear easy and actually are! Putting a tiled roof on this DPM Otto's Parts is just one of those jobs. I simply cut the new roof out of cardboard (keep the model closeby, as you'll want to measure this correctly...). Then thin sheets with roof tile structure were glued on top of that. I bought these from a guy who casts them using white glue (!) and aluminium foil. A paint job and a piece of recycled flat roof glued against the top and the job is done :)

Looks a lot more European to me!

A pretty picture

One of the most appealing tram types around, the PCC car from Ghent. If only these would be made in N scale one day...

Layout update

I had a lot of time to work on the layout the past week. I almost finished ballasting, only need to find a way to work around the little turnout levers. Two level crossings were added. One for the main road, made from styrene sheet. I used tracing paper to make a little jig, and cut the sheet to fit the curved track. The other level crossing, which pedestrians use to access the platform, was simply made using some leftover strips of wood. A path will connect it with the road.

Still no sign of the other two DPM buildings :(

I wanted something different for the platform, so I decided to use wood for the sides of it. After making the platform from a sandwich of styrene sheets (again, using tracing paper as a jig), I superglued strips of wood to the sides.When soaked in water first, they're quite easy to bend. After washing them with dilluted black ink, they're looking more natural. The platform was primed and further coloured using greyish weathering powders. Of course, it still needs furniture a small shelter. These will be added after I have sorted out the electrics (it's much easier to turn the layout upside-down at this stage).

In case you're wondering, Momo's missing pantograph has been recovered in the meanwhile :)

Friday, July 16, 2010

A new tram from Bachmann?

Rumour has it that Bachmann will release a completely new model in N scale, the Peter Witt streetcar. Apparently, the model comes DCC equipped, at a price of about $ 140,-. I'm not that familiar with American traction, but I definately like the looks of this tram! See a picture of the model here.

Join the N scale traction group to discuss this subject!

A little on streets and buildings

I've decided to build the middle of my layout as a seperate unit, which will be glued in place when finished. This should make the build a little easier.

Like you can see in the little drawing I made, there will be a dead-end street with a couple of houses in the middle. I made the street from 1 mm styrene sheet, using a tiled sheet from Evergreen for the pavement. The tiles are 2.1 mm square, about 30 cm in the 1:1 world. A 1x1 mm strip was glued to the edge of the pavement. Still a lot of detailing and painting to do but it starts to look believable :)
The building is DPM's Otto's Parts. I didn't really change anything to it. Perhaps it'll get a tiled roof, but I'll make a mockup first to see how that looks. A couple more DPM buildings should be on their way from the States right now. Can't wait to start on those.

This little building is made by Artitec. It's a little transformer kiosk ('electriciteitshuisje'), of a design very common in the Netherlands. I thought it would make a nice addition to the layout. It came as a highly detailed resin kit, which was surprisingly easy to build and paint, despite its absolutely tiny size (see the paint container in the back as a comparison...) Now just find a nice place for it :)