The story so far - I am kind of new to this hobby, having discovered N-gauge a few months ago as a random purchase of a single car of the kind which runs on my local line here in Tokyo, as I like trains and thought it would be kind of neat to have on a shelf. I did run OO trains until my teens
, but gave up due to lack of finance, skill and leaving home and moving through various rental apartments around the world. Anyway I'm kind of settled now, with an actual house, and I thought it would be nice to maybe nice to run a short length of line along the back of my work desk and onto another one, because the single car I had purchased was a wonderful thing, much more detailed and realistic than I remember N-gauge being a generation ago, so I got myself a controller, a bit of track and a very basic Kato EMU (the orange Kokuden, if anyone's taking notes, set me back less than 20 quid new). And it kind of grew from there to an actual layout, or at least baseboard on which I was experimenting (see the old thread) and at the last count around 20 locomotives / motorized multiple units (not counting my junk collection
The original plan was to have a high-level Shinkansen line, a JR line and a private line, which ended up being a double-track oval with a lot of sidings and a high-level line around the rear edges which didn't really connect very well and was basically out-and-back. It was kind of OK but I wasn't really satisfied. Around the same time I was doing this, a trip to Europe came up, which was a good opportunity to finally realize my childhood shopping list, which then posed the problem - how to integrate them into a Japanese layout. Admittedly I soak my baseboards in premium Rule One Solution before use, but I do like to have a bit of a back story, no matter how fanastic.
Anyway, one day inspiration struck - this is Japan, which has a penchant for creating foreign "villages" as tourist attractions, and it occurred to me that some sort of British-themed railway museum would be not entirely implausible. And so the "Eitetsumura" was born, which might be a bit of a mouthful but is actually the abbreviation of "Eikoku Tetsudo Mura", literally "British Railway Village". To make things slightly easier, I decided this would be set in an alternative timeline where Japan adopted standard gauge right from the start, which has led to a situation where the world-beating Shinkansen was indeed developed, but like the TGV and ICE can also run on existing lines where convenient.
One side-effect of this is that a once-thriving rural private line serving a hot spring resort found itself, at some point in the late 80's or early 90's in direct competition with Shinkansen services while at the same time suffering a decline in its freight activities, which were centred around transporting cement. Fortuitously the management were able to engage in some out-of-the-box blue sky thinking, and being admirers of the British railway system they hit upon the idea of creating a British railway-orientated theme park, and so "Eikoku Tetsudo Mura" was born, seeded primarily with BR blue locomotives rescued from Vic Berrys et al and lovingly restored in Japan. This turned around the line's fortunes and it is now a major tourist attraction.
Well, that's my backstory and I'm sticking to it.
The next problem is of course how to express that as a layout while not having too much space available. I'd already come to the conclusion that some kind of height variation was necessary to make things interesting, and spent quite a few weeks comign up with various designs, none of which were quite practical in the space available (I have one which involves a double figure-of-eight and a three-level flyover, which looks neat in SCORM but would probably have introduced dimensional instability in the space-time-continuum had I ever tried to actually implement it).
As luck would have it, I visited the Kato HQ shop in Tokyo the other week (I have my wife to thank for that, but that's another story; definitely worth a visit if you're in Tokyo) and espied, tucked away at the back by the toilets an old, dusty layout which was a bit too mid-20th century rural for my tastes, but it was around the same size as my baseboards and I was intrigued by the track design. It wasn't immediately obvious how it fitted together - lots of gradients and tunnels, but after careful observation it turned out to be what is evidently known as a "folded dogbone", which is a figure-of-eight but which has a loop around it's outside as well. And I thought to myself, "Squiddy, that's what we're looking for", and I've basically recreated it as a proof-of-concept which looks like this:
with plenty of sidings to stable the exotic foreign trains, as well as the occasional local one (which has maybe just brought visitors from afar):
Despite relying heavily on a couple steep curved gradients, it works surprisingly well - the mixed bunch of BachFar diesels I acquired on my UK trip all handle them much better than the gradient on the previous layout iteration - I suspect the narrower radius (243mm vs 381mm) helps the wheels grip better. Which makes me happy, and I'll continue to develop the layout incorporating this general plan.
As-is, it's a fairly faithful re-implementation of the layout I saw in the Kato shop. However, as I have the space available, I will add a couple more baseboards to make it into an L-shape, and flip the plan into its mirror image; while the core "Eikoku Tetsudo Mura" part will be kind of rural, with a hot spring resort and mountain and stuff, the other part will be densely urban, and I'll extend part of the elevated dogbone loop so it passes through the built-up area. There'll also be a second, outer loop which will represent the JR line, and I have ambitions of squeezing some sort of tram line in as well. And more sidings, including some goods sidings and hidden storage sidings. I'm considering placinging a 30mm or 50mm layer of polystyrene on top of the baseboards which will make it easier to add the odd river or two, and create some potential for negative height variation for the track.
That does sound like an awful lot to get done; luckily, with the Kato/Tomix track I'm using (which is designed with temporary floor-based operation in mind, as many Japanese homes are not conducive to permanent layouts) it's possible to set up a provisional layout which runs pretty smoothly, and allows me to test what works before committing to more permanent construction. Which is important to me as I really want to run trains from the start; my strategy will be to iteratively improve the scenery as and when time allows.
I was toying with the idea of going DCC for this, but as I have and keep acquiring a lot of Japanese stock, which is mainly multiple units and not DCC-friendly, the thought of the costs and above all effort involved in converting them to DCC are somewhat offputting. Maybe I'll revisit that at a future date.
Next step: evaluate the layout as-is and create an improved, expanded plan for the baseboard expansion. And maybe some video