A Tomix Bus/Tram Coffee-Table Layout


As I mentioned very briefly in an earlier posting, I picked up a couple of Tomytec’s Moving Bus System basic sets. These come with a loop of roadway with an embedded guide wire, and a bus with interchangeable shells and a small battery-operated motor. While it’s similar to the Faller Car System, the two are not quite the same. The Tomytec system uses disposable batteries, rather than a rechargeable one, and can be made to stop or run at one of two speeds by magnets under the street (the Faller system also has some magnet-based controls, but they don’t appear identical, although I don’t have one to compare). These came out (in Japan) back in April, and sold out immediately. Another run is due around August and the usual Japanese stores are already taking preorders.

Although a road with only a single moving vehicle doesn’t look very prototypical, this still provides an interesting bit of activity in an otherwise static scene. And the bus, slowing and pulling into a bus stop, pausing, then pulling away and accelerating, looks very nice indeed. The motor assembly is too large to be used in a car, unfortunately, so at least for now it’s going to be restricted to use in busses (or very large trucks, which aren’t all that common in Japan).

Note: photos appear in both the Tram Layout photo album and the Train Photos album, and there are more details about the bus system on my Tomytec Bus System page.

Wide Tram Track and Bus Roadway

The roadway for the Tomytec Moving Bus System is very similar to Tomix’s Wide Tram track (Tomytec is the parent company of Tomix), which should not be confused with their “Wide Rail” track. Wide Tram track is sectional track compatible with Tomix’s N-scale Fine Track, but with the rails embedded in plastic roadways 37mm wide and about 4mm thick. Wide Tram curves come in 177mm and 140mm “Mini-Rail” curves, 103mm “Super-Mini Rail” curves, and straight sections in 70mm and 140mm lengths. There are also some other, specialized, track elements. The bus roadway is also 37mm wide, and available in 103mm and 140mm curves (so far) as well as 70mm straights. However, so far the roadway is only available as the single starter set, no separate roadway packs are sold yet (given how well the basic set sold that’s likely to change, though probably not before the fall).

Bus and Tram Segments 3068 Bus and Tram Segments 3067
Wide Tram Mini-Rail Track (top) and Bus Roadway (bottom)

See the Tram Layout photo album for closer view of these segments.

What’s particularly interesting if you look closely at the two, is that the tram tracks have an indentation down the middle and just outside the supports centered on each half that matches the one used on the Bus Roadway for the guidewire. It’s likely Tomix/Tomytec is planning some future track/road elements that combine the two. It may also be possible to put two lanes on one 37mm roadway (straight, not on the curve), which would be closer to prototypical lane widths. The rail used is non-ferrous, and doesn’t affect the guide magnet on the bus, so this isn’t impossible.

The Layout

I have a number of two-car articulated light-rail vehicles, aka., trams, mostly from the Tōkyū Setagaya Line of western Tōkyō. These, like the bus system, were bought to be used in Sumida Crossing’s Urban Station scene, as small details to make the station more than just a place to park trains. However, because the viaduct station is in the front of this scene, these would both be behind and below it, and largely out of sight. That’s bothered me for some time, but with the addition of the bus I really wanted to be able to run these where I could see them. And there really isn’t any place on the big layout suitable for that.

Setagaya 304F Apple Green (Modemo NT80) Tomytec Bus 2955
Modemo Setagaya 300 Series Tram and Tomytec Toei Bus

So after thinking about it for a while, and being inspired by some of the other tram layouts I’d seen on the JNS Forum I decided I wanted a small layout that would fit atop a coffee-table for use, and which was built mainly from out-of-the-box elements so it could be made quickly and played with, rather than being eternally under development. The only real goals I had beyond those were that it feature both a bus route and a pair of tram lines, and feature urban scenery (meaning mostly Kato and Tomix ready-built small office towers).

I settled on a 2’ x 4’ size, came up with an initial track plan, didn’t like it, and after a couple of revisions posted it to the JNS Forum for comments, and with that feedback it evolved a bit, to the present Version 7 track plan.

TomixUrbanTramLayout-V3-100 TomixUrbanTramLayout-V7-100
Track plans Version 3 (left) and Version 7 (right) - the gray segments with the center line are the bus roadway

The basic table (yet another 2’ x 4’ plywood surface atop 1” x 3” pine boards in a butt-joint box structure, like the main Sumida Crossing scenes) has been assembled and painted with primer to seal it, and to provide a pavement color if any of it shows through between buildings and landscaping. Construction will proceed on the basement floor until it is ready to move to the living room (i.e., once I don’t have to worry about dripping paint, glue or scenic cement).

Some track (not enough) has been acquired and test fit, and I think I can make the V7 track plan work with some additional track. I need to think on that a bit more, and decide if I want to make changes. Although I have a few buildings surplus from the Urban Station scene, I’ll likely need to acquire more to evoke the crowded, urban, feel I’m looking for. I expect construction to start in earnest in June.

Tram Layout Track Test 3054
Test-fitting the Track (with some buildings)

I won’t be able to finish the bus route until I get more starter sets (meaning, August), but I hope to have construction except for the bus roadway largely done by then. The goal is to get this up and running quickly, and then have fun with it while I continue working on the big layout (which is still in the middle of the DCC electronics upgrade I started in March).

Check out the Easy Trolley site for more about Tomix track and its use for light rail lines.

Other website changes:
- Added my new EF65 #1019 and Rainbow Express passenger cars to the Roster and Other Passenger Trains pages.
- Updated the Tomytec Bus page.
- Added a page about the Tram Layout and a Photo Album for it.
- I’ve added a couple more English-language Japanese train blogs to the listing on the More Links page, and also added some of the ones that are most frequently updated (and which I regularly read) down near the bottom of the Home page.