Jan 2012

The Kato Grade Crossing

While I still plan to build my own grade crossing eventually, Kato’s update of their automatic grade crossing (model 20-652) to be compatible with DCC gave me an excuse to put that off some more (see Kato’s Japanese page for some pictures and a video of it in operation). Or at least, that was the plan. What I forgot in my enthusiasm is that I’d put my layout’s one grade crossing on a curve, so Kato’s straight crossing can’t be used. I can move it closer to Riverside’s commuter station, and I think I will. But I may end up using it somewhere else (perhaps on the “subway” tracks where they run at ground level under the Urban Station). I need to think on this some more, but I’ll outline my current plan after describing the crossing itself.

Planning The Village

The “village” is what I call the collection of buildings tucked inside the four-track curve of the River Crossing scene. Today this is just a set of pre-made buildings, mainly from Kato and Tomix, placed roughly on gray-painted foam. The bridge across the river for the “commercial avenue” is likewise temporary, just a slab of gray foam-core with lane markings painted on it.

Once I realized that the road behind the elevated station in the Urban Station scene was largely out-of-sight, the village became the place that I wanted to carefully detail in its entirety. Detailing the buildings of the urban scene themselves is still important, particularly the upper floors of those buildings that will be front and center part of the scene. But the village is going to be where my ability to craft a convincing scene will be most on display. So, no pressure, eh?

Photographic Backdrops

I’ve written about my backdrops several times before (see the Backdrops tag at left for a complete list). But as I’m now re-doing the final “1.0” backdrop using my “2.0” approach first applied to other scenes a year ago, and there has been time to let the lessons I learned sink in, it seemed worth an update and recap.

Kato Subway Train and December 2011 Monthly Status

My latest Kato model is another subway train, the Tōkyō Metro 10000. I already have a model of this train made by Greenmax, which I have mentioned briefly a few times (it featured in the “first run” video of the subway, see my Subway First Run musing for more on that). It’s not a bad model, but it lacks an interior and requires wire-in decoders for conversion to DCC. And while I’ll eventually get around to that, it’s not high on my priority list. So trains that are easier to convert to DCC, and that means Kato, are at the top of my list for actual operations once I finish up installing all the DCC electronics for the Commuter and Subway loops.

For the above-ground Commuter loop, I have lots of Kato’s commuter EMUs, but trains for the underground Subway loop are another matter. As mentioned back in October I’d hoped to have the Kato Ginza Series 01 be one of those, but it ended up not supporting the EM13 motor decoder (probably due to the narrower width of the cars).

The Kato 10000 had been on my must-buy list anyway, but with fingers crossed that this one would be “DCC Friendly”, I eagerly awaited its arrival. Kato hadn’t actually said it would be DCC Friendly (meaning compatible with their Digitrax-made proprietary decoders) although they rarely do, and there was a cryptic reference to some issue with the interior lighting that had me worried it was some kind of one-off design. I’d previously bought several of Kato’s new “version 2” LED light sets (which I describe more on my new Kato Interior Lighting page) planning to install them in the Ginza train, but hadn’t gotten around to that after it turned out not to support the DCC motor decoder. So my plan was to use them, if I could.