Jan 2013

Rethinking Storage Tracks and January 2013 Status

While I’m spending a lot of time playing with decoders, that’s not the only thing on my mind. One idea that’s been eating at me for a while now is to redesign the under-table storage tracks. I’d originally planned to locate these under the Urban Station scene, reached by a helix that led down to them from the “unsceniced” end.

On reflection, this was less than ideal. First, any access to the underside of the layout for wiring work would require removing all of the trains from storage. Second, the helix to reach them would be quite long, at five and a half turns, which would be expensive and overly complex. Third, if I needed to work on the trains, I’d be kneeling on the concrete floor and reaching into a narrow space to access the trains on the back track, which pretty much guaranteed I wouldn’t be able to do much. The only thing it had going for it was that I could store a full-length sixteen-car Shinkansen (2.5m or eight and a half feet long) down there.

Decoder Wars I

Edit: see the comments for some additional notes; also, I’ve edited the text to correct some errors, but those edits are marked.

A long time ago, in a distant land, titans met to do battle...no, wait, I mean recently, on my kitchen table, I started testing DCC motor decoders for N-scale EMUs. And as with most wars, after it started I began wondering why on earth I’d thought it was a good idea. Still, I have reasons for this, and the result is important: the winning candidate will go in my (so far) 27 trains that don’t support Kato’s plug-in decoders, and some have two motor cars, so it’s closer to 30 decoders.

Configuring The EM13 Part I

Kato’s EM13 DCC decoder (29-351) is a specialized decoder used for the motor car in an EMU/DMU model or other “DCC Friendly” models made by Kato. DCC Friendly (the English term is used even in Japanese, rendered as “DCCフレンドリー” or “DCC furendorī”) isn’t the same as “DCC Ready”, and it is a phrase used by others to simply mean that a model is relatively easy to convert to DCC. But when Kato uses it, the phrase means “will accept Kato FR11, FL12 and/or EM13 decoders”. And the models that do so are primarily Kato’s N-scale Japanese prototype models: commuter trains, limited express trains and Shinkansen (bullet trains). They also use it in some steam locomotive models, including the American-prototype GS-4.

Imperial Train

Japan’s Emperor is the head of the world’s oldest continuing hereditary monarchy, reputed to have been established in 660 BC. He is also the last monarch in the world reigning under the title of Emperor. Japan’s current constitution stripped the position of emperor of political authority and, although it still has formal duties, the holder of that title is largely relegated to a ceremonial role. However the Emperor, both the office and the individual, is still highly regarded in Japanese society, and his duties include diplomatic ones such as “receiving foreign ambassadors and ministers”.

When the Emperor or his immediate family travel, they do so like any head of state, with a great deal of security, press coverage, and attention. Mostly such travel today is by car or plane, but given the predominant role of trains in Japanese transportation, this mode is sometimes used as well. If the Emperor travels by Shinkansen, a reserved car will be used. But for travel on the narrow-gauge network, there is a special Imperial Train. Since 2007, the E655 shown above has been used.