Oct 2011

Subway Trains

In some ways there isn’t a whole lot of difference between Tōkyō’s urban and suburban commuter trains and its subway trains. Both are electric multiple-unit (EMU) sets, running on narrow-gauge track and typically using 1500V DC power from overhead (catenary) wires. Some commuter trains even run through into the subway tunnels to reach more central stations.

But there are differences. First, subway trains (and commuter trains designed for subway use) will have emergency exit doors on the ends, to facilitate evacuations in a tunnel. Second they are often shorter, to allow for tighter curves. And some are also narrower, although this seems less common.

The Longest Preorder

If you get into buying Japanese trains, the preorder is inescapable. Many models are produced in production runs just large enough to fill initial orders, and often not re-produced for several years, if ever. Popular models can sell out before they even arrive in stores, and if you want to be sure of getting something, you need to work with that.

It’s not that bad a practice in general. You are committing to buying something (stores may not do business with you again if you back out of a preorder, and they’re generally not cancelable). But you don’t have to pay, not even a deposit, until it actually arrives in the store. I do almost all of my preorders through Hobby Search, and have overall been quite satisfied with them.

A typical new product will be opened for orders several months in advance of the planned delivery date, and preordering will close when that store’s initial allotment is accounted for, which can be days after the preorder opens, or not until the model ships. Some preorders are for shorter lead times, even as little as a few weeks. Most are generally within six months. But I had one order that took a year. That is it up above.

Fun with JMRI II and September 2011 Status

I’ve been playing around with JMRI some more, and trying to debug my transponding problem with the first of the electronics boards. This is really baffling. I checked the wiring, and it was fed through the RX sensor properly. I replaced BOTH the PM42 and the BDL168 circuit boards (I’ve got a stack of them waiting for more electronics boards once I get this one working) and I tried using other blocks. And I had more transponding sensor failures. On both sets of RX sensors. One defective set I might accept, but two?

So I tried a variety of things, and noticed that the non-functional detectors would, every once in a while, work. In fact, I discovered that with the train motionless, one of them would periodically cycle from detection to non-detection, emitting a LocoNet message reporting the change in status each time. I tried moving the wires. I pulled a fresh RX1 set out of a bag, and set it up atop a trash can (see above) with every wire fed through it fully separated from every other wire in mid-air (about the middle of this I was holding things in both hands and wishing I had a third arm). And that failed too, reliably as it were.

An EMU for the Tram Layout

I haven’t been working on my tram layout all summer. I’ve run the tram around a bit, but the bus roadway had a gap in it as I’d run out of parts before finishing the loop, and I didn’t have a commuter car for the outer loop of track, which was a lack I keenly felt. I also had only one power pack to move between the two tracks (unless I wanted to cut up one of my Tomix feeders and connect it to a Kato pack, which I didn’t). So all I could do with it was run one of my Modemo Setagaya line trams at a time. Which was nice, but a bit less than what I wanted. That’s all changed recently (or will shortly). Read More...