Planning a Test Track

I’ve been thinking about this for about two years now, but it’s finally made it to the head of my “things to do” list: I want to build a short test track using the techniques I plan to use for the new layout: code 55 flex track and turnouts made using the Fast Tracks soldering jigs.

There are several reasons for this: first, I want to refresh my flex-track skills. Second, I want to learn how to use the jigs to make turnouts. Third, I want a fairly complex interlocking where I can try out electronics for detecting trains and controlling signals and interlocking those with turnouts, as well as interfacing all of that to DCC and JMRI running on a computer. And finally, I need to test some trains and see if they have any issues with this type of track.

So the first order of business was to figure out what I want the interlocking to look like. I started by sketching out an interlocking with a couple of tracks and some sidings, which was a nice, generic, interlocking, but not really representative of what I want to model. I’m modeling high-density urban commuter passenger lines in Tōkyō, and those are double-track with few sidings.

So that turned my thoughts to the junction between the Chūō Line and Sōbu Line at Ochanomizu Station, and the set of interlockings just to the west of there, between Ochanomizu and Suidōbashi stations. I’ve done a lot of research on that area, and know the layout of the track and associated signals fairly well. It has a mix of 3, 4 and 5-lamp signal heads, so I can test most and maybe all of the signal types I’d use. Plus it’s a very complex environment, which makes for a good test.

Ochanomizu Station Signals

JR’s Ochanomizu Station (御茶ノ水駅, Ochanomizu-eki) is an important part of my modeling plans. As seen in the photo above, it’s a mix of old and new architecture. And it’s built along the bank of the Kanda river (the temporary construction platform on the right is actually erected over the river). It’s slightly below street level, with a city skyline climbing up behind it from a front rank of buildings around six stories in height to taller ones further away. It’s pretty much ideal as a modeling subject visually, and it sits at the junction of two busy lines, so there is a lot of activity.

I have been trying to figure out how the signals here and nearby work so that I can include a reasonable subset in my model, but photos in and around the station tend to focus on other subjects than signals for some reason. Thanks to one of my readers, George Roberts, I now have a number of photographs taken around the station and adjacent areas that include these signals (and other interesting details).

Scene Planning - Chūō Along the Kanda

My next layout is still very much in the back-of-a-napkin planning stage. I’m thinking about what goes into it more than the details of how I realize that. I have several things I know I want: multi-track urban commuter railroading, “layered” scenery with water, roads and railroads crossing each other at different levels, and prototype scenes from the core of Tōkyō. But just exactly what that means hasn’t fully come together yet.

One thing I do know that I want is a riverside scene or scenes along the Kanda river. This is a small river, running east to west and ending at its intersection with the much larger Sumida river in the center of the city. Near the eastern end it passes just south of the famous Akihabara district. A four-track mainline runs west along its south bank for a mile or so (about 2 km) before turning southwest along a different waterway and ultimately disappearing into a tunnel and turning north into Shinjuku station.

The railway along these two waterways lies in the center of Tōkyō, between the eastern and wester sides of the Yamanote line loop, which passes through Tōkyō station on the eastern end and Shinjuku station on the western end, and it serves as a shortcut across the middle of that line. Originally this was part of the Kōbu Railway, built in the late 1890’s, although portions were completed shortly after nationalization of the railways occurred in 1906. This can be seen in the largely wooden construction of the stations, with complex riveted girderwork in places.