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Space Beaver

B-Train + Serious Operations

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Space Beaver

WARNING: WAY TOO MUCH WRITING!!!

 

Now, thing is, I have always found complex and realistic operation of a layout to be one of the most fun things it is possible to experience in the model railway hobby.

 

Years ago at the old family home I worked on two railways together with father which both focused on operation.

 

One was an SM32 garden line on which we took advantage of the prototypically very minimalist infrastructure of 2ft gauge railways to fit in four stations. On this line we ran a representation of a traditional wagonload freight system with pick up goods trains hauled by electric 'diesel' or real steam locomotives, thus adding the complications of water stops etc.

 

Due to  the size of the wagons, instead of needing waybills etc to represent loads, instead there were actual model loads each labelled with destination and wagon type needed, which were placed at random pickup stations at the start of the session and the wagons placed in random sidings too. Each driver then prepared his locomotive and set out to get all the loads picked up in the correct wagons and dropped of at their destinations.

 

The other was an 00 Cornish branch line terminus to fiddle yard. This was run to a timetable, or rather a sequence table since there was no clock and you could take as much time as you liked to complete each move.

 

There were summer and winter sequences but we pretty much always used the summer sequence due to all the extra summer holiday passenger trains including a Motorail working.

 

There were also two milk trains a day and a long mixed goods in the midday lull. Various increasingly unlikely sources of more goods traffic were added: a locomotive refuelling point which for some reason needed daily resupply, a harbour definitely too small to have an internal rail system with its own shunter, and a fishermen's co-operative pushing out one van load of fish daily, for which BR was keeping one van in traffic years after regular fish transport by rail had ended.

 

Later I built a Gn15 small layout in the form of the amazingly engaging Inglenook shunting puzzle.

 

Neither of the latter two were ever close to finished scenically because we spent so much time running trains instead.

 

Upon moving to Japan I was to be honest rather dissapointed with the sort of layouts usually seen. Mostly just running in circles on an obvious circle.

 

The reason is understandable: modern image is king, and modern image requires huge amounts of layout to create detailed operations. Single stations or yards, apart from massive ones, are so simplified today that the lineside experience is very much like watching the same few trains pass by in endless circles. That combined with houses that were far smaller than I expected (and British people think they can complain about modern houses being too small?!)

 

Then I discovered B-Train. Now I don't know what anyone else's first impressions of these were, but I immediately thought of the videogame OpenTTD. 

 

Its a very old transport sim game focused on railways. Due to the limits of the technology it was made with, the entire game world is made up of square tiles. Each tile may only hold one object: a piece of railway track, a building, etc. And vehicles can only move along the gridlines or diagonally across the grid, so all the vehicles are short and boxy and the tracks are toylike with 45 degree curves. As the size of the world is restricted, most towns are just a few squares of buildings, modest sized trains and their stations are as long as towns, and stations are often right next to each other. It is almost like a decorated schematic diagram.

 

The upshot of all this is that I decided it would be possible using short B-Train consists and Tomix Mini Fine Track to cram a chibified representation of a longish line with plenty of stations, branches, yards etc and a variety of different train services into as much space as the average loop of track with one modest through station and scale model rolling stock.

 

I'll leave it to the next post to go from the idea to the reality.

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Space Beaver

Cheap and cheerful trial line. Just a pair of two platform terminals on a single line with midway station. I need more straights and points.

IMG_20180919_190551829.jpg

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Space Beaver

Line diagram for passengers and running timetable (sequence table) for operator. Just a sketch really, hope it is legible. This is a test after all.

IMG_20180919_193205802.jpg

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MichiK
Quote

Due to the limits of the technology it was made with, the entire game world is made up of square tiles. Each tile may only hold one object: a piece of railway track, a building, etc.

Which in turn sounds pretty much like a modular layout to me!

I wonder whether the FREMO modular system is so attractive to its users not only because it makes big railway networks possible at all, but also the network topology never stays the same?, and tere are always new possibilities for operation? Of course, the same would apply to small B-Train modules...

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kvp

Imho B-trains are not that small. Actually around half the length of a normal 20 meter car. This means you can fit twice as many cars into the same space and they look better on tight curves.

 

The standard B-train length is around 4 cars, although shorter and longer sets do exist. This is roughly the same length as two normal cars. Actually you could build a layout with Tomix mini rails that would allow 4 car shorties or 2 car Tomytec trains that could also run on mini rails.

 

Going modular and making the modules have as little scenery as possible is a big space saver as you can pack them away in very little space. You can divide this space by 2 if you use shorties. Tomix also makes mini platforms and stations to save even more space. (they are half the width and length, so roughly proportional to shorties and short real cars, like old 12m emus)

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cteno4

Space beaver,

 

no worries, a good read.

 

sounds fun and a good application of the shorties and tight radius track. It can be a ttrak with more wildness! 

 

I would suggest continuing to play with it as your are with a setup and putting pieces of square paper under the tracks to denote modules to visualize. Could also plop down some structures and scenery bits on the paper squares as well. I think it could help in the design of the system.

 

in just mentally visualizing I can sort of seemthe shorties also working well with a small square scene, especially if the width is short like 186/210 sections. Matching up with curves will be the trick. 

 

Btw I played like this a lot with t scale to come up with some module sizes and shapes that would work visually well with the scale. Turned out looked better with three different kinds of modules with a small rectangular one for small scenes, long thin one for running scenes, and large square ones for big scenes. T scale is odd as you can pack so much in in a very small space visually. But having this undulating strip of scenery along the line seemed to work very well visually. Very different than n scale Ttrak which is 3x larger. But b trains compression sort of wants a funny compression in the scene so it might do something fun visually along with the potential for a fun changeable track system for operations.

 

might look at foamcore for the modules. You could probably do fine with foamcore for the top and then just like 3/4” x 1/4” moulding around the edges. It’s pretty cheap (super cheap if you know someone with a wood shop with a table saw and a planer) and easy to cut with a razor saw. Would give you space for some wires under neath.

 

small box with rails inside you could just stack modules sliding in like drawers in a cabinet. Box holding a half dozen could even be out of foamcore.

 

looking forward to what you come up with! Quite fun, great idea.

 

jeff

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Space Beaver

Thanks for all the advice!

 

I can see two main problems with a module concept:

 

1. Proper seperation of the layout into multiple sections in order to juggle multiple trains per line using cab control. Easy on a layout with a fixed arrangement, just wire everything to a control panel. But with modules everything has to be wired differently each time.

 

I suspect this is why modular systems such as Fremo use DCC. I do have an old Bachmann EZ Command system stored back in the UK which could be sent over, but the cost of decoders seems prohibitive.

 

2. Lots and lots of joints. Which means either a gigantic number of jumper cables or using set track and relying on the joiners which may be a weak point. This more or less ties in with problem 1.

 

To be fair, the problem of powering and controlling track sections is greater still with temporary layouts on floor or table. Using the points as isolating switches only goes so far.

 

Since I am fortunate enough to have a 'room' in my apaato which can be dedicated to hobby use more or less, I was thinking about a long term temporary setup on the 'floor'.

 

However I already remember from a brief time in tabletop wargaming that having your setup in hundreds of little seperate pieces can be quite the logistical and storage challenge. Plus, I feel quite unable to honour such a clobber with the word 'layout'.

 

Ultimately the big problem with a proper layout is bringing or disposing of it if I could no longer stay in Japan for whatever reason. Carrying one by air would be somewhere off the far side of expensive and expose it to the antics of the baggage handler apes.

 

That is not to say I cannot have a layout, just that it is not easy.

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kvp
3 hours ago, Space Beaver said:

I can see two main problems with a module concept:

1. Proper seperation of the layout into multiple sections in order to juggle multiple trains per line using cab control. Easy on a layout with a fixed arrangement, just wire everything to a control panel. But with modules everything has to be wired differently each time.

I suspect this is why modular systems such as Fremo use DCC. I do have an old Bachmann EZ Command system stored back in the UK which could be sent over, but the cost of decoders seems prohibitive.

2. Lots and lots of joints. Which means either a gigantic number of jumper cables or using set track and relying on the joiners which may be a weak point. This more or less ties in with problem 1.

To be fair, the problem of powering and controlling track sections is greater still with temporary layouts on floor or table. Using the points as isolating switches only goes so far.

Fremo has an analog version too and that's the original concept. There is a wiring howto about it on their site. The basic idea is to have blocks of line track between stations that have freely selectable cabs from a limited set of sources (the line, the next station or a local shunting cab).

 

In a Tomix fully power routing case this means adding each open line section between two stations a power feeder and either assigning a dedicated throttle to it or using a cab selector. The full power routing of the Tomix turnouts take care of routing the right cab to the right track at the stations. The most simple variant would use one throttle for each non station block and power route from there into the stations. For a double track three station setup (terminus x== midway station ==x terminus), that has 4 non station blocks, and 3 times 2 station tracks, this means using 4 throttles. Incidentally that is the maximal amout of moving trains that layout could support.

 

For power transfer between two modules, the easiest way is to route through the joiners. The Kato unitrack based Ttrak standard uses just that. Usually with the multi throttle Ü wiring system also suggested by Kato (Ü stands for Übergabe or handover, when one throttle hands over the train to the next). Essentially this is how the new Tomix automatic operation unit called TNOS works, with each block having its own digital throttle. Tomix in manual analog mode on the other hand suggest using full cab switching using cab selector switches to select between throttles and that is exactly what analog fremo uses.

 

A hybrid method for using Tomix finetrack turnouts and tracks with Kato joiners is to use short pieces of Kato unitrack between modules as a physical and power connector and build the rest from Tomix finetrack. Many japanese modellers use Tomix tracks all the way and have resizable finetrack pieces between modules. An optically better solution is to use Kato unitracks under the modules to physically connect and power the modules, but use joinerless Tomix finetrack pieces on the top.

 

For non joiner based power transfer, a power connector is usable, for example RCA jacks or 4 mm banana plugs between modules. The latter is what Fremo uses both for analog and digital operation, but this requires another method to physically hold together the modules, so not really ideal for tiny modules.

 

Personally i would go with the Tomix finetrack based modules between Kato unitrack joiner pieces on the module ends. Kato actually makes Tomix compatible conversion tracks for this purpose.

 

How to build these modules to be playable? Pretty much how Ttrak and Fremo does. Certain modules are stations, others are open lines. The connection profile should be the same (both trackwise and on the terrain). This means deciding between a double track or a single track line system or choosing both and building transition modules, like a branching station or a double track on one end single track on the other station. (both are pretty common in Japan and all over the world) The stations and open tracks are connected together, throttles are connected to each open line block and you are pretty much set for playing. Just have enough hands to control all the trains you are moving at the same time. If you don't, you can use the Tomix TNOS system and control only one train by hand.

 

This would allow you to have a tiny modular layout, using Tomix finetrack small turnouts, small curves and those tiny space saving platforms and station buildings. Essentially everything will be half the size of the common ones. (140 mm curves and turnouts instead of the basic 280 mm, half width and length of stations and platforms, etc.) This ties in pretty nicely with the half length size of the B-trains. Just get smaller buildings too that match. (many thin and moderately tall Tomytec ones are great for this)

 

For transportation, you should be able to box up all modules and have them shipped by EMS pretty much like many orders are shipped from japanese shops. (and under modules here i'm talking about A4/letter or A5/half letter sized modules on very thin wood/foamcore bases)

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Space Beaver

Lots of useful ideas, thank you.

 

I did a while ago buy two Tomytec A4 sized diorama boards on which a double track simple circuit was laid. I later lifted the track as I was not happy with the Tomix extendable tracks as a means of connection.

 

Here is a very crude approximation of two modules. Pretend that the board area below the blue rerailer dosen't exist so the right board is A5 size representing a feeder module between stations.

 

Left module represents one half of an overtaking station on a double track line for which a pair of A4s is needed because of the points. A simple station with no points needs one A4 only. A benefit of this arrangement is that it is easy to make a longer station by adding extra modules in the middle.

 

The top track on both boards is just there to illustrate how many will fit with standard Tomix spacing.

1537456025514-432505633.jpg

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Space Beaver

It just occured to me that by going close to the edges, four tracks may fit on A5. And if the Unitrack adaptors can be shortened, points will fit thereon too. 

 

By placing pointwork onto seperate boards flanking station boards with no points, the flexibility of track arrangements greatly increases. Given neutral scenery, these pointwork modules can be used also as the yard throats for depots and freight terminals or as part of junctions. While the stations can easily become terminal, through, junction etc just by changing what they are connected to.

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Edited by Space Beaver
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