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Barobutt

Maxium grade for kato trams

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Barobutt

Hi there, first post on this board!

 

I'm starting a brand new layout and I want a key feature to be trams.  Another key feature is that most of my town will be elevated 2 inches above the mainline track to allow bridges and a semi-underground main station.  The problem is, at some points the tram line will have to go down from the city level to the mainline "base" level 2 inches below in the industrial area.  My question is, what is the maximum safe grade to operate kato's unitrams ?  I know in real life trams can handle grades way steeper than heavy rail, but I'm wondering if anyone has any experience in this as model trains can sometimes have traction problems, specially something as small and light as a tram.  

 

PS

I won't be using the unitram track, just the new kato tram that comes with the set.  It'll almost all be on flex track.

 

PPS

I just searched the site a bit and found a few people mentioning 10% grades with no problem for some certain trams, although no mention of the portram.  I'd be willing to get a different model of tram as long as I know it can go around tight 4" curves and 10% grades.  And I'm not as interested in what is prototypical, but more what is technically possible with n scale tram models.

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David

The Kato portram units (which can be purchased seperately - there are 6 paint schemes out right now, and 3 more on the way) can handle 90mm curves (3.5") though I will warn you that those figures are only for properly gauged track. Nailing down flex track that tight without distorting the distance between the rails can be very tricky - I would really look for a friend to provide a second set of hands if you want to try it.

 

Tomix makes mini-curve track, both with regular Japanese tie spacing, and as street level (paved) track. These sectional pieces are available in 177mm, 140mm and 103mm curves with a 140mm mini-turnout (as well as larger curves and turnouts since it is compatible with their regular Fine track). Most of the tram and mini layouts you'll see on this board use this track.

 

I do not know about grade performance - the Kato portram has plenty of power (search youtube for some videos of a portram pushing a dozen boxcars), but at steep grades it may not have the grip. Given the raw power available I think any traction problems could be overcome by adding bullfrog snot (a product that's basically traction tires in a bottom) to either one or two wheels. Are you planning on straight grades or curved?

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Barobutt

I plan on using tomix for 4" radius curves  and flex track for the grades (I was more worried about bending the tomix track to make gentle grades with easements rather than sharp angles due to the built-in ballast).  The plan is to have a curve, 10% grade getting me down a half inch, then another curve, then another 10% grade getting down 1.5 inches.  There will be about 1" of perfectly level track before and after each ramp, and the ramps should have easements (so the ramp curves not just a sudden sharp angle down).  I worry more about the train derailing or loosing contact at the start/end of the grade than it being able to power up. 

 

I also worry about some how making a gentle grade for track and roadway and still have buildings along it ...  might be a bit of a challenge

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Hobby Dreamer
I also worry about some how making a gentle grade for track and roadway and still have buildings along it ...  might be a bit of a challenge

 

Hi Barobutt,

 

You can get shims for doorways etc at most lumber yards and this is an inexpensive way to solve your problem. You can hide the shims with foliage, plaster cloth etc... depending on what the structures and their spacing is.

 

You could also use Popsicle sticks...  (I'm assuming you want level structures along a graded road).

 

 

Looking forward to seeing your layout progress..

Rick

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Bernard

Barobutt - Welcome to the forum!

Next, do you have a track plan that you can post at the forum? This will help members see exactly what you are planning. Also, what are the dimensions of your layout? This could also help in the design of grades.

(When I planned out my Shinkansen layout I knew I would need long sweeping curves and no more than a 2% grade so the long cars would run smoothly. With a Tram layout you have a lot more options)

Look forward to the development of your layout ! 

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Barobutt

plan1.jpg

 

The dark green line is where I'm planning on building scenery walls.  The idea is to have 2-3 separate scenes on one 32x96" layout.  I can't stand the idea of an unrealistic loop, trains that go nowhere.  So with this set up I imagine many km between each scene.

 

The blue line is the planned tram line.  It mostly will be going down the medians of roads with its own right of way.  The city is at about 2" while the track is at 0".  On the left hand side of the layout is where I'd like the tram and road to ramp down to 0".  Then on the far right section I'd like that to gently ramp back up.

 

Any other feedback would be most welcome.  All the curves on the railway are at least 11" radius with easements.  The only spot I worry about is where the curve on the right changes directions right below the end of the sidings.  It's two 11" radius sections, is that bad?

 

Scenery wise, the bottom left side will be all urban with a semi-underground station under the road,  the north section will be a yard or industrial area along with a small suburban station, and the right side will be a pleasant hilly nature area, maybe with a single siding and a building or two.  The buildings shown right now are just my existing stock of buildings from my old layout that I measured and labeled so I know what I'm working with.  On my old layout I couldn't quite fit them all, now I need MORE!

 

PS

The underground station is going to go pretty much where the building marked "yellow" is on the centre/south part of the map.  I've never made a custom station or platform let alone an underground one.  I'll probably eventually make a new thread about it asking for help in the future but does anyone have any examples?  I've always wanted to have an underground track at the edge of my layout to provide a "cut-away" view inside a station/tunnel

 

PPS

Maybe this should be moved to the personal projects section?  I wasn't fully familiar with all the boards when I posted this

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Mudkip Orange

This is a cool track plan.

 

One thing to note, the Tomix 4" (103mm) curves will -not- work with all the trams out there. There is a Youtube user who's done videos testing many different models on the various Tomix mini-rail curves, you can see them here:

 

http://www.youtube.com/user/177140103

 

If you can find any way to fit the 140mm curves instead of the 103mm ones, those will accommodate just about every tram that's currently on the market. No need to go all the way up to the 177mm ones.

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disturbman
Maybe this should be moved to the personal projects section?  I wasn't fully familiar with all the boards when I posted this.

 

Done!

 

Nice project. :)

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CaptOblivious

The 11" (280mm) radius S-curve should pose no problem for most Japanese rolling stock. If it were closer to that turnout, I'd be worried, but your plan looks fine. I've run all of my Japanese stuff through 11" S-curves with zero problems. You can always buy a few pieces of set-track (Tomix makes curves at 280mm radius) and test your models out before hand.

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Barobutt

All I'm going to be running are some 50' boxcars, a switcher and maybe the kato RDC-2 for passengers, although I'm considering getting into true passenger service.  Would the layout shown be ok for standard modern passenger coaches?

 

All the track posted is atlas snap track.  The blue curves will be fine-track 4", so I have to make sure my tram will be 4" friendly.

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Barobutt

Another question if anyone knows...

 

I've been looking at the Wide-Tram line of track for my tram system but there's something I don't like about it, it's very WIDE.  I guess the name should have tipped me off but the track spacing seems quite high, even for the tight turns.  I saw some videos of some wide-tram track in action with trams going along it, and it looks like a car could comfortably drive between the trams.  Am I wrong in thinking the spacing could be reduced by quite a bit and still run the trams safely?

 

This brings me to my next question,  what would be the minimum safe track spacing for trams?  I'd like to have a 4 lane road with trams going down the centre or outer two lanes.  Tomix wide-track seems so far spaced I could fit a platform in the middle.

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Bernard

 

 

All the track posted is atlas snap track.  The blue curves will be fine-track 4", so I have to make sure my tram will be 4" friendly.

 

Would you consider using Altas Flex track? I ask this because with Flex track there are fewer breaks in the track and it will provide smoother running for the train. Even with snap track you should solder the tracks together, by using flex there is a lot less soldering to do. The only trick is when it comes to making the curves.

Again this is just a suggestion.  :grin

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CaptOblivious

Another question if anyone knows...

 

I've been looking at the Wide-Tram line of track for my tram system but there's something I don't like about it, it's very WIDE.  I guess the name should have tipped me off but the track spacing seems quite high, even for the tight turns.  I saw some videos of some wide-tram track in action with trams going along it, and it looks like a car could comfortably drive between the trams.  Am I wrong in thinking the spacing could be reduced by quite a bit and still run the trams safely?

 

This brings me to my next question,  what would be the minimum safe track spacing for trams?  I'd like to have a 4 lane road with trams going down the centre or outer two lanes.  Tomix wide-track seems so far spaced I could fit a platform in the middle.

 

The track spacing for the Wide Tram is exactly the same as for every other Tomix track product, including the tram track you were already considering: 33mm. The only difference is that the Wide Tram is already embedded in a roadplate.

 

But you are right: It is quite wide, and could be much narrower. Doing so would be tricky, and require modification of the track pieces, though, and you'd still be left with the wide spacing in curves.

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David

I might be the one who is wrong, but I think you made a typo. Tomix Fine/Wide/Mini track uses a 37mm spacing (Kato is 33mm).

 

With regards to the reason the OP asked, I think Tomix does make a mini platform (part # 4060) that is intended to fit between a pair of parallel tracks. Alternatively you could make your own, since the larger 37mm spacing should easily accomidate structures like the Kato tram shelter.

 

Pushing the track closer together is harder/easier. Kato pushes their tram track to 25mm (the closest you can squeeze 2 pieces of regular Unitrack due to the 25mm ballast). With Tomix you could ideally push them as close as 18.5mm. However in both cases you run into problems: parallel curves are not designed for the closer spacing at all, and just like the prototype you really need to open up the spacing on the curves to provide enough clearance. Kato diverges from 25mm spacing to 33mm spacing on their Unitram curves (which is conviently the right spacing for their regular parallel tracks....)

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Barobutt

None of my track plan actually requires parallel curves so I think I'll be able to go down to a 1" track spacing quite easily, just wanted to know if it was safe.

 

I just google street view'd some tram tracks and it practically looked like 4 evenly spaced rails, maybe slightly wider in the middle.  I guess if it's good enough for prototype it's good enough for me!  I'll only be using the Tomix fine-track for their 4.055" radius curves, the track between will most likely just be cheap old atlas straight sections and flex track.  I just don't trust my flex-track laying abilities enough to exactly lay any perfect 90 degree curves....

 

I also really am not a fan of the size of the ruts for the wheels for the wide-tram system.  They look about a foot wide in full scale!  I've always been happy with my results of just plastering over the track then running some old large-flange wheels along the track periodically as it sets.  Give the whole thing a quick sand the next day and you're done and it looks great.

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bill937ca

Another question if anyone knows...

 

I've been looking at the Wide-Tram line of track for my tram system but there's something I don't like about it, it's very WIDE.  I guess the name should have tipped me off but the track spacing seems quite high, even for the tight turns.  I saw some videos of some wide-tram track in action with trams going along it, and it looks like a car could comfortably drive between the trams.  Am I wrong in thinking the spacing could be reduced by quite a bit and still run the trams safely?

 

The track center is prototypical for narrow gauge tram lines.  About half or more of the current Japanese tram lines are 1067mm in gauge including Enoden, Tosa Electric, Okayama, Iyotetsu, Toyama, Sapporo, Toyohashi and Manyosen.  There are many cars available for those lines from Modemo, Tomytec and Kato. In the US Los Angeles and Denver used this gauge.  It also reflects 900mm and 1000mm European tram lines. The track center is wide because trams are often almost full width.  If don't like you don't have to use it. However, it does suit the Japanese prototype.

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keitaro

If you have a mini turnout right after a corner some models can derail i have heard. I had this happen to me but not on a tram as i dont have one I overcome this with a 72.5mm straight infront. Just thought I'd mention. I have a kiha 130 hidaka because of it's size it can handle sharpest turns I've seen on a train. However I found that having the mini turn out 30 degree it could sometimes derail. After placing the 72.5mm it does not derail anymore.

 

Not saying it will happen on a tram as I don't know but be aware that could happen and I hope not. Anyone able to test this?

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Barobutt

From my own experience I generally have a rule of ALWAYS having a straight section before a point... I learned that the hard way.  It's so hard to fit turnouts and activity on a small layout while keeping it totally fool-proof for all your trains.  Can be frustrating when the problem doesn't crop up until well after you've done terrain work all around, I'm sure we've all been there in our beginner days (which I seem to be stuck in for years).

 

I'm still not sure about the spacing of the wide-tram track being prototypical, even for Japan.  I just measured the center to center distance for the tram track in Hiroshima and it came out to about 3m.  Once again it looks almost like 4 evenly spaced rails with maybe a 10-15% larger gap in the middle.  The wide-tram tracks, if I did my math right, come out to about 6.4 meters

 

All the tram tracks I spot on google street view look like : || ||

while the wide-track series look like: ||   ||

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keitaro

On my layout I have one spot where I couldn't have a straight before turn out due to space limitations. Basically a 280mm dbl switch connects straight to a 280 mm curve. I gave the set a massive run in but the dbl cross over seems to be okay with that. Only train that makes me worry is the kiha 110. Gets a bit of tilt on it at the corner.

 

I was also crazy enough to have 3 turn outs in a row. On the yard though so trains go slow and no issues.

 

I lime your plan though will be good to see how it pans out.

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Barobutt

Here's an updated plan,  no grades required.  Can anyone spot any trouble spots or make any suggestions?  It's pretty much just the rail line and the tram in blue.  Once again the green represents a scenery wall to separate the two scenes.

mark2.jpg

 

And as much as I liked the idea of making an underground station, the current plan involves much less underground/covered portions of track, just a couple tunnels or road bridges over the track.  I always have to remind my self when doing model trains is that the trains are supposed to be the stars, not buildings.

 

My main problem now is that I'm getting greedy and want this layout to have a bit of everything, and one thing it doesn't have is any bridges or water.   I've never done water before and I'm quite scared of it, and I can't figure out how to work any bridges into the layout without the whole table having a half foot of foam on the top...

 

I have a another question about trams if anyone can answer.

I see two versions of the portram on ebay.  One is consistently in the high $90 range and one in the $40 range.  The expensive one is clearly a nice tram with detailed interior, the cheap one has confusing information.  It says it is a model for display only, but then also says it COMES with a bulky motor unit you can put inside and run it on your track.  My question is: is the only difference between these two models the bulk of the motor?  If I get the expensive one am I simply paying for a smaller motor so the tram looks nice through the windows but otherwise will perform the same?  I'm wanting to get a cheap starter tram before I invest in the Modemo Hiroshima 5000 (if I can ever find one to buy in the future) and was wondering people's opinions on these two portram models.

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bill937ca

 

I'm still not sure about the spacing of the wide-tram track being prototypical, even for Japan.  I just measured the center to center distance for the tram track in Hiroshima and it came out to about 3m.

 

Hiroshima is standard gauge, 1435mm.  Quite a difference.

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brill27mcb

Your trams would probably have no problem with the grade on the earlier design. In the newer design, the tram line at the right-hand loop could serve a station on the main railway, so it has a reason to go there and then loop back. In the middle of the tram line, you could put a Tomix Mini Point (turnout) leading toward the back of the layout for a carhouse. Also installing a center island with boulevard lights along that long double-track street would visually cover up the "wide" track spacing. These accessory pieces come in the Tomix paving kits (3076 and 3079) -- you can look them up on Plaza Japan (Ebay) or Hobby Search. In all of my tram layouts I have had absolutely no problem with derailments on the Tomix Mini Points, either paved or unpaved. The wide wheel flange "ruts" are called flangeways in streetcar terminology, and are found throughout N gauge, since truly scale flanges would be impractical in the small scale. And most knowledgable people who use Japanese track use the metric measures instead of inches, since it's designed in the metric system.

 

The Kato Unitram, besides the below-window drive system, also offers LED headlights, taillights and interior lights. It a matter of personal choice and budget. Most people I know run them both.

 

I suggest you go to Hobby Search's English main model railway page (www.1999.co.jp/eng/rail/) and browse through Model Train Bargain (at top of left-hand list), Kato Trains/Other Electric Car, Tomytec/Railway Collection, and Modemo/Electric Car to familiarize yourself with what is (and has recently been) available.

 

Hope this helps!

Rich K.

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Barobutt

Thanks for the advise.  Yeah I'm thinking each scene will represent two nearby towns or the city-centre and outskirts of a large city.  I like your idea of having a tram shed off that loop.  i plan on having a little platform out there, but I'm a little scared to get into turnouts for the tram.  

 

That long stretch of double tram track will go down a median with its own right-of-way, and they'll be spaced together as close as possible (I'm not letting any particular snap-track system limit me).  The rest of the tram track will share the road with vehicles like in many old cities.  Since all the turns are left turns it let me fit the turns in!  I want to capture the feel of a cramped street with a tram.

 

I'm modeling my location as "somewhere in north america" as all my rolling stock and buildings are clearly north american, other than a few european buildings that fit in.  I'm used to dealing with atlas track that gets me using the american measurement system even though I'm Canadian (model trains actually taught me to understand this archaic system).  It's so much more pleasant to speak in mm rather than confusing fractional when dealing with a scale hobby!

 

I'm thinking of adding a car-house just to the right of the loop between the loop and the rural road.  Then having a tram stop to the north and a pedestrian bridge over the yard (can 2 tracks be called a yard?) to a suburban station.  Good idea?

 

Here's a couple pics of my current layout I'm demolishing and extending 32".  I'll be sad to see it go, but it's only my second layout and I learned a lot from it.  All in all I'm probably only out about $70 in track and $20 in paint and drywall mud and other scenery supplies.

 

100_8281.JPG

that's an early pic showing most of my buildings

 

100_8593.JPG

There's my pride and joy loco pulling some box cars in one of my most "finished" corners

100_8596.JPG

100_8599.JPG

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Barobutt

Well I just dropped $100 on 4 packs of 103mm curve, a cheaper model centram, and some fences all from Plaza Japan.  I hope everything works out!

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David

By cheaper I assume it's the TomyTec version - since you bought it from Plaza I think it's safe to say you bought it with the power unit and not just the static model (about $50 for the model and power unit). These are half the cost of the Kato units, however there is no space for passenger (you can see the big motor through the windows) and there is no working lighting. On the upside they are probably easy to convert to DCC. The Kato version is actually low floor with space for passengers (this works through some amazing mini-motors hidden in the trucks) and has both interior and directional lighting.

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