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Ken Ford

Modular tram standards

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Ken Ford

I managed to get myself all fired up at a train show I attended yesterday.  One of the groups had a selection of T-Trak modules including one local modeler's attempt at starting a single track variant.  I immediately started thinking about how I could use the concept for N scale tram modeling.  Knowing that this idea could hardly be original to me, this morning I searched the web and then popped in to the forums here to see what I could find that others have done.  It looks like the following modular tram concepts are out there right now:

 

1. The East Penn "EasyTrolley" concept, which I think is Rich Kerr and a few others.  This one seems to be mostly temporary tabletop layouts with a lot of "implied" scenery, but they've also posted a little about "T-Trak for Trolleys".  I’m an East Penn member, but there are no other members here in the Chicago area that I’ve found to be interested in N scale traction/LRV modules so I feel no real need to follow these standards.

 

2. Our own Toni Babelony published what I think is a great concept right here at JNS Forum:  http://www.jnsforum.com/index.php/topic,3082.0.html  This is such a well thought out concept that I'm surprised it hasn't attracted more attention, at least that I've been able to find.

 

3. There appear to be one or more other modular tram standards used in Japan, but I haven't been able to find much about them.

 

My interest is in a single track concept with an alternate double track.  (I'd personally like to build single track with passing sidings and stub terminals, but that's just me.)  I also have zero interest in implied scenery and instead would like to see traditional permanent scenery.  I envision a linear layout with a lot of reserved center of roadway right-of-way and traditional street running; I’d also limit it to tram models (no need or desire to accommodate full sized equipment.)  The Tomix system appears to be the best suited for my needs.  I’d also likely stick with modeling Japanese or possibly UK trams because of the left hand drive configuration of the available models that interest me (Portram, Centram and similar.)

 

Toni’s ideas really appeal to me.  Has anyone built anything to his proposed standard; alternately, has else here developed a modular standard for modeling Japanese (or other) traction using Tomix tram track?  I don’t really want to reinvent the wheel.

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Densha

Coincidentally Toni recently created another concept very close to want you want, but with Kato tracks. (Mainly because you can replace Unijoiners, what you can't do with Tomix track.) But it's not Tomix, so I don't really know much more about this than you do. The basic idea you thought of is very easy to apply to Tomix track too probably, but there's probably someone who know more about this.

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Ken Ford

I'll look for his Kato concept, thanks for the tip!  I wasn't aware the Tomix joiners weren't replaceable, that could be a problem.  The reason I wasn't considering Kato is because they don't do turnouts nor single track tram stuff.

 

I might do better to consider normal Unitrak with added street surfaces...

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Densha

You don't have to look, since he hasn't placed it on this forum (hopefully yet), if he did I would linked you to it of course.

The replaceability was the reason we chose Unitrack for the Dutch T-Trak system. Adding street surfaces can be a pain in the ass sometimes though. The other problem is of course that Unitrack doesn't have switches with a small radius, and the incoming Unitram switches aren't probably separately available either. Longer switches do also take up more space but it really depends on how you want to model your layout I think and what kind of railway you are basing it on.

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Ken Ford

My limited experience with LRVs suggests that the larger switches may actually be more accurate for more recently built tramlines, at least here in the states.  I was thinking that I would avoid switches in pavement in the beginning anyway.  I really like the look of the lines that have a reserved grassed right-of-way between the opposing lanes of traffic - I'm not sure how prototypical that is for Japanese tramlines.

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Webskipper

Kato has the new tight unitrack curves for trams.

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Ken Ford

Kato has the new tight unitrack curves for trams.

 

How tight?  All I'm seeing on the Kato USA website is 8.5" radius.  (I assume you mean "normal" Unitrack, not the tram track.)

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Ken Ford

Toni, can I assume you consider this to supersede your earlier Tomix concept?  The linked doc (thanks for posting!) doesn't appear to have the same tram concentration - you mention 180mm minimum radius.

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Densha

How tight?  All I'm seeing on the Kato USA website is 8.5" radius.  (I assume you mean "normal" Unitrack, not the tram track.)

This is the page at Kato's Japanese website: http://www.katomodels.com/product/nmi/unitrack_compact.shtml

The minimum radius is 150mm, larger trains won't go through it as you know.

 

I've not been able to complete all the files, but here is a WIP. I hope to have it finished somewhere tonight... But I'm a bit too busy with building my first module of this new concept :p

 

https://docs.google.com/document/d/1aZThDWTZDp1YyYOmLHwBTaBQBNZ10VVhzc919AwPkXo/edit

So you were busy with that all day, looking forward to that! But couldn't you just scan your sketches as a PDF file or something? Is much easier and faster for you too. Or are you just not done yet?

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Webskipper

Kato 20-890 CV1 6" Radius.

 

Since you are going you use it for trolley track in a road then use flex track.

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cteno4

Ken,

 

When you are asking about standards, are you interested in just getting ideas or do you want to try and get a group going to play with?

 

I ask as these two will probably take you on two different paths and possible different ideas for you.

 

If its just for you then I would suggest you think about about a more sectional type layout that is built around a modular type base. This will give you the ability to pull things apart, but maybe a lot more flexibility than a full modular standard that will limit the layout plan more and tends to make smaller setups a bit more boring. This is the part I personally find disappointing with ttrak, but the standards allow folks to play together easily and effectively.

 

Take a look at what Ulrich did with his little sectiona one track line as it goes down this sort of hybrid path. He started with a loop concept and migrated to a point to point.

 

http://www.jnsforum.com/index.php/topic,4682.200.html

 

This technique coul lend itself well to streetcars/trams. If I were not involved with a club doing Japanese street car standard spaced ttrak I would go this route and will probably do so in the future for street car or branch line rr setup. Unless you have a real reason to get into standards then I would really focus on what you really enjoy.

 

If you are interested in playing with others then a standard is going to be important and something that may take finding some others locally to play with first to come up with what features are wanted thus what standards might achieve it. But finding folks first can be tough, so starting something and then presenting it at local events might get others out of the woodwork, then they follow or you modify at that point.

 

Most of the Japanese modular streetcar I've seen has been ttrak or a modification of it with single track.

 

cheers,

 

Jeff

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Ken Ford

Jeff, thanks for posting Ulrich's thread - I hadn't seen it.  I need to get out of the Trams forum more often.

 

I'm trying to generate interest for a local club by building modules to demonstrate the concept.

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cteno4

Ken,

 

ok thats good info. group things change the variables some. like i said its a bit of a chicken and the egg situation there trying to get a group going. you need to get folks excited about the concept so having a demo loop helps, but you may start a standard that others dont like and that turns them off. a demo loop is great, but maybe make it really clear its just a first stab and that you want folks to collaborate on what the group would end up doing.

 

if its a focused enough group then hopefully you can all talk and try and draw up a set of requirements that best suits the groups needs/desires and then choose or create a standard modular approach to get as much as you can. but you will usually loose more with a group than if you do your own thing so be prepared for that, but having a group adds something that you cant get by yourself as well!

 

may times things just nucleate around who ever first starts DOING something! folks may talk big and have all sorts of ideas, but it usually stops there, having something there working kind of shuts that up some and many folks just say what the heck and jump in. worst case is you create something you like doing and even if it does not nucleate a group with the club right away you can keep playing with it and growing it and showing it. maybe later others will come along inside or outside the club and want to play later. no reason you could not take a small modular setup to the club's pubic shows now and then or even do your own little setups at train shows and other local events.

 

standard ttrak is tough here in the states as hardly anyone does it anymore, almost all alternate. also very few do trams on top of that. the few that i have heard of are mainly individuals out there. our club here does some and east penn has been talking about their modified system as well, but not sure how many modules have been built. im also an east penn member but have not been up in the last year and not keeping much track on the modules. perhaps the richs can chime in and let you know their experience with that and where its going.

 

you can also mess with the ttrak standard a lot if you want to. everything does not have to run with everyone, everywhere all the time. you can get creative if you want to, there is no ttrak police that will come slap your hands. again worst case you might not be able to set everything up in a large meet with other clubs in any configuration, but you can probably make something interesting work. and right now i dont think there are other clubs with street car ttrak anyway to play with!

 

the tram stuff ive been most excited by has been the more complex layouts with unitram (not a roundy roundy) or tomix tram track (like bills), or what east penn does on their weekend meets with the easy tram idea with large, complex set ups on the fly. ive liked the japanese ttrak as they broke the standards a lot and did single track and other odd bits like offset modules and such as well. unfortunately there are few sites anymore that have much on the Japanese ttrak offerings. they also always seemed to have a higher level of detail in their modules than elsewhere.

 

the problem with the easy tram and set up on the fly is folks can get tired of doing a lot of set up and break down with each session. we did over the years with the same concept for the whole jrm layout in the early days. you also need a good session place to do it in with good tables (east penn has this) or supply your own. also makes it harder for shorter shows as if you invest 2-4 hours setting up you want to not tear it down 2 hours later! also, as you noted, you usually end up doing mainly perceived scenery, although you can do small scenery bits and sidewalks attached to buildings with details to help go deeper into scenery. take a look at what barry lovell did with scenery bits on his temporary layout setups. we did a similar thing at the end of the first jrm set up on the fly layout as well. http://japanrailmodelers.org/pages/modelingjapan/tempoary.html

 

you could think about doing a really quick and dirty loop by using foamcore modules, just a quick proof of concept of the modular aspect and maybe make one module nice out of wood and do detailed scenery on it to show what you are thinking there. beware though not everyone may agree on the level of detail and quality on these. this is a constant issue with ttrak out there.

 

best of luck with it, keep us posted!

 

cheers

 

jeff

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brill27mcb

Ken, those train shows can be very dangerous -- they get you motivated and thinking!

 

The EasyTrolley concept was created to get people running things without having the excuse that they were not capable modelers, could not do woodworking (benchwork) in their apartment, etc. Anyone can buy a tram and participate, and anyone can also buy sectional track and pre-made buildings and have a changeable home layout and at the same time stuff to add to a group session. In the East Penn club (and to do trolleys in general) you have to hand lay your own prototypical track, solder overhead in midair, and so on, so there is a very daunting "level of entry" to most people.

 

That said, a lot of our capable modeler members now also do the EasyTrolley stuff as well, because it's just fun and relaxing -- a hobby from their hobby. On the other hand, some of our EasyTrolley participants wanted more in the way of scenery and even to try building working overhead wire, so I can up with the "T-Trak for Trolleys" proposal, showing how to combine Tomix small-radius curves and turnouts into T-Trak  standards and be fully compliant, but with a true tram/trolley flavor.

 

Never confuse KatoUSA with the true Kato "mother ship." KatoUSA does not sell the full product line, and you will be shortchanging yourself. (Inside hint: Real Kato types say "Kah-To," not "Kay-To," and they use track dimensions in millimeters, not inches.) The 150mm and 183mm tight-radius Kato Unitrack (along with the whole Unitram line) came out after "T-Trak for Trolleys" was devised. T-Trak is probably the most widely used N-gauge module standard internationally, and in Japan it is used predominantly for tram/electric railway modeling. As Jeff said, they do create single track modules, ones with passing loop sidings, and so on. I believe they use the outer track location for the track on single-track modules.

 

Rich K.

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Ken Ford

(Snipped for brevity)

 

best of luck with it, keep us posted!

 

cheers

 

jeff

 

Jeff -

 

Thank you!  Lots of food for thought.

 

What I'm thinking at this point is a T-Trak-like standard just for trams that plays well with the Kato Unitram trackage and also Unitrack for private R-O-W.  I have a bunch of ideas I want to think through and test before I go public with them, I'll keep the group posted as I figure things out.

 

My feeling is that I want to design and build these optimized as above.  If others like it enough to be inspired to play along, that's great - but it's not essential to me.  I'm trying to get something manageable to take to our monthly train show and other events.

 

To this end I ordered a V53 and some Unitrack yesterday; I plan on making a few module tops out of foamcore as you suggested to plan in 1:1.  I need to prove or disprove my ideas about optimum module size for this concept.

 

I'm going to put my flag in the shore right now and claim "TramTrak" for a name, though.  ;)

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Ken Ford

Ken, those train shows can be very dangerous -- they get you motivated and thinking!

 

The EasyTrolley concept was created to get people running things without having the excuse that they were not capable modelers, could not do woodworking (benchwork) in their apartment, etc. Anyone can buy a tram and participate, and anyone can also buy sectional track and pre-made buildings and have a changeable home layout and at the same time stuff to add to a group session. In the East Penn club (and to do trolleys in general) you have to hand lay your own prototypical track, solder overhead in midair, and so on, so there is a very daunting "level of entry" to most people.

 

That said, a lot of our capable modeler members now also do the EasyTrolley stuff as well, because it's just fun and relaxing -- a hobby from their hobby. On the other hand, some of our EasyTrolley participants wanted more in the way of scenery and even to try building working overhead wire, so I can up with the "T-Trak for Trolleys" proposal, showing how to combine Tomix small-radius curves and turnouts into T-Trak  standards and be fully compliant, but with a true tram/trolley flavor.

 

Never confuse KatoUSA with the true Kato "mother ship." KatoUSA does not sell the full product line, and you will be shortchanging yourself. (Inside hint: Real Kato types say "Kah-To," not "Kay-To," and they use track dimensions in millimeters, not inches.) The 150mm and 183mm tight-radius Kato Unitrack (along with the whole Unitram line) came out after "T-Trak for Trolleys" was devised. T-Trak is probably the most widely used N-gauge module standard internationally, and in Japan it is used predominantly for tram/electric railway modeling. As Jeff said, they do create single track modules, ones with passing loop sidings, and so on. I believe they use the outer track location for the track on single-track modules.

 

Rich K.

 

Hi, Rich!

 

I run into the Kato USA people fairly often – I’m a local and have acquaintances that work there.  It does seem like the USA operation is run at arms-length sometimes, doesn’t it?

 

I have to tell you that your (and other East Penn members) work on EasyTrolley and T-Trak for Trolleys has been a big inspiration for this whole idea of mine.  I’m just trying to tweak the concept further to better fit my own ideals of what a modular N scale tram layout can be.  Thank you for blazing the trail!

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Densha

To this end I ordered a V53 and some Unitrack yesterday; I plan on making a few module tops out of foamcore as you suggested to plan in 1:1.  I need to prove or disprove my ideas about optimum module size for this concept.

I'm not willing to make you disappointed, but you know that Unitrack can go together with Unitram even without the spacing correction parts? If you do without the spacing correction, you will keep the same smaller spacing which makes it look like tram track more.

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Ken Ford

To this end I ordered a V53 and some Unitrack yesterday; I plan on making a few module tops out of foamcore as you suggested to plan in 1:1.  I need to prove or disprove my ideas about optimum module size for this concept.

I'm not willing to make you disappointed, but you know that Unitrack can go together with Unitram even without the spacing correction parts? If you do without the spacing correction, you will keep the same smaller spacing which makes it look like tram track more.

 

Right - but I want to be able to use Unitrack switches (expecially the double crossover) in some of the the private ROW sections.  The wider spacing is pretty common in newer LRV system construction over here, so the 33mm looks OK to me so long as it's not in the roadway.

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cteno4

Ken,

 

cool, good to dive in and get something going. you can always modify as your snowball grows!

 

ohh point to point. you may want to look into a toy i have that ive been fiddling with for ttrak and that the minatronics ru2-1 auto reverser and pausing circuit. its a very simple optical sensor unit for about $89 that you can put 5 (even up to 10) pause point along a line and then auto reversers at the end. its nice in that it has acceleration and decel not just on/off like most of these kinds of units. super simple and sensors are like $1.25 each so you can pop them in modules and then just plug in the ones you want to use in any given setup. more info in this thread http://www.jnsforum.com/index.php/topic,1255.0.html

 

ive made street track pretty easily except for on the curves. on standard spaced kato track its pretty simple. you just put a piece of foam core with a 45 degree bevel cut up against the track. then on top of that you can put either 040 styrene (go to a plastic or sign shop and buy a 4'x8' sheet for like $10) or thin photo mount board (black high density stuff) that can go right up to the track on top of the spikes. this gives you a nice flat road surface about 0.5mm below track level and slopes up a tiny bit towards the rail so thing are assured of not obstructing wheels and such. for between the rails i use strips of 0.25" x 060 styrene that nestle between the spikes on top of the ties just right.

 

I then print out my streets using the computer to make them how i want them (markings, details, stains, base color, etc) and just glue them down to the top of the strips. i plan on replacing the foamcore layer with 3/16" ply wood so i can attach them with a couple of screws and pull up the streets easily to redo them w/o having to work around the tracks all the time. you can then come back and do other weathering and detailing to the printed streets as you desire. still trying to figure out exactly what/how i want my streets and such so its a work in progress.

 

some picts up here. the ones im talking about are the ones with the tall buildings and the double lane gray roads.

 

http://japanrailmodelers.org/photos/2010obon/index.html

http://japanrailmodelers.org/photos/2011obon/index.html

http://japanrailmodelers.org/photos/2012girlscouts/index.html

 

problem is this does not work well for the odd shaped standard corner curves! real issue is making the between the rail sections well. so far ive cheated and have one 180 under a shinkansen station and the other as a rural area w/o street track. unitram track solves this issue big time, but the unitram track forces you into a very large road geometry that i find does not work well with the smaller scenes on small ttrak sized modules. im guessing though that kato was going with the large japanese ttrak street car market when they did the 25mm spacing for the unitram on the straight aways. i just have personally not been 100% into the unitram track for full modeling. its fun stuff to play with, but gets expensive to do a larger scene in and does take up a fair amount of space. granted that its pretty prototypical for the more spacious tram setups, but maybe im just more into the scenes that are all squished in as those scenes seem much more interesting to me.

 

another thing ill throw out is module construction. there are many ways to skin the cat on this one. most have just picked up the lee box as the standard, but there is no reason you can do things a number of different ways. some folks have used just planks of 3/4" stock, others have made module bases out of foamcore even. ive taken a different route by making very thin bases. i found the very tall sides of the standard lee box visually not right with the module sizes and i think really stands out when you have a bunch of them and distracts from the scene above rather than frame it. painting it black just doesnt make it go away. so i make mine 1" tall and make the module out of two strips of 1" square stock with a small rabit joint cut in them to nestle the piece of 3/16" plywood between them. this saves a lot of room then when you crate up your modules as well! you can use nicer wood then for the edge pieces or use 1" veneer to make a really nice finished thin edge that works much better as a frame than a tall piece of painted ply wood!

 

i then put the modules on small frames that ive built to jack the modules up to standard ttrak height so they can connect with the lee boxes if necessary and the 4' long frames allow me to level 4 modules worth at once with just 4 bolts, then plop the modules on top of the frame. very helpful if you have a lot of slope to deal with (we do one show that is on a lawn so can be very wonky) as you can level up the frames with different sized bolts to get things level. the frame is inset from the module edge some so it makes the modules visually float some as well. with the modules high i can then also have some modules not on the frame that could have the scene dip down. also been working on subway line modules that the street car modules will sit on to allow 2 levels of tracks for a bit! thin modules can also get plopped right onto a book shelf to run there as a point to point which is my long term storage plan here at home for the modules.

 

theres been a lot of discussion of this and also module sizes and proportions on this thread you might find interesting:

 

http://www.jnsforum.com/index.php/topic,6164.0.html

 

also module structure picts

 

http://japanrailmodelers.org/photos/thinttrak/index.html

 

you should have no problems going 33 to 25 to get the best of both worlds. do your street areas 25 and transition in/out to the 33 for the curves and private row for switches etc. there is the new adapter plate from 25 to 33 or you can easily make one by cutting down some 15 degree pieces and fusing them or use flex track.

 

one last though is to think about migrating the tracks to the back of the modules for a while with offset modules that do an S to move the track. this way you can flip modules around and have the big part of the scene up front and the trams will disappear a bit to the rear of the modules and give folks fun peaks at them as they pop in and out behind buildings and thru cross streets for a while. this really helps break up the long straight away feel or the oval feel. you can also make balloon ends for a point to point out of tomix mini radius track that will fit in a 12" deep module that most trams will go through.

 

rich and the east penn gang also have a block control system they have been working on that sounds pretty cool as well.

 

munch away!

 

cheers

 

jeff

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Ken Ford

Jeff, you're proving to be a great resource and inspiration!

 

I'm going to look at doing some automation with DCC, but it may be easier to use DC with the module you linked.  I like that it does acceleration and deceleration.

 

I know what you mean about the wide streets in the Unitram design.  I'm itching to get my V53 (I was surprised to get a ship notice already, it'll be here Friday) because I believe it includes 62mm street track panels.  Here's a pic of the look I want for the middle part of the layout, this would be great using 25mm spacing and concrete tie singles between the Unitram street track grade crossings at each end of the module:

 

http://www.panoramio.com/photo/22727980

 

I'd like to simulate distance by running from  city center stuff using more of the Unitram material, then through the urban area using 25mm spacing on a reserved ROW between the roadway (as above), and finally out to the suburbs using 33mm spacing on private ROW to a terminal.  Things are starting to gel for me, I'm getting a feel for where I want to go - part of this has been temporarily abandoning the idea of single track modules.

 

I picked up some double track and some foamcore on the way home tonight, I have the V53 arriving Friday and a double slip some time next week.  This will give me plenty of building blocks to plan.

 

This is a gas!  I've been doing mostly O scale traction equipment for the last year or so, and it makes a nice change of pace to be planning an actual layout.  I've done a little show exhibition with friends, and I think this will be a good way to entice the cute young mothers to stop by and visit.   :grin

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cteno4

Ken

 

Great you are revved up and going! Keep us posted on how this evolves as your expeiences will be great for the rest of us.

 

Mu next big project will probably be a modular point to point that will transition from urban to suburban to rural and back. I was super inspired by the video in this thread.

 

http://www.jnsforum.com/index.php/topic,6072.msg62753.html#msg62753

 

Have fun!

 

Cheers

 

Jeff

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Ken Ford

That video is great!  I just scanned through a little bit of it - I need to watch the whole thing when I find time.  Never having visited Japan, videos and pictures are essential to me to get the feel of what I'm modeling.

 

I plan on starting a project thread after I sort out details.  Things are coming together quickly, so it shouldn't be long!

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cteno4

Ken,

 

yeah that video is the best i have ever seen that depicts how much and quickly the scenes can change in prototypical japan! ive watched it several times and neat little details keep popping out. amazing how much scene there is to model w/in 6" of the track at scale! thats the fun i find in japanese modeling with all the variation, odd assemblages, masses of details, quick changes along the rail, and rail going thru just about everything (buildings included)! some trams so similar progressions as well. Enoshima is one that is beloved for this and modeled a lot as it goes from a little city street running to private ror, small tunnels, overgrown areas to seaside in a very short route. change in scenery is amazing! most folks do it as a single small layout but ive often thought it would work well as a little onetrack modular layout. they also have a great selection of trams on it with some great painted ones!

 

Enoshima Tram (Enoden)

 

 

cheers

 

jeff

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Ken Ford

Uh-oh.  I wandered out into the rest of the site and found myself checking out Shinkansen viaducts.  I'd be safer sticking here in the tram forum!

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