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Model Rail Forum _ Z scale _ Hakuho part 1

Posted by: kevsmith 9 Jun 2019, 18:56

I've been wanting to do a Japanese Z scale layout for a while now. I can run Republic Steel in JNR Steam era with the Tenshodo and Rokuhan locos I have acquired and also in the later diesel-electric period but I wanted to model a side of Japan that many people are unaware of. We are all familiar enough with the mega cities like Tokyo with its intense suburban rail network and Shinkansen 'Bullet trains' but I have become enamoured with the wilderness of Hokkaido which is a lot more similar to the Pacific northwest, sparsely populated, and with mountains covered in millions of trees.

Now space at my house is becoming a problem with the Cuyahoga, Shasta and Republic Steel layouts fighting for space in the layout shed and the forthcoming 'Tapton Junction' British layout under development so a hard decision had to be made.

The 4 foot extension board for Shasta that has the Dunsmuir depot on it has always been a pain to take the shows as I have to borrow one of the call-out vans from work to get it all in. In addition, although I have lots of bookings for Shasta, none of them are for it in its long form so it is pretty redundant.

So the decision was taken to strip the board, recover the track and points and use it as a donor board for 'Hakuho' as the new layout will be called. This has the advantage that the wiring loom can easily be adapted and most importantly it already has a flight case and lighting rig. All of the trees were recovered (you will see these again!)

So I have 4 foot by 2 foot 6 inch to play with. The original centre divider would be retained. The front of the layout would be Hakuho station itself nestled in the hills and forest and I decided that the layout will be built as four scenes separated by scenic dividers so the front scene would be framed by a road overbridge at one end and an abandoned forestry line on an embankment at the other. Time period will be the early 1970s before Steam in Japan finished forever in the mid 70's

Although it looks to be double track the inner line is the local line, still steam hauled and with lower quadrant semaphore signals. The outer line will be electrified with colour light signals as the main line.

So a start was made on track laying with my usual Marklin points and Peco flex track laid on 1/16th cork sheet with crossovers at either end of the platforms. The platform on the main line is no longer in passenger use but is retained for the block section tablet catchers.

Once the footprint of the track was determined I could then rough out the road overbridge and start adding the 'Kingspan' mountains (Kingspan is the trade name of the most common insulating foam used in construction in the U.K and I'm always rescuing off-cuts from skips as I pass them!) Being Urethane it is quite solid and holds the trees well but does have the disadvantage of making a lot of annoying dust when you cut it and it is best to do that outside.

more soon


Posted by: kevsmith 9 Jun 2019, 19:05

A hard shell of newspaper strips and interior powder type filler mixed with combination of Burnt Umber, Burnt Sienna and black ready mixed poster paint was built up layer by layer. The filler is coloured this way so that should it get damaged it doesn't show up as a white gouge.

Extensive track testing was then done before the railsides were painted rusty and Woodland scenics fine brown ballast added.

The original turntable pit on Dunsmuir was left with a filler piece under the baseboard for the waterfall and lake which are part of the plan. The embankment for the Forest line was made curved to add a bit of interest. with a thin plywood top so there is something for the trackpins to go into. Once the hardshell was set the more vertical faces are textured up with tinted filler and one that is dry the rock strata lines are drybrushed in.
The whole workshop then had a major cleaning blitz to get as much dust out as possible before I started to put the waterfalls, lake and river in with Rowneys Gloss Acrylic medium. This is built up layer by layer over a period of a few days and then the white foam added before a couple of final layers.

The area where the trees were to go was painted in a mix of Burnt Umber posterpaint and PVA glue and Noch 'Forest Floor' scatter applied. More open areas had Woodland Scenics fine turf. Boulders were added at the base of the waterfalls and some cliff bottoms and then I started planting trees after first painting the dividers to represent the forest background.

The railway buildings are laser-cut papercraft kits from Sankei in Japan and are absolutely exquisite. There is the station building itself, the platforms and a large signalbox (too large actually but it will do for now) and a goods shed. The two gravel tracks leading from the main road split, with one going up into the woods and the other leading down to the station. On the hillside is a shrine and cemetery buried in the trees. These were scratchbuilt based on pictures found on the web. There is a covered wooden footbridge that goes between the platforms. This is injection moulded and came with a resin cast collectable C57 but it occurred to me that the cardstock platforms may not be robust enough to hold it so I've taken it off and am going to through-bolt it down to the baseboard with some M4 studding. And that's about it for buildings up to now.

Telegraph poles were simply soldered up from brass.

So although it looks alright now there is still a long way to go. I'm going to have to get the signals etched as they are lower quadrant with tapered arms. Still got figures to add. Station signs, general clutter etc but I am struggling to find Japanese cars and trucks in Z.

A D51 2-8-2 comes off the local line with a mixed freight as a C62 4-6-4 still has the job of hauling the express passenger trains. Both locos by Tenshodo

Posted by: kevsmith 9 Jun 2019, 19:09

A C11 2-6-4T shunts the yard

The other three scenes are pretty much worked out and I'll report on them later

Video part 1 at

I'll report more soon



Posted by: dwb 10 Jun 2019, 18:24

Great to see a layout through the different stages of construction thumbsup.gif


Posted by: kevsmith 10 Jun 2019, 19:56

Thanks David.

I've always taken photos of the layouts as I've gone along and sometimes it can be quite scary. I look back at my gauge 3 'Askam' layout under construction, subsequently abandoned, with its 5 foot depth (Two baseboards deep), six foort long station building and a length heading towards 36 foot and wonder "What on earth was I thinking"!

there will be quite a bit more to report on Hakuho. Next will be the lighting rig and photo extension boards and then scene 2, the left hand side of the layout

This is the artwork for the station signs. these are going to be shrunk down in photoshop to 5mm wide and printed out on glossy card



Posted by: kevsmith 28 Jun 2019, 20:39

So I've been concentrating on the photo extension boards. These were an idea I first used on Republic Steel and are cosmetic scenic boards used to increase the foreground. They make taking photographs a lot easier and give magazine editors a lot more scope when cropping to fit pages and text.

They use existing bolt holes in the baseboard with domestic steel angle brackets supporting 6mm MDF tops on stripwood frames

In comparison with the first pictures you'll see how just 5 inches dramatically opens up the vista. The front board has some rice paddies and a vineyard and is waiting for some farm buidlings to fill the left hand end. The forest railway now ends at the remnants of the robbed out embankment

Although the right hand scene was supposed to be the last to be developed it has sprung ahead with an extension to the stream from the waterfall.

I've been busy with the goods yard with logs (last years fuschia bush twigs after it died back) and a Randy Brown fork lift

A view from the left hand end

My newly delivered Rokuhan C57 4-6-2 trundles through Hakuho with a Sapporo bound express

Posted by: kevsmith 28 Jun 2019, 20:46

So I'm not planning on taking the layout to shows with the photo boards and the next part of the video will show the layout with the boards on, in show mode with the lighting rig erected and how the flight case works.

The Rokuhan C11 2-6-4T trundles through with the local mixed stopping train. It will leave the train in the platform while it shunts the goods yard. The C57 is running past light engine on a running-in turn

The C11 again

More soon


Posted by: kevsmith 30 Jun 2019, 20:18

So inbetween trying to watch the Cricket, Baseball, Glastonbury and the Formula 1 qualifying I kept going out to the workshop to keep planting rice!

The D51 0n the fish train passes a KIHA 42 railcar

The classic double headed C62s on the overnight Sapporo train pause at Hakuho. Eventually there will be water cranes at each end of each platform

Douible headed D51s on a heavy coal train pass a mixed freight with empty coal hoppers and reefers

Part 2 of the video looks at the photo extension boards, flight cases and lighting rig



Posted by: kevsmith 17 Jul 2019, 19:29

sat upright on the trestle I was to take an overhead photograph. This will help draw the trackplan for show organisers and magazines

on the other side the rats nest of wiring is starting to tidy up

The power pack I use for all my layouts is now bolted on and alongside is the carcass for the actual control panel

With the acrylic top hinged on the trackplan is masked off ready for spraying on the underside, You can see the apertures for the SCART socket that takes the feeds from the power pack. The 25 pin DIN plug for the track feed to the layout and the 50 pin D plug that takes the point motor feeds

more soon


Posted by: kevsmith 29 Jul 2019, 17:08

The underside of the control panel top was sprayed metallic black and then each section of masking tape was removed in turn and the clear strip left behind painted the colour of the feedwire that will run from the section switch, This allows me to follow the feed from the panel all the way to the section through the cables and D plugs if there is a problem

You can see the pre-wired 25pin D plug alongside


Posted by: kevsmith 25 Aug 2019, 20:14

So as you know I've been out at a few shows recently with the other layouts so the build has taken a back seat but as I have a gap before Loughborough at the end of the month I've done a bit more on the control panel this weekend.

The panel top has been drilled and had the switches fitted and the Scart socket that takes all the feeds from the power pack wired up. Pin list is recorded on an Excel spreadsheet that is printed out and kept in the electric accesories toolbox at shows just in case

Inside the panel ordinary domestic grey cable clips are tapped M3 (The nail holes are just the right size!) and screwed down to the bottom of the panel to keep the wiring tidy. The left hand 50 pin socket will have all the feeds for the point motors. The middle 25 pin din socket carries all the feeds to the track sections and the right hand one is the incoming power scart socket. The gaugemaster electronic track cleaner is held by clips lewft over from the last kitchen revamp. They are the clips for securing the kickboards and have just the right tension! I can slide them out to get to the tag strip hidden behind

next job will be to wire the switches down to the tag strip and then 'bel through' to check all the connections are right

more soon


Posted by: kevsmith 9 Sep 2019, 20:22

In a gap between shows I pressed on with the wiring this wekend

with the layout sat vertically on its trestles and clamped down I bolted the cotrol panel on which gave me 360 degree access to the railheads, panel and baseboard wiring to 'Bell through' the connections.

satisfied all was well from the board to the tag strips in the panel I could wire the DPDT section switches

The track at the rear has been ballasted with limestone ballast that needs toning down

The newly built excursion stock meanwhile has been having a test on Republic Steel. The draw links between the coaches need to be longer, it appears, to reduce binding on S curves

part 3 video at

More soon


Posted by: kevsmith 8 Mar 2020, 21:38

So less than a week to go to the layouts debut at Macclesfield show. I'm racing against time to get the layout good to go. Not the layout itself but all the peripherals that make for success

Recent videos on youtube are part 4 (ignore the title shot!)

and the real part 5

So both ends have ben developed since I last posted

The Golf course end is now looking the part but I need to use finer grass on the green!

Ath e other end the outskirts of the town is taking shape

Posted by: kevsmith 8 Mar 2020, 21:45

Still got a couple of random glitches on the track where I've altered some track feeds but will sort them over the next couple of days

The overhead shot

I've just submitted the article about the layout to Continental Modeller to co-incide with the Autumn shows and I'll send it over to Z-Track mag shortly

So hope to see some of you at next weekend's show. The latest news from the Macclesfield club is that as it stands now there is no reason for the show not to go ahead so fingers crossed



Posted by: kevsmith 12 Mar 2020, 18:10

Just had confirmation that the show is definetely on this weekend


Posted by: kevsmith 22 Apr 2020, 18:36

So we managed to get Macclesfield show across the line before the sky fell in with the Coronavirus pandemic. Most of the conversation amonsgt the exhibitors was which shows would succumb next and as it turned out it was all of them including the big ones, York, Bristol, London, Qourn etc

Ran out of times to get the fire retardant drapes machined up so resorted to folding them and pinning them for thsi show

The facia for the lighting rig isn't fully lettered yet

I'd spent the week before getting the flightcase for the extension boards, control panel and lighting rig made. everything locks in to protect it

Now my old rolling toolbox finally gave up the ghost after the last show last year and I held off buying a new one until nearer the show. I was amazed to find that the same toolbox is still in production albeit in a rather bright yellow so one was duly ordered. I know how to pack these!

In this rear shot you can see the control panel with the gaugemaster controller alongside. The toolbox underneath and how far the rear scenery has come

more soon


Posted by: kevsmith 22 Apr 2020, 18:58

I took all the Japanese stock I had even though there is not enough room on the layout for it this show was to test and test again to see what worked and what didn't

So Friday night during set-up was testing the track sections and points. No repetition of the wierd electrical faults that occured a few weeks earlier thank god.

Saturday, despite what the show guide said, I ran it all diesel with the DD51s and DE10s with a wide variety of stock. There were some random uncouplings on the outer track under the Forestry line which were traced to a bit of solder sticking up from a feed.

Sunday saw the steam locos out in force with the two Rokuhan locos running faultlessly

video at

So with all the shows cancelled and being on lockdown and working from home I've taken a pause from Z and am taking the opportunity to finish some very long standing, unfinished projects in different scales.

Once I've cleared them I've got three MK II coaches, Two Class 37s and test coach Iris to paint to run on Republic Steel.


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