Wednesday, December 14, 2011

OpenTTD: Toei Interlocking Add-on Set (TIAS) pt.1

After a very long silence, I'm back again. This time again something about the Toei Interlocking, but something different than a short history lesson: a visual project regarding the Toei Interlocking system and OpenTTD (the open source version of Transport Tycoon Deluxe. The same goodness from way back and then some).

For those who've been reading this blog and/or have been watching the Japan Set development topic on, you have been aware of the fact that I'm a Keisei fan and a sprite artist for the Japan Set.

With the introduction of different rail types in OpenTTD, I was getting motivated to add more standard gauge trains to the Japan Set. As you may know, regular trains in Japan run on 1067mm narrow gauge tracks and Shinkansen (bullet trains) run on 1435mm standard gauge tracks. However, there are a lot more trains running on standard gauge tracks, such as Keisei. In the upcoming release of the Japan Set there are only a few standard gauge commuter trains (Hankyu), so I thought that this moment was an excellent chance to further enlarge the rolling stock for standard gauge lines.

Foremost, I'd like to elaborate myself a bit more on the topic of 'Toei Interlocking'. This terminology was partially made up by me, since there was no real word for the "Keikyu - Toei Asakusa - Keisei and beyond system", so I came up with Toei Interlocking, since Toei is mainly responsible for connecting the Keikyu and Keisei networks together (in 1960). Next to that, other lines from other companies (mainly subsidiaries from Keisei) connect to the Keisei network and also have regular services running on the Toei and Keikyu routes. Companies like these include Hokuso Kodan/Kaihatsu, Chiba New Town (Urban Development Corp.) and Shibayama Railway. These companies, so to speak, all interlock with Keikyu through the Toei Asakusa subway line. Thus, hence the name 'Toei Interlocking'.

Page 01
The set I'm developing will not be a main part of the Japan Set, but an add-on, since these trains don't play a major role in Japan. It's focus will lie on the Keisei part of the network, since this company has the greatest diversity of trains, including their Skyliner and CityLiner services, plus the number of companies on this side of the Toei Asakusa line is more interesting in my opinion. The downside to this, is that I'm only able to include all of Keikyu's rolling stock. Only the 1000 Type 1st and 2nd Series, 1500 Type and 600 Type 3rd Series will be included. This is because only these types from Keikyu are allowed to pass through the Toei Asakusa tunnel. Some basic requirements for this are: 18m cars, 3 doors on each side per car, front door for emergency escapes. Most of Keikyu's rolling stock don't meet these requirements, except for those mentioned before, so they are not able to pass though the Toei Asakusa tunnel.

Page 02
Now, Keisei also has its fair share in trains that are not allowed to pass through the Toei Asakusa tunnel, but since they were mainly built before the planning of the Toei Asakusa connection and are not in use any more or are in use for Limited Express services (Kaiun, Skyliner, CityLiner), Keisei was the better choice. Plus, they have a larger variety in liveries, which will also make the fleet look more colourful and cheerful.

Page 03
One company that I want to include does however not run on the Toei part of the interlocking network: Shin-Keisei. I don't care if they don't run much on the Keisei network, they did hovever use a lot of old rolling stock from Keisei and recently started running on the Chihara line from Keisei. The inclusion of this company is however not completely certain though.

Page 04
With the rapid development of the Japan Set in general, I don't have much time for this rather personal project, but that shouldn't matter too much, since most trains I have planned for this set, have rather the same looks, but distinguish themselves in details like the air-conditioner units, front sides, colouring, pantographs, sounds (yes, I'm planning sounds as well) and performance. It's actually more work than it seems, working on these trains, since data on these trains is rather scarce online. Some of the data needs to be made up (like the traction in Nm and some power figures) but with the deliverance of a small data book on this subject by my dear Laser-chan, this might soon change.

For now, I can only provide you with a list of the trains that will feature in the set. I've sorted it according to the company and then train type number, since this is the most convenient and most understandable way in my opinion. Potential list of trains that will be included in the TIAS with images courtesy from Train Front View icons:


P.s. next time I'll do beer again.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Laser Train Website #1

I'm sorry I haven't been updating as regularly as I should have, but I've been in a quite busy time lately. Especially the creation of the Laser Train website took a lot of time! You can now visit this site for a weekly dose of Laser Train goodness and space! Next to that, I was co-organising an exhibition in the ABC Den Haag (American Bookstore) of Mangafique! and participating in the Abunai! 2011 convention of a few weeks ago. So, not much time was left to update the blog (which is really more a side project). Still, I'll keep continuing this blog! Don't worry!

The beer post below is already quite old, so the references to past events may seem a bit strange. So never mind that :P

In the meantime, don't forget to 'LIKE' Laser Train on Facebook and visit the the Laser Train website regularly! Next to our weekly comic updates we'll also have unscheduled updates on downloads and other interesting stuff!


Beer of the post: Leireken Boekweit Bruin (Buckwheat Brown);
Place of consumption: my room;

My parent's went to Antwerp and brought with them a bottle of this beer for me as I like brown beer and railways. They are the coolest!

This beer is a brown one (my favourite) and the name of Leireken derives from the last train driver's name, Valère, on the now closed Antwerp - Douai railway route. The face of the driver hanging out of his steam engine can clearly be seen, with some kind of glorified aurora behind him. This image is making driving trains something of a holy experience, which in my opinion is one of the few virtues of mankind, controlling machines and brewing beer. Not that I don't hold mankind in high esteem, but sometimes you just can't morally. Just look at some recent events on China's railways and the revolting massacre of Norway. However, beer makes mankind great. *I'm rambling again*

What a surprise the first sip was! I always thought brown beer had this sweet and full feeling, but this one tastes more like a light Lambiek beer. The first thing you notice when you take a sip is the sheer sourness of the beer, where you'd expect a nice, bittersweet and full taste. I wasn't prepared for that, but anyway... It's very different from what I normally would expect from a brown beer, but it's good to have a change of taste once in a while. Okay, as I don't have much of an opinion on brown and sour beers, I don't know what to say. Maybe it's a beer that's too old or wrongly brewed, but I don't think that's the case. However I need to try another one to create a full opinion on this one... More to come in the future!

Sunday, July 24, 2011

京成千原線 (Keisei Chihara Line)

Now for a more niche and maybe a bit of a sad part of the history of Keisei not many people know about. It's about the history of the Chihara Line, one of the less well known and appreciated stretches of the Keisei network. I think that not many people who are acquainted with Keisei know about this railway line at all, as there isn't much to find online, even in this age and time. This is a story about two railway companies that set up a third company.

Chiba Kyūkō Dentetsu 3050 Type.

Source: (19.07.2011)
In 1942 the Japanese Government Railways Kihara Line (木原線) was forced to merge with the Keisei Electric Railway company. The funny thing about this merger is that the two railways have no connection to each other at all in terms of interconnecting stations. In fact, they didn't even have remotely close lines at all. But this was all supposed to change in the future, as initially, this merge was forced upon the two companies to provide a more rapid manner of freight transport in the Tokyo Bay and the Bōsō Peninsular area. The former Kihara Line is now divided into two parts, now the Kominato Railway (小湊鐵道) and Isumi Railway (いすみ鉄道). The Kominato Railway is still under the subsidiary of Keisei, while the Isumi railway is a standalone company. Now, I don't want to give you a history lesson on the Kominato Railway, as this is quite an unclear area to me and I might give you the wrong numbers and conclusions, so I'll step up directly to the creation of the Chiba Kyūkō Dentetsu.

Chihara Line. Black: built and operated; Red: unbuilt.

Source: (19.07.2011)
In the late 1950s it became clear that urban development outside of the Tokyo Metropolitan area began to arise. Chiba Prefecture, a prefecture directly adjunct to the Tokyo Metropolitan area, was one of the prefecture that began to see rapid growth around the prefecture's capital, Chiba City. Around the city 'New Towns' were beginning to be planned and with this an expansion of the public transport network was only natural. One of these New Towns was located in the vicinity of the Kominato Railway around the Amaariki station (海士有木駅) area and promptly a licence to Keisei was issued to build a direct line to connect the Keisei station Chiba-Chūō (千葉中央駅) to provide a fast connection to the town centre of Chiba. However, the plans of the development of a New Town around Amaariki remained plans and remained on the shelf until 1975.

In that year, the plans were revised under the new Urban Development Law and the Chiba Kyūkō Dentetsu (千葉急行電鉄) was created between a joint venture of Keisei and Chiba Prefecture, making it a 3rd Sector railway. So, construction of a line towards the Kominato Railway Amaariki station started and in 1992 the operation of the first section of the line started from Chiba-Chūō to Ohmoridai (大森台駅), with the opening of an extention to Chiharadai station (ちはら台駅) in 1995. This railway line was named the Chihara Line. The entire line was built in a manner to keep costs down, it was built single track, but with the future prospect of operating it eventually as a double track line. So, the track bed is actually a double track prepared line with one side empty. Some stations have two tracks where two trains can overtake one another and have quite basic points, or so it seems by the extremely low speeds they negotiate the points. Maybe these were installed as a temporary measure. It reminds me a bit of the East German Railway lines, where the Soviets removed one side of the tracks as a retaliation and retribution for war damages. It seems a bit tragic to me...

Anyway, after the hopeful opening in 1995 of the stretch to Chiharadai station, passenger numbers were not as high as expected, this due to the bubble burst in the early 1990s, the  slow development of the New Towns in the southern part of Chiba, high ticket fares, depreciation of land value, interest expectancy rates and high land acquisition costs. This led to the bankruptcy of the Chiba Kyūkō Dentetsu in 1998 and the complete overtake of Keisei, leaving Chiba Prefecture out of the business. The final expansion to Amaariki station was never built after that.

It was a dream project of Chiba Prefecture and Keisei to be able to connect the Kominato Railway to the Keisei network and provide good transport to the New Towns in the south, but alas, it was not meant to be. It's kind of funny still see one of the Keisei railway companies/subsidiaries cut off from the main network when there is only a few kilometres to be laid. The trouble is, is that this small stretch would lead passengers to no place of interest, as there is nothing on offer at the moment. However, there are still plans to build this line and Keisei still is the owner of some land en route from Chiharadai station to Amaariki station, so there is still a chance that this stretch will be built, albeit a small one.

Livery comparisons on 3150 Series:
Chiba Kyūkō Dentetsu (Left) and Keisei Denetstu (Right)

Source: (19.07.2011)
The illustration I've made is a tribute to the short lived Chiba Kyūkō Dentetsu which existed from 1975 to 1998 and only operated the line from 1992 to 1998. This was manly done with leased trains from Keisei and Keikyû, which were repainted in dark blue with a white waistline. These are also the main colours I've used in this illustration, whereas the lighter blue depicts the non-existent part of the realised dream, but still is a dream. Laser-chan is dressed up as a Chiba Kyūkō Dentetsu early 3050 Type painted in the early livery (dark blue with a white waistband), whereas the later types (from 1994 on) were painted in a reverse Keisei livery: red and blue bands switched places. See photograph for an example.

It seems to me that this railway company is already forgotten by the general railway fan public, which isn't strange, but then again, I'm a guy who likes stories like these.


Beer of the Post: Rip Tide (Stout);
Location of consumption: my room;

This time I'm drinking something from a country this type of beer originates from: the UK! Oh man, this is truly a good imperial stout beer. Bitter, strong and prominent tastes makes this beer a very pure and joyful experience. The ingredients are few and the design of the bottle is modern and attractive. The brewery, Brew Dog, really wanted to stand out from the rest of the UK market (as is clearly stated on the bottle and their website) and they really do. It's so very much different from Guinness (albeit it being Irish) or Newcastle Stout, not watery and mainstream, but a hardcore and honest stout. Having an alcohol percentage of 8% adds another punch to the pack.

With the first sip of this brew, you can already kind of feel the passion of the brewers for the beer they make. Pure ingredients, no bullshit added, just plain barley, hops, yeast and water. Just the basics to make a good beer. Just like the good old Rheinheitsgebot, just how I like it. The stoutness and strength of this beer makes it also stand out from other weaker porters, which are mostly pretty sweet as well and I don't fancy that much. However, it's all up to the brewer how they call their beer, so one can't really judge a stout or porter just by the name, you have to try it.

Anyway, it's a pretty awesome beer you can enjoy at any time, but can't drink too much in one go. It's a beer enjoyer's drink, not one to go and binge on. Well, you could do so, but then you would end up somewhere you probably wouldn't want to be, with a headache.



Monday, July 11, 2011

Toei Interlocking Tribute

Through other networks I promised to update my blog with an illustration. Well, today was also a sort of deadline on this, as this illustration is going to be exhibited in the American Book Centre (ABC) in The Hague as of the 1st August. This will be under the flag of Mangafique! A Dutch organisation that tries to unite Dutch manga artists and will start to act as an agency next to that. Mangafique! however is still in its organising phase and I don't know all the fine details to it, but I'm sure it will turn out fine. About the exhibition, I'm not entirely sure if it's organised well... If I know more about this, I will post it here, but for now, I'm still in the dark on how on earth this will be marketed for the big public. I myself have organised (almost entirely by myself) the first Mangafique! exhibition in the city hall of Utrecht and the public upturn was over a thousand visitors on the first day IIRC. Quite a big hit or so I might say. This was mainly thanks due to the press releases and marketing around it, but I doubt it that the ABC The Hague will boost such numbers. For one it is that it's in the midst of the summer holidays, so everyone is away and that it's not even presented on the website of the ABC. Not my thing to deal with, but it might be in the future, as I'm considering a position in Mangafique! My expertise in some fields could help them out I think.
Now, about this illustration. It's the second of two trials and IMO, it turned out pretty nice. I'm especially pleased with the background's effective simplicity, but not so much with Laser-chan... It's my first take on a Tetsu-tan (or Keikyû-tan as some like to call it). In essence the anthropomorphic version of a train as clothing. Mostly on cute girls, but I've seen examples of male characters as well. Laser-chan is dressed up as a Keisei 3000 Type, 2nd Edition, 7th Version (shortly: Keisei 3050 Type). The reason I've chosen this train, is that it's the only train that is especially built for the Haneda Airport - Narita Airport through connection express services. All the other trains in this service are already existing types that are only capable of 120km/h, whereas the Keisei 3050 Type can do 130km/h. This is because of the completion of the Narita High Speed Airport Line on 17 June 2010, 6 days from now, that allows speeds up to 160km/h. This is achieved by the Skyliner, but that train already gets so much credit, I left it out of this illustration. The colours of the Keisei 3050 Type dominate this picture as well, as they just are so very well fitting.

As you might have guessed, this illustration celebrates the one year anniversary of the Haneda Airport - Narita Airport new express services ('Access Rapid Ltd. Express' and 'Airport (Ltd.) Express'). I've put in some of the trains that run these services, but also one that doesn't quite belong in there. In the next post I'll reveal which one it is, but for now, I let you guess the types and companies they belong to. Next to the trains, I've drawn the entire route map these services run, together with the major stops where the trains call. Some of these trains have a few more stops on the Keikyû or Asakusa Subway section, depending on the company's train, but in general, it's just the stops depicted in my illustration.

I've drawn this, because I wanted to draw something rail related and to show my skills as a commercial oriented illustrator. It was also a good opportunity to practice my drawing skills in more tight and clear lines (which I discarded when I drew the trains). Next to that, I also wanted to make limited use of colours, because less is more as I'm told, and the colour scheme of the Keisei 3050 Type is quite attractive as well.


Beer of the post: La Chouffe (Blond) 0.33l 'Stubi' bottle;
Location of consumption: my room;

Yes, that's a Hankyu 6300 Type in the background. My only standard gauge (1,435mm) model. It's a strange one in my collection, since I'm quite focussed on Kantô trains, with the Enoden and standard gauge lines in particular. I don't know why I bought it in the first place... This is a Hankyû model that actually runs express services between Kyôto and Ôsaka, so that's in the Kansai region, far away from the Kantô plains... Oh, how I long for a Keisei, Keikyû, etc. collection, but that will cost a lot of money. Really, a LOT. Maybe I can settle for a collection of B-train shorties from Bandai instead or create an eighties fleet from cheap Greenmax kits. Meh, trains would be too long anyway, as they are all 8-cars long, which would be almost one meter in N-gauge. Maybe I should do 4-car versions of a fictive company that connects to Keisei or something like that.

Ah, yes. I almost forgot about THE BEER! This is the first Belgian beer on the Laser Train Blog, but certainly not the last. I'm not a great fan of Belgian beers, as they tend to throw in all kinds of strange additives, which makes the beer taste not very pure or in some cases even not like beer at all. This beer however is a good tasting, but strong beer (8%). A quite classic beer at that. Back in the days, this used to be a quite unknown brand, but now almost everybody knows La Chouffe. The taste is very typical for Belgian Blonde beers. A bittersweet taste with a quite prominent bitter alcoholic taste afterwards. Of all the more well known Belgian beer brands, this is a real beer drinkers' drink.

The bottle is a standard export 'Stubi' version and the beer is so as well. From draft it tastes a lot better and less bitter. It could also be because I don't leave the yeast bottom in the bottle, but pour the entire content in the glass. Some say you should leave a little on the bottom, as that is the yeast residue, but I'm of the opinion that beer shouldn't re-ferment in the bottle. Bottled beer should be finished and ready to drink when it's bottled IMHO. Maybe I should change that opinion and learn to consume Belgian beer a bit more serious next time... It's not German beer after all.



Monday, July 4, 2011

京成電鉄 (Keisei Electric RR)

As you've noticed, I failed to update for a long time already! I hope you didn't forget that I was moving, but now working on my BA thesis has also inflicted we with a loss of spare time. Please forgive me for that, but it's just how things are now. This update I would like to talk about a railway company in Japan of which I have some very fond memories. I haven't had the time for a new website review and I didn't feel like another. I'll have one in the next update! I promise!

Full 8-car 3300 Type to Ueno.
As I said, this time the theme is a railway company. Namely the Keisei Electric Railway Co., Ltd. from the summer of 2003. It's already some years ago, but still. This is because I found some old pictures during the move. I scanned the best few of 'em for this blog post, because some trains I've photographed have been downgraded in service or already put out of service! Just like this 3300 Series which is slowly being put out of service.

3600 Type for Nishimagome and a 3700 Type for Narita.
During that summer I was on an exchange program, funded by Mitsui Banking and carried out by YFU Netherlands. My homestay was 4 weeks in Takasago near Tokyo and all pictures are thus taken at or around Keisei-Takasago (Google Maps link). A very interesting station, as a lot of lines pass this station. The station was only 4 tracks during that time and saw almost all trains halt there. Except for the Skyliner that connects Ueno to Narita Airport almost non-stop. Nowadays, the station has a 2nd level where almost all trains to Kanamachi terminate. Back then, all trains to Kanamachi halted at track 1.

An AE100 in Skyline service for Narita Airport.
Trains like the AE100 Type were still running Skyliner services back then. Now, these types are only in use for the new Cityliner, Morning Liner and Evening Liner services on the Keisei Main Line. The new 2nd edition AE Types have taken over the Skyline service, which is now directed over the new 160km/h Narita Sky Access Line. Other trains on the new Narita Sky Access Line have a maximum speed of 120km/h. I think higher speeds are possible still, as here in Europe we have regular trains running at 160km/h and over on normal standard gauge tracks (1,435mm), but the Japanese rolling stock may be too light to be able to pursue high speeds without compromising axle loading weight ratios.
Signals at Keisei-Takasago facing the depot side.
The Signals at Takasago were a mystery for me in the beginning, but a bit later I found out that each signal depicts a certain route. The left three signals in this picture are for the Kanamachi (金町), Narita (Main Line) (成田) and the Hokusô Line (北総). Same with the two right signals, but without the Kanamachi branch. Very simple and easy to understand indeed! The square displays under the signals are indicating the kind of service the train is in (local, rapid, express, etc.). The Kanamachi Line is by the way one of my favourite lines, as here older rolling stock is used in 4-car formation and has a very local character with its single track use. I've been on this line a few times, since I needed to go to Kanamachi sta. for a transfer on the JR East Jôban Line.
Keikyu 1500 Type terminating at track 3.
As I said before, Keisei-Takasago is a station where many lines connect, but not only Keisei lines! The Keisei has access to some more railway companies, such as the Shin-Keisei Electric Railway Co., Ltd., Hokusō Railway Co.,Ltd., Chiba Newtown Railway Co., Ltd., Shibayama Railway Co., Ltd, Keikyû Corporation and the Tokyo Metropolitan Bureau of Transportation (Toei). All these companies have trains running on each other's tracks and are subsidiaries (3rd Sector-class) from the Keisei Group (except for Keikyû and Toei, which are totally independent from Keisei). A very wide variety of trains can be seen here from the various companies. Almost all trains from Keikyû are allowed to run on the Keisei lines as well. Apart from the 800 and 2100 Types, as they have different door configurations. The 2000 Type isn't allowed as well, as it doesn't have opening head doors. Trains without opening front doors aren't allowed to pass the Toei Asakusa Line, for emergency and security reasons. The same goes for all the streamlined AE Types from Keisei. You won't find these on any Keikyû line as well.
Hokuso Tetsudou 7000 Type bound for Haneda-Airport.
A quite rare train I've photographed was the Hokusô 7000 Series. This train is now completely out of service, which is a shame I think. The front design isn't to anyone's liking, but I'm rather fond of it. It's something completely different from all the other trains and it gives off that kind of typical careless and experimental eighties feeling. I didn't know it was rare at all at that time, I just liked the design and all. The ride was pretty good, but the loud engines made it a bit dreary for the regular passengers I presume. I only applaud loud engines. *laughs* The train on the picture is a Inba-Nihon-Idai to Haneda-Airport service, which passes through the very centre of Tokyo on the Toei Asakusa Line and continues on several Keikyû lines to Haneda-Airport. Back then, the Narita Airport Access wasn't built yet, so airport expresses (connecting Narita and Haneda) were directed over the overcrowded Main Line. Nowadays a special dedicated Airport Access Rapid Express service from Haneda to Narita and back is (partially) ran over the new Narita Airport Access Line. Some rare services connect to the Shibayama Railway Line (the shortest private railway in Japan) to Shibayama Chiyoda sta. as well.

Another AE100 Skyliner for Ueno.
Keisei-Takasago is a very busy station indeed where the tracks cross two railway crossings which are almost always closed. I think this has been reduced since the opening of the elevated section of the Kanamachi line, but it's probably still very congested there. The lines that pass Keisei-Takasago are the Keisei Main Line (connecting to the Oshiage Line at Aoto, the Toei Asakusa Line to Shinagawa and eventually the Keikyû network), the Kanamachi Line and the Hokusô Line (connecting to the Narita Airport Line and the Narita Sky Access Line). I really would love to visit Keisei-Takasago once again. Now with more knowledge on trains, Japan and the Japanese language, this could turn out to be a very interesting day once it is there.
My last train in Japan. A 3600 Type for Narita Airport.
But for now, it's all about waiting for that day when I'm able to go to Japan again. The problem is mostly money, which I'm saving at the moment, and in the future it will be time that will play the part. However, there is also that plan to move there to live together with that special someone I know... It'll be a difficult decision for me to make, as I'll leave lots of friends and family behind. But then again, I also have the prospect of one day returning to Europe again. I'll let you know in about a year what I'm going to do. Do you have a suggestion for what I should do?

UPDATE! On the JNS Forum I found a small topic on the remodelling of Keisei-Takasago. (ed. 06.07.2011)

Beer of the postTsingtao (Pilsner);
Place of consumption: Asia2Go Leiden, Netherlands. A place owned by a friend where another good friend works and does delivery runs. The atmosphere is always good, the food is great and prices very reasonable. Whenever I'm in Leiden -which I will visit more often now that I'm in the area- I need to visit the place for a bite, a chat up and of course a beer.;

Tsingtao is a great beer to go with Asian food. Well, what do you expect from a beer brewed in China? It's brewed together with rice added in the mash, which gives this beer it's distinct sweet flavour. This is very refreshing when served cold on a damp summers evening with some spicy foods. The menu I had were spicy stir-fried chicken-strips with vegetables and rice. Very down to earth, but very tasty. Unfortunately it was a bit too much for me that day, as I didn't burn much energy, so I wasn't in dire need of calories (yeah, I'm trying to cut down on calories a bit).

Anyway, the beer is a refreshing one that can be consumed at all times I think. The sweet rice flavour may get dreary after a while I think, but for me this isn't the case. The danger with this beer however is that when it gets less cold, it tends to lose its fine taste. So, it's kind of a rule that one consumes it in a rather quick fashion. It's a good thing the beer is only sold in 0,33 bottles and not in 0,5 containers over here... Hahaha! :D



Friday, June 24, 2011

Beer from the stock market.

I wanted to post this a while ago, but didn't have any time for it, due to me moving back to my parents'. It's been a bit chaotic now, but I try to update as regular as possible. Sorry if I kept you waiting a while. No model train updates this time, but a 3-beer special from the Bayreuther Bierbrauerei AG.

Some days ago I spotted this beer at the supermarket. A 6-pack of three beers from the Bayreuther Bierbrauerei AG. I had never heard of this company and the names of the beers were too unrealistic for me and I like strange unfamiliar stuff, so I bought it. The strangeness of the names was the fact that all started with 'Aktien', which means 'Share' (as in from the stock exchange), which is in a way somewhat poetic, as with your purchase of the beer, you buy a little piece of the company. So, that's pretty cool and humorous IMO. Could be me though, as the stock market is no laughing matetr (especially after the numerous recessions we've had). Next to that, there was a black beer in the pack, which is always a good reason to buy beer for me. Hahaha. So, after opening the pack, there were two beers of each kind, one Export/Dortmunder style beer, one Kellerbier (a German amber beer) and a Dark, lightly caramelised lager. I think this is pretty cool, having 2x3 kinds of beer. Well, it couldn't be more as this is the whole range of the brewery... A company concentrating on only three kinds of beer, so they can make them perfect. That seems like a good thing right? 

I've chosen to go from light to dark when testing this range (seems like the most logical thing to do). So now, let's start with the Export/Dormunder style beer. It's called 'Aktien Original 1857'. Don't know what it stands for, don't care, but I do know that I don't like beers with a year in the name... It's somewhat pretentious, as it will never taste the same as the original form that year. You know, with all the changed regulations, controlled mutations of wheat, usage of pesticides, etc. It influences the taste. But then again, calling the beer 'Aktien Export' would sound so cheap. No one would buy it. Anyway, for me, this beer tastes like your regular pilsner. Okay, maybe that's a bit unfair to the real pilsners out there, as it has a very middle-of-the-road kind of taste, but that's okay. It's a good starter for this in line. The after taste however is a bit of a surprise though. A slight taste of wood and licorice blends in with the otherwise bland taste. Pretty awesome, as this beer was ripened/stored in wooden barrels. You don't see that  everyday any more! So, I'm expecting a lot from the other two.
Now, after downing the previous one (which is just what it's good for, despite the wood flavour), it's time for the amber Kellerbier. The colour is not as dark as I was expecting, but still quite a bit darker then the Original 1857 one. This beer is called 'Aktien Zwick'l Kellerbier'. Zwick'l or Zwickeln means to taste beer in German brewers jargon. So, this should taste kind of special. It's an unfiltered beer, so maybe the good parts, that make the taste more interesting, stayed inside. The foam seems a lot more firm than the export one as well. The first sip tastes sweet and full. Though not as mouth filling as other beers of the same sort, it has a more prominent and sweeter wood taste, which isn't only present in the after taste. This is a fine beer. A nice compromise for a good drinking beer (like a good and honest pilsner) and a beer that one can solely enjoy for the taste itself (like a heavy Belgian beer). Next to that, the label of the bottle is a hell of a lot more interesting! Not so pretentiously modern and hand written Gothic fonts. Quite stylish if you ask me.
So, that was the Kellerbier. Now, let's try the Dark lager 'Aktien Landbier Dunkel Bier'. When pouring the beer into the glass, the foam is already having a good time. It's the firmest of 'em all!It gives off a nice an solid feeling. You know, like a good friend you can rely on or an old cabinet from your grandparents that's always there. Something robust, so it seems. The taste is also like that. A solid flavour which is gentle at the same time. Not like that heavy feeling you get when drinking dark beers, but more smooth. It's also quite light in alcohol compared to many other dark beers. However, don't be fooled that this is a beer that you can drink in larger amounts. It's a beer that should be drank slowly and enjoyed, as the wooden taste is even more present here. If you like it like that, youre drinking the right stuff, but it's a bit too strong for me. It makes the beer a little bit too sweet to my liking.
So, in the end, these three beers weren't as interesting as I've expected. Maybe it's unfortunate, but I'm happy to have tested these, as I'm always into something new when it's about beer. For me, of the three, the Zwick'l Kellerbier is my fvourite, which is strange, as I normally go for the black/dark beers. However, with this set, the dark one was too sweet for my doing. That doesn't mean I don't like it, I just think the Kellerbier was a bit better.

I'm sorry the reviews weren't that extended, but I don't have much time now. I need to move my stuff now. I hope to come across something interesting to review! So, see you after the weekend!



Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Laser-chan is here!

As some of you may have noticed: the blog has new colours (yes, pink bitches), I changed the font from Helvetica to Arial (a bit easier on the eye) and a mascot! Now, I don't know how I should call her. Maybe Laser-chan is a good name. Cheezy and all, but that's what I'm about and don't you forget that!

Maybe you think it's character design is 'moe', but that was unintentional. So sorry to break your hopes and dreams. It's actually based on someone I love and know very well, and she's as tough as steel. Really, I'm not kidding! Besides, the design is also based on older comics and manga, like NaNa by Takahiro Tsunabuchi and Pokémon Adventures/Special by Mato and Satoshi Yamamoto.

In the future I think I will change the background and maybe make the colours match that as well, but for now, I think this design will do just fine. This will probably be in a few months, as then (end of August) the manga/comic Laser Train will have its début. That will be on this blog and on the then renewed CheeseCake! Studio website.

If you're interested in a preview of Laser Train, please drop off a comment and I could give a few pages to look at what it's all about. What I can tell you for now that it's a crazy story about a young man, dreaming of becoming a space train driver. Together with his mates he sets off into a future unknown to fantastic places, sometimes depressing, most of the time just random craziness. It's a story a good friend and me made up while downing lots of Schultenbräu (extremely cheap beer, but very nice in taste, basic and honest ingredients and it doesn't give you a big hangover) and listening to Spacesynth. Especially this song (Jabdah - Koto) was a huge inspiration for us. Actually, the new title banner contains the lyrics to this song! They make no sense whatsoever and that is the beauty of this song.

Ah, and let's not forget the beer! Beer is always relevant to this blog and every post, so here's another review of one of the wondrous early inventions of mankind!


Beer of the post: Das Helle, Schwabenbräu (Pilsner);
Place of consumption: my room;
The description on the label markets the beer as an every day drink with a full taste. Well, they've got that right! It's a bit heavy on the tongue -hence the full flavour- and somewhat numbs the tongue as well. I don't know how and why, but it gives off a strange, yet nice tingly feeling. Normally I don't have that reaction with beer, but this one is an exception. It's a special beer. The taste is really special at that as well! It's exceptionally smooth and lightly sweet. A middle-of-the-road taste, but not so very boring. It is maybe comparable to popular the Belgian brand Palm, though I'm not a big fan of that one. I prefer other (cheaper) brands over that one.

So, it's a good beer to drink for the taste and one can drink it in larger amounts as well. However, the taste is a bit too bland for my liking, but if you ever come across it, give it a try! I think it will even taste better if drafted freshly. It's one of those beers you need to drink when it's warm outside, in the sun and with a few friends. It's at its best when it's ice cold and fresh. Next to that: it has a swing top opening! So, it gives off a nice 'boom' (or 'pop' if you do it wrong and the beer is a tad old) sound, which is always a plus. :)



Friday, June 17, 2011

香生州電鉄 (Kaosu Dentetsu)

And now for something completely different. Well, not completely, but still, something different. It's again a fictional layout, but not a persiflage or a tribute to an existing one. This one is totally freelance and has a bit of an amateurish flair to it, but don't be fooled by this! The layout has quite a strong individual feeling to it and again very inspirational. Not so much with the used (sometimes crude) techniques, but more by the ideas and realisation of those ideas.

This layout is named Kaosu Dentetsu (Kaoden) (香生州電鉄). I think it is an implication to the English word 'chaos', as the Japanese translation doesn't make any sense whatsoever (Province the living aroma, what the shit?). It has probably something to do with a modern animé... Hell, I'm not an expert in that subject. I grew up with Pokémon, Dragonball Z and stuff like that. The only things I've watched recently are things from the Ghibli studios, Masamune Shirow's stuff and Sazae-san. Not any of that 'moe' (a.k.a. I-will-never-have-a-real-girlfriend) nonsense. Still, I draw manga errday. Does that make you mad bro? Anyway. That useless animé rant is maybe for some other time... Bad for the heart and all that stuff.

Let's talk about this interesting layout. It's something I can relate to actually. Apart from the bad planning, the quite extensive use of clay putty as a means of construction, landscaping and anything else you can think of, this is a layout I could be one I could have made. The layout is supposed to connect to other modules of the friends of the author (Ushipuu-san), which also works quite well (1 and 2).

The bad planning I mentioned before, is one of the small failures of this layout, but somehow it isn't very disturbing. It adds up to the flavour of the layout and adds a certain kind of charm to it to boost. One of these planning mishaps is the platform track being too low for trains to run with their pantographs (electricity collectors) up. This is demonstrated in this video: It seems that Ushipoo-san doesn't care about that flaw that much, which is a good thing IMO. One should enjoy model trains in one's own fashion and not care about what others say (only if it matters to you though). It's a very personal hobby all in all. The lowered platform track, despite being too low, is really really cool! It gives off a kind of cramped feeling which is omnipresent in Japanese urban area's. Especially among those smaller companies whose termini are tucked away beneath malls and office buildings.

One of the cool things about this layout is the repainting of rolling stock in their own Kaosu-Dentetsu livery. It's mostly white with red at the bottom, whereas the older stock has a quite standard red-dark cream-red livery. It's something I do as well with the more cheaper trains, just for practice. If I get my hands on really cheap models, I might make a whole fleet in this way, just to have a realistic fleet of fictional trains (sounds rather contradictory, doesn't it?).

Anyway, let's take a look at this interesting and inspiring web blog at: Also, if you feel like it, you can visit Ushipoo-san's YouTube channel and subscibe to it. I think subscribing to these kind of channels is a motivation for the user to upload more and more video's! So, why not?

This is a repost from 06.06.2011
Beer of the post: Guiness Extra Stout (Stout);
Location of consumption: my room;
This really is a classic and had to come by sometime soon anyway. So why not now when I'm downing Störtebeker Schwarzbier sixpacks, ey? Guiness is always a good choice when no other dark beer is around and you fancy some extra manliness in a glass. It's also fine to drink a glass of nails, but this does the job as well. Next to that it's much easier to swallow and doesn't give you an itch in the throat. Apart from the funny stuff, it's not the best stout I've ever drank (it will come to pass in the future, I promise!), but it certanly is a good one. It certainly isn't too strong in taste, maybe even a bit watery at times, and one can really drink it in greater amounts. Which is a good thing when you can order it per pitcher at the local Irish pub.

This beer is a something for everybody, but you really need to learn how to drink it. I can remember the first time I drank it with an old buddy and didn't really think much of it. However, when you grow older you'll learn to appreciate the more bitter things in life and even learn to enjoy them as well. Eventually you find yourself enjoying a bitter, wearing a tie for your enjoyment, appreciate tweed and rain, find orange and brown a swell combination of colours, grow a beard and drool at old-timer cars. This is also applicable for all you young girls out there! Yes, I know you're out there! Where's my pipe and hat?



Monday, June 13, 2011

小ノ島釜倉観光電鉄 (Onoshima Kamanokura Kankô Dentetsu)

The second in the little layout review series already! This one is a special one for me, as it has inspired me a lot in the way of modifying my buildings and working in stages on my own projects. Next to that, the layout gives off a great atmosphere and has many custom made buildings. All is lighted and illuminated as well!

The layout is named Onoshima Kamanokura Kankô Dentetsu (Onoden) (小ノ島釜倉観光電鉄)and is based (by the looks of the name, rolling stock, etc.) on the Enoshima Dentetsu (Enoden) (江ノ島電鉄) formerly known as the Enoshima Kamakura Kankô Dentetsu (江ノ島鎌倉観光電鉄), hence the name. This IRL company is known for its short trains (2 to 4 cars), sharp turns, street running and the fascinating scenery of the Shonan coastal area. Not only is it a popular point of interest for railway fans, but the Enoden is featured very often in anime series, both in the present and the past. I think it has something to do with the route running alongside the Shonan beach and girls in bikini's... Could be wrong though.

Now, let's step into the works of this interesting little layout! Just for starters an example of what a few simple modifications can do to a Greenmax small house kit. Just the connection of several parts and the simulation of steel plate work can change the feeling of, this otherwise quite bland, kit dramatically. Next to modifications to kits, the author scratch-builds his own buildings. An example of this is the quite modern looking milk shop which he
has build in several stages (1, 2 and 3). Doesn't this want to make you create such buildings yourself? It's very simple to do it, cheaper than building a kit and much more satisfactory than building a kit! When it's finished you have a building that is unique and very personal. You can always change things to it, since you know how it all sticks together, whereas with some kits this can't be done that easily.

Next to the amazing self made buildings, this layout spends a great deal on details. Just look at this post on the detailing of the main street! Or maybe even the building of a garage with fine interior detailing (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 and 9). What is also amazingly inspiring, is the building of those ever present electricity poles with street lights attached to them. He uses, like in real life, wood for the construction and lets the wires for the street light run visible as well. This may sound a bit odd, as nowadays we're used to more modern poles with the wiring inside (here in west-Europe), however it gives off a very realistic feeling. Especially when you realise that the layout is situated somewhere in the late fifties or early sixties.

Well, the blog on this layout has too much to show to tell and discuss it all, so why don't you have a look at this amazing layout at:

This is a repost from 12.05.2011
Beer of the post: Störtebeker Schwarzbier (black beer);
Location of consumption: my room;

Now, this is a beer to my liking! A very black beer with a great caramelised taste (thanks to the added caramelised and toasted barley). Not truly Rheinheitsgebot style brewed, but still a great drink. This is one which makes your chest hair grow a little bit more and makes your body produce a bit more blood, thanks to that typical black beer rusty taste. The thing with these kinds of beer, unfortunately, is that it's quite hard to get around here (ed. Bonn) and not very cheap. That makes however a good excuse to enjoy it even more and not go on a binge with it.
This beer is more of an every man's drink than the previous one, but still quite special if you ask me. If you ever get the chance to taste it, please do! It will be worth the try. Maybe you'll even have seconds, thirds and more. *laughs*



Thursday, June 9, 2011

箱庭登山鉄道 (Hakoniwa Tozan Tetsudou)

This is the first of my series on blogs and websites on the construction of small layouts. This is the main focus on this blog for now, so I thought kick off with some very high quality stuff here.

In my opinion, this layout is a superb example of what can be achieved in a small space. The layout is already quite finished by now and the author (tanaka_ace) has started constructing a module. It was one of the first I found on the internet when I was searching for inspiration, and what a find!

The Hakoniwa Tozan Tetsudou (箱庭登山鉄道) is obviously a reference to the Hakone Tozan Tetsudou (箱根登山鉄道) which runs from Hakone Yumoto (/Odawara) to Gōra. A railway with steep grades and switchback make a great base for a great little layout.

What is probably most interesting, is the approach to building in phases and modules. The author doesn't do everything in one go, but has decided to build every part in extreme detail. This of course involves quite some kitbashing (ex. 1 and 2), but also a great deal of scratch building (ex. 1, 2 and 3). Even some moulding! All buildings, street lights, lanterns, etc. are actually lighted (example of lights being built in and the modular systematic workings) and give the layout an amazing atmosphere. Personally, I really like it when the builder of a layout goes so far as to put lights in everything that should produce some amount of light. It gives a layout so much more suave.

Details, like the use of Japanese toothpicks as temporary catenary poles and the use of materials that not everybody thinks of when constructing a layout. Another example is the use of multi-coloured sponges for the famous hydrangea flowers that can be found along the original Hakone Tozan line. These are very good ideas that inspire me for future projects!

As for the operation and track plan, this layout is obviously a point-to-point operated layout, like it's big brother, with switchbacks and steep grades. Trackwork is mainly Tomix FineTrack, with a few flex tracks and modified track pieces. The size is a standard 900 x 600mm, like one sees very often with Japanese layouts.

So, why not take a look and judge for yourself at:

This is a repost from 12.05.2010
Beer of the post: Aecht Schenkerla Rauchbier (Smoked beer);
Location of consumption: Musiktruhe, Bonn Altstadt, Germany. One of my favourite and most visited bars in Bonn (Mostly thanks to the cosy bi-weekly get-together of Japanese exchange students, Japanologists of university and those interested. Sometimes even a teacher drops by);

Probably already one of my favourite beers. It's a dark brew (my favourite) with a nice full flavour and a special heavy smokey after taste. Whenever I'm in the Musiktruhe I just order a 'Schinkenbier', because of the distinctive after taste of smoked ham. One can only drink so much of it because of the strong flavour, so it's not a great beer to consume in large amounts. But that's okay with me. Thanks to that old-skool German phenomenon, the Rheinheitsgebot, this is an honest beer without any additives (which you find all to often in other beers), so when drinking it, it gives off a somewhat safe feeling that it doesn't produce a massive hangover the next day.
It certainly isn't everybody's to drink and enjoy. But then again, I tend to prefer the odd over the general taste.



Wednesday, June 8, 2011

For Starters


I've created this blog to share with you my findings on the internets regarding model railroading and what keeps me busy in this hobby. Next to that, it'll provide a great way for me to improve on my writing and keep my fingers snappy on the keyboard.The contents of this blog can vary a lot, I can tell you that. Most will probably be on model railroading: the introduction of interesting websites, other blogs and ideas, but also my own adventures in the model railroad world.

The idea from sharing links to other interesting websites came from the JNS forum where I'm a member of. There, I like to share links with a little personal review attached to it. However, these topics tend to die off and threaten to drown in the depths of the forum, so I've decided to have some sort of gathering place for these links and more. The first few posts will thus include reposts from the forum with more elaborate reviews of the links. In the future I'll of course try to find other websites and blogs which inspire. Most of these will probably be focussed on small layouts in Japanese style (because that's what I fancy most), but of course there will be a broader perspective, since the world is larger than that.

My own findings and whereabouts in the model train business will also be posted, but probably at a more slow pace, as I'm moving back from Germany to my parents' in the Netherlands in a few weeks. There I'm not sure if I can start directly on a new project, as I don't intend to stay long at my parents'. But maybe, a little module can be started. Hell, I don't know. We'll see about that then.

Next to the updates on model railroading, I'll also upload other relevant works of me, such as illustrations/sketches, photographs of my travels (present and past) and so on. Also, I'll try to do updates on some favourite beers and my opinion on it on every post, as this is also a personal passion.

Ah, I almost forgot that I will also post updates on the manga 'Laser Train' here when it goes on-line on the renewed CheeseCake! Studio website at the end of August. Hence, the title of this blog... It'll be a surprise for all who don't know about it I think... :) All I can say is that it involves trains, the cosmos and a crazy future.

So, what can be expected on this blog:
- Introduction of this blog's cute mascot;
- Reposts of previously found links from JNS forum and a few unpublished personal bookmarks;
- A few older pictures of already abolished layouts/modules;
- Beer;
- Laser Trains.

I hope you'll find these prospects worthy enough to return in the future!

Have a good one and CHEERS!