Thursday, October 27, 2011

The Straco Layout - Part 12, Gridlock!

A busy day in Straco Town. Where did all this traffic come from?
At the recent TCA Eastern Division Toy Train Show at York, PA, I found a few things to add to the Straco Express layout.

This admittedly eccentric project involves building a layout for an early 1960's Japanese-made tin toy train (that I also purchased at a York meet). The goal is to do so as inexpensively as possible, and to only use toys and accessories manufactured in Japan around the same time.

This meet I found two vehicles to add to the streets. One was a fire chief's car. I'm not sure of the maker, but it's pretty typical for Japanese toys of the early 1960's. It's made of stamped metal, with decoration lithographed on the exterior. The car is about three inches long, and is excessively low-slung.

(click on the images to enlarge)
The original low rider.

The maker's counting on the lithography to carry this piece. While each side looks fine, if you view it from any oblique angle, it looks a little odd with each window filled with a face (some from the same passenger). It was originally part of a set that included a police car, an ambulance (actually, the same sedan in white with a red cross on the hood) and a stock car racer. For a dollar, I thought it was a good addition to the layout.

The problem of projection. There are eight heads shown  (two front, two back, and two on each side),
depicting a total of four passengers inside

The second vehicle I purchased (also for a dollar) is even stranger. Same basic design as the car -- stamped metal with lithographed decoration. Viewed from a distance, it appears a fair representation of a tour bus, with windows lining the sides and roof. But get closer, and it's almost an abstract interpretation.

Up close, this bus seems somewhat globular.

Note how the curved lines create a softness to the outline, making the thing look more like a blob than a bus. And the artwork is so small (the bus is only two inches long) and the screen printing so low-resolution that the images really break up when viewed close-range.

Get to the back of the bus! Looking at it from left rear,
it still seems more abstract than representational.
 This bus originally had a friction drive. Pull the vehicle backwards to wind the spring, and release it to watch it shoot forward. The spring's broken, but that's OK. I'll be using it in a static display anyway. 

Being made for the American market, all of the people in both the car and the bus are depicted as Caucasians. Or rather, what the Japanese artists thought Caucasians looked like. I think you can find the origins of manga on these pieces.

So now we have three vehicles for our little Japanese town. And we haven't added greatly to the cost, either. Another successful York meet!

Read about the entire Straco Express project here.

Somehow, it all ties together. Mission accomplished.
Total cost for the project:

Layout construction:
  • Pegboard: $4.95
  • Flathead Screws: $0.40
  • Moulding: $2.49
  • SilClear: borrowed from a friend
  • Green Paint: left over from another project
  • Wood Screws: $3.60
  • Felt Pads: $1.99
Power Pack: $5.90
Small Houses: $3.00
Testor's Gray Paint for road: $1.29
Two Japanese toy cars: $2.00

Total Cost: $25.62

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