"Spiriting Away" N-scale Model Train Layout

This is a picture of Edwin running the Spiriting Away layout. It consists of an acryllic bath about 2 feet square and half an inch deep containing a circle of Peco 11-inch radius curve. The bath sits atop a watercolour painting, and contains 2 litres of blue-tinted distilled water, such that a train can run on the track, whose rails are under water.

In Miyazaki's film "Spirited Away" there is a scene where our heroine has to travel from the house of one witch to that of her twin sister. This she accomplishes with an ancient ticket to a train that runs on tracks recently submerged by the rains. Now Miyazaki's films mostly contain at least one train and one flying machine, and every instance is a scene of great beauty and a timeless vision locked somewhere between romantic history and an awe-inspiring future. This train is no exception.

I started with a base with low sidewalls. I added a loop of track, connected some thin tinned wires, and glued the track down. Here you can see the acryllic with the protective backing still attached. Below is the finished acryllic structure after washing.

I decided to use a Bachmann "Main St" trolley car... cheap enough to risk and heavy enough not to lose grip if things got too deep. Here you see the trolley car on the track, in the bath, on the watercolour backdrop that Merinda and I painted, but without any water added.

Here is the moment of truth... adding a mixture of blue food colouring and distilled water. The distilled water ensures low conductivity so that the tracks do not act as electrodes in an electrolysis cell and the trolley does not suffer too much corrosion or contamination. It would take 2 litres of the mixture to submerge the track.

And some levelling to keep it there.

The trolley runs!

In fact the experiment was a technological and an aesthetic success. Here you see the little trolley illuminated by the setting sun, its shadow on the watercolour background.

The beast actually was underwater to its axles, and it ran smoothly and reliably.

It left a charming wake, visible through its refraction of the sunlight.

It is rather difficult to get the wake to appear in a photograph. I usually photograph using a Metz bounce flash, but this erased wakes even more efficiently than wrinkles.

Not quite the brilliance of the (animated) original, but very picturesque anyway.

Thanks are due to
Merinda Scott for help with the painting and for taking some photographs,
Kay Scott for help with photography,
Bruce Rhodes for help with acryllic fabrication.