Overnight sleeper services are all but gone today in Japan, but it used to be a vital transportation mode.

I don’t remember how old I was — that ‘s how small I was. Once my father and I traveled together to where he was from, which is a southwestern island in Japan. Just two of us. On the return trip back to Tokyo, we took a sleeper train, Sakura. Of the whole trip, I do not remember anything except that train ride. That’s how strong an impression it left on me. EF66 was the locomotive that pulled that train. That is my latest model project that I just finished, complete with the Sakura livery.

This kit spends most of its 1000+ parts to its bogies, which as you see are mostly invisible once the whole assembly is complete. It’s quite elaborate, too. In one step, you are asked to assemble a large gear that connects a motor to a shaft, and in the next step, it gets enclosed into a cover. In another step, you glue a motor enclosure to a shaft, but no, please don’t apply a cement between a motor enclosure to the chassis. I didn’t understand the point of those.

But as I was going through an Wikipedia article that describes the engineering design considerations that went into EF66, I had an awakening. All those seemingly pointless assembly steps were tracing the key engineering innovations in this locomotive. If I were just reading the text I would have no idea what those words meant, but because my hands assembled the thing, I can vividly picture what those words were trying to tell me.

Truly a privilege only granted to model makers, if you think about it. People who are looking at this beast from outside would have no idea what it packs underneath. But now I know.

This was a wonderful experience for so many reasons.

More pictures at https://flic.kr/s/aHsmTSrr2s

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