Enhance your X-Plus shelves, create dioramas or shoot killer photos with Japanese N Scale buildings
N Scale Buildings made for electric train sets are a great way to add even more interest and pizzazz to your X-Plus collection. You can scatter them between figures on the shelves. Or, you can create entire dioramas using not only N Scale buildings but environment elements like hills and trees. Plus, toy photographers can reach new levels of awesomeness by incorporating them into their shots. Having Godzilla on your shelf is cool. But having him tower over buildings is potentially cooler! N Scale buildings help make these 12-inch X-Plus vinyls feel a little bigger on the shelf.
N Scale buildings come in a small variety of sizes. Yes, they are still in scale with each other. It’s just that some buildings have more floors than others. There are also a small variety of other structures like electrical towers, radio towers, and more.
And while they’re cheap enough one at a time, amassing a small city like the one above will set you back a little over $300. But no one says you have to get them all at once.
SCALING WITH X-PLUS
The trick is to get the buildings in the proper scale. Japanese N Scale (or N Gauge) 1/150 scale sizes up perfectly with the X-Plus Toho 30cm Series figures which come from the Showa era or most of the Millennium era. Basically, any figure which is supposed to be 50 meters tall in the films is the best match for N Scale buildings and structures.
This is how I figured it out: (Keep in mind I could be way off as I was never very good at math.) When I first tried to find out if N Scale was a true match for X-Plus, I compared them to the original Godzilla, who was 50 meters tall. I converted his height into feet which came to about 164. Japanese N-Gauge comes in various ratios but 1/150 seems to be the most popular by far. So let’s divide 164 (feet) by 150 (the n scale ratio). We get 1.0933333 (feet) which is just a tad over one foot… or 12 inches (30cm). Perfect!
So this means that any X-Plus 30cm Series figure based on a suit from 1954 to 1975 in which Godzilla was 50 meters tall is technically a good match. He was 55 meters tall in most of the Millennium movies and I think that’s still acceptable. GMK, at 60 meters tall, is starting to push it. The Heisei Godzillas were 80 meters tall or more and technically do not size accurately with N Scale. The Large Monster Series (25cm) figures are far too small to scale properly with N Scale buildings.
But, let’s stop being technical for a moment. I think you’ll find that these buildings still look freaking awesome in the shadow of 30cm Series Heisei figures and even the 25cm line. I say this even though I’m an OCD freak when it comes to scale.
For now, though, let’s stick with the 30cm Series…
When I ordered my first batch of N Scale buildings, I was surprised and impressed by how large some of them turned out to be.
As you can see above, some of them are just about the size you’d expect them to be. But there are a small number of buildings that are impressively large. Here we see the Toho 30cm Series Godzilla 1954 vinyl beside boxed four, six, eight and eleven story buildings.
And again, out of the boxes.
And, yet again with a full spread. I don’t know about you, but seeing this for the first time was a dream come true. I spent the first two years of my X-Plus collecting wishing there were buildings I could pose them with. I’ve seen photos of these vinyls with these buildings before on the X-Plus Kaiju Collectors Facebook Group, The Godzilla Collectors Facebook Group, and even from the X-Plus Ric Boy Blog! But it never clicked that these buildings may actually be in scale with the figures. Finally getting around to doing the math to find out that they are in scale was a holy shit moment. Now I can’t get enough of these things.
Now, it’s important to note that the Large Monster Series (25cm Series) is NOT in scale with these buildings. But, as you can see from the photo of the Large Monster Series Godzilla 1968 above, they still look GREAT together!
JAPANESE N SCALE BUILDINGS VS. WESTERN BUILDINGS
Fortunately, Japan seems to have a bustling train set market. Great news because, ideally, you should have Japanese buildings displayed with your Japanese Kaiju, right? Not only is the architecture often Japanese-y, but they often come loaded with Japanese decal signs. So, as if it weren’t enough that we can actually get buildings which are in scale with X-Plus… but we can get the Japanese variety! What more could you ask for?
It’s a good thing, too, that the Japanese kits are so abundant because there doesn’t really seem to be much to choose from at all when it comes to Western buildings from Western companies. In fact, there’s hardly anything at all. Just a bunch of outdated, smaller, often country-ish buildings. And practically NONE of them are taller than a few stories.
I’m not saying there’s nothing out there. By all means, have a look. I’m just saying you’ll find good buildings in searches quicker if you look for the Japanese variety, which we already know we want.
LARGE BUILDINGS, SMALL BUILDINGS
When shopping for N Scale buildings, it’s important to note that they do come in different sizes, even though they are all N Scale. After all, real world 1:1 buildings come in all sizes from single homes to skyscrapers. When searching for office buildings, it is not immediately clear which size you’ll be buying just by glancing at the product photos on Ebay or Amazon.
The trick is to count the floors. Most of the Japanese N Scale buildings seem to come in 5 stories or 8 stories. And, an extra three floors may not sound like much of a difference, but it really is. Let’s look at this photo again:
Above: Here we have a KATO 4-story building, a KATO 6-story building, a KATO 8-story building and an 11-story Tomix building.
As you can see they’re significantly different in how high they reach. And, unfortunately, they all look the same in tiny, square Ebay and Amazon pics. So, remember: count the floors (don’t forget to count the ground floor) and refer to the photo above for an idea on how each building will size up to your figures.
Granted, the smaller buildings make your figures look bigger. If that’s the look you’re after, have at it! The smaller buildings also look better with the Large Monster Series figures.
But, I say you just can’t beat the 8 story buildings by KATO. They are HUGE and my favorites, by far.
MODERN BUILDINGS, TRADITIONAL BUILDINGS
The Japanese N-scale buildings available come in several main categories: modern office buildings, train station buildings (which can get pretty long, but still short), smaller “neighborhood” homes and stores, traditional style homes and saunas which, obviously are pretty short, and temples and shrines which can climb to respectable heights. I don’t have photos of those here as I haven’t gotten any… yet.
And then there are N Scale structures like electrical towers and refinery tanks. But more on those later!
PRE-BUILT VS. KITS
Japanese N Scale buildings and structures come either pre-built or in do-it-yourself kit form. The good news is that most of the buildings come pre-built. Some of the TomyTec buildings need only a little assembly but even then, most of the pieces snap together leaving only a couple of pieces which actually require glue. Every single KATO building I’ve gotten has come pre-built and ready to display right out of the box, although, you may need to glue on the vertical signs.
Most buildings also come with a sheet of Japanese signs, banners and posters. You’ll have to carefully cut these, peel and attach.
Unfortunately, not everything comes fully or even mostly assembled. Practically ALL of the N Scale structures (as opposed to standard buildings) I’ve bought (towers, tanks, etc.) were full blown model kits which required Xacto knives, snippers, glue and a LOT of patience. But, again, more on those later.
It may not seem so at first glance, but these buildings are really packed with detail. I was surprised by all of the little details I kept discovering the first few times I looked at each one. There are windows, doors, more doors, doors that lead to stairs, staircases with stairs(!), sign posts and the list goes on. And most of them actually have floors behind the windows on every floor!
Although not as ornate at the fronts, the sides and backs of these buildings still have something to see. This is especially helpful for photographers who don’t want the same few buildings in all of their shots since they can just rotate a few of them to show the backs.
These buildings are a perfect example of the old half full or half empty glass. It all depends on how you look at them. I think the only thing holding these pieces back from being mind-blowing replicas is their lack of a detailed paint job. The detail is there. And if the paint detail matched the level of detail in the sculpts, they would be unbelievable. I’m pretty damn happy with them the way they are.
There seems to be three main brands of Japanese N Scale buildings. (There are more but you have to get out there and search for this stuff).
I haven’t seen much from Tomix but they are the makers of the 4045 Large Office Building (Dark Grey) — eleven stories of awesome. At almost 10 inches in height, it’s clearly the tallest N Scale building I’ve come across. And it’s expandable! It’s comes completely assembled right out of the box but is actually composed of 7 pieces: the base floor, the roof and 5 pieces in between, each of which represent two floors. So besides being able to open this building up to add lights and other details inside the windows, you can combine pieces from multiple models. Just buy two Tomix 4045’s, pop the roof off of one of them and you can stack the second buildings floor modules to create one mega building.
The Tomix 4045 has close relatives. The Tomix 4018 Large Office Building is molded in beige and is two stories shorter. There is yet another variation, a much shorter white version. But it’s the 4045 Large Office Building (Dark Grey) that’s a must-have. It’s the tallest one out there and the closest thing you’ll get to a skyscraper.
TIP: Get two of them and you can still make them look different. The back of this building looks different from the front, so face one to the back and you’ve got two different buildings! Even better, Take two floors off one of the them and add them to the other for even more variety.
This company makes a LOT and you can’t go wrong searching for it. From what I’ve seen so far, the Tomytec buildings tend to be on the short side. They mostly make a lot of 5-story buildings which look AWESOME.
Tomytec buildings can come either pre-assembled (mostly) and in kit form. So, you want to take extra care to avoid the full kits if you’re not inclined to building them. But even their (mostly) pre-assembled buildings do require some assembly, but it’s quick to snap the small number of pieces together to get your building ready for the shelf.
Tomytec also makes other N Scale structures such as electrical towers, refinery kits (which you’ll see further down this post) and more.
My favorite brand BY FAR! Their N-Diotown line is AMAZING. They have four HUGE 8-story beauties with lots of detail, especially on the roofs. They also make smaller buildings so that your kaiju stomping ground can have a staggered skyline.
OTHER N SCALE STRUCTURES
If Japanese buildings in scale with your X-Plus collection wasn’t sweet enough, there are also a good range of other structures to choose from. Electrical wire towers, radio towers, smoke stacks, tanks and…
…Refineries! How many refinery tanks have we seen explode in Godzilla movies and Ultraman series? This is a freakin’ dream come true!
I’m torn on how to describe the level of difficulty these kits pose. Many of the pieces fit together like magic and seem content to stay put with just a bit of spit. But there are just as many pieces which are tiny and require you to have small, dextrous fingers. And, often what the illustrated instructions ask you to do seem to require 3 hands or some magical ability. To the kits’ credit, though, they really do fit together incredibly well and some of the instructions you at first may think are impossible really do wind up being not that bad. I’m super impressed with how these were designed.
These towers are not completely built yet, but I had to get this post out the door. These towers are PERFECTLY in SCALE with this ’64. But BE WARNED! Stay away from the KATO Electrical Towers kits. They are IMPOSSIBLE to build. On the other hand, the TomyTec towers in the above photo where fairly easy to assemble.
WHERE TO GET THEM
Japanese N Scale buildings can be found on Ebay and Amazon, many from Japanese sellers. Beware of sellers who offer economy shipping as the only choice. These will take a whole month to arrive. You can also find them at online model railroad shops and, of course, brick and mortar stores. Use search terms: “N Scale” and “buildings”. You might also try “structures”. And add the terms “Tomix”, “TomyTec” and “Kato” to zero in on the Japanese stuff.
Here’s an AWESOME collection of photos from other toy photographers showing off N Scale buildings with their X-Plus figures: