Monday, February 20, 2017

On the road ...

UCSC Rachel Carson College at night
Southbound Highway 17 closed at Lexington dam due to rockfall.
It's the weirdest thing to drive northbound from Santa Cruz on this winding mountain road in the fog and rain, and there is no-one driving behind you, before you, or in the opposing traffic lanes.
You're driving on this winding mountain road alone, but you know this as one really busy road.
... and then some Mini Cooper passes you on the right at high speed, and you know all is good and normal...

Emsingen Railroad Crossing (Part 1)

The railroad crossing at the north end of Emsingen station has been in an unfinished state for a couple years. Now that the Open House is behind me I started to work on finishing the last major unfinished corner of the Emsingen station area.

I had cut paper templates for the road by laying a sheet of paper over the tracks, transfer the shape of the rails with a pencil, and cut out the road for a nice fit. I wanted to try another way to build a road, and transferred the templates to thin styrene sheets to become the road surface.

Next I traced the continuation of the road past the freight area and paid special attention to avoid kinks, which is why there's a wider arc than the original markings.

I glued down cork pieces and dressed up the sides to elevate the road surface a bit over the surrounding area.

The gaps in the tracks were filled with styrene strips and putty to work around the center point contacts. Bad idea. It's very difficult to make a smooth surface. I wanted to work around the center point contacts because of the curved tracks. After having done that, I think it's still easier to fill in the tracks completely with either putty or styrene and run a stiff wire for the center rail contact.

While at it, I also painted the surrounding area with my base dirt color.

Sunday, February 19, 2017


Playing with the airbrush on a retired freight car. Slowly getting the hang of it.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

More Apple Cake

My apple cake today turned out to be particularly popular. The last piece disappeared shortly after dinner. (Photo Credit: Tatjana)

Friday, February 17, 2017

Cirque du Soleil: Luzia in San Jose

The whole family went to watch Cirque du Soleil's production of "Luzia" tonight. Once again a great show with amazing artistic feats, good music, and a story that pulls it all together.

We had seats right at the stage and at first were a bit disappointed by how the huge conveyor blocks the view. However, once the show started, the stage turned out to be a very impressive construction with multiple rotating rings and very cool water features.

I even got to take part in the show, playing a dumb member of the audience during one of the set changes.

Luzia is an excellent show, in particular the water features of the stage were used very effectively for fun, drama, or visuals, just as the act needed it. The execution was flawless with top-notch choreography. As usual for these traveling shows, the artists didn't just perform their own acts, but participated in supporting roles throughout the show.

After the finale

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Pear Almond Tart

Dessert at work. Ridiculously good.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Class 614 (Liliput 133156)

When I read in a recent issue of Eisenbahn Journal (Thank You for that, Tatjana) that Liliput had released a model of BR614 in the Pop color scheme of the early 70's, and it was available in an AC version I couldn't resist.  Modellbahnshop Lippe had it in stock, the shipment arrived in California in less than 7 days, and was still cheaper than buying in Germany due to no VAT on export shipments.

The train comes in a sturdy box, well-protected by plastic sleeves, and is ... oh, very beautiful. Good detailing, no compromises in scale.

This train type was introduced in 1973. The first deployment was for fast passenger service on the non-electrified lines from Nuremberg, including the Murrbahn to Stuttgart. It's a very attractive train set and a nicely done model with a LokPilot v4 M4.

This is the first train with full-length cars on the Welztalbahn, instead of the 1:93.5 length-compressed cars. I need to work on clearances in a couple areas...

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Richteinheiten der Deutschen Bundesbahn GZV Sommer 1972

I somewhat hit an impasse while I was preparing the new paperwork for the Welztalbahn: I did not have a table of Richteinheiten. Think of a Richteinheit like a postal codes for freight destinations, identifying the closest major yard or origination of the last local freight train handling a given freight car.
On the one hand I wanted to make progress on the paperwork. On the other hand, it didn't feel right to go through the trouble making paperwork and then having to update it later with the "correct" codes when I got my hands on the respective table.

While browsing through forums in early February, I read about the Verkehrsarchiv in Nuremberg which is now part of the library at the DB Museum in Nuremberg. On a whim I sent an email to the named contact hoping for a redirect to a location that might have Gueterzugbildungsvorschriften (GZV) from the early 1970's. These rulebooks describe blocking for each scheduled freight train, as well as any special considerations as needed. The book is updated every 6 months along with the updated "winter schedule" and "summer schedule". In one of the appendixes of each GZV is the Richteinheiten table.

Imagine my surprise when I got a super-friendly email back, "yep, I found what you are looking for. We have the GZV from 1968 and 1972. Let me know if you'd like a copy of the table." A couple days later I had scans of the Summer 1972 Richteinheiten table in my Inbox.

The main focus of this exercise is to add flair to the paperwork on the Welztalbahn. I'm building a table of industries, companies, and locations that my on-layout industries exchange freight with. Thus I wanted a quick and easy way to figure out which Richteinheit code would likely appear on the paperwork for each car.

I started to transfer the information from the scans into a Google Maps custom map. I'm about 50% done with this, it will likely take me another week or so to link the remaining codes with stations and yards.

This map will include all Richteinheiten of Deutsche Bundesbahn from GZV Summer 1972. It does NOT include any information about routing freight within the GDR at that time.
I'm using a modern day Google Map as basis which leads to some inaccuracies due to some freight stations and yards being torn down since the 1970's (e.g. Han 10 / Hannover Hgbf) or substantially reconfigured. In addition, some areas, particularly in the Ruhrgebiet, have so many former and active freight yards and stations in close proximity that it is hard to pinpoint exactly which yard is which without someone familiar with the localities involved. I welcome comments and corrections.

Richteinheiten are organized by Bundesbahndirektion (DB regional office).
So far I have added yards and freight stations for the following regions: Augsburg, Berlin, Essen, Frankfurt, Hamburg, Hannover, Karlsruhe, Cologne, Kassel, and Stuttgart.

I embedded the live map below. Click the rectangle in the top right corner to open it in a new window.

Tuesday, February 07, 2017

Monday, February 06, 2017

Taken care of

The Andreaskreuz is quite big and bulky. I have to store it somewhere. Since there is no available wall space in the garage, I eventually settled on the most obvious solution: The folding doors to the train room. I mounted the sign so that it folds out of the way with the door.

Sunday, February 05, 2017


We're following German tradition with our Christmas trees. Setup on December 23rd. Decoration on the morning of December 24th, ... and delayed take down in late January. This year, we're extra late and so I took down the tree only on the first weekend of February.

I love rain

On this weekend's return trip from Santa Cruz I stopped at the summit in the middle of the fog.

The parking lot at the summit coffee shop has a peculiar sign posted ...

Contrary to other parts of the country we rarely get interesting clouds. It's either blue skies, or overcast, so this was a welcome change of scenery.

Friday, February 03, 2017

215 117-3 (ESU 31018)

Today I got to play with the latest addition to the Welztalbahn locomotive fleet: ESU's beautiful model of class 215. As a relatively new entry on the locomotive market ESU is taking the high road the same way BRAWA does: Very well done models with lots of fine details, excellent sound effects, and tricked out with electronics.

The locomotive is marketed as a DC / AC model, so of course I had to take it to Silicon Valley Lines and try out how well that works. Maerklin's pickup shoe is removable and the locomotive just worked on the DCC layout. The photo above was taken at Silicon Valley Lines. The wheel flanges are a tad too high for the Code 83 turnouts used at SVL and the engine lolloped through the turnouts. Otherwise it ran just fine.

As usual the overall sound settings are too loud, but the engine and brake sounds are very realistic. In addition, the squeal effect when the locomotive navigates tight curves is very well done. In combination with the ESU Powerpack it's a delight to see and hear the locomotive navigate complicated track work. Lots of fun, too, to take the engine off the rails and carry it across the aisle while the engine sounds putter on.

Monday, January 30, 2017

Surprising EBay find

The things you find while idle browsing EBay ...

When I planned the passenger trains for my Welztalbahn to connect Stuttgart to Freiburg via Freudenstadt and Hausach, I had no idea that there actually used to be through passenger trains operating this route from Stuttgart all the way to Hausach and back.

My schedule book (Kursbuch) from 1978 does not have this route, and the best connection requires passengers to transfer between trains in Eutingen, so I have no idea when this was route operated.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Southern Pacific Santa Rosalia branch operations session

The town of Ballard in the foreground. Santa Rosalia with end of the line in the back
I've been following Tony Thompson's blog "Modeling the SP" for a couple years and I've referenced it a couple times from this blog. It was great to experience the layout and Tony's flavor of prototype paperwork in an operations session today. I was paired with an knowledgeable operator and off we went. The layout atmosphere is decidedly 1950's California with palm trees, the Southern Pacific, and lots of era- and location-appropriate details.

View down Nipomo Street in Ballard
This team started out on the Ballard side of the layout with the local having just arrived in front of the depot in Ballard. For the next 1 1/2 hours we were busy switching Ballard and taking a trip down the branch to Santa Rosalia.

Thick oil hoses for unloading tank cars, made from wire. Simple, yet effective.
We were early on our return trip to Shumala, and waited at yard limits until the team switching in Shumala was ready to take us in.

"Let's go to the cafe on Chamisal Road. I hear they have a good lunch menu."
Shumala is on the Pacific Coast main line which runs on a bluff right next to the Pacific Ocean. Tony has captured that scene nicely with the MOW house high up on the cliff. I can almost hear the seals barking on the beach. I love how Tony has incorporated vignettes like this on the layout to create a feeling of place.

After the other team had left Shumala we go to work on our part of the session on the Shumala side. Throughout the day, I had a great time, and enjoyed the friendly chats, banter, and hospitality before, during, and after the session.

Thank you for hosting us today, Tony.

Chamisal Road down at the tracks

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Ready for Open House

It's the weekend of the PCR NMRA LD/Ops SIG meet. Tonight the Welztalbahn is on the list of layouts open for tours by meet participants.

The trains are running. Ready for receiving guests.

Update 22:00:
Wow. I did not expect this. For most of the time the layout was open there were visitors chatting, watching trains run, looking at the layout, browsing, ... I made a posterboard with background information about the layout, some of the car card prototype, as well as Murrbahn station plans. This sparked great discussions.

Everyone seemed to enjoy themselves and had kind words.
Thank you to all the visitors who came down tonight. I had a blast.

Layout Design / Operations SIG meet in Mountain View

As in previous years, on the last weekend of January the Layout Design and Operations SIGs of Pacific Coast Region of the NMRA put up a small conference program complete with layout tours, presentations and operations sessions. The program this year was superb with topics from operations over layout design to a real world application of LCC.

Dave Adams' train pockets
I was intrigued by the concept of train pockets mentioned in Dave Adams' talk, combining a place to keep car cards with the schedule, train instructions, and a cheat sheet to TT&TO on the reverse. Interesting.

On Friday evening, Silicon Valley Lines was open for visitors and hosting an operations session. Since the yards were covered I was even able to run a train.

Passing Vampire's Rest near Silicon
The mirror on the upper deck in Tracy

The Welztalbahn was on the layout tour Saturday evening, so I left the meet a bit early to get the layout ready. Sunday I was invited to operate on Tony Thompson's SP Santa Rosalia branch.