Thursday, October 27, 2016


I asked Pascal yesterday what he'd like to eat for dinner today - "Anything but pasta."
Hmmm, ok. Can you make it challenge? - "I want garlic prawns from the grill, and Baguette with garlic butter."

Well, it's raining today, so I made garlic jumbo shrimps in the oven instead of on the grill. Both kids were happy with their dinner option today.

"I should have made it harder."

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Wednesday Cake

Yes, it's a simple chocolate chip cake. But hey, it's only Wednesday.

Emsingen: That hole is too big.

The Busch 4196 wall-mounted "Koffer" lamps are beautiful models of a standard street lamp design. The LED lights require current limiting resistors and Busch chose to use standard resistors soldered on the end of the magnet wire leads. Why they didn't use SMD resistors next to the LED is a mystery to me.

Without thinking too much I drilled a hole in the wall of Emsingen station, that is big enough for the bulky resistor package to pass through. However, now there is not enough wall space left to securely mount the lamp over the opening. Arrrrgh!

For the second lamp I'll cut the resistors off, drill only a tiny hole, and solder the resistors back on when the lamp is mounted properly.

Morning View

The morning sun can work its magic to make even ugly buildings I despise look interesting.

Metcalf Power Station in south San Jose.
I'm still miffed that out of the dozen or so projects Calpine had planned 15 years ago, the one that got built before they went bankrupt was in our neighborhood. At least it's a gas fired plant.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Emsingen: Streetlights teaser

With basic weathering completed, I have started working on the street lights at Emsingen station.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Pumpkin Patch

Time for our family tradition to take photos of pumpkins and kids. Spina Farms is busy today, but thankfully most folks are in line for the various rides and attractions so we found a nice corner without crowds pretty easily.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Pluot Cake

I took a break from model railroading activities today, played taxi driver for most of the morning, and decided to try and make another cake (or better "pie") creation in the afternoon. On the farmer's market this morning I had the choice between giant plums and giant pluots, and no prunes. The pluots tasted better, so we got them.

... and it was well received. Yes, that is the Emsingen station roof in the background.

Friday, October 21, 2016

Emsingen: Freight Shed

I talked about the Emsingen freight shed last week when I chopped off the infamous combustible goods ramp. In parallel with other projects I've been making progress on the freight shed and it's getting to the "good enough for now" state where it doesn't immediately jump out as being a mockup, nor being too detailed to make the area around it look bad.

I started off with adding some black styrene behind one of the doors. I will add a little loading scene here at a later time.

The track at the shed has a slight curve. I transferred the curve to the ramp by holding a pencil to a boxcar and mark the curve. You'll notice in the photos below that the shed and roof are square while the ramp edge has a slight curve to it. Yes, this is intentional. The idea with this shed is that the left half was originally built with the station, which is also why it matches in appearance. As freight and LCL traffic grew the shed was expanded, but this time they chose simple wood construction and just extended the building, while conforming the edge of the ramp to the curvature of the track. Yes, this is not exactly prototypical (at least I'm not aware of any prototype for such thing), but that's my story and I'm sticking to it...

I replaced the cardboard roof with 0.030 styrene sheets spray painted flat black. At the time I did this I was planning to used the Kleenex-method to make a tar paper roof and figured working from the dark base is better than working from a white base.

Scratch-building the platform supports. See the picture at the top of this post for a closer look. In the rear of the table is another freight shed project waiting. I'll get to that in due time.

The road side loading ramp has the supports that came with the station kit added. I can't quite make up my mind whether the spacing of the supports is clearly too wide or not. For now I'll leave them as is, but will likely go back and make 4 more supports for the new section later. It took me a little while to realize that the supports are beveled on 3 sides, but not the 4th, and because I didn't pay attention to that when gluing them to the ramp they look oddly angled in the photo above. I managed to make them look better on the second try.

A post in an Internet forum brought up the idea to use black craft paper instead of Kleenex for the tar paper roof. I gave that a shot since it promised to be less messy. It turned out nicely.

Some more shots of the freight shed. I planning to add rafters and lights at a later time.

For this last photo I weathered the roof using black and grey weathering powders brushed from the edge up which gives a nice streaking effect.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Zebrastreifen - Making an HO crosswalk

I considered various methods to make the crosswalk at Emsingen station, and was not sure at all which method would work. Standard German crosswalks are 3 - 4 meters wide, with 50 cm wide strips and gaps of 50 cm. The narrow style crosswalk uses 40 cm instead. Scaled down to HO, this works out to 5mm stripes every 1 cm.

My strong preference was dry transfers, but I couldn't find any in 5mm widths. The widest is 2mm in the Woodland Scenics stripes set. Tamiya stripe tape was another alternative, but I only had 2mm width in white and the local hobby shop only stocked yellow 5 mm width masking tape. The Train Shop has 5 mm width in stock, but I went with Karen's suggestion: 5 mm white correction tape.

Since I had no idea if and how this approach would work, I made a mock-up street on a scrap of plywood, spray painted gray, with cardboard sidewalks.

The application is not super easy. The applicator occasionally rips the tape and you have to start over, but eventually I applied the stripes ok. I couldn't get them 100% equal length, so I tried to trim them with a sharp razor blade along a strip of masking tape... only to realize that the primer didn't adhere to the laminated plywood that well. Ooops.

Ok, start over with a naked bit of hardboard. This time I used masking tape to mark both sides of the crosswalk and apply the correction tape between the masking tape strips. Then I carefully cut the correction tape along the edge of the masking tape, pulled the masking tape off, and burnished the correction tape into the street some more.

There you have it. A very nice and believable German crosswalk. This is only 3 meters wide, and appears a bit narrow, which is the correct impression.

Now I just need to replicate this in Emsingen to unblock further work and finish up the roads on the segment.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Good Morning

Walking the Dog in the morning.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Mail-in Ballot

With the avalanche of propositions and candidates this time around I'm a happy permanent vote-by-mail voter. I take my time with a cup of coffee and do the research.

Most of  the races for office were easy since I followed them for the last few months. Others I had to read up a bit more. Some of the propositions, however, left me stumped and required real work to decide which way I was going to go.

I've made my marks. The ballot is in its envelope and will go into the mail tomorrow. I'm glad I'm done.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Rain is here



I'm not known for my cooking or baking skills. Rightfully so.

With that in mind it's shocking that I managed to bake a marble cake today, that not only mostly looks good and is edible, but even got praise from the kids. By the time I'm writing this, half of the cake is already eaten.

Friday, October 14, 2016

Emsingen: The current state

This shot is impossible to do once the segment is installed in the layout. We're standing "in" the roundhouse and look North towards the freight shed.
I took the Emsingen station segment outside to document the state after last night's green thumb action. This is obviously still very much a work in progress. Many details are missing. Especialy, the outbuilding and the freight shed are only partially finished.

Another "impossible later" shot. We're in the backdrop looking East from the forest to the front of the station building
The real grass acts as stand-in for the trees that will populate the hill to hide the descending main line to Talheim. Undergrowth and shrubs are already in place.
Looking out of the window from the corner house in Emsingen towards the maintenance facility and the roundhouse south of the station.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Emsingen: Grass and Bushes

I spent a couple hours this evening to add grass, bushes, shrubs, sand and gravel to the Emsingen station segment. This got rid of most of the remaining bare plywood. Here's an overhead shot.

Emsingen: The platform

Several years ago I built the platforms for track 1 and track 2 in Emsingen from styrofoam topped with a thin layer of plaster and fine sand. That was my first excursion into building platforms and it worked out kind of ok. Since the Emsingen station area will need to remain removable for the unavoidable occasional track maintenance underneath, and the interface between movable and stationary parts needs to be tight I settled on using styrofoam again, despite the mess working with it.

I carefully marked and cut the station building shape from the styrofoam. Since my platforms are a little bit lower than the one provided with the kit, the naked foundation is visible. Strips from a Plastruct cinder block wall sheet fixed that problem.

The styrofoam base is topped with a 0.080" styrene sheet and a 1/2" squares sheet to level up with the existing platform and provide some structure to the front of the station.

My wife observed that these tiles are quite big. ... Of course she is right. I scored additional grooves into on 1/4" centers and the effect is much better now.

As can be seen in the picture above there is a ramp on the left side of the station so that passengers can get to the platform without climbing any stairs. However, on the right side of the station near the outbuilding stairs are needed "because there isn't enough space for a ramp" and I wanted some variety, too.

These very nice stairs from an Auhagen kit are wide enough to meet my needs, but this is not a fancy chateau, so I removed the angled side stairs and only kept the center piece.

After I roughed up the styrene sheets with 220 grit sand paper for some texture, I spray painted them with Tamiya Fine Primer, which happens to have a nice gray color.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Emsingen: Painting the Streets

Time to paint the walls and roads. I moved the segment back into the train room, so that I can try and get a close match to the existing colors. This is complicated by the wet-in-wet painting technique I use, made worse by using weathering powder on the road. I.e. no consistency and if I'd get anywhere near a match, I'll be lucky.

The segments line up nicely. I first painted the walls, which was as frustrating as expected, and then banged out the street in a hurry so that I'll get to the pickup at school in time.

Finally, once everything was dry, I hit the road with weathering powder. The sidewalks are a bit dark. I'l try to lighten them up tomorrow.

I got somewhat close to the colors on the city segment, but the ground color on the maintenance segment is very different. I will accentuate this difference with fence and gate separating the restricted maintenance area from the passenger station, and call it a day.

While things dried in Emsingen, I fixed a turnout that had a bad servo, and did some more basic maintenance around the layout. In my stash I found N-scale fencing that fits perfectly for the restroom ventilation openings in the outbuilding.