Saturday, March 18, 2017


I should prepare my taxes and I should fix up the front and back yards. It's rare that garden work wins...

Our "meadow" in the back yard is so nice, I decided to let it grow a bit more and just clean up the bamboo shoots and ivy along the back fence.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Coyote Peak

With the rest of the family out of town, Franziska and I walked up to Coyote Peak.

It was still foggy down in the valley when I got bagels, but by midmorning the sky was blue and the sun shining.

All this will be dry and yellow in a couple months.

The poppies are popping up everywhere now ...

Saturday, March 11, 2017

On the patio

Eating warm apple cake with vanilla ice cream on the patio in good company.

Saturday Afternoon

Watching episodes of Eisenbahnromatik while baking cake...

"Durch das Herz der Schweiz - Gotthardbasistunnel" and on the other end of the spectrum "Vergessene Schmalspurbahnen in Baden-Wuerttemberg". The latter has a segment on the Bottwartalbahn between Marbach/N and Heilbronn with a short sequence of views from the train to where the river Murr flows into the Neckar. Goosebumps moment!

Friday, March 10, 2017

Panic Button

A useful feature of this building ...

Monday, March 06, 2017

Calendar page this month

This month's Eisenbahn Journal Calendar shows local passenger traffic in the Kinzigtal between Freudenstadt and Hausach in 1973.  This is what I image the Welztalbahn would have looked like, if it existed.

Sunday, March 05, 2017

Saturday, March 04, 2017

Box car weathering

I weathered another box car for Silicon Valley Lines today. The sides got the usual treatment with a light overspray with white wash, application of pan pastels for rust spots, accentuate the ribs in the car body, as well as dirt and grime around the door mechanisms. A thin layer of soft dirt along the bottom edge simulates dirt and residue from the tracks.

For the roof I tried a technique from Pelle Soeborg's book "Done in a day", dusting rusty powders in wet varnish. I think I overdid it a little bit and should have feathered the varnish more. As is the edge of the rust is very clearly defined. Once I had the rust down, I weathered that up with brown, grey and a bit black pan pastels.

... and while at it, I did one more this evening to the "minimum standard".


Wednesday, March 01, 2017

After the Flood

Just south of Embedded Way
Over the weekend San Jose had the worst flooding in many years, to the tune of over 100 million dollar in damages. Today was the first time I biked Coyote Creek trail this year. Some cleanup work is still needed ...

Silver Creek Road bridge

From Silver Creek Road the trail dips down to the creek for a couple hundred feet. This section was flooded two days earlier.

Half a mile south, another tree across the trail
For the next couple weeks I think I'll continue to take the surface streets in the morning.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Replicating prototype paperwork: Buchfahrplan

On my prototype (Deutsche Bundesbahn in 1972) the train schedule exists in multiple forms. There's the line diagram used in offices and towers at stations, as well as for planning the schedule. The timetable in tabular format collected in thick books and also the familiar yellow and white posters hanging in train stations. And there is the "Buchfahrplan" which is used on the locomotive. The Buchfahrplan contains detailed time points and speed indications for each train. Here's a scan of a prototype Buchfahrplan from 1966:

Column 1 has the waypoints in kilometer along the track. Column 2 shows how fast the train may go in the given section unless signaled otherwise. Column 3 shows stations, some interlockings, and other way points. Column 4 and 5 are arrival and departure times at the respective locations. If the train is not scheduled to stop, the time is only given in the departure column.
This scan shows 3 train movements: two local freights on different days respectively (Ng 9102 and Ng 9104), as well as a scheduled engine move (Lz).

I took the existing schedule of the Welztalbahn and created Buchfahrplan pages for each train. For the first couple trains this exercise went really slowly as I was writing out way points and formatted the table as needed. However, once I had a table for for each possible relation on the Welztalbahn writing out the remaining pages took only a couple minutes per train. I followed the formatting of a 1972 Buchfahrplan scan I found in the Drehscheibe Online forums, and simplified it a bit for the model train use case, while trying to maintain the look & feel of the original.

We'll see how well this works in combination with the car card pocket sleeves. There's plenty of space, so I added instructions for each train's route and what the engineer is supposed to do during a session.

Marble Cake

Just right. Light and a bit fluffy. I'm getting practice.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

More Experiments

Today I practiced weathering with Airbrush and Pan Pastels on a few cars for Silicon Valley Lines.

Each car came out nicer than the previous one and even the first one turned out not to shabby. I paid extra attention to only do light weathering. Some fading, some dirt, introduce subtle color variations, paint the wheels and trucks, ... and move on.

Next I grabbed one of the box cars from the Welztalbahn. This is a Roco model which, like most cars on the layout, ran straight out of the box. Shiny plastic, flat walls.

An hour later, the car looked dramatically different:

The camera ruthlessly exposes the small imperfections like the slightly splattery overspray, the missing grab irons, or the crude ladders. Nevertheless, I'm quite pleased with the result.

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