Monday, December 05, 2016

Track is a model, too


I have the most fun making dilapidated models, partly because it's a lot easier to hide mistakes, but also because they just have more charme. This also applies to track, with the added complexity that one needs to make long stretches of track appear reasonably similar. They don't need to be exactly the same. Patches of different ballast, ties, or rails tell a story, too.  However, for patches to be patches, the rest should be uniform. Which makes for a somewhat boring modeling exercise. It's a great stress relief, though.

"Ommmm."

Sunday, December 04, 2016

Second Sunday of Advent


The second candle is lit and we're enjoying Lebkuchen, Plaetzchen, Punsch, and cheeky Christmas stories.


Saturday, December 03, 2016

Hallelujah Paper: Current State Overview


I turned off the layout room lights at Silicon Valley Lines and photographed the current state of the Hallelujah Paper mill.

Above, we start with the signature scene first seen by visitors walking down the aisle towards Hallelujah: The large modern mill complex. The paper machine building dominates the background of the scene flanked by the finished paper warehouse to the left and the digester and power plant to the right.


The paper mill has a small yard between the warehouse and the SVL main line.


On the other side of the main complex is the pulp wood yard, the wood chips unloader and the old mill buildings, one of which is now used for shipping and receiving pulp and recycled paper.

Basic scenery is nice, but there's still a lot to do.

Thursday, December 01, 2016

Hallelujah Paper: Unfinished Business


I have a habit of biting off more than I can chew. This is doubly-true for hobby projects. I expect that of myself, and I'm not really surprised by it. Yet it's still a bit annoying when on occasion I find myself validated.

The photo shows the big scenery hole at the paper mill that I wanted to have closed by today. The chemical unloading area and storage tanks is sitting on my workbench half-built. The track needs to be painted without gumming up the turnouts along the way. Ground cover needs to be added, ditto. Building the access road and the parking lot, as well as the truck access to the wood yard would also be nice. These items are on the list for next week. Depending on how quickly that goes, I might do the truck loading area and the mine track at the Finished Paper warehouse, too.
I have a bunch of cars for the paper mill that need to get ready for the next modern operations session, so that should keep me entertained for an evening or so in the next couple days.

Background piles of wood chips and conveyor belts from the rotary dumper to the digester, as well as a lot more pipes would nicely round out the industry. Those will need to wait until next year, since I'd like to direct my attention back to the Welztalbahn soon.

Hallelujah Paper: Paper mill yard


Hmmmmm, this came out pretty much the way I wanted to, even with the two tracks in the front not fully painted yet.



From the "Things I'm Not Going To Do Again" - Department

When you change track colors and painting method in the middle of the yard because you run out of spray paint, not surprisingly the result looks rather crappy:


The area with dark ties in the middle near the blue tape is neither wet paint, nor intentional. For comparison, after I was done today, the yard tracks are now consistently unkept and inconsistent. I'll finish up re-painting the rails on the two tracks towards the main line next week, after tomorrow's ops session.



Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Hallelujah Paper: Moar Tanks


Turned more ABS pipe into future tanks.


Hallelujah Paper: Don't touch!


After working on the rotary dumper and ballasting the tracks in the wood yard, I worked on the remaining paper mill yard tracks. Since SVL is operating on Friday I decided to avoid the turnout ladder. That should leave me enough time to clean tracks tomorrow, and have everything functional to bring the paper mill back online for the ops session.

There are various imperfections around the track ballast and ground cover, and I so want to fix them. However, it's simply a bad idea to mess with wet ballast. Don't touch! Better let it try and fix up whatever needs fixing tomorrow.

Hallelujah Paper: Rotary Dumper


 The Rotary Dumper is installed in the wood yard. It looks quite nice in its little corner.


During operation sessions wood chip cars will be spotted on the lead in front of the rotary dumper. We assume they get emptied "between sessions".

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Hallelujah Paper: Productive Day

Rolling stock and deco items moved to the ballasted part of the paper mill yard
The plan for today was to paint the paper mill tracks and continue ballasting the paper mill yard. When I got to the club, I remembered that I still needed to get more brown ballast, so that part of the plan went out of the window. After moving buildings out of the way and covering up what I couldn't move, I painted tracks until I ran out of spray paint. Oh well, at least I have only a few feet of yard tracks left. I'll finish that up tomorrow.

I turned my attention to the old pulp wood yard and the wood chip dumper. Before adding ground cover here, the rotary dumper needs to be positioned, which required cutting into the baseboard. I ended up modifying the cross-member that is barely visible inside the hole below.


After some fiddling the rotary dumper fits into place. This dumper is purely a static show piece. We're not going to make this operational. The gears and mechanics of this thing are so bad that it is a pain in the behind to move even by hand. It looks reasonably nice, though.


A couple hours later the wood yard had its ground cover. I used a mix of fine sand, real dirt, isopropyl alcohol, and glue stippled in place to give the ground some texture. This area will get some more weeds, as well as stacks of pulp wood. Behind the rotary dumper will be conveyor belts to move wood and wood chips to the digester for making pulp.


I took the rotary dumper home and gave its plastic parts some texture, rust, and weathering. This doesn't need much detail as it is about 4 feet away from the aisle, so this became mostly an exercise in "make it dirty".


Downtown San Jose in the morning


Yes, downtown San Jose can be really pretty. Sadly, this block on 3rd Street just south of 280 is not exactly in a desirable neighborhood, and the photo doesn't show the car repair shop and small industrial businesses down the block on the other side of the street.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Welztalbahn: Working on Car Cards


I'm in the process of making a new set of car cards for the Welztalbahn. It's fascinating to read up on cars I have on the layout, as well as realizing how many of them are from the wrong time or woefully fantasy. As I go through this process I'm thinning the herd, put some cars into active rotation and take others out to reduce the overcrowding the Welztalbahn is currently suffering from.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

First Sunday of Advent


It's the first Sunday of Advent. Time for our traditional family get-together.
Lebkuchen, Plaetzchen, Stollen, and other goodies are ready, and the Christmas Village is lit.


Saturday, November 26, 2016

Adventure Trip California-style


Walking the dog in the rain.

Friday, November 25, 2016

Hallelujah Paper: Chemical Tanks testing on the layout


I took the chemical unloading with the tanks to Silicon Valley Lines tonight, to check sizing and look. The additional two large tanks represented by pieces of ABS pipe in the photos are definitely needed to give the facility a bit more heft.

In combination with the tanks next to the paper machine, this will be a nice complex when it is completed eventually ...


Kit-bashing catwalks and adding pipes around the tanks with barely any right angles is a great exercise to test one's patience.


Since I have only a limited supply of catwalks from the Kibri kit I raided for this build, I scratch-built more from styrene sheet, U-channel, and railing.


Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Hallelujah Paper: Chemical Tanks and Unloading


The chemicals unloading area at Hallelujah Paper so far was "represented" by some ABS pipe and an oil loading/unloading platform. With the parts recovered yesterday, I started toying around with various tank arrangements. I closed one end of the pipes with sheet styrene and filed the edges round.


After spray-painting the tanks with Scalecoat II "UP Hopper Car Gray", I remembered why I haven't used this paint for a while. It dries very, very slowly. Once the paint was finally dry the next morning, I played with various arrangements in the space I have available. This is the winning arrangement, with spare space for two more large tanks. The unloading track will run along the front edge.


The paint doesn't take weathering powders well and reacts with matte spray for a very pretty brittle effect, but not what I was after for the tanks. After some swearing and application of Pan Pastels the tanks have varying degrees of weathering and got some concrete foundations, too.


The first catwalks are painted, fixed to the arrangement, and cut to size. For illustration I added some pipes. A decent start, I think. Now I need to attach the ladders and cat walks for the other tanks. Then move on to more pipes.


Hallelujah Paper: New Project


I started this Kibri kit more than 25 years ago and never finished it. For many years it collected dust at my parent's house, and was one of the last model railroad pieces that made the trip in a suitcase across the Atlantic, narrowly escaping the trash bin. It sat half-finished in a box in the layout room for several more years. Yesterday, I started to take it apart and collect the salvageable pieces.


I have started with a new project for the Hallelujah Paper Mill where these pieces come in handy. Stay tuned.


Monday, November 21, 2016

Hallelujah Paper: Ballast and Basic Scenery


Today I started the work to ballast tracks and add basic scenery to the Papermill area in South Hallelujah at Silicon Valley Lines.

The paper yard tracks are due for reballasting, but that hasn't happened yet, so there's some old ballast and plenty of greenery around the tracks. The yard track on the left doesn't get much use, so it's a bit more overgrown than the other tracks. I need to add a bit more sand and ground cover between the tracks on the right. They are currently too green.

The ballast on the main line on the far left will be very neat and well maintained, which should create a nice contrast with the yard tracks.


I used pretty much the standard approach here: Spray paint the track (Leather works well, but I used Cinnamon today).


Add brown ballast on the tracks, some fine sand between the tracks, and a mix of Woodland Scenic Burnt Grass and Yellow Grass fine flock as basic ground cover. I worked in sections of 2-3 square feet at a time. I lay down the ballast and basic texture, soak it with 70% isopropyl alcohol, followed by a generous application of Matte Medium, and sift / sprinkle the flock mix on the soaked ground. Finally, clean the railheads and move on to the next section.


The turnouts had some work done more recently and thus have fresher ballast, which I will need to tone down a bit. The white granules stand out too much.


The yard lead crosses the mine branch at Hallelujah Junction and ducks behind the double-track main line as we transition into the Hemet area owned by Jeff.

Beer Car Monday


I don't always post beer car Monday photos, but when I do I use the same beer car in a row.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

20 years ago - Sonderzug mit 01 1066 in 1996


In December of 1996 my Dad invited me to join him on a steam special steam train from Stuttgart Hbf to Vaihingen and back. The train was led by 01 1066 owned by Ulmer Eisenbahnfreunde (UEF). I think this was my first trip with a fast passenger train, full-size steam locomotive.

Can you tell I'm excited?
Even though I mostly remember 01 1066, I think this train was actually double-headed with 01 1100. There are photos of this event with the train on the reverse trip, and I do remember the fantastic sound of the locomotives climbing the Gaeubahn ramp from Stuttgart-Nordbahnhof to Vaihingen.

Historic cars made up the train
Different trips were offered that day, including a large loop from Stuttgart Hbf to Untertuerkheim via the Neckarviaduct to Kornwestheim and back to Stuttgart.


Maybe I remember 01 1066 so vividly because only a few days later I learned that it had a major accident at the turntable in Kornwestheim. 01 1066 was out of commission for a couple years afterwards.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Welztalbahn: Car Cards and Waybills

Car card prototypes: Front on the left, rear on the right.
So far I have been using the well-known MicroMark Car Card and Waybill system. They are functional, simplistic, ... and the English labels bothered me, too. Redesigning the car routing system for the Welztalbahn has been on my to-do list for a while.

European freight cars have one distinct disadvantage over American cars in that the car numbers are stenciled in rather small print on the cars, which makes them hard to read at a distance or at an angle. Therefore, one feature I certainly want to include was to have a picture of the car on the card. Over the last few months I've drawn inspiration from Tony Thompson's Waybill series on his blog, as well as from how the FREMO operates cars and loads at meets.

I like Tony's use of baseball collector card sleeves to both protect the car card and act as a pocket for the waybill with the basic car information printed on a sticker applied to the outside of the sleeve. Tony's car card / waybill layouts are obviously inspired by American prototypes and he goes to great lengths to apply the look and feel of the prototype to his cards. I like this general approach.

The FREMO car card nicely organizes prototype information for cars and waybills on their car cards including detailed information about car capacity, weights, brakes, etc. with detailed model information, including picture, on the rear of the card. I like how the UIC car type is clearly visible, and how loads are matched to cars using the UIC codes. There are multiple programs that produce very nice looking car cards and way bills in FREMO formatting. However, the cards are big, and I don't have space.

Here are two examples of Deutsche Bahn (DB) waybills as visible on cars ("Hauptzettel").


Waybills used by Deutsche Bahn today are impressively utilitarian with routing numbers in large print being the most prominent feature, ... and the least useful for the model railroader. In this photo from September 2016 taken in Fichtenberg, Germany, we have a car waybill for heavy scrap metal going to Italy. The destination is coded in the Richtpunktcode field as 83 23100. 83 is the UIC code for Italy. The car routing is coded in "Leitungswegcodes": 8063 is the border crossing at Kufstein to Austria. 8132 is likely the border crossing at Brenner to Italy. 81 is UIC country code for Austria.

Here's a waybill I photographed 30 years ago in February 1987 on a boxcar in Ludwigsburg:


The main difference is that the routing number seems to be simpler (not surprising this car is not operating internationally), and fields are filled in by hand. Yet again, the routing number dominates. This car comes from Neheim-Huesten, a town I never heard of before, carrying LCL freight ("Stueckgut"). Upon some Internet research, I'm guessing it originated at Wesco Westermann, a manufacturer of furniture and household items made from aluminum. They are located right next to the station and even today have multiple tracks serving the industry. Destination of the car is Leonberg. There's no information about shipper or consignee on this Hauptzettel.

Coming back to the topic of car cards and waybills for the Welztalbahn: I settled on a compromise as a first iteration. I'll use Tony's approach with baseball card sleeves, a sticker on the outside with basic car information, and waybills inserted into the sleeve. I use the FREMO approach of putting model information and a picture on the rear of the card. The photo at the beginning of this post shows my test card set, one front, one rear. I don't have stickers for the sleeves yet, so the test card has the basic car information inside the sleeve. I'll print the picture in color to make it easier to discern cars.
The waybill is simple, with the relevant information easily visible. At the top the waybill will have fields for the UIC code appropriate for the load and optional comments to make picking a load for a car quick and easy. Those fields will be hidden by the sticker on the sleeve.

In the future I can add special waybills appropriate for the German prototype. An approach similar to what Tony did as he learned more and more about prototype practices over time. I'll also add prototype details on the rear where I have them (either off the car, or from Stefan Carsten's "Gueterwagen" books).

I'm planning to make the sleeves and car information cards in the coming weeks with enough waybills to populate one or two operations sessions. Along the way I'll rebuild the car card boxes on the Welztalbahn to accommodate the somewhat larger sleeves, and then it's time to try out the system and see how it performs.

Update November 20, 2016:
Expanded this post with photos of DB Hauptzetteln and some speculation how to interpret them.