Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Stuttgart - Duesseldorf - Marrakech

ICE 918 is ready for departure from track 8 at Stuttgaert Hbf.

Ontime arrival in Duesseldorf (that's reason to celebrate), and after a short ride on a Regional Express, we're taking the Schwebebahn to the airport terminal in Duesseldorf.

We get to enjoy the large terminal for a couple hours.

Approaching Agadir.

The sun is low already as remaining passengers are leaving the plane.

We started this journey at a train station, so we end with a train station. Here's the station in Marrakech.

Waiblingen - Stuttgart

An early morning departure from track 1 in Waiblingen (again) gets us early enough into Stuttgart Hbf to take photos and walk to the main station hall to warm up. It's freezing outside after all.

Our inbound train is already prepared for the return trip to Hessental.
An agilis Regionalbahn to Pforzheim and the tail of a Flixtrain to Berlin-Lichtenberg in the background
The Bonatz main hall will be gutted and rebuilt over the next 6 years. In the meantime this is not a nice place to hang out, but rather sad and barren.

Tuesday, November 12, 2019


Frische Broetchen, Orangensaft, Marmelade, und ... Kaffee!


Die Nacht war um 4:00 zu Ende, dem Jetlag sei Dank. Auf dem Weg vom Baecker nach Hause gab es eine Knusperstange zum Snacken.

Monday, November 11, 2019


Ein Bier. Wurst, Kaese, Schinken, frisches Brot. Herz was willst Du mehr?

Sunday, November 10, 2019


Hanging out at the airport with coffee and baked goods. The plane is here, with a planned flight time of 10 hours, 20 minutes faster than scheduled. This trip has a very short layover in Paris, so getting to Paris early increases my chances of making the connection (contrary to last time, or the other time). Let's see how it is going to work out this time.

A last look to the coast ...

... and 10 hours later, we arrived to miserable weather in Paris. The front facing camera of the plane did not line up with the runway centerline until after touchdown. I guess there were significant crosswinds the pilot had to compensate for.

We arrived early enough that I made the transfer to the Stuttgart flight with 10 minutes to spare. Still raining as we boarded. This time I got my wish, and the open air experience.

We left the rain behind in France and even had some sunshine upon arrival in Stuttgart. Same perspective as almost two years ago, still with day light.

Untergroeningen: The Box

As part of the Welztalbahn extension, two segments of the Untergroeningen module will remain connected to the Welztalbahn when the layout is not in use. Since the segments are out in the garage I needed a quick and easy way to box them for dust protection, while minimizing the activation energy needed to work on the segments. My solution is a shadow box that integrates the backdrop with a ceiling cover and lighting and mounts to the segment base as shown in a previous post.

The shadow box leaves the front open. I cut hardboard pieces that fit in front of the opening and are held in place merely by gravity and a small clamp. Here's a view down the length of the segments, with the backdrop on the left and the opening on the right. The LED bands for module lighting are visible in the top right corner.

Thursday, November 07, 2019

Streetcar, Lightrail, Airplane

I took the Seattle Streetcar from South Lake Union to Westlake. It's nice, but ... wow ... getting through traffic in downtown Seattle on this tram is amazingly slow. It probably would have been faster to walk the last 4 blocks to Westlake Transit Center than to wait for cross traffic at every intersection.

Taking LINK Lightrail out to SeaTac airport was dramatically less pleasant than on the way into the city on Monday. The train was packed and standing room only for most of the ride.

My flight is here and should get me into San Jose on-time later tonight.

Wednesday, November 06, 2019

Space Needle

I really like this photo of the Space Needle taking on my Pixel 3 in Night Shot mode.

Seattle at Night

In earlier visits to the city I didn't quite realize how colorful it is. Yes, this is an HDR photo, but the view was actually like this. At the north end of the Highway 99 tunnel is a ventilation system to remove the exhaust from the tunnel. They could have built the usual concrete bunker to house the ventilation fans.

Instead, there's a lighted glass structure with changing colors turning a utilitarian machine house into a colorful counterpoint to the surrounding streets.

I did make a quick stop at the Space Needle. I haven't been here in years, so I figured it's worth at least a quick selfie.

When you cross Mercer Street near Amazon headquarters, you find this.

Need more energy!

Monday, November 04, 2019

Volcano View

While I had a window seat, after we left the Bay Area I didn't pay much attention to what was happening outside. That changed when we crossed the Columbia River and I noticed the snow capped mountain top of Mount Adams. Right! We're flying along volcano alley.

Next I noticed the blown away top of Mount St. Helens. I was so captivated seeing this in the late afternoon light, that I forgot taking a photo. Here's a looking back shot of Mount St. Helens, with Mount Adams in the background.

We took a right turn to line up for a south approach into SeaTac, which gave me an opportunity to capture Mount St. Helens and Mount Adams with Mount Hood in the distance.

As we descended into SeaTac Mount Rainer grew larger and larger in the light of the setting sun.


My original booked flight was supposed to be this morning on a 737 MAX. It was canceled due to the well-known issues with the MAX, thus my trip to Seattle was shortened by half a day.
Gate 32 at SJC is in the new "temporary" annex to Terminal B and rather ... utilitarian. We'll see how long it will take for Terminal C to be constructed for real.

I'm mildly amused that they installed jet bridges here. We board from ground level and walk UP the jet bridge. Yes, it's convenient for passengers and easier for the ground staff, I just enjoy the open air feeling of walking up the aircraft stairs, vs. walking through an enclosed jet bridge.

Sunday, November 03, 2019

Introduction to the Welztalbahn: Track Plan Evolution

I drew many track plans in Xtrkcad for the Welztalbahn, especially in the 9 months before construction started in 2008. The outcome of that is a series of blog posts that led to a train room update when the train room in the garage was actually complete. Note to the self, don't go into detailed planning until exact room dimensions are locked in. Otherwise, you find yourself redoing a good chunk of the plan...

As construction progressed, I made many changes to the plan. Emsingen station probably changed the most from the initial plan. I added a Lokstation with turntable and various freight facilities, and decided to change the freight area after I built it and ran some trains, by rearranging yard and loading tracks. Finally, in 2012 I added a 4th yard track in Emsingen to help smooth the flow during operations.

In the plan from 2008, Talheim has only a couple rudimentary tracks. Over time, and through multiple revisions the track arrangement grew into supporting 4 industries with multiple car spots. With that many cars in and out of Talheim, I needed to extend the run around track, too.

In 2019 the modular expansion of the layout started off by adding another turnout in Emsingen.

Staging remained mostly unchanged over the years. I added a few more staging tracks under Talheim. You can never have too much staging.

I have not gone back and updated the original track plan with what was actually built. As you can see, even today it's a work in progress. Just like in the prototype the layout of tracks in stations and in between is dictated by the operational needs of the railroad. Many of the changes I made were driven by a specific problem or idea I wanted to address. While ready-made tracks plans are nice, it's important to recognize that these plans are driven by the specific needs and desires of the person who drew them. Maybe they are interested in a specific operations scheme. Maybe they are trying to replicate a prototype faithfully, or more likely using selective compression fit the prototype into their available space, with compromises that work for them.

When creating a model railroad, it's important to think about what _you_ want, and what makes _you_ happy. If you are not sure, start with a published plan and find out what works for you. Then change the plan to fit your needs.

Saturday, November 02, 2019

Slim Staging: Now Portable

Well, ... yeah, I have not built the second half of Slim Staging yet. However, I'd like to store the half-finished modules out of the way for a few weeks. So I took the opportunity to make protective end plates for the yard segments with a carrying handle. This is designed to be assembled with no tools. 2" bolts and wing nuts are my default choice for module connections, so they are used here as well.

Friday, November 01, 2019

Thursday, October 31, 2019


We had over 150 young and not-so-young trick-or-treaters at our door today. I think that's a new record. The vast majority of kids and parents had put quite some effort into their costumes, so I was more than happy to pass out candy.

Sunday, October 27, 2019

Welztalbahn Operations Session 14

I put on an ops session on the Welztalbahn today because Balazs was visiting the Bay Area this weekend, and Dakota is still here. With the extension, and the recent schedule changes, I was really curious whether a session could keep 3 operators busy at a leisurely pace. It did, but the leisure was unevenly distributed. Dakota had his hands full in Emsingen, Balazs was busy in Talheim and running the hidden staging yard, while I mostly took care of trains to the extension in the garage.

With a 1:3 fast clock and a couple times, when the clock was stopped, we completed the whole schedule in slightly over 3 hours.

Along the way we also tried out FREMO-style train announcements to notify neighboring stations about upcoming trains. Of course, on a small layout like the Welztalbahn this is overkill. However, it did extend time, and produced a log of what trains ran where. Definitely created a different operations feeling.

This was a fun evening, I should do this more often ...

Welztalbahn: New schedule for extension

I revised the Welztalbahn schedule to include the extension to Untergroeningen in operations. Since the new staging yard is not ready yet, in this schedule I'm treating the extension as Prechtal, and overall moved a few things around to account for trains having to change direction in Emsingen as they make their way to the "new" Prechtal.

The red numbers indicate which schedule book to use for each run.

Saturday, October 26, 2019

Slim Staging: Paint

Slim Staging got a coat of paint of today, and left the two boxes out to dry and air out. I was lucky that the wind blew only the box without tracks off the saw horses ...

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Slim Staging: Wired and Tested

I have wired and tested the tracks. The next step is to install turnout motors. I'm planning to use RC servos controlled by a Tam Valley Depot QuadLN-S stationary decoder. This decoder has support for programming routes and can drive up to 8 servos. There will be a simple control panel with push buttons that can be mounted on either side of the staging yard.