Tuesday, June 19, 2018


Enjoying coffee and a view of the rain forest.

Monday, June 18, 2018

Costa Rica Trains

Old tracks in Orotina
Costa Rica used to have a coast-to-coast railroad system connecting in San Jose. It was built cape narrow gauge (1067mm) and was used primarily for freight to make agricultural exports, such as bananas, easier as well as provide supplies to the central valley around San Jose. Construction of the first railway lines in Costa Rica started in 1871 between Alajuela near San Jose and Limon on the Caribbean coast. It took 20 years to complete the project. The line from Punta Arenas on the Pacific coast and San Jose was completed 1910. By the 1990's the system was in bad shape and all service was discontinued. Today there's only limited commute service in the San Jose area.

Passenger cars and a locomotive in Caldera
Many tracks are still in place and artifacts can be found along the right of way.

Sunday, June 17, 2018


First leg is a small hop from San Jose to Los Angeles. There's a little snag:
"Your plane is 58 minutes out. As soon as it gets here, we'll try to get you to L.A. as quickly as possible."
-- Friendly Gate Attendant
The flight is currently 45 minutes delayed. Oh well, it doesn't really matter whether we sit at the gate at SJC or LAX.

The delayed plane arrived as expected.

And just before departure, we get a notification that the connecting flight at LAX is delayed as well. Air traffic control held us on the ground at SJC for another 20 minutes because of congestion at LAX.

An hour after we took off eventually, we arrived at gate 37 at LAX.

The outbound flight leaves from gate 35, so the walk to the rest rooms was longer than getting to our connection. The inbound delayed aircraft from Minneapolis arrived eventually.

We finally departed Los Angeles at 1:15am.

6 hours later we were on approach to San Jose International Airport, Costa Rica. The mountains and forests are greeting us from below.

Arrival procedures and immigration was easy and efficient. I read many horror stories about SJO, how overcrowded the airport is, but for us, traveling off-peak season, it was a very nice experience.

Outside the airport doors we were picked up by a representative of AdobeCar and got a ride to the rental car location. Let the adventure begin.

Saturday, June 16, 2018

Shake Down Session

Well, the layout worked better than expected.  There were a few hiccups and some obvious improvement opportunities with regard to managing paperwork. Along the way Egbert got an introduction to operations.

I did not intend to run a session tonight, it just worked out this way. Egbert was curious about the layout and didn't mind running some trains. In the end we got through a good part of the schedule and spent a good part of the evening on it.

The railbus takes students from Talheim to Emsingen
Switching cars in Talheim.
My prototype-inspired waybills worked ok, but I realize they have too much information on them that is confusing operators. That probably needs some more tuning once I get more feedback.

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Mystic Mountain Railroad at Night

I'm back at Ray's Mystic Mountain Railroad for an evening ops session. It was a beautifully warm evening with no wind. Ray usually runs two person crews, but we were one person short, so I drew the solo runs.

I started with a switching assignment, the Costa Local from North End Yard to Costa. Costa is a new addition to the railroad: a switching puzzle in G scale. Planning the moves and using the available track space efficiently is definitely required. I'm looking forward to when this section has full scenery, too.

Shortly after sunset my second assignment was a local freight out of South Providence Yard to Outaluck and back via Red River.  I assembled my train at the yard as it was getting dark.

All required cars collected from the storage tracks, now I just need to put the train in order, get a caboose and off we go.

By the time we're coming through Red River darkness sets in, and the locomotive headlight is very useful to see where I'm going.

In Red River the track gang is hard at work for the night shift.

Back at Providence Yard, the end of the session is near. I'm taking my locomotive to the engine facility.

Tuesday, June 05, 2018

Dave Parks' Cumberland West - Evitts Creek Yard

My assignment for tonight's B&O ops session is Evitts Creeks Yard. This is a neat little yard with 7 classification tracks and surrounding infrastructure. A significant part of the work here is classifying incoming cuts of cars. The car routing system on the layout makes this really simple. Each outgoing train (direction) has an associated track and a respective car card box. The car cards are clearly labeled with routing information and mostly color-coded, too.

Here you can see the car cards for the cars in the background. I arranged the cards in the same sequence as the cars, so as I sort the cars into their respective classification track, the car card goes into the respective track box at the bottom of the fascia. Just like in real life, yard tracks fill up at times and require a strategy to deal with the overflow cars.

The Evitts Creek Yard does have the disadvantage that it is located away from the aisle behind the Western Maryland's Knobmount yard in the foreground, so the B&O yard master needs long arms to reach all the yard tracks for uncoupling and handling derailments.

The yard is a nice position for rail fanning the really long trains on the B&O, too.

Hold your noses, here comes the livestock train...

Sunday, June 03, 2018

More preparations for ops on the Welztalbahn

Today I found some time to finish building the schedule for a late 60's operations session on the Welztalbahn, and prepared the trains with appropriate rolling stock.

Over the last few months I retired several cars that no longer meet standards, and made some focused purchases to fill gaps in the fleet. Deutsche Bundesbahn retired steam locomotives by 1975. I've focused my collection on classes that were still in use through the end of steam. Conversely, most Diesel types used in the 70's were already in operation in the 1960's, too. Thus, with most of my rolling stock being late era III and early era IV I can visibly shift time back and forth a bit by varying the locomotive mix and pay attention to the passenger car paint schemes. It helps that stock with the older paint schemes often did not get a full paint job well into the 1970's and 80's.

I finished identifying related runs into an "Umlauf", assigned a locomotive and cars to each, and arranged the schedules, plus cards, for each such train set. The schedules, locomotive card, and car cards are kept in sleeves. This is a new addition to operations on the Welztalbahn and I'm very curious how well this will work during a session. Especially for freight trains, I suspect that there will be issues with not having sufficient work space to store the sleeve while working with the car cards. However, I'm hoping that the combination of prototype paperwork, instructions, and rolling stock cards in one place will be useful to operators.

Some freight cars on the layout are still missing their way bills, so I need to finish creating those, as well as make and print car cards for the passenger trains.
Once that is done -- and some more track cleaning, too -- I should be ready for a shake down session operating the schedule without the fast clock.

The Welztalbahn hasn't run in operations for almost two years, and I'm getting really close now. I fully expect gremlins to come out of their hiding places as soon as I try ...

Sunday Breakfast


Monday, May 28, 2018

Roco 43012 - VT 11.5 "IC Suedwind"

The VT11.5, after 1969 known as class 601, is a popular staple on many model railroads because it is the epitome of luxury German TEE service between major European cities along the Rhine valley. By the early seventies, TEE service transitioned to locomotive-hauled trains and the older diesel units were used in the new InterCity service, usually with a metal shield covering the TEE logo.

Many modelers don't like that period of these famous units, because it reflects the decline of the class towards the end of its life. It also isn't quite as cool as the remotored units equipped with gas turbines as the prime mover which became class 602 for improved acceleration in InterCity service. Towards the end of the 1970's and into the 80's, the trains were used in charter service for a while.

As a consequence there are lots of models of the VT11.5 accurate for its TEE heydays in the 1950's and 60's, several recent models of class 602 with prominent and rather ugly gas turbine air intake hoods, but almost no models of class 601 in InterCity service, which happens to be the prototype I'm interested in.

Thus, when the opportunity presented itself recently, I couldn't resist. A Roco 43012, with the car extension set 43015, found its way to me.

This model is DC analog with the big old round motor Roco is notorious for. It will take some work to bring it up to standard. The first step is replacing the motor and adding the appropriate ESU Loksound V4.0 decoder.

All lights will need to be converted from bulbs and soffit lamps to LED. I'm also planning to add cab interior and cab lighting, as well as proper directional tail illumination. Should be a fun exercise. For now a couple hardware orders have been made.

Grass in the Morning

The sprinklers have done their work.
I'm doing mine.

Sunday, May 27, 2018

Sunday Afternoon

Coffee break on the patio. Of course with the current issue of Eisenbahn-Kurier.

Friday, May 25, 2018

Silicon Valley Lines Train 370

One of my assignments at tonight's ops session at Silicon Valley Lines is train #370 the Victoria turn from Nowheres. Since there is no turntable in Victoria, I chose to run tender first on the outbound trip from Nowheres. The weather was nice in Nowheres and the station agent in Tracy reported overcast, but no rain yet.

The beauty of Mt. Nicholls National Monument is stunning every time I come through here. We dropped most of the refrigerated cars in Tracy at the Creamery and made good time to Victoria thanks to being the only train on the line towards Windsor at this time.

Once arrived in Victoria we got track and time for the switching moves at the freight house and Rogner Rock & Coal, and put our train back together for the return trip.

There was a passenger train on the way to Tracy via the Quinn bypass, so we didn't slow down this time to enjoy the city scenery in Tracy. It was all a blur instead.

A short time later we were back in Nowheres, still dry. We managed to avoid the rain today, but will petition management again for a small turntable in Victoria and Nowheres, but I bet the answer is going to be the same as last time:

"It'll be all diesel in a couple years anyways. We don't need no old turntable on this side of town."

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Spaghetti Ice Cream

Home-made Spaghetti Ice Cream. Love it!

Wednesday, May 23, 2018


Zur Abwechslung konnte ich am Rueckreisetag fast ausschlafen und musste erst um 5:30 aufstehen. Deutlich besser als beim letzten mal.

Tschuess Stuttgart. Jetzt wird es erst mal etwas dauern bis ich wieder da bin. Wir fliegen in einem weiten Bogen ueber das Remstal und Ludwigsburg nach Norden. Waiblingen konnte ich gerade noch ausmachen bevor wir in die Wolken eintauchten. Daher leider kein Foto von Neckarrems.

Auch in Frankfurt haengen die Wolken tief, aber wenigstens bleibt es trocken, so dass man gemuetlich zum Bus laufen kann.

Auch der Flieger nach San Jose steht auf einer Aussenposition, die nur ueber eine laengere Busreise erreichbar ist. Dafuer kann man auch hinten einsteigen.

Der Rueckflug ist zwar etwas voller als der Hinflug, es gibt aber trotzdem reihenweise leere Sitze.

Mein Mittagessen. Wenn man bedenkt, dass das Flugzeugessen ist, kann man sagen, dass es durchaus ansprechend aussieht, und so hat es auch geschmeckt.

Ein letzter Blick auf Europa: Die Nordwestkueste von Irland.

Neun Stunden spaeter sind wir im Landeanflug und fliegen in einer weiten Kurve ueber den Santa Cruz Mountains. Carl, the Fog hat die Kueste fest im Griff.

Da unten wohnen wir. Wie beim Abflug fliegen wir ueber den Santa Teresa County Park.

Gelandet. Die Schubumkehr ist eingeschaltet und wir rollen zum Flughafengebaeude.

Die Einreise und Zollformalitaeten gehen problemlos und freundlich ueber die Buehne.

I'm back home.