Monday, April 22, 2019

Converting a Peco turnout for Maerklin (4)

The Puko-strips from Weichen Walter stick out a couple millimeters under the turnout. I'm using strips cut from a sheet of very thin cork with an adhesive backing and stick them under the turnout.

Sunday, April 21, 2019

Converting a Peco turnout for Maerklin (3)

Recently, I've been working more seriously on converting Peco StreamLine Code 100 turnouts for use with the Maerklin 3-rail system (previous posts here and here). The main motivation for doing this is availability of turnouts with larger radius and more variety than what I can get from Maerklin's track program. The drawback is the need for extensive modifications of the turnouts.

The photo above shows a converted Peco SL-E98 large radius wye turnout with puko strips from Weichen Walter glued and partially melted to the turnout. The Electrofrog construction looks really nice, but requires that the frog rails are cut and insulated from the outer rails. With a radius of 1824mm and 12 degree angle at the frog, there is no turnout available from Maerklin that allows similarly graceful curvature.

Below is a Peco SL-95 medium radius Insulfrog. With a radius of 914mm and 12 degree angle, this turnout is pretty close to Maerklin's 22716 "slim turnout".

I chose Peco Code 100 Streamline turnouts because they come pretty close to Maerklin's Code 100 K track system, which should allow me to mix-and-match K-track and Peco turnouts. This way I hope to limit building custom turnouts to situations where they are strictly needed.

Converting turnouts in assembly line fashion optimizes work time, since I can apply a set of puko strips as needed and let the glue dry on one turnout, while I work on assembling another turnout. Here are my five test turnouts in various states of completion.

The final step is wiring up the new puko strips, as well as the frog rails that need to be polarized and provide power to the pickup shoe. I chose to individually wire the puko strips on each leg of the turnout, since it avoids installing a wire to bridge the gap and keeps the frog rails accessible from below.

To gain even more experience with the process, I'm planning to build the Untergroeningen station module only with converted Peco track.

Saturday, April 20, 2019

Friday, April 19, 2019

Backyard Salamander

We discovered a particularly nice salamander while cleaning up the patio today. Unfortunately, one of the neighborhood cats already go ahold of him, and he wasn't doing too well.

Friday Commute

I love this section of my commute on Coyote Creek Trail.


For a work event we went Go-Kart racing today. Lots of fun with a great group of people.
To my utter surprise I finished the final race in 4th place out of 11 racers.

Saturday, April 13, 2019


I'm making progress on a revised Web site for Silicon Valley Lines, and while at it I'm trying out WordPress. WP has made quite some progress compared to the last time I played around with it a few years ago. Now much more streamlined and slick. Tempting ...

Thursday, April 11, 2019

Nails do not belong here (2)

I fixed the tire yesterday evening. On the way home I noticed another couple nails on the same stretch of road where I punctured the tire yesterday and stopped to get them off the street. 10 minutes later I had picked up a handful. Must have fallen off a work truck or something ...

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Nails do not belong here

While I was waiting for my wife to pick me up with this punctured tire, I picked up a few more nails and screws from the street and threw them away.

Tuesday, April 09, 2019

Converting a Peco turnout for Maerklin (2)

I found some thin cork in my stash and glued it under the converted turnout. That'll do.

Monday, April 08, 2019

Converting a Peco turnout for Maerklin

I'm using a kit from Weichen Walter to convert a Peco SL-91 Code 100 turnout for use with Maerklin rolling stock and locomotives. Following the instructions I'm glueing the point contacts to the turnout. This takes some patience, as glue doesn't dry as quickly as the melt-in-the-ties method I used on the flex track with Module One.

This is really a test and practice to see what it takes to convert 2-rail turnouts for use with Maerklin. The look is comparable to regular Maerklin turnouts, the center contacts  are quite visible.

I'll let the glue dry, and wire it up tomorrow.

Sunday, April 07, 2019

Amador Central Railroad

The Amador Central Railroad is the successor of the Ione & Eastern Railroad connecting Ione to Martell halfway between Jackson and Sutter Creek. The railroad was started in 1902 and the first train operated to Martell in 1904. Proposed extensions where never built. For most of it's existence the line was owned by lumber companies and carried forest products to the connection with the Southern Pacific down the hill at Ione.

Today the line is jointly owned and maintained by two local historical societies and sees occasional recreational use with speeders.

Sutter Creek

Sutter Creek has maintained that gold rush downtown flair with many buildings dating back to the 1800's.  We very much enjoyed our time here. The atmosphere is relaxed and quaint.
Main St maybe has an over-abundance of wine tasting rooms ...

Saturday, April 06, 2019

Daffodil Hill

On the way back to Sutter Creek we stopped at Daffodil Hill, a ranch that normally is open for a couple weeks in the spring for visitors to enjoy the view of hundreds of thousands of daffodils on a hill behind the ranch buildings. Unfortunately, on the first weekend of the season this year they got overrun by thousands of visitors, overwhelming the ranch facilities as well as leading to traffic collapse on the roads in the vicinity. The crowds didn't stay on the path and walked into the flower beds, a pattern that's an all too common refrain heard from other locations, too. As a consequence, the family owning the ranch aborted this year's season and is considering alternative approaches for crowd management.

We took a couple photos from the gate and the street, and got a glimpse of the hill. It's a beautiful setup, and I can't imagine that a visit with the crowds would be nearly as enchanting as our view from the fence line.

Several peacocks are hanging out on the grounds and we got to see some really nice wheels.

Mercer Cavern

Mercer Cavern in Murphys, CA is one of the oldest publicly accessible caves on the West Coast. The calcium formations are very impressive, as are the stairs built into the cave.

In the early years cave visitors used candles and kerosine lamps like this one. Thankfully the cave is equipped with electrical lights.

A fun one-hour tour with lots of climbing down and up steep stairs, and through narrow passages.

Friday, April 05, 2019

Creekside Dining

A weekend trip to Sutter Creek starts off with a walk through town and dinner a Gold Dust Pizza. The beer was served in a frozen jug, and the pizza was delicious.

Murrbahn: Staging Level Doodles

Murrbahn project - Staging level
I wrote about my plans for the Murrbahn layout project last year. All Murrbahn-related posts are linked here.

This morning I had a realization: Would it be possible to remove the two double-slip turnouts where staging is connected to the mainlines to the rest of the layout, if I ran a track around the outside of the helix?

The plan above shows the staging level of my Murrbahn project. The brown double-track represents the main line south of Backnang towards Stuttgart as it descends from the lower level of the layout. The outer track in the three-track helix represents the Kleine Murrbahn from Backnang to Marbach. The inner two tracks of the helix represent trackage north of Gaildorf/West on the upper level towards Schwaebisch-Hall/Hessental and Crailsheim. Since this is a rather long run in the helix it's double-tracked to allow for opposing movements in and out of staging to the north-end of the visible layout.

All the off-layout destinations are represented by a common staging level. I.e. a train from any of the staging tracks (teal, purple, or green) needs to be able to be routed to any of the outbound tracks and vice versa. In my plans so far,  I tried to limit the size of the helix to the Grosskreis II K-track radius of 61.8cm. I connected the staging return loop inside the helix and resorted to using two double-slip turnouts as part of the arrangement to get trains in and out of staging. This is not bad per-se, but I was not happy about this. Double-slips are mechanically complicated and more prone for derailments. This critical junction is located against the wall, in a tunnel, halfway behind some helix tracks. Not a great place for handling a derailment.

My solution runs the staging access track around the helix track instead of inside. At the cost of 10cm wider helix footprint I gain multiple benefits:
  • No more hidden double-slip turnouts
  • Traversal of at most one thrown turnout pair to get from staging to either portal track and vice versa
  • More gentle curves for staging access, in particular no sharp S-curves
Since I can start the ramp a bit earlier than with the old plan, the helix tracks raise high enough that the yellow track can duck under the helix for about 30  centimeters to avoid additional intrusion into the aisle at that tight spot. 

The first turn of the helix extends into an oval to allow inclusion of a regular turnout to branch the inside track of the helix for simultaneous up and down movements on these 15-20 meters of track. I expect to need about 5-6 turns to climb from staging to the upper level. On the second turn the helix tracks move as far into the corner as possible to minimize intrusion on the lower level.

Nevertheless, that leaves a minimum 3 ft of open space -- more at staging level and below -- enough to put an operator position inside the helix. This position will control traffic in and out of staging, and act as station operator ("Fahrdienstleiter") for Waiblingen, Hessental, and Marbach. This position will probably need a couple cameras to watch what's happening in the staging yards.

Tuesday, April 02, 2019

Dave Parks' Cumberland West: MY Tower

Tonight my job was being the MY tower operator, writing clearances, transcribing orders from dispatch, and navigating trains through the maze of tracks between Knobmount Yard, Hagerstown Staging, Ridgeley Yard and Cumberland station on the Western Maryland.

A slightly stressful, but very enjoyable way to spend the evening. Now that I operated with TT&TO at La Mesa, I felt much more confident doing this job and knowing what is expected. Keeping up with the dispatcher dictating their orders over the phone was a challenge, but I mostly managed.

Monday, April 01, 2019

More Rain

This has been a good year for the water supply.