Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Good Morning!

Back to work after a long weekend.

Sunday, January 19, 2020

Kurve: Basic Scenery (2)

Landforms are roughed in and got a thin coat of Scuptamold. I added some brown paint to the Scuptamold to avoid the "there's white in my scenery"-effect later when the scenery gets damaged. As described previously, I used a large artists spatula to spread the Scuptamold mix.

The first batch applied on the module. I will need a few more batches ...

The Scuptamold covers up the pink foam layering and allows a better assessment of the landform. ... Before I started I modified the right hand side of the inside curve hill. It's not a major change, but I like this better now.

Time to let everything dry and tend to other projects while my workbench is occupied.

Kurve: Basic Scenery

After I fixed a power problem with a track piece on the Kurve module and drilled a set of module connector holes, I should have proceeded to work on preparing for Welztalbahn Ops with the new module group.

However, inspiration took another turn and so I pulled out a sheet of 1" pink foam and cut shapes to build up scenery around the track.

I cut rough shapes and stacked them to form a ridge that the railroad had to dig through a cut to lay their track. Once I had the rough shape, I cut off the rectangular edges with a knife. This module will need to fit multiple purposes for the Welztalbahn, so the shape of the hill on the inside of the curve turned out to be a bit odd. I'm planning to plant bushes along the cut, and trees on the top of the ridge to enhance the module's function as a scene divider.

 With the rough shapes in place, I put a locomotive on the track to visualize the effect.

Not bad, but the hill on the right feels too low and not part of a ridge, so I added another layer to bring it almost even with the top of the edge on the outside curve.

Yep. That's better.  Here's a view from the other side. The pink foam sides will be protected with hard board. Here, next to the tracks, I'm planning to keep the hardboard at full height, and turn it into a painted backdrop to complete the impression of traveling through hills, as well as reduce the risk that rolling stock might fall during derailments.

Finally, I glued the layers in place with silicone caulk. I like to use Dynaflex 230 caulk for this. It dries quickly, doesn't shrink, and remains a bit flexible which helps with the next step. I let the glue set over night.

The next day, I'm taking the module outside for the messiest part of this exercise: Terraforming!

Using a  basket rasp, I'm trying to shape a nicely flowing scenery contour guided by the rough cut pink foam outline. A shop vac is super useful to keep the mess under control.

After 30 minutes with the rasp, the scenery base is shaped. It came out pretty close to what I had in mind. I'm still not entirely convinced by the inside hill. Maybe it should go uphill towards the module edge to stress the need for a cut here?

I'm pleased with the outside curve shape.

Friday, January 17, 2020

SVL: End-of-year Inventory

Once a year, Silicon Valley Lines does an inventory of all rolling stock to ensure that we know which cars are present on the layout and the actual location of each car is consistent with where the computer thinks it is. With 1300 cars on the layout this is a lot of work for our train master, so a few folks helped out.

How can it be that cars are not where they are supposed to be, you ask? Simple. We're all humans. We make mistakes. We take an extra car on a train we're not supposed to. We forget to take all cars we're supposed to. Sometimes a planned train doesn't run as scheduled for a variety of reasons. For operating layouts using computer-based paperwork, this drift between reality and what the computer thinks is quite common. Here are all the cars I found in Nowheres and Jasper Jct that didn't belong.  This is quite a bit more than expected. We determined that one of the freights from Nowheres to Bakersfield must not have run in a recent session.

By the way, layouts using car cards & waybills have similar problems where due to human error the pairing between car card and car is lost, resulting in cars without a card, or cards without a car. On small layouts like the Welztalbahn, this is usually resolved easily and quickly, but ends up being just as much of a challenge on large layouts.

Wildlife on the Commute

This flock of turkeys was very laid back and apparently didn't mind me at all when I was bicycling past them. I stopped and took a few more photos. Light was fading quickly, so most of them are not presentable, but here's a little video.

Thursday, January 16, 2020

Caltrain at Blossom Hill

Train 268 is preparing to leave the Blossom Hill Caltrain station. It's been a long day.

Monday, January 13, 2020

Biking the Bridge

Crossing Coyote Creek at Shady Oaks Park

Sunday, January 12, 2020

Slim Staging: Control Panel (2)

It sounded like such a good idea... Mask the push-button switches with tape, take the finished panel outside, spray it with clear coat, let it dry and I'm done. ... I did not consider that the clear coat would potentially creep under the masking tape into the switch housing and gum up the mechanics. Mineral spirits makes it work again, but only while wet. Since these are my last 6 push-button switches of this particular style, I decided to dump the two gummed up switches, salvage the other four, and replace all of them with the more common barrel-style push button switches from my supply cabinet.

Had I made the panel removable from the housing instead of gluing everything in place, this would have been a much easier task. At least I didn't burn my fingers with the soldering iron, so I call that a win.

All done. The buttons don't line up as neatly as the other style, but in reality it doesn't look nearly as messy as on the photo below.

Friday, January 10, 2020

SVL: Programming Signals in Dayton

After the business meeting today I spent some time with our signal server configuration. I added routes for the two uninitialized signal heads in Dayton, as well as fixed some minor bugs in the routes at the north end of Dayton.

The Dayton panel shows the state of the signals, at least as far as what the computer thinks the state should be ...

... and the signal heads reflect the state, too.

Neon Green Commute

Look at this grass! It's the same neon green of "spring grass" that many model railroaders so liberally distribute on their layouts that it hurts your eyes. I've done that, too, and have moved on since to use late summer grass mixes and darker green tones ... which are still quite light compared to what better scenery builders than me put together.

Nevertheless, I love my commute this time of year. All the fresh green is such a nice change of scenery.

Tuesday, January 07, 2020

VTA Lightrail at Moffett Field

East-bound VTA Lightrail to Alum Rock in the trench at Moffett Field. While I didn't notice when I took the photo in a hurry, maybe I should have moved positions to get the catenary mast out of the picture.

Monday, January 06, 2020

Slim Staging: Control Panel

Many model railroaders spend an enormous amount of energy on making really, really nice looking control panels for their railroads (myself included). However, I'm lazy and I don't want to feel bad if I need to throw away a panel because the button layout needs to be changed. Hence my more recent control panels tend to be bare bones.

The panel for Slim Staging is no different. I took an off-cut of 5mm MDF, drew a schematic track plan of Slim Staging, drilled some holes, popped in the push buttons, and wired it up. I left space to wire LEDs in case they'd turn out to be useful. By the way, 5mm MDF is too thick for most through-the-hole push buttons. The buttons are held in place by friction only. We'll see how long that lasts.

Making it detachable from the module and creating a plug for the TVD QuadLN_S decoder took more effort than the panel itself.

I programmed the routes into the decoder, finished building the panel box, and cleaned up the cabling.

The only thing missing is a protective clear spray coating, but it's already functional as is.

Saturday, January 04, 2020

Kurve: Connecting Slim Staging and Untergroeningen (4)

This winter break I made major progress towards getting the Welztalbahn Extension operational. Two weeks ago I drew an outline where staging would go into a photo. Tonight I ran the inaugural train from Emsingen to Slim Staging under its own power. It's nice when an idea turns into reality.

At the beginning of the Christmas break I set myself a fairly aggressive list of tasks to get to this stage. I completed more than two-thirds of that list. To make this fully operational, a few tasks remain: One track piece on Kurve doesn't have power, and I need to drill alignment holes on the Untergroeningen side. Slim Staging needs a control panel for the staging yard. Side tracks in Untergroeningen need to be finished. Finally, I need to build a new schedule and adjust paper work.

I'm looking forward to running trains on this enlarged layout.

Slim Staging: Legs

Today I built legs for Slim Staging from 3" fir boards. The design is patterned after a design that I saw in the St. Valentin video. Bolts, washers, and wing nuts to mount the legs.

Slim Staging is slim, making height adjustments a bit tricky. The standard FREMO module at 20" is twice as wide as Slim Staging. Due to the sloping garage floor, the modules need to be an inch higher from the floor than at Untergroeningen. That exceeds the adjustment capabilities of the legs as designed, so I resorted to some additional supports.

Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Kurve: Connecting Slim Staging and Untergroeningen (3)

I mentioned yesterday that I'm reusing old track for this project. That includes the turnout which was involved in some surgery several years ago. Then I needed the turnout to be shorter. Now I needed it to be longer. The solution was to cut away more of the turnout ties, and modify a piece of flex track to fit. The Dremel got quite a workout here until everything fit together. It's not perfect, but good enough for now. Operations with real trains will show if I need to put more work into this.

All the track planned for this module is spiked down. I do have to find a bumper for the sawmill spur on the right.

All the wiring is done, too. Almost ready for Phase 1 to be operational.

Monday, December 30, 2019

Kurve: Connecting Slim Staging and Untergroeningen (2)

Today I turned my attention back to Kurve. I continued arranging track on the transition segment I started yesterday, and connected the segment to the larger box.

Kurve is a fairly large module. The extension segment is removable, so that it fits under the Welztalbahn for storage.

I continued to lay out the curve towards the Untergroeningen side and cut the curve piece I removed from the Welztalbahn last April so that the turnout comes off the curve at an angle that allows a gentle counter-curve to the edge. Except for the three 2241 curves I'm reusing track from other projects.

The roadbed is installed and painted. I'm done for tonight.

Sim Staging: Tracks Down and Wired

I glued the servo mounts under the yard throat and aligned the servos to their respective throws. Next up was aligning the track at the Fremo-Puko modular faceplate to the Kurve module which doesn't have a laser-cut faceplate.

I turned Slim Staging around, and started laying track.

Done. The two outer tracks have just under 60 inches usable length. The two inner tracks even 65 inches, which is well beyond the ruling Welztalbahn train length of 45 inches.

I finished wiring power for the tracks in the morning.