Sunday, February 23, 2020

TSG Live Crew Lounge Discussion Panel Overcoming Obstacles

This afternoon I participated in a panel discussion about "Overcoming Obstacles" in model railroading, live-streamed on Youtube by TSG multimedia. You're welcome to watch the recording at the link above.

The historic Santa Clara Depot was a great venue for our discussion. The South Bay Historic Railroad Society maintains two layouts in the freight room, there's a library, and lots of local railroad artifacts. 

I very much enjoyed the control panel from the San Jose Cahill St station, known today as "Diridon Station".

Here are a couple behind the scenes photos from the recording session today. The recording took place in the meeting area of the depot.

What you couldn't see in the recording: My view from the panel seat.

Thank you, Cydney and John for hosting the discussion today. Once we all settled in a bit, I had a lot of fun.

Saturday, February 22, 2020

Untergroeningen: Backdrop and Shadow box

Primer and first coat of sky blue paint on the backdrops for Untergroeningen.

The layout lighting is not connected at the moment, so I took the photos below only with the garage lights on. However, even with that limited light, I'm very happy with how the the scene looks very different already.

Since I had the paint out already, I also painted the background panels for Slim Staging. These panels close up the sides when the yard is packed away. Now I just need something to protect the top.

Thursday, February 20, 2020

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Caltrain 4th & King: Bumpers

There are a bunch of neat details for model railroaders in this photo taken during the morning rush hour at Caltrain's 4th & King station. The red end of track lights. The blue light lanterns. The rolled up power cables and respective switch box in the rear. The differences in ballast before and below the bumpers. The weathering of the bumpers. The pack of bottled water stored on the ground. ...

What jumps out at you?

Tuesday, February 18, 2020


Spring is here!

Monday, February 17, 2020

Kurve: Storage Case

Now that scenery work has started on Kurve, I need a way to protect my work from dust and accidental damage. It's time to build a storage case.

The first step was to separate the little extension piece from the main module, cut rails and scenery, and put it aside. This makes it much easier to build the box for the rectangular main module. I cut 12" wide strips from the Lauan plywood sheet I used a few weeks ago to make the module sides. I also cut square strips from a 1/2" sheet of plywood to stabilize the edges.

I started with the end sheets, and then fitted the sheets on the long edge of the module. I used wood glue and staples to attach the Lauan sheets to the edge strips.

I'm one 1x2 ft sheet short to close the top, so I left it open for now. It turns out the two sheets already in place make nice handles to put the cover over the module, but I need better support for the edges.

This build took a surprising amount of time, so I didn't get much else done today.

Coffee break

Enjoying the sun, a snack, and coffee, while reading the January Eisenbahn Journal with a seasonably appropriate photo on the title page.

Saturday, February 15, 2020

Kurve: No more Pink Foam

My goal for today: No more pink foam. My Scenic Express order arrived yesterday with a Heki Flokstar XL, which I put through its paces today. I'm quite pleased. The Flokstar is more powerful than my homebuilt Grassinator and easier to handle. The cable to the grass hopper could be a bit longer. I tried grass fibers up to 6mm length, and they land on end, standing nice and straight.

I started with the inside hill.  There will be tress on top, so this area should be thick with undergrowth.

I moved on to the hill on the outside of the curve. There will eventually be trees here as well.

With ground cover the cut looks quite nice already.

Since I was on a roll, I took off the painters tape from the track and painted the rails.

Mission accomplished: No pink foam left.

I primed and painted the module sides earlier in the day. This is Craft Smart Dark Grey.

This module started its life as a temporary filler, but with scenery progressing I'm growing quite fond of it.

Kurve: Rock Outcroppings (4)

Whoops. One of the washes I made last weekend turns into a nasty green when dry and viewed in daylight. It's only paint, so this was fixable, but it was annoying and it took a little while until I was sure I got it right. The solution involved washes with Craft Smart Suede and Ivory, and cleaning up the color around the rocks with Golden Brown.

Thursday, February 13, 2020

Untergroeningen: Locomotive Shed

I made a mockup of the locomotive shed in Untergroeningen from Auhagen Baukasten System wall sections. The look of the shed gets pretty close to the original. There are photos on the Internet, e.g. at Vergessene Bahnen or Eisenbahnfotograf. The water tower on the mockup is a bit too high, and the shed windows are too large compared to the prototype. However, this is a workable compromise between a complete scratch build and a standard kit.

I have not yet found a picture of the locomotive shop area of building, which is located behind the water tower away from the tracks.

Monday, February 10, 2020

Spring Coffee

The forecast says we are done with rain at least for February.

Sunday, February 09, 2020

Kurve: Rock Outcroppings (3)

Completed rock face in the cut
I was on the right track with texture, and continued chiseling both sides of the cut this afternoon.

Texture done
When I was done with chiseling I realized that I had held the chisel at a 90 degree angle to the hill side, so that the rock strata are perpendicular to the hill. On both sides of the cut. It's not quite as noticeable on the right side in the photo above, because that side of the cut is steeper, which implies the layers would make a ~60 degree in the middle of the cut, instead of continuing consistently from one side to the other, and the railroad dug through the hill. I'm going to blissfully ignore that mishap, but now you know. There will be grass and bushes to make this less obvious.

Now that I had rock texture that looked about right, it was time to work on colors. I planned to use the common rock face approach: Paint plaster with a somewhat light rock color, add a black wash to enhance the crevices, highlight the edges. For the light rock color I made a yucky mess from acrylics I had available to arrive at a light mustard color (Anita's Sunshine Yellow, lots of Craft Smart White, a little bit of Black, a few drops of Golden Brown, thinned with water 2-3 parts color to one part water). After the base color was dry, I made a wash from Black with some Golden Brown and stippled it over the base color. For the highlights I lightened the base color with white and more Sunny Yellow, added a bit more water, and lightly (not quite) dry brushed the rock in a top-down, bottom-up motion. At this stage the rocks look like this.

Base color, dark wash, and highlights
This is way better than my first try, but still a bit bland and too homogeneous.  Multiple passes of dropping spots of dark wash in random places lead to a more uneven appearance. I made another wash this time from Craft Smart Terracotta, stippled that on in random places, followed by more dark wash in more random places. And eventually I ended up with the look in the lead photo of this post. That's good enough for tonight.

I also remembered a lesson I had learned years ago when building Steinle: The plaster sucks up all water and the appearance can change dramatically when a wash dries. Be patient. Try something, then wait for the plaster to be thirsty.

Kurve: Rock Outcroppings (take 2)

I decided to redo the rock outcroppings in the cut because I was not happy with how the first attempt worked out.  This time I worked horizontal strata into the plaster mix with a small chisel. I pretty much just hold the chisel horizontally, make a shallow cut into the plaster, and chip away a small amount of material, place the next cut parallel to the previous cut, and keep going ...

Within minutes I get a much more satisfying rock texture (left and middle) than what I had before (right). This looks much more like the sedimentary rock I wanted to represent here.

Saturday, February 08, 2020

Renumbering Cars

Tonight I decided to work on decaling and renumbering cars. As operating railroads, both the Welztalbahn and Silicon Valley Lines require all cars on the railroad to have different car numbers. I picked up the coal gondolas above for cheap at a recent ETE meeting, product number 4431. One of the cars got a number. I used a number from a set of random numbers sold by Andreas Nothaft at

The other car I worked on is Bowser kit #60205, a CNW wood chip hopper. I renumbered the car for Silicon Valley Lines. The glassfiber eraser got quite a workout on the CNW herald ...

Thursday, February 06, 2020


Let's try this again.  90 minutes after the SJC flight was canceled because the inbound flight couldn't land due to bad weather, the clouds had lifted enough that planes could land.

An uneventful 2 hours later we're flying over San Francisco towards a tight 180 degree turn into SFO airport.


Low ceiling at Paine Field in Everett.

So low that the inbound flight for my trip home couldn't land and diverted to Portland. The ground crew hung out on the field until a minute before the gate agent made the announcement that the inbound flight has landed in Portland. When they walked away it was clear that flight AS2742 will not leave on time ...

They announced multiple times to call Alaska's Customer Service center for faster rebooking service, but I preferred to talk to someone in person, and also: I have time, so I didn't mind waiting.

I'm now booked on the "other" Alaska flight to the Bay Area. Unfortunately, that will take me only to San Francisco.

Fun with Rain

Furniture Fun

Tuesday, February 04, 2020

Snow Fall Caboose

The white specks are actually snow flakes. I think this was the first snow fall I saw this year.

Monday, February 03, 2020