Saturday, August 17, 2019

In the Santa Cruz Mountains

"Colored b/w photo of the beach train to Santa Cruz near Wrights in the early 1930's"
Robert's Vasona Branch layout had an Open House today, I got to run trains, and help direct people. It was a fun day. What else can you ask for?

Friday, August 16, 2019

Caltrain #288 at San Jose Diridon

It's 8:25 on a warm summer evening, just after sunset. Caltrain #288 led by locomotive 915 "South San Francisco" has just pulled into track 1 at San Jose Diridon station. This makes for a nice photo, which would have been nicer if my camera lens had been cleaner.

This is also a quite unusual operational situation:
Track 1 is the Coast Line through track. Caltrain doesn't normally use this track. You'd rather expect Union Pacific freights, and Amtrak's Coast Starlight here.
Speaking off, Amtrak train 14, the northbound Coast Starlight is scheduled to occupy this track from 8:11pm to 8:23pm and it hasn't come through yet, so this Caltrain is really out of place. As I was walking out, Amtrak passengers were at the platform.

I didn't pay close attention when #288 left, but I suspect they took the cross-over to track 2 just before Park Avenue, because only a few minutes after #288 had left, the Coast Starlight pulled into track 1 and my ride home arrived at the same time.

Monday, August 12, 2019

Caltrain #268 near Blossom Hill

Caltrain locomotive #927, an MP36PH-3C, approaching the signals at milepost 560 just south of Blossom Hill station.

Taking the train home

A meeting ran late, so I took the train home. I was a bit early at the Sunnyvale station, and took train #264 to San Jose Diridon. This time I knew where to go, and directed a northbound passenger to the right platform for her departing train. Plenty of time to experiment with low-angle sun light, too. Trains and planes...

#283 on track 3 in the rear, and #385 on track 4
This is photo is probably my favorite: The going away shot of #268 on its way to Gilroy.

Sunday, August 11, 2019

Converting a Peco turnout for Maerklin (5)

Here's the converted Peko turnout leading into the Raiffeisen spur. Compared to earlier builds, I simplified the wiring and the power routing.

Friday, August 09, 2019

Wildlife on the Commute - Blacktail Deer

I took the late bus today and was surprised to see blacktailed deer next to the street. I haven't seen them out this late in the morning before, but hey I'm not complaining.

Tuesday, August 06, 2019

Dave Parks' Cumberland West - Evitts Creek Yard

Tonight I spent most of my time with a view of the hills behind Cumberland, MD. While the session had some hiccups, Evitts Creek Yard was busy with classification work and I had my hands full. Yet there was always time to chat with other operators.

I really appreciate the train line-up and detailed instructions to the Yardmaster about what to do with each train.

Sunday, August 04, 2019

Back in Swing

I found a couple hours this weekend to spend more time with Untergroeningen segment 3 and decided to install turnout motors. When I installed these tracks in a hurry almost 3 months ago, including my very first converted turnout without thinking, I forgot to account for the straight through puko strip design I used around the throw bar there instead of the wire loop I used in later builds.

The track is fed with power from both sides of the turnout, so I could have just cut the etched puko strip at the throw bar. However, that would have required disassembling all track on this segment, since there isn't enough space to get in there with a cutter from either the top or underneath. Instead, I just drilled an off-center hole into the throw bar so that the actuator wire from the Tortoise underneath doesn't collide with the puko strip.

Friday, August 02, 2019

Don Edwards again

I had a meeting in the Sunnyvale office today that I should attend in person, and another meeting in the Mountain View office that I should attend in person. I solved that conundrum by taking the Bay Trail through Don Edwards Wildlife Preserve around the outside of Moffett Field.

A nice way to decompress a bit after a busy week. The many photos I took of birds are all terrible. Need to come back with a proper camera and a long zoom lens.

Sunday, July 28, 2019

Eurowest 2019

This was a new one for me. First time ever that I gave an official talk on a model railroading topic. As far as I can tell, the audience was interested in what I was talking about, and I got positive feedback after the talk. What else can you ask for?

Schwerpunktverfahren in combination with Richtpunktverfahren
I also helped run the HOm layout as in previous years. The MOB FZe 6/6 with the appropriate Pullmanexpress cars was a particularly nice unit to watch traversing the layout. Here it is in Chamby.

I just love this view of the Wright Flyer. A great day with lots of inspiration.

Friday, July 26, 2019

July Ops at Silicon Valley Lines

Train 444 at Mt. Nicholls
Now that I'm back in California, I was able to participate at Silicon Valley Lines operations tonight. What a rush! We had the house full with members and guests. That allowed us to run both yards with two man crews and also run several trains with engineer and conductor crews. After we got everyone organized, first trains started running shortly before 8pm.

First, I drew train 7777 which is a quick "cleanup run" to move cars from Bayshore to Bakersfield and ran it with a visitor as engineer.

Next up was train 444, which runs Windsor - Silicon - Nowhers - Jasper Jct, with substantial switching work in Silicon, and some work in Nowheres. My visitor engineer did a great job, and really enjoyed the challenge.

Train 444 working the cement plant in Silicon
Train 444 in Mt. Marvel after leaving half of our cars in Nowheres.
I finished the evening with train 277, a quick run from Nowheres to Windsor.

Of course, I wasn't the only one running trains tonight. Here's Steve looking after train 443 as he approaches Nowheres Yard limits. Behind him John and Liam with the second section of south-bound train 226 are meeting Dave's north-bound train 840 at Fryton, while Patrick, the engineer on train 320, which is in the siding in Upton, is watching.
In the distance, Bill and Les break down an arrived train at Bayshore Yard. At the same time at least two more trains were working on trackage not visible in this photo.

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

"Good Job ..."

Seen on the way home tonight. Uhm, ...

Sunday, July 21, 2019

"Cookie in a Pot" Experiment Aborted

I was given this lovely butter cookie in sun flower look stuck in a clay pot. A cute idea, but the cookie didn't look that delicious in it's plastic wrap.

So I decided to turn this into an experiment inspired by one of the DVD extras from Morgan Spurlock's "Super Size Me" movie. I was curious to see when the cookie was going to become moldy. I placed it on a shelf at my desk in the office, and waited, and waited, ... I moved buildings and teams within the company and the cookie-in-a-pot came along as a fixture at or near my desk.

When I was cleaning up after the last move, I found it in an unopened moving box. 12 years later with no mold I finally aborted the experiment.

As you can see in this shot of the rear, the cookie was produced in 2007.

Saturday, July 20, 2019

Vasona Branch Shakedown Session

Extra 3444 at the Packing House off Auzerais Ave in West San Jose
I participated in a shakedown session at Robert Bowdidge's Vasona Branch layout today. Since the layout hasn't operated for a while, the idea was to find bugs and gremlins in the layout. It performed quite well for my crew.

The Vasona Branch is one of the first operating layouts I encountered, and it still pulls me in the same way it did 10 years ago. On top of that, Robert is a great host with lots of knowledge of local history.

San Carlos Street viaduct
The layout has a unique mix of busy city switch jobs combined with the rural feeling of the Valley of Heart's Delight into the Santa Cruz mountains  in the 1930's. 

Apricot drying racks between West San Jose and Cambell
This was a very relaxed session with lots of chatting. The time went by very quickly and I think everybody enjoyed themselves. I certainly did.

At Wrights south of Los Gatos

Saturday, July 13, 2019

Aaaand back

Getting up at 5am for an 8:20am flight is so much nicer than 3am for a 6am flight. My mother dropped me off in Waiblingen, I took the 6:10am S-Bahn to the airport and an easy 40 minutes later disembarked less than 100 meters from the check-in counter. For now Stuttgart is still a small airport with short walks. Stuttgart 21 will likely "fix" that convenience.

Boarding was planned for 7:50am, but the inbound flight arrived only by 7:55am. My connection in Frankfurt just got a little bit tighter.

To my surprise we got out of Stuttgart with only a light delay and upon touch down the pilot hit the brakes very hard to catch the shortest path to our parking position in one of the most remote corners of the Frankfurt airport. Since my seat was in the middle of the airplane, I was one of the last people getting off. However, that meant I got to enjoy the ride in the second bus which was not only almost completely empty, but also faster at the terminal than the first bus.

After the usual US passport and security check nonsense I settled into my seat for the long-haul flight to SFO. Along the way I got to observe melting inland ice on the west coast of Greenland.

Isn't that Mount Shasta in the distance?

In the last turn before lining up for final approach into SFO.  Hi, Carl!

Almost home.