Friday, December 24, 2010

Christmas Eve with the other side

Even though it looks just like a really bad Skype commercial, we had a very enjoyable Christmas Eve chat with the other side, and later found lots of presents under the lighted christmas tree.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Speaking of dinosaurs

The photo might not be 100% sharp, and is a tad grainy, but I very much like how the light and colors play with the dinosaur and the children.

Taken in summer 2009 at "Giganten Argentiniens" in Lokschuppen Rosenheim.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Merry Christmas

2010 is about to wrap up. It was a good year, and I'm looking forward to the holidays and what 2011 is going to bring.

Merry Christmas from all the Becks.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Coyote Valley in the Morning

When I dropped off the kids at school today there was a very nice layer of fog in Coyote Valley. I'm not a big fan of that gas-fired power plant in my backyard...

This is the Coyote Valley I like. Rural, and some like out of this world.

It's hard to believe I'm still within San Jose city limits

Monday, December 06, 2010


I've been fascinated by the backgrounds seen on other layouts. Here is my feeble attempt at recreating the view over the black forest.

Obviously, I'm not done yet, but this corner of the room is starting to come together nicely.

Thursday, December 02, 2010

More progress

The are around Steinle now has earth ground cover and rock walls as planned. The Steinle wall in the foreground became a bit more dominant than I planned for, but I'll tone this down once I had landscaping, grass, bushes, and a small stand of trees on top. In the background I placed some bottle brush trees with my wall painting, and the result effect is better than I expected. Some fine-tuning and this will look nice. The rock walls in the back will get a generous amount of landscaping.

 On the right is Pascal's locomotive. A present he got from his great-grandma. BR 24 affectionably known as "Steppenpferd" (prairie horse) for the somewhat rough ride the engineer and stoker got to experience with those locomotives. It's a nice model, runs quiet and stable, doesn't have too many tiny detail parts that can broken by small hands.

The model has a somewhat unfortunate balance and doesn't put enough weight on the rear axle with the traction tires, so it tends to loose tractions with a moderately long train. I'll try to add more weight to improve traction.

The double-slip switch for Emsingen arrived, too, and got installed. The two main yard tracks now have more capacity, and flow much better. I'm waiting for some spare time to actually run through a full session schedule on the Welztalbahn.

Until then I need to convert the Schienenbus to digital operation, as well as add more weight to the tender of BR50, so that a heavy train doesn't pull the tender off the rails in some edge situations.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Dirt and Rock at Steinle

I'm making progress at Steinle adding dirt (actually a mix of powdered tempera and plaster), as well as coloring the rockwalls. 

The rockwalls are hand-carved, painted with flat grey, and then got treated to a wash of dirty grey and brown to bring out the structure. I also dry-brushed some highlights on the rockwalls to emphasize raised areas of the rock, vs. the niches and crevices.

The dirt on the right is a mix of powered Tempera paint and plaster. In the photo it's still somewhat damp, so I'll know only tomorrow morning whether the color comes out the way I planned. Either way it's an improvement over the brown latex paint I used at Hochwald in the corner.

The backdrop will consist of painted and real trees. I hope to evoke the feeling of a dark forest stradling the edges of the layout, particularly around Hochwald. The painted trees on the left are my very first attempt at painting a forest. I'm quite happy with how they came out, though I will likely end up redoing them, since I'm still missing some distant painted mountains on the backdrop.

I'm using several photos I took on a trip to the Schwarzwaldbahn last year as guidance for scenery, and the backdrop.

Once the dirt is down I can finally rip off the masking take from the track and run trains across the whole layout again. Hopefully some time next week.

The next projects on the horizon are finishing the basic scenery around Steinle, particularly the area on the left side in the picture. Next up is building Hochwaldtunnel to close up the hole barely visible on the right hand side of the picture. In parallel I'll build the access road to Talheim station and close the hole at the bottom of the picture. Then I move on to planting grass, bushes, and trees. 

Other work includes fixing up the trackwork in Emsingen, installing switch machines, and the engine service area including turntable. That'll keep me busy well into next year.

Where is everyone?

It's Black Friday. The malls and stores are supposed to be overflowing with shoppers.

Home Depot and Trader Joe's in Morgan Hill were empty. It was *very* quiet, the cashiers were bored. Actively avoiding the Black Friday madness is a good thing.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Fall is here

Finally, the trees in our street are decked in nice fall colors. They will stay this way for a week or so, and then loose their leaves.

Also, tonight we're having a nice thunderstorm ... WITH HAIL! Yay. Tatjana and I went out on the patio to watch it and pick up some hail corns. Some of them were up to 1/8 inch in diameter. Nice!

Update 11/21/2010:
The local weather radar was knocked out of commission by this storm. "KMUX RADAR HAS EXPERIENCED A WIDEBAND FAILURE. LIKELY DUE TO HEAVY RAINS IN THE SANTA CRUZ MOUNTAINS". I think what they meant to say was "The phone lines are down".

Monday, November 15, 2010

A small fix

Since I'm revising the track plan in Emsingen, Track 5 needs a bit more space. With the card board strip method of terraforming, that is easy to do.

1) Make a rough cut-out for the space you need

2) Fit a cardboard template. It's much easier to fit cardboard to an irregular shape than doing it to plywood directly.

3) Cut the plywood using the cardboard template as a guide.

4) Clean up the plywood for a reasonably tight fit.

5) Mount a scrap piece of plywood under the benchwork, make sure to leave space for switch motors, and glue the new piece in place.

Done. That wasn't so bad.

That G1 on the left is my wireless throttle (using EngineDriver, WiThrottle/jmri, and a LocoBufferUSB). It works well, but the UI is a little bit fidgety, especially for kids, so I'm going to get a Digitrax UT4 which has a big knob for those that prefer physical knobs instead of virtual sliders.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

More base scenery

I'm building up more and more of the scenery base around Steinle. The name-giving rock wall in the foreground has been done for a couple weeks now. The brown area in the background is this weekend's addition. I'm now using powdered tempera to tint the plaster/vermiculite mix and it works a lot better than regular paint.

There will be a little waterfall and creek coming through the hanging bridge, which is currently represented only by a card board stand-in. I will need to build the bridge from scratch. The original idea of building a valley spanning viaduct was abandoned when I realized how puny the "valley" is. There is another bridge I will need to build at the end of the painted tape section in the foreground.

The water from the waterfall will pass under the other bridge in front of the Steinle rockwall (cardboard stand-in just visible on the right hand side of the second photo). Currently that section is missing a "floor" because I somewhat screwed up here. The track is already glued down, and additionally, there is a double cut in the rails just a few inches up from the bridge. Originally, I planned to lay the track here, adjust the ramp for optimum grade, then build a support structure underneath to lock the grade in place, and replace the plywood track section with the actual bridge span. I'm not sure this is going to work as planned, but maybe I have some glorious idea soon.

The left hand side of the second photo shows the reworked loading ramp area of Emsingen station (and a couple of my primitive car cards). I already removed the roadbed of the former yard lead and ramp tracks. The access road to the freight area will cross the tracks between the curved switch and the semaphores protecting track 1 and 2. There is (yet another) cardboard stand-in for the road in the back between the tracks and the wall. I'm planning to hide the seam between road and wall by placing a truck on the road as view block.

Vegetation-wise I'm thinking of bushes and trees along the edge and wall, as well as dense trees overhanging the creek bed above the hanging bridge. To the right the trees and bushes will become denser as they join the forest of Hochwald in the far right corner of the room.

The whole arrangement is a little bit tight clearance-wise because there is a track running in tunnel along the wall under the hills. There is yet another pantograph catcher hidden in the hills to ensure pantographs of electric locomotives don't catch on the scenery from below.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Despicable Me

Yes, this is not exactly a new movie (it was released in July), but Tatjana and I had a great time.

Villain Gru fights for being the biggest villain of all, and 3 orphaned kids are key to accomplishing his master plan.

I loved the characters. Gru is a grumpy with a soft streak. Very nicely done. The minions supporting Gru in his underground shop are hilarious. And the kids, ... well, they are just too cute :-) I won't tell the story, go watch the movie yourself. This is great movie for kids, not too scary, quite some action, and very funny. The DVD will be out by the end of the month.

We saw it at BlueLight Cinemas 5 in Cupertino, which appears to be the only theatre in the South Bay still playing this delightful movie. BlueLight is in a somewhat run-down shopping area right next to DeAnza College on Stevens Creek. It's a really small complex, simple, and friendly. I like that a lot better than the big megaplex at e.g. Oakridge. The seats were comfy, the theatre clean, the floor not (!) sticky, and the sound volume was reasonable. I guess, no crowds also means that this theatre is probably just barely getting by. Too bad.

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Now that's some seriously crooked track

Here's a blog entry that shows what effect earthquake surface waves can have on rail infrastructure. Fascinating.

Monday, November 08, 2010

Caltrain at Night

Caltrain is the busiest passenger service in San Jose. I think all others (Amtrak Capitol Corridor, ACE, and Amtrak Coast Starlight) together don't even have a quarter as many runs daily as Caltrain. Nevertheless, as popular as Caltrain is, the railroad is on the brink of bankruptcy, so we'll see how much longer it stays in operation in its current form.

Train #266 has just arrived in San Jose Track 4. In the distance is the signal bridge at the Alameda. Interestingly, the northbound signal is already showing green for train #383, even though #372 is still arriving on Track 3. Do those signals just show that the block ahead is not occupied? I think the dwarf signal for #383 at Track 2 was still showing red when I took this photo.

South-bound Train #266 becomes north-bound #189 in an hour. The engineer checked the controls and made sure everything is in working order, ... and then he took off and got dinner.

Train #383 on Track 2 is still showing the red tail lights from its earlier arrival, even though it will depart in 10 minutes. #372 just arrived on Track 3 and will become #287 soon, while #189 on the right will be here for another half hour. Amusingly, it's the only one already set and ready to go.

Sunday, November 07, 2010

I hate hard drives

This time the drive in the layout computer died. And the last backup has been a while ago. *sigh*

On the positive front, I build the fascia in the somewhat unusual place smack in the middle of the layout. Adding edges to the scenery nicely frames the three-dimensional picture we're building.

Saturday, November 06, 2010

A primitive car routing system

Now that I placed the Welztalbahn into context, I can move on to send freight cars around. For the basic job of testing the track arrangements in Emsingen, and most of the layout inaccessible from Emsingen, a simple routing system is more than sufficient.

For each freight car in this rotation, I defined a spot on the layout (e.g. loading ramp Emsingen), and an off-layout destination. I wrote these on a small scrap of paper and placed it either next to the car, or in a stack of such papers representing yard tracks in Emsingen. Then I went to work with a switcher and collected cars in Emsingen, going north to be picked up by the Ng from Freiburg. Once ready the Ng enters Emsingen, the switcher pulls cars off from the end, and replaces them with cars going north. The Ng pulls out of the station, and the switcher prepares for the Ueb to Talheim, and goes on its way.

Now it's time to fiddle cars. Replace the cars on the Ueb with cars from Talheim, and on the Ng with cars coming from Hausach to Emsingen.

The Ueb returns from Talheim, the cars get sorted, and the switcher prepares for the Ng going south, replaces the respective cars, and then it's time for fiddling the Ng again.

The end-result of this exercise:
  • Once again, I'm amazed by how much more one is drawn into the game when what you are doing has a (pretended) purpose.
  • I had a lot of fun, and time was flying by quickly.
  • Oh yeah, the modified track arrangement works nicely, too.
I can't wait to get done with plaster in the Steinle area, and be able to run trains across the whole layout again. Once the kinks are worked out, I'd love to try this with a second operator. Since space is very limited in the train room, my operating scheme doesn't need to support more than two (or at absolute maximum, three) operators.

Introducing the Welztalbahn

So, I need to test the yard and freight arrangements in Emsingen.

And I still have the tracks around Steinle covered with tape. Just moving cars around in Emsingen didn't sound too interesting, or useful, so I came up with a schedule of trains I could run on my layout, which also happens to more firmly place locations on the map.

To recap, Emsingen and Talheim are located along the fictional Welztalbahn in the south-west Black Forest. The Welztalbahn provides the shortest link from Freiburg to Hausach on the Schwarztalbahn and on to Stuttgart, via Kinzigtal and Gaeubahn. North of Emsingen, an unelectrified branch line serves the Prechtal.

Even though the Welztalbahn is electrified and built out as a single track mainline, due to its tight curves and steep grades it has lost considerable interregional traffic to other routes in the region.
If you take a look at a map of the south-western Black Forest region, you will notice the real-world Elztal, and its respective rail line. My Welztalbahn is located in the same area, but does include the planned but never built track to connect Elztal with Hausach on the Schwarzwaldbahn. Hence providing an excuse to run heavy freights, and regional passenger traffic. Only Emsingen and Talheim are actually modeled, the remaining destinations mentioned below are represented by staging.
Nevertheless, there are several regularly scheduled regional trains on the line, plus local traffic.

There is at least one daily Eilzug Stuttgart-Freiburg and back.
Commuter service runs between Emsingen and Freiburg. There is local service from Prechtal to Emsingen using a Schienenbus and, during commute hours, on to Freiburg.

Two pairs of heavy freight trains are regularly seen on the Welztalbahn. An oil tanker train running from Basel to Freudenstadt and returning empty, as well as a gravel and rock train from Schramberg to Freiburg, returning empty.

A local freight (Nahgueterzug, Ng) services Emsingen once daily. It arrives from Freiburg in the morning, and returns from Hausach late in the afternoon. The industries in Talheim are serviced with a transfer run (Uebergabe) from Emsingen, i.e. the Ng drops cars for Talheim in Emsingen.
Of course, aside from providing visual interest, the purpose of the passenger and freight trains is to make the job of switching the Ng and Ueb a bit more challenging, since the through track, and sometimes even the house track in Talheim and Emsingen need to be kept open for passing trains. This is particularly challenging in Talheim, due to limited trackage, where I usually end up using Track 2 to temporarily hold cars while switching. 

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Happy Halloween

Revisiting the Emsingen freight area

When switching trains in Emsingen a few problems became apparent over time, that I didn't really think of when designing the freight tracks:
  • Most of the industries face the yard tracks, so the run-around gets a lot more use than I envisioned when planning the station tracks.
  • The run-around was designed for one or two car operation. This is too short. Yes, I kinda knew that going in, though didn't expect that it would be this annoying.
  • After moving one yard track to Track 3 when building Emsingen, I realized that Track 3 is used much more often for switching moves, than Track 4 and its dedicated pull-out extension, which turns out to be too short. 
  • Due to the way the track arrangement worked out, I had to plan the loading ramp of Track 3a into the triangle between 3a and the pull-out extension. This one always bothered me since there isn't really that much space to model anything interesting around the loading ramp.
  • There's a wicked S-curve when switching cars to Track 4 and 5 (the "yard"), that caused some trouble with a few short-coupled freight cars.
In other words, enough reasons to revisit the track arrangement in Emsingen once more. While I did build out the cork roadbed already, and parts of the approach are already glued down, most of the track is not. 

Here's my latest experiment. First the left hand side, then the right hand side.

Track 1, the house track, is at the top of the picture (with the slim platform), and will be used mainly for passenger operations, and as passing siding. The "switch to nowhere" will eventually connect to the engine service facility.

Track 2 is the mainline track. All through trains and most freight trains will use Track 2.

Track 3 is the arrival/departure track for local freights that begin and end in Emsingen. Freights that pick up or drop cars might stop on Track 2 and block the main while cars are switched out, and dropped on Track 3 (either by the road engine or a switcher. The right hand half of Track 3, including the extension on the right is used as yard lead.

Track 4 at the bottom of the picture serves as round-around in the middle, yard track on the left, and will have the loading ramp on the right (near the green tank car).

Track 5 is the yard track on the bottom left of the lower picture.

The changes compared to the previous arrangement can be seen by looking for empty cork roadbed, and temporarily placed track.
  • On the left-hand side, I will extend the yard track length of  Track 4 and 5 by replacing the two left-hand switches with a double-slip switch. This increases capacity by 30% on those two tracks to about 33 inches total track length (or 7+ cars each), and gets rid of the double S-curve when switching Track 5 from Track 3.
  • A side-effect of that change is that I need to build up a little bit more plywood to support Track 5's curve at the switch. Otherwise, the track hangs in the air...
  • On the right hand side, the changes are even more severe. I dropped the dedicated yard lead completely (empty cork roadbed at the bottom of the picture), flipped the direction of the run-around switch, and installed a double-slip switch replacing the switch on Track 3 towards Track 2.
  • The loading ramp track now runs parallel to the other tracks and becomes an extension of Track 4. The loading ramp itself will now sit at the bottom of the picture (right where the little cardboard sign "Rampe" is located), and I can make use of the freed up space to model some loading scenes (whatever that's going to be...)
I think the revised track arrangement flows a lot better, looks more prototypical, and is even more practical. I will find out if the latter is true by switching a bunch of trains on these new tracks.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Building basic scenery at Steinle

That big hole in the lower right corner of the layout was always meant to be covered by a "mountain". I considered various alternatives, some corny (mountain with castle), some more or less practical (put a street with an off-line industry there), but I finally settled on a Black Forest farm house with a few outbuildings, and a large cow pasture by the tracks. This area is now called "Steinle" for the distinctive rock formation behind the farm house. A small service road crosses the tracks behind the farm house on a bridge and disappears into the forest at the back drop.

To build up the area, I formed a web of cardboard strips glued together with hot glue. In terms of scenic features from left to right, there will be an overgrown rock face, some trees and bushes on top of the hump, then the farm house and the cow pasture in the lower section towards the tracks.

The area in the back corner is now know as Hochwald ("high forest"). The backdrop will be painted to represent forest, and I'll try to build up a forest edge along the ridge. In my infinite wisdom I built the cardboard web over the access hole, so reaching into the far corner for scenery work is now somewhat challenging ... Getting to the track to deal with derailments is unproblematic, though.

The cardboard lattice gets covered with masking tape (Kreppband). I painted the tape with acrylics wall paint so that the plaster in the next step holds better to the underlayment. The depression in the brown hill formation at the backdrop is where the service road bridge will span the track and lead into the forest.

The Hochwaldtunnel on the right will be surrounded by rock face above the tunnel portal and on the right along the wall. I will make a cardboard template and build the wall, tunnel portal and tunnel lining off-layout, so that I can slip the finished piece in place and hopefully just need to touch up and plant the edges where it connects to the surrounding scenery.

To cover the cardboard strips and further build up the scenery I'm using a mixture of 3 parts water, 4 parts Plaster of Paris, and 4 parts Vermiculite, as well as a little bit brown paint. The vermiculite adds volume and a nice texture to the plaster, and the paint tones down the stark white of the plaster.

Of course, working in the train room with plaster is always a bit messy, so I covered the tracks with blue painter's tape. Given the rain and somewhat cold temperatures lately it took almost a week for the plaster to completely cure and dry out.

Five Little Pumpkins

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

ALEKS on Linux - It works.

ALEKS is a math homework and exercises web site, that is used at colleges, high schools, and some middle schools. And Tatjana's teacher is using it, too.

ALEKS uses a Java "plugin", i.e. a jar file that gets loaded into the jre lib/ext directory, in the browser to speed up various pieces of their functionality. And, as is not uncommon for commercial entities, they only support Macintosh and Windows with their software. For Linux they at least provide short instructions on their Web site, "for experts only". Unfortunately, the instructions are plain outdated.

Furthermore, ALEKS only works with the Sun/Oracle Java Environment. Using OpenJDK leads to endless frustration while trying to use the software. Controls don't show up. It's dog slow. Javascript-Java integration doesn't work, etc. etc. etc.
Here's what I ended up doing on an Ubuntu 10.04 LucidLynx system:

- Uninstall OpenJDK:
$ sudo apt-get delete openjdk-6-jre
- Add the Ubuntu partner repository to the configuration (see Lucid release notes):
$ sudo add-apt-repository "deb lucid partner"

$ sudo apt-get update
- Install the Sun Jave Runtime environment
$ sudo apt-get install sun-java6-jre sun-java6-plugin sun-java6-fonts
- Find the location of the extensions directory
$ find / -path '*lib/ext'
This yielded /usr/lib/jvm/java-6-sun- for me.

- Copy the downloaded Aleks jar file to the right extensions directory:
$ sudo cp aleksPack10.jar /usr/lib/jvm/java-6-sun-
- Restart Firefox, go to, login, and voila ... it works.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Another one of these

For those of you who don't enjoy watching track out the front of a railcar, don't even bother clicking on the video above. Go, read some other blog, or check out the latest updates on Facebook.

For the single reader still with me:
Die Aufnahme entstand im Sommer 2009, nach Besuch in der Wilhelma und dem Stop an der Rosensteinbruecke. Wenn ich solche Aufnahmen mache, schauen mich andere Fahrgaeste oft an wie einen bunten Hund, ... oder vielleicht ein armer Spinner. Die Fahrzeugfuehrer scheint es nicht weiter zu stoeren, wenn ich ueber ihre Schulter filme. ... Oder sie halten mich auch fuer einen armen Spinner. ... Damit kann ich leben.

Mir gefaellt es wie die Strecke von Wilhelma bis nach Neckargroeningen aus dem Grau der Stadt, ins Gruen des Umlands fuehrt.

Erst durch die Stadt am Neckar entlang, dann das Kraftwerk Muenster, und Hofen. Am Max-Eyth-See wird es gruener, und auf regulaerem Bahnkoerper geht es zwischen Baeumen entlang. Nach Muehlhausen geht es auf dem neuen begruenten Bahnkoerper am Hornbach und Betriebshof vorbei wieder durch viel Gruen, bis zur Endhaltestelle in Neckargroeningen.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

JFK Airtrain

The JFK airtrain is a fully automated, driverless people mover. No driver means passengers can watch out the front window and film the track with their crappy cell phone cameras. This seems to be a fairly popular thing to do given how many variants of this can be found on Youtube. My version is below.

I used Youtube's video editor to compile the video from 5 segments, added transitions and a soundtrack.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Model train stores in Manhattan

When traveling I like to visit hobby shops that carry Maerklin simply because there are no decent such shops around where I live. Yes, the sticker prices tend to be a bit higher than for the same item on the Internet, but nothing beats looking at the actual thing before buying it.

Case in point: The Red Caboose and Gotham Model Trains. The stores are located between Rockefeller Center and Penn Station, so easy to stop by while playing tourist.

The Red Caboose is a New York institution, and quite an experience. The store is located in a basement. The shelves and display cabinets are stuffed to the brim with material. Locomotives, cars, landscaping, accessories, track, books, ... At first glance there doesn't appear to be any logic in how items are organized, but after spending a little time it becomes apparent that "like" items are located near each other. E.g. all Maerklin inventory (and there's quite a selection), is within a 5 feet section of shelves, and displays. I use the term "Display" loosely here, since some of the shelves hold models stacked on top of models -- no boxes! Some fell down from a higher level in the display, and stayed where they landed.

Did I mention dusty and cramped? The fascination of this store comes from the fact that this is a collectors dream. Lots of old (sometimes very old) items, very narrow aisles (in some areas I wasn't able to turn around with a backpack on my back), lots of stuff to sift through, ... but boy, this store is dusty and messy. There was dust on boxes, wood shavings on shelves (probably from installing additional shelves), landscaping material stacked on the floor, boxes hanging from hooks in drywall, or wood frames. Obviously, this is not about presenting model trains, but to have a *huge* inventory of vaguely hobby-related stuff.

I did find a model of BR212 (a locomotive I coveted for a while now, since it nicely fits in with the theme of my layout). It's a good looking model, though unfortunately, it was from Maerklin's Hobby series, analog, and had the old style 3 rotor LCF motor. That kind of motor already gave me lots of trouble when digitizing other locomotives. The amount of dust on the box indicated that this locomotive had been in the store for a while. There was no price on the box, so I low-balled an offer (given the amount of trouble I will need to go through to make this run on my layout). The otherwise very nice owner, was almost offended, and after looking up the dealer price in a price list from 2002 (!), suggested that this model wouldn't be right for me. Actually, he was right.

In contrast, Gotham Model Trains is a very nice, small, and clean store on the 13th floor of an office building. There's a small operating layout in the store, display cases, that show the models. Shelves with neatly stacked boxes of cars, organized by manufacturer, car type, system type, and scale. While they didn't keep nearly as much inventory, most of it consisted of recent models at a fair price, where I knew they hadn't been sitting on a shelf somewhere for 10+ years. They don't seem to have a lot of foot business (no wonder, given the lack of advertisements on the side-walk), so the store was mostly empty when I visited. Had I not googled for [model trains] on I would have missed it.

The staff and the owner were super-friendly, and when I left, my backpack was full. I got a set of 6 tank cars, that looks very good behind my BR50, as well as 2 "Schuerzenwagen" passenger cars. No BR212, but I'll keep looking...

Update 2015/12/01:

Looks like The Red Caboose is still around, but Gotham Model Trains is no more. 

Saturday, October 09, 2010

Return from Top of the Rock

Looking up into the elevator shaft while returning from the top of the Rockefeller Center.

Top of the Rock

Today I walked the streets some more, and ended up at Times Square. NBC/Universal has studios with large windows to the side walk there, and I wanted to watch how they film stuff. Turns out that they pulled the curtains. Oh, well. And here I was again next Rockefeller Center. I bit the bullet, and paid my $21 to get to the observation deck. The view is truly impressive. The pictures don't do it justice.

Looking south over Manhattan, and New York harbor . I really like the commanding presence of the Empire State Building in the sky line.

Me and Central Park. ... Sorry, I'm in the way ...

Yeah, that's better.

The lower level of the Observation deck. Notice the interesting variations in roof architecture with the buildings below.

6th Avenue was closed for traffic today, in favor of a long street fair with arts & crafts, and pretty good food.

More exploring at night

After dinner we walked the streets some more, and ended up at the Rockefeller Center. There was nothing going on at Radio City Music Hall, but the neon lights are always a nice in the darkness.

The Rockefeller Center main tower with the "Top of the Rock" Observation Deck on the roof top.

Another fun example of neon light effects. This is an office building lobby... 

Grand Central Station Main Hall. A very nice hall. Fits the name of the station well.

However, going through a door to the station platforms, you basically enter the basement. Yes, station platforms tend to be somewhat ugly, but here the difference is so sudden and rough, that it hurts.

Friday, October 08, 2010


What is it with New York drivers? My room is on the 8th floor, with windows to 7th Avenue. All night long, and day, too, there is some idiot down there on the street blaring their horn. Wherever you go in this city, the sound of honking horns is with you. It's a constant background noise, sometimes pushing itself into the foreground because some bonehead is particularly impatient about the driver in front of him, a truck making a turn, a construction worker holding up a stop sign, or they are standing just at a red light.

It's a mystery to me why people would honk at a red light. Seems to happen all the time here.

Thursday, October 07, 2010

Exploring New York

Thanks to our tour guide Tristan, we got to see a few unusual sights.

These big wheels where powered by a steam engine in the basement of a house near Broome & Mulberry Streets and drove printing presses. It must have been quite an experience when they were still in operation.

These three guys are at home in Rockefeller Park on the Hudson River. The monkey is easy to spot in the park. However, the cricket and worm are actually a mere 2 inches tall.

View from Rockefeller Park across the Hudson River to Hoboken, New Jersey.

Apparently I'm not the only one admiring the sunset. This is the best photo I have of the Statue of Liberty. While we did take the Staten Island Ferry over to ... you guessed it ... Staten Island, the movement of the boat, and fading light made taking pictures from  the ferry quite pointless.

I do love this picture of the Staten Island Ferry Terminal after our return to Manhattan, though.