Sunday, September 25, 2011

Saturday, September 24, 2011


An afternoon in Rems

There wasn't much water in the river. 

I like the many tones of green.

I never quite realized that his house on Hegnacher Strasse has this bridge mural.

Friendly company on this walk.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Swiss Accuracy

A train is not "about 15 minutes" late in Zurich. It's about fourteen minutes late. And we left pretty much exactly at 15:24...

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Eurowest 2011 BEMO Layout

This is a narrow gauge modular layout usually shown at the annual ETE Eurowest show. The lighting in the exhibition area was very bad, so the video came out a bit dark.


I love the name of these guys. Seen in Zurich.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Thinking of Transit agencies as Welfare Providers ... Really?

The Transport Politic has an interesting discussion about how to look at transit agencies and their respective subsidies. I'm disappointed by the conclusion of looking at transit agencies as welfare providers. Though, it is reality in today's America.

While it's not quite in the american psyche to consider transit as a viable alternative to the car, in the end change comes down to a chicken and egg problem, both in terms of supply and demand, as well as mind set both of planners and users.

Routes planned for today's usage pattern of the poor rarely encourage new users from more affluent neighborhoods. Placing transit stations on the median of freeways tells you something about the relative appreciation of transit users. Poorly timed transfers between transit agencies, and/or disparate fare systems, make using transit very inefficient, and yield nonsense like monster-long urban bus routes (e.g. in San Jose, Route 68 from Gilroy to Milpitas, or Route 22 from Palo Alto to Eastridge).

Furthermore, the true cost of daily automobile subsidies (yes, building roads costs money, too) and their relative cost to society (e.g. traffic accidents) is rarely discussed, and mentioned in the blog post only in passing.

However, I have very little hope that views on this topic will ever change in America. A clean, efficient, and fast public transportation system would be nice, and I'd use it. I guess my only option to experience that (again) would be to move back to Europe.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

"I'll go back to the engine and see what's going on ..."

I stumbled over the Web site a while ago. This is a collection of various radio receivers across the country and Canada providing audio streams of the communication between locomotive engineers and their respective dispatchers. The link above goes directly to the Caltrain page, which is a very busy railroad, so there are a lot of conversations going on. The sound quality of the radio transmissions varies a lot, some are extremely clear, others are choppy and very hard to understand.

On a late Tuesday evening one can hear three active trains: southbound 194 and 196, as well as northbound 197. One hears the engineers announcing arrival at stations, asking and getting track authority, as well as more unusual stuff like setting blue flag protection at San Jose Diridon, people walking on the tracks, or an engine failure of train 197 in Redwood City. "I'll go back to the engine and see what's going on there". 10 minutes later he comes back on, reports that "HEP is down, but the main engine is running again" and then asks for authority to proceed to San Francisco with the engine doors open. The HEP (head-end power generator) provides power for the cars. I.e. 197 is currently running dark with no lights, or air conditioning in the cars.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Danny Macaskill at Ayshire Railway Preservation

Well  worth the time to watch the whole thing.

Kicker scenes:

  • balancing on a rail, ... and jumping to the other 
  • jumping on top of roof supports
  • riding on a crane steel wire

Monday, September 05, 2011

Effect of Cleaning Solar Panels

Saturday Pascal and I cleaned the solar panels. I was curious if there's a measurable effect of the cleaning. Conveniently enough, I have data to look at.

Here's the SolarGuard graph from Friday (which is quite typical for last week), a nicely shaped curved that closely follows light intensity over the day. We're topping out at ~1.3kWh around 14:00.

Here's the graph from Saturday. Starts out quite similar, ... 11:00 - 12:00 the sky was a bit overcast, so there's a drop in production, but when the sun fully came out again after 13:00 our production shot up to peak at just under 1.5kWh.

... and that wasn't a fluke as the graph from yesterday shows:

So, for us it's worth it to clean the panels once during the dry season. Over the winter we get enough strong rainfall to wash off dust and dirt.

Friday, September 02, 2011

Hungry rat causes short circuit at Stuttgart Hbf

Wow, this is hilarious. A hungry rat decided to munch on cables that power platform lights at Stuttgart Hbf plunging the main station into darkness for over 90 minutes.

I wonder if anyone took a photo of the dark main station...

Indeed, there are a few photos floating around. A pretty bad smart phone video can be found at bambuser.

YouTube to the rescue:

It's interesting how, after a few days, more and more content pops up about something as boring as a limited power outage at a train station. First the same article was linked from multiple places, then a few local papers and TV stations published their own versions, and finally user-generated content climbed high enough in search rankings to be actually findable.