Sunday, April 29, 2012


Dark Clouds over Zurich seen from Dolder. Yet, it didn't rain.


The Dolderbahn is a cog wheel railway going from Zurich-Romerhof to Dolder Bergstation. While there's not much interesting up there for tourists (unless you're into super-expensive hotels), the view is quite nice. Here's a shot of the snow covered Alps taken from Dolder Bergstation.


Schloss in Rapperswil 

Yes, we're enjoying ourselves

Glueck gehabt

Saturday, April 28, 2012

A very windy place

The view from Uetliberg was great, though the wind was very strong.

On the way back down from Uto Kulm to the Uetliberg train station.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Sushi Kalifornia

Seen at Zurich HB. Why Kalifornia? 

Creating a Quick and Dirty Operating Scheme

"A"-Town on the right, "D"-Town between the two potted plants
This week I visited Balazs' layout and we made quite some progress on adding industry tracks, sidings, and conceptualizing how running an operating session on his new layout would work. This tabletop layout does support fully automated running, too, so the objective was to add enough operational opportunities to keep a few operators busy and entertained when running the layout in manual mode.

During automated operation, the layout is treated as a mostly double-tracked loop, with two single track choke points and one large interlocking that allows trains to run return loops, or take short-cuts.

Industry tracks are labeled with sheets of paper in "D"-Town
For manual operation, I modified the concept and think of the layout as a single track mainline with sidings. The sidings give operators switching an industry track space to hold cars being switched, as well as a logical hiding place to not block main line traffic.
For each industry track I defined what kind of car type the track would accept. I chose a distribution of car types that roughly matches the fleet Balaszs has. Due to space constraints, most "industries" are single or double track spurs, mostly off sidings. There is one large industry with a more complex track arrangement.

To create a feeling of location, I gave each industry a name, as well as town names (well, the town names are not exactly imaginative: A, B, C, D, E, and F arranged roughly clockwise along the loop of track). Once that was worked out I placed sheets of paper near the tracks indicating location, industry, and what kind of cars the track would accept.

A small, stub-ended classification yard existed already. We added a dedicated track to be used as yard lead to disentangle the lead from the single A/D track.
Industry tracks of "C"-Town and "E"-Town

Now that we had industry locations and respective tracks, it was time to define trains. There are almost 30 car spots, maximum train length is about 8 cars, and multiple operators are expected to work the railroad. There will be local freights, through freights, as well as extensive passenger operation.

I broke up the local freight operations into 3 trains. One would run from the Yard to towns A and B, one would cover towns C, E, and F, and finally there would be a dedicated run to switch the large industry in D.

To extend the length of the runs, and make the job of a dispatcher a bit more interesting, the local freights need to go all the way around the layout between switching two towns. All trains are turns, so the engineers need to pay attention to trailing and facing point turnouts in the industries to switch, and in the worst case run around their train on a siding as needed. For each train I wrote station/loop order on a sheet of paper, so that the operators know what's expected of them.

Car routing works by type of car. If a track asks for a box car, any box car the train brought along from the yard will do. The engineer is expected to keep track which cars he picked up at an industry on the way and make sure to bring them back to the yard. However, even if a car or two slips through, it doesn't really matter that much.

This operating scheme was developed over the course of about an hour, and we ran a session with all 3 local trains, plus classification in the yard the same evening. There's certainly room for improvement and fine-tuning. However, for something that was made up on the fly, I was pleased to see that it worked well enough to give a feel for how switching on the layout could work, as well as quickly identify areas both on the layout and operationally that need further refinement before investing a large amount of preparation time.

Plus, we certainly had fun, both building out industries and track arrangements, as well as operating ... In the end, this is a hobby. Enjoying what you do is the only thing that matters.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Morning Sun

Morning sun behind a house, which is slowly getting torn down, near Binz station.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

The Real Mountain View

Beautiful day with clear view of the mountains

Tuesday, April 24, 2012


Potatoes, Zucchini, Sausage, and ... kangaroo. Not something I expected to eat tonight.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Spring Time in Zurich

Trees just outside my apartment

Sunday, April 22, 2012

airport lunch

Mesquite Chicken Salad with goat cheese and organic tomatoes and greens.
Andale doesn't disappoint. Best food at SFO located in terminal G.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Going for 600 kWh

Now that the sun is finally shining regularly, our PV solar system is busy producing electricity.

In December we topped out at about 10 kWh each day pretty consistently (it was mostly sunny, but cool), for a total of 290 kWh.

In March the total was 430 kWh with a very uneven distribution over the month. Some days saw production up to 20 kWh, some days barely broke 5 kWh.

This month we're already at 390 kWh hitting almost 25 kWh most days, and a third of the month still in front of us. If the weather holds up we could be topping 600 kWh in April.

Last year we produced 600 kWh per month from May to September, and while high energy production in the summer offset the costs of winter usage generating a net negative dollar amount, we didn't get a refund at true up time because we were not a net producer in terms of kWh. Oh well ...

Our inverter reports usage data to Solarcity's SolarGuard monitoring service. The highest grossing month was July 2008 when we produced almost 700 kWh in one month. Our PV system is composed of 22 180W DC panels for a rated peak AC capacity of 3.2kW.

Previous posts covering system installation:
Installing the rails on the roof
Installing the panels
Generating electricity

Monday, April 16, 2012

Steinlehof foundation

Steinlehof is a typical Black Forest farm house. Since the ground has a bit of a slope here, I needed to build up the ground for the house. A nice overview shot of this area is in the posting about building Hochwald.
This patch is for rough leveling of the house. Next up is a bit fine-tuning, patching holes and sharp edges followed by painting and texturing the hill, as well as building part of the access road. I still need a design for a simple wooden bridge across the tracks in the background, and will probably end up scratch-building the bridge from styrene and stripwood.

Last weekend I spent some time to ballast more track. This time the approach to Hochwaldtunnel. Right now, the ballast looks too clean and uniform. I will add more trees and bushes later, along with more weeds to get the effect of overgrown vegetation around the tracks that I see on many photos of the Schwarzwaldbahn. 
Eventually, there will be a small Schrebergarten in the foregound , roughly in the area of where the cup and chisel are located. 

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

More car spots in Talheim

Talheim had a fairly modest amount of car spots, mostly around the Werner & Soehne machine factory, the loading track at Kopper Furniture, and a couple team track spots. Both Werner and Kopper had a simple track arrangement with one turnout. Well, that's changing ...

It all started with admitting that the freight shed I built over the Christmas break just doesn't work very well in Emsingen. It's too small for the traffic, and amount of goods it would be supposed to store. I started looking for another location I could put it at. I needed a spot with a track, road access, and a purpose.

Thus the freight shed became an agricultural supply. The only available spot on the layout was at the end of the Kopper Furniture shelf.

I had a location and a purpose for the building, now I needed the tracks to get there. The simple track arrangement on the shelf became a bit more involved.

Experimental track arrangement around Kopper Furniture
Kopper Furniture continues to be a large operation and will be represented as a modern half-relief building against the backdrop. There will be 3 numbered doors to spot cars at.

The track next to the shed extends all the way into the corner of the room (after I took the photo I also extended the shelf into the corner). The track next to it is a team track, and doubles as access to the sawmill track in the back.

Finally, the stub track branching off the curve towards the wall will get a small loco shed for the resident switching engine in Talheim (maybe a Koef?)

All of this adds a bunch more freight car spots, and it opens up the possibility to originate a switching job out of Talheim, even exchange cars in Emsingen and return. I really need to get more locomotives operational now.

Closing the gap

Odd-shaped hardboard piece to close "the gap"
When I originally built the Talheim station base board, I didn't intend to create the operator pit in the middle of the layout. The area was supposed to become a lake and the Welzbach ("Welz creek"), which gives the Welztal it's name, would provide power to a small watermill. Well, ... that didn't quite work out as planned and when I installed fascia inside the pit, there was a three inch gap between the end of the creek modeled into the station base board and the fascia.

First test-fitting of left-over Hydrocal rocks
Several months ago I built up the hill next to Tiersteintunnel and covered it with masking tape. A few weeks ago, I cut a piece of hardboard to fit the gap, and glued it in place. Last week I started laying out some left-over Hydrocal rocks, and finally today I plastered everything in place (well, actually I used Scuptamold for the last step). Now it's on to add some paint to the rocks and creek bottom.

Hydrocal rocks fit in and set in place with Scuptamold. 
The photo above also shows a close-up of the ballast I added last week.

Finally, an overview shot of the tunnel entrance to staging. I closed the gap in the base board along the tracks, placed some support columns, and added the retaining wall next to the background. The retaining wall is salvaged from my Dad's dismanteled layout, and still needs to get painted. There's a connector for track power for the Emsingen yard tracks, which will be hidden under the boiler house of Werner & Soehne later. 

Tunnel entrance to staging. The two tunnel portals are not visible from this perspective.
Tools and paint occupy the site of the Werner & Soehne machine factory.

Wednesday, April 04, 2012

Monday, April 02, 2012


Before ...

... and After.
Ballasting is not exactly one of my favorite tasks on the railroad. However, I find it gets your mind off things, and just like placing bushes and shrubs, has somewhat meditative properties.

Yep. That's one evening spent on about 3 feet of track.

Sunday, April 01, 2012

Some minor progress

This weekend I continued to work on the bridge:

I added some Scuptamold rocks around the abutments, painted the bridge, and blended colors into the surrounding scenery. I feel like I have a bit too much gray on the layout at the moment and will need to balance that with a lot more green...

Since I'm about to close up the area around the tunnel portals to staging, I had to ballast the second track while I still can get there somewhat easily. I obviously didn't do such a great job on the first track in the front two years ago, since the ballast is coming loose along the embankment.