Friday, June 29, 2012

Time to go home

This was a really busy week with long hours. The plane for my flight just arrived and it looks like we'll be leaving on time. I'm very much looking forward to being back home and a relaxing July 4th week.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

The Kendall in the rain

View from the office. Those white specs are raindrops.

Hmmm. For some reason over the years I developed this strange fascination with rain. Must be the California sun drying out my brain. Being outside during one of yesterday's thunderstorms was quite exciting, too.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Nice job, 788

Whenever I fly with United, I enjoy listening to the communication with the air traffic controllers on channel 9.

While waiting for today's flight from San Francisco to Boston, I noticed already that the airport was very busy. Lots of planes moving about on their way to and from their parking positions.
Eventually it was our turn for departure, pushed back, and after some taxing lined up on runway 1R ready for departure.

Arrival traffic was super-busy. The controller was talking non-stop, arriving planes were talking over each other…

"One after the other, please" - SFO Tower

Every 45 seconds or so a plane was announcing visual of the bridge and the runway, indicating they are in final approach. Both arrival runways in operation.
I was thinking we're going to sit here for a while, when the tower advised our pilot that there'll be an opening soon.

"United 788. I'll let you out in a little bit. No delay!" - SFO Tower

and a short time later:

"United 788. Cleared for takeoff." - SFO Tower

Immediately, the engines reved up and we started moving. … I looked out the window to the right as we crossed runways 28 and could easily make out 7 planes lined up for landing. One of them really low and obviously close to the runway.

Soon after we went airborne.

"United 788. Nice job!" - SFO Tower
I'm on my way to Boston. Again.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Koef III switching in Talheim

Koef 11251 switches cars in Talheim

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Friday, June 15, 2012

Monday, June 11, 2012

Fifth Operations Session on the Welztalbahn

This session ended up being split over multiple days, because of time constraints and novice operators.

My Dad and Wolfram ran trains based on a light schedule, while I dispatched, and prepped staging on the fly. This wasn't a particularly fluid session, though I think everyone got the hang of it eventually. Wolfram commented later, that he always considered a freight train as one whole, and the act of breaking it up and sorting the cars was a new concept he really enjoyed.

Dad switching in Talheim
As always I learned a few things...
  • Make the control panels less confusing.
    Mixing route control and local controlled switches on the same panel is sub-optimal. In addition many first time operators have trouble correlating the panel schematic with the tracks. Still trying to decide if this is a fundamental problem when folks are unfamiliar with a layout, or if there's anything I can do to make this easier.
    I've seen this on other layouts that use panels, too. It takes a little bit time to map lines in a diagram to tracks, but I can likely improve on the presentation of the panels. E.g. I'm not sure how far I want to go with providing feedback on the hard panels. Switch positions: Definitely... Signals: Maybe... Occupancy: I don't think so.
    A bit more signage and track names/numbers on the panels should be helpful, too.
  • Build panels for hidden staging and make occupancy feedback more fluid
    Controlling the train room computer by Remote Desktop from a laptop is sub-optimal.
  • Better seating
    At least the Emsingen panel is hard to see in it's current location while the operator is standing. An unfortunate side-effect of the Emsingen "control pit".
  • When preparing a session I need to better take into account experience level of operators
    The last few sessions I had a very experienced operator running Emsingen Yard. I ignored how steep the learning curve for this actually is. Both in terms of concepts, as well as being efficient in switching moves.
  • When preparing a session I need to better take into account what operators are interested in.
    Not everyone enjoys switching operations as much as I do, and the layout has sufficient opportunities to keep train activity up (e.g. on operator might be running 2-3 passenger trains concurrently), while another operator might be doing light switching in between those "scheduled" trains.
  • There were a few mechanical problems
    Two dead spots on the down ramp to staging, as well as the pick-up shoe of one engine (BR24) getting stuck at the top of the ramp just before the curved cross-over. I experienced the latter problem around the same time last year with BR50, but then it disappeared and I was unable to track it down completely. I suspect this is related to wood expanding/contracting as the summer season heats up. This time I have a pretty good idea about the culprit and might build something from styrene to guide the pickup shoe over the trouble spot.
Over the course of 2 evenings we ran the 5 scheduled freights, as well as a few passenger trains. 

Saturday, June 02, 2012

Maker Faire Redux

Remember when I wrote how Pascal was fascinated by the pinball machines of the Pacific Pinball Museum? He was totally immersed in the games, the lights, the ball, the flippers...

Today, I came home and Pascal had built his own personal arcade from shoe boxes and cardboard.

Fixing the rotating flipper on the "big" pinball machine. Pascal re-used a motor from his roller coaster for that.

The "first" pinball machine. Ingenious use of pencils as axles. They work very well, by the way.

A proud Maker!

The ball gets flipped up the ball channel with your fingers. The flippers are rotated by hand. The boxes sit on wooden blocks. Love it.