Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Monday, December 30, 2013

Creating a town

I've been struggling quite a bit over the last few months with the town of Emsingen, especially the area I call old town, around the Rathaus (town hall). I wanted the Rathaus and the Rathausplatz (town hall square) to be a focal point, with several appropriate houses grouped around it. I wanted there to be a small farmers market, as well as some depth to the arrangement overall. If you look closely at the Emsingen posts on this blog, you'll notice how the arrangements have changed over the course of the last 15 months.
As I built the town foundation having settled on an arrangement for "new town" I was still unsure whether "old town" will work. I was bothered by the area the houses are set on, and the open space before the Rathaus. I didn't know how to arrange the market stalls. I had been toying with using the small fountain somehow to provide a boundary, but didn't know where I was going with that.

I built the sidewalks for "new town" today, which created a very pleasing feel to the arrangement. As I sipped on some Gluehwein tonight meditating over the setup, I realized that what's missing is structure to the Rathausplatz area and a clear separation of street and pedestrian areas. I settled that streets in old town would be fairly narrow, and -- where I could get away with it due to sight lines -- impossibly narrow to save space and create depth. There would be a narrow street in front of the Rathaus, which creates pressure for the farmers market to squeeze into a smallish space. I built only three stalls, so the need to fit into a small space works to my advantage. A village detailing set (yeah, that is from Faller, too) provided a string of stone railings to define the other side of the market area.

I made a paper template of Rathausplatz (in fact, I made more than one as I tried out alternatives), defined the street and the market area, where the fountain goes, and ... things started to come together.

As I photographed the farmers market, it became clear that the streets in old town need to be cobblestone.

Now the question is: Am I going to make cobblestone streets myself, use my precious Auhagen roman cobblestone that is intended for Talheim in a far away corner that is barely visible, or find regular cobblestone sheets locally?


The new part of town is getting sidewalks. I moved the whole town module to the "art table" in the living room that serves as my workbench during the holidays.

The first sidewalk sheet is glued down at the tree
I figured that a typical city sidewalk is about 10cm high, which works out to about 1.15mm. I have 1/16" styrene sheet at hand, which is 1.5mm. Close enough. I also cross-checked with the houses that have attached sidewalks, like the one on the right. Those are the same height, give or take a a couple tens of a millimeter, i.e. indistinguishable to the naked eye at normal viewing distances.

One hour later, everything is shaped and glued down.
I'm quite happy with how this is coming together. ... Oh, just realized I didn't paint or detail the sidewalks before gluing them down. That might be interesting.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Timesaver rework done for now

I'm itching to get back to working on the town of Emsingen, so I'm leaving the Timesaver in the stable, operational state it is in right now.

Things I did over the last couple days:
  • Added more feeders
  • Reworked half of the tracks to allow more flexibility for automated running
  • Added two more detection sections
  • Ballasted all tracks
  • Minor scenery work
  • Tested tracks and engines
Here's what the Timesaver looks like at this time.

The one track on the switch side ballasted in brown has been this way since my last attempt at ballasting. At the time I had only HO size ballast, and it did look appropriately silly on N-scale track...

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Electronics and ballast done ... almost

Up until now I kept the electronics (USB interface, AIU, BD20) loosely connected in a cardboard box near the Timesaver. Now everything is neatly tucked away under the layout. I'm also using a longer multi-cable for 16V AC and track power, so the NCE faceplate doesn't need to sit in a somewhat awkward corner under the layout board.
The Switchpilot is intended for computer control of the lone turnout in the corner. We'll see how well that works out. I had so much trouble with these units on my home layout that I don't quite trust it yet.

The underside of the layout looks a bit more complicated than it really needs to be. I went a little bit overboard when I wired the turnout switches a couple years ago.

I added extra feeders, including the drops for the new detection zones. Left to do is wire up the second BD20 and test the Switchpilot.

I started ballasting track yesterday, and finished up that mess today. Ballasting can be a meditative experience, but today I just wasn't in the mood, and messed up the half-glued, carefully shaped ballast more than once. It didn't help that the glue didn't want to cooperate today, ... or maybe I was just too impatient.

Friday, December 27, 2013

End of the day

The unmodified half of the Timesaver is ballasted, and the other half has the new track installed.
Now the glue gets to dry until tomorrow.

What's the point of the turnout in the far corner of the segment you ask? - In the office it connects to track that runs across and around my desk. Take a look at the video.

Modifying the Timesaver

The office layout supports automated running. I want to be able to have two trains take turns on the single track section. That requires slight changes to the Timesaver side of the track. While at it, I'm fixing up minor issues with the existing tracks.
Tracks removed

Most replacement tracks are cut and the extra roadbed is glued down.
Waiting for the glue to dry. Time to bring the kids to bed...

Emsingen town foundation, and outlook on 2014

Over the last couple days I finished up the foundation for Emsingen. Getting a smooth road on this somewhat tricky arrangement using a spatula is ... challenging. When the flatter area at the bottom didn't really work out at all, I fell back on Joe Fugate's "building a smooth road with styrene is way too easy" recommendation. It worked out quite well. 
The road surface is too light at the moment, but I'm planning to fix this with some weathering using a light wash and weathering powder when I blend together roads, side-walks, and building base plates. 
Emsingen town foundation. Roads are done and painted.
 When I test-fit the freight shed on the patio yesterday it appeared that the corner of the shed extends onto the access road to the train station. Thus, I ended up taking the whole thing inside for a test setup. It turned out that everything still fits together. It's tight, but workable. I might shorten the loading ramp on the street side a little bit once I get to building the station area.

Removable section of Emsingen set in place and populated with buildings.
A couple things I noticed with Emsingen in place:
  • Freight shed and Bahnhofstrasse are really tight.
  • Need overgrown wall below the houses behind the freight shed. Rocks under Marktplatz need to match color behind Steinle.
  • Somewhat step dip towards the grade crossing is needed. I should have rasped down the street an additional 2mm or so towards the edge.
  • Arranging backyard / garden on the right hand-side in above photo so that the gap will mostly disappear will be difficult. That's actually true for all the gaps. I might experiment with thin styrene "flaps" to cover the gaps at least for the streets.
  • Keeping the whole thing removable and not damaging the foundation or buildings in the process requires some kind of hidden lift-out / lift-in help once scenery is completely built. I'm not sure yet how to do that. Maybe string loops hidden behind houses on the left and right?
  • The next removable section will not be this big.
Finally, an overview shot of the setup as seen from the Talheim operator position.

Emsingen Lokstation, station, and town. Obviously I need to finalize the backdrop.
I plan on completing installation and wiring of lights for the town of Emsingen before I go back to work in January, and maybe even finish basic detailing. Then I'll move back to the engine servicing area, fix the turntable, detail the roundhouse (including a mechanism to open and close doors). Once that's out of the way, I can blend together the two areas, and complete work on the main station area, both street-side and track-side. It'll probably be May or June by the time I'm done with that.

Today I'm taking a break from Emsingen, and work on the N-scale Timesaver instead.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013


Sprucing up an otherwise somewhat boring brick building.

Emsingen town foundation

Now that the base of Emsingen is glued together, it's time to go full out on terra-forming. I'm using various instruments, but the dry-wall saw and a basket rasp proved to be the most effective.
Cutting pink foam is not nearly as messy as cutting styro-foam.
Rough street outlines are drawn in the areas to be terra-formed.
Contours are in. One can see where the main road is going to come down to the crossing, as well as the turnoff to the station. Shaping outside with the shop vac running keeps the mess to a minimum.

Time to even out the road surface. I used spackle paste, but I should have done a first rough coat with Scuptamold or the plaster/vermiculite mix.

Scenery contours going in. I use a plaster/vermiculite mix for this.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Silicon Valley Lines Open House

Hey look! It's me at the Silicon Valley Lines Open House in November.
Behind me are Nowheres Yard on the left and the hump yard on the right.

Matthew is running a long coal unit train past Jacksonville through Igo.  Photo credits Robert Lombardi.

When Robert sent me his photos, I realized I had taken a few with my cell phone as well.

Engineer Pascal and Conductor Franziska running the Passenger Special past the high bridge at Mt. Nichols.

At the end of the day, always the best thing is to have fun with friends.


Sunday, December 22, 2013

500 days

... since the last reboot.

New hard disk is installed, and fsck is chugging away on first boot since the file systems haven't been checked for 657 days ...

Emsingen Marktplatz

Every Tuesday and Friday, there's a small farmer's market on the Rathausplatz in Emsingen. It's very popular with the locals, since they have local, organic fruit and vegetables, as well as liquors and wine.

When I wasn't racing Go-karts this week, I built the market booths, and detailed their offerings.

I took the photo outside in bright sunlight on a temporary diorama.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Closing the gash

What are all these houses doing on the tracks? Looks like the whole town moved! 


It's time to close the opening under the town hall square ("Rathausplatz") and rough in main street down to the station and the track crossing.

The trick here is that the whole town -- all the way down to the freight shed -- will remain removable. Thus in order to avoid a multitude of visible cuts, I'm building one large piece by gluing pink foam sheets between the hardboard supporting the town and the styrofoam piece where the freight shed is located.
This way I can lift out the whole section, and do the messy land form sculpting in the backyard next week. In addition I can build streets and squares for the town, wire and detail everything at the workbench. 

I've never worked with pink foam before, but already am finding it far superior to styrofoam. I'm using DAP Dynaflex 230 silicon caulk to glue the various layers together. There's some foamboard in there as well to get a tight fit.

Monday, December 09, 2013

Addition to the office layout

As part of a bet that I wasn't quite aware of, a co-worker got me "something for your trains", and since it was work, he wanted me to pick an engine for the office layout. Here it is.

Bachmann RS-3 in Western Maryland livery
This is a basic run-of-the-mill Bachmann unit, DCC included. It does need a little bit work as the pickups loose contact in left curves. However, it navigates right curves just fine. I suspect some tab looses contact as the trucks swivel and needs to be adjusted a little bit.

Friday, December 06, 2013

Rain clouds moving in

Looks like we're finally going to get some rain tonight.

Wednesday, December 04, 2013

Emsingen Hauptstrasse buildings

Over the last week I built a bunch of houses for the town of Emsingen. The corner is getting busy.

Different angle looking up from where the main street is eventually going to cross the tracks. Most houses in the new block are relief buildings, so only the front fassade and the roof facing the street are present, while the rear is missing. The only exception are the green house to the right of the tree, as well as the corner house on the left.

These are all built from Faller's 130430 "Relief Houses" kit. I modified the kits only slightly, and applied some gentle weathering. More weathering and patina is needed.