Sunday, March 30, 2014

Server Surgery Complete

Now that I completed my taxes last weekend, finalizing the server surgery I started around Christmas was next on the list.

Chef II, our trusty home server for the last 7 years, has grown tired. The 500G RAID array is bursting at the seams and the motherboard doesn't have built in SATA, so adding more disk capacity with modern drives was not possible. It was time for an update.

Since eldest daughter is in Germany, Babybaer, her former desktop computer, formerly used by dearest wife, was looking for a new job. I picked up a pair of 3TB Western Digital NAS drives. They are 5400rpm, not exactly super-fast. Supposedly they should last longer in a 24/7 environment. I'm just hoping they are better than some of Seagate's 2TB drives. The new drives have been spinning in Babybaer for the last 6 weeks with no issues. We'll see.

After setting up the hardware, OS, Apache, NFS, etc. as well as synchronizing data over the last few weeks, today I cut over from Chef to Babybaer. I took the opportunity to upgrade pretty much the whole software stack that serves

Recreating the Nagios monitoring configuration took a significant amount of time. I still don't like how convoluted the configuration files are. The console looks pretty, though.

I might enable the rrdtool integration and get some pretty graphs, too. Not that I don't get enough things to monitor at work ...

Friday, March 28, 2014

Challenge Accepted

 It's quite amazing what you can build with basic office supplies.

Some manila folders, push pins, and scotch tape ...

... in a stable arrangement ...

... gets us around the big round pole. To make this a bit more interesting, I also added a tunnel.

View from the side to show the supports carrying the track.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014


Rain was so rare this winter that it's worth it to have another blog entry. This is real rain (also known as "winter storm" in California, or "Landregen" in Germany), and it seems the forecast for the rest of the week is wet. We'll enjoy it while we can.


Now that my desk move in the office is complete, I get to toy with ideas to use features of the nearby furniture and building elements.

The curve could attach to the Timesaver module and run around the pole.

... and connect with track on the cubicle partition wall to go somewhere.

There are some tricky bits with this. I can't make holes into the walls or furniture, and shouldn't intrude into work space of co-workers. Of course, I don't have anything else to do while at work, so should avoid making this too distracting for myself as well :-)

First project:
Find a way to build a sufficiently stable support for the curve around the pole.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Work in progress

 The bushes and small trees are growing on the hillside above the tracks. 

As usual when working in this area, I'm using the Emsingen station tracks to hold the supplies.

Works nicely.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Colorado Railroad Museum: bits and pieces

Rio Grande F9s
The last service of these F9 units was pulling the Denver Ski Train for a couple years in the early 1980's after they retired from the last non-Amtrak long-distance passenger service in the US.

An REA cart used for storage behind the roundhouse
Men at work signs behind the roundhouse

D&RGW narrow gauge stock car

End of the line.

Friday, March 21, 2014

DEN airport art

I'm not quite sure what this is supposed to be, but it reminded me of a certain Fry's store in San Jose.

Colorado Railroad Museum: 12 and 14

Shays are common on narrow gauge lines in the west. I just like the odd appearance and features of those locomotives with the offset boiler, side-pistons and gears.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Colorado Railroad Museum: RPO

CB&Q 254 is a combined baggage / railway post office car. There is no connection between the post-office half of the car, and the baggage section.

The California State Railroad Museum in Sacramento has a full-length, streamlined Great Northern RPO car on exhibit which has been restored very nicely. However, I really liked how the CRM put together the sorting scene in this car.

"No excuses will be accepted..."

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Colorado Railroad Museum: Gooses

The Colorado Railroad Museum has 3 of the 7 "Galloping Gooses" that the Rio Grande Southern (RGS) railroad converted from buses and cars in the early 1900's to make their operations more efficient and cost-effective.

The gooses got their name from the "waddling" appearance when they rode over the  badly maintained tracks...

In the last few years before the line was abandoned the RGS ran tourist trips up into the mountains.

A snowy morning

It's been awhile that I've actually seen real snow fall. Even though this wasn't a big deal by Denver standards, I had a blast...

An hour later the ground looked like this:

Everything was gone by afternoon, and the next day we had beautiful spring weather again.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Colorado Railroad Museum: 318

Narrow-gauge locomotive #318 was built in 1896 by Baldwin and served on the Rio Grande narrow gauge lines.
I went to the Colorado Railroad Museum in Golden, CO this morning. They have an extensive collection of rolling stock and naturally quite a bit of it is narrow gauge. The photos below are details of locomotive #318.

Don't even think about it ...

Springs above one of the drivers

One of my favorites

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Cab view trip on the Welztalbahn

Select the full-screen option to watch in HD.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Going home

On US50 going home.

Thursday, March 13, 2014


After a fulfilling breakfast at Sprouts Cafe in South Lake Tahoe ...
... I drove out to enjoy the views at Emerald Bay.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

On the way to Tahoe

Half-way stop at The Firehouse Restaurant

Re-fueling almost complete

Yes, there is snow on the mountains, but it's not really that much.

cab car

The office railroad has obtained push-pull equipment.

Western Maryland power with Chicago Metra cars... The engine was there first.

Saturday, March 08, 2014

Trees and Bushes

I worked in the backyard most of the day today. Since there wasn't much wind late afternoon, I decided this is a good opportunity to try and make some bushes and low trees to practice for making actual trees.

I'm using Scenic Express' Super Trees as armature and basically follow Joe Fugate's scenery clinic for making deciduous trees.

A couple weeks ago, I pulled some Super Trees out of the box and sorted them into "big trees" and "the rest". After bathing the Super Trees in thinned matte medium (didn't seem to make much of a difference, and I'll likely skip this step the next time), I hung the big trees under the ceiling to dry, and left the bushes and small trees in aluminum tubs. Once they were dry I planted the small trees and bushes into styrofoam sheets. I should have planted them into styrofoam right away, getting them out of the tub unharmed was a bit ... tricky.

Today I took the styrofoam sheets outside and made trees.

Spray the trunks in a light brown, followed by a light smattering of flat black to create some shadows. Then spray glue on 2-3 armatures at a time, and sprinkle medium-green coarse foam on the "tree". Repeat until the tree looks good. I tried to create fairly dense foliage since these trees will be close to the wall at the rear of the layout. Finally, I sprayed the trees with light shots of ColorMaster Basil green spray paint to give the tree foliage a pleasing color and add variation in the green. I finished off the trees with extra-strong hairspray to lock the foam in place.

Using this method it is shockingly easy to produce nice looking trees.

Look for yourself.

Sunday, March 02, 2014

Using Youtube Live Streaming to broadcast an Ops Session

Today's Ops session was available for viewing live on Youtube using Hangouts on Air. The embedded video above is the recording of the session. I haven't edited the recording all, so the first 90+ minutes are me and Balazs chatting, while the microphone was muted. I need to use a different (web) camera. Should do the recording in HD.

Since I haven't operated a full schedule on the layout for a couple months, and rather built scenery instead, there were various issues both mechanical and with the computer control, thus the action in the recording is limited ...

Nevertheless, it was an interesting experiment and I might do this again some other time.