Friday, February 27, 2015

Working in the mountains

Train #216 crosses Small Creek at Mount Nichols on its way from Nowheres Yard to Bakersfield during today's Silicon Valley Lines Operations session.

Yes, I like taking photos at Mount Nichols. Big Creek bridge is just to the left of this photo.


Snowfall is in the forecast for today. We're leaving and heading back to the Bay Area with some snow flakes in the air.

High-quality food for hungry travelers

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Winter Water

Eagle Lake

Eagle Creek

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

No snow, but ...

Lunch at Ten22 in Old Sacramento. That Calzone was quite good.
View from US50 south. Not much snow, sadly.
In exchange, we saw two bears rummaging through the garbage at the house next to our cabin

Monday, February 23, 2015

Flooring: Finale

Grainy photo, but it's the only one I have with the room not quite moved in yet. Either way, the occupant is visibly happy.

Here's a timelapse video of me installing the flooring.

Monday, February 16, 2015


The people have to go somewhere. Since the BRAWA cars still need their interior lights installed, I changed my mind and put the first batch of people into the Schienenbus (Maerklin 39987).

That presented two problems:
  • First, I couldn't remove the Schienenbus shell. Hmmm, ... sensing a pattern here.
  • Second, I have no sitting train driver ("Lokfuehrer") figures that would be appropriate for a diesel powered rail car.
Trailer car with shell removed
After some research, it turns out removing the shell is quite easy:
The floor of the trailer is merely squeezed into the shell and can be taken out with careful wiggling back and forth.
The motor car is a slight bit more involved, since the shell is made from metal and doesn't flex as easily as the trailer car. There are depressions near the axles along the edge of the floor. Insert a screw driver in the depressions and carefully pry the floor from the shell.

In either case, seats and interior lighting are mounted on the floor and populating them with the usual foot and leg amputations on the passengers was accomplished reasonably quickly. I found that after a dozen figures or so I got the hang of it and became quite fast. That's also when I reached the end of the passenger supply.

Seated passengers held in place with Blue-Tac
For the Lokfuehrer I ended up repainting a passenger with a more official looking uniform jacket in the one case, and a grey sweater in the other case.

The control stand pops out from the shell and makes it easy to fit the Lokfuehrer in his chair.
Trailer car put back together
The other Lokfuehrer.
While at it, I followed a photo of a real 798 control stand to paint controls and give the impression there's more than just a blue injection-molded piece of plastic.

Wait ... Two Lokfuehrer? ... Yep. Since the Schienenbus is operating both forward and backwards during operating sessions, I want a driver at a front of the train, which requires that I install two drivers. Let's blissfully ignore the fact that one of them will look out of the rear window... 

Sunday, February 15, 2015

BRAWA 0485 Koef II 323 874-8

I have a weakness for the diminutive Koef II locomotives. Wikipedia has some nice background on them.

This specific BRAWA model of a modernized Koef II has been in its box for many years. I took it out tonight to measure the inside of the cab for dimensions of a decoder I could put in there. While I failed doing that because I couldn't get the roof off as the instructions say, I used the opportunity and took some photos.

The model has no head or tail lights. Warm-white LEDs in a tiny form-factor were not yet a thing back in the 80's when I got this model as a Christmas present. The cab is filled with a comparatively bulky relais required for changing direction on Maerklin tracks.

I do remember that it wasn't a great runner due to its stiff axle arrangement and short wheel base.

The loco is so short that the Maerklin-typical pick-up shoe barely fits under the locomotive.

Koef II arrives in Talheim with a transfer
Update March 1st, 2015:
I figured out how to get the roof off.

Fun with electronics

Pascal has been building various electronics circuits lately. This one was the most colorful so far. It combines various styles of blinking LED circuits.

The board with the LEDs under a water glass

Putting a water glass over the blinking LEDs creates some very cool effects.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Flooring: Hallway Done

It's only February, but the holiday entertainment project is still going strong. At least we threw out our Christmas tree two weeks ago already... 

The dreaded bathroom transition
Fitting in the last board under the door jambs to the bath room was ... worthy of colorful language. So many angles to worry about and nothing wanted to fit together. The transition piece doesn't quite reach to the level of the bathroom tile floor by about 1/8th inch. Otherwise, I'm quite happy with how this part came out in the end.

Stair nose
The dreaded stair nose transition wasn't quite as awful as I feared. I cut the last row of boards at the top of the stairs only twice.

I should have spaced the screws evenly across the stair nose. Yeah, you can't tell that the gap between screws 1 and 2 matches the gap between screw 3 and 4. Your eye is offended by the fact that the center gap is smaller than the gaps to the left and right. This bugs me, but I'll redo it only if I can't get the (still missing) carpet transition properly attached.

One bed room left to do.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

The President is coming to town

The radio is full with reports that President Obama is coming to the Bay Area, and will be landing at SFO in a few minutes. Normally, he's landing at Moffett Field in Mountain View.

I wonder what kind of problems Air Force One landing at SFO would create ...

Looks like they are holding all incoming commercial flights for at least 30 minutes. Hmmmm, ...

Oh yeah! Look at all those planes circling above the Central Valley, ... and above Point Reyes, ... and above the Monterey Bay.

There's a heavy flight landing at Oakland right now (the popup doesn't show in the screen shoot: it's a FedEx MD11 from Memphis), and the lined up incoming flights to San Jose at the south end of Silicon Valley are easy to see, too.

Sunday, February 08, 2015

11th Ops Session on the Welztalbahn

Ng 83 721 has just left Emsingen station and is passing Steinlehof on its way north towards Hausach
I haven't run a full operations session on the Welztalbahn since session 10 with Stefan last October. The trains were staged for a while, but other projects took precedence.

Sascha came by today to take a look at the layout and while we talked about switching, I suggested to just run a session and try it out. To my delight Sascha was game and a short time later trains were running.

The session ran well with only minor issues, like me running the same red signal twice (with different trains), a broken coupler that ended up causing a derailment in the tunnel to staging, and patches of dirty track in the engine facility and industrial tracks, despite my recent efforts to clean.

Things to add to the to-do list:
  • Change schedule to return the Ueb from Talheim to Emsingen earlier. Now that there is a local switcher in Talheim, the Ueb doesn't have nearly as much to do in Talheim as it used to.
  • Figure out why BR211 trips the short circuit protection on the double-slip switch at Emsingen's loading area.
  • Fix broken coupler.
  • Think about to how introduce "events" that require response from the operators (e.g. engine failures, etc), primarily to keep experienced operators entertained..
We ran the full schedule in just over 2 1/2 hours. A nice way to spend a Sunday afternoon.

Thursday, February 05, 2015

You can never have too many clamps

Gluing shim to stairnose

Waiting for the bus

Beating the sun to the bus stop

Sunday, February 01, 2015

Flooring: Hallway

Well, I didn't manage to finish today. How long could it possibly take to put laminate in a 12x4 ft hallway? More than one weekend, it turns out. Crooked subfloor and German genes are to blame. Once again, I ran out of daylight for the table saw, but I did get the floor on one end completed.