Sunday, January 31, 2016

Sunset at the end of a great weekend

After spending almost 7 hours running trains, a small group gathered at Roccos Bar & Grill for dinner before we hit the freeway to head back home. We got to see a nice sunset over the Colusa County Courthouse. Good food and conversation topped off a great weekend.

LD/Ops SIG meet 2016 - Operations Session

Sunday morning ... time for more driving.
This photo is on Lone Star Rd between Arbuckle and Colusa about halfway between Sacramento and Redding. In other words: In the middle of the Central Valley. Google Maps suggested this route instead of taking I-5 to Williams and then cutting over to Colusa. Maybe a little bit faster than taking the freeway, and definitely a lot more fun.

I arrived early in Colusa, so I drove a bit through downtown to see if I could maybe find an open local cafe to get some more coffee. No such luck, but I got to see what all that rain from the last few weeks has done to the Sacramento River.

Arriving at Walt Schedlers Southern Pacific layout, I took a look around the room before the ops session started. This is an impressive layout. 4 levels around the walls, plus a multi-level peninsula.

The layout depicts the SP main line along the upper Sacramento River from the Central Valley through Dunsmuir up "the hill" to Mount Shasta station and beyond.

Walt has done a nice job building up scenery, including inventive ideas working around the roof support structure. This beam surely can't be moved for the railroad, so it gets incorporated into the layout!

Along with Gene (deep in thought about the next moves in the photo below), I got the McCloud River Railroad / Mt. Shasta Yardmaster / Operator job. We spent most of the session shuffling cars between the McCloud RR main yard in the foreground, McCloud Lumber, and the yard in Mt. Shasta with the interchange to the SP mainline in the middle of the photo next to Gene.

Walt has an intricate system for the operations paperwork, which includes a sequence schedule and switch lists for the various jobs and assignments on the railroad.

Later in the day, I got to run the "Klamath Falls Merchandise - West" (KFM-W), from Klamath Staging to Dunsmuir South Yard. Here we are south of the Cantara Loop running alongside the upper Sacramento River.

This was a very enjoyable session on a big layout with a great host and everyone had a good time.

Saturday, January 30, 2016

LD/Ops SIG meet 2016 - evening layout tour

After dinner we visited 3 layouts in the Sacramento area.

We started at Bill Burg's layout depicting the Sacramento Northern in Sacramento, not far from R Street. This is a great shelf layout built in segments over time. Bill spends a lot of effort to build and landscape each segment before he moves on to the next, and it shows in complete highly detailed scenes.

It was a joy to wander around in this small basement room and to keep finding ever more details.

Even Bill's open staging yard is sceniced. Looks great. The Sacramento Northern was electrified. Bill's approach to suggest catenary wire without actually having it works well in reality, but doesn't quite come out in the photos. This way the caternary doesn't interfere with clumsy hands doing switching moves.

Next, we drove out to Folsom to see Tom Weissgerber's Union Pacific layout. Again, we were greeted by beautifully crafted scenes, but this time in a large layout.

The aisle of the layout room is dark while the layout is well lighted. This theater effect really makes the layout pop and appear even more impressive. The valance hanging from the ceiling is painted hardboard and is very effective in hiding the layout lights. Tom is on the left in the photo below.

Scenes abound all over the layout. I especially appreciated the random clutter and junk Tom used to bring many scenes to life.

Here's a nice example of how to add more staging in a non-intrusive way: a narrow shelf along the wall. When I'm standing straight in front of the layout, this shelf is far enough towards the back that it doesn't block the view of the lower level, yet is easily accessible.

One section of the layout depicts the Columbia River Gorge with impressive scenery and sheer rock faces.

Tom included some historic vignettes in the layout, too. Here's an old flume, now surrounded by pasture and cows.

We finished the evening at Robert Hoffman's Santa Fe Hereford Sub layout in Elk Grove. Compared to the earlier layouts there is not as much finished scenery here, so I took less photos, but this is a great layout for operations and looks like a lot of fun to operate on.

Robert's layout nicely captures the flat plains and typical scenery of northern Texas.

LD/Ops SIG meet 2016 - the day

It has become a tradition for me to go to the Bay Area Layout Design / Operations SIG meet the last weekend of January. This is the sixth year I'm going to this meet. Familiar faces abound and it was nice to catch up.

This year, the event was at the California State Railroad museum in Sacramento. The fee for the meet included entrance to the museum, so during a break I took a quick look around the first floor and was surprised to find a demonstrator unit of a Siemens Velaro High Speed train on display.

Nice idea, but couldn't they have chosen a less nasty color?

SP 4294 is usually photographed from the other end ...

Admittedly, when I read through the program yesterday, I was bit skeptical. However, the presenters pleasantly surprised with excellent talks and presentations. I learned a lot about trains on R Street in Sacramento, how to fill in missing knowledge and context for a layout from Internet photo research and Google Maps, and heard a very entertaining talk about applied TT&TO at an operations session at the La Mesa club in San Diego.

The presentations were followed by the resolution of the Operations Challenge, which yielded lots of discussion and continued straight into the Panel Discussion. After the official program wrapped up, I had dinner at Fanny Ann's in Old Town with a small group of fellow model railroaders, before we headed out to the layout tours.

Hilarious Restroom Doors at Fanny Ann's

Friday, January 29, 2016

Hanging out in the green house

After a meeting in a different building on campus, I hung out in one of the informal meeting areas and worked form there, rather than returning to my desk. Nice change of scenery.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Bearded Dragons: Coloring and Sealing the Grout

Now that I'm back from my business trip we restarted work on the terrarium furniture. We used craft acrylics from the local Michael's partially thinned with water to give the rear wall a bit more flair, and even out the coloring of the horizontal surfaces. We succeeded in maintaining the grain of the tile grout.

We have been struggling with what we'll do about sealing the structure, so that it can be cleaned easily and thoroughly when needed. Grout sealers from the hardware store are fairly aggressive stuff and likely don't go well with styrofoam. Thinned, water-resistant wood glue is often used for this purpose, so we gave it a try on the outside walls. It turns out the color darkens quite a bit when covered with glue, but otherwise it works well. Pascal didn't like how much the color darkens, so for now we finished up the outside. The lower edge of the side wall in the photo below has not been painted with glue while the patch in the middle has. The difference in color is quite obvious.

Painting with glue is really cool. At first everything is yellow, and as the glue dries it becomes transparent.


I finally got around to installing a Christmas present from my lovely wife on my bicycle yesterday evening, and tried it out this morning on the way to work.

This new rear light has built in Laser diodes that project flickering lines onto the street behind me.  Very cool! I'm curious what the power consumption is like and how quickly the wimpy AAA batteries in the unit are depleted.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

About to leave CDG

After the event-free first leg of the trip, AF 84 is almost ready for boarding. This was a very good and productive trip. Time to go home.


We woke up early for the first flight from Stuttgart to Paris. My mother was nice enough to drop me off at the airport, despite slick and icy roads.

The first leg of the journey home is a quick hop with Hop Regional, an Air France subsidiary.

Arrival at CDG, Terminal 2G.

Yes, it's still dark at 8:00am in Paris.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

"Bitte Karte stecken!"

The payment machines in the parking garage at Stuttgart Hbf must have been programmed by someone not fully familiar with proper German grammar.
Bitte Karte stecken!
That's like saying, "Please stick ticket".
Where's the QA team when you really need them?

Friday, January 22, 2016

Zurich - Stuttgart

Zurich Hauptbahnhof, one of my favorite train stations.

It is 14:25. The Intercity from Chur arrives and gets prepared for the continuing trip to Stuttgart in less than 10 minutes.

Since Zurich is a Terminus station, a new engine needs to be coupled to the end of the train to pull the cars to Stuttgart.

The train reverses direction again in Singen/Hohentwiel and now gets pulled by a BR101 locomotive of Deutsche Bahn. Since I now sat in the last car, between Singen and Stuttgart I spent some time in the rear vestibule and enjoyed the view. Yes, some of the other passengers in the car looked at me a little bit funny ...

In Rottweil, we are meeting the opposing Intercity 187 which has left Stuttgart at 14:29. Still quite a bit of snow on the ground.

 Intercity 184 arrives in Stuttgart 17:35, right on time.

The cars will stay here at track 5 for almost an hour and return to Zurich at 18:29 as InterCity 283.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016


Having a beer in the hotel bar. Thankfully, I'm inside, where it's nice and warm, but enjoying the  view of the patio.

Monday, January 18, 2016

On the way to work

Schloss Sihlberg in the morning