Monday, February 29, 2016

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Hallelujah Papermill: More Building Work

The paper making building got a coat of color and some light weathering today. I used Tamiya primer and spray paints. It turns out they work reasonably well with the foamboard and cause no distortion of the foam. For weathering I tried to dirty up the foundation a bit, and get rain streaks on the building wall. I overdid it a little bit along the bottom edge, but I'm really happy with the streaking along the roof line.

In parallel, I started work on the Hallelujah Paper Cogeneration Facility. This is the well-known Walthers Northern Light & Power kit, which I put together with no modifications (yet). I will try to leave the roof removable for future installation of lights.

Painting the walls follows my usual brick recipe (Pollyscale Maroon Red, followed with a wash of earth color paint for the mortar lines). I chose Pollyscale Mud for the mortar and also the cornices, which came out quite nicely. The loading door and roof details are painted with Scalecoat II Graphite & Oil spray paint, the windows are Modelmaster Light Sea Grey.
Since I don't like Walthers' approach of merely painting a flat section of the kit to represent the foundation, I'm planning to fit a wider foundation made from Styrene sheets around the bottom edge of the building.
Also, if you look closely, you'll notice I put in the separating wall backwards. Ooops. This is no longer fixable, so it'll stay as is.

There's a Walthers overloading crane somewhere under layout. I'll adapt it to fit inside the generator hall of the building, and am still thinking about what to do about boiler and generators...

Overall, this was a very productive weekend, and I got a few other things done, too.

Friday, February 26, 2016

Assistant Yardmaster

As I was getting ready to leave for tonight's operating session at Silicon Valley Lines, I asked Franziska whether she wants to come along and run trains. "Uhm, ... sure". Surprise! Are you sure? It's likely going to get late? "Yes, I'm OK with that." I'm Nowheres Yardmaster, contrary to last time we're going to work in the yard, and get trains ready for the other operators. "Yes, that sounds good".

Franziska gets train 373 ready for northbound departure
Alrighty then, she came along and we had a great time. She got to see the ebb and flow of trains in the yard. The times when nothing is happening, and the times when multiple trains are meeting and it's mayhem for a little while with cars being switched between trains. She picked up the phone when trains or dispatch called in to the yard. She ran the yard switcher, and over the course of the evening became more and more confident and independent. When I initially showed her every move and which button to press on the yard panel, by the end of the evening I could assign her tasks and train movements, and she completed them by herself.

Tired, but proud of her work and accomplishments
Maybe there is another model railroader growing in the family?

Hallelujah Paper: Papermaking Machine Building

The building housing the papermaking machine at Hallelujah Paper at Silicon Valley Lines is huge. I decided that this building will be constructed from concrete wall panels similar to many modern warehouses. To break up the rather bland front in addition to expansion grooves in the walls, I cut wooden coffee stirrers to length, and glued them to the side of the building to simulate parts of the building skeleton.

There are many uses for Floquil Paints, including acting as weights to hold parts in place until the glue dries.

This building will also play a very big role at hiding the SVL continuous running track through the Hallelujah area, so it's just as much a industrial building as it is a "tunnel". I will cut appropriate openings into the sides when test-fitting the building on the layout.

Thursday, February 25, 2016 -- Echos from Portland

Last year I went to the NMRA convention in Portland. Here's a screenshot from a recent episode about Joe Fugate's Siskiyou Line Operations Session during the convention. While Joe Fugate and Craig Bisgeier discuss layout design, in the background I'm demonstrating the optimum ceiling height for layout rooms...

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Papermaking Machine Building prototype

Tonight I cut up some foam board and started building the half-relief building that will house the papermaking machine at Hallelujah Paper on the Silicon Valley Lines layout.

Since this is a long, half-open box, I stiffened it with gussets. Let's see how solid the whole thing is once the glue has dried. If this works out, the idea is to give the building some structure on the outside, hide any exposed foam, and spray paint the building in some sand-color tone. Then finish off with roof details, tanks, and some exposed piping.

The total length is a bit over 50 inches, which works out to about 360 foot in HO scale. That's a good sized production building.

Sunday, February 21, 2016


Tonight I rejiggered some passenger car and locomotive assignments. The photo above shows my current favorite: A green BR 140 (Maerklin 37404) pushing a cut of Silberlinge ("silver coins", Maerklin 43829). Since all cars are lighted and the pick-up shoe is under the cab car, both axle and current detectors work with the train in push service, which means that I can run this set under automatic computer control just like a regular train.

A couple observations:
  • The current-conducting couplers of the cars don't mate perfectly with the standard Maerklin couplers. When the locomotive was pulling the cars, it occasionally uncoupled and left the cars behind. This was fixed by replacing the coupler on the last car next to the locomotive with a standard coupler.
  • The gear train in 37404 is crap. It seems to bind on occasion under load and thus requires the decoder to put a lot of power on the motor to get over the bind, tripping my PSX circuit breakers.
  • The PSX breakers don't seem to work too well when presented with a multi-protocol environment (I'm running DCC and Maerklin Motorola in parallel). Turning off low-power system boost (CV53) helps a little bit, but sometimes they trip even when set to 3.5A. The Intellibox only delivers 2.5A, so there must be something about how the PSX interprets the digital track signal that causes it to think there's a short circuit, when reality there is nothing wrong.
While I didn't work on what I had planned for tonight, this was a fun evening nevertheless, and it felt good to spend some time in the train room.

Thursday, February 18, 2016


There are more than 10 inches of fresh, fluffy snow on the ground in South Lake Tahoe. The kids are having a blast!

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Frozen Beach

Water levels at Lake Tahoe are low due to the drought. The only good thing about this is that we got to walk on the icy sea bed.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Skiing in Heavenly

At the entrance to the round-a-bout run at Heavenly which turned out to be a bit too hard for me on the first day of skiing. First third too easy, second third good, last third too much.

Tuesday, February 09, 2016

Bearded Dragons: A New Home

Tonight, Artemis and Apollo moved into their new home.

The last act before the move was to spread sand all over the ground floor inside the Terrarium (and a bit outside, too).

Artemis and Apollo seem to like their new home, and went to sleep in the cave.

Since this terrarium is quite a bit larger than the temporary housing, we'll need to experiment a bit more with temperature and light management. I'll add a partial cover to the top to reduce heat loss.

Sunday, February 07, 2016

Bearded Dragons: Terrarium Update

Today we moved the furniture into the terrarium. It's an almost perfect tight fit. I put a bead of silicone along the edges to ensure that nothing can get behind.

A little while later we also had refurbished and installed the terrarium cover.

Now we just need to wait for the silicone to dry ...

Meanwhile, I built extension cords for the temperature and humidity sensors, as well as started construction of the relay box.

Friday, February 05, 2016

Bearded Dragons: Sealing and cabling

We continued sealing the terrarium furniture with thinned wood glue. 

While there is certainly a yellowish sheen now, it looks quite nice.

Next step is to wire the temperature and humidity sensors. We glued in plastic straws to act as conduit for the sensor wires.

Time to let everything dry over night, and we'll likely be able to drop the furniture into the terrarium tomorrow.

I love my commute

Part of my commute regularly takes me along Coyote Creek trail. I just love how everything is green at this time of year.

You can't tell from the photo, but Highway 101 is 100 feet to my right...