Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Still Decaling ...

I'm taking it slow with the decals for the SVL switchers. Logos are done and the first round of number decals is now drying.
I changed my mind on which numbers I wanted after I realized what a giant pain puzzling together individual numbers is. Especially for the tiny numbers at the hood and the cab of the engine. Instead I chose numbers that can be cut as one piece from the decal sheet.
I'm using the MicroScale system for this: MicroGloss on the model, MicroSet to glue the decal, MicroSol to soften the decal as needed. Works like a charm. You just need to take your time.

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Somewhere in the Black Forest

It's 8:20 in the morning of a nice summer day in 1972 in the Welztal.
Engineer Erwin Mueller arrives early at the north entry signal to Emsingen with a local transfer freight from Prechtal. He walks over to the signal phone box to call the tower and find out why the signal is still showing red.

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Operations Session at Silicon Valley Lines

Yesterday, near the end of the session, Nowheres yard is full. While it looks like there is one open track, that's only because the switcher just moved a cut of cars to from A/D track #3 to the hump yard before I took the photo. 

Delayed train #226 dumped 20+ cars into the yard. Train #320, the Silicon/Paso turn, came in and terminates. Train #690, the Jacksonville turn, came in, and terminates. Train #235 from Jasper Junction terminates, too. So, we got to deal with 50 cars arriving pretty much all at once and needing to be processed. Thankfully, Tom1 helped with sorting cars for the next session, so with the yard really busy, we got a lot of work done.

The gondolas for train #444 are ready to go on A/D track #1. Some of the cars from #226 are stored on the siding next to the mainline. The BNSF engines on A/D track #2 belong to train #235 from Jasper Junction. The caboose next to them on A/D track #4 is from train #320.
A full yard means a busy evening and lots of fun, which is why I like writing about this yet again.

In other news, Jeff has finished the California Cooperative Canneries building, and it is gorgeous!

Friday, May 27, 2016

Working from home

My workday started on the patio, fresh air, laptop on lap, fresh coffee, birds singing, ... Let's work!

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Decaling CNW S4 for Silicon Valley Lines

A little while ago I purchased two Bachmann CNW S4 switcher engines for use at Silicon Valley Lines. At the last Ops session, I used them in Nowheres Yard straight out of the box with some minor adjustments. They ran reasonably well, so now it is time to turn them into SVL locomotives.

CNW engines already have the proper green-yellow paint scheme, so I just need to remove the markings and apply the SVL decals. How hard could that possibly be?

I have to admit, I've never done that before. The markings on the cab sides on these Bachmann units came off quite easily with a rubber and some gentle pressure. For some stubborn bits I used a pencil eraser.

The engine numbers on the front and rear were simply painted over with a color I mixed from green, blue, and black. I just spitballed the color to be reasonably close to the green on the model. Once the engines get a weathering treatment, the slight differences in color won't be noticable anymore.

Finally, I applied the first round of decals. This process is taking longer than I expected. So even though I'm working on both engines in parallel, I won't get done tonight, which means they won't operate at the ops session tomorrow. Bummer.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Sunday, May 22, 2016

A split-flap solari board for the Welztalbahn

I've been fascinated by the huge split-flap boards in major train stations and many airports, also known as "Solari Boards" named after a major Italian manufacturer. After some searching around, I found demo code that implements a Solari board in a web browser. The same code appears to be used by the National Association of Railroad Passengers for their virtual station status boards.

Last night, I adapted the code and the templates for what this might look like for use on a train call board for my Welztalbahn. I need to rewrite the backend to integrate with the JMRI fast clock, and the display needs a lot more fine tuning, but this is quite neat already.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Makerfaire 2016

Riding the funky bicycles is always fun. This one was particularly challenging.
Pascal and I once again went to Makerfaire in San Mateo. There was lots of cool stuff to see. Many things we knew, and still quite a few new ones.

Bent wood as planters, a very cool idea
This poser's glasses had fallen off. Pascal helped him.

The sandwriter was very cool.

As it makes it way across the faire it leaves behind messages
The dark hall was as colorful as ever

Pascal got a chance to conduct the delta robots of Light Play. There are motion sensors in the pod at the podium and the robots follow the movements of the hands.

Lighted sculpture made from masking tape
The Pacific Pinball Museum was back, too!
For the first few hours in the morning the crowds were manageable and lines reasonably short. However, by mid-afternoon the San Mateo fairgrounds were packed with people, and we called it a day.

Friday, May 20, 2016

Engineers and Chocolate - a winning combination

This morning I left some local chocolate in the micro kitchen for co-workers to enjoy.

When I came back 90 minutes later, the offering looked like this, and had been moved out of the way:

Since it wasn't even near the center of the table anymore where I put it, I suspect that the chocolate was gone in well under 90 minutes, even on a Friday morning with many people working from home or another building due to a nearby event clogging up streets.

Conclusion: Engineers love real chocolate.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Diesel Party

Dieselized passenger trains in Emsingen. 

BR211(Roco), V200 (Maerklin), and BR216 (Maerklin) on tracks 1, 2, and 3 respectively. The engine models cover a spread of almost 60 years. I really need to do something about the plasticy roofs of the passenger cars, remove the shine, and give them some light weathering.

Anyone have great photos of how roofs of passenger cars weather over time?

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

96 426 Stg, BDn Steuerwagen (Maerklin 43820)

I really wanted a "Hasenstall" cab car for use on the branch line of a future Epoch IV layout, that goes well with the Silberlinge cars I got last year. Had I paid attention when ordering, I would have noticed that this car is Epoch III. It has the pre-1968 old style car markings, and lacks the interior lights and current conducting couplers my other cars have. The car is slightly compressed length-wise (1:93), but that is only noticable when comparing with prototype photos, or a full-length 1:87 car right next to it. Like any long passenger cars, this model has significant overhang on the tight curves of the return loops on the Welztalbahn. That's what you get when you build with R1 and R2 curves...

That said, it's a nice model, runs well, and the cab end does have the proper lights package.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Ops Session Prep

Emptying the staging yards to rejigger train assignments
Recent acquisitions allow me to run operations sessions on the Welztalbahn without any electric locomotives, which always look a bit funny on my layout due to the missing catenary, and instead do an ops session with only steam and diesel locomotives, which is perfectly prototypical for the early 1970's in Germany.

I started to revise the scheduled train assignments, as well as introduce a new mail and express goods train, which doesn't really do any switching, but stops at each station for loading and unloading.

Once that is all hashed out, it's time for some track cleaning. I'm so looking forward to that ... not.

Sunday, May 15, 2016


... better known as Maultaschen, a swabian specialty, home-made by my wife, with also home-made warm potato salad for dinner. I had so much, I couldn't eat any more, even though I really wanted to. So yummy.

Union Pacific Timetable

My lovely wife went to an antiques fair yesterday, and she brought home a little treat for me: A Union Pacific Passenger Train timetable ... from October 1968.

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Ops at Griffy's

Griffy invited me to operate on his home layout earlier this week. I was delighted both to have the opportunity to join an Ops session, and to be assigned the East side switcher in Nowheres.

The East Side switcher delivers an Express car to the freight house track
The layout has a lot of staging and can keep the main line busy, easily gumming up the works for the switchers. Dave played it easy on us this time and had only a couple extra trains pre-staged to get in the way.

Dave and Bill
Operations at Griffy's is laid-back and cordial. I hope to be back soon.

Friday, May 13, 2016


One of my wife's wonderful fairy houses, that spent most of the last year out in the backyard, is now surrounded and partially overgrown by wildflowers.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Wildlife on the Commute

Hey, what's that?

A Bobcat right next to the trail

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

064 136-5 arrived today

The Epoch IV version of Maerklin's BR64 with solid rear wheels arrived today (39648). The engine is lettered for BD Stuttgart, Bw Heilbronn. What a neat little engine. I gave it a quick spin on the layout tonight.

Out of the box the digital settings are good, with exception of the speaker volume, which is -- as usual -- too loud for my taste. This locomotive will take over pulling one of the local trains on the layout which are made up of Umbauwagen.

Monday, May 09, 2016

Emsingen: Freight Ramp

After scoring the styrene strips to give the impression of individual edge stones, I sprayed the whole loading ramp with Tamiya Fine primer. I'm very pleased with how quickly the primer dries. Almost no wait necessary before I could continue working. The top of the ramp got a wash made from alcohol, water, and black ink, which added some depth to the cobblestone and created a pleasing uneven shadow effect.

I painted the sides with acrylics, but wasn't happy with the result. Too much gray. Adding dirt didn't help. So, I dry-brushed various shades of light brown on the sides (Sand, Mud, Dirt, ...) and that got me closer to the effect I was after. While at it, I also dry-brushed a couple shades of gray on the top to create some more variety and texture.

 The difference is hard to see in the photo, since it is subtle, but it makes the ramp details pop. The ramp needs to be raised by about 1mm, and I'll add some dirt and weeds along the bottom edge to hide the damage to the "concrete" hardboard from the excavation a month ago.

Sunday, May 08, 2016


Editorial note: Everything in this photo is real. No Photoshop or other editing tool has been abused in creating this photo.

Saturday, May 07, 2016

Biggest Little Air Show at Hiller Aviation

Pascal and I went to the Biggest Little Air Show at Hiller Aviation Museum in San Carlos this morning.

It's a mostly a model airplane show, with some impressive feats, but there were also some unusual flying contraptions. Starship Enterprise, a flying dude (you can see the feet in the photo below), an eagle, ...

The line to the 747 cockpit was pretty long, but we endured and Pascal got to take the pilot's seat. Ready for take-off.

The air show was capped off with an aerobatics show by Vicky Benzing in her 1940 Boeing Stearman biplane. Quite impressive, unfortunately she performed over the bay, about half a mile away from the San Carlos airport, likely for safety reasons. Unless you had a very good zoom lens on your camera, you only saw a winged spot moving around in the sky billowing out a big plume of smoke.
By the way, that's Alan Eustace, former Google VP of Engineering, on the left.