Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Wildlife on the commute

After pigs, canada geese, and bobcats, today's catch is a coyote. Looks like there are a lot more animals hanging out near the creek than usual.
Yes I know, my smart phone is not really the proper equipment for wildlife photography...

I watched the coyote for a while until it took off across an open field, ... followed by a bobcat. Unfortunately, they a) surprised me, and b) were too far away to take a photo. Oh well.

Wildlife at the office

A largeish, and definitely rowdy, flock of Canada Geese decided to camp on the lawn at the office today.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Wildlife on the Commute

What a beautiful morning. The hills are very dry. It's the perfect occasion for a walk to the creek and having a drink. Here come mommy and the kids.

Dad is right behind them.

I encountered the family on Coyote Creek trail at Silver Creek Road, and followed them to the other side of the creek where they walked off ...

Monday, August 29, 2016

Bahnhofsatmosphaere 1973

I stumbled over this relatively recent Youtube upload bei EisenbahnRomantik showing operations at Deutsche Bundesbahn in 1973. The style of the movie is very typical early 1970's, the people fairly stiff and the explanations are obviously scripted. Nevertheless, I very much enjoyed this video. It's in German, so your milage may vary.

In particular the first half of the video showing what a Fahrdienstleiter (~station agent) in a small station on a main line does is interesting. What's even more interesting is the atmosphere. You can make out many details what a small station in southern Germany looked like, as well as catch details of train consists. It appears that DB pressed whatever equipment they had available into service, especially in assignments for local runs.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Today's Dessert: Deconstructed Sweet Potato Pie

Yes, this is a bit weird, but was surprisingly good.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Down at the club

SVL 8475 on the main line just south of Nowheres
SVL 8392 picking up a baggage car at the Nowheres REA facility 
SVL 8392 passing through the Nowheres passenger station
The two S4 switchers went back to SVL today, and after getting them programmed I took them around Nowheres for a photo tour.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Wire Ducts: First attempt failed

My project this weekend was to start installing turnout lanterns and the wire ducts needed for a mechanical interlocking ("Mechanisches Stellwerk" in German). The lighted lanterns are from Maerklin 7547 and simply click into the K-track turnout. Very slick.

While the lanterns will look very cool once the covers got some weathering, my attempt to build the linkage wire ducts from coffee stirrers failed miserably. I was willing to overlook that they are a bit oversize and too smooth, even when painted. The coffee stirrers look reasonably believable with a coat of primer and a rust wash.

But, the color doesn't stick to the plastic reliably, and can be easily scratched off, so if I were to install these on the layout to simulate ducting, I'd destroy half of them already when gluing them into place and run the risk that any derailment, track cleaning, or fat fingers, would scratch the color off. Not even talking about that I'd still need to build roller boxes somehow. While they could be 3d-printed, I ended up ordering the respective well-known Weinert parts.

Traffic Jam

Traffic Jam on the main line and the culprit
During the last solo ops session, one of my Tam Valley Depot QuadP servo decoders decided to forget its programming. While that's annoying, it also put a rather harsh end to the session, since two key turnouts on the layout are controlled by this board.

With Pascal's help, this afternoon I reprogrammed the decoder, ... at least I tried to, but one of the servos was obviously very unhappy and started to make grinding noises. I cut the layout power and decided to unscrew the servo horn, since the settings clearly had gone bad and the servo was in danger of stripping its gears. To reach the servo, I had to clear out tracks in underground staging, and parked a bunch of trains on the main line. Unfortunately, this servo was installed facing the back of the layout to avoid underground obstacles, so I couldn't reach it to take off the servo horn, and ended up completely removing the assembly. Once off the layout, reprogramming and reinstallation was easy.

Dragon Rider

Taking Artemis for a stroll through the garden. Kind of a weird feeling to have a dragon on your shoulder.

Artemis holds on to the fabric of the T-Shirt just fine. The leash is mostly for safety and peace of mind for the human in case she does slip for some reason, knowing that she won't fall all the way to the floor.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

South County Garden Railroad Tour

Every year the South County chapter of the Bay Area Garden Railroad Society (BAGRS), whose members are affectionately known as "baggers", organizes a layout tour that doubles as food drive to benefit local charities. In the last couple years I've seen garden layouts in Morgan Hill. This year, Tatjana accompanied me further south to see layouts in Gilroy.

The  Mount Madonna Railroad has a good size with a lumber industry theme. The railroad is nicely set in the backyard with space to spare. When we arrived, the house was hard to miss.

Because garden railroad scale is rather large (1:22.5 typically), there is plenty of opportunity to build detailed models and lively scenes, which is often a good part of the fun of visiting garden layouts.

On most layouts structures, trains, details, and decoration are taken inside when the layout is not operating, so everything is movable.

There is always opportunity for jokes, too.

Our other stop was the Elia Family Railroad, set in a smaller area than the Mt. Madonna Railroad, but nevertheless making good use of the space. There was a Shay operating on the upper loop.

A local freight was running on the lower loop around the town of Old Gilroy.

This railroad has a lot of highly detailed scenes all over the layout.

I very much liked this scene of a crew repairing the bridge.

When I got home I noticed that I didn't take a photo of Old Gilroy and Main Street. Beautiful small trees and shrubs surround the town. They can be seen a little bit in the farm scene below. A perfect combination of model railroading and gardening. That's what garden railroads are all about.

Overall, two very nice layouts, and we had a good time. What more could you ask for?

Tuesday, August 09, 2016

Going home

We are back at Changi Airport for our return trip to San Francisco. With some time at our hands after checking in, we explored the gardens at Terminal 2.

The butterfly garden is over at Terminal 3. After some deliberation with 40 minutes to spare to boarding, we decided to take Skytrain and head over.

Since it was still early in the morning, there wasn't much butterfly activity yet at the Butterfly Garden, but what we saw was very nice.

We stayed for not even 15 minutes and headed back to our gate in Terminal 2, going through security at the gate just a minute before our boarding group was called. 

After a 15 hour flight on United's new Boeing 787 Dreamliner we were back at SFO, landing Tuesday August 9th at 8:45am, the exact same day and time we left Singapore. Flying across the International Date Line is amusing.

Monday, August 08, 2016

When thirst strikes

While in Singapore we went through at least two bottles of Ice Mountain water per day, so naturally we had to make an homage to our favorite drink.

Singapore National Orchid Gardens

The Orchid Gardens inside the Botanical Gardens are a beautiful display of a Singapore tradition.

Sunday, August 07, 2016

Tough Choice

"Hmmm. Tiger Beer? Or should I better get a Fanta?"

Seen on Sentosa Island, Singapore

Saturday, August 06, 2016

Singapore Little India

Well, technically this huge Buddha in the Sakya Muni Buddha Gaya Temple is not in Little India, but a bit north on Race Course Street. Nevertheless, it's very impressive. 25 meters high, and weighs 300 tons.

Smalk Park is very neat and colorful, while the bikes locked to its fence obvously have been there for a while ...

Many of the houses in the area are small and have shops on the first floor, like these houses near Cuff Rd.

The Hindu temples were all very crowded and we ended up not spending a lot of time there. However, we very much enjoyed our visit to the Abdul Gafoor Mosque on picturesque Dunlap Street.

We ended our tour at the colorful house of Tan Teng Niah, and headed back to the apartment to meet the family for lunch.

Friday, August 05, 2016

Singapore Chinatown

The most striking property of the Chinatown area in Singapore are the strong contrasts between traditional temples and hyper-modern sky scrapers, like here at Yueh Hai Ching Temple.

At  Sago St many small stalls and laterns populate the street.

The monks at the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple were busy chanting and reciting.

Behind the temple is an open market place, that seems to cater to tourists and locals alike.