Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Greetings from the garden

"Dear Mister Beck,
Thank you for being our guest. We welcome you with flowers from our garden and wish you a pleasant stay.  Please let us know if we can make your stay even more special.
Your Engimatt Team"
I do like Hotel Engimatt in Zurich in case you haven't noticed yet. Very friendly atmosphere.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Hello Zurich

Bye Stuttgart. Hello Switzerland.


It's hot. 35+C outside, and over 30C inside. A perfect weather for short cake, whipped cream and fresh strawberries, topped off with coffee.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

FREMO N-RE at Waiblingen meet

While the FiNescale modules took up a lot of space in the gym, there was plenty of space for the N-RE arrangement, too. N-RE is more prototype operations-focused with more or less unmodified rolling stock. I originally planned to spend the afternoon with that group. However, due to a shortage of operators on the FiNescale side, I stuck with FiNescale for running trains. 

Mariensee station with the line schedule. Pretty busy.
Kaltental is a nicely done module with great scenery

There was an abundance of little scenes in fantastic detail.

Keeping paperwork organized is even more important in N than in HO, since recovery from a dropped back of cards, or cards that are not kept in sequence with the cars, will require quality time with a magnifying glass...

Only when I went through my photos the next day did I realize that I didn't take any photos of the ingenious movable flextrack bridges used in several staging yards on the layout. The Alternative is the more traditional staging yard with turnouts and a turntable at the end.

V60 is taking a break in Mariensee
Afternoon sun on the N-RE arrangement

Model railroaders get hungry, too, so a yummy vegetarian buffet was organized for dinner and we finished the day with chatting and exchange of ideas over food and beer.

FREMO FiNescale Meet in Waiblingen

It's the weekend of the spring FREMO FiNescale meet in Waiblingen, Germany, and I happen to be visiting my parents this week. A lucky coincidence. I was able to join the meet for a day. The gym is a good size, 3 standard basketball courts side-by-side. There were two module arrangements, a large FiNescale arrangement with Belgian and German modules with operations across the border, as well as a Fremo N-RE arrangement operating a rather dense branch line schedule.

Fremo arrangements are operated with scheduled trains following prototype practices and a fast clock. The schedule is created for each meet based on the modules that have signed up. Here's an example schedule from a few years ago.

I spent most of the day operating on the FiNescale arrangement. My first assignment was a railbus out of Wasserburg am InN. The module is an exact to scale rendition of the Wasserburg/Stadt station, obviously a work in progress, but looking great already and it operates well, too. A little while later I brought a local passenger train back to Wasserburg.

Engineers work with the local station personnel to decide what to do with trains that end at the station. For stations with no local personnel, you do what makes sense, e.g. in this case, I knew from the schedule that there will be a local passenger train from Wasserburg back to Testa soonish, so I ran the engine around the cars, got water, and readied the train for departure before I called this assignment done.

By the luck of the draw, all my assignments in the morning session were passenger trains. Here's the long distance passenger train from Schwenkheim to Montzen leaving Waimes on the Belgian part of the arrangement.

In the afternoon session I picked up a local freight on the Belgian side of the layout and got lost switching cars at the Splitveld factory complex. What a treat!

Beautiful track work is a given on a FiNescale layout, but this maze of switches blew me away.

To reach facing point industries, a local switcher can be used to shuffle cars to the right places. I blew way beyond my scheduled one hour (fast time) stop here and left Splitveld 3 hours late. Yes, I spent almost an hour real time here.

Almost done. Just need to deliver the apples to the packing house.
At Waimes I picked up a couple more cars, and ran the locomotive around the train. Ready for departure to Montzen staging. Note how the slight curve of the tracks really adds to the realism.

Rosenheim station is built to work with N-scale and FiNescale.

I usually operate in HO, so going down to N was a bit of a challenge. However, the real operations challenge with FiNescale are the magnetic field couplers. Thankfully, Jens and Gerd made me practice before the day began for real. Couplers in FiNescale closely resemble the standard European prototype coupler. A magnet is used to direct a finely etched loop over the scale-sized coupling hook.

N-scale cars are small, the grey box is a strong magnet to align the coupler loop between the two coal gondolas
A coupling loop hangs from the hook at the gondola on the right.
Note how this approach allows for fully detailed coupler bar and buffers that are actually used when pushing cars during operations
As the day went on, the sun was shining directly into the gym leading to some very nice light and shadow effects on the layout. I tried to capture the atmosphere mostly on the Stork module, which was basked in light for a while so I could capture several different trains there without holding up traffic too much.

Cars in Montzen staging
The local freight in Stork, shortly before Montzen staging
A VT12.5 in Stork
A Belgian Nohab locomotive ("Kartoffelkaefer") in Stork with a passenger local
My last train of the day, a Belgian railbus near Splitveld

This was a lot of fun. I enjoyed the company and the opportunity to try something different.


It's important to have an appropriate selection of rolls for breakfast.

Friday, May 26, 2017


We went for a walk this afternoon when it cooled down to stretch our legs and shake off my jet lag. First, we went up the hill to the top of the old quarry, and then looped around it down to the river Rems.

To cool off, upstream some boys and girls associated with the local youth fire department were jumping into river in their work clothes with lots of screaming and splashing. That and the occasional bicyclist were the only noises disturbing the concert provided by birds and insects.

The old mill on the opposite bank was nicely framed by trees.

Yes, it's very green here. I'm just not used to trees this green and this dense anymore.

Neckarrems in the morning

On the way to the bakery to pick up freshly baked goods, I took a small detour to use the morning light for a photo of the old townhall ("Altes Rathaus").

Across the street, the "Don't poop here" sign has been upgraded, too.

Thursday, May 25, 2017


I'm home for the weekend. 

The transfer at LHR Terminal 5 went through with no issues. I still don't like how Heathrow provides gate information only on short notice. My boarding pass had door closing at 15:20, but the departure signs in the main hall didn't show a gate for flight 920 until 15:05 and it takes about 20 minutes to get from security to gate B39 at the very end of the B gates building.
I later found out it was because the plane arrived late, but there was no information readily available in the departure hall.

... and the obligatory arrival photo in Stuttgart.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017


Time for the next trip. I'm trying out British Airways flight 278 from San Jose to London. So far, so good. I got to the airport early enough to grab a salad for early dinner. There will be food on the flight, but I expect that they will serve 1-2 hours into the flight, which is still several hours away.

... and when I got to the gate, there was a film crew doing ... something.