Friday, June 30, 2017

Emsingen Railroad Crossing (part 2)

Back in February I had the basic roadbed down. Over the last few months I made the road surface from styrene sheet, painted and weathered it. Since I used a different method for this road than the surface streets in Emsingen, I paid extra attention to transitioning the colors between the city module and the crossing area. It's not exactly a perfect match, but reasonably close to not be jarring.

I added styrene fillers between the track ties and smoothed the area between the rails with plastic putty, working around the center studs. I do not recommend this method. It's messy, and doesn't look good. Since I had started this way, I decided to finish it, too. It took me several hours over the course of a week to make this look reasonably good. A better approach would have been to e.g. sand down the center studs to the ties, install styrene sheet between the rails and carve a groove for a wire to get power to the center pickup shoe, or alternatively use blackened metal sheet instead of styrene and power the locomotive that way.
Working in this area is very cumbersome. The crossing is 50cm from the operator position and reachable in exactly one way. There are semaphore signals on one side of the road, and bushes on the other side. My next layout will be built with easily removable modules, which will be much more pleasant to work with.

Since I was messing around with the area already, I added ground cover over the tunnel portal, as well as sand and gravel on the yard side of the road. At some later point I'll add more weeds and bushes.

Lots of distractions happened in the following months. This week I got back to the project, taped off the sides of the road with Tamiya 2mm flexible masking tape, and painted the guide lines on the side of the road. They "thin line" variant is 125mm wide in real life. I eyeballed them at about 1mm on the layout which looks roughly right.

When I painted I forgot that this white needs two coats, so the lines came out somewhat faded. I'll leave this as is.

The center guide lines were even more painful, because I need to closely follow the curvature of the road, otherwise the markings will look off. I marked spots on the center line with a pencil, marked the center guide lines with a length of 15mm and gaps of 30mm, ratio of 1:2 as prescribed by German rules for road markings. Like the side lines, I made them about 1mm wide. The overall width of the road is 80mm.

This time I gave the lines two coats before removing the masking tape. To my surprise, this came out quite reasonable. There are a few lines that are not quite following the curvature of the road, but it's noticable only in photos and if you look closely on the layout.

Installing guardrails and reflectors, as well as railroad crossing signs and crossing arms will be next.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017


I took the bicycle on the Bay Trail around the outside of Moffett Field today. It was windy, very windy, but for most of the trip the wind pushed me, which was awesome. I felt bad for all the bicyclists going in the opposite direction. The trail leads between old salt ponds through Don Edwards Wildlife Preserve. I spotted half a dozen different kinds of ducks, several geese, pelicans, swallows, sea gulls, herons, and more, without even trying hard.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Chasing Waterfalls: Pyramid Creek

To conclude the waterfalls series, here's a small creek flowing into Pyramid Creek.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Emsingen at Night

It's late on a Saturday evening. Pto 4249, the last train from Freiburg to Emsingen, is popular with the locals returning home from an evening out in the city.

Chasing Waterfalls: Horsetail Falls

The trail head for Pyramid Creek trail is on US-50 at Twin Bridges, a few miles west of Echo Pass. The upper part of the trail is streneous, but the reward is a beautiful view of Horsetail Falls. Hiking to the foot of the waterfalls is something for the more adventurous hiker. There is no official trail, but several paths lead through dry creek beds to the falls.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Chasing Waterfalls: Lower Glen Alpine Falls

On Glen Alpine Road not far from the Fallen Leaf Lake Marina is this gem of a waterfall. Easily accessible right next to the road.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Chasing Waterfalls: Modjeska Falls (2)

This is the view you get as the trail makes its way over the ridge before the falls.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Painless Dentistry

I love it when layouts incorporate some humor. Seen at Griffy's.

Chasing Waterfalls: Modjeska Falls

After hiking for about a mile on Glen Alpine Trail you'll get to Modjeska Falls, also known as Upper Glen Alpine Falls. The photo shows the upper part of the falls. We'll get to the lower part tomorrow.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Chasing Waterfalls: Glen Alpine Creek

Not really a waterfall. Glen Alpine trail above Lily Lake is flooded, so the path to get to Glen Alpine Falls is a bit more challenging, involving clambering through the bushes on the left and right of the trail. The water is crystal clear and beautifully cold

Monday, June 19, 2017

Chasing Waterfalls: Bridal Veil

The waterfalls were plentiful last weekend. We started off with Bridal Veil Falls at US-50 near Fresh Pond, CA.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Beer Car Monday

Thanks to my recent Europe trip I was able to pick up a bottle of Veltins, to match the respective car, and enjoy the contents afterwards.

Friday, June 09, 2017


Thanks to my Dad I have had train calendars for the last few years. There are two train calendars at my desk in the office at the moment. The June calendar pages show a nice contrast:
The Eisenbahn Journal calendar has a modern foggy morning scene, while the Eisenbahn Kurier calendar has a narrow-gauge steam high-noon summer scene. I love the very different views on both sides of my monitor.

Monday, June 05, 2017

Bye London. Hello San Jose.

Leaving the dark clouds behind I arrived on time in sunny San Jose, CA.


I made it to London Heathrow.  This is an excellent picture of the structural elements of Terminal 5, but you can believe me that the nearer plane is the one I arrived on.
Since I have a bit more time to hang out at Terminal 5, I grabbed a sandwich at Pret-A-Manger. Organic food, wide selection, fresh prepared, and tasty. Located near gate A9 in Terminal 5.

I restocked supplies at WHSmith, which has a nice selection of railroading-related magazines, too. British and American magazines on prototype and model railroading, including subways. Quite impressive considering that this is an airport ...

Flight 279 is getting ready for departure.


After bracing the crowds in the departure hall, and an easy walk through security, here's the traditional pre-departure shot.

Sunday, June 04, 2017

Time to head home


My last day in Germany. Between rain showers we took a walk through Favoritepark. This park is part of the Ludwigsburg Palace grounds and was created to hold deer and similar game in the 1700's for the enjoyment of the ruler of Wuerttemberg.

In the 20th century the park grounds and the small summer palace fell into disuse and were renovated only in the 1980's. Now it's a popular easy stroll in the middle of the city.

The Forsthaus
It's a nice Sunday afternoon, there were quite a few people on the small road leading through the park, but I managed to artfully hide them in the shot below.

When we got to the other side, we decided to turn around instead of walking all the way down to Monrepos Palace.

The summer palace is really pretty, but completely covered in scaffolding at the moment, so here's a snapshot towards Ludwigsburg Palace instead.


A heavy Thunderstorm cloud hangs over town.


In light rain I headed over to Aldingen to get baked goods from the bakery, since the local bakery in Neckarrems is not open on Sundays. This intersection of the main road from Ludwigsburg with the road through the Neckar valley was a very busy place 30 years ago. Now a new alternate road takes traffic around town, and the intersection has been retrofitted to slow down the remaining traffic. One side of the street still has houses that have been there for probably more than 100 years. Even though this place looks a bit sad with the rain, the architecture reminds me of another time when small scale agriculture was part of the village fabric.

The Neckarschiffer sculpture on the corner. ... Let's go home for breakfast.

Saturday, June 03, 2017


An original Bildfahrplan of the wuerttembergische Schwarzwaldbahn between Stuttgart and Calw from 1965, plus a couple branch lines south of Stuttgart. So much fun to work through the details, see how trains are organized, reverse-engineer which train takes what run, and how the schedule fits with schedules of connecting lines. In 1965 the Filderbahn still had some freight traffic.

Across the top of the sheet are detailed diagrams of the track arrangements, elevation changes, and curvature.

Here are some more close up shots of the train line diagrams.

Friday, June 02, 2017

Bye Zurich

Modernized Re 4/4 II "LION"

This Re 4/4 II looks a bit different than others I have seen. It is part of a modernization program to provide supplemental trains for the Zurich S-Bahn during high-traffic times and would normally run in combination with modernized double-deck coaches.

I can't help it, but really don't like this paint scheme. The black mask around the cab windows doesn't fit the shape of the locomotive well. The LED lights take some getting used to as well.

Zurich HB

Zurich HB ("Main Station") is one of my all-time favorite train stations. The Swiss did sensible extensions to their historic train station, even tunneled under it without destroying the effectiveness of the existing terminal station. There are 3 separate tunnel systems under the station (SZU, S-Bahn to Stadelhofen, and the new long distance tracks to Oerlikon).

The main hall sees markets and events throughout the year. The local kiosk has a wide selection of modelling-, airplane-, and railroading- related magazines.

The main departure board shows all trains leaving in the next 30 minutes. Zurich has more departures in one hour than the busiest West Coast train station per day.

15 minutes before departure my train is pushed to the platform.