Friday, December 14, 2018

A Few Drops of Rain ...

... and a couple weeks later this turns green.

Thursday, December 13, 2018

Anticipation, too

Been here for an hour. Still waiting ...

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Sunday, December 09, 2018

Radius vs. 26.4m cars

The shipment had a circle of large radius K-track which I'm planning to use in the helix for the Murrbahn project. I had some concerns about clearance in the helix with long passenger cars, but as we can see this will work just fine, even for exact 1:87 scale cars. The cars shown in the photo are 1:93 scale length-reduced. The double track is 55.3cm and 61.8cm radius respectively.

I also got some curves at 90cm radius as used with the large radius Marklin turnouts. The cars look really nice with this large radius. I originally planned to use 90cm as the minimum radius on visible track when planning the Murrbahn project. Even though the room is quite spacious, doing so has been challenging. Since the crew is on the inside of most curves, I can go a bit tighter while still mostly maintain this nice look. We'll see how this will all play out once I get to that stage.

Meanwhile these cars are safely packed away since they look terrible on the tight radiuses used on the Welztalbahn.

Second Sunday of Advent

Saturday, December 08, 2018

Untergroeningen: Module Kits

The table saw got a workout today. I cut the necessary pieces to build the frames for the Untergroeningen module set. Those modules are sized and shaped to fit with the the future Murrbahn project, but for now I'm planning to attach the module to my existing Welztalbahn layout.

Even though this is a rather low-end table saw, the cuts are much more accurate than with the jig saw, or portable circular saw. The frame and cross ties will be built from 3/4" plywood. Admittedly that's overkill and heavier than desired. However, I hope that the modules will be more dimensionally stable.

All pieces cut and arranged.

The angled segment will take some effort to get right.

Friday, December 07, 2018

Wednesday, December 05, 2018

'Tis the Season

The fridge at work is stocked with season-appropriate beverage.

Tuesday, December 04, 2018

Dave Parks' Cumberland West - Back at Williams Street

I'm back at Williams Street Yard. This time I was prepared. I knew what I was getting myself into. I had experienced tower operators at Virginia Street and Viaduct. I had most cars in the yard identified with their respective car cards. When the session started, I was ready to go. I made the moves I had planned for BO11, the train that started my slide downhill the last time.

Only that this time BO11 didn't arrive at Williams Street until almost the very end of the session. I even got to service BO29, the mail train. The afternoon session today apparently had run very slowly and everybody was well behind schedule.

BO29 normally gets switched on the West-bound main. We tried it on the freight siding instead, which worked well and opens the possibility for additional switching moves the B&O did to this train in 1953 at Williams Street, while at the same time not blocking the main tracks. The photo below has the Western Maryland Ridgley Yard on the right, the River Interchange track in the middle, and Williams Street Yard up on the embankment on the left. BO29 is the train with lots of express cars and the single passenger car. The Virginia Street Tower operator can be seen in the rear.

Here's BO29 after it has left Cumberland, climbing the grade from Piedmont to Oakland.

When BO11 finally arrived, it had only one car to set out and 5 cars to pick up. I switched the train with one switcher engine in less than 10 minutes, while keeping both the freight track, and the eastbound main open. The mental preparation had paid off.

End of the session. Time for a visit to the local bar.

Sunday, December 02, 2018

First Sunday of Advent


Niederegger Marzipan is hands-down the best marzipan on the planet. It's no surprise that in early December there are lots of freight trains bringing the good stuff everywhere. The Marzibahn trains of course get priority over any other traffic.

There's even a video.

Saturday, December 01, 2018

Saturday Evening Entertainment

On the living room couch tonight, with a glass of wine, reading Le Train, a model railroad magazine from France my wife picked up for me when she was in Europe a few weeks ago. It's a lot of work to get more than the high points out of the articles. My not-even-close-to-conversational French is hardly tuned for the specialized words and phrases used in e.g. an article about the history of the rail line crossing the Pyrenees, or the last rail-based freight services in central France. Nevertheless, an interesting exercise.

Friday, November 30, 2018

Silicon Valley Lines November Ops

We now have a nice big sign for the sidewalk. That should make it more obvious when the club is open.

Since I took the conductor role for a visitor engineer at tonight's operations session, I had some time to take photos. Below is a selection.

Train 370 leaving Tracy
Western Pacific #728 as train 220 in Hemet
Train 220 in Fryton on the way back to Bayshore

Thursday, November 29, 2018

A Moment of Sunshine

Heavy rain. Thunderstorms in the morning. Even some hail. Today was really wet. Nevertheless, when I walked back from lunch there was an opportunity for the sun to peek through the clouds, and produce this awesome double rainbow

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Monday, November 26, 2018


Something is different in the lobby today.

Good Morning

Riding the bike to the bus stop. It's cold, but really nice outside.

Sunday, November 25, 2018

Digitizing Roco 43012 - Lights Almost Done

The red tail lights are micro LEDs mounted in the shell. There will also be a cab light, so I need a way to route power to all these LEDs and keep the arrangement pluggable. Here's my solution: a header soldered to the decoder "breakout board" and a perf board fragment with resistors to be kept with the shell. The "pins" are wire cut offs from resistor installs in other projects. Never throw anything away ....

Here's a side-view with the cab light LED installed, and tail lights wired. The cab LED reaches too far into the cab, and is visible from the outside. I'll try to pull it back a little bit and also limit light leakage into the machine room.

I might have to redo the breakout board, since I did a fairly poor soldering job on that, but for now let's see how this pans out.

Here's a short video of 601 001 demonstrating the light effects. I still have not closed the chassis and engine roof yet.

Saturday, November 24, 2018


Watching Eisenbahnromantik while prepping today's apple cake ...

Oh, it was delicious!

Friday, November 23, 2018

No work today

The shops are empty, an appropriate picture for how I didn't get much done today. 

Thursday, November 22, 2018

JMRI Update

Yay, it's working ... but not quite
One of the triggers for the update orgy earlier this year was the realization that I needed to update my JMRI installation to confidently program modern decoders. I'm now running JMRI 4.12 with OpenJDK 11 from the Stretch Backports repository.

It's not helpful that JMRI doesn't work with OpenJDK 8 which comes standard with Debian 9. While it does come up, the UI hangs during startup with an apparent deadlock. Digging through my favorite search engine eventually yielded hints that these problems are known, and mysteriously disappeared in OpenJDK 9 and later.

It took me a while to figure out why the service mode programmer is unable to find the Intellibox for decoder programming. In the end it really was user error and I can't tell why the Loconet2 configuration disappeared during the update, or why JMRI would happily start up if it can open the serial port, but not actually talk to the command station.

The actually correct settings. Track occupancy feedback is working now.
I am controlling the Intellibox over LocoNet and a LocoBuffer-USB, since the serial port is unreliable, so I do need to configure Loconet2 for manufacturer Digitrax, interface LocoBuffer-USB, and command station Intellibox-I... and I must explicitly choose Loconet2 in the programmer dialog, despite setting the programmer default to Loconet2. I guess that's a bug.

Finally, all this new software has added enough bloat that the railroad computer no longer can cope and needs more memory. I got a lot of value out of those 512MB main memory I bought 10 years ago.

Update 11/24/2018:
After installing 2GB main memory, JMRI still feels a bit sluggish, but we're back to being usable. When looking through the settings again, all Defaults had reverted to the first Loconet connection. I changed them back to Loconet2 and everything is working correctly again.

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Fall. It's About Time!

In Uvas Canyon County Park

Sunday, November 18, 2018

Digitizing Roco 43012 - Test Run

First test run of the whole train on the Welztalbahn. Chassis and roof of the engine car are mounted only temporarily, hence the gap if you look closely. Lights are not connected yet. The non-motorized engine car doesn't have its sound decoder yet. I'm hoping that that installation will be dramatically easier than with the lead unit.

Digitizing Roco 43012 - Speaker and Motor Wiring

The ESU Loksound 4.0 decoder comes with a round 4 Ohm speaker. While the speaker is just small enough to fit into the machine room hood of the VT11.5, I have been struggling with mounting it in a way that the locomotive remains serviceable. Eventually I gave up and ordered a ESU 50321 "sugar cube" speaker. It fits much better, and sound quality is outstanding, especially considering its size.

I spent some more time organizing and routing cables between power pickups and decoder. It's getting close for a test run.

Saturday, November 17, 2018


After the rather depressing, smoke-induced eerie weather the last couple days, we're all enjoying the sunshine today. The air quality still isn't great, though, and got worse throughout the day. By late afternoon it was all hazy again.

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Halt fuer Rangierfahrten

Tonight I opened a couple boxes I brought home from my trip last week. Another round of ebay purchases, but this time it wasn't original paperwork...

Operators on my layout sometimes wonder how far they can pull out cars from a station track onto the main line when switching. I always tell them, "you may go until you reach the Halt fuer Rangierfahrten sign". Here's one right in front of Hochwaldtunnel.

Hard to read? Not anymore, since the original is now on the wall of the layout room.

While at it, this sign was also fun, so it found its way to me.