Thursday, February 15, 2018

Ready at CDG

The plane is ready. I'm ready, too.

And we got into SFO half an hour early. I had a middle seat, so no photos from the flight or arrival, but they'd all look the same anyways ...

Wednesday, February 14, 2018


Breakfast started with a yummy Brezel and coffee at the gate in Stuttgart, continued with a mediocre chocolate croissant and coffee on the flight to Paris, and finished with coffee and excellent anglaise apricot from Paul at Terminal 2E.

I have another hour to kill before it's time for boarding the flight to San Francisco.


Another early morning departure. This is starting to become routine... Just like last time, Terminal 3 in Stuttgart is mostly deserted at 5am, although this time TUI had a flight leaving early, too, so the security check point actually had lines from all those passengers in vacation mood.

Monday, February 12, 2018


Isn't this a beautiful day? Hard to believe that only 2 hours earlier Ludwigsburg looked like this:

The weatherman in the evening news yesterday described his forecast as "typical April weather". He was certainly right about that. Snowfall was rather dense, but gone only 10 minutes after I took this photo.

Morning View

A favorite sleeping spot.

Thursday, February 08, 2018

Cake to the rescue

Last night to the delight of my mother I made apple cake. Let's see if it tastes as good as it looks.
Her oven is running a bit hotter than ours, so the cake got a little bit darker than expected.

Monday, February 05, 2018

Good Morning

Winter comes for a short visit, just like last time.

Sunday, February 04, 2018


Tonight it started snowing. Nothing remained on the ground, but it's still nice to see the snow.

Eisenbahnfreunde Bietigheim-Bissingen

The model train club Eisenbahnfreunde Bietigheim-Bissingen occupies a small historic building in Kammgarnspinnerei, a neighborhood in Bietigheim-Bissingen. The club layout is lovingly built out with lots of details and complex scenery. The track plan is basically a major station on a double-track main line with a branch line on one side and a narrow gauge line on the other side.

The main station in Mayburg is generously laid out with a nice cityscape hiding the control panels. This photo gives a great impression of the wonderful atmosphere in the building.

EFBB has built a scene depicting the famous turntable drop of UEF 01 1066 in Kornwestheim.

On the other leg of the layout is nicely arranged dramatic scenery.

The center of the room is equipped with seats in style of a train compartment.  

The medieval town of Goesselstein has a well-visited marketplace in a historic atmosphere.

The traffic inside the double helix to and from staging is fascinating to watch.

There was a flea market for model train articles -- admittedly, that's why I was here today in the first place -- so the place was packed, and I only realized when I was back home, that I didn't take any photos of the under construction layout of the club's youth group. A very promising layout, with interesting opportunities for operations and scenery.

Saturday, February 03, 2018

Murrbahn in HO: Trackplan version 0.4-2

Murrbahn in HO: Main level
I had some spare time recently, so I spent some of that on the track plan for my Murrbahn project. I'm aiming to model a section of the Murrbahn from Waiblingen to Schwaebisch Hall - Hessental, specifically the section between Backnang and Gaildorf West in the early 1970's.
I chose a compressed version of Murrhardt as my third town. There's a private branch line to Untergroeningen, too, again very compressed to include only the station area of Untergroeningen.

This room won't be available for several years. The point of doing the track plan now is to get an idea about layout design elements I could incorporate. How they would fit together and identify opportunities for layout segments and modules I might be able to build in advance of "the big project". I wrote some givens and druthers in an earlier post. The key constraints are minimum radius of 50cm (preferred 60cm or larger) on visible sections, and 42.3cm (standard radius on K-track turnouts) in hidden track or industrial. Maximum train length is 180cm (5x 26.4m coaches), and 200cm for freight (15-20 freight cars), including engine respectively.

The screenshot above shows the main level with Backnang station. In the early seventies, my chosen time period, this station had a lot of interesting activity.
Lots of local commute service. Head-end switching to adjust number of cars on passenger trains. This was the end of electrified territory, so trains usually had to change power from electrics to steam. Steam locomotives of classes 23, 38, and 50 were commonly seen here. Long distance trains from Stuttgart often used a class 220 or 221, the flag ship diesel engine of the modern DB.
Freight trains carried bridge traffic from the Stuttgart area to northern Bavaria and beyond. Local transfer runs, as well as local freights made stops along the line, too.
As it stands today, I have no idea how DB actually managed to run all the traffic they had through this station. There doesn't appear to be nearly enough track to do it all, especially when taking into account freight operations. This should be interesting to figure out.

The prototype station is over a mile long between the first turnouts on either side, and sits on a hill side above the city of Backnang. On the West side, the electrified double-track main line to Waiblingen and Stuttgart, as well as the non-electrified branch to Marbach and Ludwigsburg ("Kleine Murrbahn") enter the station. On the East side the main line continues non-electrified and single-track to Schwaebisch Hall and Crailsheim.

To better fit the room I flipped the original track plan (East is left), and bent the tracks along the room walls, a compromise that changes the feel of the station, but not the operations. A nastier side effect of this is that I'm going to need a whole bunch of curved turnouts with radii that are not available in the Maerklin K-track system, so I either need to substitute DC turnouts and modify them, or scratch-build. I substantially reduced the length of the station, but managed to keep almost all track connections.
As another nod to space constraints I moved loading docks and team tracks from near the turntable around the corner to a peninsula forming an industry track ("Industriegleis") supposedly owned by the city and serviced by DB. Backnang didn't have this, but this was a common arrangement in other cities. This industry track is not yet designed in the track plan.

The main line curve on the left into the station has a minimum radius of 50cm, which is sharper than I'd like. I might end up going through the wall of this former closet to get a wider radius.
Continuing through the station from the left, there are freight facilities towards the wall, and a steam locomotive waiting area with the turntable around the East end of track 5. These tracks used to have a coaling facility, too, but that was already gone by the early 70's. The passenger platforms on tracks 2 - 5 are 150cm, so they can barely take the maximum length passenger train. Track 1 is only 120cm, but that should be sufficient.

Track 6 on the curve is where the push-pull trains from Marbach arrive and depart from. Track 7 is a waiting track for electrics to/from Stuttgart.
Further around the bend are the electrified double-track main line, a couple storage tracks, and in a ditch along the wall the non-electrified branch to Marbach descending into the valley towards river Murr. The branch enters the helix counter-clockwise down to staging.

The electrified double track main line crosses the room entrance on a removable section or swing door, continues around the room on a slight downhill grade and enters the tunnel to staging on the left-hand side of the room.
All main tracks and many side tracks in Backnang have catenary. This will be a problem with switching within station limits in general, and especially reaching the freight tracks in the rear.

From the East (left) end of Backnang station the single-track non-electrified main line to Schwaebisch Hall-Hessental runs counter-clockwise along the wall and starts climbing with a slight grade to cross the room entrance, and enter the helix clockwise upwards to the upper level. I might model Haltepunkt Backnang-Spinnerei just before entering the helix.

Murrbahn in HO: Upper level
On the upper level the main line emerges from the helix on the outer track and immediately passes the entry signal into Murrhardt. Murrhardt is a fairly free-form adaption of the name-sake town's station. I'm still not entirely happy with the arrangement here, but it's more manageable now. ... Or maybe I just got used to it. Compared to the earlier draft I swapped Schweitzer Leather, and the city gas works, as well as tweaked track arrangements. From here the main line continues to climb counter-clockwise around the room (East is still left as seen from operator's view.Yay!) through the Kappelesbergtunnel to Gaildorf West.
Gaildorf West continues to be very similar to an earlier draft. Past the station, the main line enters the inside track of the helix all the way down to staging.

On the West side of Gaildorf the branch operated by Wuerttembergische Eisenbahngesellschaft (weg) climbs to Untergroeningen. I eliminated the turnback loop from the first draft, since even as tight as it was, it didn't leave enough space for operators in Backnang and Gaildorf West. The Raiffeisen spur is non-prototypical, and I'm thinking about how to include an additional spur as destination for the wood chips cars this branch is well known for. On the prototype the wood chips cars went empty to a large sawmill in Unterrot, and were sent loaded to e.g. a paper mill in Schongau, Bavaria. I don't have the space to model the sawmill, but I might be able to squeeze in a spur "to the mill".

Murrbahn in HO: Staging
Staging is centralized under Backnang. I'm aiming for vertical deck separation of at least 20cm between Staging and Backnang station, preferably a bit more if I can get away with it.

There are 7 through tracks long enough to hold maximum length trains, as well as several stub tracks to hold push-pull equipment, EMUs, DMUs, spare locomotives and some spare cars.

The double track main line from Backnang runs clockwise on a ramp along the wall to meet the two tracks from the helix (inner track from Gaildorf West, outer track "Kleine Murrbahn" vom Backnang). At the bottom of the ramp are crossovers to allow trains to enter staging. These turnouts will likely be very busy, so need to be built rock solid and be easy to replace as needed. A return loop inside the helix is used to get trains up and down the double-track ramp to Backnang in and out of staging. A second return loop in the top left corner allows to turn train sets in staging.

Contrary to the Welztalbahn (my current layout), all trains can be restaged and cars reschuffled without leaving the staging area. In the worst case a train needs to pull to the track along the aisle and get its cars restaged as needed. I'm thinking of adding storage drawers under the staging level to make that more convenient.

I'm planning to run transfers ("Uebergaben") from Backnang to the off-layout locations Schwaikheim on the mainline to Stuttgart and Kirchberg/Murr on the "Kleine Murrbahn" to Marbach. There are dedicated tracks close to the aisle for these places in staging.

Staging feels too small for a layout of this size, so I'm likely going to try and find ways to add more through tracks to staging. However, I don't want an additional door crossing at staging level height so the trick will be finding an appropriate space for the second return loop.  

Since this is basically a large shelf-layout, I won't have much space for much scenery or extensive town scenes. I'm planning to make up for that with backdrops, high-quality scenic execution, and plenty of details. 

This layout should keep up to 6 guests busy for several hours. I'm planning for two tower operators, one in Backnang responsible for the main station, hostling, and head-end switching moves. A second one in Gaildorf West responsible for Gaildorf West (and maybe Murrhardt). There's even potential for a mole job responsible for smooth operation of the bottlenecks in staging, but I'm likely running into space constraints if I tried that. The tower operators are expected to coordinate train movements across the layout based on the schedule. There is no centralized dispatcher.
Single person road crews run passenger and freight trains, as well as switching in layout towns. 

For single person switching operations, various jobs can be eliminated and a limited passenger / through freight schedule can be established with computer-controlled automated running to keep traffic up on the main line, similar to what I'm doing on the Welztalbahn.

In terms of layout design elements I can build early: Untergroeningen and Gaildorf West are obvious victims, as well as the Industriegleis in Backnang. 


Time for a quick shopping trip in Stuttgart. I used the opportunity to take a couple photos.

Friedrich Schiller
While the others went to store nearby, I went to the Stiftskirche for some inspiration. This church was heavily damaged during World War II, rebuilt right after the war, and remodeled a few years ago.

Due to the heavy war damage and the recent reconstruction, it has a distinct modern flavor, combining building elements hundreds of years old with modern art and construction.

This is the church where the earls and dukes of Wuerttemberg were buried since 1265. Here's Graf Eberhard I. der Erlauchte, who appears to be having a jolly good time.

Schiller's greeting me up the street between Fruchtkasten and Stiftskirche. Hey man, nice to see you again.

Near Rathausplatz there was this cool construction fence ad for an upcoming kitchen store re-opening.

First mix the concrete,
then fold in the beaten egg white!
Today is a farmers market at the Old Palace (Altes Schloss).

We had lunch next door at Alte Kanzlei and got a very nice table at the window with a view of the Schlossplatz.

Appropriately, I ordered Maultaschen mit Ei, a Swabian specialty. Yum!

Friday, February 02, 2018

Zum Wohl

It's the little things

Ice crystals on the car roof this morning when I left the house to get fresh rolls from the bakery.

Wednesday, January 31, 2018


After hanging out at CDG terminal 2G for 6 hours or so, having lunch, watching planes land and take off, dozing off a couple times, and staring out more into the rain, it was finally time to board AF1808 to Stuttgart.

I dozed off some more while we were still climbing out of Paris. By the time we got to Stuttgart, I was reasonably awake again, managed to stay awake until after 10pm, and slept through the night.

Brrrr ...

A quiet, event-free flight. We took a fairly flat route south of Greenland with no interesting views.

The weather at Paris CDG is rather miserable. Final approach was bumpy, with low clouds, but not as vomit inducing as it could have been.

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Lunch in Paris?

Sure, let's do that.

Morning Ritual

Going to work in the early morning hours of the day. I love it when the sunrise is already lighting up the sky, but the valley floor is still dark.

Sunday, January 28, 2018

LD/Ops SIG meet: Sunday

Under dark clouds, the siding at Fallon station is occupied
This is the second day of the LD/Ops SIG meet. I got to operate at Jim Providenza's Santa Cruz Northern layout, one of the early operating layouts in the San Francisco Bay Area. The SCN operates using Time Table and Train Order (TT&TO) rules.

Hey look what is that chair doing under the helix?

That's one of the station operator positions. Desk, fast clock, telephone system, paper work, as well as the interlocking and train order signal control switches are ready to get to work. This is actually a quite comfortable work space.

I was the conductor on Extra 2630, the "Cementipede". This sounded like a neat job in the description. It comes with the drawback that it's an extra, and thus is at the bottom of the pecking order in TT&TO. As it happened there were multiple higher priority trains on the schedule, and we spent a long time in the hole at Holy City.

When it was finally our turn, we took off, and in our excitement I promptly forgot that our orders gave us authority only to Fallon, which is the last town before the San Vicente branch line... So while we were happily switching cement cars on the branch line and into Sergeants on the main line, I was asked on which authority we were making these moves. ... We should have coordinated with the operator in Fallon before proceeding beyond that station. That kind of mistake gets you fired on the real railroad. Here I was reminded how this is supposed to work, and left with the comment "Keep going, I'll get you an order."  Thank you!

That string of 36 cement hoppers moving on the branch looked cool, though.

One neat scenery element is this cut through a "slope" on the aisle side of the track. The slight hiding of cars contributes a little bit to the illusion of distance, and makes the scenery more interesting. Also note the very nice background scenery and clouds.

After the Ops session at Jim's, we headed over to the under-construction layout of Paul Weiss. This layout was the subject of last year's layout design challenge and has come a long way in construction over the course of that year. A very large space, an impressive vision, and interesting construction techniques. This will be a real treat when it's ready for operations in another year or so.

For the trip home I chose the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge, which is always fun due to the roller coaster style roadway.

Thanks to slow traffic I was able to capture the setting sun beyond the cranes of Oakland Harbor.

Once again this was a great weekend with friendly chats, interesting presentations, a very entertaining operations session with a great host, and lots of inspiration. The LD/Ops SIG event continues to be one of my favorites on the calendar.