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.

Saturday, January 27, 2018

LD/Ops SIG meet in Alameda: Saturday

This year's Layout Design and Operations Special Interest Group (LD/Ops SIG) meet was again at the Elk's Club in Alameda. The setting is very nice, and the talks interesting. Clif Linton talked about various kinds of modern petroleum products movements, and appropriate ways to model them. Tony Thompson gave an overview on modeling freight traffic. Al Daumann's presentation on how to add additional actions to enhance operations on small layouts felt very appropriate for my Welztalbahn. I'm going to try out his ideas around simulating passenger and mail traffic, maybe expand it to express shipments, too, so that operators of my regional and long-distance passenger trains have a bit more to think during their respective runs. There was a design challenge for the Alameda Belt Switching layout. Ray DeBlieck gave us an entertaining and very personal introduction to the prototype. I spent a good part of the afternoon with a layout design consultant to discuss my Murrbahn project (more on that in a different post).

The Saturday evening layout tours are a fixture of the event. I picked a few layouts I had not seen yet, but started at Chuck Oraftik's beautiful B&A layout. A real treat of a railfan layout with fantastic scenery and many, many highly detailed buildings and scenes. I very much liked this railroad crossing scene in Canaan, NY.

Even the crossing shed has interior details, down to the phone for train announcements and an oven for heat in the winter.

Here's a good example of how well Chuck arranged trees and shrubs with the right color tones and shapes to create a believable scene.

The main street scene in Pittsfield, MA fascinated me already the last time I was here.

It's impressive how a clean presentation can enhance the theatrical effect of a model railroad. The question is how to combine the needs of an operating layout with the cleanliness of slick presentation?

Steve Van Meter's N-scale South West Pacific layout has a very different vibe and looks like a fun operating layout.

Once again a full day of model train topics with good chats and conversations, topped off with some great layouts.

Friday, January 26, 2018

Climbers Revisited

Back in September I had placed some climbers at Mt. Nicholls temporarily. They were well-received, so today I added a couple permanent scenes. 

I wanted to place them in a way so that they could be discovered only on second look, and wouldn't be totally in your face. Thus they are somewhat hidden in the rock face behind the big bridge. 

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Folders done

With most car cards done, I needed to finish the folders to hold them before I can start building trains and get the Welztalbahn operational again. Making progress on that front. The folders are color-coded, yellow for local passenger trains, orange for long distance trains, blue for local freight, and purple for transfer runs.

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Brekina Mercedes Benz L 406 D in HO

A christmas present I brought back home is this Brekina model of a Mercedes Benz L 406 D van. Out of the box it looks very ... clean. Let's fix that.

I have a sheet with license plate stickers. Apply them to front and rear. This was the first time I applied license plates to a car. The effect is subtle, but very effective.

Following photos I found on the Internet, I painted the mirror arms and back black. For the actual mirror I used aluminum metallic paint. Here's the before photo of these rather tiny parts...
While at it, I also painted the tires flat black.

Finally, I tried to apply only a very light dusting of pan pastels to show a slightly dirty, but rather new working van. In the end it got a little bit dirtier than I had planned, but I can't really complain.

Friday, January 19, 2018


The flight boarded on time shortly before noon. I like the effect of backlit shots

Somewhere over the north atlantic ice sheets.

No arrival photo in SFO, as usual, because they have no windows in either the jetway or arrival corridors.


No signs of inclement weather, just very low ceiling as we're on final approach to Copenhagen.

I'm amused about the size of the "Fire and Fury" display at WHSmith's.

I get to hang out at the airport for a couple hours before it's time for the long-haul flight to San Francisco.

Thursday, January 18, 2018


After spending over a month Europe, it's time to go home.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018


Yes, I'm thrilled. Just in time for the lunch break it started snowing, so I went outside for 5 minutes afterwards and enjoyed the falling snow.

Despite the fresh snow it's fairly warm. The snow flakes are big, heavy, and very wet.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Zurich at Night

For a team dinner tonight, we headed over to Le Dezaley. They are known for their yummy cheese fondue, among other things, and of course I couldn't not choose that.

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Sunday: Three Tunnels and Winter

Today I went on a round-trip through Switzerland by train. The route started in Zurich-Enge, via Zug to Aarth-Goldau, Erstfeld, and Goeschenen on the Gotthard line to the north portal of the Gotthard tunnel.
From Goeschenen I took the Matterhorn Gotthard Bahn (MGB) to Andermatt and on to Brig, traversing the Furka base tunnel and an amazing winter wonder land.
From Brig I continued on the Loetschberg line through the Loetschberg tunnel to Kandersteg where I observed the auto loading operations for cars going through the tunnel.
After experiencing the Loetschberg tunnel two more times I continued to Bern and back to Zurich.

I used a SBB day pass for this 11 hour round trip, with a couple breaks. All the trains I took ran at least once per hour on Sundays with well-planned connections making it easy to plan the trip.
Because this is the middle of winter with only about 7 hours of decent daylight, I planned the day so that I would have daylight by the time I got to the Gotthard tunnel, close to maximum sun while on the MGB, and still sufficient daylight at Loetschberg tunnel. This plan worked out quite well, with dusk setting in when I was on my way to Bern. For maximum happiness I should have spent one of the extra hours doing a snow hike near the MGB. However, I have no regrets with how I spent this day. I got really lucky that this was a clear and sunny day, with amazing views.

I've split up the trip report into 13 individual posts to keep it manageable. All posts have lots of photos. Photography through train windows is very difficult due to reflections and dirt, so the photographic quality varies.

To navigate between the various parts, you can either use the index below this paragraph, follow the "Sunday" links in the month overview on the right, or click the Newer Post / Older Post links at the bottom of each individual post.

I hope you enjoy!