Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Nurnberg Puzzle: Amost there

No progress yesterday, but tonight I spent some quality time with the sky. Almost there.

Monday, February 26, 2018

Sunday, February 25, 2018

Nurnberg Puzzle: Reflection

I forgot to take a picture yesterday, but I hadn't touched the puzzle much Friday and Saturday.
Today it just rolled nicely. I started with the sunlit reflection of house and tower, bounced around the trees on the right for a while, flip-flopping with the trees and reflection on the left, then filled in the darker areas in the water until I had no dark tiles left.

Spring is Calling

Time to mow the lawn.

Saturday, February 24, 2018

Murrbahn in HO: Trackplan version 0.5-0

Main Level
In this updated version of the track plan I tried to address short-comings of the previous version.

Not much changed on the main level. I straightened out the curve on the left of Backnang station and am now going through the closet wall. I also locked down the space for industrial area, matching the area of the Untergroeningen station above it.

Thinking through traffic patterns and how engine changes will work, I think I need to flip direction assignments of tracks 3 and 4 to better match the track work on the right-hand side of the station. In Backnang many trains changed power from steam- to electric-powered locomotives. The problem is that currently there is no efficient way for a waiting engine on track 7 to get to a Stuttgart-bound train standing on track 4.  If Stuttgart-bound trains arrived on track 3, the steam locomotive can uncouple and pull forward to the cross-over near the West-end of the storage tracks and head back to the turntable via track 5, while an electric waiting in track 7 couples to the train and continues the journey as soon as the steamer is out of the way. The drawback of doing this: west-bound and east-bound trains need to cross paths before leaving station limits, creating a bottleneck. Hmmm. That's not good either.
Alternatively, I could swap mainline track 3 where it parallels track 7 with track 7 and add a crossover to track 4, so that the waiting track is between the two mainline tracks. However, that requires changes to how the storage tracks connect to track 7, resulting in significant reduction in length. Oh well, I have some time to mull this over. This station won't be built for quite a while.

Upper Deck
Several changes in Gaildorf/West and Untergroeningen on the upper level.

The weg branch is famous for the wood chip cars going to the sawmill in Unterrot. Since I don't have enough space to model Unterrot, I replaced the non-prototypical Raiffeisen spur with a track that leads to the sawmill. The sawmill will be represented on the backdrop only. There's not enough space here to model this rather expansive industry, so a fence and a couple signs will need to suffice.

Pretty early on in the planning phase I chopped down the yard in Gaildorf/West again due to space constraints. I cleaned up the tracks to allow for more effective use of what's left, at the cost of moving further away from the prototype. I do think that's a good trade-off, though.

Staging below main level
Most of the work in this iteration went into staging. I replaced the 7 through tracks and 7 stub tracks in the previous plan with 13 through tracks and 6 stub tracks. Contrary to the previous plan staging tracks now have varying lengths, with most tracks comfortably fitting maximum-length trains. The stub tracks moved under the Untergroeningen pensinsula.

To make the plan easier to understand, I color-coded the various areas. The double-track main line coming from Backnang is shown in brown. The tracks enter the tunnel to staging above the return loop on the left of the room and follow the walls around the room to the cross-overs on the right-hand side of the room. This ramp is about 9m long, so with a steady grade of 2.0% I get 20-25cm deck separation for staging. In the lower right corner the helix comes down from Gaildorf/West on the inside track, and Backnang via "Kleine Murrbahn" on the outside track.

The staging tracks are accessed via the yellow loop track. Coming out of the cross-overs, the loop track runs next to the mainline ramp at the rear of staging going around the green through tracks. Trains can be parked in the purple staging tracks facing left. To get to the green staging tracks, a train continues on the yellow track through the closet wall and the return loop. In green staging, trains are parked facing right. To leave staging, a train from purple staging exits its assigned track to the left, through the return loop and on the yellow track along the aisle to the cross-overs at the bottom of the ramp. From green staging tracks the train exits right into the cross-overs.

The teal stub-ended staging tracks are accessed similarly using the yellow loop track.

A train leaving or entering staging can enter the layout to any direction and vice versa.

Friday, February 23, 2018

February Ops Session at SVL

Train 267 at Mt. Nicholls
At this month's ops session I jumped on helper service engines as soon as I arrived, spending the next hour or so helping other trains up and down the loop. Later on, I ran train 267 the northbound grain train from Bakersfield to Nowheres.

The major assignment of the evening were train 215, first and third section, as well as train 216. The latter was overlength with 37 cars. A very enjoyable modern ops session with lots of very long trains in revenue service.

Train 215, section one (25 cars) at Hallelujah , while Dave runs the paper mill switcher

Elephant Seals at Ano Nuevo

We had a reservation to hike out to the elephant seals at Ano Nuevo State Park today. Unfortunately, not that many seals were on shore, but we still got to see some nice action.

This male bears some deep scars from fights with other males.

The males basically hang around on the beach looking after the girls and trying to make babies.

Any rivals that get to close get shooed away, or beaten up if they don't want to listen.

What a painful and stressful job. This morning, this male was in a bloody fight with another male.

Sigh. You barely have any time to relax around here. Back on the job.

Time's up! We're heading away from the beach, while another group is making their way down.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Nurnberg Puzzle: Taking over the living room table

I'm at it again. Terrible time really with taxes coming up in the near future, but I felt like it.
Let's see how this plays out ...

Monday, February 19, 2018

Skiing at Heavenly

Skiing in Heavenly can be highly variable. Saturday we had sunshine, warm temperatures, and slushy snow.

At the top of Gunbarrel Express chair lift. Franziska is doing great.

On Sunday, strong winds closed half of the mountain, and made -- in combination with falling temperatures -- taking a break uncomfortable. Ominous clouds were with us all day long.

Snowfall finally started in the late afternoon.
Monday morning we had a couple inches fresh snow.

On the mountain, temperatures were in the single digits Fahrenheit. It was cold. The snow was nice, but compacted pretty quickly on the trails.

Did I mention it was cold? I'm not equipped for skiing in that kind of weather, since California skiing is usually much more like on Saturday.

The drive home turned into a 7-hour exercise in patience. It started snowing again, the roads were slick, and many cars got stuck on minor inclines. It took 2 hours alone to get out of South Lake Tahoe. Chain control was in effect over Echo Pass to Twin Bridges.

Nevertheless, the whole family had fun and enjoyed themselves.

Beer Car Monday

I don't often post pictures of beer cars,

but when I do, I show the bottle.

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.