Monday, March 19, 2018

Back in the Saddle

After the rains from last week finally stopped, I took the bike to the bus stop this morning in the dark. Right. I forgot how dark it is at 6:15am.

However, the way home tonight was very nice, and I even saw some turkeys.

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Spring Rain

Are you tired of the rain photos yet?
No worries. Here's another one.

Saturday, March 10, 2018

Soundrail: The Return

From OMRS I headed straight to SeaTac airport, ran into a group of other Bay Area Soundrail returnees, went through security and headed to my gate. Well, at least I tried to.

I checked in at an automated kiosk and printed my boarding pass only when I got to the airport, so I didn't look at any monitors and went straight to gate N16 for my 7:55 departure as printed on my boarding pass. When I finally made it to N gates, I saw the announcement on the terminal monitors that my flight is leaving from gate C15. Huh!

At SeaTac, N gates is a satellite terminal, so I'd have to hop back on the airport train to get to C gates. I walked over to gate N16, and asked the staff what the deal is. 

"Oh, the terminal displays are run by the Port Authority, they are often not updated quickly when there are changes. I'm supposed to work your flight tonight, so I sure hope it's going to show up soon. Let me call and find out."

When she finally got off the phone, she told me 

"Well, it's neither. Your flight is leaving from gate N11 right over there. At least you and I don't have to walk to C gates..."

There was indeed a plane at that gate and the staff came over, too. So I sat down at gate N11 and waited with my boarding pass for N16 for a flight that was still shown to leave from C15 on the terminal monitors ...

The gate area was suspiciously empty when we started boarding, and they announced that we are not allowed to change seats even if there are other empty seats in order to keep the plane balanced. The plane was indeed half-empty.

2 hours later we're passing SFO. Almost home.

Instead of the usual arrival photo, here's the welcome committee that picked me up! What a nice surprise!

Soundrail 2018 posts: [Warmup] -- [Day One] -- [Day Two] -- [Day Three] -- [The Return]

Soundrail: Day Three

High Bridge on the upper level
 My layout assignment on the last day of Soundrail was the Olympic Model Railroad Society (OMRS). This club layout is located in the basement of a building on the Thurston Country fair grounds and open to the public on occasion.

There are many really neat scenes on this layout. The scenery is very well done and looks great. I'm showing a selection below.

Canoes on the river near Marvin's Bluff
Effective use of forced perspective in Marvin's Bluff.
From the upper level trains take a helix down to the main level.

The double-track main line has remote controlled turnouts and is fully signaled. Unfortunately, there were some gremlins in the detection logic which messed up signal indication at times. Seems like every layout that deploys signals has this kind of problem sooner or later. Seeing the signals in operation at OMRS reminded me of the pending signals project at Silicon Valley Lines.

Signal bridge at South Shops near Seaport
South Shops roundhouse
Diesel servicing facility
Seaport Union Station and the associated freight and industry tracks occupy a good amount of space on the lower level.

The rear end of my train is waiting in the foreground for clearance to get into Halfmoon Yard.
The saw mall in Hill City is under construction, but already looks very nice
Diner in Post Falls near the steel mill
After lunch I took over the dispatcher seat and spent the next couple hours guiding trains on the main line to and from their respective destinations. Verbal track warrants and signal indications were the tools of the trade.

A big Thank you to the OMRS members that hosted us and made for an enjoyable day.

Soundrail 2018 posts: [Warmup] -- [Day One] -- [Day Two] -- [Day Three] -- [The Return]

Friday, March 09, 2018

Soundrail: Day Two

Keystone Cement and West Yard in Bath on Bob Stafford's Erie Lackawanna
Today I had two layout assignments: Bob Stafford's Erie Lackawanna in the morning, and Ray Wheeler's Great Northern in the afternoon.

Bob models branch line operations of the Erie Lackawanna. I started out with the First Cement Local, which was very much a fun assignment. The train traverses the length of the layout from staging all the way to Bath and switches the industries off West Yard in Bath and then returns to staging. With a 15 car train, I had my work cut out for me.

Industrial district in the town of Prosperity
Contrary to many other model railroads, Bob uses tags placed on car roofs or hung off car ends to identify where cars are going. He says, he spent enough time writing up paper work in his real life job as dispatcher that he doesn't want to do it for "fun" on his layout, which is a very reasonable position to take.

Keystone Cement. Cars in the front have tags on the roofs.
Bob has added a good deal of detailing and scenes on the layout. I especially liked the messy "down by the tracks" corners.

The town  of Harmony is a nice balance to the bustling activity at Prosperity.

This is a smallish, but fun layout to operate on. 

After lunch we headed to Ray Wheeler, which was quite some contrast. Ray models the Great Northern between Seattle and Vancouver. He uses switch lists and prints them from Protrack on the fly during the session. The layout is composed of multiple levels with raised platforms and packs a lot of operations into a moderate space.

Delta yard with the layout computer in the foreground
The main line is fully signaled and CTC controlled. There's a nice CTC board in the dispatchers office of the layout room.

Here's a shot that illustrates how Ray got a lot of mainline run into the layout room. Delta Yard is on the upper level to the left of PA Jct. Note the staging track with a Boeing car behind the upper fascia with the clock.  Vancouver Jct is on the board above the shelf with Anacortes.

I got to run Delta Yard, which was very full from yesterday's session. There's plenty of job orders and paperwork to deal with and keep the yard master busy. A fun feature of Protrack is that the job orders of revenue trains show how much money the railroad earns with this run.

Delta Yard, paperwork and orders. There are shelves around the layout for placing e.g. coffee mugs. 
By the end of the session, the yard started to clear up and I had some breathing room. The main line is the track next to the aisle.

Again a fun session. Again very different from the other sessions, which is really good. The variety is what makes events like Soundrail so interesting. Thank you to Bob and Ray for hosting us today.

We headed back to the hotel and arrived just in time to freshen up for the banquet which was the only time all Soundrail participants were together in the same room at the same time. The social aspect of these meets is a very important part of the event. You get to meet new people and reconnect with others you haven't seen in a while. Lots of opportunity to chat and exchange ideas. Time flew by very quickly and I was one of the last people to leave the room as the hotel staff was already breaking down tables.

Salmon. Good.

Soundrail 2018 posts: [Warmup] -- [Day One] -- [Day Two] -- [Day Three] -- [The Return]

Thursday, March 08, 2018

Soundrail: Day One

Oyster Bay is a busy place on Chuck Rickett's Sherwood, Shelton & Sarazen Railway in On30
Soundrail takes place every two years in the Pudget Sound area around Seattle. This year, over 80 registered participants operated on 25 participating layouts over the course of 3 days. Each participant gets assigned one or two layouts per day, carpools from the event hotel in Bellevue to the layout(s), and operates. The evenings are filled with layout tours as well as the banquet. Layout locations this year stretched from Whitbey Island in the north to Olympia in the south. This was my first time coming to Soundrail. I was very impressed by how well the event was organized and run. Kudos to the organizing team for a job really well done.

My assignment today was Chuck Rickett's Sherwood, Shelton & Sarazen Railway. What a treat! I got the Yard Foreman position in Oyster Bay. From Oyster Bay cars are send by barge to South Seattle, there is local switching, and of course incoming and outgoing trains to and from Sarazen at the other end of the railroad.

Switching Lostan Foundry
The railroad runs well. The operating scheme with TT&TO keeps engineers and yard foremen on their toes, but leaves plenty of breathing room to enjoy the superb modeling and chat with other operators. We broke for lunch and continued running trains well into the afternoon. Chuck is a great host, and made sure that everybody had a good time and was taken care of.

Down  by the water
The port
Out in the woods

The sawmill in Sherwood has lots of neat details. The open roof makes it easy to see them all.

Chuck also has animated water tower effects.

After the conclusion of the operations session, my car pool group visited a few more layouts that were open for tours this evening. Below are a few photos to illustrate the wide variety of layouts we got to enjoy.

First up was Scott Buckley's Tehama Valley Railroad. The scenicked areas on this under-construction layout nicely capture the look and feel of the Sacramento Valley. I'm very much looking forward to see how this work progresses.

Greg Wright's Consolidated Republic Mining Company was a feast for the eyes with lots and lots of scenery details telling stories, visual effects, and a very unique railroad.

Jim Younkins' Mud Bay and Southern is an impressive N-scale layout in multiple basement rooms and the garage of Jim's house.

The Simpson sawmill, one of the many industries on the Mud Bay & Southern.
Scenicked staging yard.
Bill Sornsin's under-construction Great Northern Cascade Division layout provided for an excellent end of the day.

What a day. So much to do. So much to see. So much fun. ... and there were still two more days ahead of us. Thank you Chuck, Scott, Greg, Jim, and Bill for opening your homes and sharing your railroads with us.

Soundrail 2018 posts: [Warmup] -- [Day One] -- [Day Two] -- [Day Three] -- [The Return]

Wednesday, March 07, 2018

Soundrail: Warm-up

After leaving work today, I headed over to Bellevue to pick up my registration package for Soundrail and with a few other California participants headed over to Bellevue Brewing Company for food and beverages. We finished the day with a layout visit in Seattle where I spent most of the time chatting with people. Tomorrow is the first full-day ops session. I'm very much looking forward to that.

Soundrail 2018 posts: [Warmup] -- [Day One] -- [Day Two] -- [Day Three] -- [The Return]

Tuesday, March 06, 2018


Reflections at Lake Washington with the Olympic Mountains in the background 
Hey Buddy! 
Geometry with sunset

Sunday, March 04, 2018

Busy week ahead

Fun at SJC with Alaska 319 at gate 29 and Alaska 399 leaving half an hour later from gate 27. Both bound for Seattle. One really has to pay attention to the boarding announcements. Just listening for "Seattle" is not good enough.

The plane touched down at SEA a few minutes ahead of schedule. Taking an airport shuttle bus to the rental car facility, which is located across the street from the Link light rail tracks continues to be weird and seems sub-optimal. I'd love to have a chat with whoever planned this ...

But hey, this Toyota is brand new. Still has the new car smell ...