Saturday, June 30, 2018

... and retour

Two nights in Tortuguero and our trip is coming to an end. Excellent lunch at a Soda in Cariari.

Friday, June 29, 2018

Tortuguero National Park

We explored the Tortuguero Canals on an early morning boat tour ... and then had breakfast.

Thursday, June 28, 2018

Tortuguero Evening View

After a long drive to La Pavona and an hour+ on a river boat, we've arrived at Casa Marbella in Tortuguero.

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Sloth Sanctuary

Today we learned about sloths. The two kinds of sloths in Costa Rica are 2-fingered and 3-fingered sloths (but they always have 3 toes, go figure).

The sanctuary had several sloths behind bars, so here's a wild two-fingered sloth mama with her baby next door from where we are staying.

(photo credit: Tatjana)

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Coast Hike

We're back at Cahuita National Park to hike around Cahuita point. Two-thirds of the hike are near or on the beach, the rest goes through coastal rain forest, partially on raised walkways, much easier than yesterday.

Monday, June 25, 2018

Land Crabs

Along the Caribbean Coast live at least 100 different species of land crabs. In the photo above, I count seven crabs. Hiking in the coastal rain forest is messy because trails are muddy and slippery.

Sunday, June 24, 2018

Beach Day One

Cahuita National Park

Saturday, June 23, 2018


Morning fog on the flanks of Irazu volcano

High humidity in lowland rain forest near Puerto Viejo on the Caribbean Coast

Friday, June 22, 2018

Turrialba Volcano

Gas and ash plume of Turrialba volcano, as seen from Irazu volcano

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Tuesday, June 19, 2018


Enjoying coffee and a view of the rain forest.

Monday, June 18, 2018

Costa Rica Trains

Old tracks in Orotina
Costa Rica used to have a coast-to-coast railroad system connecting in San Jose. It was built cape narrow gauge (1067mm) and was used primarily for freight to make agricultural exports, such as bananas, easier as well as provide supplies to the central valley around San Jose. Construction of the first railway lines in Costa Rica started in 1871 between Alajuela near San Jose and Limon on the Caribbean coast. It took 20 years to complete the project. The line from Punta Arenas on the Pacific coast and San Jose was completed 1910. By the 1990's the system was in bad shape and all service was discontinued. Today there's only limited commute service in the San Jose area.

Passenger cars and a locomotive in Caldera
Many tracks are still in place and artifacts can be found along the right of way.

Sunday, June 17, 2018


First leg is a small hop from San Jose to Los Angeles. There's a little snag:
"Your plane is 58 minutes out. As soon as it gets here, we'll try to get you to L.A. as quickly as possible."
-- Friendly Gate Attendant
The flight is currently 45 minutes delayed. Oh well, it doesn't really matter whether we sit at the gate at SJC or LAX.

The delayed plane arrived as expected.

And just before departure, we get a notification that the connecting flight at LAX is delayed as well. Air traffic control held us on the ground at SJC for another 20 minutes because of congestion at LAX.

An hour after we took off eventually, we arrived at gate 37 at LAX.

The outbound flight leaves from gate 35, so the walk to the rest rooms was longer than getting to our connection. The inbound delayed aircraft from Minneapolis arrived eventually.

We finally departed Los Angeles at 1:15am.

6 hours later we were on approach to San Jose International Airport, Costa Rica. The mountains and forests are greeting us from below.

Arrival procedures and immigration was easy and efficient. I read many horror stories about SJO, how overcrowded the airport is, but for us, traveling off-peak season, it was a very nice experience.

Outside the airport doors we were picked up by a representative of AdobeCar and got a ride to the rental car location. Let the adventure begin.

Saturday, June 16, 2018

Shake Down Session

Well, the layout worked better than expected.  There were a few hiccups and some obvious improvement opportunities with regard to managing paperwork. Along the way Egbert got an introduction to operations.

I did not intend to run a session tonight, it just worked out this way. Egbert was curious about the layout and didn't mind running some trains. In the end we got through a good part of the schedule and spent a good part of the evening on it, which makes this is the 12th ops session on the Welztalbahn.

The railbus takes students from Talheim to Emsingen
Switching cars in Talheim.
My prototype-inspired waybills worked ok, but I realize they have too much information on them that is confusing operators. That probably needs some more tuning once I get more feedback.

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Mystic Mountain Railroad at Night

I'm back at Ray's Mystic Mountain Railroad for an evening ops session. It was a beautifully warm evening with no wind. Ray usually runs two person crews, but we were one person short, so I drew the solo runs.

I started with a switching assignment, the Costa Local from North End Yard to Costa. Costa is a new addition to the railroad: a switching puzzle in G scale. Planning the moves and using the available track space efficiently is definitely required. I'm looking forward to when this section has full scenery, too.

Shortly after sunset my second assignment was a local freight out of South Providence Yard to Outaluck and back via Red River.  I assembled my train at the yard as it was getting dark.

All required cars collected from the storage tracks, now I just need to put the train in order, get a caboose and off we go.

By the time we're coming through Red River darkness sets in, and the locomotive headlight is very useful to see where I'm going.

In Red River the track gang is hard at work for the night shift.

Back at Providence Yard, the end of the session is near. I'm taking my locomotive to the engine facility.

Tuesday, June 05, 2018

Dave Parks' Cumberland West - Evitts Creek Yard

My assignment for tonight's B&O ops session is Evitts Creeks Yard. This is a neat little yard with 7 classification tracks and surrounding infrastructure. A significant part of the work here is classifying incoming cuts of cars. The car routing system on the layout makes this really simple. Each outgoing train (direction) has an associated track and a respective car card box. The car cards are clearly labeled with routing information and mostly color-coded, too.

Here you can see the car cards for the cars in the background. I arranged the cards in the same sequence as the cars, so as I sort the cars into their respective classification track, the car card goes into the respective track box at the bottom of the fascia. Just like in real life, yard tracks fill up at times and require a strategy to deal with the overflow cars.

The Evitts Creek Yard does have the disadvantage that it is located away from the aisle behind the Western Maryland's Knobmount yard in the foreground, so the B&O yard master needs long arms to reach all the yard tracks for uncoupling and handling derailments.

The yard is a nice position for rail fanning the really long trains on the B&O, too.

Hold your noses, here comes the livestock train...

Sunday, June 03, 2018

More preparations for ops on the Welztalbahn

Today I found some time to finish building the schedule for a late 60's operations session on the Welztalbahn, and prepared the trains with appropriate rolling stock.

Over the last few months I retired several cars that no longer meet standards, and made some focused purchases to fill gaps in the fleet. Deutsche Bundesbahn retired steam locomotives by 1975. I've focused my collection on classes that were still in use through the end of steam. Conversely, most Diesel types used in the 70's were already in operation in the 1960's, too. Thus, with most of my rolling stock being late era III and early era IV I can visibly shift time back and forth a bit by varying the locomotive mix and pay attention to the passenger car paint schemes. It helps that stock with the older paint schemes often did not get a full paint job well into the 1970's and 80's.

I finished identifying related runs into an "Umlauf", assigned a locomotive and cars to each, and arranged the schedules, plus cards, for each such train set. The schedules, locomotive card, and car cards are kept in sleeves. This is a new addition to operations on the Welztalbahn and I'm very curious how well this will work during a session. Especially for freight trains, I suspect that there will be issues with not having sufficient work space to store the sleeve while working with the car cards. However, I'm hoping that the combination of prototype paperwork, instructions, and rolling stock cards in one place will be useful to operators.

Some freight cars on the layout are still missing their way bills, so I need to finish creating those, as well as make and print car cards for the passenger trains.
Once that is done -- and some more track cleaning, too -- I should be ready for a shake down session operating the schedule without the fast clock.

The Welztalbahn hasn't run in operations for almost two years, and I'm getting really close now. I fully expect gremlins to come out of their hiding places as soon as I try ...

Sunday Breakfast