Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Dinner at Cucina Venti

This Greens, Apples & Walnuts salad was delicious. The lamb was very good, too.

Monday, July 30, 2018

Taking apart a BR50 and not finding anything wrong

When I put Maerklin 37819, engine 051 013-1 on the roller stand yesterday, it wasn't recognized automatically by the Mobile Station. At all.

Another locomotive was programmed just fine, so it wasn't the overall setup. Tonight I double-checked connectivity, checked the wires, checked the decoder socket, swapped in another decoder, nothing. I tried the decoder in the BR 50 with cabin tender and it worked there, so it wasn't the decoder (whew!)

I slowly took apart 051 013 until I had the naked engine in front of me. I checked the cable connections, double-checked connectivity, put it on the roller stand. ... And it worked just fine. Slowly and carefully I put it back together, and ... it still runs just fine.

Maybe user error and I didn't press Stop on the Mobile Station to let it detect the locomotive? But then it should have worked with the decoder from the other BR 50.  I have no idea. At least now I know how to take this engine apart and put it back together. The fine wires sticking out underneath the boiler make reassembly quite tough, since the wires kind of need to be pushed aside on both side to not get caught when reseating the boiler on the chassis assembly. I ended up canoodling the engineer's side into place first and then do the fireman's side.

Since I had the boiler with the cab off, at least it was a convenient time to install Preiser figures for engineer and fireman. I wanted the engineer to have his elbow on the window sill, so unfortunately he had to loose his shoes and feet. I used canopy glue to keep the two guys in place.

Sunday, July 29, 2018

Work train in Emsingen

A work train came through Emsingen station on the main track this afternoon. Imagine the characteristic rumble of the V36 / BR 236 Diesel locomotives running in a pair for enough traction over "the hill".

The locomotives are Maerklin 3346, a limited run edition known as "Doppeltes Lottchen". I have not yet converted them to digital operation. They look really nice with this train. The cars are from the Lima L149925-4 package and still have their DC wheel sets. The crane is the more-than-old Maerklin 315/2. 

I need to build a boom support for the crane and mount it on the flat car, along with some boxes, wires, and other supplies. The materials car should probably go between the flat car and the workers car. Then I could use a Rungen flat car loaded with ties, rails, and more materials needed for on demand track maintenance.

Nevertheless this train is capturing the look I've been after quite nicely. 

Saturday, July 28, 2018

SVL: Saturday Ops Session

After a somewhat slow start at Silicon Valley Lines this morning, activity picked up quickly and we promptly overloaded Nowheres Yard with multiple trains converging on the yard from three origins almost at the same time. A couple crews ended up waiting before and in the yard much longer than intended.

I tried to do my best as dispatcher to divert some traffic away and allow the yard to catch up. A fun morning, even though it was spent in front of screens.

Friday, July 27, 2018

Wildlife on the Commute: More Turkeys

Remember the turkeys from a couple weeks ago? They are still hanging out near the Coyote Creek trail. The chicks are growing fast.
A little bit down the trail is the other family with some adolescent teenagers confidently crossing the road.

And here's the whole family. It won't be much longer before the young will go out on their own.

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Bearded Dragons: Dinner

While Hera already chews on dinner, ...

 ... is Zeus still thinking about whether he wants to join the party.

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Margarita Cheesecake Tart

This was popular as dessert today. No surprise after I tried it, ... and then went back for another one.

Monday, July 23, 2018

Maerklin 37836 - BR 50 with Cabin Tender

Maerklin's new tooling of the class 50 steam locomotive is very nice. The tiny, free-standing hand wheels and see-through frame under the boiler are just a couple examples. The locomotive comes with cab lights in the locomotive cab, as well as the conductor cab built into the tender.

The standard Maerklin steam engine sounds in purchases from the last couple years left me a bit disappointed, especially after hearing how well Roco and Zimo did the sounds on the class 64. The sound package on the class 50 is not quite that good, but very close. The brakes sound a bit weird, and I would have liked automatic hissing to indicate blowing out water from the cylinders when the locomotive starts moving. Aside from that I can't really complain. The chuff sounds adjust convincingly to speed, too. This is a mfx+ locomotive with the play world feature, which I don't really care for at all.

I reduced sound volume, extended acceleration and deceleration delays, and reduced maximum speed. It's nice to be able to do this at the work bench with the roller stand and a Mobile Station 2 to program the MFX functions.

Overall, a beautiful model of a work horse locomotive that strikes a good balance between play value and detailing.

Sunday, July 22, 2018

Eurowest 2018

Triebwagen CFe 3/3 of Appenzeller Bahnen in Chamby
The annual Eurowest show organized by the European Train Enthusiasts (ETE) continues to be a draw for me, especially since in the last couple years I get to help out with running the Swiss Narrow Gauge trains layout.

The layout's location was again in the main hall right next to the entrance, which makes for good visitor traffic and plenty of opportunities to chat during the day. Mr. Wright is having fun watching all these train enthusiasts below.

This time around I helped with teardown of the layout and getting it stowed for the ride back home. Once everything is out of the hall, it's a quite different feeling...

Saturday, July 21, 2018

Mystic Mountain Railroad Ops

I'm back at Ray's Mystic Mountain Railroad for an operations morning. Our first assigning was the southbound through freight from North End Yard to Providence Yard with switching along the way.
Dave and I switched the engineer and conductor roles on the second assignment of the day.

A very enjoyable way to spend the morning with great company out in the sun.

Wednesday, July 18, 2018


I finished the session Egbert and I started a month ago and the last few trains promptly found some more problems with tracks and locomotives. The layout is now littered with green tape, each indicating a problem to be fixed.

I also tackled one item from the cleanup list and mounted the switches for station and city lights under the fascia to free up the shelf intended for Emsingen paperwork to the right of the car card boxes. The switches are still easy to reach, but no longer take up any horizontal space.

Sadly, it appears that one of the Tam Valley QuadP turnout decoders died, or maybe it just doesn't like the heat today. It responds to local inputs, but not to commands from the DCC bus. Maybe it forgot its accessory address? I'll try to reprogram that tomorrow, but I'd find that very weird, since the programming of the turnout positions is still correct.

Sunday, July 15, 2018

Digitizing Roco 43012 - Headlights, part 3

Where I started: Two bulbs. The lower bulb illuminated the headlight, the upper bulb the tail lights. I took both out and installed LEDs instead.
The photo below shows the arrangement for the headlights. A larger SMD LED in warm-white would have been cheaper and easier, but I didn't have one with the correct form factor and color temperature in my stash, so I used this pico LED instead and mounted it inside a styrene tube. At least it comes with the cables already attached. I'm still considering mounting it in the shell with the tail light LEDs.

The tail lights are illuminated individually with one pico LED glued on the tail light optics each and covered with shrink tube to minimize red light seepage into the head lights.  I didn't dare shrinking the tube inside the plastic shell, so I just glued them in place with canopy glue.
These LEDs are very bright. Once connected to the decoder, I will need to experiment with finding the right resistor value to get the brightness dimmed low enough. I cut off the arms of the plastic light distribution thingy that lead to the tail lights, so that it still fits into the shell with the new tail light LEDs installed.

Saturday, July 14, 2018

Digitizing Roco 43012 - Headlights, part 2

Oh yes! That's much more convincing.

Now I just need to figure out an equally convincing way to mount the LEDs to the shell...

Thursday, July 12, 2018

VT11.5 headlights

The title page of Eisenbahn Journal March 2018 confirms, the VT11.5 has golden-white/yellowish headlights. This photo is also a great case study for weathering the unit when I'm done with the insides.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Digitizing Roco 43012 - Headlights

The model comes with bulbs that barely illuminate the headlights, even at 12 volts. If I put a 2x3mm SMD LED in place of the bulb, I get nice illumination. Good.
I think the color temperature of this LED is to white-blue'ish. A closer look at a prototype photo hopefully will help resolve that question.

When placing the same LED into the location of the bulb for the tail lights, however, enough light seeps into the headlights to illuminate everything. Looking more closely at the previous photo, the effect is visible there as well, but not as bothersome.

The reason for this behavior is that the plastic piece guiding the light from the bulb to the headlights easily picks up enough stray light. In addition, it's one piece for both head and tail lights, so it's hard to guarantee separate light paths. At the very least the top headlight in the nose must be completely dark.

One option I explored a little bit tonight was to position a LED on the chassis floor so that it lights up only a single rear light. However, it turns out that doing this naively just lights up the whole light package, i.e. both head and tail light. Even using shades or tubes doesn't help enough.

The next idea I'm going to try is to get a few tiny red SMD LEDs and glue them directly on the tail light optics in the shell. Then I just need to worry about how to connect the wires to the decoder in the chassis without causing a maintenance headache. A micro plug is likely the easiest for that, and since I have to go through the trouble for the tail lights anyways, I can use the same approach for the cab light, too.

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Wildlife on the commute - More turkeys

It's that time again where turkeys are easy to see on my commute route. This single turkey had a couple chicks hiding in the grass around it. 

A couple hundred feet further, there was a whole family hanging out near the trail.

Sunday, July 08, 2018

Digitizing Roco 43012 - Gear Cleaning

Before I replace the motor, I need to make sure that the mechanical part of BR601 works well. Since the starting voltage is quite high, I decided to give the gears a thorough cleaning. To do that I need to strip down the locomotive to the bare chassis.

I loosely set the new motor from SB Modellbau into the motor cavity and ran it with DC. Starting voltage was 4-5V. Definitely too high, which means that the gears are not running smoothly.

I pulled out all the gears from the lead truck and set them aside.

Ah yes, here's the problem. The gear tower is all gunked up.

Everything got a thorough cleaning with soapy water. Rinse and repeat for the trailing truck.
After putting it all back together and applying light lubrication, starting voltage is around 2.5V. Progress.


Teriyaki Chicken with garlic baguette, Cesar Salad, tomato salad, and cauliflower. Yummy!
BBQ cleanup afterwards is no fun, though...

Saturday, July 07, 2018


Today I installed additional storage shelves in the garage. These used to be book shelf cases. I connected them to each other close to the floor, mounted a 2x4 across the top and anchored it to a beam in the garage. This way the shelves form a stable and fairly rigid unit. Finally, I glued small quarter rounds to the shelves so that whatever is on them can't slide or roll off.

Friday, July 06, 2018

Turkey Crossing

Very weird deers crossing the street today.

Digitizing Roco 43012 - Test run on DC

BR601 posts ]

I have started work to digitize this Roco 43012 class 601. Before I take it apart to install a replacement motor and decoder, I'm verifying that the unit works on DC. It runs, but gets going only at about 6 volts, which seems high for a straight DC model. Thus, I should probably take a closer look at the gear towers and axle lubrication.

Here's a short video of the front unit running. The noise you hear is vibration of my test rig. I need to work on that, too.

Tuesday, July 03, 2018

Dave Park's Cumberland West - Somewhere in West Virginia

Today it is the Western Maryland's turn to run. I'm the engineer on WM10 the scheduled passenger train of the day seen above at the Western Virgina Jct yard. It's fun to see the side by side difference between operations on the B&O using modern signaling equipment, and the venerable Timetable & Train order on the Western Maryland.

Sunday, July 01, 2018


Modern transportation is amazing. Breakfast in Costa Rica, Lunch in Atlanta, Dinner in California.

We left San Jose, Costa Rica at 7am, which meant getting up at an ungodly 4am. The departure hall at the airport was very busy even this early in the day. I don't even want to think about how busy SJO gets during the high season.

Flight and US immigration were painless. The 4 hour layover is a tad annoying, but the plane to San Jose, CA is here, so at least we won't be waiting for an incoming air craft like last time.

The flight to San Jose, CA was quiet and reasonably boring. To my family's delight Delta has seen the light and offers inflight entertainment on domestic flights for free. Yay!

Back home.