Sunday, September 30, 2018

Module No. 1: Parts

I started yet another project: A practice Fremo-Puko module. The idea is to build an easy module before I build more complicated ones. Rectangular box. Straight track. How hard could that possibly be?
Right angles are important here and my jigsaw has a slightly crooked foot, thanks to a fall several years ago. I managed reasonably well with the portable circular saw, but this would have been a lot easier had I pulled out the table saw. The module end pieces are laser cut, ordered from Harald Brosch.

Update 10:19pm:
I had planned to leave the parts alone until tomorrow. Let's just say that plans are made to be changed...

My first Fremo module frame. I have no way to test how accurate the angles are, but looks pretty close to what it should be. It sits flat on the floor, so at the very least I didn't build it crooked.

Saturday, September 29, 2018

Rave reviews

This one turned out much better than the last one, even though I totally messed up the sequencing, putting the lemon skin scrapes into the apples instead of the dough, and pouring the pudding / milk / egg mix over the apples after laying the dough grid.
Nevertheless, it tasted great and the kids loved it. Can't ask for more.

Morning Coffee

A nice morning to sit outside and enjoy a fine cup of coffee.

Friday, September 28, 2018

September Ops at Silicon Valley Lines

NKP "Berkshire" #772 is leading train 99b, the "FastMail", through Mt. Marvell on the way from Bakersfield to Nowheres.

The Berkshire class locomotive took over the train in Dayton after the originally assigned SP #4349 had trouble with negotiating the grade from Bakersfield staging to the main level of the layout and was set out in Dayton.
Train 99b dropped passenger cars and mail cars in Nowheres and continued with a much smaller consist to Tracy where it terminated.

I had to leave early, so this was my only assignment tonight. A guest engineer was on the throttle and I was conductor. Due to the initial engine problems the train ran well behind schedule and had to deal with a lot more opposing traffic than in its normal slot. When clocking out we had spent over 70 minutes on this run. This was a busy session with lots of activity on the railroad and kept Dispatch on their toes.

Thursday, September 27, 2018

Caltrain at Bailey

A lucky break in traffic allowed me to catch backlit Caltrain #156 along Monterey Rd just south of Bailey.

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Los Paseos Park

Interesting skies and nice light today at sunset

Sunday, September 23, 2018

Gone quickly

It's fall. Time for apple cake. It was good. Sorry, you don't get to see it. ...

Huh? What? You do want to see it? Alright, fine, here it is. This one got a little bit too crispy. Still good, though.

Morning Walk

This Blue Heron hung out a Los Paseos Park while we walked the dog this morning. Seemed like he was very interested in something in the gras, but we couldn't figure out what exactly he was after.

Saturday, September 22, 2018

Welztalbahn Ops Session 13

When I want to show off the layout, I turn off the lights...

I approached today's thirteenth ops session on the Welztalbahn as another shake down session. Balazs came by and helped finding bugs and little gremlins.

Afterwards, pink notes were dotting the landscape. I have some work to do.

The train booklets are now stored conveniently out of the way, but easily accessible.

Friday, September 21, 2018

Schnellzug 204

In this film from the 1960's, Deutsche Bundesbahn shows the various kinds of control tower technology in use at that time. Today we'd call this an infotainment film. Lots of Zeitgeist.

Thursday, September 20, 2018


I seldomly cook dinner, so Tatjana had to capture this rare event.
The result was quite edible.

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Monday, September 17, 2018

NCE bus connector for the PowerCab case

To connect the AUI board on the Greenly Northern, my office layout, I want to fork the NCE cab bus from the command station in a box to the layout without much effort. The easiest way to do that is to add a UTP panel to the setup.

Mark the cut-out on the side. Use a cut-off disk to cut through the outer layer and a keyhole saw for the hardboard and foam padding on the inside.

Install the UTP panel.

I used wood strips on the side, so that the screws have a little bit more depth to hold on to.

And done. The RCA connector on the right is for connecting layout power. The NCE PowerCab delivers only 2 amps layout power, so I didn't feel like I really need a hard-core modular connector for this setup. For test setups I can always make an adapter cable if the need arises.

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Friday, September 14, 2018

That'll do ...

Turns out I do need the full length of the new conveyor belt to bridge the gap to the top of the digester, so I built the 3rd section and glued it to the others. Next up: painting and some weathering on the modern conveyor, building a roof, painting and heavy weathering with rust on the small conveyor sections to be used in the older part of the mill.

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Family Dinner

I didn't want to disturb dinner of my favorite turkey family, so I decided to continue riding and just take a photo on the fly. Sorry for some blur.

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Hallelujah Paper: Conveyor Bridge

Well, ... the Train Shop didn't have more the small conveyors I built the last time in stock, but they had something better. The style of Walthers Modern Conveyor kit is exactly what I had in mind for the large conveyor to the top of the digester of Hallelujah Paper.
I will use the smaller conveyors to transport the wood chips from the rotary dumper "to" the wood chip dump represented only on the backdrop.

Monday, September 10, 2018


On a whim I decided tonight to print the Untergroeningen track plan and see what this looks and feels like at full size. I checked accuracy of the print with some turnouts and it's certainly close enough to be usable. The top left corner of the plan is missing because my printer decided to be stupid...

Things to note:

  • Even at 2.80m end to end, the plan feels compressed (which it is). Adding another 30-50cm of track in front of the station building would probably be good, but I'm not going to have the space for that.
  • I'm considering shortening the tail tracks to get longer house tracks, though that's a balancing act with making switching the sawmill track not seriously annoying. In fact, I kind of want longer tail tracks already...
  • Building this as segments with Fremo module heads according to the Puko norm is definitely feasible.
  • Modules would have sufficient room around the tracks and buildings to add some nice rural town scenery.
I need to think about this some more. Nevertheless, this does seem like a feasible project to try out a few new techniques for track construction, and get an usable module set out at the same time.

Riding Home

In the evenings I have a larger-than-life animated pictogram right next to me.

Sunday, September 09, 2018

Sorry is not good enough!

Dear Hornbach: You can't just place your advertisement in front of my motive and then say, "Sorry".
That's just not good enough!
Please be more considerate next time and move your outdoor advertisement off to the side when there's a train coming, so that I can take my photos without a commercial break. Thank you.

Lieber Hornbach: Ihr koennt doch nicht Euer Werbeplakat vor mein Motiv stellen, und dann einfach "Sorry" sagen. Das geht doch nicht!
Bitte passt beim naechsten mal etwas mehr auf und schiebt Eure Aussenwerbung zur Seite wenn ein Zug kommt, so dass ich meine Fotos ohne Werbeunterbrechung machen kann. Danke.

I was standing on the platform at track 4 in Ludwigsburg last year when I saw this Regional Express of double-deck cars pushed by a class 110 engine come into the station on track 2. I did not have a good photo of a 110 with the double-deck cars yet. Not enough time to get to the stairs and head over to the other platform. As the train trundles to a stop I prepared to take my photo, only to have it stop as you see above with the defining feature of class 110, three windows to the machine room between the cooling vents on either side, hidden behind the billboard.

Saturday, September 08, 2018

Fun at SF MOMA Magritte exhibition

(photo credit: Franziska)

The Magritte exhibit at SF MOMA (running through October 28) didn't feel huge, yet it was interesting nevertheless and well worth the visit. In the last room of the exhibit there are some playful takes on typical Magritte themes. So, here's my version.
We saw several other visitors do the same while we were there. Fun to see how an art exhibition inspires. 

The SF MOMA building is architecturally interesting, too. I liked this view from the 4th floor up to the skylight.

Locked ... or not

Sister City

When one of the historic trolleys on the Embarcadero drove up in this very familiar tone of blue, I had to take a closer look. Unfortunately, traffic and people waiting on the platform made photographing the whole trolley before it took off very difficult.
Zurich. Sister city of San Francisco.

Greenpeace Arctic Sunrise

We started off a day in the city with a visit of Greenpeace's "Arctic Sunrise". The story of Greenpeace has impressed me ever since I was a teenager, and it was great to tour one of their three ships in person. The Arctic Sunrise is an ice breaker that was used for seal hunting before Greenpeace bought it. Kind of ironic that they managed to actually acquire the ship.

The ship has a modern bridge with multiple radar systems, and is specially equipped for ice navigation.

The Arctic Sunrise can be fully controlled from the crows nest and has a top speed of about 13 knots. The speed boats stored on the main deck can reach speeds of 60 knots.

The main cargo hold has been converted to living quarters, entertainment, and community work space.

A very cool tour of a ship with a mission.

Friday, September 07, 2018

End of Week

Part of my ride home on Coyote Creek Trail. I love it to ride along the creek away from traffic.

Tuesday, September 04, 2018

Dave Parks' Cumberland West - M Y Tower

Tonight the Western Maryland is in operations and I'm working MY Tower. I'm guessing despite it's financial troubles the WM is paying its operators reasonably well. Or maybe the operator found a decent car loan to pay of the family car from their meager salary.

Either way, my work place is located near the tower across the aisle at Dave's work bench. The Western Maryland ran on Time Table and Train Order, so I was busy for most of the evening writing orders and clearances, setting turnouts, and organizing the flow of traffic through this busy junction between Knobmount and Ridgley Yards.

Antique meets Modern. I spent a lot of time on the phone with the dispatcher tonight, copying and reading orders. The tablet controls signals and the turnout right next to MY tower, which is in an awkward position and I'd collide with Knobmount Yardmaster all the time.

A fun session with lots of traffic and just a bit more exposure to TT&TO operations. It got really late tonight, so climing out of bed the next morning was a challenge.

Monday, September 03, 2018

Passenger Paperwork

All cars on passenger trains now have paperwork  as well. I'm following the same logic as with the freight car cards and make the car card resemble the destination sign that would be on the car. Since most passenger cars traverse the layout twice and rotating cards for such trains is annoying, as a simplification I added "und zurueck" to indicate that the car will go both ways.

Door Maintenance

Large sliding patio doors are a major pain when the rollers they ride on get stuck. A lot of effort to get the door out for 2 minutes of work.

Sunday, September 02, 2018

Digitizing Roco 43012 - Whoops

I ordered replacement wheel sets for the Maerklin system from Roco, so that I can run the unit on the Welztalbahn. I also ordered a replacement gear box cover that is supposed to carry the maerklin-typical pickup shoe. However, it turns out that the replacement part I got has not even a remote resemblance with the part I need.  It's clearly not made to be a one-to-one replacement.

So, ... either I'm doing this wrong, or the Roco warehouse made a mistake. Time to think about this some more. If I can't figure this out, I might end up moving the pickup shoe to the first passenger car and cable it to the motor unit.

Update September 3rd:
Wow. Yesterday I sent off a support request to Roco looking for an explanation. They not only responded within 24 hours, but gave a direct and technically complete answer. The gears of the AC version are different, so that the pickup shoe fits under the truck. The AC version has only 3 powered axles.
Not only did they advise the proper part numbers, but also checked what parts they actually have available, gave a discussion of pros and cons for which pickup shoe to use, and finally suggested a replacement motor and appropriate decoder from the Roco program. Can't ask for more than that.

I'm very impressed by Roco's customer support. Well done, guys!