Saturday, September 14, 2019

Untergroeningen: Connecting to the Welztalbahn (4)

I've started testing the track work in Untergroeningen with rolling stock that I know is sensitive to non-ideal track, and borderline with regard to norms. Switching different kinds of cars helped with finding and partially resolving dead spots and shorts. The older Maerklin stock is really good at finding pukos that I put too close to the edge of the rail.

Thursday, September 12, 2019

Untergroeningen: Shadow Box

Untergroeningen will be located in the garage, at least for the time being. So I need a dust cover that is reasonably tight, easy to remove, reasonably stable, and easy to store. While thinking about this I realized I could just build a shadow box for the layout and close up the front, when it is not in use.

The plan above shows the fairly standard design. It was important to me to make the box easy to disassemble, so just like with the modules I use bolts and wing nuts. No tools needed. In addition, the support structure cannot protrude more than 1 inch in the rear because of clearance issues behind the modules.

Segment 1 became the prototype.

I need a bigger workbench, the modules don't fit... Or maybe store less crap on the top of the workbench. Installing the backdrop.

Test fit all the pieces before glueing.

With the table saw I made 45 degree angle pieces from 3/4" plywood.

That's where the LED strips go.

Testing in the garage.

I need two rows of LEDs to get sufficient brightness. Warm-white by itself feels too much like sunset, cool-white by itself is too harsh, but the combination of one each is just right.

Sunday, September 08, 2019

Untergroeningen: Turnout Control

Untergroeningen only has hand-thrown turnouts. I was considering to replicate this in my rendition and use turnout levels like the small ones from Caboose Industries. Feasible, but turnout motors are more convenient, so I installed Tortoise motors in all three segments of the station. No computer control is planned for this module, so the turnout motors are controlled with regular DPDT-switches, thus at least somewhat replicating the local control theme. The switches need to be installed in the module side, and can't stick out of the side of the module. This is where 3/4" sides come in handy, too. What I didn't quite settle on was how much space to leave around the switch, so I made a test with a scrap piece of plywood, and quickly settled on the 1 1/2" diameter hole. The family agreed.

After carefully measuring the center points, drilling the holes freehand is fun and goes quickly.

Next I glued scrap pieces of hardboard behind the holes and fixed up the paint. Once that dried, drill holes, install the switches, and a couple hours later everything is wired up. 

Segment 1 done. Two more to go, but first I need to prototype something else.

Saturday, September 07, 2019

Untergroeningen: Connecting to the Welztalbahn (3)

Tonight the first train ran under its own power from the Welztalbahn train room to Untergroeningen on the modular extension. I added a 4th power district and moved the existing PSXs to a larger mounting board.

Of course I took a short video to celebrate the occasion of the first train entering the module under its own power.

Tuesday, September 03, 2019

Dave Parks' Cumberland West - Williams Street

STKX is accelerating eastbound out of Cumberland on the X-Main while the Williams Street switcher is waiting for its next assignment
For tonight's ops session on the B&O I'm back at Williams Street Yard, which can be a very messy assignment if the Yardmaster is not careful with staging equipment for trains to be switched in Cumberland station. Now that I have some experience running this yard, I knew what to do, and even had some spare time towards the end of the session to take photos.

View over the river track with Williams St on the left across the main line. Bolt & Forge has received some scrap gondolas on track that still needs to be built.
Dave has several nice scenes in Cumberland, including these guys preparing for a furniture delivery.


For my commute this morning, I left the house at 6:20am, arrived at work at 7:09am with average fuel consumption of barely a quarter gallon for the 23 miles, i.e. 93 miles per gallon.

It's amazing how slow-flowing traffic can help with fuel efficiency.

Monday, September 02, 2019

Untergroeningen: Connecting to the Welztalbahn (2)

Here is the first car to travel through the wall from the Welztalbahn to Untergroeningen.

Sunday, September 01, 2019

Untergroeningen: Connecting to the Welztalbahn

While the Untergroeningen module is designed for the future Murrbahn project, I have made plans to use it in phase 1 of the Welztalbahn layout extension project as a through station, just like the prototype station was originally designed.

The first step is to go through the wall to the layout room to connect with the new turnout I installed in April.

I used some flextrack to check alignment and get an idea about clearances. Just as planned, the track barely misses the storage cabinet on the right.

Here's the view from inside the layout room.

I used cardboard to create a template for cutting the track base board. I paid extra attention to align the edge that needs to be perfectly square and straight with the pre-cut edge of the plywood board and cut the rest with a jig saw.

I fiddled for quite a while with the base board to get a good fit both inside the wall and with the Untergroeningen module.

It took a few attempts to get things to line up, while avoiding a tight radius curve. Once I was happy I marked the curve and glued down some Homabed.

So far, so good. Next up is final leveling of the module, aligned with the Welztalbahn, and installation of the connecting track, followed by wiring Untergroeningen to the Welztalbahn.

Saturday, August 31, 2019

Untergroeningen: Progress

Today I finished up track and wiring for segments 1 and 2 of Untergroeningen. The dining table makes for a convenient work surface for the two segments, so that I can properly align the Raiffeisen track at the segment boundary. When I had it spiked almost all the way to the end, this is what the end of track looked. Huh. Why is the end of track so crooked?

Oh! Because the end of track is at the segment boundary. Sigh. This looks terrible. What was I thinking?

I pulled all the spikes, turned the track around and spiked it a second time. Much better now.

Untergroeningen Segment 1 is ready for testing.

I spent the rest of the day with installing switch machines and finish track wiring segment 2.

Friday, August 30, 2019

Untergroeningen: Segment 1 closed up

I spent some time today to work on segment 1 of Untergroeningen station, shaping the module frame towards the Fremo face place, closing up the openings next to the track with pink foam, and installing the puko strip for the Raiffeisen siding. Chester was watching and made sure I'm not doing anything silly.

The Raiffeisen track is curved and needs to be perfectly aligned at the module boundary, so I decided to use the traditional puko strip installation method soldering the strip to screws on the track center line.

I had already cut the track a few weeks ago and installed the turnout and respective stub on segment 2, so all that was left to do here was finding the center line, setting the screws, and soldering the puko strip. Just enough time between coming home from lunch and getting dinner before heading out to SVL to get this done.

Sunday, August 25, 2019

Saeco Via Venezia doesn't pump water: Replacing the pump

The Seaco Via Venezia is a really basic Espresso machine. Everything is manual, so one needs to pay attention when making Espresso. The hot water reservoir is rather small and the heater not very powerful, so it takes a little while to heat water for the next cup. However, the very simple construction makes it a lot less vulnerable to failure than other consumer espresso machines. This machine has served us well for several years now with no problems.

Nevertheless, a few days ago the machine intermittently stopped pumping and water pressure was rather weak. It appears there are really only two possibilities for this problem: Either the water line is clogged somewhere, or the pump has gone bad.

I took the cover off and checked the silicone hoses for any visible clogs. There's a hose coming from the reservoir into the pump. From the pump water goes into a T-connector, where one hose loops back to the reservoir -- probably some kind of overflow mechanism -- and the other leg leads to the boiler in the front of the photo.

Our pump model is an ULKA EAP5. To my utter surprise I found the exact pump on Amazon for only $26, so I figured it was worth a shot to try replacing the pump.

The white cable connects through a thermal motor protector that is hot-glued to the pump. The hot glue needs to be carefully removed to free the part, so the protector can be taken off.

Taking off the intake hose and the elbow piece was easy enough. However, disconnecting the pressurized side of the pump stumped me until I looked at the output pipe of the replacement pump and noticed that it had threads inside the pipe, and there are notches for a wrench. Once that was clear it was easy to unscrew the pump and get it out of the machine.

When I had the pump out, I opened the steam wand and blew into the T-piece to check whether there were any clogs in the hoses or the boiler. I could feel air blowing out of the steam wand, so I knew that there was no obstruction.

On to installing the new pump. When I removed the rubber foot holding the pump in place to have more room to unscrew the pump, I didn't notice that the screw was held in place by a nut on the other side of the sheet metal that was now sliding around loosely in a plastic compartment above the water tank, so I had to unscrew that to get the nut out and the pump mounted properly.

Everything went back together nicely. Before closing it up, I tested the machine, primed the pump, and made sure that water is pumped properly both through the steam wand and the portafilter. We should have proper Espresso again tomorrow morning.

Saturday, August 24, 2019

Silicon Valley Lines: August Ops

My work place today: The dispatcher's desk at Silicon Valley Lines. The first few trains are running on the railroad, and we have a good list of work ahead of us. The SVL Signaling Project has expanded CTC territory, which now covers Fryton to Kaos Jct, with both signals and detection blocks working and dramatically reducing work for the dispatcher.

Since I was the Dispatcher today, I pretty much missed a fun twist in today's session: night operations. We turned off the work lights in the layout room and ran part of the session with the layout lighting set to night mode, operators used flash lights to read paperwork, etc.