Monday, April 29, 2019

Morning Goats

This is not a common sight on my commute, so I had to stop and take a couple photos.

It's interesting how far away from the herd the shepherd placed his trailer...

As you can tell, the green grass is pretty much gone, and summer is almost here

Sunday, April 28, 2019

Building the extension connector (2)

In order to fit the new turnout into the existing track arrangement, I cut off the current-conducting tabs underneath the track on the two short track pieces. That way I limit hacking the track to cheap track pieces, instead of the turnouts. I also removed the rail joiners on that end of the track sections and replaced them with shortened Atlas Code 100 joiners. Before this new turnout, the whole curve was a detected section. I want to retain train detection in the area, but cover trains from either direction, so I moved the detected section to the two tracks sections between the turnouts, and soldered the cable to the rail joiner.

The track fits perfectly. I'll leave it like this for tonight. Next up is building the embankment to the wall, and making sure that the new track performs properly before painting and ballasting.

Southern Pacific Santa Rosalia branch operations session

I'm back at Tony Thompson today with two other local model railroaders for a very enjoyable operations session on Tony's Southern Pacific proto-freelanced branch line set in 1953. Tony likes to change things around the layout. Compare the photo above with the same view in the 2017 post.

As a team of conductor and engineer we worked Ballard and Santa Rosalia, then switched sides and roles and switched Shumala.
A fun afternoon that went by way too fast, even with the fast clock set to 1:1 ratio ...

Lots of work in Ballard.

Saturday, April 27, 2019

Building the extension connector

As I'm building my first station module, I do need to connect it to the existing Welztalbahn. Here's the curve on the south end of Emsingen. When I built this section of the layout in 2010 I didn't really consider extending it, although the thought of doing so entered my mind every now and then since. Now I'm getting serious. Most of the layout is built with sectional track pieces. I need to remove one curved piece to fit the turnout. Since the track continuation on both sides is fixed, simply disconnecting the track pieces is not an option. Cutting the rails with the Dremel tool resolved that problem quickly.

I used a wide artists spatula to gently lift the rails from the cork base and cut through the silicone caulk that held the rails in place until ballasting. Speaking of ballasting, I didn't do a particularly good job with this section 5 years ago, which made removing the ballast very easy. In the photo below I already marked where the track to the extension is going to lead.

Cutting into finished scenery always hurts, but the pain is over quickly. To my delight I realized that the baseboard of the curve extends all the way to the wall, so I don't have to worry about building a support structure for the new track. With the scenery cut away I can fit the turnout and new branch track. I will need to find a way to connect the rails on the station side with minimal damage to the surrounding tracks. This is the location at the top of the ramp where some locomotives like to derail, so I have to be extra careful to get track alignment just right.

Now that I knew where exactly the rails are hitting the wall, I marked and cut the opening. The Welztalbahn won't get catenary, so I can leave the opening fairly low profile and narrow.

Here's the opening with a test car. I will need to cut away a bit more drywall on the right hand side of the car. When complete, there will be a liner inside so that cars can't fall into the inside of the wall. I drilled a hole through the rear drywall to check alignment with the cabinet and shelving unit that are located on the other side of the wall. The connection is coming out exactly in the right spot as planned.

I can now finish the track installation on the Welztalbahn side of the wall, and make the Welztalbahn operational again, so I can run trains while building the Untergroeningen module and the connector section through the wall.

Pipe Repair

We're doing work in our back yard, and hit a sprinkler pipe. I cleaned up the hole ...

... and installed this snap-on piece to cover the hole. The glue I bought the last time this happened in 2007 was still good. 

Friday, April 26, 2019

Silicon Valley Lines April Operations Session

Once again a good and busy session. Once again I played mostly conductor, while a visitor ran the engine for our train. At the end of the evening, everyone was tired and happy. More photos are over at the Silicon Valley Lines web site.

Thursday, April 25, 2019

That'll do

This how I was planning to arrange the turnout to the layout extension. The branch to Talheim curves off to the right, and the branch to the extension goes straight towards the wall in parallel to the freight tracks on the left, and will leave the room through a minimum-sized hole.

Alternatively, I could swap the 2234 piece to the foot of the turnout, and run at a slight angle away from the freight tracks and hit the wall a little bit further to the right. This would allow me to keep the rock between the branch and the track bumper, dress it up with some more bushes and thus gain a view block that would hide most of the hole from the Talheim operator who sits further to the left.

Making the respective change on the track plan confirms it's feasible with some minor adjustments to the connecting track.

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Tortoise Prep

With several of the turnouts built, it's time to prep the turnout motors for installation.

Monday, April 22, 2019

Converting a Peco turnout for Maerklin (4)

The Puko-strips from Weichen Walter stick out a couple millimeters under the turnout. I'm using strips cut from a sheet of very thin cork with an adhesive backing and stick them under the turnout.

Sunday, April 21, 2019

Converting a Peco turnout for Maerklin (3)

Recently, I've been working more seriously on converting Peco StreamLine Code 100 turnouts for use with the Maerklin 3-rail system (previous posts here and here). The main motivation for doing this is availability of turnouts with larger radius and more variety than what I can get from Maerklin's track program. The drawback is the need for extensive modifications of the turnouts.

The photo above shows a converted Peco SL-E98 large radius wye turnout with puko strips from Weichen Walter glued and partially melted to the turnout. The Electrofrog construction looks really nice, but requires that the frog rails are cut and insulated from the outer rails. With a radius of 1824mm and 12 degree angle at the frog, there is no turnout available from Maerklin that allows similarly graceful curvature.

Below is a Peco SL-95 medium radius Insulfrog. With a radius of 914mm and 12 degree angle, this turnout is pretty close to Maerklin's 22716 "slim turnout".

I chose Peco Code 100 Streamline turnouts because they come pretty close to Maerklin's Code 100 K track system, which should allow me to mix-and-match K-track and Peco turnouts. This way I hope to limit building custom turnouts to situations where they are strictly needed.

Converting turnouts in assembly line fashion optimizes work time, since I can apply a set of puko strips as needed and let the glue dry on one turnout, while I work on assembling another turnout. Here are my five test turnouts in various states of completion.

The final step is wiring up the new puko strips, as well as the frog rails that need to be polarized and provide power to the pickup shoe. I chose to individually wire the puko strips on each leg of the turnout, since it avoids installing a wire to bridge the gap and keeps the frog rails accessible from below.

To gain even more experience with the process, I'm planning to build the Untergroeningen station module only with converted Peco track.

Saturday, April 20, 2019

Friday, April 19, 2019

Backyard Salamander

We discovered a particularly nice salamander while cleaning up the patio today. Unfortunately, one of the neighborhood cats already go ahold of him, and he wasn't doing too well.

Friday Commute

I love this section of my commute on Coyote Creek Trail.


For a work event we went Go-Kart racing today. Lots of fun with a great group of people.
To my utter surprise I finished the final race in 4th place out of 11 racers.

Saturday, April 13, 2019


I'm making progress on a revised Web site for Silicon Valley Lines, and while at it I'm trying out WordPress. WP has made quite some progress compared to the last time I played around with it a few years ago. Now much more streamlined and slick. Tempting ...

Thursday, April 11, 2019

Nails do not belong here (2)

I fixed the tire yesterday evening. On the way home I noticed another couple nails on the same stretch of road where I punctured the tire yesterday and stopped to get them off the street. 10 minutes later I had picked up a handful. Must have fallen off a work truck or something ...

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Nails do not belong here

While I was waiting for my wife to pick me up with this punctured tire, I picked up a few more nails and screws from the street and threw them away.

Tuesday, April 09, 2019

Converting a Peco turnout for Maerklin (2)

I found some thin cork in my stash and glued it under the converted turnout. That'll do.

Monday, April 08, 2019

Converting a Peco turnout for Maerklin

I'm using a kit from Weichen Walter to convert a Peco SL-91 Code 100 turnout for use with Maerklin rolling stock and locomotives. Following the instructions I'm glueing the point contacts to the turnout. This takes some patience, as glue doesn't dry as quickly as the melt-in-the-ties method I used on the flex track with Module One.

This is really a test and practice to see what it takes to convert 2-rail turnouts for use with Maerklin. The look is comparable to regular Maerklin turnouts, the center contacts  are quite visible.

I'll let the glue dry, and wire it up tomorrow.

Sunday, April 07, 2019

Amador Central Railroad

The Amador Central Railroad is the successor of the Ione & Eastern Railroad connecting Ione to Martell halfway between Jackson and Sutter Creek. The railroad was started in 1902 and the first train operated to Martell in 1904. Proposed extensions where never built. For most of it's existence the line was owned by lumber companies and carried forest products to the connection with the Southern Pacific down the hill at Ione.

Today the line is jointly owned and maintained by two local historical societies and sees occasional recreational use with speeders.

Sutter Creek

Sutter Creek has maintained that gold rush downtown flair with many buildings dating back to the 1800's.  We very much enjoyed our time here. The atmosphere is relaxed and quaint.
Main St maybe has an over-abundance of wine tasting rooms ...

Saturday, April 06, 2019

Daffodil Hill

On the way back to Sutter Creek we stopped at Daffodil Hill, a ranch that normally is open for a couple weeks in the spring for visitors to enjoy the view of hundreds of thousands of daffodils on a hill behind the ranch buildings. Unfortunately, on the first weekend of the season this year they got overrun by thousands of visitors, overwhelming the ranch facilities as well as leading to traffic collapse on the roads in the vicinity. The crowds didn't stay on the path and walked into the flower beds, a pattern that's an all too common refrain heard from other locations, too. As a consequence, the family owning the ranch aborted this year's season and is considering alternative approaches for crowd management.

We took a couple photos from the gate and the street, and got a glimpse of the hill. It's a beautiful setup, and I can't imagine that a visit with the crowds would be nearly as enchanting as our view from the fence line.

Several peacocks are hanging out on the grounds and we got to see some really nice wheels.