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.

Saturday, August 17, 2019

In the Santa Cruz Mountains

"Colored b/w photo of the beach train to Santa Cruz near Wrights in the early 1930's"
Robert's Vasona Branch layout had an Open House today, I got to run trains, and help direct people. It was a fun day. What else can you ask for?

Friday, August 16, 2019

Caltrain #288 at San Jose Diridon

It's 8:25 on a warm summer evening, just after sunset. Caltrain #288 led by locomotive 915 "South San Francisco" has just pulled into track 1 at San Jose Diridon station. This makes for a nice photo, which would have been nicer if my camera lens had been cleaner.

This is also a quite unusual operational situation:
Track 1 is the Coast Line through track. Caltrain doesn't normally use this track. You'd rather expect Union Pacific freights, and Amtrak's Coast Starlight here.
Speaking off, Amtrak train 14, the northbound Coast Starlight is scheduled to occupy this track from 8:11pm to 8:23pm and it hasn't come through yet, so this Caltrain is really out of place. As I was walking out, Amtrak passengers were at the platform.

I didn't pay close attention when #288 left, but I suspect they took the cross-over to track 2 just before Park Avenue, because only a few minutes after #288 had left, the Coast Starlight pulled into track 1 and my ride home arrived at the same time.

Monday, August 12, 2019

Caltrain #268 near Blossom Hill

Caltrain locomotive #927, an MP36PH-3C, approaching the signals at milepost 560 just south of Blossom Hill station.

Taking the train home

A meeting ran late, so I took the train home. I was a bit early at the Sunnyvale station, and took train #264 to San Jose Diridon. This time I knew where to go, and directed a northbound passenger to the right platform for her departing train. Plenty of time to experiment with low-angle sun light, too. Trains and planes...

#283 on track 3 in the rear, and #385 on track 4
This is photo is probably my favorite: The going away shot of #268 on its way to Gilroy.

Sunday, August 11, 2019

Converting a Peco turnout for Maerklin (5)

Here's the converted Peko turnout leading into the Raiffeisen spur. Compared to earlier builds, I simplified the wiring and the power routing.

Friday, August 09, 2019

Wildlife on the Commute - Blacktail Deer

I took the late bus today and was surprised to see blacktailed deer next to the street. I haven't seen them out this late in the morning before, but hey I'm not complaining.

Tuesday, August 06, 2019

Dave Parks' Cumberland West - Evitts Creek Yard

Tonight I spent most of my time with a view of the hills behind Cumberland, MD. While the session had some hiccups, Evitts Creek Yard was busy with classification work and I had my hands full. Yet there was always time to chat with other operators.

I really appreciate the train line-up and detailed instructions to the Yardmaster about what to do with each train.

Sunday, August 04, 2019

Back in Swing

I found a couple hours this weekend to spend more time with Untergroeningen segment 3 and decided to install turnout motors. When I installed these tracks in a hurry almost 3 months ago, including my very first converted turnout without thinking, I forgot to account for the straight through puko strip design I used around the throw bar there instead of the wire loop I used in later builds.

The track is fed with power from both sides of the turnout, so I could have just cut the etched puko strip at the throw bar. However, that would have required disassembling all track on this segment, since there isn't enough space to get in there with a cutter from either the top or underneath. Instead, I just drilled an off-center hole into the throw bar so that the actuator wire from the Tortoise underneath doesn't collide with the puko strip.

Friday, August 02, 2019

Don Edwards again

I had a meeting in the Sunnyvale office today that I should attend in person, and another meeting in the Mountain View office that I should attend in person. I solved that conundrum by taking the Bay Trail through Don Edwards Wildlife Preserve around the outside of Moffett Field.

A nice way to decompress a bit after a busy week. The many photos I took of birds are all terrible. Need to come back with a proper camera and a long zoom lens.