Sunday, September 29, 2019

Evening Return


La Mesa TT&TO, Day 2

In the siding at Walong
On the second day, I spent all day in "the hill pool" running trains up and down the hill between Mojave and Bakersfield, contrary to yesterday. TT&TO can make this challenging, but I'm getting the hang of it, and there was always time for chats with operators or other crew members.

Approaching Caliente
Selfie at Cliff
Entering Bena
At Magunden
At Ilmon
Holding the main at Cliff
Helper in Cliff siding
I had a great time. A big thank you to the members at La Mesa for hosting this event.

Climbing the hill at Walong

Saturday, September 28, 2019

Timetable and Train Order Ops at La Mesa: Day 1

It's Timetable & Train Order operations weekend at the La Mesa Model Railroad in San Diego's Model Railroad Museum. I've been here in March and got hooked on running trains with TT & TO procedures on a really big layout. While the signature scenes of the layout are the climb from Caliente to the summit at Tehachapi and the famous loop, there's much more to the layout than what museum visitors usually notice.

During job assignment in the morning I picked the Arvin switch job, which was not quite what I expected. The Arvin job serves half a dozen potato packing houses on the branch line to Digiorgio and Arvin south-east of Bakersfield. Over the course of the day and 3 departures from Bakersfield, I moved about 120 reefers, plus 10 express box cars in and out of the Arvin branch.

When I got my clearance for the 11:30am departure, I also got a rather verbose order about what else is happening around me.

Between runs to Arvin I worked as hostler in the ATSF Bakersfield yard.

Here's the third departure of Extra 195, the Arvin switcher, from Bakersfield with 10 express box cars and a string of reefers coming off the ATSF main line at Kern Jct just before 3pm. The Kern Jct tower operator is appropriately dressed for the job. In the foreground is the Southern Pacific yard at Bakersfield.

In Magunden Extra 195 leaves the joint main line, crosses Edison Highway and ducks through the backdrop.

The work on the Alvin branch consists of a fairly elaborate scheme of cars to be delivered in time for loading at the various potato packing houses, as well as pulls of loaded cars after certain cutoff times. Yes, what you do in practice here is move a bunch of orange cars back and forth, which can feel pointless. However, this becomes a fun exercise when adding some imagination and try to deliver the cars as requested by the packing houses, work with limited track space, pull cars only after the respective cut-off times. My first trip to Arvin started at 11:30am. I did the last pulls at the 5pm cut-off, and was back in Bakersfield before 5:30pm. 6+ hours of switching work with a 30 minute break for lunch.

Arvin is one of the rather unfinished areas of the layout. White Wolf Potatoes is in the rear with 3 loaded cars ready for pickup on track 3, while 7 more cars are being loaded.  Diamond Potato Packers with 10 cars being loaded is in the foreground.

When I was done with my work, all outbound cars were picked up and cars for loading where spotted at the various packing houses.

The somewhat odd track arrangement matches reality, and several of the packing houses still exist today.

To round out the day, I took No. 7, a westbound First Class passenger train, from Mojave down the hill to Bakersfield. As this is a westward train and First Class it has right over all other trains and I had a scheduled meet with No. 4 at Cliff. I better not be late.

As I made my way down the hill, all conflicting trains were out of the way in sidings and eagerly awaiting my arrival. I was a few minutes behind schedule, and got "you are late" comments from most crews along the way! Rightfully so. Woodford and Caliente were bustling with trains, and they all wanted to get moving again.

Here is No. 7 leaving Caliente, with an opposing freight already continuing their climb up the hill.

Friday, September 27, 2019

Sunday, September 22, 2019

Untergroeningen: Connecting to the Welztalbahn (6)

This weekend I ran most active locomotives on the Welztalbahn over the complete Untergroeningen module with some freight cars and switched at least a few cars on each run in some sensible pattern to exercise tracks and turnouts.

I placed the Raiffeisen warehouse on the spur in Untergroeningen to get a sense of scale for this arrangement. I think I can make the storage tower an inch taller. This spur and business are a freelanced addition to Untergroeningen to allow for more diverse traffic on this branch line.

While I was testing, in many cases I found some bugs and as a side-effect also identified additional rolling stock that is finicky on the converted Peco turnouts, like DB 216 428, an older Maerklin model of a Glmmhs 57 box car, which turns out to be a good test case for how far to file the turnout guard rails.

The to-do list for the next couple weeks:

  • Tune remaining Peco turnouts
  • Build shadow box for each Untergroeningen segment and install LED lighting
  • Add power to turnouts

That should wrap up the basics of Phase 1 of the Welztalbahn-Extension.

The next step will be temporary staging tracks behind Untergroeningen, and build up a new schedule and paperwork that integrates the extension and the upcoming Gaildorf/West module with the existing Welztalbahn. I'm aiming to have the basics of that worked out over the next couple months and start operating in a group regularly.

Friday, September 20, 2019

Freeform veggie rice with grilled Teriyaki Chicken

This turned out to be surprisingly yummy. Fried rice with bell peppers, onions, eggs, and grilled chicken that I put into a Teriyaki marinade this morning. The family approved and will consume the leftovers tomorrow.

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Plum Pie

This cake is more similar to a pie than other cakes I've made before. The cookbook labeled it a "Mittwochskuchen" (Wednesday Cake) because it's so easy and quick to make. We had 3 pounds of plums that needed to be eaten, so what better way is there than to turn them into pie filling?

While not pretty to look at on the plate, the result is deliciously plum'y.

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Untergroeningen: Connecting to the Welztalbahn (5)

Franziska helped me set up the modules tonight. They don't have proper feet yet, so for now I just clamped two boards to the side of the modules. However, this represents the first time that Untergroeningen is complete and connected with power to the Welztalbahn. Over the next couple days I will test various rolling stock with the new tracks. Once that is done, I'm planning to disassemble this setup and finish backdrop, turnout control, and segment lighting for Untergroeningen.

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.