Thursday, October 31, 2019


We had over 150 young and not-so-young trick-or-treaters at our door today. I think that's a new record. The vast majority of kids and parents had put quite some effort into their costumes, so I was more than happy to pass out candy.

Sunday, October 27, 2019

Welztalbahn Operations Session 14

I put on an ops session on the Welztalbahn today because Balazs was visiting the Bay Area this weekend, and Dakota is still here. With the extension, and the recent schedule changes, I was really curious whether a session could keep 3 operators busy at a leisurely pace. It did, but the leisure was unevenly distributed. Dakota had his hands full in Emsingen, Balazs was busy in Talheim and running the hidden staging yard, while I mostly took care of trains to the extension in the garage.

With a 1:3 fast clock and a couple times, when the clock was stopped, we completed the whole schedule in slightly over 3 hours.

Along the way we also tried out FREMO-style train announcements to notify neighboring stations about upcoming trains. Of course, on a small layout like the Welztalbahn this is overkill. However, it did extend time, and produced a log of what trains ran where. Definitely created a different operations feeling.

This was a fun evening, I should do this more often ...

Welztalbahn: New schedule for extension

I revised the Welztalbahn schedule to include the extension to Untergroeningen in operations. Since the new staging yard is not ready yet, in this schedule I'm treating the extension as Prechtal, and overall moved a few things around to account for trains having to change direction in Emsingen as they make their way to the "new" Prechtal.

The red numbers indicate which schedule book to use for each run.

Saturday, October 26, 2019

Slim Staging: Paint

Slim Staging got a coat of paint of today, and left the two boxes out to dry and air out. I was lucky that the wind blew only the box without tracks off the saw horses ...

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Slim Staging: Wired and Tested

I have wired and tested the tracks. The next step is to install turnout motors. I'm planning to use RC servos controlled by a Tam Valley Depot QuadLN-S stationary decoder. This decoder has support for programming routes and can drive up to 8 servos. There will be a simple control panel with push buttons that can be mounted on either side of the staging yard.

Saturday, October 19, 2019

Slim Staging: Turnout Ladder installed

I love it when a plan comes together. I went from bare box to installed track this afternoon.

Using Dynaflex 230 silicone caulk, I attached 1/4" cork tiles on top of the box. This stuff holds well, dries clear, and remains flexible. I've used this on the Welztalbahn quite successfully to reduce roadbed noise from rolling trains.

The cork tiles are 12x12 inches so I used the overhang cut-offs for the mainline track to the module edge. I aligned tracks and the Fremo faceplate and glued everything in place. I'm using Dynaflex 230 to tack down the tracks as well.

Using a mirror, I ensure that the track is hitting the module edge at a 90 degree angle. I also lined up the staging yard with Untergroeningen segment 1 to verify alignment. Looking good, and a nice demonstration why I call this yard slim staging...

Finally, I wired and installed the yard tracks. I do want detection in the yard to facilitate automated running at some later time, but I haven't decided yet which detection method I'm going to use. For now I'll just make sure that the yard tracks have dedicated feeds to allow retrofitting detection later.

Thursday, October 17, 2019

Slim Staging: Second Box

The second box of the portable staging yard is slapped together. This is not high-precision work, but it should get the job done. The photo shows the test fit with a standard FREMO F96 faceplate that will be shortened to fit the width of the box.

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Slim Staging: A staging yard for the Welztalbahn Extension

The slim staging yard is 10 inches / 25 cm wide and 98 inches / 248 cm long. The 4 tracks are all long enough to comfortably hold a regular length train for the Welztalbahn (130 cm) with room to spare for the occasional extra-long Staging to Staging train. The left hand side will be built with a shortened Fremo-Puko F96 faceplate, so that two of the three standard holes fit the box.

There are two locomotive tracks on the left-hand side. The staging yard will be operated like a terminal station with trains running locomotive first into the storage tracks. Cars will be taken over by a waiting locomotive and form a new outbound train. Once that train has left, the original locomotive will move to the engine track to take over the next train. I'm planning an elevated road crossing the tracks at an angle as a view block separating the layout from staging.

Tonight I tested the track arrangement on the first of the two 4 foot boxes that will make up the yard. There will be protective barriers along the long sides to prevent equipment from falling to the floor. I added a mockup of the road, too.

Welztalbahn: Revised Draft Environmental Impact Report for layout extension

Proposed Welztalbahn Extension Phase 1a
Almost 8 months ago, I had submitted a Draft EIR for approval by the local land-use committee. Since then I have built the Untergroeningen modules that make up phase 1 of the draft EIR. Along the way I revised my operations plans towards intensifying traffic through Untergroeningen. This requires more staging capacity behind Untergroeningen. When I had Untergroeningen set up a couple weeks ago, I realized that I could set up a modular staging yard along the front of the garage. If I made that staging yard slim enough, I could still fit 4 tracks and later make it fit into the aisle between the garage cabinets with just under 2 feet to spare. It's tight, but feasible assuming no active staging, and no reblocking of freight trains in staging.

Proposed Welztalbahn Extension Phase 2
The Staging yard is only 25cm wide and equipped with a partial Fremo-Puko faceplate, so that two of the 3 standard alignment holes are usable. There is a separate post with more details about Staging.
The Phase 1a Connector would be a fairly generic box with provisional alignment holes for the Fremo-Puko endplates of Untergroeningen and Staging. It would get only minimal scenery around its generous 60cm radius curve to Staging. Phase 1a requires a revised schedule and revised waybills, which will keep me occupied for a little while, but once complete it is expected to keep at least 3 operators engaged. I can build the Gaildorf/West segments in parallel to running operations sessions on the Phase 1a modules.

Once Gaildorf/West is ready for operations, we enter Phase 2. Connector A will be built with Fremo-Puko face plates, with specific angles to match up the curve between Untergroeningen and Gaildorf/West.  Phase 2 Connector B will be rebuilt from the box used for the Phase 1a Connector with revised track alignment to fit the needs of the location. Due to proximity and back-to-back arrangement of Gaildorf/West and Staging, the curve between the two locations will be very tight. That's unfortunate, but a compromise I'm willing to make for this somewhat temporary arrangement. The advantage here is that all areas on the extension can be accessed without requiring operators to duck under the layout.

As in the original EIR, there isn't much of a run between towns, but that problem will only be resolved with the future Murrbahn project incorporating Gaildorf/West and Untergroeningen.

Sunday, October 13, 2019

The End of the Greenly Northern

Today marks the end of the Greenly Northern, my office switching layout. Two of the turnouts used on this N-scale layout became more and more problematic, not throwing all the way, leading to derailments when switching. In addition, the baseboard had warped badly enough that cars started rolling on their own when leaving them on certain tracks.
This layout had a good run. I learned quite a few things with it.

I'm considering building another switching puzzle in N-scale, so I kept various parts and of course the electronics. The rest went into the trash.

Untergroeningen Underground

I wired the Tortoise turnout motors to the local controls for Untergroeningen segments 2 and 3. General wiring was also cleaned up.

And here's a shot of the adapter to the Welztalbahn.  This is not often seen by itself, since usually there's segment 3 in the way.

Saturday, October 12, 2019

At Davenport Pier

There are plenty of pretty pictures of the beach at Davenport Pier, including the swing.
I have some, too, but I thought this perspective was a bit more unusual.

Monday, October 07, 2019

Taking Caltrain Home

A team dinner ran later than I expected and I got home rather late today with a smooth ride on Caltrain's Bombardier cars.

Sunday, October 06, 2019


I spent yesterday and today on turning a 8x4' sheet of flooring plywood into a nice, sturdy workbench.

Tuesday, October 01, 2019

Dave Parks' Cumberland West - Knobmount Yard

I clearly didn't get enough ops over the weekend. I ran Knobmount Yard at Dave Parks tonight.