Friday, February 28, 2020

February Ops at Silicon Valley Lines

The last Friday of the month traditionally is Operations Night at Silicon Valley Lines. The regular positions were all assigned and the railroad ran well, so I got to run train #444 Windsor to Jasper Jct with some switching chores in Silicon and Nowheres. I haven't run this train in a while and had a lot fun. Above SP 4837 leads train across the high bridge at Mt. Nickolls National Monument.

45 minutes later switching is behind us and train #444 is cruising through Mt. Marvel on the way down the loop to Jasper Jct.

While this was a modern session, the Tracy Historical Railroad Society operated an excursion train from Tracy to Bayshore and back with their recently restored steam engine 1234. It created quite some excitement in cities and towns along the route, as well as kept the dispatcher on their toes.

The switching job at the Hallelujah Papermill had their hands full tonight. Here's a manifest freight passing the papermill at speed on the mainline.

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Commute at Dusk

It's just before 6pm. Sunset on Coyote Creek Trail. A little bit further down the trail I spot turkeys in the bushes.

As I cross the Bernal Rd bridge, I see a light in the distance.

It's Caltrain 262 on the way to Gilroy.

Sunday, February 23, 2020

TSG Live Crew Lounge Discussion Panel Overcoming Obstacles

This afternoon I participated in a panel discussion about "Overcoming Obstacles" in model railroading, live-streamed on Youtube by TSG multimedia. You're welcome to watch the recording at the link above.

The historic Santa Clara Depot was a great venue for our discussion. The South Bay Historic Railroad Society maintains two layouts in the freight room, there's a library, and lots of local railroad artifacts. 

I very much enjoyed the control panel from the San Jose Cahill St station, known today as "Diridon Station".

Here are a couple behind the scenes photos from the recording session today. The recording took place in the meeting area of the depot.

What you couldn't see in the recording: My view from the panel seat.

Thank you, Cydney and John for hosting the discussion today. Once we all settled in a bit, I had a lot of fun.

Saturday, February 22, 2020

Untergroeningen: Backdrop and Shadow box

Primer and first coat of sky blue paint on the backdrops for Untergroeningen.

The layout lighting is not connected at the moment, so I took the photos below only with the garage lights on. However, even with that limited light, I'm very happy with how the the scene looks very different already.

Since I had the paint out already, I also painted the background panels for Slim Staging. These panels close up the sides when the yard is packed away. Now I just need something to protect the top.

Dave Loveless' Monterey Branch

Today I operated on Dave Loveless' Monterey Branch. I ran several trains in this TT&TO session, passengers and freights moved, and 10 visitors were busy throughout the day. Dave models the Southern Pacific Coast line between Gilroy and Salinas with combined staging representing San Jose and King City, as well as the branch line from Castroville to Monterey and Pacific Grove. Since that areas is just south from where I live, the locations are very familiar. One of the benefits of prototype modeling.

In the picture above I'm running the Gilroy Local. The wide shelf in front of the station is very useful for sorting car cards. I should keep throttle and paperwork there as well, instead of following bad habits and putting them in the station parking lot. Here's my clearance issued in Watsonville.

To stretch time and compensate for lack of distance between towns there are markers between towns on the the mainline like the one below indicating that one needs to stop here here for 5 minutes to let time elapse. This had the desired effect of slowing down the session. While it can be a bit of a drag for engineer and conductor, it allows sufficient time for station operators and dispatcher to go about their business.

An example of that positive effect happened when I was done with my work in Gilroy and wanted to return to Watsonville. Before leaving Gilroy I checked the schedule (as required by TT&TO rules) and noticed that I would not be able to make it to Watsonville ahead of first class train 36, and clear the main line in time before third class train 471 was due to depart Watsonville.
Hence I stayed in the siding in Gilroy and jokingly mentioned to the station operator that I'll be stuck here for at least the next 30 minutes. This led to some discussion between station operator, layout owner, and dispatcher. They knew that both trains I was waiting for were delayed, so I would not actually need to wait. Because there was sufficient time, Dispatch could set up a three-way call with station operators and generate an order in triplicate to give my puny Extra 2525 right over a first class and a third class train. Only after it was confirmed that the order was delivered to the crews of trains 36 and 471, I was handed my copy and was able to leave Gilroy.

The photo below shows on the left the order to run Watsonville to Gilroy. The clearance and order to return from Gilroy to Watsonville are in the stack underneath. The order giving me right over 36 and 471 is on the right.

Later in the afternoon I ran the southbound beet train from San Jose to King City. Here it is in Sargent. I stopped by the prototype location a few years ago and very much enjoyed servicing a location I had seen in real life.

Many buildings on the layout are simple boxes wrapped in photo prints, or functional stand-ins like the Sparolini Distributors Warehouse in Monterey. This low-tech approach is surprisingly effective in creating atmosphere and a feeling of place. I need to keep that in mind for future large layout projects.

Other areas are effectively detailed, like this warehouse scene in Ford Ord.

Of course Monterey's Canner Row is on the layout, as well as Pacific Grove, and even the sandpit at the end of the line in Asilomar.

Thursday, February 20, 2020

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Caltrain 4th & King: Bumpers

There are a bunch of neat details for model railroaders in this photo taken during the morning rush hour at Caltrain's 4th & King station. The red end of track lights. The blue light lanterns. The rolled up power cables and respective switch box in the rear. The differences in ballast before and below the bumpers. The weathering of the bumpers. The pack of bottled water stored on the ground. ...

What jumps out at you?

Tuesday, February 18, 2020


Spring is here!

Monday, February 17, 2020

Kurve: Storage Case

Now that scenery work has started on Kurve, I need a way to protect my work from dust and accidental damage. It's time to build a storage case.

The first step was to separate the little extension piece from the main module, cut rails and scenery, and put it aside. This makes it much easier to build the box for the rectangular main module. I cut 12" wide strips from the Lauan plywood sheet I used a few weeks ago to make the module sides. I also cut square strips from a 1/2" sheet of plywood to stabilize the edges.

I started with the end sheets, and then fitted the sheets on the long edge of the module. I used wood glue and staples to attach the Lauan sheets to the edge strips.

I'm one 1x2 ft sheet short to close the top, so I left it open for now. It turns out the two sheets already in place make nice handles to put the cover over the module, but I need better support for the edges.

This build took a surprising amount of time, so I didn't get much else done today.

Coffee break

Enjoying the sun, a snack, and coffee, while reading the January Eisenbahn Journal with a seasonably appropriate photo on the title page.

Saturday, February 15, 2020

Kurve: No more Pink Foam

My goal for today: No more pink foam. My Scenic Express order arrived yesterday with a Heki Flokstar XL, which I put through its paces today. I'm quite pleased. The Flokstar is more powerful than my homebuilt Grassinator and easier to handle. The cable to the grass hopper could be a bit longer. I tried grass fibers up to 6mm length, and they land on end, standing nice and straight.

I started with the inside hill.  There will be tress on top, so this area should be thick with undergrowth.

I moved on to the hill on the outside of the curve. There will eventually be trees here as well.

With ground cover the cut looks quite nice already.

Since I was on a roll, I took off the painters tape from the track and painted the rails.

Mission accomplished: No pink foam left.

I primed and painted the module sides earlier in the day. This is Craft Smart Dark Grey.

This module started its life as a temporary filler, but with scenery progressing I'm growing quite fond of it.

Kurve: Rock Outcroppings (4)

Whoops. One of the washes I made last weekend turns into a nasty green when dry and viewed in daylight. It's only paint, so this was fixable, but it was annoying and it took a little while until I was sure I got it right. The solution involved washes with Craft Smart Suede and Ivory, and cleaning up the color around the rocks with Golden Brown.

Thursday, February 13, 2020

Untergroeningen: Locomotive Shed

I made a mockup of the locomotive shed in Untergroeningen from Auhagen Baukasten System wall sections. The look of the shed gets pretty close to the original. There are photos on the Internet, e.g. at Vergessene Bahnen or Eisenbahnfotograf. The water tower on the mockup is a bit too high, and the shed windows are too large compared to the prototype. However, this is a workable compromise between a complete scratch build and a standard kit.

I have not yet found a picture of the locomotive shop area of building, which is located behind the water tower away from the tracks.
[ part 2 ]

Monday, February 10, 2020

Spring Coffee

The forecast says we are done with rain at least for February.