Sunday, April 26, 2020

Turkey Crossing

As we're riding up the hill at Santa Teresa County Park we spot turkeys on the hill above the street. Shortly after they decide to cross the street.

... and land in the grass on the other side to join their friends.

Saturday, April 25, 2020

Untergroeningen: More Testing

After the very successful remote ops session with SVL club members yesterday, I ran a couple more trains in Untergroeningen to exercise tracks and turnouts. I also set up the lighting system for a stress test and had everything on all day long.

Tatjana switched one session by herself and apparently had fun, too.

I used mostly the new Brawa BR212 in the Digital Extra version (#42863). This engine is a superb runner and the sounds are top-notch. The motor sounds just right, and the brake squeal is perfect. The locomotive comes with some fun features like motorized cooling fan that spins when the fan sounds come on, as well as remotely controlled couplers. The sound volume is too loud out of the box, but overall I'm very impressed with this engine.

I turned off the lights in the living room tonight, which dramatically enhances the shadow box effect of the layout. I can't wait to add trees and bushes in the background to get more texture.

The stress test did yield one victim: The 15 year old model trains power pack jury-rigged to run the lights. A slight pop, a whimper, and the lights were off. I have replaced the power pack with an adjustable DC:DC step-down module and connected the lights to the wall wart that is already powering the Tortoise turnout motors on the module. I had this on my todo list before, but now it's done, and I can check it off the list.

Poppies in the Morning

A quick trip to Tulare Hill. It's nice here.

Friday, April 24, 2020

Untergroeningen: Virtual Ops Session

212 074 is ready for operations
Today is the last Friday of the month, when Silicon Valley Lines usually puts on the monthly operations session. However, due to COVID-19 shelter-in-place orders the club is closed. I suggested to the membership to try a virtual operation session instead, so we did.

I emailed a track diagram of Untergroeningen to the group before the meeting, as well as a switch list. The train is rather short, only 5 cars to set out and 4 cars to pick up. I ran the engine on the layout and the group told me which moves to make. There was quite a bit of discussion and banter along the way which made this an enjoyable experience.

Before the session, I set up the Untergroeningen modules in our living room and tested the arrangement.

To my utter surprise, the throws of most turnouts where misaligned and the Tortoises needed adjustment. That took some time. One puko strip did not have power. Apparently the solder point to the neigboring puko strip had come loose. Along with the new team track feeder, this was quickly repaired.

We did the virtual meeting with Google Meet. I joined the meeting from two laptops.

One laptop was set up on top of a nearby cabinet and showed a view from the right hand side of the arrangement. I simply used the built-in camera for this view.

The other laptop was connected to an external Webcam which was mounted high above the entrance to Untergroeningen station, looking in the opposite direction.
Having a camera at each end of the station seemed to work reasonably well, even with mediocre streaming quality, and the group could see what was happening on the arrangement.

Dave took a screenshot of what this looked like from his side.

Here's the staged train in the cut on module Kurve with the camera in the front. This is an old Microsoft VX-800 web cam, which has a fairly wide-angle lens, so it works nicely here.

Less than an hour after we started, 212 074 has spotted all inbound cars, picked up all outbound cars, and is ready to leave Untergroeningen for the return trip into staging.

The tracks are not ballasted yet. I'll do that when I finished working on Untergroeningen segment 3. I need better scenery transitions, bushes, trees, and many more details for this scene to really come to live, but this is going in the right direction to become what I have in mind.

Thursday, April 23, 2020


We had a very German dinner tonight.

Sunday, April 19, 2020

Untergroeningen Trackwork (2)

[ part 1 ]

I figured I should paint rails before I paint the platform.
Tar on rails mistakes are easier to fix than rust on tar ...

I'm very pleased with the look of the rails. ModelMaster "Leather" is my preferred paint for rusty rails. Some touch-ups here and there are needed, but this is good as is, and I can move on to ballasting. The turnout point areas will remain unballasted and unpainted until I can confirm proper operation with more rolling stock.

Time to clean the railheads.
[ part 3 ]

Untergroeningen: Locomotive Shed (2)

[ part 1 ]

An order I made back in March, ... which feels like a very long time ago at the moment ... arrived on Friday and included Auhagen parts for the locomotive shed on the Untergroeningen module. I still need to figure out how to convincingly represent the water tower and the workshop in the space I have, but I can start with the engine stall.

The Auhagen BKS (Baukastensystem) modular system is very well done and quickly produces a convincing industrial brick building. I will use this as a base for further kitbashing.

[ part 3 ]

Bailey Ave

A quick bike trip with my favorite college student took us down to Bailey Ave via Coyote Creek trail. There were definitely too many people on the trail, so we took Santa Teresa Blvd for the return trip.

This was fun.

Untergroeningen: Platform (2)

[ part 1 ]

Scuptamold is very easy to work with, but it produces a lumpy surface structure. That's fine for scenery but doesn't work for the platform. I topped the Scuptamold with a very thin coat of Spackling Paste applied with an artist's spatula. After the spackling dried I rubbed it with my finger tip to make a smooth surface. Ready for paint.
[ part 3 ]

Saturday, April 18, 2020

Untergroeningen: Platform

I cut the styrofoam to match the platform shape visible in photos from 1973 in Hermann Buernheim's book "Wuerttembergische Eisenbahngesellschaft: Die Geschichte einer bedeutenden Privatbahn". Using a very sharp knife helps to keep the mess under control.

The pavement evenly rises from the paved-in track 1 to the side of track 2. However, contrary to later times, there is no platform edge, but rather the crest of the hump meets the steps of the WEG cars. The pavement slopes down to the rails of track 2. I would not be surprised if WEG crews actually shaped ballast under the asphalt to build up the platform.

Once I was reasonably satisfied with the shape, I glued the styrofoam to the module with water-resistant wood glue.

Next I coated the styrofoam with Scuptamold and filled the gaps between the styrofoam and the rails. I also started to build up the ground on the street side of track 1 where the station building is going to be, so that the ground is almost level with the railheads.

Once the Scuptamold is dry, I'll sand it, so that there is a more even rise towards track 2. On track 1 I filled the gaps between the ties and the pukos with fine sand.

[ part 2 ]

Shelter in Place Puzzle (6)

Friday, April 17, 2020

Wednesday, April 15, 2020

Monday, April 13, 2020

Sunday, April 12, 2020

Shelter in Place Puzzle (2)

This one is much harder than the previous one. Progress is slow.

Saturday, April 11, 2020

Module Storage

I have been building a few modules over the last year to support the extension of the Welztalbahn into the garage. Module storage takes up space, too, not a surprise. I kept most of them under the Welztalbahn in the layout room (except Kurve, which is just too big). However, this resulted in no work getting done on the Welztalbahn, since access to most areas under the layout has become very difficult, due to modules and other boxes taking up space.

It was time to do something about that. There is 19 inches of headroom between the top of the garage door mechanism and the ceiling. I built Kurve and Slim Staging, so that their total height doesn't exceed 14 inches in order to fit into this space.

I made a bracket from boards left over from other projects (like this or this) and a ripped 2x6 from the construction stash. I fitted the bracket to the ceiling and screwed it to the floor joists of the upstairs bedrooms with 5 inch construction lag bolts.

I ripped a 3/4in board to make slats for the modules to rest on. When loading the modules, I noticed that the slats sag a little bit. Seems manageable, but if it gets worse, I will build either a third bracket, or frame stronger support.

Here is a photo taken from the outside with the garage door open. Everything fits, and there's still some room left for additional storage.

Thursday, April 09, 2020

Untergroeningen Trackwork

[ Untergroeningen posts ]

With basic scenery down, I started weathering the ties and add filler ties under the ends of flex track pieces. The filler ties are stained and painted made from a scale 4x8 lumber strip. For the track weathering I'm using PollyScale tie brown in an isopropyl alcohol wash. The main point here is to remove plastic shine of the ties and create variation in tie appearance.

[ part 2 ]

Coast Starlight at Richmond Ave, San Jose

I have planned for a while to catch the southbound Coast Starlight in Coyote Valley. Working from home makes this easier. I've been tracking the train at the dixielandsoftware site for the last couple days and confirmed it's running pretty much on time. Today I used a gap between morning meetings to get out to the former railroad crossing at Richmond Ave.

I expected that I would hear the train blow the horn for the Blanchard Rd crossing near the power plant at Coyote, but I guess the Bernal Rd overcrossing blocked the sound. When I saw the headlights peek through the bushes off Laguna Ave with no warning I was surprised and adrenaline set in.

The train today was rather short. Just one sleeper, the cafeteria car, observation car and two seating cars. Power were P42DC engines #2 and #130. #130 is painted in Phase II paint scheme to commemorate Amtrak's 40th anniversary in 2011. A nice surprise to see this unit.

As the train disappears towards Morgan Hill, Diesel exhaust hangs in the air, and the lead unit is blowing the horn for the Palm Ave railroad crossing.

Wednesday, April 08, 2020

Shelter in Place Puzzle: A new challenge

Los Paseos Park Closure

For the last couple weeks Los Paseos Park has been closed, but one can still walk through. The city made it very obvious, that that people should not hang out here.

Though, I do wonder about the wisdom of this contraption:

The swings and other equipment at the playground have been removed or cordoned off.


I wonder when we will go back to what we used to call "normal". Probably will be a while.