Friday, May 29, 2020

SVL: Socially Distanced Remote Ops

Due to social distancing guidelines still in effect, Silicon Valley Lines canceled the May ops session originally scheduled for tonight. We discussed doing another remote ops session instead, and decided that this time we'd try to do a session from the club. This was to test both our ability to implement social distancing, as well as whether and how to incorporate remote operators into an operations scheme. Another goal tonight was to stress-test the club's Internet connection with multiple video streams in a multi-user setting.

We set up various cameras to record the action from different angles. We also moved the cameras around to capture trains as they moved from yards over the layout to their destinations for switching.

The verdict:
Over the course of the evening we ran a whopping four trains, instead of the 25 trains we normally run.
We can easily support a remote dispatcher and give remote operators control of a train. We have the technology to do that.

However, our Internet uplink does not support multiple HD streams in parallel. The double-deck arrangement makes visual train control via cameras challenging for a remote operator. While detected sections on the layout work well, and are needed for signaling, not all blocks have detection for various reasons. While normal video encoders for conferencing software prefer to show movement at the cost of lower resolution, for our purposes we probably prefer high resolution at the cost of reduced frame rate.

Even when the county's shelter-in-place orders are lifted, I expect that we will need to continue some form of social distancing measures for the time being, including wearing masks. A well-attended ops session is a lot of fun with a lot of energy in the room. However, the health of club members and visitors is paramount. More discussions are needed to find a way to run an ops session at the club that is fun, but avoids crowding in the aisles, and minimizes health risks. Very likely this will include a remote engineer component, and we need to figure out how to make that fun and satisfying for everyone involved.
[ part 2 ]

Monday, May 25, 2020

Untergroeningen: Locomotive Shed (6)

[ part 5 ]

After I went through the rather involved experience of cutting Auhagen BKS panels for the water tower in part 3 with an xacto knife, I remembered having read about how "nibblers" make cutting window openings much easier. I'm still planning to scratchbuild / kitbash the Untergroeningen station building and certainly was not in the mood to make the dozen plus windows I will need the same way I made the cutouts on the wall sections. It looks like there are only a couple models of nibblers out there, normally intended for cutting thin sheet metal. Should work fine for plastic. So I ordered the more common model.

I tested the tool with a scrap wall panel and installed an Auhagen door in the scrap piece. With a little bit of practice I was able to make straight cuts. Alright, moving on to the panel where it matters. Based on a prototype photo I chose the smaller Auhagen door for size and marked the location on the panel.

In less than a minute I cut the door opening. So easy. Yes, I can do the windows this way. Phew.

The brick arch over the door is a little bit more involved. I carefully scribed the edge of the arch on the brick panel, and then scribed it a bit more, so the edge is easier to see.

I used the nibbler to cut as close to the scribed line as I can get and then carefully enlarged the opening with a variety of files and emory board until the arch fit in the opening. On the scratch piece I did a better job matching the curvature of the opening to the arch. Here I ended up with an unsightly gap above the arch, which I carefully filled with wood glue. Elmer's White Glue should work as well, but I prefer the slightly more gooey consistency of Titebond II applied with the tip of a tooth pick.

Right. I'm done here.

... or am I? Another look at the prototype photo confirms that the door doesn't really fit. Let's build something that's more similar to the door of the prototype. The Auhagen door has a good size, so I just need a different boarding pattern. For starters I cut a the door shape from styrene. 

... and then decided that starting with a V-Groove pattern sheet (such as Evergreen 2025) would be easier, so I threw the styrene piece away and started over. I used 0.10" x 0.40" and 0.10" x 0.60" Evergreen styrene strips to make the door pattern.

And the result is a much better match for the prototype. I taped the door in position for safekeeping until it is time to paint the shed.

[ part 7 ]

Saturday, May 23, 2020

SVL: Introduction to operations using DTC

John Abatecola from TSG Multimedia produced a great video introduction to how operations with DTC works. Not only is this video really well done, but also shows how much fun we are having at the cllub during operating sessions.

Friday, May 22, 2020

Untergroeningen: Locomotive Shed (5)

[ part 4 ]

I gave an update on the locomotive shed to the Silicon Valley Lines member ship during the virtual club meeting tonight, and continued working on the water tower roof. The ridge tiles are now in place, slightly crooked but definitely workable.
[ part 6 ]

Sunday, May 17, 2020

Untergroeningen: Locomotive Shed (4)

[ part 3 ]

It was time for more work on the water tower. I built a substructure to glue the wood board sheets to. This is made from real wood. I hope to be able to replicate the greying effect of weathered wood more easily this way. However, that also means the piece needs to be removable, since it will get in the way when painting the rest of the water tower.

Getting the parts right and waiting for the glue to dry takes some time, so I watched today's OpSIG Second Section presentations on Zoom, while I was working. With COVID-19 still keeping many people at home, more and more online events are showing up lately. ETE Bay Area has weekly get togethers, ETE National has a weekly presentation schedule. Silicon Valley Lines has weekly online meetings. The NMRA ran their second NMRAx event yesterday. The OpSIG has weekly presentations. It's getting busy.

With the boarding in place, I moved on to build the water tower roof. I first made a roof from thin card stock to confirm look and feel. Since the OpSIG event was over by now, I switched over to Youtube and played a cab view video of an Austrian train going from Bruck a. d. Mur to Villach. 

Making roof pieces of the right size and shape for me is always a little bit hit or miss. And when I don't remember that these roof tile sheets are fairly brittle and break easily, I have even more mistakes to fix.

Nevertheless, I produced a fairly shoddy looking roof, which happens to work in my favor in this case. The 4 panels are not exactly the same size and I filed the edges before test fitting (not to self: do it the other way 'round). The roof will need more work, if it can be salvaged at all, but this is good enough for today. I should have made the roof sections a few millimeters higher to match the prototype more closely. Oh well, if I can get the edges straightened out, I'm not going to redo it just for that.

[ part 5 ]

Saturday, May 16, 2020

Untergroeningen: Locomotive Shed (3)

[ part 2 ]

I continued working on the locomotive shed for Untergroeningen. The next element I need to build is the water tower. I copied various Auhagen wall elements and worked out how to cut them so that the water tower doesn't appear too high, or too slim in relation to photos I had printed out.

The defining features of the water tower are the decorative brickwork at the upper story, the wood boarding, and the distinctive roof. While I'm likely not going to be able to match the details, I'm trying to get close. I started with the brickwork by cutting an opening in one of the wall segments. After I was done, it was clear that the shape is not right (see on the left), and I need to go wider (see on the right)

The brickwork includes a single window. I contemplated for a while to just use a standard piece from the Auhagen system and make my life dramatically easier. However, I'm already going through all this trouble, so might as well try and stay as close to the prototype as I can manage. I cut the brick for the windows from another element.

There. That works.

Next I adjusted the styrene filler to fit around the window and completed one wall section.

Combined with the corner pieces, the water tower gets pretty close in appearance to the original. The wooden boards below the roof line are next. 

[ part 4 ]

Thursday, May 14, 2020

Emsingen Scenes (11)

Friederike loves her swing set.

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

Emsingen Scenes (10)

The farmers market is in town today, making Oma Kopper happy.

Tuesday, May 12, 2020

Emsingen Scenes (9)

Schwester Maria has time.

Monday, May 11, 2020

Emsingen Scenes (8)

Something is not right at track 4. Is it maybe that this Gs looks too new? Or did the van hit the loading ramp?

Sunday, May 10, 2020

Emsingen Scenes (7)

Let's go for a walk with Opa Helmut.

Saturday, May 09, 2020

Emsingen Scenes (6)

The overloading crane at track 4 stands ready but is not needed today.

Friday, May 08, 2020

Emsingen Scenes (5)

Waiting for the Schienenbus to open the doors.

Thursday, May 07, 2020

Emsingen Scenes (4)

Hans Wagerl makes sure that the cars in the yard tracks are properly secured and hand brakes set.

Wednesday, May 06, 2020

Emsingen Scenes (3)

Watching the trains from the market square.

Tuesday, May 05, 2020

Emsingen Scenes (2)

Track 1a at the freight shed is empty. A good opportunity to take a photo of the activity on the loading ramp.

Monday, May 04, 2020

Emsingen Scenes (1)

260 417, a rebuilt Maerklin 3065, waits for its next assignment at the north end of track 3.

Saturday, May 02, 2020

Virtual Ops Echoes

John Abatecola from TSG Multimedia joined the Silicon Valley Lines meeting last week where we ran a virtual ops session on the Untergroeningen modules. To my surprise, John mentions the session in his monthly podcast released today and briefly discusses his perspective on our event. The video above is deep-linked to start right before that.

TSG Multimedia has a lot of model railroad related videos on Youtube, and I like how John keeps creating new and engaging content.

Friday, May 01, 2020

Parmigana di melanzane

I might have mentioned before that I prefer baking over cooking. For today's event Tatjana and I made Parmigana di melanzane (basically baked egg plant). It's a lot of work, but the recipe was easy to follow, and the result totally worth the effort. Sadly, it's not very photogenic, so you just have to believe me.


Tatjana and I made Sachertorte. A lot of work, but it turned out great.

Cactus Flower

One of the cacti in our front yard is blooming. Wonderful!