Sunday, August 30, 2020

Lostentry Blog auf Deutsch

Ich schreibe hier überwiegend auf Englisch. Für meine deutschen Leser gibt es jetzt ein neues Feature: Das Lostentry Blog auf Deutsch. Einfach oben rechts auf den Link klicken und der englische Text wird automatisch auf Deutsch übersetzt.

Auf der übersetzten Seite sind oben rechts Schaltflächen zum Umschalten zwischen Übersetzung und Original.

Auch wenn die Technik beeindruckend ist, kann die maschinelle Übersetzung natürlich nicht an die Qualität eines menschlichen Übersetzers ran kommen, gerade auch wegen meiner Vorliebe für zuweilen blumige Wortspielchen. Ich hoffe aber, dass es die automatische Übersetzung einfacher macht meinem Blog zu folgen.

Apple Prunes Cake

Both work and hobby projects in the last few weeks required substantial amounts of screen time, so I made a cake for a change. We had left over Italian prunes. Not enough for a whole cake, but certainly enough for a different take on my usual apple cake.

For entertainment while baking, I watched a cab view video of a Metronom run from Uelzen to Hamburg Hbf. Kind of ironic when complaining about too much screen time, I know ...

Saturday, August 29, 2020

Weekend Smoke and Sun


SVL: Silicon Valley Lines Remote Ops Session


Another socially distanced ops session at Silicon Valley Lines. Most of the engineers participated from home using our cab view camera cars, and there was only a skeleton crew in the layout room so that we can socially distance properly. 

The Dash-9 dummy unit leading train 215-1 has a camera in the nose, but only a very small battery, so we set it up to continuously charge the locomotive battery from a regular USB battery bank mounted in a well car. All our tunnels are sized for double stack container trains. The battery pack in the well car is slightly higher than that, but fits everywhere. Sometimes with less than a quarter inch of space to spare ...

I spent the day mostly in front of a screen tending to Internet, cameras, and remote engineers. I tried to play with the settings so that we could live stream the session to Youtube. However, I couldn't get a stable stream out, as the video conference with engineers, video processing of incoming streams, and recording the session overwhelmed my laptop. I ended up cutting back to the bare minimum serving only the remote engineers, no live stream, no recording. That worked but left me unsatisfied at the end of the session. More fine-tuning is needed along with a bigger Internet uplink.

We also recorded footage for an upcoming video about our approach to remote operations.

This was a long day, at times stressful, but a lot of fun.

Friday, August 28, 2020

Smoke in the Mountains


The CZU fire complex in the Santa Cruz Mountains is still burning and contributing to bad air there and here.

Wednesday, August 26, 2020


Huh? What happened to my "Halt für Rangierfahrten" sign?

Why is this dude laying on his back?

Who pee'd and poo'ed on my signal?

Aha! Fingerprints of the culprit.

For the first time in 12 years in the garage, the Welztalbahn was visited by a rat this week. That's a visitor I prefer to not have in the layout room. I see a deep cleaning session in the near future.

Sunday, August 23, 2020

ESU Lokprogrammer

A little while ago, I ordered a Piko BR221. Very nice model, but doesn't come with sound, so I also ordered a Loksound5 and asked the dealer to program it with the V200.1 sound package. Usually that works flawlessly, but not this time. I got an empty Loksound5 with only the default sounds, and a note that it was programmed. Urgh. No point to send this back to Germany.

To fix the programming I borrowed an ESU LokProgrammer from another ETE member. The unit had been rarely used and mostly sat on a shelf since 2011.

The LokProgrammer comes with a serial port. It took me a while to hash out problems with the USB/Serial cable that was in the box. ESU ships USB/Serial cables with a chipset from FTDI, but the cable I had came up as Prolific and the driver refused to function. I eventually determined that this was not an original ESU cable and tried using an USB/Serial cable with a FTDI chipset I had at hand. That worked and the LokProgrammer software was able to detect the LokProgrammer. The program's UI is functional, but not exactly user friendly or logical. It feels like 20+ year old software ... which it is.

Nevertheless, 30 minutes later the BR221 had the sounds programmed properly, and when firing it up I got the rumbling sounds of the two Maybach 12 cylinder diesels. 

More Smoke


The air quality is going downhill as the day goes on. Breakfast on the patio was quite nice, but the afternoon air is moving into very unhealthy territory with an AQI > 200.  The Mercury News had a very appropriate front page today.

Saturday, August 22, 2020

RSD-5: From CNW to SVL

[ RSD5 posts ]

The RSD-3/4/5 is one of my favorite American locomotives. Alco sound and the very distinctive cab shape come together for an unique locomotive. Atlas recently came out with RSD-5's painted and lettered for the Chicago & Northwestern Railroad with a built-in LokSound Select decoder. The CNW herald is only on the cab sides, and there is small CNW lettering on each end. A perfect starting point for relettering the locomotive for SVL.

Tonight I first played with the locomotive on the roller stand. Sounds good.

Next I took 1665 and its cousin 1667 over to the work bench and used a glass fiber pencil to carefully scrape off the CNW markings.


Finally, I mixed a green tone that's reasonably close to the CNW green from Modelmaster Coach Green, Engine Black, and Prussian Blue, and fixed up the shell areas where I scraped off not only the markings, but also the paint underneath. The brush marks are visible on the shell, but once the new decals are applied, and I weathered the locomotive, they'll disappear among the other gunk.

Thursday, August 20, 2020

Wednesday, August 19, 2020

Smoke, Not Fog


Well, that's odd. Early morning encounter: What is all this ash doing on my car? We're downwind from the fires in the Santa Cruz Mountains. Smoke and ashes are drifting our way. The sky has an unhealthy yellow tint. Shortly after 7am, the sun is struggling to show its face.

On the way home I'm taking this grand view of the foothills east of San Jose from the 101/280 interchange. No filter. The sky was this yellow.

In the evening the air was a bit better and we took the dog for a short walk through the neighborhood.

Monday, August 17, 2020

Smoke and Sun


Several fires are burning in Santa Clara County started by lightning strikes from the unusually strong recent thunderstorms. The smoke creates a very weird and eerie mood outside.

Saturday, August 15, 2020

SVL: Done with Surveying


Over the last few weeks I recreated the raw track plans for Silicon Valley Lines. This took much longer than I anticipated.

To keep my sanity I drew the plans with a small set of turnouts (Peco Code 83 #5, #6, #8, plus a couple curved turnouts). This avoids having to identify the wide variety of turnouts from all major manufacturers, including some custom-built, found on a 20 year old layout. To my delight the plans capture the look and feel of the layout very well, even though there are some minor inaccuracies and simplifications here and there.

The layout is so big that I pushed RailModeller Pro to its limits. Using the parallel track tool slowed down considerably as I approached 1000 pieces of track per level. I worked on the two main levels in separate layout files to keep the tool functional.

Technically, Bakersfield staging is still missing, but that is easily added at a later time.

I'm taking a break on this before I consider making the plans look pretty ...

Friday, August 14, 2020

Hardy Plants


I'm always impressed how pretty flowers like these can survive in the the dry hills during the summer.

Santa Teresa Country Park hike with Daughter and Friends

I took today off from work. It's going to be hot, so the regular group met early for a short hike at Santa Teresa County Park. We decided to take Fortini Trail down to Almaden Valley and Stile Ranch Trail back to the parking lot.

Tatjana is home for a couple days and joined us. Stile Ranch Trail has steep switch backs that take us over two ridges. 

By 10:00 it was very warm already and the day only got hotter. Nevertheless, this was a great start into the weekend.

Monday, August 10, 2020

Sunday, August 09, 2020

Union Pacific Stack Train at Pleasanton Ridge

I was driving on I680 when I saw containers next to the freeway. Uuuuuuuh, shiny! A train!

Naturally, I had to get off the freeway and take a closer look. When I caught up with the train, it was slowly creeping to a stop for a red signal at CP FO38 at the south end of the siding from CP Hearst, just a couple miles north of Sunol.

UP 7791, an AC45CCTE, is hanging out in the sun.

There was a single mid-train helper: UP 7083, an AC44CW, mostly in the shade of lineside trees.

The train extends a couple cars beyond the turnout at CP Hearst. The siding is 4,175 ft long, which puts the train at about three quarters of a mile, or 1250 meters.

The maximum train length on most lines in Germany is 700 meters. Yes, those American trains are long ...

Saturday, August 08, 2020

SVL: Block Signs

I'm making block signs indicating DTC blocks on the SVL layout. The signs are oversize, but should be legible by remote operators observing the track ahead with a CabCam.

Friday, August 07, 2020

SVL: Broadcasting Trains

After the business meeting tonight we tested running trains with remote operators and two CabCams. For some time we also streamed the to Youtube Live and club members are discussing the experience. We had one camera run out of battery just before the live-stream started, so most of the stream is the cab view from a single train.

My camera ahead of the train in the video.

James mounted his camera in a dummy unit. Looking good!

Rancho San Antonio Hike

Another hike with friends. Today we hit Rancho San Antonio County Park, which was surprisingly busy. Many trails in the park are one-way only, so that people don't need to meet on narrow trails.

The black-tail deer didn't care that I was taking photos of their breakfast routine.

The view over the South Bay from the lookout is very nice

Wednesday, August 05, 2020

Saturday, August 01, 2020

Working From Home - Properly

Desk is set up and ready for work come Monday

I have been working from home since March. While other countries have been able to relax COVID-19 restrictions by now, the U.S. has done a particularly terrible job at containing the virus and there is no end in sight. Guidance from work has been that work-from-home will continue well into next year. While I have been able to work effectively from various couches and armchairs in the house and on our patio, a month ago I finally admitted to myself that I needed a more proper setup. In the office I spend much more time walking between conference rooms and buildings than at home. Changing meetings now merely involves a couple mouse clicks to join another video conference, when before I had a few minutes to walk to the next conference room and sort my thoughts.

Desk finally arrived

I didn't use my standing desk in the office much, but being at home and not moving much, I think it would be a much more pleasant experience to have one here. Now that I'm used to being able to look up over the top of my laptop screen and watch birds in the garden for a moment, or look through the patio doors outside, I didn't want to place a desk against a wall, and I wanted a view. That removed pretty much every suitable option around the house. In the end we decided that we could rearrange a corner in the living room which I already used for work and video meetings by replacing my trusty IKEA Poäng armchair, and moving a couple other pieces of furniture to make room for the new desk setup,.

Putting it all together

After some research I ordered a small Uplift Desk V2 Bamboo Standing Desk, 42 x 30". The desk has linear actuators to move the top up and down. I added the memory module, so that I can raise and lower the desk to preset heights, and easily switch between standing and sitting positions with no fiddling. I also ordered the Uplift Starling stool. 

Desk in raised position

Uplift Desk apparently is overrun with demand, so it took a month for the desk to be delivered. It finally arrived today and I went to work to set it up. Assembly takes some time, but is easy. The instructions are clear and easy to follow, except for the paragraph describing how to mount the control unit. The way it's done is trivial, but I can see why the tech writer had some trouble finding the right words to describe it.

I'm very happy with the desk, but not quite convinced of the stool yet. Let's see how it works out over the course of next week.