Monday, September 28, 2020

Stuffed Bell Peppers

Following this recipe Tatjana found for me I made Stuffed Bell Peppers for dinner tonight. They came out much better than I had hoped for. The kids were pleased.

Sunday, September 27, 2020

More Cake


I made another apple cake while watching OpSIG's Second Section this afternoon. Cake came out good and will serve us well for the first half of the week.

Saturday, September 26, 2020

NMRAx: "Remote Operations at Silicon Valley Lines"

Today Dave Falkenburg and I presented a clinic on "Remote Operations at Silicon Valley Lines" at the NMRAx Virtual Convention. The session was live-streamed on Facebook and Youtube.

Regular readers of this blog will recognize some of the content of the presentation. There's plenty of new content as well, so I hope it was interesting in either case.

Here is the raw recording of the presentation of today's NMRAx linked to the beginning of our talk.

TSG Multimedia: Remote Operating Session Concepts

I've been waiting for a couple weeks now to be able to write this post. John Abatecola from TSG multimedia visited Silicon Valley Lines in August and filmed segments for this video before and during an operations session at Silicon Valley Lines. I explain various aspects of how we add remote operators into operating sessions at SVL, including an overview of the hardware, software, and systems setup, as well as pitfalls. This allows us to minimize the number of people in the layout room to enable social distancing.

Thursday, September 24, 2020

Ops Prep

I've decided to build a second camera car for Silicon Valley Lines Ops sessions, so that we have a spare camera in case there are problems. For this one I wanted to try and use the existing USB battery holder I built last month and mount the Raspberry Pi on the side of the battery. I tacked the Raspberry Pi Zero to a thin sheet of styrene that can slide between the battery and the styrene supports. I built a support structure for the camera that's glued to the styrene sheet the Pi sits on, and fits between battery and car side. Then I carefully twisted and bent the camera cable to make a 90 degree turn so that it it oriented correctly. I could turn the image in software, but prefer to go with physically correct orientation from the start if possible. After taking the photos below, I added another styrene sheet to protect the camera cable from bumps.

This setup must be placed in a container well car because it is quite high and completely fills out the modern HO loading gauge. In the foreground is my prototype camera setup on an old Maerklin low side-boards car.

I also built another battery holder that we can use for James' dummy locomotive. This is a very simple build made from styrene sheet and strips with some triangular support pieces. A quick and easy after dinner exercise.

And here's the end result with battery placed in a modern container well car. There's no need to secure this load because the battery is so heavy that it's held in place merely by friction.

Saturday, September 19, 2020

Virtual Crew Lounge Discussion: Modeling During the Pandemic

I'm participating in a TSG multimedia virtual crew lounge discussion tomorrow afternoon at 4pm PDT. I'm planning to join from the Welztalbahn layout room. Camera, laptop, and props are in place. Looking forward to an interesting discussion.

Update 20/Sept/2020:
With the extra light I put on top of the garage cabinet it was getting toasty in the layout room. I very much enjoyed the discussion with the other panelists. 

Thursday, September 17, 2020

Fusili, Pancetta, Broccoli in Cream & Cheese Sauce

Dinner tonight turned out much better than I expected. 

Wednesday, September 16, 2020

Wednesday Cake


I woke up today and had a craving for cake. Marmorkuchen would be nice. Instead of chocolate powder I found chocolate chips in the kitchen cabinet. That'll do. I could have used more.

The cake turned out a bit dark on the outside, but everyone approved.

Saturday, September 12, 2020


I'm using the opportunity that there is space in the garage to set up the Untergroeningen branch of the Welztalbahn. Today was the first time that I set up Slim Staging with the backdrop and the turnout control panel connected to the module.

The Welztalbahn hasn't run for almost a year and the modular extension so far hasn't run in operations at all. The track cleaning train has some work to do ...

Friday, September 11, 2020

Decluttering Under-layout Storage

Open floorspace below the Welztalbahn

The Welztalbahn layout frame is supported by only 4 legs, one in each corner of the layout. When I built it, I wanted to minimize obstructions under the layout to maintain maximum flexibility for moving about under the layout, as well as storage. That turned out to be a good idea. However, over time storage took over all open floor space under the layout. In the last year it got so bad, that I'd have to remove boxes from the layout room just to run a train. The activation energy to do something with the layout became too high and I didn't do anything, apart from storing more stuff in the layout room. Instead I focused on the Untergroeningen segments, which was good an enjoyable, but I do want to operate again at some point, too.

To reign into the clutter I had to move all the stuff stored under the layout somewhere else, sort through it, combine and optimize and then put it back. Which I did this week. I didn't take a photo before I started, but the photo above was taken when everything stored here had moved elsewhere. I used the opportunity to rearrange supplies, kits, project boxes, etc. to meet the storage needs I have today, instead of from 10 years ago when the layout was under construction.

Compact long-term storage

I'll have to see how well this is going to work, and I may end up rearranging a bit more, but for now I'm very happy that things I need access to are within easy reach, while other stuff is safely packed away.

Projects are easily accessible

Thursday, September 10, 2020

Pear Cake

Turning this ...

... into this.

I made my usual apple pie recipe, but used pears instead. Skinned pears are very slippery...

We can see the sun today


Still can't smell any smoke.

Wednesday, September 09, 2020

Mordor Smoke

Coyote Valley near Bailey Ave at 10:30am, looking West

Smoke from North Bay fires as now drifted south at high altitudes above the Marine Layer. Hence the sun is not burning off the fog. Sky, clouds, and light have an orange tint.

Interestingly, the air quality is almost good today with an AQI PM2.5 around 70. It's likely to get worse again through the rest of the week when the wind picks up.

Sunday, September 06, 2020


104.5 Fahrenheit. A late summer heat wave on Labor Day weekend.

No air movement. Smoke in the air. It's not healthy outside.

Friday, September 04, 2020

RSD5: Decaling for SVL

On the locations where the new decals would go I applied MicroGloss and let it dry. Then carefully and slowly, one after the other, for each decal I applied MicroSet while the decal wets in some water, apply the decal, wick the water from under the decal, let it dry a little bit, and carefully apply drops of MicroSol so that the decal softens and adheres to the contours of the locomotive body for a painted-on look. The MicroSol is particularly important for the large logo on the doors of the long hood. It usually takes multiple MicroSol applications for the decal to soften enough.

I'm working on both locomotives at the same time, so that I can continue with one locomotive, while the other one dries.

Once the decals were done, I taped the windows to prep for Dullcoat and weathering.

Morning Hike

Another Friday morning hike on the Fortini loop trail with friends.

The air is still crisp and clear. The smoke is gone and Mt. Unumhum is visible in the distance.