Thursday, December 31, 2020

New Year's Eve Visitor

Well hello there! 

One of our resident racoons decided to pay us a visit on the patio on New Years Eve throwing the evening conversation into a surprise frenzy.

Wednesday, December 30, 2020

Afternoon Hike: Santa Teresa County Park

Since Santa Clara County went into Purple Tier, our regular hiking group suspended hikes for the time being, so it was nice to hike Fortini Trail with the family today. The weather cooperated and the trail had mostly dried out after the recent rains.

Slim Staging: Storage Cover

A couple years ago I found some double-corrugated signs in the trash at work. I figured this material should be useful for ... something more appropriate than boring signs. And it was.

One of the signs now came in handy to make a cover for Slim Staging. The module itself is 10" wide. The sides add a bit more, so I cut the cover pieces 11" wide to allow for some slop.

I needed three pieces to cover the length of the module, with one piece a bit shorter than the others. After test-fitting on the module, I used hot-glue to add guides on the underside of the cover.

A small cardboard box holds the power supply, the panel for the turnouts, and other small parts for the module. I added spacers to the cover so that the box can't move around when the module is transported.

All done. Time to put Slim Staging back into storage for now.

Tuesday, December 29, 2020

Cat Tree Rebuilt

The cat tree I built 15 years needed a refresh. Yesterday and today, Tatjana and I completely rebuilt the cat tree from the ground up. It's looking nice again. 

Morning Hike at Coyote Valley Open Space Preserve

It's time for a morning hike. We need to get out of the house, preferably a place where we can minimize being around other people. California is still in the middle of a pandemic after all.

Our choice today is the Coyote Valley Open Space Preserve, a small park in the western foothills of rural Coyote Valley. 

This early in the morning we saw only a few people, but very nice views.

After hiking up the ridge towards the scenic outlook, we descend into fog for a few minutes.

The temperature dropped noticably, and I was happy to wear my warm jacket today.

However, around the next corner it was all nice and sunny again.

The trail is a one-way loop. This early in the day the park was quiet, except for the cows, a couple joggers, and a mountain biker. When we got back to the car, the small parking lot was full with cars and several families getting ready to hike the loop. Just the right time to leave and head home for a second breakfast.

Sunday, December 27, 2020

Piko 59311: Talent 2 in bwegt design (2)

BR442 Talent 2 on the Welztalbahn
The built-in Piko decoder is not particularly good. It's supposed to support MFX, but I couldn't get it recognized on the Mobile Station II. The motor control is sub-par leading to a very grumbly motor. I wanted sound with the model, and Piko offers an extension module with speaker that plugs into the SUSI port on the decoder. However, that module costs only slightly less than a new Loksound 5.0, so I ordered a Loksound 5.0 with NEM 652 plug instead. 

Programming on the roller stand
I should have ordered the Loksound 5.0 Micro instead, since the regular Loksound 5.0 just barely doesn't fit into the decoder department and is about two millimeters too high, so that the compartment can't be closed . I "fixed" that problem by fitting a piece of styrene over the opening and hold it in place with Kapton tape.

Update 2020/12/29:
I've learned in the meantime that the NEM 652 plug of the Loksound 5.0 micro doesn't fit on the socket of the model, and can't be modified like I did on the Loksound 5.0 plug. There might be a way to fix this, but it requires disassembly of the model. I might take a stab at making more room for my Loksound 5.0 at a later time if and when I have to take the model apart completely to install interior lighting.

Not pretty, but functional and invisible
As it goes with modern electrics, the operating sounds are not too exciting, but capture the atmosphere of the prototype really well.

Saturday, December 26, 2020

Friday, December 25, 2020

Piko 59311: Talent 2 in bwegt design

The Welztalbahn is set in the early 1970's. So far I have always resisted opportunities to break out from my chosen era and locale. I think that is a good thing. It makes purchase decisions really easy: Did the prototype for the model in question run within BD Stuttgart or BD Karlsruhe in the early 1970's? If No, don't bother buying it. If yes, take a closer look. I'd consider whether the model would be appropriate for a non-electrified, somewhat rural, single-track mainline. Especially for locomotives, consider if I can find evidence of the locomotive class in one of the BD Stuttgart Buchfahrplans I have, or the model is based within BD Stuttgart.

I am somewhat flexible with timing and era. A bit earlier than 1972, because I do like steam locomotives. A bit later, because I do like the ET 420 and the 614. However, I have not purchased anything modern.

Until now.

I consider the bwegt design used by the infrastructure agency of Baden-Württemberg to be very attractive. Since catenary is problematic in combination with prototype-oriented freight operations, I have been looking for a Diesel train in bwegt design for a while. Piko 52206 VT 612 "Regioswinger" was a candidate, but sold out quickly, is impossible to find now, and a rather bland and ugly prototype. 

When I first saw the Talent 2 / DB BR442 in bwegt design at Stuttgart Hbf two years ago, I was a bit skeptical. It's also powered by electricity, so not really appropriate for my layout. Nevertheless, the train and the design have grown on me. When the bwegt Talent 2 became available for pre-order from Piko earlier this year, I reserved one, and the shipment arrived in time for Christmas.

Piko has been offering variants of the Talent 2 since 2012, so the digital side of the model is a bit outdated by now with the NEM 652 plug, and the awkward option of adding sound with a rather expensive SUSI module. Nevertheless, the moldings are very well done, with crisp lines, nicely detailed trucks, roof, and sides. The shape of the train front is spot on. Due to two effective flywheels the train runs very well, even with not perfectly clean track. 

... and it looks cool. I'll get to enjoy it outside formal operating sessions.

Marzipan Delivery (Bonus)

One crane was not enough, so the crew brought in the steam crane to help with the unloading ...

This picture didn't really fit in that well with the actual layout of Emsingen station, nor can you see the truck the Marzipan is loaded on. It's a bit overkill to call in the steam crane for unloading a car when there is a gantry crane on the other side of the station, so the photo with the gantry crane won out.

Nevertheless, I do like this picture, and it gave me an opportunity to play with the smoke effect at the crane. So here it is as a bonus.

Thursday, December 24, 2020

Merry Christmas

Marzipan Delivery (6)

The sweet freight has reached its destination: The  big stage on the Emsingen market square. It's time for the big celebration and everybody gets some Marzipan to share.

I wish all my readers a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

[ Bonus ]

Wednesday, December 23, 2020

Marzipan Delivery (5)

"... and you all have been good this year."
[ part 6 ]

Tuesday, December 22, 2020

Marzipan Delivery (4)

The loading crane makes easy work of the heavy load.
[ part 5 ]

Monday, December 21, 2020

Catenary in Palo Alto

It's still very odd for me to see catenary over Caltrain tracks, even though the first of the new Stadler-built EMUs are scheduled to arrive in 2021. 

The catenary physical design seems a bit strange, if not haphazard. The H-profile masts with arms and catenary holders look like they were built using whatever they happened to have available in the yard. I know that is not true, but it certainly doesn't look like a brand-new system. E.g. the mast in the lead photo of this post has two completely different mounting systems for the catenary wires.

Maybe it's this weird only around the Palo Alto station, I'll have to check elsewhere. I'm sure there are good reasons for this. Maybe there are space constraints, too much space, or other considerations, ... In either case I'd love to learn more about the reasoning for this design. 

Nevertheless, I'm thrilled electrification is happening and I'm very much looking forward to using the new EMUs in passenger service in 2022.

Update Jan/02/2001:

I found a video from "The Four Foot" that shows the state of electrification in the corridor, and also mentions the various catenary styles in use. It appears that the Palo Alto segment has indeed a different style than the rest of the line.

Marzipan Delivery (3)

The freight house also got a delivery. Looks like they will need at least a pallet jack or maybe a fork lift.

[ part 4 ]

Sunday, December 20, 2020

Fourth Sunday of Advent

Marzipan Delivery (2)

The treats arrived at the loading ramp in Emsingen. "How are we going to fit them into the van?"

[ part 3 ]

Saturday, December 19, 2020

Marzipan Delivery (1)

I woke up early today and caught this special delivery arriving at Emsingen station. Looks like the town is getting ready for yummy treats.

[ part 2 ]

Monday, December 14, 2020

Sunday, December 13, 2020

Saturday, December 12, 2020


The December 2020 issue of the NMRA Magazine features an article about Silicon Valley Lines which is my first published print article. Dan Munson shot fantastic photos of the layout last August. Creating this 9-page feature was a lot of work, made easier with the help from a lot of people. It's really a milestone for the club to be represented in print and I'm proud of what we have accomplished. A big thank you to all that made this feature possible.

Tuesday, December 08, 2020

Niles Depot

I went to Niles Depot today to pick up auction purchases (more about that in another post). I had no idea the Niles Depot is _this_ pretty. Located on the old Transcon route via Sacramento to Oakland there's a lot of history here. The building has a museum inside and the Tri-City Society of Model Engineers has their layout in a building next door.

There are also a couple restored railroad cars on the grounds outside, including this Western Pacific caboose.

Nice weathering on the trucks with a cool dynamo contraption to charge the caboose batteries.

It would have been nice to visit the museum or the layout for a bit, but that can be done some other time.

Sunday, December 06, 2020

Schuco 452655300 - Stückgut Vans

As I was working on my express freight warehouse in Emsingen a couple years ago, I wanted to populate the street side with the typical Deutsche Bundesbahn delivery trucks. I went as far as collecting photos for use in a truck repainting projects. That project never made it to the top of the list, though.

I was delighted last January when the Q1/2020 MHI announcement included Stückgut trucks and a van made by Schuco, in exactly the paint scheme I was looking for. Naturally, I immediately ordered them. 

Today, the shipment finally arrived, and I have to say, I'm thrilled.

The trucks are beautifully detailed, and even have proper license plates! The bodies are made from metal. The covers of the loading area look good, but have too much a plastic shiny look. That's easily fixed, though, so I'm not really complaining.

Now I just need to add a driver in one or two of the trucks, some light weathering, and they are ready for the layout. Nevertheless, even out of the box they look great.