Sunday, January 31, 2021

LD/Ops SIG Weekend - Day 2

Instead of operating on a cool layout with other meet attendees as in previous years, on the second day of the meet we had a panel discussion with the hosts of layouts that would have operated if we could have. I joined to represent Silicon Valley Lines, and did get to talk about the Welztalbahn for a minute, too.

Kudos to the organizing committee for making this very different event happen under difficult circumstances. Everything worked smoothly for attendees and presenters.

Saturday, January 30, 2021

LD/Ops SIG Weekend - Day 1

I have regularly attended the Layout Design / Operations SIG Weekend for years, met lots of great people, and saw fantastic layouts around the larger Bay Area. Contrary to previous events, and in line with the theme of the last 12 months, this year the event went fully virtual, so while I miss meeting with others in person, I do get to enjoy at least part of the event from the comfort of our patio.

Tomorrow (Sunday) at noon I will participate in the layout owner panel representing Silicon Valley Lines.

Sunday, January 24, 2021

SVL: 2-Bay Hoppers for Ashgrove (2)

I'm done with the first batch of the 2-bay hoppers I'm preparing for servicing the Ashgrove quarry in Jacksonville on the Silicon Valley Lines. After painting and basic weathering the cars over the last couple weeks, today all cars got their matte varnish coat while I was watching the tsg multimedia Layout Design Panel Discussion.

Here are all 9 cars staged on the Welztalbahn. While it was a lot of fun giving a bunch of very similar cars a unique personality each, and I still have another 9 cars to work on, I'm now going to pivot back to the Untergröningen module. A couple orders have arrived, so I can continue working on kitbashing the locomotive shed and scratch-building the station building.

Friday, January 22, 2021

Published. Again.

The editor of Roundhouse, the NMRA magazine for the British Region, contacted us after the November Virtual Open House asking whether we'd be interested in writing an article about how Silicon Valley Lines does remote operations, as well as provide background on how we planned and executed the Virtual Open House in the middle of a pandemic.

Part 1 of the article I co-wrote with Jeff Rose covering remote operations is in the January/February issue. Part 2 covering the Virtual Open House will be in the next issue. This is my second in-print article.

I hope that in a couple months the pandemic situation will have improved enough that we would be able to hold remote operating sessions again. Maybe another Virtual Open House as a lead-in to the virtual NMRA 2021 conference this summer.

Tuesday, January 19, 2021

Blown Away!

It doesn't happen every day that your neighbor stops you while walking the dog and says,
"Hey Bernhard, I think the winds last night threw something from your chimney into my backyard. Let me get it." 
... and he comes back with a large metal thing.

It turns out that the winds overnight did blow away our new chimney cap. I don't know if it was not properly screwed down or what happened exactly. However, it turns out that the bolts mounted to the mesh are 1/4" regular thread. I grabbed some wing nuts and 5 minutes later the cap was back to where it belonged.

Sunday, January 17, 2021

SVL: 2-Bay Hoppers for Ashgrove

Two hoppers with basic weathering in the front. Several more unfinished in the background.

For the last few days, I've been working on a bunch of 2-bay hopper cars preparing and weathering them for gravel service at Silicon Valley Lines. Most cars are getting new numbers. Since I don't want to completely redo the numbers on more than a dozen cars, I'm just replacing the last couple digits with new decals. 

That doesn't go without some surprises. The digits for the replacement 25 are from Microscale 87-694, a decal set for Golden West Service box cars. Not a perfect match, but the decal color is very close to the existing print on the car. However, the decals are partially transparent. The yellow of the decal and the blue of the car body conspire to create the greenish tint visible in the photo. I'm going to try and tone down the difference with gravel dust during weathering.

Today I finished painting wheels and trucks. When doing multiple cars, it really helps to set up the work in assembly line fashion and keep working on the next car while parts for the previous car dry. Four to six cars seems to be a good batch size when painting. 

For weathering with PanPastels, I can do two cars in a row before I want to work on something else. Hence I have a few other projects ready to go on the workbench as a diversion.

[ part 2 ]

Fortune Cookies: Life

Pascal gave me a jar of home-made fortune cookies for my birthday. I usually take one after dinner. 

Tonight's fortune has a lot of truth to it:

In the Backyard

Tuesday, January 12, 2021

RSD5: Weathering

The two Atlas RSD5 in Silicon Valley Lines livery are now ready and will move to the club for final testing when the county Stay-At-Home health orders have been lifted.

After applying the SVL decals last September the locomotives sat on my workbench and didn't get any attention until early December. I started with making the units a bit dirty and applied a wash of rail tie brown. It dried much lighter than I had expected. Urrgh.

I attempted to fix the ugliness with various applications of PanPastels. I really like the versatility of PanPastels. Once I was happy with the effect, I sprayed the locomotives with Dullcote and all the weathering turned into barely visible dark shades of green and yellow. Ah right I remembered: Dullcote needs to be at room temperature, applied from more than a foot away, and only in short bursts. The idea is to not get the PanPastels wet, and the Dullcote drops land on the pastels almost dry. For me the locomotive was dripping wet. The neighbors likely heard me swearing, but were nice enough not to say anything.

The second try of weathering was a bit more sloppy, and I messed that up with Dullcote as well. Third time was a charme, and I let the engines sit for a while while I tended to other projects.

Finally, as I was weathering a bunch of freight cars with the airbrush recently, the RSD5's received some more dirt around the trucks, too, as well as a several very thin coats of Vallejo Matte Varnish.

To finish off, I carefully applied Vallejo Dark Grey wash to the rear wall of the cooling grills, which adds to the illusion that you'd look into the dark air-cooling chamber at the locomotive front. Had I used light grey with the yellow sides, the effect would have been more subtle, but it's workable, so I left it as is.

In any case, I'm happy with the overall appearance. The weathering is subtle and not totally in your face. The Vallejo Matte Varnish works well, if only it would not be such a pain to clean the airbrush afterwards. The lead photo shows both completed engines staged on the Welztalbahn. I can't wait to run them at SVL.

Monday, January 11, 2021

A keep-alive for Maerklin 37180 (094 232-6)

Maerklin's 37180 model of BR94 in early era IV livery is a beautiful model. In addition, it's lettered for BD Stuttgart, Bw Crailsheim which makes it perfect for use on the projected Murrbahn layout.
Even though I don't have any photographic evidence that a BR94 was operated between Backnang and Gaildorf/West in the early 1970's, the opportunity to pick up a model that could have been running at least nearby was too good to pass up.

Meanwhile, it's a great switching engine for sessions on the Welztalbahn. There's only one catch: The power pickup seems to be a bit finicky and there is minimal run-out distance on my model, despite the motor having an -- admittedly small -- flywheel.  Other modelers reported not having any problems, so maybe I'm particularly picky, or the pickup shoe needs some love. In any case, I want to use this engine in situations that require slow switching moves and nothing is more annoying than the locomotive getting stuck on a yard ladder turnout. Hence, I looked into what it would take to install a keep-alive, in addition to a mechanical review of the pickup shoe. 

This is a tender locomotive, which are not exactly blessed with space, so I searched for really small keep-alive units. Tams usv-mini have a nifty way to hardwire with any decoder, so that the keep-alive is turned off during programming, which I would have preferred for this application. However, the TCS KA2 is much easier to source in the U.S. Since the locomotive has a MTC21 connector, the KA2 can be hardwired to pins 16 and 20 of the plug. No modification of the decoder is needed.

Contrary to my 10 year old BR86, with this locomotive Maerklin managed to keep the view through the cab open. This allows me to install figures for engineer and brakeman, as well as hide the KA2 in the rear of the cab. With a size of only 9 x 9 x 15.5mm the unit is truly tiny.

I spent most of the evening carefully disassembling the cab, plotting where to install the KA2, and painting the unit black. That's good enough for tonight.

Saturday, January 09, 2021

More Weathering Experiments

Today I decided to finish up weathering for the half dozen cars and locomotives sitting on my work bench since a few weeks ago. The weather was nice this afternoon, so I moved to the patio outside. The plan was to apply dirt and grime to undercarriage and trucks, as well as seal the Panpastel weathering effects with matte lacquer coat. I don't have much experience with the air brush yet, so this was also a good opportunity to try out a few ideas I had and see how to come out.

I used a base of Vallejo ModelAir Burnt Umber, and an overspray ComArt Soft Dirt for trucks and undercarriage. Using a thin spray of these lighter colors brings out more texture on the trucks of the American prototype car trucks, which is an effect I like. The Burnt Umber comes out a bit too redish on light surfaces as can be seen on the RBWX box car above. The Soft Dirt tones that down a bit.

I used somewhat heavier coverage of ComArt Soft Dirt on the RSD5 trucks and equipment, too.

As an experiment I sprayed an old Maerklin hopper with ComArt Soft Dirt, heavier around the wheels and frame and lighter towards the top. The top third got a light coat of ComArt Light Rust. This simple exercise took me less than 5 minutes and goes a looong way to making the car appear much less toy-like, despite the oversize ladders and crude features. Compare before and after below.

I weathered the roof and side panels of this Gbs256 box car with Panpastels, and sprayed the undercarriage and wheels with ComArt Soft Dirt. Again a very simple exercise with great effect dramatically increasing realism.

I sealed decals and Panpastel weathering on all models using thin coats from 5-10 drops of Vallejo Matt Varnish. I made sure to keep the air brush at least 6 inches away from the model to create even layers. Between cars and reloading Matt Varnish, I ran water through the air brush to minimize gunk build-up.

Finally, some trucks and frames got an application of Vallejo Dark Grey Wash.

Sunday, January 03, 2021

Module 1: Transformation

Module One was the first complete module I built. It was meant as a test whether I can work with sufficient precision to put together modules. It confirmed I can and I went on to build Untergröningen and other modules. It turned out that using a Fremo E96 endplate on both ends of the module made construction simple, but the module not particularly versatile or interesting. I planned to complete and use the module as staging backdrop for train photos, but eventually lost interest in favor of building modules that supported operations on the Welztalbahn.

Module One had a somewhat awkward size, too, so I decided to convert Module One into two small modules to transition from E96 to F96. That should be easy: Make a cut across the middle, create two modules 8 inch and 12 inch in length respectively, and fit F96 endplates reusing the rest of the module structure.

That was easy. What I didn't consider was the amount of effort it takes to fit an endplate to an existing module under existing track and align it properly with 90 degree angles. I should have just ripped off the track and cut the edge on the table saw. ... But getting out the table saw is quite some effort, too, so it probably worked out to a wash.

After fiddling with hand saws, files, and angle rulers I had a not quite square, but workable cut.  

I used a strip cut from plywood on the table saw to align endplate and roadbed and glued it in place. Here's Module 1a.

I cut and fit pieces of pink foam to fill in the gaps, glued them in place, and shaved the scenery contours with a basket rasp.

Meanwhile, I started working on the 12" module, only to find that the existing endplate was not vertical. Instead of trying to fix that, I decided to strip the module, save the endplate and connectors, and toss the rest, so there won't be a Module 1b.

The wiring on Module 1a is as simple as it gets.

I coated the pink foam with tinted Scuptamold and painted it with my regular earth color.

Next stop: grass and bushes.

Adding dirt and glue.

So far, so good.

Morning Hike: Santa Teresa County Park

Photo Credit: Tatjana

Tatjana and Jasmine joined me for a morning hike along Rocky Ridge trail today. A bit cool and partially foggy, but it warmed up as we hiked up to Coyote Peak.

Contrary to last time, there were cows out on pasture. I'm not super-comfortable when passing cows on trails, but they are more interested in chow than getting annoyed over some random hikers.

We almost caught up to the fog on the upper part of the trail.