Trolley Modeling in N Scale

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Donner Pass ~ Monday, July 27, 2020

On the way back from a family trip to Lake Tahoe (boating, biking, hiking, and lots more fun stuff) we took the original Donner Pass Road instead of Interstate 80, and stopped to see some historical sights here.

The oldest thing to see here are petroglyphs.

They are faint and hard to see; for enhanced versions see this Donner Summit Historical Society page.

Up above is the original right-of-way of the transcontinental railway (it now passes under this point by way of a newer tunnel). There is a long stone retaining wall called the China Wall after the laborers who originally built it (by hand).

On either end are snowsheds,

which lead into actual tunnels, blasted out of solid rock:

At one point there is a hole in the roof of a snowshed, which lets sunlight in. There's some interesting graffiti in there.

Donner Pass Road is an engineering feat itself too, with an impressive concrete-arch bridge, and some amazing views. But drive carefully!

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Tomatoes to Salsa ~ Monday, July 13, 2020

I set up a planter box, Sue planted tomatoes, and they kind of went crazy!

This batch went into making salsa.

Next up, Caprese Salad.

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Pájaro ~ Thursday, July 02, 2020

We recently spend a long weekend at Pájaro Dunes, which is near Watsonville, CA, on the beach, and (important for any vacation right now) fairly isolated.

We enjoyed a nearly deserted beach.

It was the summer solstice, so we made a mandala in the sand.

There was nice wildlife!

Among nearby sights was this abandoned and clearly haunted old farmhouse:

Downtown Watsonville has signs of former and current railroading:

SCBG is the reporting mark of the Santa Cruz, Big Trees & Pacific, who might potentially someday run excursions between Santa Cruz and points south (those tracks now belong to Santa Cruz County, who have a web page about potential future passenger trains). We also visited the Martinelli's Apple Cider Plant, which has a company store, and we got to peek into the bottling warehouse for this view of old and modern equipment.

As I wrote about previously, I used historical topographic maps to track down the right-of-way of the long-defunct, narrow gauge electric Watsonville Transportation Company.

This bit of concrete flood-control seems to be on the site of a former RR brdige. Note the old bits of wood behind the modern concrete. I'm guessing that's part of the abutment of a long-ago bridge.

And look closer. A bit of old rail!

100+ years ago, the tracks went down to a pier, from which local agricultural products (then as now, mostly berries) were shipped:

We also spent a day paddling around in Elkhorn Slough, behind moss landing, but I'm not risking a camera or phone by getting one out in a small boat!

I'll conclude with this random scene around town:

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A Useful Research Tool: Historical Topographic Maps ~ Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Historical topographical maps are a great way to track down historical right-of-ways of vanished railways and other bits of history. They've been available online for quite a few years now (for a while my go-to source for maps of California was a site hosted by the UC Berkeley Library). But even if you can view historical maps, it's often hard to correlate between "then" and "now" maps.

There is a new online tool, though, which makes this very convenient. Try it out at https://livingatlas.arcgis.com/topoexplorer/index.html.

On this site you can (1) search for a location by address, just like you would with Google maps, (2) click on an exact location on a modern-day topo view (leaving a red +), (3) select a historical map to view, (4) use a slider to fade between the historical and modern view.

Here is a location near Watsonville, CA, where we just spent a long weekend (hotels are starting to reopen around here; also, click on images for a bigger version):

Here is a view from 1912, when the Watsonville Transportation Company, a short-lived narrow-gauge electric interurban line, ran from Watsonville to a pier just up the beach from where we were staying:

And here's a blended view showing 1912 and 2020 at the same time:

Note that the slider is in the lower left, under the listing for the 1912 map.

More on this trip in an upcoming post!

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Trackside Blackberries ~ Friday, June 05, 2020

The first of the season!

Nathan and I were making a morning ride around one of our usual loops, and he asked if we could check the blackberry patch for blackberries. I wasn't expecting any this early in the season but figured you should always indulge a kid's curiosity. Turns out there are already a few ripe ones! I bet the recent hot weather has helped them get ripe faster.

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They're Open! ~ Wednesday, June 03, 2020

A little bit of much-needed good news. J&M Hobby House in San Carlos is open again :)

They've set up a counter at the door. No browsing yet, but if you know what you want, they'll get it for you. Very handy for anyone who's been using quarantine to catch up on a backlog of unbuilt kits and is running low on paint, glue, or sharp X-Acto blades.

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Artichokes... 4 for $0 ~ Monday, May 04, 2020

We did some urban forraging. There's a big patch of artichokes growing wild between Belmont and Redwood Shores--it's by the Shores end of the wavy bike bridge over the 101 by Ralston.

They're easy to get to but those plants are quite poky.

Trimming the spikes is a bit of a job.

Bowl full of ouch!

Cook in a pressure cooker for about 20 mins.


But "debug" them first :/

Also to note: they're pretty small, so each leaf (petal?) just has a tiny bit to scrape off. But the hearts are pretty good.

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Bike Ride to Handley Rock Park ~ Friday, May 01, 2020

This is a decent climb, for me anyway. Hadley Rock is at 495 ft, and the elevation of my house is basically 0. 

Even this tiny park was closed off with caution tape.

I passed a box of free books on the way back and for once there were a few worth taking.

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Limericks ~ Friday, April 24, 2020

We've been writing Limericks!

There once was a cat on the block
who swore that he knew how to talk.
  With a whip of his tail
  the dogs would all quail
and back away down the side walk.

There once was a cat on the block
who never did more than a walk.
  When he stretched out a paw
  out came the claw.
He never did learn how to talk.

There once was an annoying jerk,
who always had a dumb smirk.
  But his smirk did die
  when we was attacked with a pie,
but he got to eat pie as a perk.

A trip to the movies can be tonic
to life's stress. But it's ironic
  (though I'm no cinéaste
  or snob) that our last
  outing downtown
  for a show pre-lockdown
starred a CG hedgehog named Sonic.

This is the seal of County Limerick, Ireland, which may or may not have anything to do with Limericks...

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Letter Street Parade ~ Wednesday, April 22, 2020

Our neighborhood (which contains A St through G St, so gets called the "letter streets" or "alphabet") had a costume parade on Sunday.

We even had a police escort.

Something to do!

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