Trolley Modeling in N Scale

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Subway Ride to Hollywood ~ Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Wini and I visited Hollywood via the LA subway on Christmas.
We started at Olvera St (on an ordinary day I would recommend getting there via Metrolink or the green/blue/gold light rail system instead of driving downtown, but like I said, it was Christmas), where there were Aztec-costumed dancers on the town square, and a manger scene in the bandstand. From there we walked to Union Station, where we saw a cat--must have been Skimbleshanks!

We took the red line to Hollywood & Vine, which is not quite the center of activity I had imagined, but the station itself is worth a visit. It appears to be modeled on palatial 50's movie theaters.

We had a few sidewalk stars in mind to visit (you can look up their locations on this Wikipedia page). They proved to be a bit of a walk away. Hollywood Blvd is kind of scruffy but almost all the people we encountered were just other tourists who, like us, seemed to know they wanted to visit Hollywood but didn't actually know what to do when they got there.

Eventually we found some stars of people we're fans of.

These are hand and footprints of the cast of Harry Potter, in cement in front of Grauman's Chinese Theater.

Also, there's a penny smasher (we collect 'em) in front of Madame Tussaud's wax museum.

We returned via the Hollywood & Highland station, not quite as architecturally interesting (IMHO) as Hollywood & Vine, but not bad.

Along the way I snapped a few pictures of the type of classic American urban buildings that I think really deserve to be modeled more often.

And back at the town square is this old fire station, which I liked for the opposite reason--it looks exactly like the stereotypical small town building seen on every layout.

I liked this collection of signs. This is one seriously multicultural city!

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Merry Christmas! ~ Friday, December 24, 2010

Some seasonal modelbuilding, in an ephemeral medium!

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Nature or Nurture? ~ Friday, December 17, 2010

Nathan has been reading my copies of Blickpunkt Stra├čenbahn.

And studying CalTrain schedules.

As much as I've encouraged his interest in electric railways, this seems to show innate effects of a railfan gene.

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Reading up on your Favorite Line ~ Monday, December 06, 2010

Try this:

  • Go to http://books.google.com.
  • Type "electric railway journal" + keyword(s) for your favorite line (road name, city name, etc).

Searching for Petaluma, I found this from 1912:
Petaluma & Santa Rosa Railway, Petaluma, Cal.--Surveys for the extension out of Petaluma have been made by the engineers of this company as far as Tomales. The projected line will branch at Two Rocks, one line extending to Valley Ford and the other to Tomales, then down Keys Creek to the ocean beach.

Nothing ever came of this except a short extension to a quarry at Two Rock, a few miles west of Petaluma.

Above it is a notice about the start of construction of the PE's subway.

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Toy Recommendation ~ Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Plan Toys calls this a modern train.

To Nathan, it's ORANGE BENDY TROLLEY!!!, his favorite present from his recent 2nd birthday--actually, his favorite toy of all time, I think:

He's had wooden trains and tracks (btw for basic track and train sets, I recommend IKEA), and a DIY train table to play with them on for some time. They're generally rated for ages 3+; he's never shown any inclination to eat his trains, so I haven't worried about the are recommendations, but he hasn't really played with them as trains til now--Toddlers aren't quite coordinated enough to keep a magnetically-coupled train together while rolling it around.

This one, however, is a more or less permanently-articulated set, held together by plastic hooks that snap together. Nathan has only accidentally uncoupled it once. So he's able to roll his trolley around a track loop and up and down bridges, and I added some switches so it can go around different ways--and he'll play with it happily for quite a long time.

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San Jose Christmas in the Park ~ Saturday, November 27, 2010

Christmas in the Park is an annual tradition in San Jose's Plaza de Cesar Chavez Park (a.k.a. the oval park in front of the Tech Museum).

Christmas in the Park features kiddie rides, displays with animated elves, and an outdoor ice rink. This year, Ballet San Jose advertised their Nutcracker show by having kids in their costumes skating around the rink. Wini, as a member of our local Ice Theatre troop, was invited to come help lead them around.

We parked in a deserted office park in North San Jose, and took the VTA light rail downtown (other years they have run vintage Milano trams, like Muni's but with pantographs, but they're kind of hard up this year). Nathan was very excited and basically said "trolley trolley trolley trolley!" the whole way.

We arrived with time to spare, so we visited the San Jose Museum of Art which had an exhibit of electronic art lit up with LED's. This was pretty cool.

Here's Wini helping some mice to skate.

and Clara

We had dinner nearby; it's a heckofa lot easier to find somewhere to eat in downtown SJ than when I first started passing through in the late 80's--credit the light rail with giving it a "there".

We rode back, and as we walked to the car and our train rolled off into the night, Nathan yelled "bye bye trolley!"

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A Busy Day for Bay Area Transit ~ Wednesday, November 03, 2010

That says "GO GIANTS". There's a parade downtown, and trains to the City are packed. I saw this post on the CalTrain (rider-supported) status feed:

Caltrain radio just said @sfbart informed them not to let people off at Milbrae. @sfbart is FULL. T08:53


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Happy Halloween ~ Sunday, October 31, 2010

No surprise, we carved pumpkins today.

This is our twist on trick-or-treating: kids play pumpkin bowling (roll a pumpkin down the ramp, knock over pins) to win candy.

I built this "spook". Not too impressive in daylight.

But after the sun goes down, add some lights and a fog machine, and it's respectable:

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Fruit and Veggie Train ~ Monday, October 25, 2010

My train to work this morning sported and ad-wrap advertising Target's new produce section.

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Nathan's Newest Word ~ Sunday, October 17, 2010

Is "trolley"!

We did some fanning at the VTA Bascom station while Mom & Sister were at a Girl Scout event nearby.

The VTA has been doing more adwraps lately, including this car decked out for the National Hispanic University.

Nathan can also tell you that sheep say "baah", tigers say "roar", robots say "beep", and trolleys say "ding"!

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Installing Street Trackage in 1:1 ~ Saturday, October 16, 2010

Here is time lapse video of a recent track renewal project at Church & 30th, San Francisco, on the J line. Long ago this was the end of the line--and my stop!

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The Fan Seat ~ Friday, September 17, 2010

CalTrain engineers don't often leave the cab door open, but when they do, there's a perfect "fan seat" where you can sit and watch the action.

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DIY Double-Decker Bus ~ Monday, September 13, 2010

It doesn't run on tracks but it gets points for personality.

Seen on the Stanford University campus.

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Ghost Trains and Wild Grapes ~ Sunday, September 12, 2010

We drove into the country to visit Capay Farms, from whom we receive a biweekly box of produce. The Capay valley is an obscure corner of California we've never been to before. On the way, we passed through the town of Esparto, where we found an abandoned depot.

This was the SP's Winters Branch, abandoned in the 70's. It turns out the depot is for sale (pictures taken during a wetter part of the year!)

The street face of the depot was overgrown, and in the middle of the bushes were wild grapes.

I tried some. Some were perfect for picking and some were drying up on the vine, and they had seeds (wild grapes would have to, I suppose), but overall they were pretty tasty.

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IKEA Paint Mixer ~ Tuesday, September 07, 2010

I saw this "Produkt Milk-Frother", officially for making cappuccinos, a few months ago in the cheap bins by the checkout line in IKEA.

A model railroader is always on the lookout for anything that can be used for something other than its intended purpose, and to me the obvious application of this device was not coffee but model paint; the ring at the tip is just the right size to fit in standard jars.

I bought one, and got around to using it yesterday. I thought it would just vibrate but it actually spins--fast! I took off the spring-like "frothing wisk thingie" since that looked like it would be hard to clean--and probably result in a huge mess. The bare wire ring is fine for mixing paint, since we don't want bubbles.

The paint I wanted to use was metallic, "stainless steel", which made a good test, since it had separated and needed a lot of mixing. The "Improvised Produkt Paint Mixer" did a pretty good job. The only downside was that it spins pretty fast. I had to use short spurts to keep the paint from sloshing right out of the jar. A better solution might be just to use halfway used-up batteries.

Cleaning the tool is easy--run water over it, then take it outside and turn it on.

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Layout Planning with AnyRail ~ Monday, September 06, 2010

I have recently learned (via ntramblog--another blog, which if you're reading this one, you will probably like too!) about AnyRail, a new layout design program.

AnyRail has several things going for it;

  • It's easy to use
  • It has track libraries covering just about everything--including Tomix Fine Track
  • You can download it and try it for free--the main restriction of the trial version is that you are restricted to designs with 50 pieces of track

So here's the plan;

now back to implementation!

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San Francisco Bars ~ Wednesday, August 18, 2010

I came across an odd estate sale; some ladies were selling a large assortment of old items out of two shipping containers in an industrial parking lot. I picked out a bag of reproduction (I assume) Roman coins, a planer, and a how-to book about drawing; I asked if they had any old postcards, since I collect vintage postcards with a theme you will have no trouble guessing.

They didn't, but they said they had some old pictures I might find anything. Apparently this sale was the estate of a late relative who had managed bars in San Franciso, and there were a few pictures he had taken of them.

Four of the five pictures can be arranged in a sequence to show most of a city block (click on them for larger version):

I was curious where exactly these buildings were, and if they might be still standing. First I tried "old school" research methods: I found a local SF genealogy website with a collection of scanned city directories. I found one of the hotels listed in a 50's city directory, but only one. Of course hotels go out of business, often leaving their signs up, carrying on as rentals.

Noticing the fairly unique sounding name of the establishment in the last picture above, "Jay Hurley's Sportorium", I tried an internet search and found a listing of negatives from the SF assessor's archives, listed by address.

Third Street, 44  Hotel King, Jay Hurley’s Sportorium, Barrel House
Third Street, 48 Barrel House
Third Street, 56 Kentucky Rummy
Third Street, 66 Westchester Hotel, Golden Gate News, Kentucky Rummy
Third Street, 82 Kurant’s Western Outfitters, Knox Hotel

Score one for modern/lazy research methods.

Unfortunately all these buildings are gone; the site is now occupied by an architecturally uninspired Westin Hotel.

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The Office Depot + garage across the street is worse.

In the pictures, note the streetcar tracks. Those are for Market St Ry's 15/16/29 lines. The 15 evolved into a Muni bus line, which was recently replaced on most of its route by the T Third, though not on this part of 3rd Street.

The fifth picture has a small building, with only a small sign not legible even in my physical copy, and remains a mystery.

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Aquarium Adwrap on the VTA ~ Thursday, August 12, 2010

The Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority has been doing a few adwraps on their light rail trains; a few months ago there was a McDonald's train, which I never got a picture of, but which you can see here; this morning, getting off CalTrain at Mountain View, I noticed a nice blue adwrap on a light rail train, just pulling out of the adjacent VTA station, and whipped out my klunky but dependable old "always keep in my backpack in case I see something interesting on the way to work" camera.

The ad is for the Monterey Bay Aquarium.

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America in Color 1939-1943 ~ Friday, July 30, 2010

A few years ago the Library of Congress put together a show of color photographs collected by the government to document the depression and domestic effects of WWII.

You can see it online at the L.O.C. site, or (imho better presented) at this Denver Post Photoblog site (and note that blogger shrunk my samples when I posted them, so you can see them much better on the original sites).

The collection has lots of great pictures from the "classic railroading era" that lots of us like to model--in color, which we rarely get to see. I didn't see anything specifically trolleyish, but there are good shots of urban scenery, like this:

and more of rural life

and plenty of railroads, and classic modelable industries

I've mostly posted scenic examples, but there are lots and lots of pictures of people--at work, out and about, kids playing, etc.

There's lots more there--check it out!

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