Trolley Modeling in N Scale

Subscribe vis RSS

Santa on Transit ~ Saturday, December 13, 2014

CalTrain, Muni, and BART are full of Santas today, going to SF SantaCon.

direct link

SJ Rainbow Tigers After Dark ~ Tuesday, November 25, 2014

I never knew that their eyes glowed!

This is at the San Fernando VTA light rail stop, close to the main San Jose railway station.

direct link

Repair Shop Signs ~

We're at the San Jose Children's Discovery Museum, which has a temporary exhibit on "fixing things".

They have a big sign made of pictures of dozens of old repair shop signs--I need to reproduce some of these in a N scale city!

direct link

Recycling a Balloon Clip as a Clamp ~ Sunday, November 16, 2014

If you're throwing a birthday party for your kid with helium balloons, be sure to nab the plastic clips afterwards for your toolbox, because they make pretty good clamps to hold models while the glue is drying.

direct link

Trolley/Bike Bell ~ Monday, November 10, 2014

I put this new bell on my bike last night. It looks cool, sounds nice, and it's *effective*.  My previous bell never got anyone's attention. This one definitely does. Everyone looks when I ring it, and it keeps resonating so obnoxiously loudly that after a few seconds I put my thumb on it to dampen it.

Also, the strap that holds it on is brass instead of plastic, so it's a lot less likely  to fall onto the road than the last one.

Two bells means "go"!

direct link

Riding Muni 578 ~ Wednesday, November 05, 2014

Last weekend the SF Muni and Market Street Railway had a Heritage Weekend in which many seldom-seen pieces of equipment were brought out. I was particularly excited to get a ride on car 578, an 1895-built California-type-car (that is, open on each end and enclosed in the middle) "dinky" (single trucker). It looks like a cable car except for having a trolley pole, and being quite a bit shorter than any currently running cable car, though there were dinky cable cars back in the day as well. (The Muni was founded in 1912, but inherited this car when it bought out the Market St Ry).

I've seen this car before, but we've never gotten to ride it. We rode the first block standing on the footboard, until we were told we couldn't do that. On the face of this seemed kind of silly since they let you do that on the cables, but it's not totally unreasonable considering that it goes at least twice as fast, and that since it's a single-trucker, you get tossed around a bit more when it goes around curves. Of course, back in the day, they trusted kids to hold on, as this picture of a sister car in 1927 (from the White Front Cars book about the MSRy) shows:

This car is the almost-sole survivor of hundreds of cars built to roughly the same design that once went up and down the streets of dozens of California cities big and small (often, starting out in the big cities and finding second careers in small ones). In fact, I'd say probably more lines ran cars like this than didn't. There are some nice pictures on my trolley postcard site, especially for Eureka, CA; here's one of the best in higher resolution:

The 578 survived as a work car, hauling sand, and looked like this in that service (again from the White Front Cars book):

I said the 578 was almost the sole survivor of its type because there is one other nicely-restored example at the Orange Empire Railway Museum in Perris, Bakersfield and Kern car #4. I'll take the liberty of hotlinking one of their images:

There may be one or two other unrestored cars in the backlots here and at the Western Railway Museum in Rio Vista.

There were also vintage trolleycoaches and diesel busses on display, including this GMC New Look/Fishbowl which looks like ones I rode to school.

Though I'm not sure I like seeing something made in 1969 considered "vintage"!

direct link

Halloween Report ~

We almost felt like decorating for Halloween was superfluous, after this guy moved into our front yard:

But we ended up putting in the usual sorts of ghosts and jack-o-lanterns.

For the trick-or-treaters, we like to set up a game that the kids have to play to "win" their candy. This year's game was "throw the pumpkin into the ghost". Here's Nate helping to make the ghost, and learning some valuable skills:

Test throw! The throwable pumpkins were actually dog squeeze-toys, from a clearance bin at PetSmart.

Kids also had a choice of throwing them into a jack-o-lantern picture with a cut-out mouth (pumpkin cannibalism?).

direct link

Steam Shovel Book on Project Gutenberg ~ Friday, October 24, 2014

Most of what I find on Project Gutenberg ranges from classics to forgotten dime novels in fiction, to obsolete historical and scientific texts in non-.

Today I saw this new listing of a technical book on steam shovels, with a few cool illustrations.


Maybe there will be books on electric railways in the future--one can always make it happen, I suppose, by volunteering time to scan and/or proofread.

direct link

Lunar Eclipse ~ Wednesday, October 08, 2014

I braced the camera on the top of my car to hold it still for a long exposure (flash doesn't work for taking pictures of the moon!), and got this picture of the lunar eclipse at 3:something this morning:

direct link

Mega Double Rainbow ~ Thursday, September 18, 2014

I don't usually post about the weather but it hasn't rained here for a really really long time.

Pictures taken on the way to the 73 bus stop.

direct link

SF Transit Ice-Cream Tour ~

A local tourism website published a list of the best ice-cream shops in San Francisco.

Here's a few highlights and transit-oriented directions. I've only been to a few of these myself. We will try to remedy that!

  • The Ice Cream Bar. Some flavors are alcoholic! 815 Cole St, in Cole Valley, right by the west portal of the Sunset Streetcar tunnel (N Judah). Close to Haight/Ashbury and the eastern end of Golden Gate park.
  • Mr. & Mrs Miscellaneous, in the formerly scruffy but increasingly upscale Dogpatch. 699 22nd Street; a block from the 22nd St CalTrain station, also by a T-Third Light rail stop.
  • It's not ice-cream, but a block away is Just For You Cafe, which I've heard has New-Orleans-style beignets!
  • Smitten. Apparently they make it on the spot with liquid nitrogen! 432 Octavia Street. This location is within a few blocks of Market Street and the Civic Center--you could reach it from the Van Ness Muni Metro Station, or with a slightly longer walk from the Civic Center BART/Muni station, or walk up from Market (F-Market, etc). Be aware that this is an area where various types of urban environments converge (it's much nicer since the freeway offramp that used to be on top of Octavia was torn down).
  • Bi-Rite Creamery. The article lists them under a location on Divisadero, but I've seen lines out the door at their location at 3692 18th Street, conveniently close to Dolores Park, the J-Church, and Market St.
  • Humphry Slocombe. They list a location at 2790A Harrison Street, a few blocks from the 24th/Mission BART station, but they also have a booth in the Ferry Building.
  • Mitchell's Ice Cream, featured several times in this blog, and the best ice-cream in the world!!!. The location at 29th St. and San Jose Ave. is close to Mission St. busses (14, etc) and the J-Church.

direct link

I Note with Approval... ~ Wednesday, September 17, 2014

That the new elevated track structure at San Bruno has provisions for future catenary.

Also, the relocated SB CalTrain station is a < 20 min walk from the Tanforan mall, even at the pace of a 5 year old.

direct link

Bus Token ~ Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Nate has a Clipper Card but we found a bag of SamTrans youth tokens around the house, so today he's riding to school old-school.

Not to many transit systems still use tokens these days.

direct link

Ghost Tunnel ~ Saturday, September 06, 2014

From CalTrain, between Bayshore and South SF stations, coming around the point by Brisbane, I've noticed an abandoned tunnel portal. You can see it in this Bing Maps birds-eye view. The story is that this was originally part of the SP peninsula bayshore line, but when the 101 freeway was built, the railway was moved out of its way and now goes around a hill it used to go under.

I went poking around to get a better view than from a passing train. The site is at the back of an industrial park and is not too hard to get close to, though I had to stand on the fender of a parked truck to get a good view over a fence.

It made me curious whether the other end still exists or has been buried under the 101. Here's a series of views from a Historical Topographical Map online collection from UC Berkeley (this site is an awesome resource--I wish this sort of thing was available for the whole country).

1896: before the Bayshore Cutoff was built. South San Francisco is a little village by a lagoon.

1915: Tracks up the bay shore, right on the water a lot of the way, and there's the tunnel.

1947: That red line is not the modern Freeway, just the Bayshore Drive that's still there.

1956: The freeway and relocated tracks are under construction.

1968: Basically like today; the freeway is there, and the tracks are moved, but the tunnel is still shown. The south portal is still there. Interesting!

1973: Not much change since 68, but the USGS seems to have forgotten about the tunnel!

Taking another look at Bing Maps facing where the tunnel should go, I can't see any sign of it. Actually, the modern lay of the land seems to be a bit different than the old top maps suggest, or even modern ones.


The maps make the freeway look like an elevated structure, but I think actually the whole area underneath, where the missing portal would have been, has been filled in. Also note the little bit of hillside east of Bayshort Drive--it seems to have gone through a small cut, but this just isn't there now. Maybe the stub piece of hill was leveled to make fill for the new freeway.

direct link

Rail Fair at Ardenwood ~ Monday, September 01, 2014

Nathan and I visited the Washington Township Railroad Fair at Ardenwood Park, where several small visiting steam engines were running the trains (instead of the usual four-legged motive power).

The SP narrow gauge car 1010 was open for inspection. The plumbing of this car--or rather, the lack of it, is always a fascinating detail to kids:

We also rode (and pushed) a handcar, by virtue of becoming members of the Society for Preservation of Carter Railroad Resources, rode a speeder and trailer to visit the society's barn/workshop, where some really old and not-yet-restored equipment is kept, that I have previously only know of from their website.

For the ride back, Nate got to ride in the speeder cab and had the privilege of hoking the horn! :)

A few more scenes from the day:

Crank organs:

Eating an apple we picked ourselves:

Feeding goats:

Milking a fake cow:

Repairs to a (stub) switch:

A butterfly. I always try to take pictures of butterflies, and seldom get one, but had better luck today.

direct link