Trolley Modeling in N Scale

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A Short? ~ Monday, September 18, 2017

Some of us CalTrain passengers noticed smoke from the VTA tracks. A tie seemed to be cracked open and smoke was coming out of it. This was right next to a big wire welded to the rail, by a switch. A fellow passenger took a cup of water to dump on it, which was foolish, (since this was at Mountain View, he was very likely an engineer!) and if I realized what he was doing earlier I would have yelled at him to stop,  but no harm came of it.

A VTA employee took a fire extinguisher out of an electrical box, and this made an impressive cloud of spray, but didn't seem to solbe the problem, which makes me suspect a smoldering short. Then the pros showed up from the MVFD so I presume everything is under control now, possibly with some service disruption if they turn off power, which seems likely. 

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Volcano in the East Bay Hills ~ Sunday, September 17, 2017

While Wini worked at Chabot last saturday, Nate and I explored the nearby Sibley Volcanic Preserve.

This is a nice short hike in the Oakland Hills that takes you to a long-dormant volcano, whose plug was once excavated as a quarry, allowing you to walk right into the heart of the mountain. And right in the middle, someone has made a maze out of rocks.

We also saw a lot of wildlife on the way: a mouse, dozens of lizards, and small and very fast snake I couldn't get a picture of, but which was probably an "alameda whipsnake".

This is very close to the Sacramento Northern tunnel, which I will have another entry about some day.

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It's Hot! ~ Friday, September 01, 2017

I was going to take the VTA back to CalTrain today,  but had to leave early, which meant biking in 110° heat! 

It's not *so* bad--just take it easy and stay hydrated.

At least I got to see a freight train.

I also took a picture of the train I was riding to show somethIng I've noticed: CalTrain seems to be modernizing some of it's headlights. Note that the flashing lower lights are white (LEDs?) while the upper light is old fashioned amber glow. 

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I Didn't Draw These! ~ Friday, August 25, 2017


My neighbor leaves out sidewalk chalk for neighborhood kids and somebody drew a very nice trolley and a TARDIS.

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It Works! ~ Monday, August 21, 2017

Just about at the peak of the eclipse now. 

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Eclipse Viewer ~ Sunday, August 20, 2017

Tomorrow is a solar eclipse (not complete here, but at least 75%) so we made a sun viewer.

First we tried the cereal-box/camera-obscura design that you've probably seen recommended in the internet. I thought the image was kinda meh so I built a version made out of mailing tubes, with a pinhole lens at one end and a "screen" (cap) for it to project onto at the other,  and cut out a window to view it.

It works but was a little hard to aim, so I added some cards as a guide--if the shadow of one card is on the other,  you're holding it right and shold see the sun.

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Emoji Building ~ Wednesday, August 16, 2017

At first glance this new building in the Netherlands looks like pretty conventional retro-styled architecture, but note the molded details.

Perhaps Emojis will be with us forever (that is to say, remain popular--thanks to the Unicode Consortium they're going to be available for a very long time, alongside the world's cultural heritage of alphabets, syllabaries, ideographs, numerals, etc), or perhaps in the future this building will be a funny cultural reminder of the "twenty teens" when it was built.

Either way, it would make an interesting structure on a contemporary urban transit layout.

You can read more about it and see more pictures here.

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Lepidopterology ~ Tuesday, August 08, 2017

Is not something I know much about, but I got this nice picture at Wunderlich Park.

I try to take pictures of lots of butterflies, but they are a tricky subject!

Comparing this with pictures on this SF Bay Wildlife site, I think it's either a Northern Checkerspot or a Mylitta Crescent, but I can't decide.

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Ran into Wini at Work ~ Saturday, July 29, 2017

At the Chabot Space Science Museum.

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"Needs Work" ~

Saw this on the road today (traffic was stopped). At least it has wheels!

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Slime! ~

OSH is showing kids how to make slime this morning (glue, water, borax and optionally green food coloring).

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Charlie Chaplin Lookalike Contest ~ Sunday, July 23, 2017

We're back in town and went to the Niles Silent Film Museum's Annual Chaplin Festival (commemorating the movies he made in Niles, CA), and Nathan entered the Charlie Chaplin lookalike contest.

All contestants received prizes--a Charlie Chaplin DVD, an assortment of souvenirs, and an ice cream cone from Niles Ice Cream down the street.

Across the street, the Niles Canyon Ry was running trains pulled by this WP F-Unit.

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Nessy Burger ~ Saturday, July 22, 2017

This place is at Pala Mesa, near Fallbrook (there used to be a Santa Fe brach line around here). Pretty good burgers and generously sized, too! Next week it's back to the office cafeteria salad bar for me...

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Palomar Observatory ~ Thursday, July 20, 2017

Lest you think we're doing nothing but go to amusement parks and swim in the pool on this trip, I can report that we also visited CalTech's Palomar Mountain Observatory (http://www.astro.caltech.edu/palomar/mobile.html), whose 200-inch telescope was used to discover several of the newer (to human knowledge) members of our solar system such as 
Quaoar, Sedna, Eris (originally proposed to be named Xena), Haumea, and Orcus (lead astronomer Mike Brown has a nice blog: http://www.mikebrownsplanets.com/).

There is a small museum. One item on display is a CCD sensor built in the 1970's at CalTech for use in the telescope--basically an early digital camera, with 0.25 megapixels! There are also O and N scale models of the train that transported the 200" mirror from the Corning glass plant in New York State.

On the way down the mountain we found an artesian spring which has been piped into drinking fountains. The water really does taste pretty good. We even dumped out a water bottle full of Redwood City tap water to refill with some of the spring water to drink later.

Heading back to civilization we passed through the town of Pala, which has a mission and is in an Indian reservation--this is (according to wikipedia) the only California mission that has persisted as part of a community descended from the original mission Indian inhabitants. 

We also found a produce stand that sold local avocados and honey from bees who take pollen from avocado flowers--it's good, with a slightly intenser-than-usual flavor. 

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Disneyland ~

The kids and I visited yesterday. I got to see the Main St horse car running, which has never been out on my previous visits. Probably the difference was that we arrived when the park opened; by afternoon the horse car was out of service and I can understand why--it was just too crowded to run it! 

Nathan is now officially a Jedi, having been trained and faced "the 7th Sister" in a lightsaber battle (not a character I'm familiar with, but we're more of a Trek family).

If you have a 12 or under kid that wants to be a Jedi, go early and head to Tomorrowland (even though, technically, Star Wars takes place long long ago) to get him/her a ticket to take part;  the booth is near Autopia.

We stayed til 8 and left via Amtrak's Pacific Surfliner, which kept Sue from having to drive round trip to Anaheim twice, and let us get a late dinner in the snack car (heckuva lot cheaper than amusement park food, plus they have beer).

Anaheim's ARTIC transit center has a pretty nifty terminal building, which made a good setting for a light-sabre fight. I tried Uber for the first time to get us there, and that worked smoothly; only took about 10-15 minutes.

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The Poway-Midland Railway ~

We were planning a stop at the Orange Empire Railway Museum, but it was 108° as we passed Perris, and even I had to admit it was too hot!  We can come back in a more temperate time of year.

Anyway,  near where we are staying in northern San Diego County is another museum to check out,  the Poway-Midland Railway (http://www.powaymidlandrr.org/). So the next day, after stopping for lunch at Killer Pizza From Mars in Escondido (recommended both for the pizza and sci-fi kitsch decor), we went to Poway (pronouned "pow-way", not "poe-way").

This is a small operation, just a loop of track in a park full of historic buildings (kind of like History San Jose in Kelly Park), but they have some interesting equipment. We got to ride an LARy trolley originally built in 1894 (!) which is now the oldest car we've ever ridden (beating out Muni's 578, built 1896). It was retired in the 1920's and sold to a movie studio--it'd be interesting to track down and watch some of it's appearances (trolleys and silent movies are two hobbies that go well together).

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Tehachapi ~ Monday, July 17, 2017

Greetings from San Diego!

We took the scenic route here and stopped to look at the Tehachapi Loop. No trains happened to pass by while we were watching. Another traveler stopp3d to look (said he was on the way to St George Utah for a horseshoes tournament) and asked if we had the schedule. Have to admit it never occurred to me to look up a schedule for freight trains while railfanning, but it's a good idea!

A little ways down the road we found a very lost Niles Canyon Railway caboose, which has probably been set up as some kind of railfan clubhouse.

We stopped for lunch at the Mojave Airport/Spaceport, which has regular fly-in /drive-In airplane and old car shows.

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New VTA Livery ~ Monday, July 10, 2017

Not sure if the ends are keeping the original logo,  or if this car is just halfway updated. 

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The Science of Pinball ~ Saturday, July 01, 2017

The Chabot Space Science Museum (in the Oakland Hills), where Wini has a summer job, is collaborating with the Pacific Pinball Museum (in Alameda), for a show called "The Science of Pinball". 

You can both learn how the machines work,  and play some vintage games. 

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Odwalla Trolley ~ Monday, June 26, 2017

Adwrap on my ride to work this morning. 

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Thanks for the Cake, Guys! ~ Sunday, June 18, 2017

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Old Stone House ~ Wednesday, June 14, 2017

This is at Wunderlich County Park, next to Folger Stables ( http://parks.smcgov.org/folger-stable-historic-site ).

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