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    Just a dope train photo in the Canadian Rockies


    2014 - 01.15

    I did not take this, I am just highlighting how awesome it is.  It’s a long exposure of some double stack container cars in Canada.  You could do this same exposure trick pretty easily on a model RR although you need a neutral density filter to get this effect in real life.  Anyway it is NIFTY.

    long exposure canadian trains

    Milwaukee GP-30 in the lightbox


    2013 - 12.19

    After a long hiatus, I’m dusting this thing off of and posting some nifty new stuff.  Here’s an awesome new player on the RR, a GP-30 with a sweet sounding turbocharged prime mover inside.  The high pitch whine of the turbo is a very cool new sound on the tracks, especially with two of them going.  Also, this photo is actually 5 photos stitched together in Photoshop for a composite focus.

    On a totally different note, since I’ve been out of the blogging loop for a while it appears that I need to relearn some things and dang it if flickr didn’t completely get rid of their embedding slideshow features!  That was the whole reason I ever got an account there.  Pfffft.  Just goes to show what’s new isn’t always better.

    Closer…


    2013 - 07.13

    These are cool:

    For years I’ve been wishing for a convergence device between smart phone and high-end point-n-shoot. The perfect camera inches one step closer with the release of two intriguing products from Samsung which come from opposite ends of the spectrum: an android-powered SLR and an optical-zoom equipped Galaxy phone. At this point I think neither device is exactly what I’d find ideal–the SLR is non-pocket-compatible and thus too big to carry 24/7, and the Galaxy S4 Zoom is reported to perform more like a lower-end point-n-shoot, although it does have manual modes. The max aperture of 2.8 is surprisingly awesome on the wide end.  It’d be neat to have one of these, even if the reviews don’t sound all that positive thus far… Still. I think it’s awesome that a giant company like Samsung is willing to push this deeply into the small-volume niche markets that both of these devices fill.

    Texas 2-Step Sessions Pt.Deux …in one pic


    2013 - 06.22

    Recently had a music making electronic power session with two buddies which was a combination of fun, educating, inspiring, and amusing.  We worked with Propellerheads Reason 6.5 and two keyboard midi controllers, it was a nice setup for electronic composing.  Below is a picture of the trio in action, overlaid with a thor synthesizer and the pattern from the tapestry on the wall (visible in the mirror); both of those were other photos I took that night.  I want to get some finished audio together and post that up too.  More on that later…

    Forests in Infrared


    2013 - 05.12

    Here’s another infrared shot, taken with the modified Infrared Canon XTi.  This time I dumped the color and just went B&W.  Normally I like the color, but something about this shot looked good in monochrome, the way all the leaves are super bright.

    Lake Sam Rayburn, as seen in Infrared


    2013 - 05.06

    My lady, taking in the view at a special place…

    Probably my favorite shot I’ve taken in infrared so far.  I used that trick where you go to channel mixer in photoshop and you swap red to blue (and versa vicea) .  One important tidbit with that trick: you don’t need to do it 100%.    You can set red to 90% blue and blue to 90% red, which is precisely what I did here.

    But technical details aside, it’s the composition I like

    Hip ‘n’ With It Bumper Stickers


    2013 - 05.06

    Taken on a recent camping trip, and posted to celebrate the release of Reason 7 last week.  Lucky #7!

     

    First IR light for the XTi


    2013 - 03.31

    So it’s nothing too amazing yet, but here is the first alright looking shot from my Canon XTi which was recently modified with the removal of the internal Infrared-block glass that covers the sensor.  I used a 720nm filter to block all visible light.  So nothing but infrared here.  Not really an amazing shot but I’m pleased with how the plants look nice and white.  I need to play with it more and maybe try a timelapse if I can find a cool subject.  But hey, it’s working, neat!!

    I did a relatively mild post processing on it.  Since it was at sunset, it wasn’t a good candidate for the red/blue channel swap like people do to make the sky look blue.  That’s more suited to afternoon images.  I still have a lot to learn when it comes to the subtleties of IR post-processing.  But I’ve started learning and that’s sweet.

    What’s redder than red?


    2013 - 03.02

    Ever since I got my wonderful Canon T3i a couple years ago (which I STILL think is the sweet-spot in DSLR price/performance/features), I’ve had a perfectly good 10MP Canon XTi body which has been essentially gathering dust.  What to do about this…. I could sell it, although unfortunately, older generations of DSLR bodies depreciate pretty severely  in spite of the fact that it’s still eminently capable.

    A better option: convert it to an Infrared body.  This procedure can be a DIY modification, although it is NOT for the faint of heart.  I’d been thinking about this for a long time so I was excited when it came up in conversation that a coworker of mine repairs/resells DSLRs as a hobby.  It sounds like this might actually happen sometime in the next few months.

    In the meantime, I noticed this really badass timelapse video shot with an infrared DSLR:

    There’s a great explanation on Bad Astronomy of why thing appear they way they do in infrared.  Basically plants reflect a lot more infrared light than any other color–including green!  When you get these photos out of the camera, they appear almost all red in color, so heavy-duty post-processing is needed to get these greyscale scenes with blue skies.  I’ll need to learn about all that to get to the point of making videos like the one shown above, but I don’t think it’s anything beyond my abilities.  Time will tell, but it’d be awesome to make something like this…

    Pacific Coast: Roadbed down, key players showing up


    2012 - 12.02

    Man. So much stuff has been happening on the model railroad lately that I’d be at risk of turning this site into nothing but a railroad blog if I posted it all individually. This also partially explains the plummeting number of posts on here. Writing for the site is fulfilling, but I will say it is energizing to work at a hobby where your efforts are rewarded with something physical. Railroading is fun!

    The biggest undertaking since I last posted was removing *all track* from the layout (gasp!), putting down recycled 1/4″ rubber for sound-deadening roadbed, and then rebuilding not one but TWO loops around the whole layout. That one sentence was mammoth amount of work. I also reworked some of the benchwork in the process. This time I built the tracks a lot slower and was doggedly vigilant to get perfect connections between sections. It can’t be overstated how much that pays off, even if it’s excruciating to move slowly while you’re itching to run trains. You gotta fight that urge to rush it. In the construction photo here, you can see the new roadbed:

    That photo distorts the size of the staging end of the layout a bit as it was taken at 10mm.

    A few construction secrets I’ve figured out:
    The rubber roadbed is made of sections cut from a large 4x10ft roll I bought off Amazon. I figured out the best way to cut it is with a boxcutter moving away from your body. That way you push with the meat of your palm, instead of struggling to push down with your thumb and fingers which quickly gets fatiguing. Getting a deep cut on the first pass is essential to making the repetitive job of cutting the rubber go faster. Then you can easily peel the strip loose without fighting. You need to make <1″ wide strips to go around curves, because the rubber does not bend much. I found it’s also easiest to do this right on the layout, where the height is about elbow level. Doing it on the ground is tedious. I went with rubber because it’s cheaper than cork.

    My trackbuilding around all curves has been dramatically aided by using flex track “end ties”. These allow the ties to hold the rail separation constant right up until the end when building a curve. They’re not 100% perfect, but they do go a long way toward avoiding that dreaded slight “V” shape where your rails join up. In my experience, small V’s which are scarcely even visible can be an endless source of derailments and frustration. The end ties work out to about $0.33 each, which is completely worth it when you consider how much hair-pulling they’ll spare you later on. Another thing which is maybe common sense but still bears mentioning is the importance of checking the previous track connection before you finalize the one you’re working on. Flex track does slip around inside the ties and a small gap at the far end can easily appear when you’re not paying attention, causing extra noise, wheel wear, and maybe derailments later.

    With the new and improved mainlines I can now run my Hiawatha Super Domes without being plagued by constant derailments like I was before. Success! Time to bust out my notorious “Mister Super Fussy” flatcar and see how good I really did. The amount of derailments he produces is incredulous. Apocalyptic.

    In other news I broke-in my new Harbor Freight deluxe airbrush and so far it is working great. I got a tip from the dude at the hobby shop that you can thin Floquil paints with Xylene thinner (super cheap) so I’ve been doing that and it seems to be working well. Only advice there is wear nitrile gloves and keep extras handy; Xylene is some serious business. Spill it on your gloves and it will actually eat through them in maybe 10 minutes. Protip: pour some Xylene from the giant gallon jug into something like an old glass pasta sauce jar, then pour that into your airbrush paint jar to avoid spilling all over. Use it outdoors and stand upwind. I don’t even want to know what might happen to someone using this stuff in a confined space with poor ventilation. A 50/50 paint/xylene mix has worked well for an initial coat of Floquil Grimy Black onto my Micro Engineering steel viaduct parts. I’ve been airbrushing them while still on the sprues, with most of the flash already cleaned off. We’ll find out later if that was the right call or not…..

    But enough about the rails–onto the trains. Two big stars of the show have arrived:

    1.) the Milwaukee Road E-2 & E-3  Bi-polar Electrics in the 1955 black, orange, & maroon stripe paint scheme, as built by MTH

    Scored both of these on eBay in the last few months, and ended up paying the full retail value for one of them despite the fact that the eBay auction started quite low. That means street value isn’t budging, even 2 years after their release. Huh! One thing which may factor in here is the apparent desirability of this particular paint scheme. The ‘bay is completely flooded with MTH Bipolars wearing the “cat whisker” paint scheme, and those seem to be the least valuable scheme. When I bought my 2 units at release in 2010, I picked the E-1 in the experimental Olympian scheme and the E-4 in the 5-stripe cat whisker scheme, thinking that those two schemes would be the hardest to find later on down the line. Boy was I wrong about that!

    The simple maroon stripe scheme that my new E-2 is wearing has proven to be the most popular. Weird! Perhaps that can be explained by the era: the cat whiskers, while awesome looking, didn’t appear on the real thing for very long, and if you want to run the super domes (which of course you do), that means you need a paint scheme that is kosher for late ’52 and up: the maroon stripe. That, or UP yellow, which everyone knows is perverse and revolting.

    And their competition:
    2.) the Northern Pacific F9A/B North Coast Limited engines in the “Lowey” paint scheme, from Athearn’s Genesis series.

    I don’t even know how, but somehow I scored these models on eBay for the buy it now price of $60 for the set. And they said you can’t get a good deal on the ‘bay anymore! Pshaw.

    These are my first “Genesis” models and jeez, I now understand why people praise this line as the alpha wolf of plastic trains. The etched see-through grilles on the sides are impressive in person and the fans on the roof are an actual separate part beneath a fine screen; that detail is always super sweet. I’ve had Walthers Proto 2000 E6s for a long time and I always thought those were quite nice. These NP engines are a cut above that. Extremely nice. Although the Bipolars remain my ‘favorite’ engines, these units do capture the crown of ‘most detailed’ on the layout.

    The Genesis Lowey units run smooth and quiet. Only bad thing is that they’re strictly DC while the Bipolars are dual-mode DC or DCC. (fast explanation: in DC all trains go “the same” speed, and DCC is like “multiplayer” where different trains can be doing different speeds, or stopped, all on the same track) Either due to the gearing ratios or simply due to the MTH control setup, the Bipolars run WAY slower than the Genesis units at a given voltage. So the North Coast Limited is screaming around the layout while the Hiawatha leisurely moves through. This fact may push my timetable forward on acquiring a DCC setup, which has always been an inevitability for the future of this layout.  For now I just have two separate DC power packs.  The switch visible in the image of the roof of #6701A there is a fast-tracks #6 curved turnout, made by hand.

    I’ve also been slowly picking up minor pieces of rolling stock when I can find them for cheap. A stock car and a few boxcars. And a Proto 2000 GP-30 for cheap too! That was another lucky find, and he represents the nascent beginnings of a Thunderhawk consist. These are some badass, speedy diesels. I still need at least 2 more GP-30s and a Joe for the motive power… so a loooong way to go still. But this is the “moment of genesis” for the Thunderhawk, which is exciting.

    One cool thing about this image (and the bipolar image too) is that they’re actually made of 2 separate photos with a different focus, spliced together in Photoshop.  I gotta do more of this composite focus thing, it makes for great shots…