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    Pacifc Coast Extension: Progress Pics Pt.2


    2014 - 03.05

    So it’s been a while since I posted an update on my model railroading progress. I’ve been dabbling with a host of side projects but the two main accomplishments of the last few months have been 1. the organization of my workbench and 2. the completion of my staging area.

    RR workbenchIt can be hard to motivate yourself to put work into the space where you do your work, rather than devoting that time into actual projects themselves. But my overly-cluttered railroad workbench had reached an overpopulation of ridiculous proportions. I don’t have any “before” images to provide for contrast because taking a photo of how it used to be would be an embarassment. At Home Depot I found one of these 30-drawer organizers meant for screws and washers and that has worked out positively brilliant for the bulk of my small objects which need to be kept in sensible order. It’s been one of those upgrades to your work situation that makes you say to yourself “geez, why on earth didn’t I do this sooner?! I’ve been languishing in the dark ages and this thing only cost me $20!”

    The desk itself is fairly primitive; constructed of spare 2×4 segments left over from benchwork construction and half of a cheap ikea desk surface I sawed in half. There’s a power strip screwed into the base which provides juice to lamps and the soldering iron. Sitting on the tabletop is a stack of white paper which I use to keep greases/glues off the actual green desk surface and a spare piece of foam for setting down delicate engines while I work on them. It’s nothing impressive but it’s been functional. I guess the main takeaway here is that maaan, a little organization sure goes a long way to making life easier.

    The second, more exciting bit of progress I’ve made is to complete the staging yard–which is a short sentence to say but a lot of work to accomplish. Laying track is time consuming work when you want it to operate well. I added more work by deciding to have the whole yard hooked up to an autoreverser. It’s an “AR1” from Tony’s Train Exchange which monitors its (electrically isolated) track section thousands of times per second to see if there’s a short circuit compared to the main. If it detects one, it flips the polarity on its track to match, and does it so fast that the DCC system can’t detect that a short ever happened. It’s actually a pretty impressive little piece of technology if you stop and think about what it’s doing. The practical function here is to allow trains to enter the yard from either direction and never short anything, which allows me to turn long trains around. Very handy indeed! I chose the AR1 model specifically because it draws power from the track and therefore doesn’t need an independent power supply. It also has the capability to use the polarity flip to trigger a switch machine. So far I have zero switch machines on my layout but if I decide to add some in the future I could use that functionality.

    Staging Yard West End

    Speaking of switch machines, I installed a whole bunch of Caboose Industries ground throws and I learned something I wasn’t expecting; when using curved turnouts, you need to make sure that your passenger cars or autoracks don’t smash into the throw! If you position it even somewhat close to the track, it’s almost surely going to cause a problem. I ended up having my throws mounted all the way at the end of each switch throwbar. And it turned out that there was one curved turnout with a parallel curved track next to it which had zero possible placements where a throw wouldn’t cause crashes. I didn’t even think of this when I was coming up with the track plans! Fortunately my local hobby shop had a cheap mechanical solution which I could mount underneath the layout. It’s a Rix hand operated throw which doesn’t have any spring or tensioner in it so I’ll need to keep an eye on it if I use it repeatedly, but I think it ought to work well enough for that particular track.

    And speaking of underneath the layout, I was also surprised at the amount of work it took to add wire drops from each section of track and make sure everything was getting powered. Long stretches of flex track are pretty forgiving when it comes to conducting the signal but add in a bunch of switches and wow, all sorts of connection issues start appearing, even though I was using brand new, snug rail joiners. I had to go back an add more connections once I thought I was done. Now that it’s all complete though, it sure is nice!! I can have several long trains all on the tracks at the same time and choose which ones I want to take out and run, which is the whole strength of DCC afterall. It’s a milestone to now have a yard that allows me to take greater advantage of this.

    Staging Yard East end

    Primo Vino Art: Quotation


    2014 - 02.12

    Back with another cool wine bottle.  These things go on forever.  Just like the intricate swirls in this design, or the stars inside a galaxy.

    IMG_2489 v2

    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.