Saturday, February 28, 2009

Update at Dawson Junction

Dawson Junction is progressing steadily. I think I've discovered another secret of model railroading: building is as fun as operating.

There is a stream running under the mill. In the mid 50's, they channeled it through a concrete tunnel to keep it from washing away the timber supports. A recent EPA study found more fish in the tunnel that out.

The stream is of course, bridged by large timbers, no doubt cut on site. The owner of the hobby shop doesn't seem to mind that I come in every week and buy several lengths of balsa. They are only 22 cents apiece. The smallest regular balsa I can get is a foot and a half wide in scale. It works well for a lot of things at the mill, but I had to buy some special "scale" stuff for the loading shed and dock.

In the movie The Girl with the Pearl Earring, the painter Veermer asks the maid, "what colors are the clouds?" She initialy answers "white", but after studying them for a few moments, begins to detail all the different colors she sees in them. How about asphalt? I thought gray was gray, but after studying it for a bit, it is a bit more subtle than that. I wouldn't be too concerned, except that it need to match the backdrop image. Most of my photos are in overcast weather with a bit of dampness on the ground. That changes the color dramatically. You can see I'm still working on it.

It is starting to take shape (and color). You can see my "test patch" in the lower center. Next up, the chip loading rig.

Friday, February 27, 2009

PG in the news and the Summum.

I follow a physics newsletter with a humanist twist. This week he mentioned Pleasant Grove:
The establishment clause of the First Amendment sets the U.S. apart from every other country in the world. It is the American gift. The town of Pleasant Grove, Utah, however, has a monument to the Ten Commandments in the city park in obvious violation of the establishment clause. The problem is that in 2005, the Supreme Court had declined to require Texas to remove a Ten Commandments monument from the grounds of the state capital. The objection to the monument in that case had been raised by a homeless man . This prompted Pleasant Grove to erect a Ten Commandments monument. But then a group called Summum proposed to erect a similar monument bearing its Seven Aphorisms; the city refused. Summum may be a wacky religion, but after all, this is Utah. The case reached the U.S. Supreme Court, which on Wednesday unanimously agreed with the city that religious displays on government property are “government speech” and under control of local government. It seems all but certain that there will be more Ten Commandment cases.


According to Wikipedia, the Summum believe the Seven Aphorisms were on the first tablets that Moses broke. Our loss.

While I'm out there on weird things, I found out that Carl Sagan (my favorite secular humanist) sued Apple Computers when he found out they were using his name as a code name for a product in development back in the 90's (HP does this all the time - it is a creative outlet for the engineers involved). He lost the suit, but the engineers involved change the name anyway, calling the project "BHA", short for Butt-head Astronomer. Sagan sued again (more rightfully so, I believe), but lost again. In a final snub, the engineers changed the product code a final time, this time to "LAW" for Lawyers Are Wimps. The public designation? PowerMac 7100. I'm surprised such a smart man made such a fool of himself.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

AV Nightmare

Sometimes things make more sense when I sketch them out.
Sometimes not.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Snowmen I have known . . .

I saw this cool snowman the other day on the This American Life website. It reminds me of the Calvin & Hobbes style of construction. Here are a couple of my originals from when I lived in Connecticut:If you look close, you can see the princess the dragon is guarding.
Here are a couple from this year:

4 Feet, 8 1/2 Inches?

(This is posted several places on the web, and may or may not be completely factual, but is interesting none the less):

The US standard railroad gauge (distance between the rails) is 4', 8.5". That's an exceedingly odd number. Why was that gauge used? Because that's the way they built them in England, and English expatriates built the US Railroads. Why did the English build them like that? Because the first rail lines were built by the same people who built the pre-railroad tramways, and that's the gauge they used. Why did "they" use that gauge then? Because the people who built the tram-ways used the same jigs and tools that they used for building wagons, which used that wheel spacing.

Okay! But why did the wagons have that particular odd wheel spacing? Well, if they tried to use any other spacing, the wagon wheels would break on some of the old, long distance roads in England, because that's the spacing of the wheel ruts. So who built those old rutted roads? Imperial Rome built the first long-distance roads in Europe (and England) for their legions. The roads have been used ever since.

And the ruts in the roads...? Roman war chariots formed the initial ruts, which everyone else had to match or fear of destroying their wagon wheels. Since the chariots were made for Imperial Rome, they were all alike in the matter of wheel spacing. The United States standard railroad gauge of 4 feet, 8.5 inches is derived from the original specifications for an Imperial Roman war chariot. And bureaucracies live forever.

So the next time you are handed a specification and wonder what horse's ass came up with it, you may be exactly right, because the Imperial Roman war chariots were made just wide enough to accommodate the back ends of two war horses. Now the twist to the story...

When you see a Space Shuttle sitting on its launch pad, there are two big booster rockets attached to the sides of the main fuel tank. These are solid rocket boosters, or SRBs. Thiokol at their factory at Utah makes the SRBs. The engineers who designed the SRBs would have preferred to make them a bit fatter, but the SRBs had to be shipped by train from the factory to the launch site. The railroad line from the factory happens to run through a tunnel in the mountains. The SRBs had to fit through that tunnel. The tunnel is slightly wider than the railroad track, and the railroad track, as you now know, is about as wide as two horses' behinds. So, a major Space Shuttle design feature of what is arguably the world's most advanced transportation system was determined over two thousand years ago by the width of a horse's ass.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Modeling with Inkjet

This is the lunch shed at Hull-Oakes. It is between the chiploading station and the railshed, so it falls within my modeling zone.
I was going to build it from scratch using a polystyrene sheet, but then I thought, "man, I wish I could just print it out". O.K., maybe I can. If I could just straighten out the perspective (or just take a square-on photo to start with), I'd be set ...

A little photoshoping (or free Gimp 2.6 in this case), some calculations on scaling, and a small wood frame and presto!

The door, which is about 6.5 ft tall in real life, is less than a half inch in scale. Notice the detail in the window! The sign on the door says, "No Smoking!". How is that for realism? Nasty habit anyway, especially if you are eating. The roof was also printed. It still needs to be "weathered", which would be rusted in this case.

Here it is with the rail shed, the other piece I've been working on. The roof is printed on cardstock, but the rest is balsa painted to look 50 years old. The lumber load on the rail car is also balsa, painted to look like fresh-cut doug fir. I had made one using inkjet, but it didn't quite look real enough.