Archive for January, 2016

Day of the triffids

January 31, 2016

Sunday, 31 January 2016

I haven’t had enough exercise recently, so I wanted to get in a killer hike today. El Corte de Madera, a preserve I haven’t visited for a while. Nice day, bracketed between chilly morning and afternoon. The car thermometer thought it was in the low 40s, cold enough.


Trails sometimes wet, sometimes muddy, but in fairly good shape. I cleared quite a bit of debris, and at the end of the day, reported five downed trees for the chainsaw crew to tidy up, along with a rockslide too big for me to handle myself.


I have no idea what these little guys really are, but they always remind me of the old horror movie Day of the Triffids. So I call them triffids. Unusual to find them growing on an open more or less horizontal surface.



The wonderful things all around us!

Turtles in the soup

January 30, 2016

Saturday, 30 January 2016

At Rancho San Antonio, I worked on clearing purple star thistle in December, hoping to get a jump on the season. Today I went back to see whether it had been a complete waste of time. Not at all; I was pleased to find a fairly small number of plants that I had either missed or that had sprouted new since I was last here.


There are a couple ponds, at one of which I stopped to munch an apple. And what to my wondering eye should appear but a turtle. When I tried to get close for a photo, it plopped into the water, but a few minutes later, it re-emerged and climbed out onto the bank.




And not long after, another turtle climbed out nearby, the two happy to sun themselves.


Not the kind of thing I see every day, although I’m sure I would if I hung around ponds.


The wildflowers are starting to bloom, and I shot a hummer having lunch.


Nice day. Great to be home.

Eisenbahnmuseum Darmstadt-Kranichstein

January 30, 2016

A free afternoon in Darmstadt

January 22, 2016

Friday, 22 January 2016

We finished work around 1 o’clock, and it was a sunny day, so I went wandering.



Friend Paul had told me about a 1:4 scale Lok at the Hauptbahnhof, so I went over to have a look. There is a slot where you can insert E0.50 and it actually runs for a while. I was tempted, but the reflections from the plexiglas shell were so distracting that I didn’t think a video would be worthwhile.


I next found myself in a large park associated with the old Schloss. Very nice, although of course sleeping through the winter.



This is a section of the old city wall.


“I assure you, I am better than my reputation!”

Nice place, but I’m ready for home. I hope the knock-on effects of the US east coast weather problems don’t affect my flight to SFO.

Eisenbahnmuseum Darmstadt-Kranichstein

January 17, 2016

Sunday 17 January 2016


The view out my window when I woke up. Only a few cm of snow, but not very inviting. But after a good breakfast, I Googled the Darmstadt attractions, thinking that I might, much against my usual habits, spend the day indoors, maybe even in a museum.

Well, I was half right. The attraction that attracted my eye was the railway museum at Kranichstein. Museum, just not indoors.

Ok, where’s Kranichstein? Found it on Google maps; it’s way the hell out in one of the nearby townlets. But when I ask Google for a walking route, well, it’s only 6,7 km. Ok, let’s head that way; if the weather is a disaster, we can always abandon the idea.

GPS route.jpg

The day was okay, and although I am off the little throw-away paper map, I studied Google’s recommendation carefully enough that I had no trouble. You will observe that the latter part comprises staying right along the rail lines, so it was pretty easy.


The museum is open 10-4 on Sundays.


From this side, this is clearly the firing and steam generation part of a Lok. The other side is cut away, so we can see what’s going on.


Generally, red shows where the fire is, blue shows water, white is for steam. We can see how the firebox is immersed in water, including extracting heat through the flue pipes leading to the front.


To the left, the hole where the fireman shovels coal onto the grate.


Steam collects under the steam dome, whence it is channeled toward the superheater on the right.


Here, the superheater collecting the last possible energy from the flue gases, a screen to suppress sparks, and the chimney. This black cavity would presumably accumulate ash and need to be cleaned out from time to time.


Moving right along, the turntable itself. Roundhouse shops to the right.


A few Loks are left outdoors, almost humorous, some of them.



The humor in these is not so obvious, but they have no drive gear.


Going on into the roundhouse shops, we find Loks that are, many of them, roadworthy. The museum association sponsors steam-powered trips during the high season.


No mention of the world events into which these Loks fit. There must be stories. For better or worse, at least these machines survived.


While we looking at labels, this is a tender. Two interesting things here, first that steam propulsion consumed more water by volume than fuel Öl (oil). The second point is my extraction from what our volunteer tour guide said. It being all in German, I may have it completely wrong. For what it’s worth, I think he said that the oil was so heavy that it would not flow unless heated, so especially in cold weather, the fuel had to be heated before the fire could be started to heat the fuel. Clearly, there’s more to that story!


And while we on about signs, I thought it was interesting to see the typeface in use even in a heavy industry setting. Through the door, a machine shop, with overhead power shafts and leather belts running down to power individual machine tools.


Here, a standard blacksmith shop, presumably limited to things small enough, say, for one or two men to pick up.


I didn’t say anything about the group. Access by guided tour only; there were five of us visitors, including Junior here. Dad and Mom bracketing the tour guide, who was happy to explain things in simple detail to Junior and in more detail to Mom.


The fifth visitor was a guy who brought along a tripod and wandered around slightly away from the rest. I empathize.

One of several things I noticed for the first time today is that the counterweight cast into the wheel was sized according to the mass of iron that would otherwise unbalance the wheel.



As well as having the fuel solidify, it would really irritate your management if the water froze and started rupturing pipes and tanks.

This Lok was fitted out so we could climb up into the cab.




Remember seeing the grate in the cutaway exhibit earlier!

Junior decided he wanted to become a train-man and didn’t want to leave the cab. Good for him! (But he eventually did, of course, happily with no grumping on the part of anyone.)


From the stencils on some of the Loks, I observed that compressed-air brakes were not universal (well, of course not, not in the beginning: direct mechanical pressure was how you would naturally do it). And then they had air brakes, and the way to identify the air compressor is by the fins needed to dissipate the heat.


Whereas the assembly behind the tour guide here is a water pump. No fins.

Well worth the visit! Good show!

Walked back into Darmstadt on mostly the same route I had taken in the other direction. I thought this garbage incinerator was worth a foto: only steam coming from the stack. Their link says they burn 200.000 tons (metric tons) of garbage per year, but doesn’t say how much power they generate.


Aachen und Darmstadt

January 16, 2016

Saturday 16 January 2016

I flew to Frankfurt Wednesday, arrived Thursday. It was late afternoon by the time the train arrived in Aachen. I don’t sleep well on airplanes, I have a cold, and I had no enthusiasm for going out in the cold and dark. Friday, I went in to the offices here. Come evening, I was still dead tired, and the weather was still unattractive, but I really ought to get out and get a little fresh air. So I did. Not very far, but at least out.


When I see a sign that says Pasta, I expect a restaurant. Especially if it’s near the tourist central area. No such thing, not here.


Enough to make us believe we’re really in Germany.


I overslept this morning, had to check out quickly — and the hotel’s DSL modem was down, so I had to wait while they re-synchronized it — and then scurry to the train station. The ICE train goes to Frankfurt airport, where I caught the Darmstadt airliner bus. It drops me right in front of the hotel, where I checked in about 10:15. Looked over the room info, discovered that hotel breakfast was available until 10:30, and I had not eaten anything. Easy choice!

Then I unpacked, sorted myself out a bit, walked into town. When I squoze the micro-tube of toothpaste the dentist had given me, most of what I got was an air bubble. So my excuse for going into town was to buy a tube of toothpaste to get me through the week. Whatever excuse works …


As you might imagine, there was another dog off the picture to the left. The other dog was bored and completely uninterested in being friends.


I have no idea what this was all about, but there were half a dozen (maybe more) different uniforms, each represented by a dozen or more members. I saw something like this long ago, various shooting clubs out showing off. Don’t know whether this was the same or something else entirely.

Weather deteriorated somewhat, so I headed back to the hotel. On the way, the streetcar I had noticed when I was here before.


I hardly claim to speak any Deutsch at all, but I guess I’m somewhere above absolute zero when I understand idiomatic German puns. (Schwarzfahren is to ride without paying.)