Author Archives: NDHolmes

A Backyard Searchlight Signal

Everybody needs an old railroad signal in the backyard, right? I’ve always loved old searchlight signals, and I’ve long wanted one in the back yard. I have to admit, when most folks think about collectables and yard ornaments, these probably aren’t the first things that come to mind, but I’m not most people.

About two years ago I finally decided it was time to do something about that, so I started planning and hunting down all the pieces I’d need. It took me almost a year to acquire all the pieces, and another nine months to find the ambition and time to get it done, but thanks to being stuck at home for months due to everyone’s favorite virus, I finally got it done. Now I can sit out on the patio, drink a beer, and enjoy a big ol’ chunk of restored 1930s-1940s vintage railroad technology watching over me. I couldn’t be happier.

If you want to see what it took to get to this point, read on…

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Defeating that Screensaver While Working at Home

Defeating the corporate screen lock while working at home is just one little Arduino away…

Corporate IT enforces an inactivity timeout and a password lock on my laptop. That’s fine and responsible if I’m out in the world, but it’s really stupid and irritating if I’m stuck working at home for weeks on end – such as right now. There’s no great threat to corporate security in my house. Worst case the cats walk over the keyboard at night and delete some stuff I don’t have in version control yet.

I’ve been fighting it for the last week by looking over periodically and whacking the trackpad when I see i try to go to sleep, but I realized if I could just emulate small, harmless mouse movements, I could do the same thing. I mean I am an embedded developer, after all. However, I have real work to do, so I didn’t want to spend a couple days hammering it out.

Arduino to the rescue!

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Denver Gas & Electric Light Co. Photos, circa 1920

Denver Gas & Electric Light Co. truck #166, circa 1920 near Blake St. and Park Ave West in Denver.

Two weekends ago, when I was up working the Rocky Mountain Railroad Club booth at the Rocky Mountain Train Show in Denver, I came across an old Public Service Co binder of photos for sale. Unlike most stuff at the show, most of the photos inside weren’t railroad related, and the vendor sold me the whole thing for a $20. Inside were all sorts of photos from the Denver Gas & Electric Light Company.

Denver Gas & Electric Light Co was created out of Denver’s two major utility players in 1910 – the Denver Gas & Electric Company and Lacombe Electric Company. It lasted until 1923, when it was merged with a number of other utilities to create Public Service Co., which eventually became Xcel Energy today.

If you like vintage vehicles, vintage utility equipment, or just old views of Denver, read on…

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New Trip Report – Mallets in Niles Canyon

It’s been quite a few years since I’ve actually posted any new photography from any railfan trips. Mostly it’s because I just run out of time. By the time I get home from the trip, there’s just enough time to dump all the images into my big storage server, maybe post one or two to Trainorders, and then crash so I can get up and go to work in the morning. And then life happens and I never get back to editing and publishing.

Skookum hauls a short cut of flats eastward over the Farwell bridge. The through truss bridge dates from 1896.

I’ve decided that’s going to improve, and as my first attempt, I give you the Lerro charter that happened on the Niles Canyon Railway out in California two weeks ago. Yes, that’s right, it’s only taken me two weeks to get this thing edited together and posted, and that includes inventing a workflow with WordPress that fits my new website.

The charter happened on Saturday, Feb 8, 2020, and the two stars of the show were Skookum, the only 2-4-4-2 logging Mallet in North America (and one of two anywhere), and Clover Valley Lumber #4, a 2-6-6-2 logging Mallet. After several trips where Skookum didn’t operate, I figured this was my chance – I’d finally see it do more than roll out of the engine house and back in.

I’ll give you a broad swath of the history of both locomotives and the route itself in the trip report. But if you like articulated steam, you’re going to like this one.

Click here to see Mallets in Niles Canyon.

Seriously, I’m Never Home

Shortly after the turn of the decade in January, I was perusing Reddit’s /r/dataisbeautiful and found someone who had built a location heatmap using OpenStreetMap, his Google location history, and some python to tie it all together. Given I’ve been carrying an Android phone and letting Google spy on me since early 2010, it seemed like a great way to end off the decade.

My maps for 2010-2020 are at the end of the post. For those wanting to do this for themselves, here’s the easy to follow instructions.

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Welcome to the Future!

After eight years of completely ignoring my personal website, I’ve decided it’s time to make something out of it again. There’s almost no content up here at the moment, but hopefully moving onto an actual easy-to-maintain blogging platform will actually encourage me to write and post things occasionally.