Thank you for visiting my web site. My name is Peter Vanvliet. I live in Houston, Texas. My main hobby is model railroading, and that is the purpose of this web site; to showcase the work I have done over the years. I started off in the 1970s modeling in N-scale (1:160), and switched to S-scale (1:64) in July 2008.
I have had a personal web site up since January 1994, and since August 1999, this web site has been focused on the hobby of model railroading. My other hobby is woodworking, so you will find some topics about that on this site as well. Additionally, I also play the bass guitar and go bike riding.
The photo on the right is of me doing some switching work on my previous S-scale layout.
The "Home Page" button brings you back to this page. The "PRR Chartiers Branch" button takes you to pages that contain all the prototype research information I have aggregated so far. "The Layout" button takes you to the pages of my actual, current model railroad. The "Articles" button is where I document topics that aren't directly related to the construction of my current layout. The "My Library" button takes you to pages listing all the books and magazines I have in my personal library. The "About" button gives you some of my background and how I got into this hobby. The "Site Map" button provides a listing of every page (excluding the individual Library pages) on this web site. Note that most photos can be clicked on to see a much larger version.
My inspiration for model railroading started with my parents occasionally taking us to Madurodam in The Hague, The Netherlands. A snapshot photo taken by my Dad in the late-1980s shows my Mom and myself on the right-hand side of the photo. Madurodam is a 1:25-scale model of most major features of Holland. There is lots of action and animation. The "streets" have been enlarged for full-size humans, but you walk right through the towns. I remember in one area, you walk under the train; that was always my favorite "rail-fanning" spot. Ships running in the canals with real water was another big attraction for me, as were the moving automobiles and airplanes. Here's a good video I found on YouTube, where the trains start at about the 6:30 mark. If you ever go to Holland, be sure to take a day to visit this park.
The small town where we lived was a major tourist attraction during the summers ("Keukenhof"). During those peak times, passenger trains would stop at our little station. The rest of the year they just flew by. From time to time I would ride my bike to the station and watch the trains.
When I was a young teenager, my parents got me an N-scale Fleischmann train set. Space was in limited supply, so all I had was a 2'x4' piece of particle board upon which I placed my slowly-growing layout.
When I re-entered the hobby in 1999, I got back into N-scale, and also immediately adopted DCC as my preferred control system. Local modeler, Frank Wyatt, was instrumental in that decision, as he was using that system for his N-scale layout. Several years later, I helped Frank tear down his N-scale layout (yes, that's me in the first photo), and rebuild a very nice HO-scale layout (more info). I built the new benchwork in individual sections so that the layout could, theoretically, be moved. I also did most of the wiring work. Frank did the track design, track installation, and scenery and most of the structures.
Frank was also instrumental in getting me involved in the Northwest Crossing club in Houston, which, at the time, had Z-, N-, and HO-scale divisions. I was in the N-scale division. I eventually became the club's Librarian and webmaster. We participated in all the local train shows. I learned a lot about what it takes to set up train show layouts. I enjoyed the shows, but I didn't like the internal politics, so I left the club in 2002.
When I switched to S-scale in 2008, I was contacted by Bob Werre (a well-known model layout photographer) to join the Houston S Gaugers. I really liked the relaxed feel of the group. Membership requirements are very strict: just show up! After joining the club, I took on the "job" of webmaster and we created our Houston S Gaugers web site. The club has a modular S-scale layout (code 100 rail, see photo), doing several shows each year. I left the club in 2018, because I was simply running out of hours in the day. Doing train shows takes a lot of time to prepare for, do the set-up, running the trains during the show, tear-down, and clean-up afterwards. Doing a weekend-long show involves me working on it from Thursday through Monday. That's 5 days. And that is ignoring the tiredness and recovery of such a labor-intensive activity. While I loved doing the shows and I really enjoy the group of guys and gals we have in the club, the amount of time the shows take, being self-employed, and then having to catch up on everything else in life after them, just became too much for me. I still maintain the club's web site.
When I switched scales in 2008 (see the photo, comparing the larger S-scale car to the identical smaller N-scale car), I also joined the national organization dedicated to supporting S-scale in all of its flavors, the National Association of S Gaugers (NASG). In December 2011 I was contacted by then-members of the NASG's board to consider taking over the position of webmaster for the NASG web site. I accepted the challenge. Although it does take some of my time away from model railroading, I enjoy maintaining the site and find it very rewarding work.
Since I model the Pennsylvania Railroad, needless to say, I am a dues-paying member of the Pennsylvania Railroad Technical and Historical Society.
In 2012, I decided to drop my Digitrax DCC system in favor of battery-powered locomotives. This opened up a whole new avenue to explore, and I will never go back to track-powered trains. There is quite a bit of information about that on my web site, so be sure to look for that. I chose the Neil Stanton's S-CAB system, but there are other systems out there that are also geared toward battery-powered locomotives. If you model in HO-scale or larger, you should check into this new technology. It removed a lot of frustration factors for me about this hobby.
I have had some articles published in the 1:64 Modeling Guide magazine, the NASG's The Dispatch, and The S Scale Resource magazines. For the Dispatch, I also wrote a regular column for a number of years that described features of the NASG's web site, to help promote the site to the membership. You can see the list of articles on this page.
Professionally, I have been employed as a software engineer since 1990, starting as a consultant for a consulting firm (being hired out to a major oil company and a local engineering firm creating Windows software applications for them), and since 2001 I have been operating Fourth Ray Software as my full-time venture. Fourth Ray Software is a commercial software development and publishing company. You can visit the web site to see if there are any software products that you might like. All my software is targeted at the average Windows computer user.
During the 2011 National Association of S Gaugers' annual convention in California, I received the "Josh Seltzer" award for this personal model railroad web site. You can read all about the award on the NASG web site, but briefly, it is awarded to those who use their web site to promote S-scale modeling.
During the 2012 NASG Convention in Tennessee, I received the "Josh Seltzer" award for the work I had done on the NASG web site.
Both are shown hanging on the wall in my office.
At the 2012 Convention, I also received the first-ever Trustee's Award, also for the NASG web site.
At the 2018 Convention, I received another Trustee's Award for the work I've been doing for the NASG web site.
Here are some facts about this web site itself.
Assuming we could find some central, stationary point in the Universe, how fast are we as an individual human moving around that point?
The Earth, at the equator, covers a distance of 24,901 miles in a 24-hour period. That means someone standing at the equator is actually moving 1,040 mph. The further away from the equator you are, the slower you are moving, all the way down to zero at the North and South Poles.
The Earth is in an elliptical orbit around the Sun. This path covers about 584 million miles in one year. To cover that distance in that time, the Earth travels at 66,627 mph. So, relative to the Sun, a human is now traveling as much as 67,667 mph each and every day! To put this in perspective, the fastest bullet out of a gun travels at about 2,700 mph, and the International Space Station orbits the Earth at only 17,150 mph. Voyager 1 is going about 30,000 mph.
The above paragraph was with respect to the Sun. However, our Sun, and therefore the entire solar system orbiting around it, are moving as a cohesive whole as well. The Sun is located in one of the outer arms of the Milky Way galaxy, at a distance of about 25,000 light-years (a light-year is approximately 5.9 trillion miles). Compared to the center of our galaxy, to cover an entire orbit around its center requires the Sun to travel at about 448,000 mph. So, our little human is now traveling as fast as 515,667 mph, relative to the center of the galaxy.
The Milky Way, much like our solar system, is hurling through space as well, probably around some central point. However, this is beyond what humans can currently calculate and comprehend. However, the thought that we are each traveling at a half a million miles per hour relative to the center of our galaxy is already mind-blowing enough. Now if you loose your balance occasionally, you know why!
If you are brave, and you really want to know the heavy truth of what is really going on in the world, please take some time to watch these videos and educate yourself. I would recommend taking them in, in small doses, as they will absolutely create cognitive dissonance in you!
"Only small secrets need to be protected. The large ones are kept secret by the public's incredulity."