A journal following the history, design, construction and operation of Bernard Kempinski's O Scale model railroad depicting the U. S. Military Railroad (USMRR) Aquia-Falmouth line in 1863, and other model railroad projects.
©Bernard Kempinski All text and images, except as noted, on this blog are copyrighted by the author and may not be used without permission.
March 15, 2020
Activation Energy is the energy which must be provided to a system with potential reactants to result in: a chemical reaction, nuclear reaction, or various other physical phenomena.
Let me start with a short story.
When we had our last flood last fall, I bought an Ecobee smart thermostat to replace the one in the dining room that was getting old. Some of the LCD crystals on the old thermostat had failed and it was impossible to read the settings. The new Ecobee sat in its box for several weeks as I internally debated whether I should install it myself or hire out the task. I gave in and decided to called Geek Squad to do it, as I figured they would know what to do and get it done quickly without breaking anything.
They dutifully arrived at my house on the appointed time in their humongous, gaudily decorated truck. Two guys spilled out of the cab, one was yawning as he came up the walkway. They donned funky booties to protect our floor as they entered. After fiddling with the thermostat for a few minutes, they announced that they were not qualified to install this product, despite my purchasing it at Best Buy, their HQ. They left promising me that Geek Squad would refund my money.
As they left, my neighbor spotted the Geek Squad truck, and started to give me me a hard time. "Why is the MIT guy hiring Geek Squad?" he chided. Now my neighbor is a sweetheart. He is a retired English teacher, who was well regarded by his students, but he is not technically inclined. He and his wife are frequently asking me for help on house hold projects and repairs. So after years of techno-rescue by me, when he got the chance to find a chink in my techno-savvy armor, he drove right in.
I went inside suitably humbled. But the delay and then my neighbor's gentle harassment had raised my energy level above the activation threshold, and I did the job myself. It did require my having to add a power adapter inside the furnace, but the enclosed instructions were clear and was able to do the wiring and get it working.
Unlike when I installed my Ring video doorbell, the software on this item worked the first time I tried it. The unit has a nice control panel and it has Alexa voice integration. My wife was ecstatic when she tried playing with the thermostat. For the record, in the 23 years we have been married, she is the master of the thermostat. I never touch it. Anyway, she said to me, "If it was so easy to install, why did you wait so long to install it?"
My answer was, "activation energy."
And so, that is how we get to model railroading. I have been thinking about and designing expansions to my layout for several years now. But I haven't been able to overcome the activation energy needed to start. Then yesterday, Paul Dolkos, John King, Ken Lehman and Mat Robinson stopped by to see the layout. They were operating at Paul's and wanted to see what I was up to.
In the process of running a train out of Falmouth, I noticed that the curved turnout at the turn back curve was broken. One of the stub point solder joints had failed. This turnout has been blue flagged for several years because the tight radii there do not allow reliable operation. So I was surprised to see it had failed.
So now there are two broken turnouts at Falmouth. Will this be the catalyst to lower the activation energy to start the layout expansion?
It very well might be. I am supposed to host operations sessions for the ACWRRHS in September. With all of us having to stay home, this could be a perfect opportunity to start work. I just need to be able to get some lumber. I have all the other necessary supplies on hand. Most likely, the expansion will be a narrow shelf along the two walls of the crew lounge. But what if I wanted to do more?
I had sketched up a quick look at a large peninsula in the crew lounge. Then I took some curve templates and used my gaming table to mock up what a second peninsula would look like in my crew lounge. I like it. But nobody else does. My gaming buddies want me to keep the game space. My wife doesn't like the expansion with the peninsula. Even the four guests expressed reservations.
So I suppose the best course of action is to start with the two narrow shelves along the walls. If that fails to scratch the expansion itch, I can always add on the peninsula.
After my guests left, news and health updates made it apparent that further guests to the house would not be a good idea. So, I'm on my own down here. But that is nothing new. Now, to find a lumber store that is open.
By the way, once the thermostat was installed, I sent my neighbor a text saying "After Geek Squad gave up, I installed the thermostat myself. I hope my reputation is salvaged."
He replied, "not just salvaged, but further glorified."