Val Ease Central Railroad by Jeffrey MacHan

Eurospoor The Eurospoor 2003 AdventureZ

VEC arrived this morning! Fri Oct 31, 2003

Dear fellow Valeasians,

At 8:30 am the delivery truck arrived with a precious cargo. All by itself in the dark recesses of the truck, the VECRR was ready to come home.

The driver pointed out that the layout had been placed on a palette by KLM for the flight from Schipol to Montreal. I wasn't concerned since this was routine. What I wasn't prepared for was seeing that the VEC had been placed upside down on the palette. This was potentially bad news. I had never transported the layout with the suitcases upside down. I dreaded opening them up...

But before I could do that we had to wrestle the case off of the truck. The airline guys had managed to block one of the locking wheels so we had to basically drag the case up the driveway to the house. Once I had signed the release and waved goodbye to the driver, I got to work removing the front locking panel. The key had disappeared so I had to return with my spare. Looking the case over it became quite clear that the ride had been rougher than usual. The end posts were dented and there were signs of rough handling on all sides of the case. I was getting more and more discouraged with every scratch and chip.

Fortunately I had kept a spare key in my backpack for just such a contingency. It only took about 30 seconds to unlock and open the four latches and carefully lift off the front panel. I could see that the contents had shifted somewhat. The documents that I had placed in the grooves under the suitcases had moved to the side and the folding stool had wedged itself between the two folding tables in the vertical slot. At least nothing fell out of the case, yet!

I gently slid the top suitcase out of its padded enclosure and placed it vertically on the ground next to me. There was a sickening "thunk" as something heavy slid back to the bottom of the suitcase. I slid the second and third suitcases out, each time feeling things dropping back into place as I set the cases down on the ground. I decided to take the three cases and the tool box into the house to get them out of public view (I was doing all of this in the car port) and to help me put the prospect of opening them up out of my present thoughts.

I had decided to prepare for the worst by doing the routine things I always do when unpacking the shipping case. I huffed and puffed and finally succeded in pulling the bottom and by far, the heaviest, case out of its slot in the shipping crate. This is the suitcase I use for the heavy-duty hardware and other stuff that needed to be packed separately from the layout cases. I opened this case up on the spot and removed the 30 lb voltage transformer and aluminum document case. I immediately carried the transfo down the garden path and into the shed. The document case joined the 3 VEC suitcases in the house. I spent the next 10 minutes ferrying the last bits and pieces that would join the VEC in the layout room in the basement. Time to fix the unlockable locking wheel.

I gathered my adjustable wrench, pliers and square tipped screwdriver and attacked the problem, after tipping the case onto its side (the same side that KLM should have tipped it onto the palette, but DIDN'T!). The locking mechanism was jammed somehow and I didn't immediately see what the cause was. After removing the centre bolt and then the wheel I saw that the foot lever had slipped out of position thus blocking the locking mechanism firmly shut. 5 seconds later the lock was back in working order (I simply wiggled the lever back into its proper position) and then I replaced the wheel. While the case was on its side, I tightened a few bolts and tested the rotation of the wheels. Two wheels were being blocked by a couple of bolts so I fixed that problem with a few strokes of my metal cutting hack saw. The bolts were a few millimeters shorter and the wheels rotated freely.

I lifted the shipping case back to its upright position and then rolled it smoothly down the path and into a snug spot in the shed. I placed the front panel back into position and closed and locked the latches. As I slowly closed and locked the shed doors my mind was drifting to the VEC suitcases waiting for me in the front hallway and the possibly unpleasant surprises in store.

I carried the cases downstairs into the train room. It was time! I lifted Val Ease East carefully onto the counter and placed my thumbs on the two latches. With a loud "clack" the latches sprang open and I gingerly began to open the lid.

As the contents slowly came into view I was not immediately struck by any massive damage to the larger structures. As I released the lid and leaned in for a closer examination, I noticed that a storage tank had come off the base, a water tank had found its way to the opposite side of town, the billboard had broken off its foundations, taking a little bit of plaster with it, and several trees needed to be replanted. OK, I thought, that must just be the tip of the iceburg...time to look underneath.

I propped open the base and began to remove the padded sign envelope, my sponge shock absorbers, then the rolling stock case and finally the two sandwich bags that held some fragile scenery elements. Nothing seemed to be out of place...all the wires were holes to be found. Whew, I thought. I got off lucky with the first case, but there were still two to go.

I lifted Centre Val Ease onto the counter and popped the hood. It looked exactly as I had packed it. Nothing out of place, at least on the surface. I snuck a look underneath the base. It was apparent that the layout had been shaken - not stirred but there was nothing broken or in need of a dab of glue. Not bad at all!

Val Ease West was in even better shape than the previous two sections. I couldn't believe it! The shipping case looked like it had been dropped onto the tarmac but the contents were none the worse for wear. Thank goodness for rubber cement, sponge cushioning and Schenker Logistics!

I may even begin to relax a little bit the next time the VEC takes to the air ;-)


Respectfully submitted,
Jeffrey MacHan
Chief Imagineer - Val Ease Central Railroad

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