The Val Ease Central Railroad

Taking Z Scale to the Public Around the World
(Text and photos Copyright Jeffrey MacHan with archival research by Wazzira Minittago, Val Ease County Historical Society)

Last Spike: How'd that happen? The VEE-VEW Conundrum

An operational conundrum

For a little while now I've been working on preparing a timetable for train operations on the Val Ease Central. Everything seemed to be progressing smoothly. Then while trying to establish running distances and times for the VECRR operating schedule, I found myself becoming more and more confused about the direction trains were supposed to be running. After 11 years of operating the layout you'd think that this task would be a no-brainer. NOT!!! Something was amiss. Then it hit me like a kick in the head...I had reversed Val Ease East and Val Ease West on the layout! Yikes! How'd that happen?

A little background

Ever since the addition of the second section to the VEC I have been calling the case to my left "Val Ease East" and the case to my right "Val Ease West" (when facing the layout, of course). Why? because it just seemed appropriate that the rural forested area should be in the "West" and the grungy city in the "East". OKay, that seems legitimate, so what's the problem?

When I take photos, I place the layout outside in natural sunlight. In order to have good lighting I open the suitcases towards the sun. This naturally casts shadows towards the North. This means that the layout is facing South, the backdrop represents the view to the North and the left hand case, Val Ease East, is actually to the West and Val Ease West is actually to the East! Come to think of it, the same is true with direct flash photographs of the layout which also cast shadows in an artificial northerly direction.

Geographically speaking, if one is facing North when one is looking at the layout, then westbound-running trains (i.e. clockwise) should be running towards Val Ease West and eastbound-running trains (i.e. counter-clockwise) should be running towards Val Ease East (formerly West). That makes sense...but just the opposite is happening! If the layout was based in New Zealand there would be no problem but alas, the VECRR is solidly set in the Northern hemisphere. This is a puzzlement!

In the meantime, PLEASE don't mention this to anyone! I'm sure that if word ever leaked out about this "reversed direction conundrum", the fine citizenry of Val Ease would want to hold a county-wide town hall meeting to find out what can be done about it!!

Come to think of it, I wonder why Oliver. D. Place, chief surveyor of the VECRR has never brought this switcheroo to the attention of the authorities? Hmmmm....

A young visitor wonders where the heck the trains are heading!  East or West?

A young visitor wonders where the heck the trains are heading! East or West?

Excerpt from Val Ease Buggle - "Tales of Val Ease, Origins"

The city Fathers of the fine communities of Val Ease East and West have holed themselves up at Summit Lodge for a weekend retreat in Centre Val Ease (at least there's no confusion about this name) to consider the naming conundrum. They have called upon local Val Ease historian "Wazzira Minittago" to present her research on the beginnings of Val Ease.

It seems that Val Ease only became the present name of the valley following the arrival of a wave of Australian and New Zealand immigrants fleeing the wool famine of 1867. The first French Canadian, Scottish and Swiss settlers had not bothered to establish recorded names for their homesteads and besides, there were not enough residents (who could read and write) in any one village to bother to register place names.

Back to the Aussies and Kiwis...according to Ms. Minittago, state archives show that the first registered names of VEE and VEW were recorded at the state lands office by one "Lefty Wright" originally from Auckland and slowly making his way to the Yukon gold fields. It appears that the homesteaders up in the valley had sent Lefty into town to record the village names since he appeared to be able to write, although with the "wrong" hand! Well, ol' Lefty was shown a survey map by the registrar and asked to mark the locations of Val Ease West and Val Ease East. As was likely to happen, Lefty got his ups and downs, lefts and rights and norths and souths reversed and the rest is, as they say, least according to Ms. Wazzira Minittago.

Lesson learned: Naming towns, geographical features and even the inhabitants of your layout can add immensely to the sense of realism and increase the "play value" during operations or when just running trains. I have considered "fixing" the VEE-VEW naming confusion such as printing out new signs for the various structures on the layout, but then I would also have to make corrections to the VEC promotional brochure and other documentation / web site etc. Sure if I were to move the layout setting from the Pacific Northwest to New Zealand the problem would disappear but I don't thnk that the fine people of Val Ease County would go along with that plan. No, I think that I will simply leave well enough alone and write the timetable to show eastbound trains to VEW and westbound trains to VEE. After all is said and done, it just adds to the charm of the layout and makes for a great story, don't you agree?