The Val Ease Central Railroad

Taking Z Scale to the Public Around the World
(Text and photos Copyright Jeffrey MacHan, photos by Svein-Martin Holt)

Last Spike: Playing with trains: VEC Vignettes

As model railroaders, we spend a great deal of effort concerned with the technical challenges of building and running our layouts. The time needed to arrive at our goals may be quite substantial. Fortunately, for many of us, it is the journey towards our goal of a functional layout that is most important, enjoying the satisfaction of difficulties overcome and celebrating the significant moments along the way. The completed layout, if such a thing truly exists, is the ultimate reward for our perseverance!

I belong to the school of thought that building a layout is first and foremost a play activity. The quickest way to get to play with any layout, in my mind, is to build in sections, completing scenes rather than labouring to finish every conventional step along the way over the entire layout. The VEC is made up of six principal scenic areas built in the following order: VEW village, VEE service area, VEE-CVE bridging section, CVE port, Upper CVE and CVE-VEW bridging section. If I had waited to design, build, wire and scenic the entire layout before playing with it, I'd probably not be here writing about it. By working to finish a scenic area in a relatively short timeframe, I was able to play with Val Ease West four short months after I set the project in motion.

What do I mean by "playing" with the VECRR? "Playing" can be running trains slowly around the layout and trying to take decent pictures from various vantage points. "Playing" can be devising a car-forwarding scheme and running trains to a strict timetable with some unexpected twists from time to time. "Playing" can be travelling far and wide to share the VEC with other folks who love trains. Then there is "playing" like when I was a kid letting my imagination wander, discovering vignettes that leap fleetingly into existence in my mind's eye. The vibrant world of the VEC that comes to life in my imagination is reminiscent of the untold hours I spent as a child enjoying fantasy worlds visible only to me as I lay sprawling on the carpet watching my "Super Chief" rattle around a simple oval set up on the floor.

Let's play!

Taken from the archives of the "Val Ease Buggle" (pronounced Beeoogle by folks 'round here)

The "Rocket" cruises along at top speed of 15 mph past the spur to Val Ease West Station and Resort. In the early Fall tourists flock to fill the B&B's, hotels and resorts of VEW to enjoy the majestic autumn colors of the "Valley".

The Val Ease Central Railroad operates a very successful excursion train between VEW and Centre Val Ease. The consist is normally made up of a thirty-seat railbus, a forty-seat open-air gondola and a ten-seat caboose which also offers the prize vantage point of four seats in the cupola. Of course some folks like to stand on the platforms where they sometimes fall off due to the shaking. No matter, they just pick themselves up and jump back on a little further down the track.

During the peak Fall season, the "Rocket" makes two half-day round trips providing a sumptuous breakfast or supper repast, seven days a week or for as long as the people keep coming and there are leaves on the trees. The journey "oot" as they say in the "Valley" ends at Summit Lodge and Spa where the daybreak passengers may opt to return on the evening supper "Rocket" after spending a relaxing day hiking, riding, hunting, fishing or just rejuvenating in the hot springs or mud baths at the Spa. For those in the know the hot springs are also a choice winter get-away spot.

Along the way to CVE the "Rocket" rumbles through cuts, along sheer mountain gorges and traverses three bridges including the "original" gold rush trestle that has only been rebuilt four times. Of course the train slows to a leisurely crawl of 5 mph while passing through 'dinosaur' park where eight life-size replicas of the Valley's earliest inhabitants threaten unwary interlopers.

You'll need to book early for next year's "Fall in the Valley" excursion specials. Remember what they say, "Take a ride on the 'Rocket', it's worth the wait!"

Val Ease East is the bustling administrative, service, industrial and transportation hub of Val Ease County. Three generations of Valeasians have labored to make the VECRR the pride of the "Valley" citizenry.

UP1459 prepares to drop off a cut of cars at VEE team track. This was a job that the VECRR steamers handled daily not so long ago. Although they get out for a run to the mine and Val Ease Port Authority still keeps an old 0-6-0T fired up, the smokers are spending more and more time in the round house these days as sparkling new F7 diesels take over their duties.

The takeover of Union Pacific Railways by the board of the VECRR (or was it the other way round?) has been kept a secret from the general public. However citizens are beginning to become suspicious, what with all the armor yellow and harbor mist gray festooned motive power idling at the VEE shops and the big UP sign that was just hung up there on Main Station! Sort of makes one wonder what the world is coming to?

The line gang has been hard at work in Val Ease West removing old copper telegraph wire, replacing rotted poles and stringing new wire. Work has been pretty slow going, what with the hot weather, mosquitoes and black flies and the distraction of inviting lakes along the right of way where it wouldn't do any harm to take a quick dip. While the rest of the crew is rolling wire and loading it into a boxcar on a nearby siding, the crew chief is giving some rather loud instructions to the lineman making the final splices to the cable feed to VEW depot and freight house. Despite the foreman's bad temper, the climber's thoughts are most likely on the upcoming community dance at the church hall. If he's lucky, he'll be able to ask that cute little waitress for a dance. And if that doesn't work out, there's always the softball tournament all day Saturday.

The Val Ease County tourism bureau is a little concerned about the impact the woodcutting operations at Centre Val Ease will have on the industry. The number of tourists has been steadily increasing over the last few years thanks in large part to the ad campaign extolling the virtues of Val Ease to foreign tourists. The "Dinosaur Park" is a big hit and business has never been so good at Summit Lodge and Spa. The "Rocket" is booked solid for the Fall colours tours much to the irritation of the Valley's hunters who complain that they should have priority for seating especially at the start of hunting season. The logging hasn't been too bothersome so far, more like forest management than large scale harvesting but there has been a lot of activity at the land management office regarding logging permits on the far side of the valley At least the local deer population seems to appreciate the new clearings where food is more abundant and easier to reach. The hunters agree!

"Z" scale - a little imagination can go a long way! Go to for more tales of the "VECRR".