Val Ease Central Railroad by Jeffrey MacHan

Salon Mondial du Modélisme 2008
Paris le Bourget

Reminder: the following photographic content is copyright Jeffrey MacHan. No copying or retransmission is permitted without the express written authorisation of the copyright holder.

  1. Decisions, Decisions!
  2. Our Hotel and the Neighborhood
  3. Getting To Le Bourget
  4. A Hobby Wonderland!
  5. Some Final Thoughts on the Mondial

Decisions, Decisions!

Following my 2006 Amazing European Adventure to the London Festival of Railway Modelling I was soon interested in exploring the possibilities for a further adventure. It didn't take me long to narrow my preferences to several very attractive hobby / train shows:

Frankly, the choice was very difficult especially since Terry Sutfin, my partner in my first two adventureZ in Germany and Holland had left no doubt that his first choice would be Treff followed by JAM. Since we had already travelled to Germany I was more inclined to choose a new travel experience. Besides, Märklin had already informed us that they did not sponsor layouts to their "home" show. That left three options: Switzerland, Japan and France.

Here is how I narrowed down the field.

Terry and I wanted to travel to a train show where Z would be a novelty, rather than participate in a show with several other Z layouts. From that angle Japan fit the bill perfectly. So I set to work trying to drum up support from my regular sponsors for an expedition to Tokyo. I got an instant green light from Rob Kluz at Ztrack Magazine. Microtrains Line did not give me an answer. As for the Canadian Railway Museum, they agreed to provide a tax receipt for my expenses which was the equivalent of a 35% refund from the government the year following the trip.

OK so it appeared pretty obvious that I would have to foot a large chunk of the bill for travel expenses, not to mention shipping the layout halfway around the world. I had met Hiroshi Kato at the 2007 NMRA National Train Show in Detroit, Michigan and he and I were corresponding via email about my taking the VECRR to the JAM Convention in 2008. Kato was not interested in providing a sponsorship but would provide an introduction to the JAM brass, something that was essential in order to get a spot in the show.

After reviewing the registration documents and considering the long list of JAM requirements for a layout exhibitor (full payment in advance, signage in Japanese, an interpreter for all foreign displays, to name a few) and putting together a cost estimate for the trip, it became painfully obvious that I would not be taking the VECRR to Japan unless I could find a major sponsor. Another look around did not turn up a benefactor.

So what about the AMRF Convention in Switzerland? Been to Europe twice and know how the logistics work. Trouble was the Convention was run by a small group of volunteers, held every two years in a converted schoolhouse which was now closed for renovations. Werner Meer, the head volunteer, did not know when they would be able to convene another convention (2010 came up occasionally in our email exchanges). And that left Paris.


Nothing wrong with Paris. I spoke fluent French. I knew the French capital relatively well after two previous trips there on business. Best of all, the Salon was the largest general hobby show in Europe running 9 days at the Le Bourget Exhibition Park and attracting over 100,000 visitors, yes, +100k visitors. Sounded like a great idea but my finances and upheavals in my personal life dropped a trip to Paris with the VECRR way down on the priority list. Nevertheless, I got on the computer and contacted the organisers at Comexpo-Paris who accepted my request to join the party at the 2008 show. All I had to do was get there somehow!

Well, obviously I did get there, along with my companion Judith who was making her first ever trip to Europe. Once again, my attempts to gather sponsors for the trip did not live up to expectations. Comexpo-Paris, the show organisers, insisted that I participate in the entire 9-day show which was physically impossible without a team of 6 volunteers to meet and greet visitors. Ultimately, I decided to travel to Paris and the Salon on my own ticket and make the most of a week's holiday with my lovely Judith. Hopefully the photo captions and the images themselves will express the great pleasure we had exploring the sights and sounds of Paris and the Salon Mondial du Modélisme 2008.

Our Hotel and the Neighborhood

Travelling to central Paris from Charles de Gaulle aiport is a 60-minute ride on the RER interurbain train.

From the RER we transfered to the Metro and came up for air at the "Breguet Sabin" exit in the Opera sector.

Walking along rue Breguet we noticed that the area was being prepared for the local public market.

It only took a few minutes to find ourselves in the lobby of the Ibis Hotel Bastille Opera 11e.

To the right of the lobby was a cozy refreshment bar which leads into the hotel restaurant.

The room was cozy and comfortable, an excellent choice for a cost-conscious traveler.

The view from the room overlooked a private boys school in typical Hausseman style.

The next morning we were delighted to explore the local street market.

With temperatures falling, we picked up some woolens to keep away the chill.

As we walked toward the Seine, we passed the new opera house.

The angel of victory stood proudly in the centre of the Bastille turning circle.

Enough walking, it was time to head underground to the Metropolitain.

Our destination was the Bateaux-mouches docks at the Pont d'Alma.

As we came out into the open, we were delighted to see a replica of the flame of the Statue of Liberty with the iconic Eiffel Tower in the background.

The Parisian boulevards are impressive, to say the least.

The sights from our seats on the Bateau-mouche were magnificent, even on a slightly overcast and chilly day.

The Palais de crystal botanical gardens was easy to spot from the river.

Although I have forgotten the name of the bridge, the recently reguilded horsemen remain unforgettable.

Getting To Le Bourget

The morning finally came for our expedition to the Mondial des miniatures at the Bourget Exhibition Grounds. The most efficient and economical means of transportation was the RER. The hobby show organisation offered a free shuttle service between the RER station and the main entrance during the day.

We left bright and early for the show March 30, hoping to be amongst the first visitors on the final day. Theoretically, the trip was the return direction from our arrival from Charles de Gaulle airport. However, circumstances prevented us from fully completing the plan!

The electric regional trains were quiet, fast and comfortable. Unfortunately, I got on the express train for the airport and flew past the Bourget stop!

50 minutes later, after making the turn-around at the airport, we finally arrived at our original destination.

The shuttle service was sparsely occupied.

We picked up a few more passengers along the way.

My unhappy look reflected my mood following my RER train blunder and 90 wasted minutes.

My smile returned when the exhibition park billboard came into view.

The shuttle bus dropped us off at the main gate although we still had a good walk before reaching the show entrance.

Finally, there was the two-story high show advertising banner.

I was surprised at how light the crowd was, but then again, this was the final day of the 9-day event.

A Hobby Wonderland!

From the moment we slipped through the turnstile and stepped onto the carpeted, yes carpeted, ailes, we were pleasantly surprised by the highly professional presentation of the industry stands and the hobbyist booths. Plainly, there was far too much to see in one day but we made the most of the time we had, starting with the model railroading area and the Z-scale in particular.

The Z-scale was to be found next to the Märklin display. The venue was well lit and had lots of places to relax and enjoy the demonstrations.

Trix is the N-scale division of Märklin. There were several special run items available for purchase.

Here we see a Z-scale (1:220) collectible car from Märklin.

Another look at the Trix cars.

Two more Z-scale special run items.

Märklin enthusiasts had a nice selection of souvenir items: pen knives, keychains, binoculars and rolling stock.

Märklin also offered a layout planning book in French written by Klaus Eckert.

The Märklin booth was colorful and attractive.

I was very impressed with these hand-made Z-scale vehicles.

A closer look at 3 delivery trucks.

And a couple of 4-door automobiles.

This excellent diaorama was Nn30 scale (1:160 narrow gauge).

Trix was celebrating its 30 year anniversary.

N-scale (1:160) rolling stock running on Z (1:220) track.

The little steamer was a Märklin Z mechanism. The rolling stock is scratch built.

Claude Gagneron from Paris was a featured modelist sponsored by the French Model Railroading Federation.

The crowd barrier around Mr Gagneron's layout prevented anyone from getting close enough to see the details of his portable Märklin Z-scale railroad.

One of the locomotives pushed a miniature CCD camera and transmitter.

Mr Gagneron was a fitting ambassador for Z-scale at the show.

The video image from the CCD camera was transmitted through the rails and displayed on this small color TV.

His was the only Z layout at the show. Too bad that it was not possible to get a little closer to the action.

André Pinat's N-scale module was one of the most impressive for the amount of detail and the operation possibilities.

This HO-scale (1:87) diorama was set back in a very professionally-designed enclosure.

This 1:160 scale diorama of a CloClo concert stage was populated with hand-made figures.

There was even a Michel Drucker figure acting as the MC.

CloClo would be very familiar to the francophone community but probably unknown to the English music world. Once again, these figures are entirely hand-made and no two are alike.

This 19th centruy era diorama was a work of art.

I liked the way the Federation identified their members who took the time to display a layout at the show.

Of course, my other train passion is G-scale or garden railroading. The club only ran a simple loop...not much to see.

There were lots of freebies at the Märklin booth, catalogs, erasers, drink coasters, rulers and dozens of other typically European items. We never see this kind of marketing at North American train shows.

The display cases were full of new items for 2008. It was a great thing to have carpeting to soften the wear on the feet.

There were several hobby publications present at the show. The crowds were starting to thin out by mid afternoon.

I found where everybody had see the RC naval battles in this enormous 3-foot deep artificial lake. Too bad I stumbled on to this area so late in the day. I could have spent hours in the RC zone...but that's a whole new hobby!

Some Final Thoughts on the Mondial

Frankly, I underestimated the size and scope of the exhibition. The organisers had a legitimate claim on the "World Miniatures Show" title. It would take at least three days to fully appreciate the muliple hobby activities present at the show. I found the radio-control areas (road, air, water) completely fascinating. I could have spent a day enjoying the races and the battles.

In my opinion, the quality of the railroading exhibits was on a par with the London Festival of Railway Modelling. However, I would have to say that the craftmanship I observed at Faszination modellbau was a notch superior to both London and Paris.

Nevertheless, the Mondial du modélisme was breathtaking in its size and quality. I would love to return some day although I am sure that I made the right decision to come as a visitor and not as an exhibitor. I noticed that the operating railroads were staffed by clubs, which is probably the only reasonable way to provide the personnel for a 9-day exhibition.

This trip effectively wrapped up my international train show adventures. My Z-scale VECRR is at home in the Canadian Railway Museum. Today, my HOe-scale home layout is built in Delsey suitcases (x2). It is portable but too delicate to break down and reassemble at a train show. I have been tempted to participate in at least two NMRA National Train Shows since London but each time I eventually remember how ill I became (severe laryngitis) at my last two 3-day shows. It really feels strange to think that my train show days are really behind me, but that is how the cookie crumbles. Time to enjoy a new hobby...

Best wishes from Gatineau, Quebec, Canada.

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