Val Ease Central Railroad by Jeffrey MacHan

The Sinsheim Chronicles: Episode 4

This is it!

The driver announced Sinsheim, yes Sinsheim. Not only that but we'd spotted the old switch tower and the turntable / loco shed. It was show time! Well almost...we had to find Werner Zuendorf, the head honcho of the BDEF, our hosts at the show. Werner had graciously offered to pick us up at the station and give us a lift to the 'Messe' or fairgrounds. We were arriving a day early to set up and needed someone to hold our hands. We later learned that it was only a 10-minute walk from the Messe to the station but for the time being we'd take every bit of hand-holding we could get! I had called to give him our arrival time so I was pretty confident that he'd be waiting for us.

As we were walking toward the station along the platform I spotted a gentleman who seemed to be gazing in our direction. Once our eyes locked we homed in on each other with big grins on our faces and bade our host a very hearty greeting.

Werner Zuendorf was waiting to greet us at the Sinsheim station. This is the way to travel, a private car and driver to take us to the fairgrounds. We were so excited we could hardly contain ourselves. Within a few seconds, we were passing through the big sliding doors to Hall 4 where the BDEF-sponsored US modellers area was located. We had arrived just as set-up had begun so there was not much to see as we entered the high-ceiling structure. Nevertheless the impact was immediate and massive...the show was ENORMOUS! I couldn't believe the size of the area we were in, and there were 4 other halls just as big!

The floor plan for Faszination Modellbau. As we walked toward our display area we marvelled at the size of the displays and the names of the companies that would be occupying them: Märklin, Trix, Brawa, Roco, Bachmann, Halwa, LGB, Bemo, Artitec and those were just the ones that had signs up that we could see!

We finally wandered down to our stand to find something that we had never before encountered at a train show...a locker with a door! What a great idea! The people at the National Train Show could certainly adopt this aspect of exhibitor relations (hint, hint). I half expected the VECRR case to be at the stand but Werner had said that Schenker had received it and it was somewhere on the premisses. Just had to find the Schenker people at the show.

So off we went in search of two things...the position of the nearest WC and the Schenker offices on site. I had spotted a sign to my right in Hall 5 on my way in so that was my first stop. The door was closed but I did try to decipher the sign in the window...if I understood correctly, I would find the main Schenker office in Hall 1 on the other side of the Messe. Off I went in the other direction. This allowed me to take in the magnitude of the other areas of the show. The RC cars, planes, trucks, boats, plastic models, paper models, parts, electronics, demonstration areas, enormous water pool for the ships, and of course, Hall 5 which was trains only. Halls 4 and 5 were model railroads which took up 1/3 of the floor space in the fair. WOW!!! I had lost Terry in the maze somewhere...

I finally found the Schenker rep who was taking a smoke break from driving skids all over the place with his fork lift. In fact, I spotted my highly visible case from a good distance away as I approached the warehouse section. After presenting my VECRR card and signing the delivery receipt, I gently guided the case over the smooth concrete floors back across 3 exhibit halls to my stand area nestled between Dieter Nolte's Red Rock Canyon layout (Z) and Mr. Schubert's hand-built West Lumber Company (HO). Neither had arrived as yet. The BDEF stand was to my left and across the aisle was the large GermaNtrack modular layout would soon be installed.

Our tables had not yet arrived so I put my own folding tables to good use. I took each suitcase out of the case and checked them individually for breakage or any other problems. Much to my surprise there were only two extremely minor repairs to make. A plastic pipe had become detached from a holding tank and an oak tree had broken off at its base. A dab of glue in both instances put them back into action. Normally I wouldn't even mention them but under the circumstances they demonstrate how well the layout travelled to the show.

Once I had checked out the suitcases I installed my tables inside the very practical locker. Eventually our official show tables arrived. Wow, what tables! These looked brand new and were definitely a cut above any tables I had used in North America. There weren't any staples to remove and the legs were industrial strength to boot. Being 6-foot tables I needed two to hold the layout. Here my ever handy duct tape came to the rescue holding the tables together.

The floor plan for Faszination Modellbau. Terry and I installed the yellow GATS sheets over the tables and placed the train-themed table cover on top. Then the suitcases came out and were positioned in their approximate spots. For the next hour we checked out the wiring and finally slid all three suitcases together and ran trains over the entire layout. This activity attracted the occasional visitor who offered compliments (I think) in German. By the time 7 pm rolled around we had finished and packed up our odds and ends and stored the shipping case and documentation in the locker.

Werner once again came to the rescue and offered to drive us to our hotel in Bruchsal which we learned was 48 kilometers away. We were disappointed that we weren't closer but we were happy to learn that Dieter Nolte was staying at the same hotel. We were looking forward to meeting him the next day. We also expected Harald and Ilona Freudenreich to arrive on Wednesday to set up their booth.

Our ride to the Bruchsal Business Hotel was just as exciting as our arrival in Sinsheim. Werner decided to take the Autobahn, to get us to our destination ASAP. He certainly did that! As he stepped on the accelerator he mentioned that he usually cruised at 205 kph along this stretch of highway. He appeared quite frustrated to have to hit the brakes after only reaching 175 kph as the truck traffic increased. Terry and I had just established personal records for speed in an automobile!

We arrived at the hotel where we discovered that one end was attached to an obviously popular McDonald's restaurant. We swore that we would not set foot inside a McDonald's while in Germany. However after tasting the frozen pizza that our very accomodating hotel clerk provided as we sat in the empty dining area, we began to have second thoughts about our rash decision. We finally managed to swallow a few bites and then made our way to our room for our first night in Sinsheim. The room was comfortable and had everything we needed until one after another we reached over our heads to turn off or move the bedside lamps...we both burned our hands on the superheated lamp and metal fixture. I can still see the burn on the back of my right hand as I write this account. I may have a reminder of my stay in Bruchsal for quite some time! Was this a portent of things to come or were we just asking too much to not be attacked by lamps in our hotel room? Only time would tell...

Stay tuned for Episode 5 of the Great European AdventureZ 2002 | Return to Sinsheim Chronicles Home.