Val Ease Central Railroad by Jeffrey MacHan

The Sinsheim Chronicles: Episode 8

Are we having fun yet?

Thursday March 21, 2002 continued...

Have I teased you enough? Let's talk about trains! Where to about a commented photo tour of some of the BDEF layouts that were on hand to entertain and impress...and that they certainly did. The crowds were thick and sometimes it was difficult making my way to the BDEF kitchen for coffee!

The crowds were thick and enthusiastic. After a while the smoke was as thick as the crowds.

There was definitely one negative aspect to the Sinshiem the crowds grew thicker, so did the cigarette smoke! An asthmatic would not have lasted two minutes in the hall. The smoke became an even bigger pain since the rain prevented the hall managers from opening the skylights to allow air to circulate. I was surprised that there didn't seem to be any other means of ventilating the halls. Good thing we brought a change of shirt for every day of the show.

End of rant, now back to the trains...

The BDEF section was comprised of ten layouts, each demonstrating an exemplary level of quality of presentation and showmanship. I was amazed at the keen sense of "packaging" that the layout owners and clubs demonstrated. The BDEF booth fit the same mold.

The BDEF booth

GermaNtrack: under the able leadership of Thursten Schultz, about 25 members of this two-year old club had met for the first time in Sinsheim to provide visitors with a look at 90-car coal drags and protoypical length 16-car passenger trains. Although some scenery was still under construction, the layout was interesting and well presented. There was even a small Nn3 section so we felt like members of Thursten's extended family. The city scene was a great piece of work and a real crowd pleaser.

In fact Thurston took a keen liking to Terry which resulted in an evening of fun later in the week at a local brewery where we had a wonder supper with our N scale comrades.

The GermaNtrak modules presented an extraordinary city skyscraper theme Thuston and Terry hit it off right away.

Dease Lake & Northern: this was a linear or point-to-point N scale layout that ably demonstrated the sparse vegetation of the BC interiour and the regular barge operations at Deese Lake. The layout features an operating freight car barge with an 8-car capacity. The barge actually crossed a water-filled "lake" via a cable system. The nice thing about it was the little tug boat that would move to push the barge in the direction of travel as it began to cross the 3-foot long lake.

Dease Lake, BC - N-scale layout

Red Rock Canyon, Texas: was Dieter Nolte's well known Z layout or more properly, diorama with many animated effects. Dieter's black boxes controlled a central piece of track with a back-and-forth operation of a loco and single car (usually a boxcab and tanker), a single track circuit with 3 hidden passing sidings where he could run 1, 2 or 3 trains in alternating patterns all the while setting off crossing bells, horns and signals. The animated effects were a spinning water wind-mill, flashing lights on the helicopter that also had slowly turning blades and oscillating oil well pumps.

A shot of a Mt. Rushmore style rock carving. Anastasi style rock dwellings. Another view of RRC

A shot from behind the helipad. Visitors enjoyed the window presentation. An overview of the diorama

My attempt at a layout portrait.

Dieter had decided to crowd-proof his stand for Sinsheim. He built a presentation cabinet that placed the layout at 40 inches from the ground, behind a sheet of plexiglass and well illuminated by valence lighting. The only drawback to this arrangement was that he had to dismantle the side panels in order to make adjustments to signal detectors and to pick up derailments which occured occasionally from the effects of Murphy's Law of automated train show displays. He even had to call in reinforcements (Harald Freudenreich to the rescue) but just once ;-)

Dieter Nolte-Dominique de Champeau-Terry Sutfin. Harald Freudenreich at the RRC layout

West Lumber: was situated to our immediate left and was always surrounded by visitors. For good reason too. The layout was 100% scratch-built with hand- laid track, board-on-board construction structures, a huge trestle bridge, animated log harvesting and moving cranes. The motive power was early 20th century shays, climaxes and heisler locos (HO) that were never run a more than creep-along speed. This layout win awards in any competition. It was quite simply magnificent by any standard.

One aspect that was not always noticed but impressed Terry and me was that every immobile vehicle on the layout, and there were several, had a reason to be immobile...flat tire, dumped load, under repair, taking on or discharging passengers etc. Nowhere could we find a case of a car or truck seemingly frozen in place while supposedly in motion. Of course I went back to the VECRR to check on my vehicles and I am happy to report that all of my motorized conveyances are immobile for a reason as well. I have to admit that I did it instinctively without any planning. However my miniature people haven't budged a millimeter since they came to inhabit my Z universe! I guess the only way to apply a similar "stopped for a reason" principle to figurines would be to have them all sitting, basking in the sun, waiting for a train or run over by one of the immobile vehicles! Bottom line...if you get the chance to see The West Lumber layout, take it! (Sorry, no photos! I couldn't get close during the show, then, well...I forgot!)

Outlaws Corner: was an N display that had finished scenery. Unfortunately my photo came out fuzzy and I never really had a chance to see the layout in operation over the weekend. However notice the valence and nice rock work.

Outlaws Corner N-scale layout

Val Ease Central Railroad (Canada): of which you've probably heard too much about as it is! Let me just add that the layout was installed on standard banquet tables with a makeshift crowd barrier comprised of a length of warning tape strung between two folding chairs. The barrier did its job for a couple of hours and then crept forward until it became a colourful band along the front of the tables. I don't recall any problems with the visitors derailing trains or making grabs for dinosaurs etc. The dire warnings of misbehaved German train lovers were completely unfounded as far as I'm concerned. I would have to say that crowds in Sinsheim and at NA shows are equally respectful of a display. Of course, Terry and I were also very visible as gaurdians of the layout which is a prerequisite of crowd management in any case.

One of my favourite shots of the VECRR at FM. The look on this kid's face makes it all worth while.

Southern Pacific RR (France): was a series of HO dioramas of incredible beauty. Alfred had done a magnificent job of capturing the look and feel of the desert rock formations. He had also invested a great deal of effort in detailing his locomotives and rolling stock although they were not running. He had also placed relevant documentation (photos) along the display to show the original vistas that he had modelled. (Missed this one too. Perhaps someone on the group got a shot of these fine dioramas).

The Tunnel District (Switzerland): was an N scale single main line modular layout that featured Swiss prototype trains running through, you guessed it, mountain tunnels. The mountains were high and the mainline often followed a narrow cut along their flanks while passing through a series of impressive tunnels. Of course the only picture I have of this layout shows Santa Fe locos running over the Swiss trackage...hey, it's a layout and anything is possible.

Outlaws Corner N-scale layout

White Pass & Yukon Route: On30 scale, was the creation of the trio of modellers that we had accosted at the Bruchsal hotel for a ride in an earlier episode. Dirk, the only member of the group who appeared to speak, knew very little English but he was a regular visitor to our area to jokingly show posters from the Gold Rush era of the Yukon and Alaska. He even offered me a job at $3.50 a day. Not bad but room and board cost $7.50 a week. I supposed if I didn't pay for baths and only changed clothes twice a year, I could get by on the wages. ;-)

The WP&Y was a doughnut-shaped layout set in winter. This was an unusual presentation since the entire mountain scenery was covered in the white stuff which can be hard to model. Dirk and his pals did a great job with it. I have a personal bias in favour of narrow gauge no matter what the scale and I especially appreciated the fine-running Bachmann On30 steam locos and cars.

The Siverton

Silverton Railroad (Austria): was a Gn3 layout set at the height of the Colorado silver mining era. The group who built this layout actually built it inside a mock-up of a western saloon complete with bar, swinging doors, shingled roof and stools for visitors to enjoy the trains running through a typical mining town in the 1890's. The town even had a narrow gauge (HO) mining track although I never saw anything running on it. The whole set-up appeared to be a wonderful idea for a gazebo layout here in NA. Talk about set design!

And these were just our neighbours in the US modellers area. There were also the private layouts that were eligible for the contest as well as the display layouts from the manufacturers.

Don't worry. You'll read all about them...

Stay tuned for Episode 9 of the Great European AdventureZ 2002 | Return to Sinsheim Chronicles Home.