Val Ease Central Railroad by Jeffrey MacHan

The Sinsheim Chronicles: Episode 12

Phase 2 - off to Goeppingen!

Our train trip to Goeppingen would take us to Stuttgart Haupbahnhoff where we grabbed a black fish sandwich and coffee while waiting for our connection. Evening had fallen so we didn't get a good look at the countryside while making our way to the centre of all things Z but inevitably the train glided to a short-lived halt at the Goeppingen station. All we could see was the platform sign lovingly adorned with graffiti. We grabbed our luggage and headed down the stairs to the underpass and towards the main station where we hoped to follow the walking directions to our hotel, hand delivered to us by Eric Foxman the day before.

We came to the surface in the station only to find the doors locked! We managed to stumble across the gravel of a recently torn-up parking apron to the right of the station, around a security fence and finally onto the promenade in- front of the dark station building. Even in the glow of a few street lights the station was like a hugely magnified version of our well-known and loved Märklin kit ;-) Eric's instructions told us to head off across the street and up two blocks. The hotel should then be on our right.

Unfortunately the streets were being dug up for storm drains or sewers but we walked around downtown Goeppingen for the next 45 minutes. We saw intersting side streets, the central church garden, back alleys, and finally after circling back towards the station we noticed a sign pointing to the Apostle Hotel. Thank goodness, we're almost there...wrong...another 15 minutes until we crossed a construction area for the third time and saw the hotel sign overhead! We'd walked past it twice but were distracted by the heavy equipment and plywood bridges we had to manouver over along the street. The door to the hotel was locked so we rang, quietly! Soon we were greeted by a pleasant gentleman who said he was expecting us, gave us our room key, instructed us on breakfast the next morning and said to never, NEVER, ring the doorbell now that we were in possession of our room key!!! Goodnight!!!

Breakfast in the Apostle Hotel. The Apostle Hotel, Göppingen.

The hotel was more of a B&B than a hotel. The room was comfortable and the hotel decor was attractive and relaxing. It didn't take long for us to snuggly under our duvets and set the alarm for 7 the next morning when our next big adventure would begin.

We awoke to a crisp but sunny day and headed down to our continental breakfast where we were pleasantly surprised to find real soft-boiled eggs. Since we were checking out later in the afternoon, we left our luggage under the watchful eye of our cheery hostess and her terrier.

At 8am Eric Foxman arrived at the hotel foyer, right on time. Our plan was to make a quick walking tour of Goeppingen on our way to the Märklin factory where we were to meet Joe Rocchia at 10am. It was nice to see the hotel in the daylight ;-)

Off we set towards the often-modelled Goeppingen church, a very weathered but majestic structure when seen up close.

Göppingen Church Elsermodell Hobby Shop

We made our way around the downtown core, all the while recognizing landmarks from our meanderings of the previous evening while searching for the hotel. Being past 9 am, Eric said we had time to stop in at a couple of hobby shops on the way to Märklin. Great! Maybe I'd find the items on my wish list?

Sadly not this time although the store was well stocked in the current releases. Was I ever going to find a souvenir worthy of my trip to Germany?

It was time for our appointment with Joe Rocchia. Both Terry and I stopped to photograph the birthplace of MiniClub 30 years previously.

We found the visitors office where we were quickly separated from a group of German speaking visitors who would be touring the factory that morning. Joe was a few minutes late but while waiting I got a shot of the employee parking lot and interiour courtyard of the plant.

Märklin Factory Inside the Factory courtyard The Märklin employee store, unfortunately off limits to visitors.

I also noticed what looked like a store just opposite the visitor entrance. It was the fabled Märklin employe store. Signs everywhere warned curious people like me to stay out! But I took a photo anyway...

Finally at about 10:15 Herr Rocchia was announced and we were greeted by a smiling gentleman who spoke softly with an ever so slight German-Italian accent. Joe immediately took us in the opposite direction from the German visitors so that we would not get underfoot. He would be our personal guide for the day and what a day it would be. He explained that he worked in the Märklin Export division and that he was retiring in 2 months. His post- retirement job would be as English and Italian language guide on the factory tours. He hoped that we would help him fine-tune his English presentation which he had freshly translated from Italian. We were willing to help in any way possible if it would allow us to see more than the standard tour and to ask our torrent of questions.

Herr Rocchia, our factory guide.

For the next 2.5 hours we were all eyes, ears, noses, fingers and tastebuds as we received an insightful presentation of the company history, the manufacturing background and production areas that included our own Z 0-6-0 and 2-8-2 locomotives. Pictures were not allowed but I took copious notes that will eventually be distilled into an article for Ztrack Magazine. Of course you'll be able to read it here following publication.

Soon Joe was becoming more and more fidgety as he tried to get us to pick up the pace of our tour. He finally confessed that he wanted to take us to the company cafeteria and if we didn't get a move on we'd be too late. Not wanting to miss out on a free meal, we all piled into Joe's BMW and set off for the Märklin corporate head office, cafeteria and museum.

Stay tuned for Episode 13 of the Great European AdventureZ 2002 | Return to Sinsheim Chronicles Home.