Val Ease Central Railroad by Jeffrey MacHan

The Sinsheim Chronicles: Episode 17

Playing with Santa's trains

Manfred Joerger's trainroom, Tuesday March 26, 2002. The Beach module The moment of truth had was time to play with Manfred's trains. :-) Jeremy had explained that he and Manfred had spent the entire day Monday setting up the eight or so modules that we would have the pleasure of playing with. I stopped to photograph one of the corner modules that I spotted along the way.

The electronic wizardry of Jeremy Brandon would have 8 trains running simultaneously over the simple dogbone setup. But first we had to get to the layout! I hadn't realized that I would have to climb up a ladder, literally, to reach the train room which occupied the mezzanine above Manfred's workshop.

Terry leads the way to the layout.

The first thing that I noticed as my head popped up through the floor of the low-ceilinged mezzanine was the control box used to run the section of modules we were about to discover.

This box allowed automatic, semi-automatic or manual control of trains entering the main passenger terminal of the layout. The trains would stop and start in blocks along the mainline as forward blocks cleared of preceding trains. Signals changed to show block occupancy and permission to continue.

Electical control box Interlocked signals

There was no natural lighting in the trainroom so Jeremy had set up a pair of industrial projectors to flood the area with highly contrasting illumination. The low ceiling was just high enough for Terry and Manfred to walk upright without encountering any obstacles. I had to crouch slightly but poor Jeremy spent the afternoon with his head hanging to the side so that his scalp would not be scraped off by ceiling mounted electrical boxes.

Some of Manfred's modules.

As is usually the case, the trains began to act up as soon as Terry and I came within viewing distance. Jeremy swore that they had been running flawlessly the day before. I did not doubt it for an instant having had the same experience many times with the VEC including the episode with the fried potentiometer on the opening day of Sinsheim.

I tried to take a few shots of trains running over the wonderful bridges that Manfred has built. Unfortunately my little Canon Powershot 100 was not up to the task in the low light and deep shadows thrown by the industrial flood lights. There is nothing more irritating than taking a flash photo of a towering masonry bridge and seeing its shadow on the backdrop. My only hope of getting some decent pictures was to talk Manfred into setting up his magnificent engine service facility in natural light.

In case you were wondering how Manfred and his crew managed to transport the 20 modules stored in the mezzanine to the outside world (using the ladder was obviously out of the question) I discovered the secret when I swung open a door that I had assumed led to a storeroom. Wrong! It led to a vicious fall if one wasn't careful.

View from the mezzanine!

The modules were passed through this opening to waiting hands below and then loaded into a trailer or rental truck for the trek to a major train show. I had seen only a sample of Manfred's work. If I am lucky, perhaps some day I'll have the chance to see the entire modular sensation up and running.

We played with the trains for several hours until Manfred called us down for coffee and pastry around 3pm. This was a wonderful way to relax from the excitement of the variety of Z trains we had been running on the layout. Terry and I adopted the 3pm coffee and pastry break for the rest of our stay in Germany.

After finishing off the pastries Manfred had us set up saw horses in the drive of the shop where we would have the opportunity to see his engine service modules up close and personal.

Stay tuned for Episode 18 of the Great European AdventureZ 2002 | Return to Sinsheim Chronicles Home.