Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Milestones in German Railway History

Epoch I (1835 - 1919)
This is generally referred to as the Länderbahn era when many of the German States had their own railroads of which the major ones were the:
  • Königlich Preußische und Großherzoglich Hessische Staatseisenbahn (K.P.u.G.H.St.E.) which later became the Königlich Preußische Eisenbahn-Verwaltung (K.P.E.V.)
  • Königlich Bayerische Staatseisenbahn (K.Bay.Sts.B.)
  • Königlich Sächsische Staatseisenbahnen (K.Sächs.Sts.E.B.)
  • Königlich Württembergische Staatseisenbahn (K.W.St.E.)
  • Großherzoglich Badische Staatseisenbahn (Baden)
  • Großherzoglich Mecklenburgische Friedrich-Franz-Eisenbahn (Meckl. or M.F.F.E)
  • Großherzoglich Oldenburgische Staatseisenbahn (Oldenburg)
  • Pfalzbahn der Königlich Bayerische Staatseisenbahn (PfalzB)
One December 7th the first German train runs between Nürnberg and Fürth. Powered by the Alder (Eagle) this locomotive was built by Stephenson and Co. in Newcastle upon Tyne and followed along the lines of a Patentee 2-2-2. The locomotive would stay in service until 1857. 
In 1828, the King of Saxony founded a Technical School in Dresden (since 1890: Dresden Technical College). Johann Andreas Schubert, a universal engineer and professor at the Technical School designed the first "German" steam locomotive based upon what he had learned while traveling in England. The locomotive was built by the Übigauer Maschinebauanstalt in Dresden from his plans.
  1838 Joseph Anton Ritter von Maffei (1790-1870), the son of a businessman from Verona (Italy) who moved to Munich establishes the first locomotive factory in Bavaria, Eisenwerk Hirschau
  1840 On October 4th the last section of the München Augsburg Eisenbahn Gesellschaft railway was completed as designed by Paul Camille von Denis who also laid out the Nürnberg and Fürth line.
Edmund Heusinger von Waldegg invented what became know as the Heusinger valve gear which is similar to the Walschaert gear but was closer to the form generally adopted by most locomotives.
  1850 Principal dimensions of rolling stock are agreed by the German railway companies allowing interchange of stock.
  1853 First working rules for Prussian and North German railways.
  1854 First steam railcar - Berlin-Hamburg Railway.
  1857 First International through coach working - Frankfurt am Main - Basel.
  1866 Krauss & Comp. is founded by Dr.-Ing. e. h. Georg von Krauss (1826-1906) with a factory on the Marsfeld in Munich.
  1875 Unified signaling for all of Germany.
  1878 First Prussian 'standards' for locomotives, coaches and wagons.
Werner von Siemens demonstrated the first practical electric locomotive at the Berlin Industrial Exhibition. The  miniature locomotive produced 3 HP and carried passengers over a 300 meter long rail line. Current was drawn from a third rail between the track allowing the locomotive to haul a maximum of some thirty passengers at a speed of about four miles an hour.
90 000 people would ride Siemens' train in the four months it was on display from May 31st to August 30th.
  1880 Four years after Jules Anatole Mallet's successful demonstration of his compound system, August von Borries and the Schichau Works introduced their two-cylinder compound system to Germany. Mallet's two-cylinder compound system involved a single high-pressure cylinder passing its exhaust steam into a second, larger, low-pressure cylinder. One of the drawbacks to this system was that they to be unsteady at high speed, because one cylinder exerted more thrust than the other. Borries improved upon Mallet's work by using his own design of starting valve and his conjugated valve gear. His system kept the cut-off of the low-pressure cylinder always a little behind that of the high-pressure, thereby alleviating the unequal thrust problem.
  1881 Siemens' demonstration led to other exhibitions at Brussels, Düsseldorf, and Frankfurt. Siemens and Halske built a line to Lichterfelde, near Berlin, one and a half miles long. This line, which was opened for traffic with one electric car in 1881 and was the first public electric railway in the world. The motor was carried on a frame below the body of the car between the axles. Power was transmitted from the armature of the motor to drums on the driving axles by means of steel cables. The car carried twenty-six passengers, and could reach a speed of thirty mph on a current supply of 100 volts.
  1882 First German owned restaurant coach.
First corridor train between Berlin and Köln.
  1894 Electrical signaling block system introduced in Prussia.
  1897 Wilhelm Schmidt designed the first superheaters, equipment provided in a locomotive boiler for producing superheated steam.  Early superheaters were fitted in the smokebox and were little more than steam dryers.  Later superheaters used enlarged boiler tubes to dry the steam and raise the temperature to a higher level. His firetube superheater of 1901, rapidly fitted to thousands of locomotives throughout the world, raised thermal efficiency by up to 30%
  1899 The Royal Bavarian Railway Museum—the first museum dealing with the railways, their technology and history opened on October 1st, making it Germany's oldest museum of transport history.
One February 15th the Berlin underground opened. It ran between Warschauer Straße and Zoologischer Garten, and had a short spur to Potsdamer Platz.
The Bay.StsB. S 3/6 is considered by many as one of the finest steam locomotives ever built, J.A. Maffei built a total of 141, the first in 1908 and the last in 1930. S3/6 locomotives pulled the prestigious Rheingold Express. The last S3/6, the the "Grazie" was decommissioned in 1965.
  1909 Pfalzbahn incorporated into the Bavarian State Railway.
Formation of the Deutschen Staatsbahnwagen-Verband (German Railway Wagon Assoc.) by the eight Länderbahnen.
  1910 First Verbandsbauart wagon (freight car design standardized by the Deutschen Staatsbahnwagen-Verband) was built.
  1911 First long distance electrification in Germany - Bitterfeld-Dessau (15kv, 162/3Hz).
  1912 The K.P.E.V. introduces the first diesel-electric locomotive.
The K.P.E.V. introduces the first all steel through-corridor express passenger coaches.
  1916 The Mitropa company was founded during World War I on November 24, 1916, as Mitteleuropäische Schlafwagen- und Speisewagen Aktiengesellschaft. Its founders included different railroad companies in Germany and Austria-Hungary as an alternative to the Compagnie Internationale des Wagons-Lits (CIWL). After the war, CIWL was able to take over most routes in Central Europe outside of Germany, while MITROPA maintained most of its routes within Germany as well as routes to the Netherlands and Scandinavia.

After World War II and the division of Germany, MITROPA AG became the catering company for the Deutsche Reichsbahn, the national railroad of the German Democratic Republic (East Germany). The Western part of MITROPA split off and was re-named the Deutsche Schlafwagen- und Speisewagengesellschaft (DSG) to manage the sleeping and dining cars of the Deutsche Bundesbahn in the Federal Republic of Germany (West Germany).

Today MITROPA is part of the Compass Group and its division MITROPA GmbH operates stationary food services at railroad stations and highways.
Epoch II (1920 - 1945)
  1920 On April 1st the Deutsche Reichsbahn was formed from from 11 provincial railways. Two administrative regions were set up, Prussia and Bavaria.
  1924 On August 30th an act of parliament converted the Reichsbahn to a state owned enterprise or Gesellschaft. One of its first tasks was to introduce a numbering scheme that allowed to integrate the existing various classes of locomotives. For steam locomotives a numeric system or Braureihe. Class numbers of 01 to 19 indicated express train tender locomotives, numbers 20 to 39 passenger train tender locomotives, 40 to 59 freight train tender locomotives, 60 to 79 passenger train tank locomotives, 80 to 96 freight train tank locomotives (including switchers), 97 rack locomotives, 98 Lokalbahn (local railway) locomotives and 99 for narrow gauge locomotives. For example, class 01 was the first class of unified express train locomotive, and the first unit of this class received the number 01 001.

Similar numbering schemes were introduced for electric and diesel locomotives, but with prefix letters E for electrics and V (from German Verbrennungsmotor for internal combustion engine) for diesels. Electric and diesel railcars and multiple units were designated by prefix letters ET and VT, respectively (from German Elektrischer Triebwagen and Verbrennungsmotortriebwagen)
  1925 The Deutsche Reichspost was formed.
  1928 The first run of the Rheingold from Hook van Holland to Basel.
  1931 Maffei and Krauss merge to form Krauss & Comp.-J. A. Maffei AG in Allach, Germany. Locomotives are still the core product.
The Flying Hamburger (high speed diesel railcar) enters service. The "Flying Hamburger“ was the prototype of an entire fleet of two to three-car express multiple units. Following the successful completion of trials with this new train type on the Hamburg–Berlin line and on the hilly Saalfeld–Bamberg line, the Reichsbahn decided in 1933 to operate these trains on their future national express rail network. Top speed for these rail cars was 160 km/h.
On May 11th the steam locomotive 05 002 sets a world record of 200.4 kmh (125.25 mph).
  1937 The DRG becomes plain DR, and the Hoheits Adler (winged eagle + hakenkreuz (swastika)) is introduced.
  1938 Germany takes control of the countries (and railways) of Austria, the Sudetenland, Bohemia and Moravia.
  1939 Germany takes control of the countries (and railways) of Czechoslovakia, Danzig and Poland.
  1940 The DR takes over control of the railways of Luxembourg.
  1945 The 3rd Reich is defeated, and the DR is split into zones operated by the occupying forces of Britain, France, America and Russia.
Epoch III (1945 - 1970)
  1949 The German Federal (west) and Democratic (east) Republics are formed.
  1952 The DB and DR are formed.
Epoch IV (1970 - 1985)
  1973 On September 12th the electric locomotive 103 118 reaches 252.9 kmh (165.6 mph) during tests.
  1977 Last steam locomotive in regular operation retired.
  1984 On October 7th The electric locomotive 120 001 reaches 265 kmh (158 mph) during tests.
Epoch V (1985 - Present)
  1986 The first section of the Neubaustrecke (new high speed lines) from Mannheim to Graben Neudorf is completed.
  1988 The prototype Intercity Experimental sets a new German railway speed record of 406.9 kph (254.3 mph) on the newly completed high speed line between Fulda and Würzburg.
  1994 The DB and DR are merged to form the DB AG.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Shay Locomotive, Roaring Camp Railroad - Santa Cruz, California

In 1830 a self-styled mountain man by the name of Isaac Graham settled in this area. Legend has it that he and his compatriots would cause such a ruckus that the local Mexican authorities named Graham’s wild settlement “Roaring Camp.” In 1842, Graham established the first saw mill west of the Mississippi but for one reason or another logging never took off here and he was convinced to spare the majestic trees that  25 years later became the first virgin stand of coastal redwoods to be protected from logging.

In order to garner some income the area’s first railroad, the Santa Cruz & Felton, began carrying tourists to the Big Trees as they became known in 1875. In 2003, the
Roaring Camp & Big Trees Narrow Gauge RR celebrated its Ruby Anniversary (40 years) and the Santa Cruz, Big Trees & Pacific RY has been operating along the 1875 Santa Cruz & Felton route since 1985.

The railroad is only a little over an hour from my home but I'm almost embarrassed to say that I have never visited it. I had a "spare" Saturday away from the wife so I decided to make the trip. Lo and behold this weekend saw the visit of Thomas the Tank Engine and it's many small fans, their parents and assorted mini vans. Luckily there are several tracks at Roaring Camp and our steam train was unaffected by the little monsters. I wonder how many of these will return to model railroading after suffering the indignities of middle age. The route of the steam train takes you up Herman Mountain amongst the old growth redwood trees. Something that we are blessed with here in Northern California.

Shay Locomotives hold a special place in the hearts of steam enthusiasts. Springing from the fertile mind of Ephraim Shay this gear driven steam engine was well suited to the requirements of the logging industry of which Ephraim was a part of. During the 1870s an inordinate amount of effort was spent on extracting lumber to the mill. Often depending on ice covered roadways during the winter to transport their logs they were hostage to the vagaries of the climate. Shay built some tramways and used horsepower but with the growing popularity of steam he built his first steam locomotive. A locomotive built for logging must be small yet powerful, able to navigate within a restricted space and climb steep inclines. His answer was a gear driven locomotive carried on articulated trucks with direct wheel drive. By delivering equal torque directly to wheels on both sides of the engine at the same time. He was also able to eliminate the jerky motion of a standard steam locomotive which damaged his wooden rails. The Number 7 Shay at the Roaring Camp Railroad was built by the Lima Machine Works and is a Class C Shay. (Class C: three cylinders, three trucks. Weighs between 70 and 125 tons approx.)

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Shay Locomotive, Roaring Camp Railroad - Santa Cruz, CaliforniaShay Locomotive, Roaring Camp Railroad - Santa Cruz, CaliforniaShay Locomotive, Roaring Camp Railroad - Santa Cruz, CaliforniaShay Locomotive, Roaring Camp Railroad - Santa Cruz, CaliforniaShay Locomotive, Roaring Camp Railroad - Santa Cruz, CaliforniaShay Locomotive, Roaring Camp Railroad - Santa Cruz, CaliforniaShay Locomotive, Roaring Camp Railroad - Santa Cruz, California
Shay Locomotive, Roaring Camp Railroad - Santa Cruz, CaliforniaShay Locomotive, Roaring Camp Railroad - Santa Cruz, CaliforniaShay Locomotive, Roaring Camp Railroad - Santa Cruz, CaliforniaShay Locomotive, Roaring Camp Railroad - Santa Cruz, CaliforniaShay Locomotive, Roaring Camp Railroad - Santa Cruz, CaliforniaShay Locomotive, Roaring Camp Railroad - Santa Cruz, California
Shay Locomotive, Roaring Camp Railroad - Santa Cruz, CaliforniaShay Locomotive, Roaring Camp Railroad - Santa Cruz, CaliforniaShay Locomotive, Roaring Camp Railroad - Santa Cruz, CaliforniaShay Locomotive, Roaring Camp Railroad - Santa Cruz, CaliforniaShay Locomotive, Roaring Camp Railroad - Santa Cruz, CaliforniaShay Locomotive, Roaring Camp Railroad - Santa Cruz, California

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Deutsche Bahn Museum

While I was in Nürnberg for the Toy Fair I had the opportunity for a short visit to the Deutsche Bahn Museum. The Museum has been in the news lately due to the tragic fire in the roundhouse which is located away from downtown, that destroyed many important locomotives. I was able to only visit the museum proper which is downtown. The museum shares a building with some other offices and as such is not specifically designed as a museum which unfortunately resulted in an absence of natural light as well as a large display space. In fact it could even be called cramp for a country that has such a strong railroad heritage. Maybe the fire will force the Deutsche Bahn management to build a proper museum. Because of the lack of space downtown there were a lot of models being used. While this itself is not a problem it would have been nice to see more rolling stock. Another thing which I expected to see is a large working Model Railroad but this was nowhere to be seen. They mentioned a Fleischmann layout at the Fair but obviously it was somewhere else than the museum and might have been at the Toy Museum instead. What I did find interesting was the candor they showed in displaying one of the railroad's darkest periods that of the transportation of Jews to the death camps. 

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New South Wales Rail Transport Museum

The New South Wales Rail Transport Museum (NSWRTM) was formed in 1962, preserve examples of steam locomotives that did service on the NSW Government Railways during the last century and one half. Originally the locomotives and assorted rolling stock chosen for preservation were stored in the then active Round House at Enfield. On Sunday 22nd October 1972, the NSWRTM's display at Enfield was officially opened by then commissioner McCusker as one of his last official duties as commissioner.

Unfortunately after his retirement the Department of Railways was abolished, and the Public Transport Commission formed, under the control of a Mr Philip Shirley. The new authorities turned their backs on the past and in 1973 it was announced that the Enfield roundhouse would be demolished to make way for a container terminal that in fact was never built.  After much negotiation, the commission made available space on its property at Thirlmere near Camden. At great labour the exhibits were transferred in 1975 and the Thirlmere Railway Museum was opened on the 1st June 1976.

If not for the work done by the society an important part of Australian history would have been lost. Visitors expecting shiny exhibits and expensive displays will be disappointed, but those with a true love for these iron beasts will marvel at the amount of locomotives sheltered here and feast in their ability to climb about these relics. The work necessary in restoring this fleet will probably never be finished but that couldn't be further from the minds of those who toil each free afternoon without any reward but the dream of seeing their trains under their own power once again.

On the 1st of December, 1994, the NSWRTM became the first society in NSW to be granted full accreditation as a owner and operator of a railway - the Picton - Mittagong Loopline.

The Rail Transport Museum at Thirlmere is situated along disused Picton - Mittagong loop line, this line was the original main southern railway until it was bypassed to ease the grades. The loop line tourist railway operates on every Sunday and public holiday Mondays. The round-trip journey lasts 45 minutes and is run every hour. On the 3rd Sunday of each month , an Arts & Crafts fair operates at Buxton, further along the loop line.


There are a number of themes that always find their way into my various trips; history, stamp collecting, automobile racing and trains. In Utrecht, a city south of Amsterdam existed two of the four. A stamp store that I have returned to a number of times and the National Railway Museum. The museum is located in the former 125-year-old Maliebaan station in East Utrecht. In an area filled with museums and galleries. Opening hours are: Tuesday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 5.00 p.m. Saturday, Sunday, Ascension Day, and public holidays from 11.30 a.m. to 5 p.m. On Monday, New Year's Day, Easter Sunday, White Sunday, Christmas Day and the Queen's Birthday the museum is closed.

The museum has a shop, guided tours, a restaurant and library. The library of the Dutch Railway Museum contains about 15,000 books and magazines on railways and tramways in the Netherlands and abroad. If you really want to splurge the Dutch Railway Museum lends out various railway carriages and locomotives to transport you all over the Netherlands. Renting your own train as you tour the countryside will make you feel as if you are the King of Prussia during the 19th century.

It seems that you can reach about any place in Holland by train. The Dutch Railways consist of a network of some 2600km, of which 2000km is electrified with 1500V= overhead wire. On the Dutch Railways you can find about 140 electric locomotives, 125 diesel locomotives, 100 diesel shunters, 500 EMUs and 150 DMUs.  The trains cross the country in all directions and not a moment goes by that you don't see a train on its appointed route. The museum itself is less than 10 years old and plays host to many schoolchildren. Though not as large as the  National Railway Museum in York, England I still found it well worth my trip. The exhibits are well arrayed and show many fine examples from the railway's history. The next time I visit Holland maybe I'll rent my own train, then again maybe I'll have to save up some more!

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

22nd National Garden Railway Convention

22nd National Garden Railway ConventionSanta Clara was the site of the 2006 edition of the National Garden Railway Convention. The Bay Area Garden Railway Society would serve as its host. Santa Clara is in Silicon Valley which is just south of San Francisco and around 20 minutes from where I live. Though I don't currently have a garden railway and none is planned for the foreseeable future I couldn't let this opportunity pass. Because it was held the week of the 4th of July holiday and I would be returning from Las Vegas that weekend I had to limit my attendance to a single day. I chose Thursday because that would get me into the train show that was to be held at the end of the convention as well as allowing me the opportunity to visit several garden layouts that were holding open houses.

I've always wondered what it would be like to have an open house to show off your layout and I was very pleased by the hospitality of the hosts. They all seemed to enjoy meeting people and it looked like they have had a lot of practice. Model Railroading can sometimes be a lonely hobby when most of your family, friends and co-workers have not only no interest but also little comprehension of what our hobby is all about. After having been asked questions like how much does it costs and do you like real trains as well it's easy to see why you would fail to mention your hobby or even close the door to you train room with you in it hoping that your visitors and your wife will just leave you in peace. Having people over who you know love trains must be very uplifting. Concerns on how your layout will be received is I think unfounded. Building my layout in my upstairs library may make having an open house a little more challenging but I think that when I finish my layout I would want to show it off. Not because it's anything special but rather I suspect being European in focus it's different than other layouts in my area. 

22nd National Garden Railway Convention
22nd National Garden Railway Convention22nd National Garden Railway Convention22nd National Garden Railway Convention22nd National Garden Railway Convention22nd National Garden Railway Convention22nd National Garden Railway Convention
22nd National Garden Railway Convention22nd National Garden Railway Convention

In visiting the layouts you had an option of reserving a seat on the tour bus or using your own transportation which was what I elected to do. Each day there were different layouts on view with none repeating on other days. The first layout I chose was one hosted by Bob and Irene Brown.  The layout contained a mix of U.S. and Foreign trains which seems to be more common amongst the Garden Railway set than in the smaller gauges which tend to focus on a particular period and location. Garden Railroads are often what is called freelance and sometimes whimsical in nature. Since many garden railroaders have indoor layouts as well it's almost as if their outdoor layout allows them some freedom of the strictures that they place on their indoor empires. I didn't have the chance to ask this question but I would have been interested in Bob Brown's response because upstairs he had his famous On3 layout. The Browns are publishers of a wonderful bi-monthly magazine called Narrow Gauge and Short Line Gazette. Packed into their layout were water features, miniature scale plants and wooden trestles. I especially liked their live steam locomotives. Their house and garden had a real lived in look rather than looking like someone had just moved in and not finished un-packing.  But to tell you the truth it was their On3 layout that I wanted to see most. Based on the quality of their magazine I must admit I had high expectations when I climbed up their stairs. The layout that I saw was not only amazing in it's detail but also charming in its subject matter. To describe the layout as museum quality is an understatement as it surpasses any layout that I have ever seen in private hands, hands that I understand have been busy for more than 40 years building the creation that I had in front of me. Bob holds a NMRA Master Model Railroader certificate and after seeing his railroad I can easily understand why. Looking at the layout you felt frozen in time, imagining that you had just checked into the Tahoe Inn, soaking up the last rays of the sun before dinner. 

The next layout I visited is owned by Charles & Elizabeth Garbett and is built around a pool. The motive power is mostly modified Bachmann with some scratch built. As you followed the layout along it's course you were shown several scenarios. I especially liked the harmony of the design and the vignette of the laundry that was hung out to dry.  Their house was very nicely situated in Palo Alto along a dirt path and I would have been satisfied just to tour their house, another one that looked well lived in. The reason I mention this is that most of our friends are immigrants and if anything a large screen TV, hooked up to a karaoke machine is the center of attention where as I much prefer a well stocked library and all sorts of bric à brac.

From there I crossed the Bridge to Castro Valley and the home of Pat & Ken Martin. From the looks of things Ken has had a rather interesting life including a period where he raced cars. The grounds where the layout was situated was the largest that I would see that day and offered a 500' mainline. There were water features, multiple trains running and swings in which you could sit and watch the trains. The Martins have a roster of over 100 large scale locomotives and radio control was used in several places. Their layout was a veritable Disneyland of model railroading that could serve as either a focus or background for large parties that could be easily held in their backyard.

The last layout I visited was one in Fremont which is next door to where I live in Union City. This was the layout belonging to Rick and Liz Zem. The layout contained a small turntable and roundhouse and was made to represent lumber and mining during the '50s. The layout has recently been renovated and I must say their work is very impressive, especially the large trestles and the concrete rocks cast from aluminum foil molds.

All in all four very different layouts each offering hours of entertainment and of a quality each owner can be proud of ... which I'm sure they are. It's a lot of work to open your house to a bunch of strangers from 8:00 am to 3:00 pm and each should be commended. It was quite an eye opener to learn of so many layouts in my area and I can understand how popular layout tours have become at the national level. The Convention Program created by the Bay Area Garden Railway Society helped to make my tour a very enjoyable experience.

While my schedule unfortunately did not allow me to attend any of the seminars that were held as part of the convention I did attend the Large Scale Train Show where many of the companies involved in this segment of the hobby were able to show their products. The featured car of the convention is a 1/24 scale G-gauge Cable Car (powered) made by Accucraft Trains that retailed for $300. By the looks of it this was a very popular item and I know that I longed for one. 

The range of companies was quite extensive with representatives from AMS, LGB, Bachman and Aristo Craft to name a few.  Some of the notable products I saw were:

Mention should also be made of detail parts by Ozark Miniatures as well as new publications by Garden Railways Magazine. To top it off the Bay Area had a short line modular layout and the Live Steamers had a layout as well to run their live steam locomotives. This was my first American national convention as most of NMRA's conventions are held in the East Coast or mid-west which is the center of model railroading in the United States. Though I model German prototype there is much to enjoy and learn at these conventions.


Sunday, July 09, 2006

I've been pouring over this book and some of the comments that were made on my layout and have made some adjustments. I've converted my freight yard from double-ended to a mixed double/single-ended which is more realistic based on the limited space I have and will allow me to store more cars, in fact I could even fiddle with them if I wanted to. To compensate I added a run around track that should give me better switching maneuverability and lesson any clogging of my main lines. This means I need to buy a double crossover switch and I saw one listed on eBay that I have a bid out for. We'll see how it all works out once I let it sit awhile so I can look at it with a fresh set of eyes.

A side benefit of this arrangement is that it gives me more space for my reverse loops and should enable me to stage two complete trains without either fouling a crossover, but I'm getting ahead of myself. I've looked at my German magazines and all of them have quite severe elevation changes but then most of them sported smaller train lengths. Let's see what longer trains can do before I commit to anything.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Initial Progress on the Schwarzburg Modelleisenbahn

Initial images from the Schwarzburg Modelleisenbahn may have no relation to the final layout but I really feel that I am getting close except for that nasty bit in the left corner where I could use an extra 4 feet! 
Schwarzburg Modelleisenbahn Schwarzburg Modelleisenbahn Schwarzburg Modelleisenbahn Schwarzburg Modelleisenbahn Schwarzburg Modelleisenbahn Schwarzburg Modelleisenbahn

Union City, California (USA) June 21st 2006 – It's over 90 degrees outside and why I'm taking pictures of my layout I'll never know. What you see in these first images is my layout placed directly on top of the bookcases while I am still in the design stage. There is a frame that will float on top of the bookcases that still needs a plywood cover. As you can see the layout is in my library which still needs a few bookcases to be complete. In the foreground there is the turntable that will feed a 16 locomotive roundhouse. The one building you see will be replaced by a larger structure that will serve as the locomotive shop for more complicated maintenance. Directly to the left are service tracks that will contain a coal bunker, sand tower, ash pits, water tower, crane and anything else I can cram in there. To the right will be one RIP track for boiler servicing.

The yard itself has a passenger section in the back and freight tracks in the front. The baseboard will have another 6-8 inches of depth for the station, maybe another platform and building facades. The back corner (one the left in some pictures) will have one more bookcase to support an extension similar to that which supports the roundhouse but offset 15 inches to the rear. On that section will be built my walled town topped with a church that will hold my cremated remains if my wife ever found out how much I've spent so far.

If you look closely in the back corner you can see one of the frames for the baseboard. I'll be working on that section next. After some going back and forth and measuring inclines it looks like I will be using the crossovers.

Saturday, April 29, 2006

National Railway Museum - York, UK

National Railway MuseumYork, YorkshireFor me trains, especially steam trains and England are synonymous. There are many preserved railways still in operation up and down the country and it's possible to take a vacation that is geared to these excursions which I was lucky enough to do a while back. This trip my time was more restricted and because I was traveling in the winter most were shut down for the season.  George Stephenson is considered to be the inventor of the first practical steam locomotive engine for railways. Stephenson was extremely poor growing up and received little formal education. He worked in local collieries or coal mines and was self-taught in reading and writing. In 1812, he became a colliery engine builder, and in 1814 he built his first locomotive for the Stockton and Darlington Railway Line. Stephenson was hired as the company engineer and soon convinced the owners to use steam motive power and built the line's first locomotive, the Locomotion. In 1825, Stephenson moved to the Liverpool and Manchester Railway, where together with his son Robert and Henry Rooth built (1826-29) the Rocket.

National Railway MuseumIn 1829, the Liverpool & Manchester Railway offered a prize of 550 Pounds Sterling to any company or individual who could build a locomotive that would weigh less than six tons and could pull a load of 20 tons at a rate of ten miles per hour. Of the five engines entered in the October 1829 trials, only the Rocket completed the course, exceeded all the requirements and performed without incident. For this achievement, the L & M bought the Rocket from Stephenson and soon thereafter ordered four more for their passenger service between Liverpool and Manchester, thus providing the first rail passenger service in the world. A copy of the Rocket is now on display at the National Railway Museum in York which I had the pleasure to visit for the second time.

Besides a wonderful display of rolling stock the museum has opened up its workshop as well as backroom collection. There you can find many models of railroads and a vintage layout used to teach railroad operation.

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Friday, April 28, 2006

Glacier Express

From St Gallen I traveled to St Moritz. Considered a jet-set ski haven and brilliantly situated in the Alps, St Moritz is itself architecturally undistinguished. All the major high-brow stores have their locations here so if you wish to pick up the latest creation from renowned jewelers, Cartier in between ski runs it only takes money. Besides German you'll hear Italian which along with French and Romansh make up the four official languages of Switzerland.

St Moritz also serves as one of the starting points of the Glacier Express where I find myself this morning. Playfully called the "slowest express train in the world" it actually started rather briskly at 9:02 in the morning. A few minutes later we made our first stop reminding us that this is at its root a working train yet one provided with special "panorama cars" with picture windows for us the wide eyed tourist. As luck would have it the weather did its part and it turned out to be a beautiful day with the sun shining over snow covered alpine meadows ... a glorious day for a train ride with each turn, tunnel and bridge a new picture is presented.

Each small village begs the question, how do these people make a living and what sacrifices must be made to live in such a beautiful locale? Mother, father, sister, brother each was carrying skis or pulling on toboggans, even grandparents seemed not immune to sliding and slushing in the snow. Hills were dotted with ski lifts and pathways turned into luge runs. Feeling removed from reality in our air-conditioned cars we longed to join the crowds. Of course playing in the snow is a lot different then having to live in it but I would rather guess that you would be hard put to gather any complaints from the local people, at least none that they would admit in mixed company! We sat gape jawed at the images seen through the windows, it seemed too perfect. I have often remarked that train travel delivers you to the backyards of society. A view a little to personal, the side of a house hidden from the street was bared open to the train traveler. On the Glacier Express all that was turned on it's engine and you were presented with the best of what was on offer.

The three railway companies of that period the VZ later the Matterhorn Gotthardbahn (BVZ), the Rhatische Bahn (RhB) and the Furka-Oberalp Railway (FOB) respectively took advantage of the tourism potential at hand with the opening of the route between the Valais and Graubunden in 1926 followed by the introduction of the through coaches Brig - Chur and Brig - St.Moritz met with a lot of interest amongst the traveling public. Yet unless they wished to be snowed in during the winter the Furka alpine route would take another 50 years before it could stay open all year long.

June 25, 1930 saw the opening of the connection between Visp and Brig allowing the Glacier Express to operate between Zermatt and St.Moritz for the first time. To cater to the well healed travelers elegant salon coaches and dining cars were introduced on the route between St.Moritz and Disentis. Whilst the VZ and RhB were already equipped with state-of-the-art electric locomotives the "Crocodiles". The Furka-Oberalp Railway was still working with steam engines (HG 3/4), which were sent to Vietnam in 1947 only to be recalled back to Switzerland during the 1990s by enterprising promoters of the Furka alpine route for nostalgic steam-engine trips that today are more popular than ever.

At the beginning of the 1940s the Furka-Oberalp Railway was converted to electricity and on September 1, 1942 the through electric route Brig ? Disentis was officially celebrated. With the turmoil of the Second World War, express traffic was withdrawn from 1943 onwards to be reintroduced with slight changes in 1948.The Glacier Express also benefited from technological advancement during the 1950s and 1960s: faster engines produced shorter traveling times even for the "world's slowest express train". Construction work on the Furka basis tunnel between Oberwald and Realp began in 1973 and service could finally start through the tunnel on 26 June 1982: the Glacier Express now runs all year round! Today tourists are carried in modern air-conditioned panorama coaches.

57th International Toy Fair

57th International Toy Fair Nürnberg Like most boys growing up in the United States my first train set was from Lionel. Who actually got the set, my brother or myself is a mystery lost in time. What is known is that I was the one that caught the lifetime addiction. It lay dormant for then next few decades but re awoke while I was stationed in Germany. Not able to purchase anything during that time on a soldier's income I saved the impulse till my finances had sufficiently improved. What did occur was that I developed a love for all things German and I vowed that if I ever were to build a layout it would run German trains.
My first real layout used Kato track and was built in the bottom part of a trundle bed. Needless to say since it wasn't my own bed operating sessions had to be arranged! After my last move the layout went into storage until my attention shifted from slot cars back to model railroads. It might never happen except for two things. When rooms were allocated in our new room I was given one of the bedrooms and the washroom. The washroom is still waiting to be fitted into a darkroom but the bedroom was built into a library with dark cherry wood floors and built in bookcases. The built in bookcases were soon supplemented with modular bookcases also dark cherry. This would form the foundation for my new layout. 57th International Toy Fair Nürnberg
57th International Toy Fair Nürnberg
57th International Toy Fair Nürnberg

My work takes me all over the world but the majority of my contracts are in North America. It just so happened that my last major contract was in Vancouver, Canada. I mention this because one of the leading retailers of European (German) model railroad equipment is located in Langley, BC. Which was approximately 45 minutes and $500 dollars from my apartment downtown. I don't think that I ever left his store with less than a half century debit on my check card! It all started with a DCC starter set from Fleischmann and degenerated into additional locomotives from Minitrix. Soon I had a halfway decent roster looking for a permanent layout to run on. The trundle bed was no longer an option but my library offered an answer to my dilemma. I would build my empire on top of a set of bookcase that I have along one side. Designing what I am sure is an over-complicated track plan I vow to have everything up and running before I add scenery but unlike my fried Doug, scenery they'll be, since that's one of the areas I enjoy best. This weekend I will begin the installation of my yard which includes a turntable, a six-seven stall roundhouse and various service tracks. I will build the layout as a set of modules and wire each one before progressing to the next. I will also eventually have working catenary on DC.

I was staying outside of Nurnberg in a small Gasthof and Monday would be my first day at the Fair. After a few beers I was able to was the "taste" of English food from my mouth as well as my memory. I rented a minivan, or at least that's what they gave me and I was on my way bright and early. I was able to score a press pass thanks to the last minute efforts of the afore mentioned expat South African, I had a vendor pass tucked away just in case. The exhibition hall is quite large and is used for several international as well as national trade fairs. This was the 57th Toy Fair and is used by many toy manufacturers as a stage to announce their new toys. The other main purpose of the fair is for manufacturers and distributors to meet with their clients, toy stores as well as hobby shops.  At the beginning of year train shops must order their inventory for the rest of the year with regards to new items. There's quite a rush on and it must be nerve wracking for the shops to have to guess what they will sell regarding inventory that is brand new. There is a quota system with some manufacturers I think including LGB and Marklin where you are judged on what you sold the previous year. How well you did will move you up the line in getting the new stuff. Obviously you'll still be ordering later in the year but availability on exclusive items will be at a premium and to stay in the good graces of your more demanding customers they'll expect their new toys or go somewhere else. 

It's hard to describe the Toy Fair as anything but huge. There must have been close to a dozen halls. I would concentrate on the model railway and hobby construction areas. All the major brands were here of course, their displays running into the millions. In fact despite the dire reports regarding the hobby in Germany this seemed where the fanciest displays were led by LGB. This year one hall was devoted entirely to official 2006 World Cup toys launched on the market by soccer's world governing body FIFA, which is expected to earn some two billion euros ($2.4 billion). I didn't want to visit this hall as I'm trying to ignore the Cup until the semi-finals so I won't get disappointed by the perennially under-achieving Dutch team. So I'll have to take their word for it. I did of course visit the halls display Model Construction / Hobbies, Model Railways & Accessories, and Mechanical & Electronic Toys. That was enough to walk myself lame after only 2 days. According to the organizers there are two product groups at the International Toy Fair in Nürnberg that are visited by almost every (male) buyer, even though he has nothing to do with them professionally: Model Railways and Model Construction.  With development costs of around 1 million euros for a new locomotive this means the manufacturers are faced with enormous investment costs every year. A share of some 60 % for manual work is a burden on the production costs and leads to the situation today where even large manufacturers have an increasing number of parts or whole models produced in Asia or Eastern Europe. It also means that these people take their toys seriously. One thing I noticed was that there is a thriving market at the museum quality end of the train hobby spectrum. Manufacturers such as KISS Micro-Metakit Dingler Regner displayed models that were breathtaking. It's a good thing none of them model in N or I would have left my wallet in Germany.

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Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Motive Power - Tank Locomotive of the DRG Class 98.3

Prototype: German State Railroad Company class 983, 0-4-0T design, built starting in 1909 for the Royal Bavarian State Railroad (PtL 2/2), nicknamed ”Glaskasten” (”Glass Box”).

Use: Branch lines.

Model: Era II, with jackshaft, diecast metal locomotive body, 2 axles powered. Length over buffers 45 mm / 1-3/4”. DCC

The comparably roomy engineer’s cab is to thank for this affectionate name. The cab surrounded a large part of the boiler and its luxurious glassed in area gave the engineer a good view of the tracks in both directions. Partially automatic coal firing enabled economical one-man operation of these locomotives. This meant they were predestined for light weight branch line service.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Selecting a Track Plan

Unlike our four wheeled friends a model train layout does not lend itself to temporary layouts or heaven forbid running on a rug. Given that limitation there must be at least a a couple dozen books with nothing but track plans that vary anywhere from a simple oval to huge walk-around plans. Being limited to my library I was on the lookout for a decent bookshelf layout that I would not soon tire of. I had always thought of myself as more of a "passenger guy" rather than a "freight guy". That is until I canvassed my roster and found that most of my locomotives would be happier hauling freight. In the United States and I suspect the same goes for the UK and Europe it is the freight customer that pays the bill. In the US more than other country train travel is a shadow of what it once was and most modellers being more familiar with seeing long freight trains lashed to multi-unit consists naturally choose to represent the same type of trains on their layout. What I have decided upon is a layout that would support both freight and passenger traffic, a fair bit of switching yet would allow me the pleasure of just watching the trains run. Now it was just a matter of finding that "perfect" layout. Oh did I mention that it had to fit on a bookshelf? The layout pictured, with some modification should fit the bill. Some notes on the track plan: Rip Track - A track set aside that allows for "Repair In Place". Team Track - A track in a freight yard where loaded cars are dropped off and picked up by different trains, usually between incomming or ougoing freight and local trains. Classification Track - A track where trains are disconnected and reassembled based on their destination. Hump - In a hump yard (also called Marshaling Yard or Classification Yard), the highest point in the yard where cars are released to coast toward the correct track.

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Train Room

If you happen to peruse any issue of Model Railroader or similiar magazine you're greeted with featured layouts belonging to lucky modelers from various parts of the country often with one very important thing in common, a large basement. This is something not often found in modern houses built in Northern California. Here you are more likely to see part of a garage that has been converted into a train room. Neither option was open to me and having been given my allotment of personal space which became a library that left me little choice for a location for my future pike. For the last few years I thought my dream would have to wait until which time I could afford a vacation house. One day while sitting in my library the thought came to me that I could build a decent layout on top of one of my bookcase as long as the blinds stayed closed and the sun wasn't allowed to melt all of my buildings. With this small caveat in hand I struck out to design my modellbahn. The following pictures show the state of my library a couple of years ago. Since then I have added more books as well as bookcase but still there is a location next to the window where I plan on building my layout.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Motive Power - Serie Ae 8/14 (SBB)

Prototype: Swiss Federal Railways (SBB) class Ae 8/14. (1´A)A1A(A1´)+ (1´A)A1A(A1´)wheel arrangement, built starting in 1931.

Use: Heavy freight trains on the Gotthard route. Model: Era IV.

The rail lines in Switzerland with their grades, tunnels, bridges, and curves are a special challenge for the locomotives that travel over them. Mastering the 240 kilometer / 150 mile Gotthard line in particular demanded extraordinarily powerful locomotives over the years. A freight locomotive, the Crocodile, became famous on this line. The largest and most powerful locomotives were however the three class Ae 8/14 electric locomotives. They were developed in the 1930s just for the demanding requirements of this steeply graded line. Each of these double locomotives had a weight of 240 metric tons. The 8 traction motors for the locomotive gave a starting tractive effort of 50 metric tons and an hourly output of 7,500 horsepower that was transmitted by the proven Buchli drive system from the Ae 4/7.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Vintage Railroad Posters

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Motive Power - Rail Car of the K.P.E.V.

Prototype: Powered rail car train 833/834 of the K.P.E.V. wheel arrangement 0-4-2 + B-2 + 0-4-2, built starting 1914.

Use: Main lines and branch lines, in part with additional passenger or freight cars.

Model: Era I, with digital connector, motor with flywheel, with close coupling between the units, 2 powered axles, 4 traction tires. Length over buffers 267 mm / 10-1/2”.

From Nieder Salzbrunn to Halbstadt In Silesia the constantly increasing number of passengers at the end of the Kaiser era could no longer be handled with the standard trains for the period. Consequently the KPEV procured a total of six three-part powered rail car trains in 1914, which were designed for the special line characteristics of numerous grades and narrow radii. The trains, which were initially designated as E.T. 501-506 had a striking visual design, which was based on the usual passenger train car of the time with fanlights, solebar truss, and recessed doors. The motor car positioned in the middle between the two cab control cars, guaranteed good running characteristics, even in particularly narrow and curving sections of the line.

Motive Power - Electric loco of the DB, class 194

During the thirties of the 20th century, the development of the electric loco made several large strides, in particular, with the new classes E 18, E 44 and E 93 modern locomotives were now available which were powerful and yet low-maintenance. The more powerful version of the E 93, represents one of the most famous locos of the German electric loco history – the E 94 was born. As opposed to the most famous E 93, the new loco was required to produce a top speed of 90 km/h at the same rate of perfomance. This meant an overall improvement of 30 per cent increased motive power would be necessary. On the 22nd November 1937, the makers AEG received a development and delivery contract for the newly titled E 94 loco from the Reichsbahn, to be made to fulfil the following running programme: 600 t at 50 km/h on a 25 Promille gradient • 1.000 t at 50 km/h on a 16 Promille gradient • 1.600 t at 40 km/h on a 10 Promille gradient and 2000 t at 85 km/h on the flat. Because of its top speed of 90 km/h the loco could be used on many more duties, thus permitting its use on express trains and fast goods as well as its basic duty of heavy goods hauage. July 1988 saw the DB getting rid of the last German "crocodile" (now: BR 194) whereas the DR (East) their service was ended at the end of 1991.

Monday, October 03, 2005


Welcome to Schwarzburg Modellbahn, an N Scale digital layout based on a medium sized town in Southern Germany. The actual layout is located in Union City, California. Why model German prototype you may ask? The short answer is that after living in Germany for four years courtesy of the United States Army I developed a deep affection for all things German, particularly their model railroads. So when I decided to build my own layout it wasn't a question of what I would model but rather what scale would I select. Because of my limited space the choice was between N or Z. While I love Marklin I didn't want to limit myself to one company and when I first started with N there was Arnold, Roco, Fleischmann and Minitrix. Unfortunately that selection has shrunk to Fleischmann and Minitrix. The space I mentioned is in my library on top of one of my bookcases. The dimensions of the layout is approximately 30" X 90" in the shape of a dog bone, the narrowest part being 15". Control is supplied by Fleischmann's Twin-Centre DCC system with some Viessmann and Uhlenbrock thrown in for good measure. The current status of my layout is that I have purchased most of the track and associated components and will shortly commence on the building of the benchwork that will be placed on top of the bookshelf.