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entry 19 Sep 2013, 21:42
We now leave the Switzerland section for a short time to visit a very small piece of Bavaria and the airport.

This first photo is of a model of a very large boat lift but I have no idea where the prototype is located. If you like lots of steel and girders, then this is for you:

Tucked away in a corner where the light is very low, is this stunning model of Schloss Neuschwannstein. This castle built in the late 19th century by King Ludwig II of Bavaria pre-dates and out Disneys Disney.

The east front

We visited the castle earlier in the summer during our vacation in Bavaria:

You can read more about the castle on Wikipaedia - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neuschwanstein_Castle

The reason why the castle is tucked away in a corner is that the rest of the space is taken up by a model of an airport. The first section you see is the cargo handling area. When I arrived an EVA Air Jumbo was being pushed back from the stand. I have a soft spot for EVA Air as I once flew to Taipei on business with them. My memories are of films all the way which made me feel like my brain had been turned to mush - I seem to remember Phantom of the Opera was one film, Hotel Ruanda, Coach Carter... And I watched them change the front wheel at Bangkok..

The tug returns to the stand once the aircraft has reached the taxi way.

This building is model of the Lufthansa technical centre at Hamburg airport. If you arrived by plane you will probably recognise it. If you haven't then you can spot it from the top of the tower of the Dom church which is about a kilometre from Miniature Wonderland

Most of the other side of this display area is taken up by the passenger terminal

Among the planes is this Thai Air Airbus A380

The airport also features another of the modelling team's jokes.

There is a steady stream of aircraft queuing to take off

The landside of the airport is even busier

There are two multistorey carparks. This airport could be any airport anywhere, it looks so familiar.

This is probably the most popular part of Miniature Wonderland with people standing two deep to watch planes taking off and landing. With a bit of patience I was able to get close enough to get this video footage. If you have the bandwidth, try the 1080HD full screen

The time was now approaching noon. I had entered Miniature Wonderland at about 9:40 and I had only completed two sections...

 | Category: Model Exhibitions
entry 5 Sep 2013, 21:58
This photo record of my trip to the Hamburg Miniature Wonderland continues with the second part of the Switzerland section.

Another model of a castle - this is one I don't recognise:

A quadruple headed freight spotted on the line below the castle:

I have a particular liking for Re460s in their various advertising guises. There are quite a few on the layout and this one had actually stopped so I was able to take a photo which is in focus.

A view back along Belloszona station from the foot of the stairs which lead up to the 4th floor. There is a particularly long coal train passing through the station at the bottom.

Part way up the stairs there are small "portholes" which reveal yet more models. This is of an underground station:

Climb another couple of steps and you pass this scene which puts the "Wunder" into Miniature Wonderland. It's a bit blurry because of the slow shutter speed but you get the picture.

There's a landing about two thirds the way up which just below the level of the 3rd floor ceiling. Looking back down to the entrance to the Switzerland section, you see this metre gauge station. Judging by the Golden Pass train, this is based on the line from Zweisimmen to Montreux which I travelled a few years ago.

Continuing on up the stairs this high mountain pass looms on the left. The cars appear to be selected to form a vintage run of the Mille Miglia.

On the opposite side of the stairway is this town which contains buildings from St. Moritz. The railings in the background are where visitors on the fourth floor can look down into Switzerland on the third floor.

One of steps has been left hollow so that trains can pass from one side to the other. These guys are masters at creating features you remember so that you tell your friends...

Even though we have now reached the fourth floor, there is still a large mountain for the trains to climb

Another metre gauge station

The houses in this village are typical of those found in the farthest reaches of the Graubunden

This last photo of the Switzerland section evokes, in a rather concentrated way, how the RhB lines wind their ways up and down valleys such as the Albula and the Bernina.

That's completed the section on Switzerland. Next is a brief visit to Bavaria followed by the airport.

 | Category: Model Exhibitions
entry 1 Sep 2013, 21:47
Early this year my wife informed me that a friend with whom she shares a common interest had discovered a four day course which was to take place in northern Germany, or to be more specific be based in Hamburg. I would not be attending the course but she thought it would be nice if I accompanied her to Hamburg in any case. As a railway modeller, I did not need to be asked twice for I knew about the Hamburg Miniature Wonderland but had never quite worked out how to incorporate a visit to Hamburg as part of a holiday. Now that problem had been solved for me smile.gif

The Hamburg Miniature Wonderland is based in three floors of a former early 20th century warehousing complex known as "Speicherstadt". This is located on the northern Elbe close to the city centre. At about 9:30 am on Tuesday August 27th, I arrived...

The entrace is situated on the second floor. The first model area is on the third floor. At the time of my visit, construction of the new Italy section was in its very early stages. As an appetiser for the main event, there was a series of small diaramas each about 3ft square depicting the change in human use of a small piece of geography starting with settled village from pre-history, passing through medieval, renaissance, enlightenment, industrial revolution, first world war and second world war periods. Above each diarama there was a slide show with captions in english highlighting points of interest. It probably took me about an hour to work my way through this area.

The Miniature Wonderland "proper" begins with Switzerland. As you come through the door and wait for your turn to get a place at the barrier (there have been 10 million visitors so far) you see this model of a Swiss station with mountains towering up behind it rising into the floor above.

The trains are just a small part of the landscape as you can see from this hillside and vineyards

Another view of the station. There is a model of the Loetschburg tunnel car train to the left of the picture.

The mountains are rugged and tall and some of the bridges are higher still.

The light levels are quite low so it is difficult to take "fast" photos with a multi purpose zoom lens. Most moving trains appear a bit blurred but this shot of the Glacier Express has just about come out ok.

There are lots of "little jokes" scattered about the Miniature Wonderland. These three road rollers all move back and forth along the road, including the one at the rear of the group.

There are some nice intimate scenes such as this river valley in among the big set pieces. The bridge sort of obscures the fuzziness of the double headed crocodiles. The branch line also carries a large number of trains; they are not just decorations.

The days are short in Miniature Wonderland - about 15 minutes. When the lights go down, scenes such as this rock concert come alive.

This interesting BLS double unit was stopped on the branchline so I was able to get a reasonably good photo.

I'm not sure everything is quite to full scale. The Wonderland is more a memoir than an exact replica. I am sure that Chateau Chillon near Montreau was larger than this when I saw it a couple of years ago. I still wanted the photo and had to wait quite some time to get a clear shot which did not have someones hand or camera in the way!

There is some very nice modelling on show, such as this mountain village.

That's all for now. I think it is going to take some time to work my way through the photos, selecting the good ones, resizing, uploading and then adding some text. I've no idea how long the process will take but it's not going to be quick. Whilst I particularly like Switzerland and its trains and may have taken rather a lot of photos, other areas in Wonderland include - more Switzerland, Bavaria, the airport, Austria, middle Germany, Hamburg, Scandinavia and the USA.

Thanks for looking. Check back in a few days for the next installment.


 | Category: Rail trips in Europe
entry 30 Oct 2012, 22:03
To wrap the selection of railway photos taken during our summer vacation in the Austrian Tyrol, here are a few "random" photos which didn't fit geographically with previous entries

Unlike our last trip to Munich, this time we drove but we still visited the Hauptbahnhof, mostly to find the model railway shop named Gleis 11 which as it turns out is correctly named. We walked through the front entrance of the station where this visitor "Spirit of Budapest" from Austria was having its windscreen washed

This loco was paired with the driving trailer "Spirit of Switzerland"

The Gleiss 11 model railway store is just behind me in this photo. We didn't buy anything there but established that like almost all other model shops on the Continent, Roco was on sale for 10% off list price.

The rest of the trains at the station were various versions of ICE. The days of loco hauled passenger trains in Germany seem to be over.

A few days later we visited Salzberg. The station is some way from the old town and the outside is still something of a building site as it undergoes a face lift. There weren't many trains in but I did get this photo of what I assume is a privately run service from Westbahn.

It appears to be a new generation of double decker Inter City trains. I'm not sure that white is the best colour for the front. Maybe they need to borrow the cleaner from Munich? wink.gif

The last photos were taken from the castle at Kufstein on the border with Bavaria. It is located in a gap in the Alps where the river Inn flows north into Germany. The town had been fought over by the forces of the Tyrol and Bavaria for a long time. The castle though impressive has been captured on several occasions, most notably by a force of Bavarians climbing through a very small gatehouse window, thereby bypassing a long, easily defended, stone covered zig zag walkway.

The last change of "ownership" occurred when the Tyrol was returned to Austria as part of the "Congress of Vienna" which took place at the end of the Napoleanic wars in 1814, Napolean having gifted the Tyrol to Bavaria following his defeat of the Austrians a few years previously.

The castle's claim to fame today is as the home of the World's largest free standing organ - the heldenorgel. The organ is played at 12 noon every day and can be heard across the town.

The railway station at Kufstein is built across the river from the old town on the west bank.

This photo shows how the river Inn suddenly swings north to flow out of Austria into Germany.

The regional passenger train in the photo will also continue into Germany and travel on to Salzburg by what the timetable calls "The DB Corridor".

And that concludes the final set of railway photos from our summer vacation. I hope they have been of some interest.

 | Category: Rail trips in Europe
entry 6 Oct 2012, 09:58
Along with the Simplon in the west, the Gotthard in the centre, the Brenner Pass in the east of the Alps is one of the major transit routes between northern and southern Europe. Unlike the other two passes, there are no tunnels at the summit of the Brenner for either road or rail. Instead there is a small village, a freight staging yard, a rolling road terminal and a factory outlet shopping centre! The shopping centre is of a medium size and similar to outlet centres in the UK - http://www.dob-brennero.com/de/index.php. For railway enthusiasts on travelling on vacation with less enthusiastic partners it provides the perfect balance of shoe / bag shopping and freight train shopping. The adjacent multi storey car park provides a good viewing point.

Access to the Brenner Pass is straight forward from Innsbruck. Either take the motorway or do as we did and take the original road and view the motorway from below. It is an easy drive compared to the switchbacks found further west in Switzerland.

Rail activity is intensive and 30 minutes is enough to provide quite a show.

This signal box at the summit appears to have been abandoned

The view south into Italy

A rolling road train about to unload - the view is north into Austria

The train has been unloaded and reloaded. A second train has arrived and been unloaded. The video at the end of the blog shows the loading process

The loading area is very simple - a concrete apron and a couple of ramps.

Some motive power on standby

The border

A distant shot of a Taurus trying to pass itself off as a steam locomotive. We saw this loco on our cycling trip in the Inn valley but did not have a camera to hand at the time.

Italian motive power on the Italian side

An original building still in use

A video of the rolling road terminal - see if you can spot when the incoming train unloads smile.gif

 | Category: Rail trips in Europe
entry 21 Sep 2012, 22:14
The city of Innsbruck lies at the junction of the Inn valley and the valley which leads the Brenner pass. Although there is a junction off the Inn valley to the Brenner pass a few miles east of Innsbruck there is still a large marshalling yard in Innsbruck itself. The true extent of Innsbruck Hbf is best seen from one of the valley sides. The photo below was taken from the top of the ski jump tower which dominates the southern sky line of the city.

I don't normally upload photos at full size (5M bytes!) but I think this one deserves it
Attached Image

Now that's what I call a train set! Some orientation:

The view is looking north from the top of the Bergisel (sky jump).
The eastbound line leaves the north of the station crossing the river Inn before swinging east in the direction of Kufstein on the border with Germany.
The westbound line leaves the south west corner of the station turning sharp left in the photo to head through Innsbruck West before continuing up the Inn valley. The line will then swing north through the Arlberg before heading east again to reach Bregenz on Lake Constanz (Bodensee).
The southbound (Brenner pass) Line also exits in the south west corner of the photo but continues south.
The passenger section of the station is on the western side of the station with the main city centre about 10 minutes walk further west from there.
There is a loco and emu depot at the southern end of the station. There appears to be a half roundhouse just north of the road bridge. Unfortunately the footpath on that side of the bridge is blocked off so it cannot be seen on foot.

We didn't see any freight trains heading for the Brenner Pass by this route.

Innsbruck West station is a good size in its own right. Off duty passenger train sets are stabled here. In this photo you can just make out a Railjet set.

Whilst you cannot walk the northern side of the road bridge over the southern end of the station, there is a path on the other side which gives good views of the maintenance depot and neighbouring tracks. The Bergisel and ski jump can be seen in the background.

It's also a chance to see the "roof gardens" of electric locos such as this four pantograph equipped Taurus

Moving a few paces further west and we get this view of the line heading south up the Brenner Pass and the more frequently used west bound line curving away sharply to the right

And now we can see the side of the previously photographed Taurus.

Can you see the two maintenance guys in their nice clean blue boiler suits - hi vis is not required here it seems.

A westbound Talent EMU takes the tight curve to Innsbruck West. There is a junction off the line further up the valley which takes trains through the mountains to Garmish Partenkirchen in Germany and finally to Munich but not the Hbf.

At first sight, this is a "so what?" photo but if you look closer you will notice that the track in the centre of the photo is very new compared to the weed strewn track to the north. An interesting feature to model and save on paint?

Diesel shunters are more likely to be seen at the northern end of the station where they shunt wagons back and forth in the marshalling yard. This one seems to have strayed.

The following photos were taken on a previous trip to Innsbruck in July 2009

An early morning car transporter train arrives in Innsbruck from the east.

An early morning DB ICE service to Munich Hbf. This service was still running in 2012 but a bit too pricey compared with driving for two.

entry 29 Aug 2012, 21:38
The Austrian Tyrol region is sandwiched between Germany to the north and Italy to the south. The river Inn has pierced the northern Alps into Germany at Kufstein which provides an easy entry for trains from Bavaria and beyond. The relatively short and shallow climb to the Brenner pass (1,370m) completes the route into Italy. This route through the Alps has been in use since Roman times with the first rail route being completed in 1867. The rail line has been joined by the E45 motorway and together they carry a very large volume of freight between northern and southern Europe.

The road and rail routes are not the only modes of transport which make of the Inn valley. There is also a cycle path which largely follows the river but for a couple of kilometres near the village of Terfens, it is directly beside the railway. These photos and video were taken over a 45 minute period by the side of the line.

The Okombi company operates a Rola piggy back lorry shuttle train from Worgl to the Brenner pass. The train has a locomotive at each end. In this case the lead locomotive heading for the Brenner is a Taurus

This particular service is not quite full but after some empty wagons, the lorries appear

The rear of the train has the drivers' coach and the banking engine. On arrival at the top of the Brenner pass, this loco will act as a shunter and take the coach out of the way so the lorries can unload.

The one way fare for a 44 tonne truck is 189 Euro... ohmy.gif which makes you wonder what the toll on the Brenner pass motorway is...

The freight traffic on the line is quite varied. This is an aggregates train

which also has a banking engine

Inter city services also feature on the line. This is a "standard" service

Unfortunately no Railjet or DB ICE services passed during our 45 minutes, though a Railjet did pass us once we had remounted our bikes and resumed our journey back to Innsbruck sad.gif

Local passenger services are provided by Talent multiple units.

To finish, here's a short video

 | Category: Rail trips in Europe
entry 16 Aug 2012, 21:09
The Achensee is located a few miles north of Jenbach in the Inn valley in the Tyrol in western Austria. It shares many characteristics with other long slim Alpine lakes - pretty villages, footpaths and steamers for trips which make it a magnet for tourists, and where there are tourists there are often rack railways to take them to the top of some mountain or other. There the similarities end for the Achenseebahn brings tourists up from Jenbach in the Inn Valley to Seespitz on the lakeside where there is a pier for taking to the water.

The Achenseebahn operates the line with steam locomotives. The terminus at Jenbach is on the northern side of the OBB station, the opposite side to the Zillertalbahn which was the subject of the previous blog entry. It is also rather more expensive than a trip on the Zillertalbahn so we travelled to the Achensee by road. We parked near the village of Pertisau and walked back to Seespitz along the lakeside path. When we arrived loco number 4 "Hannah" was waiting to start her return trip back down the valley to Jenbach.

I have a fascination for steam powered rack engine, particularly the way the rack and wheels are driven as this short video shows.


 | Category: Rail trips in Europe
entry 2 Aug 2012, 20:26
The Zillertalbahn in the Austrian Tyrol links Jenbach in the Inn valley with the ski resort of Mayrhofen which is situated at the point where the flat valley floor ends. It is a diesel hauled narrow gauge line but during the summer one train a day is steam hauled. The fare is reasonable for the trip and takes just over an hour and a half. Some of that time is taken up by being overtaken by the regular diesel hauled service.

Jenback is about 30km east of Innsbruck and the railway is about two minutes from the Jenbach motorway junction. There is a long term car park for train passengers. The train departs at 10:30am so a holiday "lie in" is not a good idea.

The loco for our trip was No. 5 - a one hundred year old 0-6-2 tank engine

The diesels of the Zillertalbahn are not attractive to my eyes being very square with large flat surfaces.

but someone in the company has clearly managed to exploit these surfaces as advertising billboards...

The route out of Jenbach heads east alongside the mainline for a short distance. There are transfer sidings here for the standard gauge stake wagons which get loaded onto narrow gauge sleds to take wood to a sawmill in the Zillertal and return with finished timber. It then swings south over the Inn and soon heads into the Zillertal itself. The lush green vegetation betrays the amount of rain there has been.

The line heads fairly directly down the valley passing pretty villages and farms along the way

The station building at Zell-am-Ziller has been painted in a particularly bright colour

As the train heads south through Zell-am-Ziller station it passes a gym which has a large picture window looking west over the railway towards the mountains. Inside you can see a bank of tread mills facing out. Despite the wonderful walking country outside they are not empty... ohmy.gif

The village of Mayrhofen seems to be dominated by the tourist industry. There are many walking paths some of which can be completed in a couple of hours or so. This view of Mayrhofen was taken outside the Weisshaus which is about 80 minutes walk up forest tracks. The railway station is in the lower left of the picture.

We got back to the village in time for the return steam train back to Jenbach but were tempted to miss it by the lure of kaffee and kuchen in the large konditorei on the main street.

This short video gives a flavour of the trip. We travelled in an open wagon with a bench seat. It was a bit cold and everyone got at least one serious spec in an eye but the views were unimpeded by any glass.

It is possible to buy models of some of the Zillertalbahn's locos and rolling stock from Lilliput in HOe if your pockets are deep enough.


 | Category: Rail trips in Europe
entry 7 Jun 2012, 21:13
In late May 2012 we boarded a Eurostar in London bound for Brussels accompanied by our bikes for a leisurely (?) cycle tour of Flanders - Brussels, Antwerp, Ghent and Bruges. We did not expect to see much railway "action" but that's not quite how it turned out.

The trip from St. Pancras to Brussels Midi / Bruxelles Zuid takes about two hours. The journey was smooth and despite the very limited view from my seat I could see that the only the very tops of the rails were free of rust as we glided along at 300 kph.

The Eurostar is not the only international visitor to Brussels. We saw many Thalys trains and TGVs. DB ICE services were also advertised but we saw none of those. There were plenty of non high speed international services and a wide variety of train types running local and internal intercity services - some looking rather antique and others shiny and new. One of the drawbacks of travelling by bike is that once you're on the road your camera - well the good one - is packed away and inaccessible for a quick shot.

On our first full day in Antwerp we decided to visit the zoo. The route from our B&B in the Berchem district took us down the eastern side of the railway into Antwerp Central. We were quite unprepared for our first sight of it -

Arriving on the street which ran along side the railway showed that this bridge was not a "one off".

And each arch has a different mosaic as well!

We crossed under the railway and headed west looking for the entrance to the zoo. I was particularly taken by this "rock" building.

Eventually, having walked three sides of a rectangle we were confronted with the main entrance to Antwerp Central Station

The entrance to the zoo is on the left.

As the station and the zoo share a boundary, there are some marvellous views of the station to be had from the zoo gardens.

We didn't venture into the station that day which was a mistake because the good weather didn't last. When we did return a week later to visit the print museum, we arrived by train from Brussels. As it was wet, our good cameras were left in the B&B which meant the task of capturing how the original station had been hollowed out to create a three level station was left to my rather inadequate phone camera - but you should get a flavour of it.

Our through train to Amsterdam arrived on platform 23 - that's 2 for level 2 not the 23rd platform. Note that the train is travelling on the left.

One escalator down - four to go

The view from street level down to platforms 23 and 24

Our return train to Brussels would depart from platform 24. It was composed entirely of OBB and Netherlands Railways carriages with an SNCB loco. I don't know where its ultimate destination was but it was pretty full.

This photo gives an impression of the grandeur of the original building

The port of Antwerp is the second busiest in Europe after Rotterdam and the 14th in the world. The port boasts that every dock has a rail connection which inevitably means that there must be railway crossings such as this twin lifting bridge

This bridge was opened and closed several times during our harbour trip.

The port of Antwerp is continually expanding to maintain its position as one of Europe's leading ports. This allows it to service some of the World's largest container ships such as this one - each of those little bricks is the narrow end of a 40' container.

Ships such as that one will take to the river via a very large lock nearby. Minnows such as this

have to go back to the older, smaller locks and negotiate that railway bridge

although perhaps it's not so small when seen alongside it.

Some containers get transferred to small river going barges such as this one

although the term "small" is relative since each of those containers is a 40 footer.

Our cycle route out of Antwerp took us to edge of the river side docks where we had to wait while a large diesel shunter moved a very long train of transfesa wagons across an ungated crossing to yet another marshalling yard. The trip from Antwerp to Ghent was longer and more arduous than we had expected, so after a pleasant day's sight seeing in Ghent including this tramway double slip...

... we took a train from Ghent to Bruges which became rather "interesting". Ghent station does not have any passenger operated lifts and the trains run above street level. This meant removing the panniers and carrying them up the steps and then negotiating the bicycles up the escalator.

The "fun" didn't stop there. We noticed with a rising level of concern that the inter city services appeared to be comprised of "ordinary" coaching stock with no obvious bicycle provision - a somewhat unexpected state of affairs for a country where every man and his dog appears to own a bike. As it happened, our train to Ghent was composed of double decker stock which was almost worse because of the steps but by collaring the guard we were shown into the single low set door leading to the bicycle / wheelchair space on the lower level of one of the coaches. The drama didn't end there. On arrival at Bruges we discovered that the door had no user operated opening device which meant one of us dashing out onto the platform to attract the guard's attention before we got carried on to Ostend ohmy.gif

So travelling by train with bicycles in Belgium is not as easy as you might expect but it's a lot cheaper than train travel in the UK, even if you do have to buy a ticket for the bike.

For our return journey, we got the 10:56 from Brussels, arriving in St. Pancras at 12:00. We cycled to Paddington using the London cycle network which keeps you off the busy routes such as the Marylebone Road. We only had to wait five minutes for our train to leave and were home at 14:15, just four hours 20 minutes after leaving Brussels - beat that with a plane?

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