My wife gave me a few hours off from family duty last Saturday—it was my 54th birthday—so I could drive up to Frankfurt to attend the U.S. Model Railroader convention in Rodgau, a town southeast of Frankfurt. After living here two years it the first time I was able to get away and spend some time at a modeling event.
It was a really neat show. It was something like a U.S. RPM meet, with a lot of vendors and a couple of manufacturers, but unlike U.S. RPM meets there were no clinics, no model displays, and nothing resembling a historical society. And unlike RPM meets, there were a couple of thousand people there watching, buying, learning and enjoying.
What this event did have was A LOT of layouts. There were about 30 layouts on display in three large rooms in the hall, brought by modelers from Luxembourg, France, Belgium, Finland, Croatia, The Netherlands, and of course Germany. Just about every scale was represented; several layouts were narrow gauge.
All of the layouts were completely finished and everything operated well. Every layout had staging on one or both ends, sound-equipped locomotives and features, and they all had a very well-defined theme or setting. They were all very entertaining in their own way. Many had operating signal systems. Not surprisingly the majority of the layouts featured a western US theme with modern diesels.
There were about 20 vendors plus the NMRA table. Here are some photos of the layouts. The layout below was called Florida Switching and was an obvious knock-off of the Lance Mindheim Miami theme, but it was in N scale and built on a very narrow shelf. It was nicely done and very prototypical, and was a nice tribute to Lance’s popular work.
The two photos above are of my friend Alain Kap’s layout, which measures about 2 x 6 and has staging on one end. Alain is president of the NMRA European Division and has earned his Master Model Railroader certificate. Below. Bush Terminal was a neat, well-built switching layout in about five Placehosquare feet. Kinda like a “pizza” layout but a little bigger, with a ton of switching.
There were a few “how-to” clinics going on. This fellow was showing how to use MIG paints…
…and this lady was hard at work painting figures. She was doing really nice work.
The Flaggtone East Terminal was pretty novel in a few ways. First, it simulates a night operating scenario, and second it was Z scale. It was outstanding.
The layout below came from Finland. Yep, it’s Lionel Scale but it was cool–and loud–and about four times bigger than the photo shows.
“Beans”, below, was an interesting layout. It was very long, about 16 meters or about 50 feet. These guys had multiple trains running from a huge, fully-scenicked yard around the layout to a few town sites, and back again. All this was done in a very over-the-top western U.S. theme.
Below. The Feather River Canyon layout was a single-scene layout with zero switching. These guys simply model a main track with a single passing track in the Feather River canyon and that’s it. The layout featured very good, completed scenery, operating signals, and modern trains taking the siding or flying through the canyon. It was simple and very captivating. Very prototypical. There was a staging yard behind the layout but I didn’t get a look at it.
From big to small. This fellow had beautiful TT-scale trains in a guitar case. He had lots of international awards and has apparently taken the layout everywhere. I really liked the size of the TT scale trains. They were a little smaller than HO.
Above. This was one of two layouts that stood out. This layout came all the way from Croatia, and had a working car ferry. The crew would run a train around the layout, which was about 40 feet, to a car ferry port. They would load the ferry, and then the ferry would move across the layout to a port on the opposite side of the layout. You can see the water on the other side of the layout. It was about 20 feet. The moving car ferry was pretty cool–I’ve never seen anything like it.
Below. Here’s the car ferry. It’s unfinished but considering the rest of the layout, it’ll be nicely finished soon.
And finally, here’s a photo of the ferry loaded and underway. It was slow, but operated nicely.
Below. This was the N scale Escondido Row, another western switching layout. Behind the layout was a huge staging yard.
Mara Harbour, below, came from France, and was an excellent layout. It was a large scale, narrow gauge layout that featured lots of custom-built buildings in a harbor setting. Think Malcolm Furlow.
Stirmouth, below, was pretty much the same as Mara Harbour, only this large-scale, narrow gauge layout was set in the mountains of the western U.S.
I unfortunately did not take the opportunity to photograph the Ferrocandill Andiso, but I wish I had. This was a medium-size narrow-gauge HO layout set in Mexico (or elsewhere in Central or South America). I have never seen a model of such a prototype; the equipment was unique and I like it because it was just different. The operators were using a little railbus to move cars around and it was completely different than any layout I’ve ever seen.
And finally…here is my hands-down favorite. This was the N scale Cleveland & Eastern, which was brought by a five-man team by layout owner Mike Ross. I thought this layout best captured the U.S. theme because the scenery and features just looked American and not “over-the-top” like most of the other layouts. Everything—the trains, scenery, backdrop, etc.—seemed to blend together perfectly. The layout is actually part of Mike’s home layout, and he has constructed a portable setting for this part of the layout so it can be brought to shows.
Here are a few more photos of Mike’s layout.
Here’s one of the stub-end staging yards, below.
And here is Mike. I was sure he was an American because his work looked “native”. But he’s a Deutscher. He was a great guy—very friendly.
And since I have the bandwidth, Mike markets a beautiful line of N scale signal and other equipment. The working PRR position-light signals are amazing. The guy is a terrific modeler!
So what did I learn? I learned to make sure I FINISH my layout, and that I have to get more serious about the details (note that I wrote “the details” and not “details”, because I think a lot of modelers skip “the details” and over-do details). The details are what separates a good layout from a great layout.
Hope you enjoyed as much as I did. – John G
4 thoughts on “No. 67: US-Modellbahn Convention Rodgau”
Thanks for sharing this John. I agree the C&E is well done. Excellent presentation and modeling.
Nice post. I think Mike’s name is Mike Holly, not Ross.
By Holly, you’re right! Bad reporting on my part. Thanks Bernie! John G
Thanks for sharing this, John. A couple of things stand out for me.
Notably, the presentation is excellent. Most of these layouts feature an integrated valance with lighting, to control the viewer’s experience of the layout. Most layouts I see in exhibition in North America do not feature this, so the modeling is at the mercy of the venue lighting.
Also, I find it interesting that a number of the layouts are extremely shallow. Benchwork appears to be about 12″ deep. I assume this decision is made so that one can fit more into a vehicle to transport to a show – a 12″ module depth might let a person store two or three stacks of module sections in a vehicle, instead of just one – so the result would be a longer run. Given that trains are long and skinny by nature, I think this is a great idea (at least, for HO and N scales): it really does let one focus on the details of the RoW.
– Trevor (Achievable Layouts blog & Port Rowan in 1:64)