No. 164: Musée du Train, Brussels

Last Saturday I went to the Musée du Train–also known as Train World–in Brussels, Belgium. Here’s a short report.

Train World is Belgium’s brand new national railway museum. It’s headquartered in a large, retired, 1887-built station on the north side of Brussels at Schaarbeek.

Above. This former passenger station now serves as the main entrance for the museum.

Train World opened just a few years ago. It has a very-French National Railway Museum feel. It is very theatrical, with exhibits lit dramatically. There are video displays everywhere, and collections of equipment and paraphernalia all over. Unlike the French museum though, Train World is much smaller–only two large halls with a small mix of diesel, electric and steam locomotives, and that’s about it. Nevertheless it is definitely worth the trip. The trains here have “quite a track record” as their ads say.

Below. Outside the museum, clean, modern trams scurry around everywhere.

Below. It cost about ten bucks to get in. Inside the passenger station, the ticket counters are preserved with a variety of era-specific equipment, with video displays showing what this depot was like 75 years ago. Impressive, hand-made 1:20th scale steam locomotive models are enclosed in the large cases on the floor.

The rolling stock collection is housed in a few separate buildings adjacent to the station. Upon entering, one is greeted by the smell of oil and machinery—that’s how I knew I was “home”. Here’s the view:

These are completely restored, Belgian-built engines dating to 1900. Similar types were sent to China and operated there for half a century.

There are screens running video loops everywhere in the museum. On the walls, on the floor, in passenger car windows, even in fireboxes. The videos show maps and scenes of railroading in the glory days. It lends some motion, or action, to the displays.

A nice display of builder’s plates from various eras. Exactly the same as US plates, but completely different.

This track display was excellent. This short section of track includes a variety of individual displays of track from different eras, from the 1830s to today. Along the walls are all kinds of tools and equipment, signals, and signs. And like the rest of the museum, this display it dramatically lit and there are videos everywhere showing equipment in action. The section show below, on the left, is original track from the mid-late 1800s.

Here’s another photo of the track display:

The next room has the darling of the collection—a shrouded 4-4-2 still in operating condition.

The next and last bay has a display with a few diesels and electrics.

At the far end of the museum, there’s a large window where one can view the still-active five-track passenger mainline outside. I waited about a minute. Nothing. Then, three trains passed in view—all at the same time.

No train museum is complete without models. The layout is awesome but I found it interesting that they honored Belgian railroading with an Alpine setting. Shouldn’t we have rolling hills here, akin to an American Midwest layout?

Below. Here’s the most fun you can have at Musée du Train. It’s a full-up passenger train simulator. It was crowded with kids—and that was great—so I didn’t get a chance to run it myself. It’s hard to see but in this photo, the little engineer on the right is getting hands-on training with the museum-lady at left. She’s teaching him how to run the trains, obey signals and speed restrictions, and stop on target at the platform. It wasn’t easy and he missed it every time. He was having a blast trying though.

The gift shop as a restored steam engine overhead. Nice setting for a book shop!

The gift shop also has a Lego model of the museum’s station building. As a amateau Lego fan, this is very cool, and they nailed it—shape, colors and all.

After leaving, I went to the passenger platforms outside to get a few photos of passing trains. This is Schaerbeek Station—just east of the massive freight yards and steel mills in Brussels. In 20-25 minutes I saw about 15 passenger trains.

My impression? This is an excellent museum, but it’s small compared to many others. Glaringly missing is a freight car display. If you are traveling and can only pick one, head to Mulhouse, France and visit the French National Railway Museum first. It is ten times the size as Train World. Nevertheless Musée du Train was a fun day, and close to the city and great shopping and restaurants. For more info, see

Later that day I visited the Brussels Urban Transport Museum—the city trolley museum—which houses an extensive collection of trolleys, busses and equipment dating to the 1880s. That visit was a lot more fun and I’ll do a short report on that when time permits.

Hope you enjoy your weekend! – John

No. 159: 12:30 to Zermatt

Over the recent fourth of July weekend I took my family to Grachen, Switzerland for a week of Alpine hiking. Grachen is a mountain-top village a few miles away from the highest peak in the Swiss Alps, the Matterhorn.  The hiking was hard but there were breathtaking views in every direction.

Above. One of my daughters a thousand feet above Randa, which we’ll visit later. Below, the fam and I are taking a break from a hard hike up the mountain before crossing the longest pedestrian suspension bridge in the world, about 7,700 feet above Randa. The bridge is 494 metres long on the Europaweg trail.

Later, below, a Swiss Ibex on the trail. We saw many on this day. He moseyed along after a peaceful standoff.

Below. A few miles from Grachen is one of Switzerland’s most well-known ski destinations, Zermott.  We spent two days hiking from town, and after our hikes we ate, toured, shopped, and enjoyed a some of the local ambiance.

Zermott is a “car-free” town.  To get there, one takes “The BVZ”—the Brig-Visp-Zermatt Railway.  We caught the 12:30 to Zermatt here, at Randa. The Randa station is the oldest station on the BVZ–it was built in 1891.

The BVZ is a 44-kilometer-long, 3.3-meter (1000-mm) gauge electric railroad that connects the main Swiss railroad system in Visp, Switzerland—a town just outside the valley—with Zermott. The line has been in service since 1890 but is modern in every way. The BVZ is single track with traffic control and signaled sidings, plus tunnels, bridges, snow/avalanche sheds, and quiet and efficient trains. There’s even freight traffic to make things even more interesting.

Below. The BVZ features “racks” that allow trains to climb steep grades between Visp and Zermatt. A closeup of one of the racks is shown below. The racks are double-rows of steel teeth, fastened to steel ties to keep everything in perfect alignment. When trains reach the racks, a powered cog wheel is lowered from the engine to power trains uphill and secure the going downhill.

The maximum incline on the railroad for “adhesion” is 2.5%, but the rack/cog system allows climbs of up to 12.5%. Rack-less track, as seen below, is clean and well-ballasted, and full of date nails. See the weld line?

Below. Some BVZ action. Here’s a bad photo of a very fast freight headed to Zermatt. Freights regularly handle fuel, groceries, building supplies, and just about everything else needed in Zermatt. The Matterhorn is just around the corner to the right.

Below. Here’s a rear view from a Zermatt-bound train. We have entered a rack section at the end of the siding. There’s an electric switch indicator on the right–note the lit, vertical signal on the retaining wall at right.

At the top of the hill, we have exited the rack and have met not one but two trains about to head down the rack.

At the modern Zermatt dead-end terminal, the train shed included both passenger and freight trains. The little engine here is a captive Zermatt switcher.

Below. This engine type–a Deh 4/4 in the Zermatt train shed–was my favorite type I encountered. I saw these running all week on freight and passenger trains. They reminded me a little bit of old American doodlebugs. More info on the engines can be found here, but it’s all in Deutsch: A splendid picture of this engine is online at

At Zermatt the BVZ connects with a famous railway line called the Gornergrat Bahn. This 1000-mm, narrow gauge electric railway takes passengers up steep, scenic route up the mountains to a ski area. At the ski area near the top of the mountain, the line is elevated with ski tunnels underneath so skiers can “shred the GNAR” underneath the embankment.

Below. We didn’t ride the Gornergrat but I did walk past their terminal on several occasions. Here’s their engine house in Zermatt, a half kilometer from the BVZ train shed. Note all the tracks here have racks installed, even on level lines.

Below. The business end of the terminal, showing a train embarking passengers and about to head up the mountain. The complex rack track is very interesting stuff.

Below. The racks on the Gornergrat’s turnouts make them look like three-way turnouts. And, unlike the BVZ, there are no steel ties here.

Finally, we took one last train ride for our last hike of the trip. We took the Sunnegga-Rothorn funicular train, seen below, from downtown Zermatt up the mountain near Sunnega Peak, which is very near the Matterhorn. Below, we’re late and my family is scrambling to get on the train in time. Of course I’m lagging behind so I could “get the shot!”

The ride to the top was only three minutes. Here’s the view at the top:

We hiked for hours to lakes, peaks, mountain huts and more.

On the way back down the mountain, I somehow managed to get in the front car again. Halfway down the mountain there was a little passing siding, and I was able to get a photo of our “down” train meeting the “up train” in the tunnel. There it is at the right. Crazy stuff!

The Swiss love their little railways and it shows.  If you’re intereste you can read more about the BVZ and it’s Zermatt connections at .

Next time, back to modeling. – John G

No. 137: Trolleys of Prague, Czech Repulic


Over Christmas week I took the family skiing in Slovakia.  It was a 13-hour drive from Germany to the Tatras National Park in Slovakia, so we stopped halfway–in Prague, Czech Republic–to enjoy a nice evening at the Prague Christmas markets.

My son has been to Prague several times and told me all about the trolleys there.  I’m not much of a trolley fan but I was pleasantly surprised.  We stayed in a cool Air B&B on the east side of the river, overlooking the Charles Bridge, and on the morning of the 24th I got up early and walked to a little square called Malostamske Nameste to take a few “snaps”.

According to Wiki, the Prague tramway network is the largest such network in the Czech Republic, consisting of 88.5 miles of track, 931 trams and 25 daytime routes.  It was the variety of cars that caught my eye.  There are all types running–old and new–and hundreds of them.  I only railfanned (“trolley-fanned”?) for an hour and there were too many trains to count.

I took the photo below as my wife was driving into the city on the 23rd.  Driving in Prague is a nerve-wracking experience and she didn’t drive for much longer.  I’ll talk a bit more on that later.  Look at the death grip she’s got on that wheel!


Below.  I snapped a work train near our parking garage on the evening of the 23rd.


Below.  Here’s the square at Malostamske Nameste, where I was able to go on the morning of the 24th to do some proper railfanning.  This is one of the closest stops to the Charles Bridge and it’s a popular, busy stop.  If you care about car types, this is a “Modernized” Tatra T-3 according to Wikipedia.


Below.  This is an older Tatra T-3 type.  I like these cars–they seemed to be the most plentiful on the day.


Below.  Cars came to Malostamske Nameste about every five minutes.  I rarely saw mixed consists, but here is an older and newer Tatra T-3 lashed together.


Below.  These are the newest cars, made by Skoda.  I’m sure they are quiet and comfortable, and efficient, but they are also boring and un-inspirational.


As an aside, I was in Luxembourg City a few weeks earlier and took a tram into the city, again to visit a Christmas market.  Here, below, is a photo of the modern cars there.  They’re clean and comfortable, but where’s the appeal???


Back to Prague.  Here are two older cars going around the corner.  You’ve gotta really pay attention when walking and driving in the city.  There are cars, pedestrians, bikes and trolleys everywhere.  Before turning any direction you need to check over your left shoulder to make sure there’s not a tram overtaking you.


Just around the corner was a cool pass-through with the trolley on the far left, a vehicle tunnel at center, and a pedestrian walkway at right.


Below.  Here’s an old T-3 coming through the tunnel.  Yep, that’s gantry track!


Here’s the station signal.  Semaphore rules–horizontal means stop, and “forty-five” means go.  The stonework along the tracks has a cool factor of 100%.


Track is clean and well-maintained.


Midway through the morning, an old museum train came rumbling around the corner.  It was running on a regular train route.


The crew was dressed in period uniforms and using old-style conductor procedures.  This fellow was having a grand time with all the riders.  All the tourists wanted to take a snap with him, especially all the old Chinese tourists.  He was all smiles.  Also note behind the museum cars–one of the modern Skodas has caught up to the museum cars, but there are no riders.  Everybody wanted to ride the old cars.


Off they go…


Meanwhile the parade continued.  Below: The older and the new.


Here’s a view on the other side of the pass-through.  This is one of 94 Tatra KT8s on the system.  This train is heading away from us.  Note the signal at right indicating stop.


My family had a nice time in Prague, and the railfanning was a blast.  I’ll catch up on freight car modeling in the next post.


Blessings to you and your families!  – John G

No. 126: Railfanning at Lesce-Bled, Slovenia…and Finishing a Few Freight Cars

In June I took my family to Slovenia and Croatia for a little get-away after school ended.  We spent a week in Radovljica, Slovenia and then spent a couple of days at a seaside resort in Pula, Croatia.

Radovljica (pronounced Rad-ol-ska) is one of the most beautiful, pleasant places on the Earth.  We love life there.  The people are wonderful, the cost of living is low, and the scenery there–near the magnificent, unspoiled Triglev National Park–is breathtaking.  If I could move there and retire, I think I would.


One morning during our week I went to a nearby mainline railway station, Lesce-Bled–about ten minutes east of Radovljica–to photograph some mainline train action there.  I saw and photographed seven trains in less than an hour—three “scooters” (my term for local passenger trains) and four through electric freight trains.

Below.  Here’s one of the big freight trains, below, entering the siding at Lesce-Bled to wait for a scooter to pass.


Below.  One of several westbound mainline freights passing the Lesce-Bled station.   These heavy electric trains are fast and quiet, and are able to start and stop very quickly. 


Here’s a westbound scooter that appeared later in the morning.  The Lesce-Bled depot is beautiful.  The mountains in Triglav National Park can be seen in the distance.


Nearby the depot is this neat, retired freight house.  There are long loading platforms along each end.   It looks like a lot of buildings that used to line the right-of-way in the U.S….only this one is of course in the former Yugoslavia.


Just east of the depot is the ubiquitous double-slip switch.  They seem to be present everywhere in Europe.


Here is the switch stand for the double-slip.  It is a very simple, interesting arrangement.  Wouldn’t this make an interesting modeling project?


After a week in beautiful Slovenia I took my family to Croatia to spend a few days in Pula, which is an ancient Roman city on the Istrian Pensinsula on the Adriatic Sea.  While there we visited this former Roman coliseum which is remarkably intact.  Pula was alright, but we liked Slovenia a whole lot more.


2019 has been a terribly hectic, frustrating, disappointing year in a lot of ways.  Summer has been tough.  There hasn’t been much time for modeling.  Nevertheless I did finish a few models when I got back from the trip.  Here are a couple of photos.

Great Northern 31456 is an ancient Sunshine Models kit I bought on eBay.  This is an all-time favorite prototype; I have an O scale model of one as well.  I finished the model with Tahoe Model Works Andrews trucks (the prototype had Dalman-Andrews trucks), plenty of wire details, Kadee scale couplers, Miscrscale decals, and Tru Color paint.  I weathered the car with artist’s oil wash that I described in an earlier post, found here at


Here’s another Great Northern car–this one a more familiar double-sheathed prototype.  The model is from Westerfield.  I finished it with Tru Color paint and Microscale decals, and weathered it with the artist’s oil wash and highlighted many of the boards with artist’s pencils.  I used Aim weathering powders on the roof and then gave the whole car a shot of Testors dark tan to grime-up the underbody.


Here’s a better view of the roof weathering.


Finally, I finished my new Rapido NP box car.  I ordered the car online but the guy sent me the wrong paint scheme even though I was very clear about what I wanted.  What a hassle–it would cost me too much to ship it back, so I sandblasted it ordered Microscale decals, and finished it the way I wanted.  Here’s the model I got, below; it’s beautifully finished but the paint is incorrect for my modeling era.


I sandblasted my model, painted it with Tur Color paint, and decaled the car per prototype photos in the RP Cyc series of books.  I replaced the trucks with Tahoe Model Works trucks–and that was it.  The rest of the model is factory-finished.


So, those are the three new cars that joined the fleet in late June.  I’m very much looking forward to seeing the upcoming Rapido USRA models!

I also finished a New York Central RS-2, seen below, which I’ll detail in a later post.  I enjoyed the build and also very much enjoy running the engine, as it has Loksound and DCC installed.  Here’s the finished model with some light weathering and crew installed.


There are many more posts coming in the next week.  I’ve got all the photos but just need time to put the posts together.

I hope you’re all having a great, happy, healthy, prosperous summer.  I send to you abundant blessings from Germany!  – John G

No. 123: Modelbautag at the Feldbahn Museum, Frankfurt


Last weekend I drove to Frankfurt to visit the Frankfurt Feldbahn Museum for Modelbautag

Feldbahn means “Field Railway”, and is a term used to describe German narrow-gauge industrial railroading.  The Feldbahn Museum just west of downtown Frankfurt is the largest operating museum of it’s kind in Europe; they maintain a large stable of equipment and a giant mainline loop in nearby Rebstockpark.

Last Sunday was a great day to visit, as this day was also Modelbautag, or Modeler’s Day, at the museum.  I expected a train show with vendors and models but there were only a few modular layouts and a couple other things on display, and that was it.  More on that later. 


Though Modelbautag was a disappointment, I was happy to find a number of the little engines steamed up and moving trains happily about.  

After being there about 10 minutes, I had a goofy smile on my face and kept saying to myself “This is the coolest thing I’ve ever seen!” 


After another 10 minutes, I texted my wife and wrote “This is a life-changing event.  I’m not coming home.”


This gauge of this railroad is 600mm, which was something of a standard in Germany.  600mm works out to just under 23-1/2 inches, or what we would consider in America as “two foot gauge”.

Below.  The museum probably has about 35 or 40 locomotives, but here’s the star of the show—a Jung 0-6-0 built in 1952.  If I am translating the technical sheet correctly…the type was originally designed for the Wehrmacht in 1944.  This engine is heavy compared to the other engines and it’s really got some get-up-and-go.

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There are diesels too, some with side rods like this one.  I understand these engines are very loud when operating.


This engine, below, is also a diesel.  There are a half-dozen like it around the museum.  


I’m not sure about interesting little this engine.  I think it is battery-powered.


Inside one of the two locomotive shops was this very unique engine.  This is a Benzollokomotive, or oil locomotive, built in 1905.  It is the oldest of its type in the world.


Here’s a view of some of the 600mm trackwork.  Yep, there’s a three-way switch and a double slip right together, plus a crossover up ahead on the left.  How cool is that?


I found the trackwork on this turnout to be very interesting.  There is different size rail, and some of the railhead appears to be different widths, hence the multiple fishplates.  The ties interlace.  The rail is held to the ties by bolts, not spikes.  And some ties are metal, while some are wood.


There are two car shops.  The track in this smaller shop, below, is very-small-radius industrial track, but still 600 mm, with what I call “kick-switches”.  There’s no switch stand or linkage–you just kick the points over.


Here’s a pile of panel track, or what perhaps the Brits would call “set-track”.  Like a model train set, you can set up a Feldbahn anywhere.  They’ve got straights, curves, turnouts and bumper tracks, all secured by metal ties.


Above.  Near the back of the small car shop is this miniature wye.  I estimated the whole wye takes up about 20 feet.  I like the picnic car too…


Here’s an example of the utility of these little railroads.  This photo below was on display in one of the engine shops.  After the terrible war, tracks were easily laid right in the streets to aid cleanup and reconstruction.

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Also on these side tracks is this 1950-built electric Eimerkettenbagger, which my wife translated as a “bucket, tracked, excavator”.  The buckets at the far end of the machine scoop up dirt and dump it into the tipper car in front.  While I was standing here a museum worker came over and cranked it up.  It was noisy but the cool factor was huge.


There was a larger car shop building nearby with a few dozen freight and passenger cars inside under construction or restoration.  I thought you might enjoy this photo of the trackwork inside the shop.


Back inside the main locomotive shed, there was the obligatory German meal with fest tables set up everywhere.  It was a super-hot day and the beer was flowing freely.  I had a good laugh when I saw one of the engineers up in the cab of an engine drinking a glass of beer.  


The rest of this building is full of every kind of 600mm locomotive —diesels, steam, you name it.


The other locomotive shed included a very small model railroad exhibition.  The models were small but backdrop was priceless!


The fellow on the left set up a very nice modular narrow gauge layout, about 1:24th scale or so.


Here’s another view of his nice layout, which ran very well and included s small stable of sound-equipped locomotives.


This guy and his dad had a great display of G scale Feldbahn models.  They both spoke excellent English and we had a nice conversation.  He is definitely an RPM-er and I told him so.


This guy does nice work.  The little engines had sound and DCC and ran very well.



Above and Below.  These nice Feldbahn dioramas are on display in the museum. Obviously teh Germans are very serious about the little trains.  There’s a lotta love here.


It was a great day of train watching and learning all about the Feldbahn.  Here’s one last photo…of one of the little trains, heading off for a short run around Rebstockpark.


How can you NOT love this stuff!  – John G




No. 122: Cité du Train – The French National Railway Museum


Two weekends ago I made the long drive down to Mulhouse, France to visit Cité du Train, the French National Railway Museum.  This museum presents the history and technological achievements of the French railway network, particularly the SNCF–the Société Nationale des Chemins de Fer–which, since 1938, is France’s national state-owned railway company.

Don’t laugh.  I had read a lot about the museum and understood it was one of the very best in the world.  I expected it to be good, but I didn’t expect it to be that good.

The museum occupies a huge area on the south side of Mulhouse about an hour north of Bern, Switzerland.  The museum is full of steam, electrics, passenger cars, models, and lots and lots of memorabilia.  It is crystal clean.  The equipment is beautifully restored.  No old cars or engines rotting away outside.  It is first-class in every respect.

This place makes the B&O Museum look like ametuer hour.  It is fantastic—hands-down the best railroad museum I’ve ever been to.

Below.  I’m on the way.  You don’t see highway signs like this in central Illinois!


I have arrived!


After paying up (13 Euro-bucks—about $15 US), this is your first view, below, upon entry into the first of the two massive indoor museum buildings.  This building is filled with gleaming engines and passenger cars, and subway cars, and a good history of the SNCF during The Occupation.

You may notice how dark it is inside.  The interior is very dark, but the exhibits are all dramatically lit.


Below.  This huge 4-8-2 is immaculately restored.  It was built for the eastern rail lines in 1925.  It’s so clean you could eat off of it.


This part of the museum also includes a number of life-size figures depicting life on the railroad.  The figures are essentially dolls and are somewhat whimsical…and 100% French.

The photo below shows figures of an engineer and a man on the ground, posed aside the massive 4-8-2, having a conversation.  There are speakers inside the dolls, and they play recordings of men shouting to each other, with locomotive sounds in the background.  My camera picked up a lot more light than can seen with the human eye.  The real scene is quite dark—almost blacked-out.  In the dark, dramatic light, the figures look and sound absolutely real.   The effect is striking.


Below.  Part of this museum building includes a series of exhibits of life during the German occupation.  This exhibit depicts a 4-6-0 locomotive wrecked by the French resistance.


One of many freight cars in the museum, below.  The other end of the car has a staircase to a covered brake platform.


Below.  There are many passenger and subway cars inside this part of the museum.  Inside most of the dining cars, tables were set up for meals like that seen below.  This is a common display in many of the better rail museums.


A very unusual French-built engine for front-line service in military zones.


Between the two main museum buildings is a large outdoor area, adjacent to the active SNCF main tracks, that has an operating turntable, diesel engine rides, modern electric locomotives, miniature train rides, and a lot more stuff.  Below is a nice exhibit of interesting signal equipment.


This cool electric is posed on the turntable.  Inside the museum is another such engine.


Below.  This is the first exhibit you encounter as you enter the second indoor museum building.  Unlike the first building which is very dark inside, this building is very well lit.  This is where the bulk of the museum’s equipment resides.  There are dozens and dozens of beautiful steam and electric locomotives, passenger cars, and exhibits here.

This part of the museum is set up by era.  Each track corresponds to a different era on the French railways.  This huge 4-6-4, below, is set up on rollers, and it runs every 20 minutes so visitors can see the running gear in action.  Note the sign says it is a “Hudson” type.


Restored steam is everywhere inside the second building.  This heavy Pacific, most of which is painted in a rich maroon color, was set up over a pit so you can walk underneath.  This particular engine was regularly assigned to a division between Paris and Calais.  It was taken out of service in 1967.


Here is yet another Pacific, below, depicting a World War I-era scene.


More steam…it is everywhere inside, in a bewildering number of types and styles from many eras.  This track includes locomotives from 1900 and earlier.


I had never seen one of these unusual, uncovered engines until this day.  I’ll bet it wasn’t a great job for the crew, exposed to the weather and everything coming out of the stack.


Here’s another old engine.  Check out that single, huge driver on each side.


In addition to the crew being exposed to the weather, they also had to work right next to that huge spinning driver.  Very interesting…


Recognize this engine below?  It’s a Mikado-type, built by Baldwin in 1945 for the French Railways.  I understand it was rebuilt by the French at least once during it’s service life.  It is in spectacular condition.


SNCF has operated high-speed electric main lines, similar to the PRR, since the 1920s.  The museum collection includes a number of high-speed electric engines like the one below.   The museum considers these engines as if they are Formula One cars.  It’s a very interesting comparison, and the comparison carries through to another exhibit—which I didn’t photograph—of today’s super-fast TGV trains.


Here is a restored freight electric from the Midi Railways.


This is a dual-service electric engine built after SNCF took over as the national railway company.


This one, below, kinda looks like a refrigerator.


The museum, of course, includes thousands of models of many scales.  This handmade model from the 1930s features completely operational running gear, and operates every two minutes.  Its prototype companion sits on an adjacent track.


This model is an award-winner.  Love the medal!


Tucked away in a corner of the museum is a modeler’s room.  This room includes a large number of static displays and two operating layouts.  For one Euro-buck you can make the trains go.


Below.  This excellent all-metal model stands beside it’s prototype engine inside.


This model display case is near the entrance to the building.  It includes a large number of handsomely finished models in many scales, the smallest of which are probably O scale.


Below.  More exceptional prototype models in many different scales.  It’s too bad they aren’t running.


Below.  This electric engine model is set up on Ikea sawhorses just like my HO layout!  I had to include a photo.


And finally, to close out this post, I couldn’t resist including a photo of a French wine car.  Wonder if it’s red?


Until now I never appreciated the depth and breadth and history of the French railway scene.  And I’ve never been to a railway museum that both celebrates the past -AND- boasts of the future of railroading.  NO museum in America has the nerve to brag about railroading’s future…but this one does, and SNCF—with TGV, high-speed rail and a very modern freight-train network—has got the street creds to do it.

Even if you don’t speak French, you may enjoy checking out the museum’s website at  If you want more details, the Practical Information section of the website includes details on most of the museums’ collection.

I hope you enjoyed the tour!  – John G




No. 119: Railfan Day on the Rhine

#2 at High Level

Back in the early 1990s I was a young Air Force navigator flying C-141s out of Charleston AFB.  One of our usual runs was to Rhine-Main AB in Frankfurt, Germany.  I flew there often. 

Sometimes we’d get a day off between missions so we’d go downtown and see the sights.  We would often rent a car and drive up the Rhine River valley between Rudesheim and Koblenz to visit the little towns, and shop, and see all the castles, and experience the very best of Germany.  We always stopped in Rudesheim as a joke, because Rudesheim was where we would have to hold if Frankfurt/Rhine-Main couldn’t get us straight in. 

I snapped this photo of a Deutsche Bahn train in 1991 on one of those trips through Rudesheim.  I remember saying “I’ve gotta get back here someday for some railfanning.”

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That day finally came last weekend.  My wife graciously took over all the family errands so I could get up to Rudesheim for a couple hours of train-chasing.  It was an awesome day!

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It is an easy one-hour drive on the autobahn from my house to Rudesheim.  First I stopped in Bingen, seen above, on the opposite bank from Rudesheim, to get cash and take a few photos at the busy rail junction there.  There are busy double-track mainlines on both sides of the river; the freight-trains mostly run on the other side of the river.

To get to the other side of the river, one must take the ferry.  4.80 Euros each way.


Below.  On the ride over I could see that I was already late to the parade.  Three freights zoomed by as I was making the ten-minute crossing.

Rudesheim marks the beginning of the “upper half of the Middle Rhine”.  This roughly 25-mile long part of the Rhine River is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and is well known for it’s dramatic scenery, quaint towns, vineyards, and castles–44 of them–lining the way.  It’s also known by railfans as a place where hundreds of trains pass every day. 

The massive statue on the hillside above Rudesheim, seen below, is the Niederwald monument.  Its colossal central figure, a woman known as Germania, represents the reestablishment of the German empire after the country defeated France in the Franco-Prussian war in 1871. 

I found a nice tourist site that has some good photography and traveler’s tips on the Rhine River.  If you’re interested you can check it out at

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Below.  This was my objective for the day–the depot area at Rudesheim am RhineI arrived around 1100.  The first train I was able to shoot was this one, below.  The big signal tower in the background make a great backdrop but it appears to be retired. 

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Right behind it that freight, just a few minutes later, came this ICE (Inter-City Express) train.

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I shot both of the trains above against the sun.  There wasn’t anywhere in Rudesheim to set up on the sunny side of the tracks, so I decided to bug out and go up the river to find a better spot. 

As I was leaving, I noticed this old track leading to a few warehouses behind the depot.  This runaround was barely big enough for an engine to run around a single car.  There’s a prototype for everything.

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I drove the car up to the next town–about 2-3 miles up the river–hoping to find a station platform on a sunny, inside curve.  Here’s the place…

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The depot here was on an s-curve and I could only see signals in one direction.  It also became really hazy which changed the light.  Nevertheless about a half-dozen trains came at me in just 15 minutes.  Here are the first and second…

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The third–a heavy rock train–came at me quickly.  I was able to get this super-hazy shot…


…but the “away” shot was a little better.

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Two passenger trains followed.

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These were followed by a couple more freights.

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The second freight was running slow, so I got in the car and chased it up the river.  Most of the automobile traffic is on the opposite bank so I had the road to myself to shoot through the window.  I paced it at 100 kph–about 65 mph.  On the drive another two or three trains came at me and I wasn’t fast enough to shoot them.  It has now become cloudy and quite cold out.

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I went to the station at Lorch and set up at the end of the depot platform.  The parade continued.  

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Below.  Next, this passenger train appeared.  Everyone on the platform thought this train was stopping, but it kept moving–at probably 55-65 miles an hour.  Note the one person taking cover at left.


This cool hotel or gasthaus stands next to the track near the Lorch depot.  It makes a nice backdrop.  Check out the diagonal windows on the tower–bet there’s a spiral staircase inside.


This homely engine appeared next.

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The away shot reveals another train coming.  This was another fast-moving through passenger train.  No stopping!

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A few minutes later, another westboard freight hummed by.  

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This train included a large number of steel loads.

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I walked to the opposite side of the platform, and in just a few minutes this train sneaked up on me, silently, at about 60 mph.

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After 45 minutes in Lorch I moved a little farther west to Kaub.  I found another retired interlocking tower here, and I was able to see signals in both directions.  It was a nice spot!

The first train I was able to photograph was this little S-Bahn scooter.

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It was followed immediately by an intermodal train.

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The most recognizable landmark at Kaub is the Pfalzgrafenstein Castle (as seen below).  The castle sits right in the middle of the river and was built as a “toll castle” in the 1300s.  It is one of the most famous landmarks on the river and was literally right across from where I shot these photos. 

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At 2 p.m. it was time for me to head back home.  I saw a few more trains, but this was the last one I was able to shoot before leaving.  I love the fast, electric freights.

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I made the short drive back to Rudesheim and got in the queue for the ferry.   The parade of trains continued as I waited; I saw three more in maybe 10-15 minutes.  I was able to shoot this one through the passenger side window. 

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It was a great day and I’ll definitely have to do it again when the weather’s better.

P.S.  While I stepped away, my daughter Kirsten sat down and typed me–and you guys, I think–a note.  I couldn’t end better than this!

This is a special note from Kirsten.  I know you love me Dad, and you know I love you!  Make sure to LIKE and subscribe and comment down below.  See you guys next week. Kisses!

No. 99: The Swiss National Railway Musuem

On Friday I took my family on a long Labor Day weekend trip to the Ticino region of Switzerland, close to the Italian border, for a weekend of hiking and swimming.  On the way we stopped in Lucerne, which is about a 90-minute drive south of the Germany-Switzerland border at Berne, and visited the Switzerland Transportation Museum.

The Swiss Transportation Museum is small but breathtaking.  As you can imagine it is clean and perfectly organized.  The museum devotes a separate building to automobiles, trains, airplanes and shipping, and has a lot more going on, like a planetarium and a chocolate museum, plus a whole lot of cool hands-on stuff for kids.  My kids are outgrowing a lot of the hands-on stuff but we agreed that the things they had here are about the coolest things we’ve seen at any museum.  More to follow on that later.

The Prototypes

The first thing that greets you at the main entrance to the railroad museum is this Crocodile, which was famous for hauling freight trains on the steep grades through the Alps.  There were 51 of these electric engines running from the 1920s into the early 1980s.  The engine below is in perfect mechanical condition.


Here’s a heavy 2-10-0, set up over a pit so you can walk underneath the engine and inspect the running gear.  I have never seen the underside of a steam engine until now.


The museum is full of fabulous locomotives, including this cool mainline electric commuter train set…


…and a whole bunch of rack or funicular engines…



…and my growing favorite, a little narrow gauge steam engine.  This one is kept safe on a retired flat car.  This particular engine was built in 1880 to a gauge of 750mm (that’s 2.44 feet) and was retired after World War II.  It was the first engine preserved by the museum.  


The Museum also included a number of trolley or streetcars, which I am learning to enjoy more as I get older.  This one below looks like an old Brill car and was my favorite.


The Models

The models at this museum are second to none.  Perfectly scaled, exquisite models abound here in all the museums.  Here are a few of the thousands of impressive ship models in the shipping museum.  This is a warship…in 1/48 no less…


Here’s are a few more of the big models.  There were probably another 500 upstairs, all scratchbuilt models of boats that served on the Swiss lakes.



It is the railway models, however, that steal the show.  In the railway building are hundreds of models in all scales in glass cases. 

THIS is the motivation we prototype modelers need to do our best work.  If our models—ships, planes, trains or something else—are the best, maybe they’ll someday be featured in a place like this.  Second-rate models won’t be saved.




Interactive, computer-operated models are here too.  Touchpads, seen at each end of this case, bring these models to life.  It’s a lesson for us on the value of animation.


Finally, here is a model of sorts of the new Gotthard Tunnel.  The Gotthard Tunnel was completed through the Alps in 2016 and is 57 kilometers in length.  That’s just over 35 miles.  35 miles!  The model is an interactive display that describes each mile of the tunnel and how it was built.  The model itself must be 100 feet long, maybe more.  They even have huge chunks of granite from the tunnel here, and offer you a hammer and chisel so you can try and whack chunks off of it (you can’t)—all to demonstrate the power of Swiss tunnel-drilling machines.


The museum is so proud of the tunnel that they’ve included a model of the tunnel at the exit of the museum:


The museum was full of interactive things for kids to do.  In the rail museum they have this fun train yard where kids could assemble trains and move cars around from yard to yard.  


Outside the museum there’s a huge open area in the middle with all kinds of race cars and boats and things for the kids to play with.  There is also this huge inter-model set, where boys were loading equipment onto trains and moving it down the line to an unloading crane.  They could also load containers on ships in the adjacent pond.  Everything was steel, and the loads were going on and off the cars with a crash.  It was great!


South to Tochino

Today we were in Locarno, Switzerland, and I was able to photograph a few passenger trains as the stub-end station in town.  There’s nothing too remarkable about these trains other than they are fast, efficient, reliable, clean and operate on time.



On the way to our rented cottage in Ronchini we parallel a 3-meter gauge suburban trolley for about a mile.  My son was able to get a few photos through the windshield—in pouring rain—as we raced one of the trains to town.  


It’s been a great trip and I’ll get back to more modeling of Ackley, Iowa circa 1950 in a couple of days.  – John G


No. 96: Deutsche Bahn Museum, Koblenz

I spent way too much time in June and July doing this…


…and not enough time finishing up models for St. Louis RPM.

However, summer is a great time to travel in Europe, and a couple of weeks before St. Louis RPM I visited the big Deutsche Bahn Museum in Koblenz, which is about an hour north of where I live. 

Koblenz lies at the confluence of the Rhine and the Moselle Rivers and has always been a major transportation center.  The Deutsche Bahn, or “DB” for short, runs along both sides of the Rhine River here.  A large, retired shop complex on the south bank now hosts the large national museum.  Here’s a Google view, below.  


After you pay the whopping three Euro-bucks to get in (U.S. $3.50), here’s the view you get.  The old shops contain nicely restored steam and electric engines, along with nice displays of signal equipment and other neat stuff.


This little beauty was chopped in half…


…but the other side shows how the steam engine worked.  I’ve seen quite a few displays like this in Europe. 


A side room had a nice display of restored clocks, signs, and some huge LGB-size models.


Here’s a modern 0-10-0 Dampflok (steam locomotive) tank switcher, below, in the shops in immaculate condition.


Outside, the museum was absolutely chock full of passenger cars, diesels and electrics–many of which still operate in excursion service.  Too many pieces to count!


The museum grounds include a number of large-scale model railroads as well.  I visited on a Saturday and was hoping the model trains would be running, but like elsewhere in Europe in the dead of summer there’s not a whole lot going on.  Just drinking parties–not too much else.



The museum ground also include an old roundhouse site and a brick-lined turntable is still in place and in use.  The German museum site mentions about the area, Im Zweiten Weltkrieg waren die Bahnanlagen in Lützel häufig Ziel alliierter Luftangriffe  which loosely translated means during the Second World War the railroads here were frequently attacked by air.  

The engines above and below are stationed on the old radial tracks.


Near the turntable, on the adjacent main lines, today’s trains keep rolling silently by.


Other engines on the radial tracks included this thing, which kinda looks like a steam engine and a diesel—and a little bit like an electric too—all in one…


…and this very sleek-looking switcher.  This one looks a little to me like an RSC-2, or more specifically an SCL RS-2C.  


There weren’t many freight cars on the property, but this auto carrier caught my eye.  There were many more freight cars on the other side of the active DB mainlines, not on display.  Personally I’d like to see a lot more freight cars.

The summer sun was right on top of us, hence the yellow glare.


Among the few freight cars on display was this rebuilt flat car, which looked all about like an American-built car except for the buffers. 


A closer inspection the trucks are marked “US Patent, Gould, 1943”.  Assuming these trucks and the carbody are original, does anyone know the lineage of this car?


Next to the Americanische flat car is this German coal wagon, which has markings indicating it was used during the 1940s around the time of the Berlin Airlift.  This is a neat car–open top with side doors and no hopper bottom. 


There’s a good Wikipedia site that covers the museum and it’s history online at 

I hope you enjoyed the side trip.  Next, St. Louis RPM Meet Report, Part 2.  – John G

No. 93: Slovenia National Railway Museum


Prototype modelers are always in need of motivation.  I spent a week on vacation in Slovenia in June, and during that time I broke away from the family for a few hours and visited the Slovenian National Railway Museum in the capital of Ljubljana.  

To my great surprise it was—hands down—one of the most awesome museums I’ve ever been to.  It was full of motivation and a few surprises too.

The photo above is the view you get as you enter the museum grounds.  The roundhouse and exhibits are is excellent shape.  There are steam engines–many of which still operate–all over the grounds.


This complete narrow-gauge train was on one side of the museum.  The engine is an outside-frame 0-6-0 that ran on narrow-gauge cog trackage.  Below, a massive 2-10-0 sitting outside the roundhouse.  


Below.  In better light, this 2-8-2 passenger engine was also on the radial tracks.

One of the things that makes this museum so easy is that everything is in English.  There is a story here that, after Yugoslavia collapsed, the Slovenian government decided that everyone in the nation should learn to speak English because it would not be wise to expect Slovenia to be part of the European community and expect everyone else to speak Slovenian.  Slovenian kids start taking mandatory English language classes beginning in 6th grade.  Everybody speaks English.  It’s like being in Germany.  


I was unable to get a good photograph of the turntable as there was much work in progress on the radial tracks.  The turntable can be seen here in the distance, with a large 4-6-0 engine a right.


Does the turntable operate?  Oh yeah–it has to.  There are a half-dozen steam engines in the roundhouse that still run.  

There was one diesel mixed in with the steamers outside–this thing, which looks pretty interesting.  


Below.  Before going inside, I ran across this tank car in the back of the museum.  I recognized the trucks as U.S-manufacture right away.



Below.  Here’s a closer view of the trucks.  They are absolutely of U.S manufacture.  Does anyone know the lineage of the tank, the car and/or perhaps the trucks?


Once inside the roundhouse things got very interesting.  There were about nine or ten steam engines inside, several still in operating condition.  


The engine below, with what looks like a front-end throttle, was built in 1906 in Austria and was one of a few oil burning engines in Slovenia during the steam era.  According to the fact sheet nearby, the engine was discovered in a forgotten engine shed in 1996 and it went right to the museum.


A number of narrow gauge engines are in the roundhouse and display on narrow gauge carriages, for lack of a better term.  This one, below, was built in 1892 in Linz, Austria, and was rebuilt again in 1930 for service in a Slovenian iron works.

What a cool little engine this is!  A model could be the centerpiece of a little switching or industrial layout.  It is in immaculate condition and I would guess that it still runs.


This display, below, includes memorabilia from the days when the Slovenian railways were under Yugoslavian control.


I didn’t take a picture of the most impressive engine in the roundhouse, a big Austrian 4-6-0 passenger engine that looked like was running the weekend before and smelled great–like dirt and oil.  It was tucked away in a corner and impossible to photograph.


Below.  Half the roundhouse is a fully-functioning steam engine workshop.  According to the guy working the front desk, there are two engines being rebuilt in the backshop.  I opened the door to the shop and shot a photo quickly…


Then the museum operator opened up “the signal shop” for me in one of the adjacent buildings.  This building includes a large number of beautifully restored interlocking machines, signal equipment uniforms, communication equipment, and other things, all of which were in superb condition.


Below: Signs and grade crossing equipment.


Below.  The shop contained about 20-25 interlocking machines like this one below.


Another interlocking machine, slightly different than the others.


More interlocking equipment, below.


Here is a nice display of uniforms, some of which date back to before 1900.  Note the trainman’s uniform on the left–it included a ceremonial sword.


Here, below, is a wonderful display of what we call in the U.S. “date nails”.  Date nails seem to have fallen out of favor in the U.S. in the 1960s, but they are still widely used in Europe.


Below.  A beautiful replica of a station office complete with immaculate period equipment.


Below.  In the back of the communications museum building is a large open area full of speeders, velocipedes, handcars and other equipment.  


This little speeder was my favorite.  I saw it in the corner and said “Oh yeah!”  It’s just a simple speeder car but I really like the front.


There was so much more to see and learn, but my visit ended in just 90 minutes as I was needed back in Radovljica by the family.  For this post, I’ll end with a prototype model.  According to the display, the model was made by Mr. Mirko Dolinsek, a designer of wood castings in the railway workshops in Maribor.  He made only three wooded models, using 20 different kinds of wood.  It is displayed on an operating turntable with mirrors so visitors can see all the detail.  It is exquisite.


I hope you enjoyed the tour as much as I did.  You can check out the museum’s website at and

See you next week at St. Louis RPM!  – John G