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“Out Of The Display Case -- To The Top Of The Rail!”

By Wolfgang Bauer and Bryant Booth

Photos by Wolfgang Bauer

HR and SLH

We train collectors and operators have, at some point in our interactions with toy trains, all longed for the large layout where we could operate multiple trains simultaneously through villages, cities, freight yards, and engine sheds, and enjoy the workings of our favorite trains. So the story we present here about a group of 25 German toy train enthusiast and their layout should resonate with a fan of tinplate trains.

At the beginning of 1990 several friends were at the home of a train collector in Germany operating their trains privately together as a group. The subject of creating a club for operating their classic Marklin trains came up and the issues associated with such a club were discussed. There were many concerns addressed, how such a club is organized, who are the responsible members, where do they locate the club, what gauge trains are to be used, and what costs are associated with such a club. Although 35 collectors were approached about joining in on such an endeavor, most of them were not interested.

But the subject did not disappear and in 1994 five toy train enthusiasts spontaneously decided to create, for a short time, a large layout on which the five could operate their trains. A large space was quickly found in a hotel in the immediate vicinity where one could spend the night. On a designated Friday evening everyone brought a suitcase full of their favorite trains and track and, with no layout diagrams or advance plans, began to construct on a 20 meter x 8 meter floor, their first group Marklin railway. The original transformers and tracks of their fathers and grandfathers were used. Two loops of gauge 0 and 1 track with some switches and sidings were constructed with two lighted stations and some lights. The five played with their trains well into the night. The following day saw a live steam locomotive in operation and an 0 gauge ME66/12920 (the famous French “Mountain” locomotive) was operated after being in its case for 30 years. The result was a decision to have another session in 1995 and expand the operating sessions. An annual tradition was started. By 1996 there were 18 enthusiasts who participated in the annual session, and in 1997 they had to limit the number of participants.

They now had enough trains to use the entire space of nearly 200 square meters that was about 20 meters in length and “rules” had to be established govern how the layout came together. With that space they were able to create long distance runs for their trains but also had to switch to modern transformer technologies to ensure good motive power while protecting the older locomotives. Each year more and more vehicles, railway stations, bridges, tunnels, and other accessories were added. A smaller gauge 2 track system was used at times. The event grew to three days, then four, and now encompasses five days of activities including the erection and dismantling of the plant.

The group operating sessions still have the same private character as they had at the beginning. They are not a club, just 20 to 25 train enthusiast from across Germany who meet traditionally once a year to share their pleasure in operating their trains. Although they all recognize that they are all getting a little older, they still enjoy playing with their trains. They know that their railway is not a scale model railway and that it should not be. It is, as originally conceived, built on the floor and can be designed variably. Trains on the rails may actually wiggle a little, which is authentic, here and there with small "imperfections", but at the same time documenting the quaint uniqueness of their passion.

With the exception of the transformers, nothing is provided with new modern technology. The charm of the "old" is valuable to these men and the trains will remain absolutely original. They love long train runs, beautiful train sets, and many beautiful accessories. The opening hours of every operating meeting are sessions with many locomotives Gauge 0 and 1, sometimes gauge 2, not infrequently over 100 years old yet running just like they did 100 years ago. They enjoy running their trains “at night” with many illuminated trains and accessories. This will warm the collector's heart!

With the following five groups of pictures see if you are not a little seduced into the fantastic world of the old German toy trains.

Click on the links below to view additional groups of photos in this article including:

Group 0: Space and Motion
Group 1: Captured Moods
Group 2: Different Vehicles
Group 3: Accessories
Group 4: Curiosities

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