The 2003 Modellbahnmesse

The 2003 Modellbahnmesse trip is history, and it was a rousing success.  There was something for everyone, from castles to cathedrals, to Christmas markets and ICEs.  Join those of us who toured Germany and Austria as we look back on what was a really great week...

Saturday, November 29:  I had actually arrived in Germany the day before, and woke bright and early on the 29th and headed to the Munich airport.  Two years ago Germering had their first snow of the year the day I arrived, and once again, the cold morning found the ground dusted with snow- the first such dusting of the year.  To my dismay, I found that there was no hot water at the hotel, and the cool shower was not what I had hoped for after the first night!

I arrived at the airport at 8:15, and was soon met by Stretch Tucker and his wife Carol Kimberly.  Stretch and Carol had joined the Treff trip about six months ago.  We waited about a half hour for David and Emily Ruebsamen, who called my by phone to let me know they had already left for the hotel.  Stretch, Carol and I grabbed the next S-bahn, and were soon headed to Germering ourselves.

I had some time before the official start of the tour, and headed to the Germering train station to acquaint myself with the tickets on the MVV, Munich's mass-transit system.  David Ruebsamen and I then headed to the shop of Modellbahn Hödl, conveniently located within walking distance of our hotel and the station.  

At 6:00 p.m. the group assembled in the breakfast room at Hotel Huber and the tour officially began.  I had prepared nametags for everyone with the hotel's address and phone number, plus my two numbers, on the back (in case someone ended up lost).  After a few brief announcements, we raised our glasses of Prosecco and the tour was officially underway.  I was all smiles when the group sang "Happy Birthday" on my behalf, since it, as had been the case two years ago, was falling during the tour.  

From left to right: David Thomson, Allen Pearce, and Stretch Tucker.  Do you suppose they might be talking about trains??

The group headed "en masse" up the street to the restaurant "Zum Graibig'n", a very traditional Bavarian restaurant with excellent food.  The menu included Nuremburger sausages, which quickly became my "selection of choice".  For Rosalie Gamez and Nicole Walker, our vegetarian and vegan, there were several items on the menu, including potato pancakes, steamed vegetables, and dumplings.  Everyone was well satisfied when we returned to the hotel at around 9:00 p.m.  I spent a few minutes on the balcony of my room, taking in the cool night air and watching the S-bahn glide into Germering station.  However I headed to bed early.  Tomorrow was going to be an early morning, and a long day...


Sunday, November 30:  Breakfast was a delicious affair, undermined only by the fact that most of us had showered with barely lukewarm water.  Still, we were in good spirits, and this was to be a day of adventure to the castles of Neu Schwanstein and Hohenschwangau.  I finished breakfast quickly and headed downstairs to wait for our bus.  The motor noise was unmistakable, and the beautiful blue and white 1966 Büssing rolled around the corner and came to a stop in front of our hotel.  Herr Schah, our bus driver, and Herr Weiss, the president of the Munich Omnibus Club introduced themselves.  We were soon joined by others from the group, and at 7:15, only fifteen minutes late, we pulled out onto the road for our drive south into the foothills of the Alps.

David Thomson gets the "perfect shot" from the front seat of the bus on our way to Hohenschwangau...

The weather was bright and sunny and we made our way along country roads and through small villages.  An intermediate stop gave everyone a chance to stretch their legs and take some photos of the bus.  

We pulled into the town of Hohenschwangau a few minutes early, and while every took in the Bavarian charm of this small village, I headed to the ticket office to get our tickets.  First on the list was the castle Hohenschwangau, and with a start time for our tour of 10:50, we wasted no time in marching up the road to the castle overlooking the town.

There were only two people in the tour not from our group, and thanks to the guide's excellent English, we could ask all the questions we wanted.  We learned quite a bit about King Ludwig's parents and their castle, plus the history of the knights of the Order of the Swan, from which the castle and town get their names.

We walked back down into town and to the Schlosshotel Lisl, a picturesque hotel overlooking the town.  Our reserved room offered a view of NeuSchwanstein castle out the window, and the conversation at lunch centered on the castle tour to come.  The food was excellent, and consisted of traditional Bavarian fare.  The dessert of Bavarian cream pudding topped off the wonderful meal, and with full bellies we headed out for the hike up to NeuSchwanstein castle.  What was to follow soon became known by the entire group as the NeuSchwanstein Death March...

This was the view outside the restaurant

The bus driver had suggested that the hike up should only take about twenty minutes, though the brochure from the ticket office had offered that it was closer to an hour to get to the castle entrance.  The line for the horse-drawn carriages going up the hill had grown considerably since before lunch, and those not hoofing it up on foot were quick to get in line.  The rest of us headed up on foot.  It quickly became apparent that the brochure had been optimistic, while the bus driver had been downright wrong.  Gasping for air and wheezing like a steam engine, I finally made it to the castle's entrance nearly an hour after departing the restaurant.  The views were worth the climb, and with the exception of having to step over fallen hikers, and tourists in the throes of heart attacks, the climb had been okay.  

This is the view from the base of the castle to the restaurant / gift shop / first aid station ;~) just below

Unfortunately, those who took the carriage up still had a fifteen minute climb ahead of them after the carriages dropped them off, and there were several from our group who missed our tour, and had to wait for the next tour in English, twenty minutes later.

The courtyard of NeuSchwanstein offers this view of the main building...

Although officially closed, David Thomson and wife Joan had hiked to a bridge near the castle which offers a great view of NeuSchwanstein.  As we passed one of the windows, I was surprised to spot David, sporting his yellow jacket, on the bridge.  Stretch Tucker quickly took off his own yellow jacket and waved it, and David was able to spot us.  What a coincidence!  

Yep, that's David "Yellowjacket" Thomson on the bridge...

The bus pulled out of Hohenschwangau an hour after our scheduled departure, so our plans to make a brief stop in the town of Oberammergau were cancelled.  Instead, we relaxed in the comfortable seats and chatted about the day's events, got to know each other or catch up with those we hadn't seen since the 2001 trip, and discuss the coming activities.  Tomorrow was Monday, and the Deutsches Museum (Museum of German History) was at the top of the list.

The sun sets on our day at NeuSchwanstein and Hohenschwangau

Monday, December 1:  A late morning and hot water found everyone in great spirits on this day.  Conversation at the breakfast tables was lively, with everyone excited about the visit to the Deutsches Museum.  The museum features a massive range of exhibits, from examples of German planes and ships to artwork, architecture, and German folklore and culture.  Our three-hour visit was not nearly enough to appreciate the museum's amazing collection, so we concentrated on the railroads.  Besides a large model railroad which features prototypical operation, there is a vast hall filled with trains and train memorabilia.  A few pictures from the museum follow:


I was particularly impressed with this cut-away locomotive, showing how steam engines operate...


Outside the museum you can find this windmill...

... and this dining car, which doubles as a cafe in the summertime...

The layout is a well-detailed H.O. design, featuring Sommerfeld Catenary and Viessmann signalling.  It's two-rail DC, with most of the rolling stock coming from Fleischmann.  

The station and roundhouse occupy one arm of this "L"-shaped layout...

... while long bridges and parade lines occupy the other leg.

A large projector showed train positions on the wall behind the layout

That afternoon, everyone was free to explore Munich.  I ventured forth with several of the model railroaders from the group to find a train store near the Munich-Ostbahnhof station.  We found it in due time, and the store's cash register hummed as many found items of interest.  The store had a "Smart" car in advertising livery, and I took a quick snap of the diminutive Mercedes / Swatch automobile as we left. 


Six-foot-plus Stretch Tucker makes the Smart car look even smaller than it already is!

We had initially hoped to visit a large freight yard north of Munich, but the setting sun and cooling temperatures suggested that we might want to wait for another day.  Instead, I headed back to Modellbahn Hödl in Germering to pick up our Messe tickets.  I ran into several from the group, and we had another delicious meal (this time it was veal schnitzel with a mushroom gravy, dumplings and red cabbage for me) at the restaurant "Zum Graibig'n".  Others headed to Munich's main Christmas market and had dinner in the Ratskeller under the city hall.  Later, David Thomson and I headed to Munich-Pasing station, where the non-stop train activity made it a railfanner's dream!  We watched the trains pass us every few minutes, while David's digital minidisc recorder captured the sounds of the DB.  It was a late night for many, but the next day was a late start, so a good sleep was in the cards... 

Tuesday, December 2:  At about 9:00 we headed to Munich-Pasing again, this time to catch the ICE to Nuremberg.  The "train bunch", under the watchful eyes of David Thomson, made their way to the DB Museum.  Having already been to the DB Museum on several occasions, I decided to join the rest of the group in visiting the German Toy Museum near the Christmas market.  Memories came flooding back as walked through the museum, finding toys like Biller Bahn trains and Fischer Technik construction sets, which I had forgotten about, but which used to be favorites of mine.  There was a large special exhibition of LGB, plus some amazing 3-D picture cards from the last century.  From dolls through the ages to toy trains and video games, the museum is worth the visit!  The large S-scale layout on the top floor was the icing on the cake!

Once again, the day was open to explore, and several of us headed to Modelleisenbahn Dörfler, halfway between the market and the DB Museum.  Here are some views of Nuremberg we enjoyed during our walk...


Those who had visited the DB Museum arrived shortly after we had, and once again, there were many happy faces, as discovery after discovery was made in Dörfler's used and sale items sections. 

This HO scale layout adorns the window of Dörfler at Christmastime

 I headed back to the Christmas market early to catch a children's choir performing that afternoon.  With their sweet voices in my ears, I made my way through the stalls, picking up several goodies for my family as well as candy and cookies for myself!  I rounded out the evening by enjoying a glass of Glühwein (hot, spicy wine) with Inara McEwen and Tiffany Esteb.  At 6:00 p.m. we all met up at the market and made our way past the stalls back to the train station.  Relaxing in the ICE we shared our purchases and the "ones that got away", while I passed out Marzipan potatoes and gingerbread cookies to the group.  It was certainly a fun day for all, and several mentioned it as the highlight of the trip.

There's Joan Coolidge with Chris Baines behind her (in the black ski jacket) enjoying the sights and smells of the market 

Some more views of the Nuremberg Christmas Market

Wednesday, December 3:  The ladies slept in while the guys got up a bit earlier to be at the ICE facility in time for our tour.  We took the S-bahn to the Donnersbergerbrücke where we hooked up with David Pryor, Tak Murakami and Andreas Hildebrandt and walked a small path between the tracks to the facility.  We were met at the door by our guide, coincidentally the same one who gave us the tour two years ago!  Herr Datzer not only told us anything and everything about the ICE facility, but regaled us with stories of his days as an engineer for nearly forty years.  His favorite locomotive?  None other than the S3/6 featured in green livery in the pictures above!  The tour ended later than expected, and we had only an hour time to make it to the Spaten brewery.  The walk from the ICE facility to the Spaten Brewery was longer than we had expected, and another session of wheezing and gasping for air transpired as we double-timed it to the brewery.  Andreas Hildebrandt, who joined us for the ICE tour, had arranged the brewery visit, and along with learning everything there is to know about Spaten and the brewing process, we enjoyed a delicious meal in the restaurant at the top of the silo.  The foggy day obscured our view, but the meal and tour (and the beer!) were well worth the trip!

Here are two pictures David Thomson took at the Marienplatz in Munich

After Spaten, Andreas and several of the group headed to Munich for train shopping, while I made my way to the Hotel Le Meridien to see how the ladies were faring with their day at the spa.  It was unanimous: the day had been wonderful, with a massage and facial treatment, plus access to a steam room, sauna, and swimming pool.  Radiant spouses and girlfriends headed off to the Marienplatz to meet their husbands and boyfriends, while Jarred Harrison and I headed to Munich Laim to track down yet another train store.  Not surprisingly, we were soon joined in the store by David Ruebsamen.  It seeemd the GET group was everywhere!  We picked up a few "early arrivals" at the hotel, and enjoyed yet another delicious dinner at our favorite restaurant up the street.

Thursday, December 4:  Finally it was here!  The Messe!  Almost everyone took the early train to the show to be there when the doors opened.  As I had hoped, the crowds were not overwhelming.  I headed to the back of the show to videotape the layouts.  My first stop was the Model Railroad Club of Cologne, whose layout of the BLS Südrampe was spectacular:

Some views of the Cologne group's massive layout

Marklin did not have any new H.O. layouts there, but the two new layouts from the Treff in May were in attendance. Still, it's high time for Marklin to put together a new large HO layout for the Messe. The only completely new layout was the Z-scale layout which is featured in the new Marklin book on building a Z-scale layout. 

Above are some views of the layout featured in the book "Mini Club Praxis"

The book's author was also there, and was conducting an interview while I admired his work. It is a wonderful layout with great detail, and only a forgetful mind kept me from buying the book at the Messe. Hopefully my dealer has one on the shelf for me!

Marklin's medieval layout, altered slightly for the "Harry Potter" train

The insider engine for 2004 was unveiled, and is indeed the BR05 with Stromlinienverkleidung (streamlining). I thought it looked excellent. If it comes in all metal (what we should expect from Marklin), it will be a very heavy piece! I'll be curious to see what types of curves it can negotiate, since it really is a large model. The Z-scale insider model of the BR96 is beautiful in detail, though I would wait for a black version, since the blue model looks more suitable for an earring (in my book) than a locomotive. I'm hoping the shiny, bright blue color is merely a pre-production paint job, and that the production piece will have a more muted tone.

Of course, Marklin was also showing off the BR01 in 1-scale, a model which sets a new standard (in size and price) for the Goeppingers. Surprisingly enough, the only model was in a display case, and there was no BR01 running on the 1-scale layout at the show. The 1-scale layout featured at the Treff was the only one in Munich, with only one small club layout in that scale in the entire exhibition. Even Huebner didn't bring their bus with the small 1-scale layout upstairs. The lack of 1-scale layouts was also evident in 2001, and I think the Cologne show remains the better of the two Messe venues for 1-scalers.

Some views of the modest 1-scale club layout, the only layout besides Marklin's in that scale


A view of one module from the large modular Z-scale layout at the Marklin stand...

... and two others.

I think the layout I enjoyed most was a new H.O. layout from Roco featuring a winter motif.  The snow looked very realistic, and I felt a chill just admiring the details on the layout.  Here are a few snapshots:

Featuring a main line and a Feldbahn in the snow, this Roco layout was my favorite

We had a good turnout for the lunchtime meeting, and about twelve of us enjoyed a meal together. Christian Otto came in by train from Vienna, and I ran into Stew Rydman, Dave and Maria Pryor, and Tak Murakami from the states. The usual suspects were also there, including Nigel Packer, Alan Pearce, Dave Thomson, and Stretch Tucker. Many buzzed about the new signals, which were on display on a large helix layout. Now that Nigel has gotten the Goeppingers to figure out how to have the signals work with the braking and acceleration delay, they should be on every HOer's Christmas wish list!

The Insider gift this year was a floor mat in the shape of a locomotive with the slogan, "Märklin Insider: Ich Stehe Drauf". I don't know quite how to convert this play on words into English- perhaps someone else can give it a try. Finally there was a contest where one could enter to win several prizes by guessing the answer to this question: "How many parts does the Big Boy have?". My guess was 280, so depending on how detailed the breakdown is (does the decoder count as one item, or all the components on the PCB independently?), I'll remain curious to see how close I came.

Above is a large N-scale layout from Trix, while the N-scale layout featured below is from the 2003 Nuremberg Toy Fair

This is a large diorama from Busch featuring Dracula's castle

Vollmer always impresses with their dioramas

This massive viaduct was on an H.O. club layout

TT scale is also represented

A large fair diorama featured no trains at all, but was most impressive nonetheless

I was very impressed with this diorama, though I can't recall whose it was!


That's Nigel Packer and Chris Baines all smiles after the Messe.  Chris is smiling because the "Heim und Handwerk" craft and home furnishings show takes place during the same week, so she got a respite from the trains for a day!  I think the reason Nigel is smiling is obvious...

Friday, December 5:   We left early in the morning on our 1966 Büssing bus to Stuttgart, where we met up with Martin Brandt to tour the Vollmer facility.  The Managing Director himself gave us the grand tour, showing us, among other things, how a model goes from an original to a concept to a miniature.  We got a sneak peek at on of Vollmer's newest items, a small station neat Stuttgart on an abandoned line:

Sorry for the coarseness of the photo:  Better pictures coming soon!

The director found the station in a newspaper article.  The following Saturday, with camera and tape measure in hand, he headed out to the station (now converted into a restaurant) with his wife.  After taking detailed pictures and measurements, he handed the work off to the design group, which constructed a cardboard model of the station in 1:87 scale.  Next, a model was scratch-built out of styrene, usung as many existing windows / doors / panels as possible.  The scratch-built model becomes the template for laying out the sprues, and before long, a completed kit is completed.  In all, the tour was very interesting, and we were anazed by the warehouse full of kits across the courtyard from the factory!

Our plan to visit the large N-scale layout in the Stuttgart train station was thwarted when the layout's owner was unexpectedly transferred to Karlsruhe for two weeks!  Still, we managed to enjoy the view from the top of the station tower, and spent some time in the exhibit halls, admiring the new Stuttgart through-station, scheduled to be completed by 2010.  Some of the group ventured to the Porsche Museum after our Vollmer tour.  Along with nifty cars, those adventurous few came across a limited edition Porsche Marklin train, only available at the museum, and only a 1000 piece production run.  The set had just come out on that day, too!  What an excellent coincidence!

After everyone met up again at the Stuttgart station, we headed by bus to Waiblingen, and the home of ETS, EIsenbahn Treffpunkt Schweickhardt, the largest model train store (by area) in Germany.  When the ladies joined us an hour later (they had visited the Stuttgart palace and a medieval Christmas market in Esslingen), we were still busy poking down the aisles, and filling our shopping carts with goodies.  After another hour, we piled back into our Büssing and headed back towards Munich.  Near Ulm we stopped to admire the large Marklin HO layout at the Modellshow Merklingen.  Although I was busy filming, David Thomson was able to take the following photos of this beautiful layout: 

... and here are a couple of pictures I took last year:

Saturday, December 6: The last official day of the tour was going to be extra special, and the BR41 steam engine pulling a seven-car train of 60's era coaches was a sight to see!  We climbed aboard at Pasing and left for a two-and-a-half hour trip to Salzburg.  An intermediate stop to take on water allowed us to get some close-ups of the locomotive and the train.  Alas, the weather had turned sour by the time we arrived in Salzburg, and those headed to the Christmas market were in for a wet day!  A few of us, however, ventured forth into Salzburg to visit the 1. Salzburger Modelleisenbahnclub, and their impressive H.O. layout, located in a signal tower next to a main line headed into Salzburg's main train station.  With trains from the OBB rushing by outside, we enjoyed this fabulous layout.  The detail, scenery, and realistic trackwork left nothing to be desired, and we all walked away with a sense of awe at not only the layout, but the location of this fantastic club, with a movie theater and bar downstairs, and glass windows allowing uninterrupted viewing of passing trains outside.  The time was too short, and barely an hour after we arrived, we tipped our glasses to the club (who had beer on tap in the bar, of course), signed the guest registry, and headed back to the Salzburg station.  Although the rest of the group was pretty soggy from the stroll through the rainy market, everyone was in good spirits.  The train left promptly on schedule, and soon we were back in Germany.  Stopping again allowed us to take a "nighttime" look at the beautiful BR41, glistening in the dampness, and highlighted by the station lights at Rosenheim.  Even with a delay due to a non-functional crossing gate, we still arrived at Pasing on time.  After a quick stop at the hotel, the group assembled at our favorite Bavarian restaurant.  We enjoyed one last dinner together as a group, and with a glass of Schnapps, we officially toasted the end of the tour.

With my flight to the states leaving Sunday morning, I had no choice but to take a late train to Stuttgart, wait a couple of hours, and take the morning's first ICE to Frankfurt.  My train, leaving Pasing at 1:30 a.m., was none other than the famed Orient Express.  However, only the French cars in the consist gave any indication that this was a special train.  I found a compartment and struck up a conversation with the young Frenchman in the car.  Although he spoke no English or German, and even though I hadn't spoken French since high school, we still had an enjoyable two hours before we arrived in Stuttgart.  The temperature had dropped considerably, and I was glad to be warmly dressed as I huddled on the platform waiting for the morning ICE to arrive.  Soon thereafter I was in Frankfurt, then on my plane, winging my way home.  Even with countless magazines in my briefcase, I was still able to sleep, a total of six hours, in fact, after which the anticipation of seeing my family again overtook my need for sleep.   

- Carsten Ramcke

WARNING:  Shameless Video Plug Ahead!

Okay, as usual I have completed a video of the Modellbahnmesse trip 2003.  The video includes all the action mentioned above (at least where I was allowed to film).  I have compiled the seven hours of video I shot into a single two-hour tape, featuring mainly highlights from the Modellbahnmesse.  The two-hour video is available for $14.00 plus $4 for Priority shipping in the United States.  If you are in Canada, your total cost is $14 plus $6 shipping.  For those outside of North America, a PAL version is available for $20.00 plus $6 world-wide shipping. 

NOW AVAILABLE:  DVD!  That's right, I broke down and purchased a DVD burner.  If you would like the ultimate in digital quality, the DVD of the 2003 Messe trip is available for $18.00 plus $4 shipping in the USA.  Canada pays only $2 more for S&H, while those looking for a PAL version of the DVD should send me an email instead (I still need to figure out if I can make PAL DVD's).

I do accept PayPal (to dbfanatic@comcast.net) or you can send me a check instead:


Carsten Ramcke

163 Oakwood

Saline, MI 48176

Let me know if you have any questions or comments. 


For those of you who made it this far down the page...

Here is the introduction to the 2003 Modellbahnmesse video from Get Rich Slow Video:



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