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The 2007 Switzerland / Treff Trip

One to yodel about!

This amazing picture was taken by Aron Kahn on our train ride from Luzerne to Interlaken on the 2007 Treff / Switzerland trip

Perfect weather, gorgeous scenery, amazing trains.  What more could one wish for from a railfanning trip?  The 2007 Switzerland / Treff trip offered this and more to the group of enthusiasts who ended up together at the Marklin Treff in September 2007.  But I’m getting ahead of myself… 

My own trip started Friday, September 7.  After the short flight from Detroit to Washington Dulles, I sat anxiously in our plane to Zurich as delay after delay were announced from the cockpit.  A twenty-minute departure delay became thirty, then forty-five, then an hour.  Normally such delays wouldn’t bother me, but I had a sense of urgency on this leg of the trip.  The big 125th anniversary celebration of the Gotthard line was to be in full swing on Saturday, and any delays on my trip over would mean fewer opportunities to see the historic trains at Erstfeld.  After nearly an hour and a half delay, we finally pushed back and took off. 

 Saturday, September 8:  More delays.  On approach to Zurich we circled four times before coming in for a landing.  I could only shake my head in disappointment.  It was now obvious that I would miss several of the historic trains departing Erstfeld to go over the pass.  George Senkler and Norm Champion, who were also flying into Zurich this morning, had hopefully noticed that my flight was delayed, and had headed to Erstfeld instead of waiting for me.  But that was not to be.  As I hustled through customs and out into the terminal in Zurich, there they were, all smiles, with not a care in the world.  In that instant I realized that it was good, all good, and that any stress I caused myself was unnecessary.  I was in Switzerland, the sun was shining, and a huge rail festival with historic trains awaited us.

 

We hopped a train to Arth-Goldau, a larger Y-shaped station that we would come through on the way back from Erstfeld to Luzerne.  In Arth-Goldau we stowed our luggage in lockers so we wouldn’t have to cart them along in Erstfeld.  As we were packing everything away, our luck began to change.  The ‘Churchill’ Red Arrow pulled into the station not fifty feet from us!  We grabbed our cameras and raced over to the platform to catch some photos of this beautiful historic locomotive.  My luck had changed.

 

Less than an hour later we were in Erstfeld.  The air was scented with the smell of steam, and the station platforms were crowded with enthusiasts.  The most noteworthy special train, a passenger consist pulled by a pair of class 01 steam locomotives, had not yet left.  With its departure only fifteen minutes away, we hastened to find a good vantage point from which to watch its departure for the trip across the Gotthard.  A dike next to the station provided the perfect spot, and we waited until the majestic consist pulled out of Erstfeld depot, the firemen shoveling coal like mad in preparation for the heavy trip up the pass.

 Click here to watch a 2MB file of the train's departure

We spent several hours in Erstfeld, enjoying the assortment of rolling stock in the station.  We also met up with several more members of the Great Event Tours group.  Here are a few photos from the Erstfeld collection:

 

Though I had missed meeting up with Christian Vinaa (Aunt Martha’s nephew, for those of you on the B&G), Christian had generously offered to take fellow Great Event Tourist Tim Chao (that's him on the Kroc in the photo above) along on a drive up the pass to Wassen earlier that day.  Some of their photos are below:

As you can see, the collection of rolling stock making the trip across the Gotthard was amazing!  Unfortunately, we didn’t have enough time to make the trip across the Gotthard ourselves, because it was soon time to head to Luzerne for the official trip kick-off, and our first train layout visit…

 

A few of the group had stayed at the festivities on the Gotthard pass, but the majority of us did meet up at our hotel, the Hotel Drei Loewen, in Luzerne.  After a quick round of introductions, we were met by the hotel’s owner for a trip up to see the HO train layout of the same name.  The layout fills the entire attic of the hotel, and features an amazing helix, high bridge, and some beautiful scenery.  Although the main line of the layout was in the process of being expanded and could not run trains, we did get to see the single-track secondary line in operation, featuring a large terminus station at one end. 

Besides the layout and the magnificent collection of trains, the owner of the hotel also has the distinction of having the largest collection of railroad pins in the world.  He even has his own pin, designed specifically for the layout in the hotel’s attic.  He was kind enough to give each of us a pin.  After the long day, we were soon off to bed... 

Sunday, September 9:  The slight overcast was a bit of a downer this morning, since our schedule had us taking an afternoon trip to the top of Mt. Pilatus after a morning at the Swiss Museum of Transport.  No matter, everyone seemed in good spirits as we headed to the dock.  From Luzerne you can see both Mt. Pilatus and Mt. Rigi, and we decided to wait until after the museum visit before making a decision on which, if either, mountain to scale.  But first it was off to the museum.

 

It was my first time in the Museum of Transport, and although I had assumed that much of the rolling stock was still on the Gotthard, the museum was filled to capacity with trains of all kinds.  The museum itself is a sprawling complex, with hours’ worth of things to see and do.  Aside from ogling the trains, I managed to spin out in a formula one car on the Hockenheimring (okay, it was actually a simulator) and marvel at the collection of airplanes in the aircraft wing of the museum.  A live steam 8” miniature railroad runs through a courtyard, and we watched the train make its rounds, pulling carriages full of excited youngsters (nope, we didn’t ride on this train, though I do think I saw Aron Kahn sizing up the coaches to see if he would fit).

  

   

There was also a large HO layout of the Gotthard route (well, highlights of it) which was worth a look as well. 

 

When we met up at the dock again after lunch, the skies had cleared, and the Rigi summit was at least partly visible across the lake.  We decided to chance it, and were glad we did.  By the time we made the trip to the top of the mountain, we were greeted with blue skies.  We spent a half hour admiring the view, and watching the (certifiably insane) paragliders leap off the edge of the cliffs to float out above the ground thousands of feet below.  No sooner had we climbed aboard our train to Arth-Goldau than the clouds rolled back in.  We had timed it perfectly!  In fact, we even got to see the Swiss TEE pulling out of Arth-Goldau as we descended the mountainside!

 

 

Several of the group decided to make one last trip down the Gotthard line to see the last remnants of the festivities.  The rest of us made our way to the hotel.  Everyone met up again that evening to enjoy some Swiss food and entertainment, courtesy of the Stadtkeller restaurant.  From Alpenhorns to flag throwing to broom dancing, we enjoyed a colorful show, tasty Swiss fondue, and plenty of beer!  Yours truly was even dragged on stage (to the cheers and jeers of the rest of the group) to try his hand at yodeling.  I hope I did Great Event Tours proud!

 

Click here to see Great Event Tours' decidedly NOT finest hour!

 Monday, September 10:  Today was to be an action-packed day, and we were all ready to leave the hotel by 8:00.  Our train, the Golden Pass Express, was already parked at the station when we arrived, ready to whisk us to Interlaken for the next leg of our journey.  Lucerne is a nifty station, in that some of the tracks leading in are standard gauge, while others are narrow-gauge.  The trip on the Golden Pass Express was beautiful, and we spent a good portion of the trip with windows open and our heads stuck outside (yes, once again we had beautiful weather!). 

When we arrived in Interlaken Ost, we stowed our bags in lockers in the station and headed into town for lunch.  I picked a small “Imbiss” next to the station to enjoy a couple of sausages and some “red-white” French fries (served with ketchup and mayonnaise).  I was soon joined by Grant and Tracy Hinton, and we met up with the rest of the group to start the afternoon excursion to the top of Europe – the ascent up to Jungfraujoch, the highest station on the European continent. 

 

Once again we kept the windows open to enjoy an unobstructed view of the gorgeous scenery.  At Kleine Schneidegg we took a brief respite from the trains (okay, so I took too long figuring out where we were supposed to be and we missed the train to the summit) and had a beer and enjoyed the view.  The trip up to the summit (inside the mountain) was awe-inspiring, and the train makes several stops to let the passengers out to enjoy some views of the large ice field and glaciers that traverse the valley in front of the three peaks of the Eiger, Mönch, and Jungfrau. 

 

We arrived at the top and were greeted on the outdoor platform with cold wind blasting up from the valley below.  It didn’t take us long to run for the shelter of the observatory.  Aside from the spectacular view, the summit at Jungfrau includes a restaurant, gift shop (though I think John Hagedorn cleaned them out!), and an ice cave complete with sculptures.  Jared Harrison and I even braved a trip onto the ice outside to a Swiss flag planted, presumably, to give tourists a sense of ‘mountain climbing accomplishment’.  Both of us very nearly slipped and fell on the very slippery ice, but we did make it out to the flag, and yes, we did feel (juuuuust a little) like mountain climbers. 

 

We caught the last train back down the mountain and took the train back to Interlaken.  Our hotel, the Best Western, was just a short walk from the station at Interlaken West.  We checked in, stowed our bags, and headed out for dinner.  On the recommendation of our hotel receptionist, several of us headed to a small restaurant favored by the locals.  It was a fantastic meal- one of the best we would encounter on the trip.

 Tuesday, September 11:  A leisurely breakfast and relaxed atmosphere kicked off our third full day of the tour.  After breakfast we stowed our luggage at the train station and headed across the tracks at Interlaken West to the dock.  There we boarded our lake steamer for a relaxing trip across Lake Thun.  Another beautiful, sunny day made the trip across the lake to Oberhofen quite enjoyable.  The water was a beautiful green-blue mix, and a gentle breeze blew across the lake on an unseasonably warm day.  At Oberhofen, we spent a couple of hours wandering the Oberhofen castle and walking the grounds.  It is a beautiful castle and equally impressive garden, and after a tasty lunch at the dock (which is located within easy walking distance from the castle) we boarded the ship to head back to Interlaken.

 

Our next destination was the SBB Historic Treff.  Although we could not get in to see the rolling stock stored at the facility, we did get to marvel at the many train layouts at this venue just down the line from the station.  A massive O narrow-gauge layout features highlights of the route we would soon be taking with the Glacier Express.  You can follow a single train for close to an hour as it traverses the dozen or so modules (some of them thirty feet long and twenty feet deep!) featuring some of the most well-known locations of the route from Andermatt to St. Moritz. 

 

Besides the large O-gauge layout, the Treff also features several layouts in HO from other countries, including France, Holland, Germany and Italy.  A huge 1-scale modular layout on the upper floor rounds out the collection.  When you are ready for a break, a small café upstairs will send you a tasty beverage by G-scale train right to your table!

 

After two enjoyable hours admiring the layouts (and scouring the gift shop for souvenirs and memorabilia) we headed back to the station to catch our train to Brig.  Our time in Interlaken had been short, but very enjoyable.  I look forward to another visit in the future.

 The north ramp of the Loetschberg is a wonderful railfanning spot, where trains zig-zag their way up the mountainside.  Unfortunately it was too late in the day to do any railfanning, and we took our train straight to Brig.  Our hotel in Brig was located in the pedestrian zone, a great location for wandering around the town.  A communication problem with the hotel had resulted in a shortage of rooms, but luckily a second hotel was able to take in the extra group members.  That “overflow” hotel happened to be located directly adjacent to the train station, and my room on the third floor offered a great view of the trains heading into and out of Brig station.  I spent several hours at the window, watching the long freight trains and passenger trains pull in and out of Brig long into the night…

 

Yep, that really is the view from the top floor of Hotel Europe in Brig!  Aron Kahn, who took over the room after the first night, snapped these photos.

Wednesday, September 12:  This was to be our “day off”, but as it turned out, it was to be anything but!  The group split up for the day, with some of us heading to the Bietschtal bridge to hike up the Loetschberg south ramp and others making their way to the Italian border via the Centovalli railway to visit the model train collection at Galleria Baumgartner and the outdoor models at Swiss Miniatur. 

Some pictures of Swiss Miniatur and the Centovalli taken by John Hagedorn 

The “hiking party” headed out after a hearty breakfast, taking the train to Ausserberg for the hike to the next station, Hohtenn.  The well-trodden and well-marked path led us through some beautiful countryside, and the warm sun and cool breezes on that perfect day made the hike an joy.  After about three hours of hiking, we rounded a hillside to catch the first view of the bridge in the distance.  The bridge is dominated by the mountains behind it, but is still imposing.  From this perspective, it’s still a twenty-minute hike to get up close! 

With our destination in sight, we made our way along the mountainside until we reached the bridge itself.  For more than an hour we stood next to and on the bridge, watching trains of all types come across.  With tunnels on both sides of the bridge, it’s hard to judge when a train is coming.  More than once we were caught by surprise and didn’t have our cameras “at the ready”.

 

The view into the gorge from the bridge’s edge is downright breathtaking, and the bridge shakes just slightly when a train barrels across, which made our hearts skip a beat!  When we had seen more than a half-dozen freight and passenger trains, we continued our hike towards the station of Hohtenn.  As luck would have it, at lunchtime we came across a small restaurant right on the walking path and next to the main line.  Nothing beats enjoying a beer and some bratwurst as the trains of the SBB rush past…

 

The hike continued, with beautiful vistas of the Rhone river valley interspersed with views of the railway line to our right.  Everyone but yours-truly made the hike in easy fashion.  For me it was a terrible reminder of just how out of shape I really was!  My special thanks go out to Norm Champion, who was kind enough to always make sure he was at the rear of our procession, lest one of us (meaning ME) keeled over from exhaustion! 

Just under an hour later we finally arrived at the station of Hohtenn.  Although listed as a five-hour hike, it took our little group more than eight hours to make the journey.  Of course, that did include frequent stops for railfanning, a leisurely lunch, and the long breaks at the Bietschtal bridge.  Exhausted but happy, we camped out at Hohtenn station, waiting for our train back to Brig.  Obviously, some of us fared better on the hike than others.

 

Three days after our hike, the new Lötschberg Basistunnel (base tunnel) was officially opened.  The ample train traffic we were able to enjoy on the Loetschberg south ramp is no more, as many of the passenger and freight through trains are now using the new tunnel.  We were lucky to enjoy the line in its heyday, and will relish the memory of that hike for many years to come.    

 

Downtown Brig from the 'Bahnhofsplatz'

The group met up again in the evening and we enjoyed a delicious meal of local favorites at a restaurant just up the street from the hotel in the pedestrian area.  The weather continued to be gorgeous, and the outdoor terrace was crowded on this mild evening.  It seems the group that headed to Switzerland’s southeast corner had a great day, too, not only at the venues they visited, but the exciting and breathtaking trip on the Centovalli line through Italy.

 Thursday, September 13:  The Matterhorn awaited us, and we boarded our train to Zermatt, the playground of the rich and famous, mid-morning.  It’s a beautiful train ride to Zermatt, with many views of snow-capped peaks, waterfalls, and rushing mountain streams.  Zermatt was pretty crowded, and we quickly made our way off the main square.  First order of the day was a group photo with that famous peak in the background…

 

Once again Great Event Tours had two destinations available to the group.  Half the entourage headed towards the gondolas to take them up to the top of the Klein Matterhorn, an impressive peak at 12,700 feet above sea level, offering a beautiful view of its “big brother”.  I did the trip to the top two years ago, and can say it’s well worth it.  You take four (!) different gondolas to make it to the summit, the last one being a huge gondola that hangs hundreds of feet above the icy glacier below on its trip up.  I was glad that several of the group took the opportunity to make that trip.  Grant and Tracy Hinton were determined to head to the top, since at 12,700 feet they would be higher than any point of land on their native New Zealand. 

The rest of us headed to the base station of the Gornergrad Railway.  The train was filled to capacity with hikers, tourists and classes (can you imagine a field trip for tenth-graders into the Alps??).  After clearing the town, we wound our way through beautiful forests and past rustic mountain streams as we ascended towards the tree line.  It’s a slow trip (I believe the train averages 15km/hr) but offers some beautiful views of the valley below, the Matterhorn, and the Alps.  We arrived at the mountaintop amid clear skies, and just a hint of clouds forming across the Matterhorn’s peak.  The train-fanatical perched near the station to watch or record the next series of trains coming up and going down the mountainside. 

After about an hour at the summit, we were ready to head back.  We arrived back in Zermatt and enjoyed a beer at an outdoor café near the station as we waited for other group members to assemble for the trip back to Brig.  We had the entire first-class section of one of the coaches to ourselves, and had a wonderful trip down the valley back to Brig, most of the group hanging out the open windows of the coach with still- and video-cameras humming.

 

One item I would like to offer to everyone who is planning on making this trip as well as the Glacier Express trip:  The panorama coaches (which we could have reserved for the trip to and from Zermatt and which we would be occupying on the Glacier Express) are very modern, air-conditioned, and offer wonderful views of the Swiss landscape.  However, personally, I think I enjoyed the trip to and from Zermatt more being in the standard coach, because we could open the windows, experience the breeze, and be more “a part of” the trip and the experience of the journey.  The panorama coach seems more sterile and detached from the landscape, as though you are seeing Switzerland via an elaborate movie theater.  Anyway, that’s one person’s opinion.  Given the choice, I think I would opt for the older coaches, with windows wide open, hanging my head out of one window, and letting the trip be as much for my other senses as the panorama coaches are for the eyes.

 Anyway, it was another beautiful evening in Brig, and we returned to the exquisite restaurant from the night before.  After another meal of delicious local favorites (it was hunting season, and the menu featured wild boar, elk, rabbit and deer) we headed to bed.  Tomorrow was to be another milestone – our trip across Switzerland aboard the famous Glacier Express…

 

Friday, September 14:  We met up at the station with plenty of time to spare, and boarded the Glacier Express with luggage in tow.  The Glacier Express is a very well-designed train, with ample room for luggage and headsets for everyone and an audio program that narrates the journey in more than a half-dozen languages.  Unfortunately the soundtrack was off a little from time to time, so we would miss some of the trip highlights because of the delayed narration.  Still, the trip was beautiful, the meal on the train was delicious, and all too soon we pulled into Chur and it was time to leave.

 

We took an Express from Chur to Zurich, where we had an hour for dinner while waiting for our ICE to Stuttgart.  It was to be our first trip in an ICE on the journey, but it was to be short-lived.  We were informed after departure from Zurich that the ICE would be stopping shortly after the German border, and we would be transferred to a “regular” train for the rest of the journey.  Apparently one of the multi-system locomotives was out of commission, so the train coming the other direction was not able to enter Switzerland.  Like an extravagant game of musical chairs, the two trains pulled into the station opposite each other, and both sets of passengers hopped off, passed each other, and boarded the train on the opposite track.  The two trains then proceeded back the way they had come. 

 The whole operation took no longer than ten minutes, so we easily made our connection in Stuttgart for the short ride to Esslingen.  Well, sort of…

 As a group leader and tour guide, I try and make the trip as enjoyable as possible for everyone.  However, as long as everyone makes it from point A to point B in one piece, the journey can be considered a marginal success.  Imagine my shock when the headcount at Esslingen showed one person wasn’t with us!  Bill Young, who has been with us on trips several times before, had mysteriously disappeared!  We pondered his fate.  Bill has the uncanny ability to fall asleep in any situation, so I figured he had dozed off on our train, missed the stop at Esslingen, and was merrily on his way to Ulm.  Luckily Bill had a cell phone with him, and since George Senkler had Bill’s phone number, George was able to call him.  Where was he?  Why, Esslingen, of course!  We looked around the station area – no George.  We knew he hadn’t gotten off our train.  How was he in Esslingen?  Suddenly I spotted him, coming down the tunnel from the S-bahn tracks.  Bill had simply taken the S-bahn instead of the regional train we were on, and had pulled into Esslingen two minutes after us!  I breathed a sigh of relief.  Thank goodness!

 We walked to the hotel and were surprised to hear music getting louder and louder as we approached.  A big music festival and outdoor concert was taking place just up the pedestrian zone from our hotel.  The music wasn’t unpleasant, and frankly, I wasn’t quite ready for bed, anyway.  Lucky for me, neither were Aron Kahn or Tor Harald-Bohler, and soon the three of us were headed back to the station for some railfanning.  Although it was late in the evening on a Friday (it was about 23:00 by the time we arrived back at the station), we got to enjoy quite a few freight and passenger trains in the hour-plus we spent on the platform on another mild evening in Europe.

 

Saturday, September 15:  There is always a wonderful air of anticipation at breakfast the first morning of the Treff weekend.  What new items will we see?  Will there be anything from LGB at the Treff?  Who else will be there?  Any surprise trains at the station?  What club layouts?  What goodies will we find at the museum store?  Well, folks, it wasn’t long before all these questions would be answered.

 I headed down to the station early to pick up our group’s train tickets for the trip to Goeppingen.  As I approached, I squinted in the sunlight (yes, another gorgeous sunny day) to try and make out what the unusual black train car sitting on track one was.  I quickly realized it wasn’t a car at all, but the BR50 of the Ulmer Eisenbahnfreunde with its excursion train to the Treff!  I broke into a run, hoping to catch the locomotive on the platform, bathed in sunlight, with nobody around – the perfect photo opportunity!  Then I saw the puff of white steam from the top of the locomotive.  In the split-second between seeing the white puff of steam and the sound reaching my ears, my heart sank, knowing it was, indeed, the locomotive’s departure whistle.  I watched the train pull slowly out of the station from the Bahnhofstrasse, a big grin on my face, now even more excited about the day to come.  The rest of the group soon followed, and we boarded the Regional Express to Goeppingen shortly after nine.

 

We arrived relatively early at the Treff, and the crowds were quite tolerable.  A large collection of rolling stock was already at the station – three steam locomotives, several diesels, historic coaches, and an E94 electric.  Even the railbus trundled into the station as we watched.  The DB had brought a complete S-Bahn which was open to wander through.  Unfortunately, we soon discovered that the BR41, scheduled to arrive with a special train (including the Kakadu we were expecting to meet in for all the B&Gers), was cancelled and would not be coming.  It was a shame, but there was still plenty to see.  We hopped one of the busses that connect the different venues, and headed first to the Leonhard Weiss grounds.  The ticket line at Goeppingen station was quite long, and as I suspected, the line at Leonhard Weiss was much shorter. 

 

By the way, that's Aron Kahn in the second-to-last photo, who is responsible for most of the excellent pictures on this page!

The group dispersed, since there really was no schedule, except that a few of us were considering going to the garden railway festival at ETS at around 4:00 p.m.  As usual, I spent a good portion of the day at the station, watching the historic and modern-day train traffic running in and out of Goeppingen.  It was a warm, sunny day, and I soon found myself peeling off my sweatshirt in the summer-like conditions.  At lunchtime I met up with Nigel Packer and his wife Chris, along with Dave Thomson (of Thomsonbahn fame) who had flown in from Cincinnati just for the weekend.  We quickly ran into nearly a dozen other familiar faces, including Robert Frowenfeld of RJF trains, Stretch Anderson, Steve Stern and Dave Pryor from San Francisco, Fred Gates and Jeff Stimson from Marklin USA, and the always informative Martin Brandt.  In fact, by the end of the day I had run into about a dozen B&G members and other people I knew! 

 

I spent a few minutes admiring the Unimog collection in front of the station and poking through the vendors on platform 1 before heading into the freight hall at the station, one of the show’s four major venues.  At this point, I had yet to see any 1-scale layout, and was hoping something would be here.  Alas, the only 1-scale to be found was a simple double-oval without scenery where Marklin was showing off the BR44 live steam.  It amazes me how a 1:32 scale model of a steam locomotive, powered by butane, can still have the same unmistakable smell of the ‘real thing’.  I proceeded through the rest of the hall, admiring (and filming, of course) all the different layouts.  There were some quite beautiful miniature works of art, with a high level of detail and realism.  But time was short, so I packed up the camera and headed to the meeting point for those who were headed to ETS.

 To my surprise, nearly the entire group had decided to make the trip to Waiblingen to visit the model railroader’s paradise that is ETS.  We took the S-Bahn via Bad Cannstatt and walked the half-mile to the store.  Uli was quite surprised when I walked up with the rest of the group in tow.  The festivities in the garden were winding down, but we still got to admire the trains and the scenery of the massive garden layout that occupies the back lot behind the store.  It is one of the most elaborate garden railways I have ever seen, and certainly one of the biggest, too!  We spent a good hour watching the trains traverse the 1:24 scale landscape…

Take a close look at that castle in the last photo - isn't that amazing?

It was well after the closing time of 8:00 p.m. before we were able to pull the entire group out of the store.  Several GET members had shopping carts piled high with trains and accessories, which ETS had agreed to ship back to the USA to help us avoid paying the value-added tax.  Getting out of the VAT was small consolation for the exchange rate, which had lost another 2% just since our arrival in Europe.  Still, there were good deals at ETS, as there always are.  Uli Schweickhardt and two of his staff were kind enough to take us all back to the station in Waiblingen, which saved us the half-mile uphill march back to the train station!  It also meant we got back to the hotel at a reasonable hour.  Once again the outdoor concert was in full swing, so once again I made my way down to the station at Esslingen for some late-evening railfanning…

 

John Hagedorn has a few questions for ETS' service department, while our ride to the train station waits outside...

Sunday, September 16:  The last day of the Treff is always a bittersweet one for me.  It marks the last day of the tour, so I’m relieved that my duties as group leader are almost at an end, but it also means that the trip is coming to a close.  We headed back to Göppingen on the same train as we had the day before, arriving to another light crowd at the station, which quickly grew as the day wore on.  I spent some time watching the 1-scale high-speed races, and poked into the large exhibitor tents at the remote venue.  I made my only purchase of the Treff, a stack of plastic Bundesbahn destination boards for Eurocity and Intercity named trains, plus some destination boards of local trains.  I have quite a collection of these now, and hope to someday decorate the walls of the train room with these. 

 

I headed back to the station after lunch and purchased the steam train tickets for the group.  This steam train ride is yet another highlight of the weekend for me, and the trip didn’t disappoint.  Our group of GETers was joined by a few other people I know from previous trips, including Nigel Packer and his wife Chris, and David Thomson, aka “Mr. Thomsonbahn”.  Tim Chao, Aron Kahn and I spent the majority of the steam train ride out on the open platform of the thunderbox coach we were riding in.  The wind was mild, the sun was shining, and we were riding German rails behind a class 50 steam locomotive at the Marklin Treff.  For that short time, I had not a care, and all seemed right in the world.

 

We returned to Goeppingen and unfortunately had to board our train to Esslingen before the big departure of all the special trains.  When we arrived in Esslingen, we were greeted by the same BR50, now on its way back to Noerdlingen, on one of the sidings.  It was a great opportunity to get a few pictures of this beauty without two-dozen railfans crowding in front of it.  Several of us stayed on the platform and watched the majestic locomotive pull out a few minutes later.  Then it was back to the hotel to meet up for the farewell dinner. 

Aron Kahn, who stayed at the station in Esslingen, did get to see the procession go by and snapped these photos:

 

The restaurant we ate at is the same one we have frequented the last six years, and the food was as good as I remembered it.  As memorable as the farewell dinner always is, this one was made even more so by the generosity of several of the group, and I felt like it was my birthday as I was given several gifts by group members, including a wonderful book on the railways of New Zealand and an authentic Australian boomerang. 

We finished the evening and walked back to the hotel.  It was another warm, cloudless evening, and in spite of the mild temperatures, I headed back to the hotel to begin packing.  Tomorrow I was headed to Frankfurt, and I would be on a plane headed home the day after…

 

Our walk to the restaurant on the last evening of the tour...

September 17:  Monday morning brought back the hustle and bustle of the work week to Esslingen, and the platform was crowded with commuters.  I had a couple of hours to spare, and chose to spend one of them at Esslingen.  I spent the other hour in Stuttgart, camped out on one of the platforms, watching the trains pull in and out of this large terminus station.  I had scanned the train schedules and knew I would be treated to a view of the multi-system TGV, due to come in before my train to Frankfurt was scheduled to leave.  I watched the sleek blue-and-gray train glide gracefully into the station, though I must admit that I still consider the original orange color to be _the_ defining characteristic of those French railroading masterpieces. 

 The train trip to Frankfurt was problem-free, and I soon found myself in the apartment of my 97-year-old grandmother.  She gifted me with another (this is the third) videocassette loaded with recordings of “Eisenbahnromantik”, which I am just now converting into WMA format to watch on my TV from the computer in the office.  I was in bed early that evening, and up early the next morning. With a load of luggage only slightly heavier than when I arrived, I walked through the light rain (the first precipitation of the trip with the exception of one solitary sprinkle when we came through Zurich on Friday) and hopped the S-Bahn to the airport.  As usual, I had a window seat on the plane, and craned my neck to catch a last glimpse out the window of a train or two far below as we climbed towards the clouds out of Frankfurt.  

 

BUT WAIT...  THERE'S MORE!

See the entire trip in an 11MB wma video file by clicking here!

Until next time...