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The Trains Run...

My God, what have I done?

Okay, so on May 30 I received the invoice and packing slip from ETS and knew my package was on the way, containing the Marklin 1 scale premium start set, a very cost-effective way to jump into the high end of the scale with digital engines, a large oval of track with passing siding, digital controls, and passenger and freight cars.  I was particularly enamored with the class 212 diesel.  As a child, I often visited my grandmother in Germany who lived in the beautiful small town of Königstein near Frankfurt.  Every day I would race down to the station and watch the trains pull in and out of this end-station as they ferried commuters and schoolkids to- and from Frankfurt Hoechst station.  Besides the diesel railcars of the FKE (Frankfurt-Königstein Eisenbahn) one would often find a class 212 with a trio or quartet of silverfish passenger cars in tow.  This, I decided, would be the railroad I would want to model, and what memories I wanted to revive through these large-scale trains.

I spent a great deal of time on the internet the next few weeks.  I made contact with many very helpful people, some of whom I had already known and even met, and some, like Jun Maeda, who live a world away but took the time out to give me advice and offer support.  

Several things became clear:  First, I would need new track planning software, since I had nothing with a library for Marklin or Huebner 1 scale track.  I had heard of WinRail and had run the demo enough times to know that its familiar Windows® interface and many advanced features would allow me to quickly put together track plans that were not only easy to read and understand, but also that allowed great flexibility in making modifications, very much like simply taking an unlimited box of track, and sticking pieces together and taking them apart at will.  My excitement led to many versions of the Frankfurt-Königstein layout, the smallest of which (while still maintaining some realism of platform length, etc) ended up being 24 feet long and 16 feet wide!   

 Second, since the set is digital, I would have to eat some crow after waving the flag of "Analog or Death" for so long.  No problem, the friendly members of the Marklin Mailing List forgave this transgression quickly, and soon I had more information than I knew what to do with!  One thing was clear- for control, the Uhlenbrock Intellibox was the way to go...

I called Robert Frowenfeld, the North American distributor for this device.  I had met Robert last year, and initially chalked up his extremely friendly and helpful nature to the fact that he and I had already met, though I have since found out that Robert treats all his customers and inquiries with the same care and thoroughness.  It wasn't long before this outstanding control device added yet another line item to my growing list of really-can't-afford-but-gotta-have items.  

With the Intellibox ordered and the layout designed (though I had no idea where I would even set up the simple oval of track!) the waiting game began.  I would call home from work at least four times a day asking "Is the big box there yet?  Is the big box there yet?"  At first my wife Jennifer would reply, "No, sweetie, I'm sorry, it hasn't come yet."  By the second week Jen's replies had diminished to "Look, I said I would call you if the box arrives!"  By the third week she would simply pick up the phone and scream "NO BOX!  NOT HERE!  STOP CALLING ABOUT THE BOX!  DON'T YOU EVER WORK AT THAT OFFICE?  I SAID I'D CALL IF IT SHOWS!"    

Saturday, June 23 there appears a small pink slip of paper in my mailbox.  A large package is waiting for me at the Ann Arbor post office.  It's here!  It's here!  I grab the car keys, leap over my two-year-old daughter (who is now as excited as her father, but doesn't know why) and bolt out the door.  I hop behind the wheel and turn the key...

Wait... 

It's...

 SATURDAY!  

UUUUUuuuuuurrrrrrggggghhhhhh!!!!!!!

That's okay, it's been three and a half weeks, I can make it another two days, right?  Well...  Sunday morning I consider driving over to the post office, just to see if I can spot the box through the windows in the back.  Instead I relax by watching a fantastic train video and spending time with my family.  It works, and I am able to stave off the delirium tremens for another 48 hours... 

Monday I have (of course) a business obligation until late in the day.  I don't actually get home until almost 10:00 p.m.  Jen is kind enough to go pick up the big box from the post office.  I walk in the house, and there it sits:

 I fight back the tears welling up in my eyes.  This enormous hunk of cardboard is the most beautiful thing I have seen since I looked upon my baby girl for the first time.  Well, okay, not really, but it is really, really cool!  Instead of tearing into it like a lion ripping open a gazelle, I sit and enjoy the moment.  I decide that if I could bottle the way I feel now, I'd be a multi-multi billionaire.

Finally, after what seems like an hour, I take a pair of scissors and cut the box open...

Next:  I open Pandora's Box...