A Garden Railway?

Whose Side is Time On?  It's not on Mine!

Monday night, June 25 I finally open the large cardboard box from ETS.  I dig through the crumpled newspapers and packing peanuts.  Inside the big cardboard box sits a gleaming white box, only slightly smaller.  The big part number, 55031, greets me.  This is one heavy sucker!  With care I pull the box out of its packaging and set it on the dining room table.  

The top comes right off, but I have already damaged the box trying to figure out where the seams for the top are before I realize this.   C'mon, it's 11:00 p.m., I'm tired from a very long day at work, and my mind is racing with anticipation.  The lid slides up and off, and I remove the Styrofoam sheet on top. 

My first reaction is amazement at just how big the passenger cars are.  The tank car is a monster, too.  Marklin has put felt strips in the box, presumably to aid in removing the items.  This thought doesn't come to me until later (tired, excited, blah blah blah).  The first item to come out is the steam engine.  It's heavy.  It's big.  Suddenly I'm a kid again, with my hand dwarfed under the size of this model locomotive.  I turn it around in my hands, looking into the cab, admiring the wheels and running gear.  I notice my fingers have left fatty deposits, and these are quickly wiped away.  

Next to come out are the passenger cars.  The interior detail is amazing, right down to the baggage racks above the windows!  The seats are the same burgundy color that I remember from riding in older German train cars in the past.  The 1st/2nd class car even has a different layout for the first class area.  I roll up the doors at the back of the car, amazed that even the small plates that cover the gap between cars on "the real thing" are represented on the model, and these can be raised or lowered, whether the car is the first or last car, or whether it is coupled to a sibling.  However, these cars will not be in my possession long...

First things first.  One by one the steam engine and passenger cars are carried into the basement.  With appropriate backdrop I take several photographs of each.  This isn't for insurance purposes.  No, sadly, these items will be headed for eBay tomorrow.  I have decided that I must own the Hübner railbus model.  Since my train hobby budget is tight and the railbus very expensive, I will need to sell the passenger cars and steam engine to even come close to affording it.  The few minutes these items spend on the Carstenbahn are the only times they will be out of the box while in my possession.  Sadly, I put everything away again.

The 6021 controller is also put on eBay, especially since the Intellibox will be arriving tomorrow (Tuesday) and I need to figure out how to pay for that as well.  I close the box up again.  With visions of big ovals and huge long trains, I head for bed.

Tomorrow does not happen.  

A good friend calls, urgently needing help in pulling the engine from his car.  After work I immediately head over.  It's not until almost midnight that we finally roll the hoist back with the engine hanging from it.  I'm exhausted.  I shower and go immediately to bed.

Wednesday, June 27: I have another obligation, I need to rent a truck, and go pick up a new sofa, bring it home, take the sofa that's at home and deliver it to friends along with some other furniture.  It's not the potential for chronic back problems that bothers me.  It's the fact that I will not have the opportunity to set up the trains for several more days.  Thursday and Friday are already booked, and sadly I realize that it won't be until Saturday afternoon that I can set up the trains.  

Hot damn!  After several hours of trying, Jennifer calls me at work and announces that all trucks, trailers, etc. are already reserved for today at the three rental places in Ann Arbor!  My evening is suddenly free!  I'm out the door from work at 5:01 p.m.  After moving the sofa at home into the garage, along with the loveseat, Not only have I fulfilled my obligations of moving furniture already, but I have created a huge space for setting up the oval of track!  The box comes back out and I remove the trains to reveal the tray of tracks below.

I begin pulling out the track.  There is a great booklet in the start set with lots of details on how to connect the track, some starter set track plans, etc.  I decide to go with the "oval with passing track", the one featured in the catalog (a copy of which was also in the set).  After laying just a few tracks it becomes quite obvious that this large room really isn't so large!  

The simple oval does not fit!  I get creative with the furniture in the room and soon I have a reasonable oval and two sidings to work with.  I am amazed at how tight the curve radii appear to be, while at the same time making our large family room look small.  

The magic moment has arrived.  The Intellibox has also arrived, but I decide against setting it up just yet.  Instead I grab an old Marklin 280 transformer.  Since I want to sell the steam engine as brand spanking new, I will not run it.  I get the diesel out, it is the first time that I have held it.  It's huge!  It's amazing!  I grin from ear to ear when I realize that, by turning the door handles, the doors on the cab will open.  Checking the booklet I figure out how to remove the engine's housing to set the switch for analog A/C operation.  In minutes, much to the delight of my daughter, the engine makes its first pass around the oval of track.


She is a cutie, isn't she?  Okay, very observant people will notice the box in the background.  Yes, it wasn't long before the Intellibox was taken out and hooked up.  Having used it before at Andreas Hildebrandt's house during EuroWest, I decided to simply "plug and play".  Friends, I cannot even begin to tell you how intuitive, easy to understand, feature-packed, and attractive this device is.  It took me all of 30 seconds to figure out how to get the IB up and running.  Of course, I'm only scratching the surface of what this device is capable of!  Even Kate (she's only two and a third) could easily understand the IB, and aside from just wanting to press all the cool red and green buttons, she quickly mastered the throttle.  I adjusted maximum speed and gentle acceleration / braking on the locomotive, and soon Kate was running the trains like a pro, even responding (sometimes) to my commands of "slower" or "faster" or "STOP!!!".

After each of her dolls was allowed to make a trip around the layout in the gondola it was finally time for bed.  Jennifer took over the duties of putting Kate to bed, while I began to disconnect the tracks, but not before I got to lay on my stomach, propped up by my elbows, and watch the V100 with its string of five freight cars pass by several times.  Oh, what memories that brought back!  With the tracks all put away (Kate and several friends were going to be playing in that room the next day) I headed for bed.  It will be several days before I can set up the trains again, but at least now I know how they run.  In the words of Forrest Gump, "Ah am naht a smaht man, but ah know whut love is!"

NEXT:  The trains get some fresh air...