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The Second Day...

The 2003 Modellbahn Treff Diary

Day 1:  We fly into Frankfurt, take a trip to Stuttgart, and prepare for the Modellbahntreff weekend...

My first thought as I looked across the crowded cabin of the DC-10 in Detroit was that all the talk in the U.S. about the airlines being in trouble was a sham. The plane was nearly full, and this on a Thursday flight. As luck would have it, the seat next to mine remained open, and I was able to stretch out. In fact, much to my amazement, I drifted off to sleep almost immediately after "dinner". Stretch Tucker and his wife Carol, also along from the states on this Great Event Tour were comfortably seated in the exit row, a good thing, since Stretch stands a full two meters tall. I had met them at their gate in Detroit, and I quickly came to realize that their company on this trip would be a delight.

As I slept, I had a wonderful dream, one in which I heard the words "Frankfurt" and "sunny" used in the same sentence. I awoke to realize that it had _not_ been a dream, and we were on approach to Frankfurt already. I had slept for six of the eight hours of the flight! I watched for landmarks out the window below. There was Mainz (pronounced "mine-tss"), the Main river flowing into the Rhine, and as we flew along the Main, I was offered a spectacular view of the Frankfurt downtown area, along with the Hauptbahnhof.

We touched down on time, on a clear, sunny Friday, May 2, in Frankfurt. Although Stretch and Carol had boarded in Orlando, Florida, our bags all came out onto the conveyor together, and we headed through customs and out the door into the Frankfurt airport. We hopped the shuttle bus to the Terminal 1 / "Fernbahnhof" stop, and I recommend this to everyone as a time-saving alternative to the Sky-Line / walk-a-hundred-miles route. We stopped at the DER (travel agent) office and picked up all the train tickets we would need for the whole tour. An ICE to Stuttgart was leaving in a few minutes, so we headed down to the platform. In minutes we were relaxing in first-class luxury as our ICE3 glided gracefully through the German countryside.

An ICE3 (not ours) leaving Frankfurt...

It seemed no time before we arrived in Stuttgart. Since it was only 10:00 and we weren't headed to Eisenbahn Treffpunkt Schweickhardt until after noon, we spent some time on the top of the observation tower at the Stuttgart station and, with Carol and Stretch off to poke through the shops, I headed to the platform for some filming and photographing.

The new meets the old, and interesting trackwork in Stuttgart Hbf

Click here for video of a BR143 entering Stuttgart Station

There is an exhibition in some of the intermediate floors of the Stuttgart station tower showing the design of the new Stuttgart through-station, to be constructed over the next few years. I walked through the exhibition (it's free and worth the tour) and met up again with Stretch and Carol. We climbed back up to the observation platform to meet up with Martin Brandt, who, unbeknownst to us, was waiting below at the ICE platform. We finally headed out on our own for a quick lunch in Bad Cannstadt before continuing on to Waiblingen and ETS.

One thing I want to remind everyone at this point is that the weather on Friday was absolutely fabulous! We sat outside a restaurant near the Bad Cannstadt station enjoying a "Döner", similar to a gyros sandwich, but sooo much better! Stretch and I washed them down with a beer before heading back to the station for the S-bahn to Waiblingen. The streets were filled with smiling faces and laughter, as everyone soaked up the first summer-like day in this part of Baden-Würtenberg

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Esslingen, our home for the next three days...

Uli Schweickhardt himself picked us up in his silver Mercedes station wagon, and after a short tour of picturesque Waiblingen we arrived at ETS. Our first stop was actually not inside the store, but behind it, as Uli and some of his crew were working on the garden railway outside. Every year ETS sponsors a garden railway festival, and Uli's team was hard at work with landscaping, cutting the grass, repairing damage caused over the winter, and expanding the track plan in several locations for the May 25/26 event. The layout is massive, over two hundred feet in length, allowing up to a dozen trains to run at once. Uli commented on how much was left to do in the two short weeks before the event, and Stretch immediately volunteered to stay two weeks to help out! I added my voice to the chorus, and I'm sure Uli would have gladly accepted our help...

For a brief video clip of the garden layout, click here

For those of you who have not seen ETS, it is a wonderful place to spend a few hours. There are racks and racks of used and discontinued items, some rare, some unusual, and some flat-out amazing. Stretch and Carol were quite surprised to find shopping carts in a train store, but it turned out to be a good thing, as theirs was soon filling up with H.O. scale trains for Stretch, Z-scale for Carol, and anything else that tickled their fancy. Stretch was suffering the most from the long journey, and commented on how much he could use a wheelchair and someone to simply roll him slowly down every aisle of the store to allow him to see everything.

The Marklin H.O. section of ETS.  Note the aisle number sign...

I spent some time with Uli, and for those of you considering joining the Messe trip this year, he is planning to arrange a tour of a large N-scale layout in the Stuttgart station which recreates the Stuttgart station and yards. A visit to his store is also in the works, as is a return to Merklingen, the large Marklin layout near Ulm. He has promised to help with the "alternative program" as well, making for a fun-filled day for everyone...

A view of the 50's era layout at ETS.  The trains run weekly...

Exhaustion was beginning to take over, so Stretch, Carol and I accepted Martin's invitation (he had driven to ETS to track us down) for a ride back into Stuttgart. We passed on the opportunity to join the MIST get-together that evening, as sleep was a more pressing need. After picking up our bags from the lockers in Stuttgart, we took the S-bahn on the ten-minute ride to Esslingen, and walked to the Hotel Garni, our home for the next three nights. The hotel was only three blocks from the station, and we were ready for dinner by 7:00 p.m.

The newly-renovated Esslingen City Hall

I myself had never been to Esslingen, and on Martin's urging, Stretch, Carol and I took some time to walk through the old town of this historic city. Friends, I have seen some beautiful town districts in my life, but Esslingen blew me away! The old town has over 2.5 kilometers of pedestrian zone, shops galore, beautiful cathedrals, scores of half-timbered buildings dating back hundreds of years, and a newly-restored Rathaus (city hall) that is absolutely beautiful. We could have walked even further into the historic town, but tired legs and the desire for a meal and a beer led us quickly to a restaurant with outdoor seating. Although it was already 8:00 p.m. at this point, it was still comfortably warm outside. We enjoyed a fabulous Mediterranean meal and several beers before heading back to the hotel. Tomorrow was day one of the Treff, and a good night's sleep would be a must-have to make it through that day. I called home to check in with Jennifer upon returning to the hotel, and was in bed by eleven. With the window open and a gentle breeze coming in off the vineyard-covered hillside beyond, I enjoyed one of the most restful sleeps I can recall...

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Some views of Esslingen from our walk around the pedestrian zone

After a good night's sleep, it's off to the Treff...