(The following article is based on a report submitted by RVMRC member Doug Howard.)
It all began with a two-year-old Swiss model railroad magazine, and the click of a mouse. In early October, First Division and Rogue Valley Model Railroad Club (RVMRC) member Doug Howard of Brookings, Oregon, U.S.A. flew to Switzerland. By prior arrangement and invitation, he was attending the 12th biennial convention of American Railroad fans in Switzerland.
The ARiS is made up of Swiss modelers who prefer North American railroads. Every two years, they convene in Adliswil, a small town southwest of Zurich. Modelers from other countries are invited; this year, from Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, France, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg, and The Netherlands. Total attendance of modelers and visitors totaled about 3,400 people - excellent for a two-day event.
Convention Chairman Werner Meer had invited Doug to give two slide presentations. His subjects were "Baldwin, the Fallen Giant", and "Far West Narrow Gauge". The Brookings modeler admits to "serious jitters" when preparing his shows. As it happened, both presentations played to a filled auditorium. He was warmly applauded, and received voluble thanks for choosing subjects that are little-known to Swiss modelers.
During his hours away from the auditorium, Doug had a chance to admire the modular displays that were brought from all over Western Europe and laboriously set up prior to the event. He reports that the quality of European modelers doing motifs of North American railroads meets, and in some cases exceeds, similar work on this side of "The Big Pond". After his presentation, he was overwhelmed by the kindness of his hosts, loading him down with calendars and models to take home to Brookings. ("It still puts a lump in my throat, when I think about it...")
Two days after the convention, Doug was in the cab of a powerful Swiss Federal Railways Re460 electric locomotive. These bruisers, about the size of a GP-40, are rated at a whopping 7,900 horsepower. Doug's host, Heinz Burri, had made the necessary arrangements. The ride was from Bern to Brig, through the Bernese Alps pulling InterCity train 331. Rainy weather didn't dampen spirits; it
was mountain railroading at its best. Doug's comment: "The Re460s are awesome locomotives; you hear a faint whine in the cab, and suddenly you're gliding along the main at jawdropping speed!"
In Brig, Heinz had also arranged a tour of the meter-gauge Furka-Oberalp Railways new shops in Glis. These will also become the main shops for both railways, when the FO and the Brig-Visp-Zermatt merge on 1-1-2003. Doug was presented with a new, thick brochure showing details of the area around the shops.
A few days later, Doug and Heinz were the guests of the Freiamter Eisenbahn Amateur Club in Wohlen, about 20 miles west of Zurich. The invitation came before Doug left the US. In the spirit of that invitation, the RVMRC sent along some gifts: an Athearn SD-40 locomotive and a boxcar, painted in our 'Pacific & Eastern' scheme. (The SD-40 and boxcar were provided by RVMRC members Stan McCollough and Jay Mudge, respectively.) As Doug reported, "The FEAC group were thrilled to receive the boxcar, and utterly speechless when I popped the SD-40 out of its wrappings." Two FEAC members are now talking about visiting Oregon, and 1st Division sometime in 2003....
On another trip, Doug and Heinz rode the famous three meter-gauge railways that transport passengers up the Bernese Alps to Jungfraujoch, the highest railroad station in Europe - 11,333 feet! What makes the last railway unique: it climbs up to Jungfraujoch INSIDE of Jungfrau Mountain ("Not a ride for claustrophobics," Doug remarks, "But the view at the top was absolutely stupefying...until the clouds rolled in...").
Also on the itinerary was a day-long visit to the stunning Swiss National Museum of Transport, in Luzern. ("Trains, planes, busses, cars, ships...this HAS to be the finest transport museum in the world...") He recommends that anyone visiting should plan for TWO days at the museum.
A two-day visit to Appenzeller in eastern Switzerland yielded that canton's legendary hospitality with new friend Roland Kink and his family. Roland even arranged for Doug to visit HAG, rightfully called "the Rolex of Swiss model railroading", at their factory in Morschwil, close to Bodensee (Lake Constance).
Alternating days of clouds, rain, and sun hampered Doug's visit. ("But, when the sun came out-utterly beautiful scenery...everywhere!.") Still Doug's cameras were busy taking slides and prints. Sadly, his 35mm slide camera failed him, but his little Pentax point-and-shoot performed like a champ. (Doug has promised to publish some photos in a future Passing Track issue.)
And yes, Doug's already planning his next trip back to
Switzerland, in October 2004. He's been asked to come again, to the next
ARiS Convention in Adliswil. ("I wouldn't miss it, for the world!") He
also readily admits that his modules at home are beginning to sprout catenary...and
more Swiss models...the magic of Switzerland has struck again!
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