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Z Odyssey

Planning - Initial Concept

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A Lesson in Patience
SPRING 2005

The kid in me wants to get started building my railroad empire immediately! This 'internal kid' and the idea of planning and preparation just don't mix. I have to keep reminding him that his time will come. He just needs a little patience at this stage; patience which should pay off in less frustration and waste down the line.

Having made my initial commitment to modelling in Z, I now need to figure out what and how much of it I'm going to model.

The easiest question to answer is how much? Since I currently live in a smallish apartment, my wife would be less than happy if I started constructing an 8-foot by 12-foot recreation of, say, New York City. After complex negotiations, we came up with a 2-foot by 4-foot layout that could be easily stored when necessary.

On to the trickier question of what? While the amount of American products available in Z is growing, the vast majority of locos, rolling stock and buildings are still European. Also, since my space is limited, it would be easier (and more believable) to build a small mountain village with a winding local line, than to try and cram the rolling Texas plains into a 2-by-4.

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Being a Brit, I have a soft spot for smaller, local lines. The sight of a tank loco pulling a short train through rugged countryside gives me goosebumps. Somehow I find steam locos have more character than the boxy diesels and electrics; train travel during the 1920's and the 1930's had a glamor, a romance and a sense of adventure that seems to have faded after World War II.

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So far, so good. I now know I want to model an early 20th century European short line serving a mountain village. Presumably I'll have some freight and perhaps a local industry or two - maybe logging or mining. And just to spice up the village, I think I might make it a resort town; the kind of place folks go to for a weekend away. As well as breathtaking mountain views, the area will most likely boast a river-fed lake for boating and swimming. These are the perfect excuses I need for bridges and tunnels. In fact, the place sounds so inviting, I wouldn't mind a weekend there myself! But I still need to come up with a name for this vacation paradise.

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SUMMER 2005

After several uninspired months of wondering what my layout theme might be, beyond my initial idea of an alpine village of some sort, I finally had a brainwave.

Recently I've been re-reading the adventures of Sherlock Holmes. When I reached the point where the evil Moriarty pitches Holmes over the falls at Reichenbach, the light went on. That's my theme. I'll model my own liberally imagined version of the town of Meiringen in central Switzerland - a town that sits by the famous alpine falls. After doing a bit of 'googling' research on the area, it fits all the criteria that I wanted to see on my layout. It also gives me the added challenge of trying to create a convincing waterfall. Who knows - maybe there'll even be a couple of struggling figures balanced precariously on the edge of the falls.

Finally, I have a picture of my Meiringen/Reichenbach layout in mind!