I love model railways, always have done. This year I will be going to work on another model railway display and this time I will finish the job I promised myself.
As you can read a few blogs back I suffered a heart attack earlier in May and now I have too much time on my hands because I am relieved of most household tasks for the foreseeable future.
I will tell you how I got this crazy about model trains, it’s a life long story really. When I was a young boy I had a model railway on a wooden board up in the attic. I was always working on it, installing rail tracks, lights, doing lots of wiring to various parts of the display and mounting little lamp posts along the little streets.
Most of the rolling material, a big steam locomotive made by Jouef with a beautiful Patina, a wonky little green shunter made by Hornby and a dusty French Lima diesel-electric loco in blue and three very posh blue and white Lima Pullman coaches, were given to me by my neighbour, a friendly college teacher who moved on to do other things with his spare time and decided it was all too good to throw in the bin.
And of course when it was my birthday I asked my class mates to give me little houses as birthday presents, I had a whole box with them, carefully stacked on top of each other with bits of news paper in between, waiting to be used in the scenery on that model railway which eventually happened. And I was so happy with the result, little trains were purring along the tracks and the smell of the little electric motors in them, the cascading sound of the tiny wheels on the rails, literally everything!
But one thing was missing though, that one specific locomotive, the Holy Grail of every ten year old crazy about model trains, the Fleischmann Grüne Carl. And I knew I just had to get one someday and I dreamed of owning one at night, with open eyes looking at that model railway from my bed, then lights out.
Of course it never happened, what can I tell? I grew up, moved on to mopeds and moved out and the model railway display was abandoned, dismantled and put away in boxes in the attic. Later I learned that it was in my absence given away to a young boy in church who must have been equally happy with it all. But the thought of once wanting to own that green Fleischmann loco always went with me, wherever I went.
Back to the here an now, well, only a few years back then when I was at an international model railway event where long lines of stalls were formed in large halls (much like the Warley National Model Railway Exhibition at the NEC in Birmingham) and numerous sellers from Swampyland, Belgium, Luxemburg, Germany and even from France were gathered to sell used and new model railway material of every brand available. We started walking, looking left and right, making sure our eyes passed every single item that was on display and in our minds memorising what we needed and what we wanted (mostly wanted) and the halls began to fill with people.
And there it was, a friendly German seller that had literally every Fleischmann loco that ever existed laid out in his stall and even better, he had the Grüne Carl in stock! My heart started racing with such a powerful memory of when I was a little boy playing with my model railway trains in that musty wooden attic and my dream of ever owning one, I just could not hide my excitement. This one was brand new, kept in the box since 1981, a real attic find he told me and he opened the box. “Go on, touch it.” he said and I -still baffled at such a find- stroked the word Carl with my finger and sighed. But €450,-, that was really too much for me to pay, like when I was a child, I never got that much to spend this time either.
So I explained to him in my best German that this particular steam engine was my childhood dream, the little boy that was me once’ Holy Grail and being a true Dutch man I tried to get some of the price, to no avail. But, I have an idea he said, I have another one in a box somewhere, come back after lunch time and I will sell it to you for a decent price. Now don’t get too exited, it’s a used one, been in a few boys hands but it’s still in reasonably good shape. I will sell it to you for €50,-. Now that was a price I could afford so off we went for our own lunch and eager to find out we rushed back, afraid this loco would’ve been sold already.
He saw us coming, me and my mate, big smile on his face. Here you go my man, your very own Grüne Carl Dampflok, I found it just for you, and he put a box in my hand with that beautiful brand new green loco. Surprised I looked at the treasure and back up to the man and slowly gave him the €50,- meanwhile gesturing to what was in my hands and telling him that he must have made a mistake. “No, this is the old one you wanted, now do you want it or not?” And for a split second I could see him knowing what he just did in the twinkle in his eyes. Off you go he said, and he waved his hand like you wave off a child. Ten meters away I looked back and I could see him standing there, still looking at us, smiling. Oh he knew!