Monday, 16 July 2012

En Vacance

I am back from my summer holiday. While you were enjoying (or perhaps that should be enduring?) a blow-by-blow account of the build of my prototype resin DZ wagon me and the family have been camping in Normandy for two weeks.

(And yes, the weather was as rotten as it was back in the UK, thanks for asking)

Much to Mrs Bron Hebog's chagrin - nice French pun, huh? - we invariably come across a railway of some kind or another on our adventures, and this trip was no exception.

As it happened our first encounter was with a model railway - and a massive one at that, too.

Tucked away in a delightful valley in a place called Clecy a father and son, the late Yves Crue and Emmanuel,  have spent 40 years creating a giant HO gauge layout. Here is just a small section of it.

As you can see, it is not Pendon - the unkind would label it an overgrown 'train set' - but I don't suppose it was ever intended to be a finescale masterpiece.

In its sheer scale it is hugely impressive. The models of the trains and the structures may be shiny and proprietary, but it is hard to see how two people could produce anything of this size in any other way.

The scenes are animated with great attention to detail and carefully lit. I thought the layout was at its most impressive when the room lights were dimmed during the running show.

In the darkness it was not so apparent  that the layout had been built from thousands of bits 'out of the box' and instead you feasted your eyes on a breathtaking miniature landscape - busy cities, small mountain villages, airports etc.
If ever you are passing through that part of the world I would heartily recommend you stop by and take a look. There is a website for it here.

Our other train encounter was to go velo-railing.

Those who closely follow developments in the top left hand corner of Wales may have heard of this because of a mooted scheme to use the abandoned Trawsfyndd branch for one of these attractions.

We discovered this one near our campsite in Etretat.  Here's how it works.

This is one of the Velo Rail contraptions.

There are spaces for 5 people on each of these vehicles. 3 on the plastic bucket seats and 2 either side sitting on saddles above a pretty standard set of bike cranks which drive chains connected to the rear axle.

The line runs for 5km from Les Loges down to Etretat.  You are sent off at intervals with at least 100m separation between the velo trolleys.

Frankly there's not a lot of cycling required other than to get the thing moving.  The line is on a steep gradient the whole way.  It's the nearest thing I've encountered to riding the FR's gravity train.  (Nothing could top that experience!).

The state of the track is a pretty authentic FR experience from 1954, too, as you can see.

The FR theme continues at the bottom. Once all the trolleys arrive they are followed down the line by a standard gauge train (no sign of any signally system - not even a 'Last Vehicle' sign or red flag on the final trolley as far as I could make out (!) - and the trolleys are coupled together, attached to the back of the carriage and hauled up, FR mixed train-style, to the top of the line.

I have not got the faintest idea what this old SNCF ruin is or was - perhaps one of my continental readers knows?.

This is the shunter thingy that dragged us - at little more than walking pace it must be said - up the hill.

Here is a link to the website for this velo rail operation.

I'll leave you with one final obeservation from our holiday in Normandy.

Like many thousand others we visited the D Day beaches and other sites associated with the fierce fighting between the Allies and the Nazis 68 years ago.

It was strange, ironic and very thought provoking that thousands of tourists to the American war cemetery had to queue to pass through full-scale airport-style security to get into the information centre, whereas in the German cemetery I stopped at near Avranches - which had been disguised within a hill so as to be unobtrusive because of sensitivities about it and what it represents - there were a handful of visitors looking around in complete silence and contemplation.

To me this juxtaposition poses many questions, and many fascinating possible answers, about the world we live in nearly 70 years on.

This is all a bit deep (and political) for a model railway blog.  We'll get back to the trains shortly.

No comments:

Post a Comment