Sunday 15 October 2017

"I'm a train...."

This post has followed fairly rapidly on the last - if you missed that one in the rush then you can find it here.   I needed something to put myself into the right mood for writing this latest post - this did the trick for me (and brought back many happy memories)!

When I first opened Small Worlds five years ago I invited a local class of ten year olds to visit and give me some feedback on what they might like to see in the museum.  The girls all said "some horses" and the boys "something for us".  I obliged very quickly with a couple of breadbins 

but since then have done nothing more to appeal specifically to boys, other than having many vintage cars standing around, including an array of Jaguars (although I understand the correct collective noun is a shadow....).
And before someone shouts at me - yes, I know girls love cars and trains - as a child I had a huge collection of Dinky toys, bought as they went back into production after the war,  (oh where are they now?) and also a Hornby train set. 

Often boys visiting Small Worlds surprise me by how fascinated they are by the houses, engaging in depth at what is happening in them and how some of the effects are created.  It does bother them dreadfully if houses are without staircases though.

On my way back to England in 2015 I visited a Bavarian flea market with "the doll people". On one stall, I saw an intriguing clock tower emerging from a battered cardboard box. Further investigation revealed several dirty buildings to match, with the sign "Stuttgart" on one of them. Naturally I grabbed the entire box.

At that point I knew nothing about Stuttgart Hauptbahnhof (main station), and had no opportunity to research it further.   But later in my journey towards the UK I stayed with friends in Dordrecht, Holland, and it was in a small museum there that I saw with great excitement a beautiful model station that reminded me of my box contents,  and read that it was a Märklin model of Stuttgart HBF. 
At this point I became very intrigued by what was clearly an iconic building and did some reading up about it.  It was built between 1914 and 1928, as a result of an architectural competition held in 1910 and won by the architects  Paul Bonatz and Friedrich Eugen Scholer with their plans under the ambitious title of  umbilicus sueviae - the Navel of Swabia.   It is regarded as one of the most significant buildings of its time and recent plans to modernise caused a furore.

Although my buildings are but a fairly crude and incomplete representation of the original, I decided to make them the main focus of a window display and looked around Small Worlds for as many railway related items as I could find.   The result was an eclectic assortment of railwayania that I suspected would be very hard to blend into a coherent window display!   I decided at once to completely ignore the question of scale - this was going to be an Alice in Wonderland version of the world of trains.

I had thought, before I researched the station, that some of the buildings were sheds for the engines.   That is not the case however, they are part of the station building itself.  I had therefore no sheds but I had collected several engines without tracks to go into what I had thought were sheds - so what now?   

At some point I had acquired a grey metal construction 
and I realised that the arched sides would lend themselves to holding my three or four engines.  The roof did not look quite right,  so friend Sheila and I set about finding an alternative.   We thought that a flat glass roof, covered by chicken wire, might work.  Reluctant to ruin the present roof by cutting the wire just in case it might come in useful sometime (ideas, anybody?) we took some wire off the giant roll that we had acquired for Butterfly to make the Gosthwaites lift (you can see how she did that at the very end of this link) and attempted to flatten it under the heavy art books I have. However, when we removed the books the next day, the wire sprang back up . 
At this point we realised that actually the rounded shape was far better since it echoed that of the station roofs.

The engines that were going into the shed would of course need some track so I dismantled a bamboo place mat and constructed some to fit each of the different engines - I am pleased to say that they all run smoothly on their tracks!

The windows in the station buildings were glass and many were broken and needed replacing.  Initially I played around with the idea of stained "glass" windows, using some designs from one of the wonderful Dover publications but that was before I realised the importance of the Stuttgart main station as an iconic piece of brutalist architecture.   In the end I settled for a very simple grid pattern which a friend enlarged and copied onto greaseproof paper.  (It's called butter paper over here which of course makes perfect sense). 

Sheila then nobly cut and stuck the windows into the many spaces and got beautifully sticky in the process.   

(She is the perfect person to fit the windows since she works with stained glass in the full-size world. This beautiful window made by her is in the doorway between my bedroom and the guest room....) 

In the meantime, Jill was finishing off the tracks that I had made...

Stuttgart HBF famously boasts a clock tower with a Mercedes Star on top.   I cannot rise to the star but I do have a working clock, thanks to my German clockmaker friend, Thomas, with whom I had left the tower back in 2015.  He cleaned and restored the clock and it is delightful to hear it  ticking away now in the window of Small Worlds.

After Jill and Sheila had headed back to the UK, having done sterling work on this (and something else, to be revealed later), I gathered up all the railway related jigsaws I could find, and also everything to do with Thomas the Tank Engine, popular in the Czech Republic as mašinka Tomáš, (if you want to practise your Czech and need a translation it is here) that I had, and set it all out on the table exactly as I planned to put it in the window 

When I came to do that though , I discovered that it would not fit as I had wanted and the jigsaws had to go, at least as a group.   I had wanted them like that so that they could be easily removed by my friend Jana when she puts the Christmas offering into the window in early December.   As it is, Thomas will have to retire at that point.

Anyway I realised that in fact the jigsaws worked much better as a backdrop and when I spotted the Guards parading through Waterloo Station in one of them, I added a lone soldier to stand guard through the winter....

Once again I apologise for the quality of the photos taken from outside - it is even worse now that we have new windows. The thicker double glazing distorts everything even more than before.  But for what it's worth here is the display in its final form (remember you can click on each photo to enlarge it...).

I have been interested to note how many men have stopped to look in the window this time.  And when I went this evening to try (unsuccessfully) for some better photos, I was enchanted to see a two year old boy in his sister's arms, shouting his delight at mašinka Tomáš!

Small Worlds officially closed in mid-September but we do try to open for the Farmers' Markets which happen about five times a year in Bavorov.   One was yesterday and we had nearly 40 visitors which was a delightful way to end the season.   There will be two more before Christmas, and Veronika and Jana will kindly open Small Worlds.  

I am off there now to set up the Christmas scenes; it feels very strange to be doing that whilst the sun is blazing down on the beautiful autumn scene I look out at whilst sitting at my computer, but needs must as I head back to the UK very soon. 

Thank you for joining me on my short railway journey and I hope to see you again nearer Christmas.