ModelSpoorGroep Valkenswaard

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GB - De Kempen

(Railway of the month in the Continental Modeller from November 2012)

Along a line which links The Netherlands to Belgium


The Valkenswaard Model Railway Group was founded in 1990 with the main objective of modelling the former station of Valkenswaard in HO scale (see CM Juli 2010). The station was part of the Eindhoven – Neerpelt line which connected with the Belgian Railway network. This layout was shown at many exhibitions at home and abroad, and subsequently described in several European model railway magazines.

By 2005 it was decided to make a new layout. The members were agreed that it should again be a purely Dutch layout with a pinch of Belgian influence – we are in the border region and Belgian stock was seen from time to time. So the subject which was chosen was De Kempen in southeast Brabant (south of Eindhoven) and it was also decided to model it as it might have looked in the 1950s and 1960s. This gave the group the freedom for some leeway in interpretation without disturbing the main theme.

A little history

The Kempen area extends roughly from Antwerp(B) to Helmond (NL). It covers the provinces of Antwerp, Belgian Limburg, south-eastern North Brabant, and the extreme north of Flemish Brabant. The landscape continues into Dutch Limburg, but is known locally there as the Peel.

The hallmark of the Kempen is its sandy soil, and until 1960 it was mostly covered with heather, oak forests, mashes and bogs. Now there are some woods, fens, meadows and pastures, which have been gradually formed on a small scale partly because of heavy fertilisation and ribbon development. The remains of the original landscape are often observed on the border between municipalities or among large areas of agricultural land, such as the Cartierheide between Eersel and Hapert and the Leenderheide south of Eindhoven.

The beginning

We had many discussions about how the final result should look. Valkenswaard had a double track line parallel to the front of the modules along its entire length – an unwritten law says not to do that, so we had to work out how the tracks could be taken diagonally across the module joins. Because a station takes a lot of space, this was a good reason not to model one – we wanted to represent the rest of the landscape.

The scenery

The group always sets herself a very high standard with respect to the scenery. Almost all buildings of the layout are scratchbuilt, using Evergreen styrene sheet and strips of various thickness using MEK, for this is the best proven method for gluing.

A journey from left to right along the layout

First the train passes the Dommelse Water mill – this is located on the Dommel river near the village Dommelen. It is a dual purpose mill, functioning as a flour mill and a vegetable oil mill. It is an undershot type – the water flows under the wheel. Next to the mill one can see a weeping willow, made by Hans van den Boom, who also build the water mill. The water mill is painted by Peter Dillen. Peter also build the vegetable car in the foreground.

Then there is a narrow gauge line which appears from behind the mill, and is intended primarily for timber transport from the woods. Timber was produced in specially managed wood to provide pit props. Since the mines in Belgium are closed, the is no more demand. The narrow gauge carries standard gauge wagons on transporters – empty to the woods, where the timber is loaded, and then brought back to the transfer station, where the loaded wagon is put back on the standard gauge. Occasionally large logs are transported on horse-drawn carries, and transferred with a gantry crane. The crane was put together from very fine styrene strips. Then we pass the narrow gauge loco facilities.

In the distant past there was a loco shed with a corrugated iron roof, this has completely deteriorated. This old dilapidated shed still stands here after the Allies left the country after the 2nd World war. The operator build a new one. Hugo Baart, who made this, did not site it squarely on the layout: he cut away the corner to fit lighting in it and made  the interior detail visible.

Towards the back of the scene, the vegetation is scaled down to give an impression of distance and the landscape is blended gradually into the background. This perspective trick is first used in the Veldhoven 1935 diorama (see CM February 2010).

Moving along, we come to a trader with sand and gravel storage bins, and goods shed. Then comes the signal box. This has a fully equipped interior. Behind the signal box (most of the signals were scratchbuilt by Frank Kuiper), is a gipsy family with authentic caravans, made by Peter Dillen. Dinner is ready on the stove! Backing onto the railway are several workers’cottages, which can still be seen in various Kempen villages. At the rear of the houses, the daily life on the residents is displayed, with details such as the laundry drying on a clothes line and a vegetable garden, a rabbit hutch and a pig pen, etc.

The train then rumbles past more buildings. Coal and oil dealer P. Koolen & Son is a flourishing company. The horse-drawn coal cart has been exchanged for a lorry. This and many others here and there along the layout are proprietary models which have all been adapted and rebuilt. The exceptions are the DAF lorries, made from our own brass etches, with a cab is commercially available as a casting made a synthetic resin (all these models are from Van den Boom!).

Next to the coal merchant is a house which in the past was the office of the adjacent brewery. It is based on the former office of the Dommelsch Brewery, which still exists next to the brewery.

We now arrive at the quayside: highlight is the boat that sails through the harbour. After the passengers have boarded from the quayside, the boat sets off from the harbour towards the canal. It stops at the lifting bridge, the barriers go down, the bridge goes up, and the boat continues on its way. After it had passed through, the bridge comes down, and the gates open again. After a while the boat returns and stops before the bridge. The bridge operator goes to work again, and the boat can sail through. The barriers ensure that no traffic ends up in the water.

Passing a railway bridge, which is based on one over the Zuid Willemsvaart in Veghel, the train goes through the countryside where typical willow trees stand along a dike. Between the trees  there is a café based on one near the Quatre Bras in Neerpelt just across the border with Belgium.

The train then passes the ‘St. Pancratius’ steam dairy. This is an industrial building from 1916 in the so-called eclectic style (combining features of different styles) and is from Hoogeloon. Before the train disappears on the right of the layout, it passes the Standerdmolen Bergeijk, the oldest mill in the Netherlands, a communal mill of the former Abbey of Postel and a cemetery where there is a horse-drawn hearse and a funeral approaching the grave.

Finally, the train passes another piece of poplar wood. Poplars are light relatively tough and used for many purposes in the Netherlands, among other things, for clogs. In the Kempen, the area surrounding St. Oedenrode was renowned for its wooden shoe factories, but there was no space for a clog factory on the layout.

What you don’t see

The electrical installation under the layout has become gigantic. Two of our engineers, Rob van de Molen and Harry Verhoeven, spend a lot of time on this, by pulling wires (forests of wire are necessary for flawless control of the layout, points and signals), making control manuals, and doing troubleshoot sessies. The main layout is fully automatic, controlled by ‘Koploper’ , a computer program (a well-known piece of freeware here in the Netherlands). It also controls the boat. The narrow gauge line and shunting in the yard can be done with a Roco Lokmaus DCC controller.

And other things

Between us, clubmembers have so much knowledge of the various disciplines of building a layout that by joining forces we are successful. The backscene like that of Valkenswaard, is curved, is painted blue, with clouds. The back of the module is completely protected through the use of these ‘skins’. Operation must be from the front, and this allows communication with the viewing public, which we feel is really rather nice.

We have always paid a lot of attention to the presentation of the layout. The lighting valance, the front of the modules, and the side panels are in a quiet green color. The intention was to focus attention on the model without surrounding distractions.

The base of the layout is neatly finished with a drape, embroidered with the group logo, by Marian Dillen.
If you want to read the whole article, you can buy the Continental Modeller of November 2012.