Gil Fuchs' Haifa & Jerusalem Railroad (H&JRR)

May 18, 2019


 
Slide show by Marshall Abrams

Layout Tour Report: Gil Fuchs’ Haifa & Jerusalem Railroad
by Marshall Abrams and Alex Belida

Visitors to Gil Fuchs’ Haifa & Jerusalem Railroad enjoyed seeing and discussing prototypes and models not often seen in this country. Israel Railways’ 1950s legacy roster included German rolling stock as part of German WW II reparations, Turkish equipment from the pre-WW I Ottoman Empire, British and other European equipment from the post-WW I Mandate, and American exports sold worldwide.

The HO-scale model started as Märklin three-rail AC (like Lionel, except that the center “rail” is made up of nearly-invisible metal studs in the middle of the ties), which Gil converted to DCC (not Märklin proprietary digital protocol). Many of Gil’s engines are Märklin models, which he converted to DCC. Gil is on the NMRA DCC committee and can’t resist making his own decoders. He also has a few Atlas locomotive mechanisms where he has replaced the American-prototype plastic body shells with suitable Israeli models that he is fabricating on his two 3D printers.

Gil’s hand-out for visitors notes the Haifa & Jerusalem Railroad is a fictitious and freelanced representation of Israel Railways’ coastal network during the early 1950’s. Dimensions are approx. 26' x 14’ with 2 levels. This allows Gil to mix steam and diesel.

The rolling stock of Israel Railways in its early days was unique as it was custom built by various foreign manufacturers, mostly of British, American and German origin, operated for a relatively long period. The Baldwin 4-6-0s, for example, served from 1919 until 1960. By 1950 most of the steam and rolling stock had undergone conversion and looked nothing like its original form. This means most of the models had to be built from scratch or kitbashed at best. Gil’s equipment is comprised mostly of Märklin models of European prototypes, and he is gradually adding Israeli prototypical models.

The layout is about 50% scenicked. Structures are mostly representative of the area and period. Backdrops are a mix of airbrush drawn scenery, cutout buildings and panoramic photographs. The view of Jerusalem is striking, including the Dome of the Rock and the King David Hotel. (Gil said he gave Staples a hard time getting it printed the way he wanted.)

There is a good representation of self-designed, 3D printed structures and model cars. The layout has eight towns or locations, each with a few industries. He uses switch lists generated by JMRI Operations software. Most of his engines carry DCC decoders which Gil designed and built, including several sound decoders. Turnouts are DCC controlled by self-designed and built accessory decoders.

The command station and throttles are Digitrax Chief. Märklin universal motors were modified to permanent magnet DC, and direction control changed to use the decoder. As feedback from operators about the Märklin loop coupler was not positive, all the rolling stock was upgraded with Kadee knuckle couplers. Kadee #308 magnets for uncoupling were added at strategic points, which required modification of the track (cuts in the roadbed) and the magnets (milling a slot to accommodate the 3rd rail). The aging, Märklin metal (M) track had caused poor rail contact and was replaced with the improved, nickel silver Märklin C track. The dark grey basalt rock ballast built into the new track did not fit the prototype, so it was all spray-painted in tan color.