Rob Allbritton's
Swiss Gotthard Line
April 29, 2007

      Sunday afternoon was hot as I parked on Swann Ave. in Alexandria. I walked up to the corner at Rte.1 and gazed across at the now empty field that was once the site of the R.F.+P. hump yard and thought about how I can still remember after all these years the welding gang foreman's inspirational remark,"Hey, you're getting paid to weld, not watch the $%^&* trains."
        The nearness to an old railroad landmark I'm sure was not lost on Rob Allbritton when he located his Gotthard Line in this air conditioned warehouse. Now you probably wonder what a Z scale railroad is doing in a warehouse. When you walk in and turn the corner in the room you no longer wonder.
          The layout is 25'x50' and well over 15' high. The reason for the warehouse space was obvious when at one point I was standing on a 4' scaffold that you view the back side of the line from and the mountain to my left was at least 6' over my head.
           The Z-scale club had brought additional modules to add to the main layout and they formed an additional 40'-50' of track to the right of the main line. Z-scale is interesting in that the track will turn back on itself within the width of a module and you can have track on 2 sides of the module making the line twice as long. These modules, while a work in progress, were all operational and made the loop time extremely long.
            Read a few of the statistics of the layout to get an idea of it's size and complexity.  The main part (25'x50') was displayed at the National Train Show 2005 in Cincinnati and represents the Swiss Gothard Line from Italy into Switzerland. The layout is 100% DCC and consists of over 150 blocks with the ability to run 20 trains simultaneously. This is accomplished with Railroad & Company software and Digitrax block control thru a computer interface.
             While the statistics are extremely impressive what really held my attention was the detail of the scenes on such a massive scale using Z-scale trains. As you faced the layout you noticed to your left was a video screen with a video tour of the real line(12"/1'). I started to watch the video at about the same time that the train was coming to Wassen, which was depicted on the layout to my right, I know that it took me at least 3 peeks from video to model to video before I realized that the video was 12"/1' scale. The model of the town of Wassen was so realistic that the streets matched the video and the church on the hill was in the same position as on the video.
               The layout scenes were spectacular. I don't know which I enjoyed most – the villages or the mountain gorges full of railroad and road bridges. Each village was a miniature reproduction of the real thing. Some of them with none or very little of the scene compression that you see in the larger scales.
                Another item that caught my eye was the t.v. camera mounted to one of the engines. Since I received  my first trainset in the 3rd grade I always wondered what it would be like to ride on own railroad. Well now I know what it is like to ride on the Swiss Gotthard Line. I have seen the t.v. cameras before at train shows but this was fascinating as you rode thru gorges, villages, and of course the tunnels thru the mountains with the massive 1x4 wood columns, hydrocal stalagmites and cavernous interiors.
                 The open house was attended by over 100 people with about 75 members of the Potomac Division. I think that everyone who was there came away with a little bit of awe for not only the layout but the real Gotthard Line. If you missed this open house be sure you don't missed the next one. I know you will enjoy it.
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