Katzhagen - Archive - September 2007

September 2007 - Katzhagen's 4th anniversary

The idea that this might be a good occasion for a summary sprang to mind...

About 30 years ago in Essen (a major town in Germany), I stood in front of the local toy dealer #1's shop window and admired the exhibited new LGB RhB-Crocodile. A dream, unreachable - since my father had sentenced me to stay with the H0 layout in the basement early in the 70s when I first asked for a garden railway - as a replacement for the basement's dungeon ;-)

The "LGB - Katzhagen" page linked on the left points out how this story came to a good end at the end of the last century, nevertheless.

After four years of operations in the garden, both some knowledge and a couple of experiences were gained which are neither astounding nor surprising - but which one didn't take into regard when starting the hobby.


Even though complaints about Lehmann come up now and then because of their models not being true to scale or because of insane phantasy models, one has to realize that Lehmann rules the tightrope walk between robust toys and visually well-balanced models as well as they are a key player on the product quality stage.
Some of the models are in operations since more than eight years now and they still look like being taken out of the box for the first time - despite continuous usage. Lehmann indeed are hard to beat in this field. Experiences with other manufacturers include crumbled transmissions, varnish growing pale or small parts continiously falling off.

Regarding the model buildings, I restricted my choice to the plastic model kits from Pola and Piko. Compared to the Pola models, the Piko models are somewhat basic, while one will have to replace sensitive parts of the Pola models (e.g. roof aerials and similar) with self-built brass reproductions some day. It's beyond me that there are reports describing these buildings falling apart after some time when standing outside all the time - A correct glueing which takes into regard that the polystyrene parts need to be cold welded prevent such breakdowns. The usage of wooden models requires a continued maintenance which is a time consuming job. So I refrained from that.


Initial doubts about the self-built components' abilities to stand the garden's hard environmental conditions turned out to be unnecessary. After four years of all-year operation it can be said with safe conscience that it was the right decision to build my own control system. It turned out to be rock-robust as well as comfortable to use, both in software and hardware regards. Early difficulties in fighting condensate formation inside the distribution boxes could be cleared fast and just two minor software changes had to be applied during the past years. Other garden railroaders' reactions upon the signal box for the vest pocket are amazing again and again. "This is ingenious simple to handle" or "The loco responds incredibly fast" are typical exclamations. Expansions or conversions of the layout are neither hurdles nor do they cause costs worth mentioning and they are done in no time without much effort.

Game and spare time value

No matter if you prefer building in general or if you prefer fiddling around with details or if you just like watching long trains passing by - this hobby offers numerous possibilities for various activities.
Your toddlers' "Playmobil army" can conquer a new transport medium while older children can gain first experiences with electr(on)ics and model construction. In case the best wife of all doesn't operate the trains, she is always willing to give creative advice for the layout's configuration. In short: An ideal hobby for the whole family.

Like it occurs to happen with a coin - its other side

What I didn't expect before starting the whole project: The maintenance efforts aren't insignificant - and they grow with each meter of track and with each further detail. At first this meant "just" three hours per month for cutting the lawn edges and similar. The layout grew, so did the grade of details. As a result, the timely efforts for maintenance increased - in quadratic function. Without fooling myself, it currently takes me around 5-6 hours per week to maintain the whole setup properly. Thus one thinks twice about any extension - but in the end one will apply it anyway, despite it will result in cutting the grass with a pair of nail scissors :-) But it's exactly this kind of activities which makes it possible to leave all things unpleasant behind. Recovery from work or the rest of the world can be achieved in no time - especially when combined with running the trains.

"Humans don't stop playing because they are getting old,
but they get old if they stop playing".

I think I'll stay young for the next couple of years :-)

August 2007 | Archive "Current Affairs" | October 2007