European trains in town?

By on September 28, 2011

By: ROCHELLE A. SHENK Review Correspondent, Staff Writer

Members of the European Train Enthusiasts' Keystone Chapter show off their modular train layout. Pictured are (left to right) Helmut Strauss, Klaus Schoels, Gus White and Chris Braun. (Photo by Stan Hall)Members of the European Train Enthusiasts' Keystone Chapter show off their modular train layout. Pictured are (left to right) Helmut Strauss, Klaus Schoels, Gus White and Chris Braun. (Photo by Stan Hall)

Model railroading has a wide appeal. Many are fascinated by the layouts that feature miniature versions of real-world trains traveling over painstakingly laid-out track that often includes inclines and bridges, detailed settings and scenery. The European Train Enthusiasts (ETE) take that one step further and focus on equipment that can be found in Europe.

"European trains have a different look than those found in the US — the colors are different, and the engines and passenger cars have a different style. There are also a lot more steam engines. They ran steam in Europe until 1973-75 on the main lines, and until the early to mid-80s on industrial lines, while we ran steam here in the US until the 1950s," explained Joe Krepps, secretary of the Keystone chapter. He added that another strong appeal for European trains is the scenery. "There’s something special about trains wandering through scenery such as Swiss mountains," he said.

ETE was formed in 1973, and a local chapter, the Keystone chapter, was founded in late 1998. The chapter’s klubhouse (the German spelling of the word ‘clubhouse’) is currently located at 55 New St., Ephrata. The chapter moved to this single-story, 1,500 square-foot building owned by the Donecker family approximately a year and a half ago.

The klubhouse not only serves as a meeting location for the approximately two dozen chapter members, but it also houses the club’s modular train layout. Chapter meetings are held the second Saturday of odd-numbered months. Members may be found working on the layout on most Saturdays, and the chapter also hosts several open house events for the public throughout the year.

An open house was held in the spring, but for those who missed that one, another is planned for Oct. 1 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Krepps said that the chapter also plans to host an open house during the holidays, but details have not yet been confirmed.

The chapter’s home has not always been in Ephrata. For several years after it was founded, the chapter’s klubhouse had been in two different locations in Marietta and then moved to Leola. Krepps said that after the chapter lost its facility in Leola, the display was put into storage, and for a time meetings were held in members’ homes. "Lancaster County is a great meeting spot for us. It’s a central location. We have some local members, but many are within a two-hour drive of Lancaster," he said.

The model railroad display itself is modular and can be broken down into two-foot-by-five-foot sections, and a rack system has been developed to transport it. Krepps said that having a modular layout is critical since the display has been featured at events throughout the county including events in Marietta and Mount Joy.

"One thing that’s unique about our display is that all the catenary (system of overhead wires used to supply electricity to locomotives, street cars or light rail vehicles) for the electric locomotives works as do our signals, which have a different look than those found in the US," he said.

The chapter has also hosted several EuroEast events, which are based on the long-running EuroWest show hosted by a chapter in southern California. Krepps explained that EuroEast is a three-day weekend event featuring other East coast ETE chapters, who may bring their own train modules to display. There are also seminars and vendors.

Krepps noted that at one of the EuroEast events, the East Penn Traction Club, which is based in the Philadelphia area, brought modules in two scales, HO and O-gauge. "Though they had no European trains, they’re considered the experts of modular railroads with overhead trolley wire. Their display and others at EuroEast helped the general public understand that trains all over the world can run by electric power from overhead lines," Krepps said.

He indicated that the chapter anticipates hosting the 2012 EuroEast in Ephrata. Information on EuroEast may be found at The Keystone ETE chapter is on Facebook under "Keystone Chapter – European Train Enthusiasts".

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