The South Florida Railway Museum

Much of the time that I spend with Amelie involves trains.  Specifically, we use them to see one another instead of taking the drive.  When Amelie comes up to visit me, I usually pick her up here, at the Deerfield Beach Tri-Rail station.

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Tri-Rail is short for tri-county rail, and it’s a north-south rail corridor in South Florida that connects Miami, Ft. lauderdale, West Palm Beach, and parts in between.

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The Deerfield Beach Station  is also one of several throughout the state that serves as an Amtrak station.  Amtrak is America’s answer to the Deutsche Bahn, except it’s not as convenient, not as cheap, and not as useful.  It’s also not as punctual, because Amtrak leases the rail lines from the freight companies, but that’s a different post.

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One day in late April, I noticed this sign on the street near the entrance.

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Following the sign, I found another one pointing to a nondescript door.  As it turns out, they were doing some work on the external face of the building.  Now, seven months later, there’s a clear sign to indicate that this is an actual museum.   At the time, it looked pretty sketchy.

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Inside, however, it was kind of amazing.  This, it turns out, is the home of the South Florida Railway Museum and Model Railroad Club.   Housed in the old rail terminal building, it’s only natural that the museum contained  model trains.

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This part of the museum reminded me of Miniatur Wunderland.

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There was a lot of detail here, including a tiny herd of tiny cows.

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The rail model was a giant construct in the center of a large open room, but the walls were filled with other things.

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This vintage Coca-Cola machine was actually being used by the museum staffers as a refridgerator-  the place on the left where you’d normally see Coke bottles is being used to keep the coffee creamer cold.

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There were dozens of model engines on the walls representing different time periods and train styles.

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Some of them have specific historic importance, like this one from an old hobby store in Miami.  The store is long gone.

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Even train cars need sweaters when it gets chilly out.

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To a model train enthusiast, this museum is a goldmine.

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This license plate had an inside joke for train engineers, but I can’t remember what the word on the bottom was.

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Cheap plastic sunglasses from the launch of Tri-Rail serve as memorabilia here.

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The museum has a fantastic collection of items from the golden age of rail travel, including an ash tray, a drinking glass, and “pasteurized drinking water” as it was distributed on passenger trains in the past.

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There are lots of ash trays in the museum.  People smoked a lot back then.

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One huge corner of the museum is dedicated to old Amtrak swag.

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I think I had a set of those Amtrak playing cards when I was a kid.

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This old control board is stuffed to the gills with ancient communications gear, and a now-rare example of an analog word processor.  Er.  Typewriter.  I mean Typewriter.

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This old Amtrak sign is about six feet tall, up near the ceiling in the front.

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Here’s more examples of older rail signs.  These haven’t changed all that much in the intervening years.

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WEBMU 2014: Nürnberg

Every year, a group of ex-pat bloggers living in Germany gather for a weekend of fun, tourism, food, and drink.  This gathering is called WEBMU – the Whiny Expatriate Bloggers Meet-Up.  The location is different each year-  in 2012 the gathering was in Berlin.  In 2013, the group gathered in Prague, but I didn’t make it to that one.  This year, we met in Nuremberg roughly halfway through the month of September.

The attendees were:

A WEBMU weekend typically runs Friday through Sunday, with the early arrivals taking a day trip to an alternate location in the daytime in Friday.  This WEBMU was no exception, and we met up at 10am to visit scenic and moist Bamberg.  Most of the pictures I took in Bamberg are similar to the pictures I took the first time I visited Bamberg, so I’m not going to include too many of those here.  If you’re curious, you can look at the previous Bamberg post.  (Also, it was raining all day, so many of my new photos have rain drops on the lens.  I really need to get a lens hood.)

One of the first things we saw in Bamberg was this randomly placed elephant.  We’re all pretty sure it’s an advertisement, but it was still random enough to warrant a photograph.

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We went to the Altes Rathaus, and to the local cathedral to look again at the Bamberg Rider.

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We were in Bamberg on the same day that there was a party for the closing of U.S. Army Garrison Bamberg, so we stumbled across the Burrito Bandito.  It was a little strange seeing US Army guys in fatigues while out and about in Germany.

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While waiting for the train back to Nuremberg, we were witness to the Hochzeit of two smaller trains.  The coupling is almost entirely automatic for this type of train, so it was kind of fascinating to watch.  We were all mesmerized, to the great amusement of the conductor from the train on the left.

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Fast forward to Saturday, and we started the day with a small city tour… in the rain.

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Here’s the tour route, just for fun:

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This is one of the two brass rings embedded into the wrought iron-work in Schöner Brunnen, a rather nifty fountain in the city’s main market square near the town hall.  It is said that spinning the brass ring will bring you luck.  The fountain itself is a reproduction; the original lives in the city’s historical museum.

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It’s rather amazing to me that I’ve been in Germany for this long and I didn’t manage to get a picture with a section of the original Berlin Wall until this trip.  Here it is.

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Albrecht Dürer is kind of a big deal in Nuremberg.  His house is near this statue.

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One of Dürer’s most celebrated creations is this creepy-ass rabbit.  The dude with the pink umbrella just makes it so much more surreal, don’t you think?

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This store’s sign caught my eye because it’s a rather nifty play on words.  Bohne & Kleid in German is “Bean and Dress,” but it sounds quite a bit like “Bonnie and Clyde.”  It made me giggle.

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One of the nifty things about Nuremberg is that a large portion of the old city wall is still intact like this section on the right.

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A bunch of these old cities have St. George and the Dragon themed stuff floating around.  It’s all very Trogdor-oriented.

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Nuremberg also has a reasonably well preserved castle, part of which is pictured here.

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Big castles have big doors.

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Here’s the requisite view of the city from the castle’s ramparts.

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Later in the day, Cliff and I ventured in to the Deutsche Bahn Museum, a place I had wanted to visit for quite a while.  It had some fantastic vintage carriages.

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An old rail-running bicycle looking thing was on display.  This reminds me a little bit of the scene from Blazing Saddles with the quick-sand.

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What would a train museum be without incredibly detailed models?

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The DB Museum had a ton of great photographs up showing the construction of the railways and bridges.  Most of those pictures didn’t come out well enough to post, but this will give you an idea of how amazing and fascinating the historical photographs were.

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Any good train museum would also cover that uncomfortable part of Germany’s history where the railways were part of the World War II experience.  Here’s a train conductor’s uniform from that era.

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The best part of the exhibit was the various trains  set up along the outer edges of the museum.  Here’s a mostly-plastic model of an ICE train.  You couldn’t even sit down inside.  The real thing is much nicer.

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Apparently, 6th class train rides involved standing up in a giant rectangular train carriage with no roof.  Still beats walking, I guess.

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Compare that last one to first class, which has velvet seats and a nice terrace from which you can have champagne toasts.

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Speaking of first class, the Prince’s carriages were present in the museum.  They’re very fancy.

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The Prince’s carriage had a green room that Cliff thought was amazing.

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I was more partial to the blue room in the Prince’s carriage.   What can I say? I like blue!

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There were also some massive old steamers in the museum.

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When I say massive, I mean massive.  These wheels were nearly as tall as I am.

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…and you can step up into some of them for hammy moments.  Here’s Cliff, waving hello from the conductor’s window.

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Have you ever been to the DB Museum?  Have you visited Bamberg or Nuremberg?

Miniatur Wunderland, Hamburg

A number of my Blog-Friends have posted about Miniatur Wunderland, but I didn’t know it existed the first time I visited Hamburg. I wish I had known, because it’s awesome and I want to go back sometime.  The place is so incredibly detailed, there’s no way I saw absolutely everything.  I’ll give you some examples…

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The exhibit is broken into sections.  There’s a Hamburg section, an America section, a Scandinavia section, Bavaria, Switzerland, and a large portion for the fictional town of Knuffingen.  One of the most amazing parts is the Knuffingen airport, a large and completely automatic airport with planes landing and taxiing to the gate every few minutes.   Oh, and every fifteen minutes, “night” falls and the lights change.

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I took some video of one of the landings, because it was amazing.

There are also lots of smaller things happening.  While I was there, this plane caught fire and tiny fire trucks raced over two it for about ten minutes…

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The imaginative people who put the exhibit together aren’t shy about nudity either.

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Speaking of the people behind the exhibit, they have a fairly sophisticated control system.  Their monitoring area is in the exhibition area, which has got to be incredibly distracting:

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…and they’re building new sections.  I’ll have to come back in a few years when England is built.  This section is going to be Italy!

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There were fires in other parts of Knuffingen, but the firemen were ready to roll!

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The core of Miniatur Wunderland is that it’s got automated model trains.  Miniatur Wunderland is the world’s largest model train, in fact, with more than 12,000 meters of track.

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There are lots of tiny jokes embedded throughout the Wunderland.  For example, this kid has tossed his shirt in the bushes and he’s running, naked and free!

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…while across the meadow, a pedophile watches him with binoculars.  Kind of creepy, but also a little bit funny.

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Meanwhile, in a giant field of flowers, another couple gets it on.

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The fair was also incredibly detailed, with a half dozen moving rides.  The ferris wheel, the spinny thing next to it, the bungee jump, and more, were all in motion.

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The sports stadium in the Hamburg section had a game on.

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One of the buildings in the Hamburg section opened up, and a tiny orchestra was playing-  the various pieces of the orchestra were moving.

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Meanwhile, in Scandinavia, weird shit is happening.  I don’t know if there’s a real place that looks like this.  It wouldn’t surprise me, though.

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Some of my favorite things were just little tiny gags that you might miss if you go through the Wunderland too fast.  Here, we see a mole who has been busted by the Polizei for digging a hole in the park.

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…and cows wearing scuba gear.  Seriously.

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Master criminals at work!

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…and in the America section, Area 51 has a Stargate!  (And little green dudes playing basketball!)

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When the Wunderland chooses to duplicate a real building, they do an amazing job of it.  Here’s tiny Miami Beach.

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… and here’s tiny Las Vegas.

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The Grand Canyon.

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They’re amazing at buildings, but I don’t think they really understand America’s relationship with sports.   The baseball player ready to hit the pigskin thrown by the football player while an elderly couple and a flamenco dancer look on is pretty confusing.

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The Wunderland makes up for that weirdness with lots of incredibly detailed tableaus.  Here’s a very intricately detailed concert.

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They’ve really thought of everything… the tiny concertgoing people even get a row of tiny porta-potties!

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…and in the crowd of that concert, I found more adventurous cows!  These two seem to be wearing shower caps.  Maybe it’s the scuba diving cows from earlier…

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There are also some exhibits near the cafe and restrooms of certain time periods in Germany.  Here’s the day that the Berlin Wall came down in 1989:

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…and here’s the bombed out city at the end of World War II.

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Have you ever been to Miniatur Wunderland?  What was your favorite part?