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Craftsman Boomer Trail - July 2012

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A RENFE class 276 electric arrives in Mendiola as a unit butane train passes by on track 2 on John Menges Spanish-prototype HO scale modules.

Spanish RENFE in Central Illinois

by John Menges/photos by the author

The idea of modeling Spanish railroads, more properly the RENFE (REd Nacional Ferrocarriles Espanoles), came to me in the early 1990’s after I got an Electrotren boxcar for a German freight train that I was building at the time. Since then, I had sketched plans for a Spanish layout but it was only in 2008 that I began construction on three Spanish-prototype modules based on European Train Enthusiasts (ETE) standards. At present there are only two RENFE-prototype modelers I am aware of in the United States; myself and a good friend in New Jersey.

I wanted scenery that represented central or southern Spain, as that is where one finds the traditional white stucco houses with arches and tile roofs. As well, I wanted a sizeable olive orchard, a bull grazing pasture, and a refrigerated warehouse where I could display my collection of Spanish-prototype HO trucks. On previous layouts I included a large number of Preiser figures standing outdoors, and these modules are no different. The occasion for the gathered crowd in the town center is a bike race. Such a large number of figures allows for any number of interesting vignettes.

The track plan is utterly simple: Two mainline tracks with one spur track leading to the warehouse. Future plans call for a complete oval of modules, but presently my space is limited. All track is Marklin K-Track, but the trains themselves are analog DC. As yet the catenary is not functional, but ETE standards call for functional catenary so the catenary will be energized at a future date. Power is provided by two MRC DC power packs.

The landforms are 1" thick Styrofoam insulation sheets; layered and coated with foam paste. Grass is a combination of Busch, Noch, and Woodland Scenics static grass, applied with the Noch Grassmaster. The trees are a mixture of SylviaSDD and Silflor (available from Scenic Express), with the Canary Palms made by the now defunct Trees for Trains.

A majority of the structures are scratch built from 3/16 foam plates made by Midwest Products, with doors and windows supplied by leftover parts from Faller and Kibri kits. The station is a modified Heljan kit. The Spanish tile roofs are handmade resin sheets offered by Bottazzi Vittorio Models of Italy. Vehicles are various offereings from AMW, Aneste, Busch, Herpa, Rietze, and Roco. My plans for the future include a complete oval of Spanish-themed modules, with the other modules depicting a more urban setting, a cement plant, and a large castle ruins.

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The 3-story house on Calle de Castilla is a great spot to watch trains from as they roll through Mendiola. Here we see a family of railfans waiting for a steam special.

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Another pic of the class 276 at Mendiola. The Spanish setting means an opportunity to model some unique scenery.

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We see the winner of the Tour de Castilla bike race from across the main grade crossing in Mendiola de la Frontera. John enjoys placing figures to create vibrant and active outdoor scenes like these.

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A mixed freight passes through Mendiola de la Frontera. Many of the structures are kitbashed and scratchbuilt by the author.

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A RENFE class 304 diesel switcher from Ibertren switches a cut of Estrella Damm beer boxcars onto the siding at Almacen Frigorifico Ayala (Ayala Refrigerated Warehouse).

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A RENFE class 269 electric pulls an intermodal train past olive orchards south of Mendiola de la Frontera.

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Spectators watch as the last of the competition brings up the rear on the annual Tour de Castilla bike race in Mendiola de la Frontera, Spain.

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A RENFE class 269 arrives in Mendiola with a Cercanias commuter train. RENFE re-painted a number of 269's in the 1990's a red/white colorscheme to match double-decker Cercanias (commuter) trains that ran in Madrid and Barcelona because these trains did not yet have powered cab cars.

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An older RENFE class 304 diesel switcher hauls out a cut of beer boxcars from Ayala's Refrigerated warehouse. Colorful freight wagons are just one of the appeals of European modeling.

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Spectators observe the finish line for the bicycle race from balconies in Mendiola de la Frontera.

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The same cut of Estrella Damm boxcars waits on the mainline to be switched onto Ayala's siding. Another shipment of Estrella Damm arrives by truck at the warehouse.

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The steam special headed by a veteran Renfe Mikado rolls through the main grade crossing. It is blocked off today for the bike race.

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