The 5 and 7¼ inches gauge garden train I’m talking about today is one of the most interesting but also the least known that exist, it is called Tortillard and opens to the public once a year only, during the Open Day its owner organizes. Welcome to Aiguillages. We’re in Alsace, in Plaine, in the Bas-Rhin department, near the Vosges. Originally, Tortillard was just a small 7¼ inches gauge track laid around its owner’s house. But as there’s no shortage of space in the region, it quickly became one of the biggest garden train tracks in France when its owner started extending it to the lands surrounding his house. It is also very appreciated by Steam engine users as it has a 15 meters difference in heights between its 2 stations. It is now 1.7 km long but works have already started to extend it to more than 2 km. These works are made by the Tortillard association members and to finance them the track opens once a year to the public. This special day is a garden party that local families love taking part in. They picnic on the grass and sunbathe. Well, not really this year. The open day is usually organized on August the 15th, but this year it took place at the beginning of July. Bad luck, the weather was really bad at the beginning of Summer and especially on this week-end: it rained after a beautiful and sunny week. It was very frustrating for the organizers even though that weather allowed engines to produce beautiful plumes of smoke. The usual Saturday night-time operations, when trains run lit up by lanterns, had to be cancelled because of downpours. On Sunday, the weather was still not great but trains were able to operate again. This layout was built by a very prolific enthusiast who couldn’t be satisfied with an ordinary train track. I’ve been loving trains ever since I was a child, at first I used Ho and Hoe scales and then it became too small for me so I upgraded. He studied industrial automation in school. Studying machining motivated him to build his first locomotives to practice what he was learning. A bit later, Nicolas made his firs track to operate locomotives around his house, and he started building this large track 20 years ago. As his project became bigger, he created the Tortillard association 8 years ago. At first, my project was to build a small railway in my garden, it was 150 meters long, and then my garden got bigger so the layout got bigger as well, and now it is about 1,700 meters long with 2 stations, sidings, everything you could find on a real railway. The layout is actually inspired by a real railway. Nicolas didn’t choose a train that operated in the region. Instead, he looked a little bit further … in South Africa. I was inspired by south african railways, especially by the Avontuur line that was the longest 2 foot gauge line operated in Africa. What I love about it is that it’s a narrow gauge line but it’s developped as a main line so there are turntables, huge depots, water towers, etc. The names written around the layout and the equipments set up on the track evoke the influence of this line. It has a turntable, 2 triangles, more than 20 switches, a reversing loop, 2 stations, one on the upper section and the other on the lower section of the line, and a single track between them. There is fun for everyone! Each station has a station master and they both organize rail traffic. Christophe just sent all the trains to the lower station and after all of this traffic control he gets a few minutes of rest. My role today is to manage operations in the upper part station, which means I have to make sure trains can meet without any problem and that they can be refilled with coal or water if they need to so I send them to the right track and I wait for all the trains to be in the upper part before sending them back to the lower section. During this day, 6 trains were operating. As there is a single track between the 2 stations, trains operate in a line. Of course, one has to make sure they don’t come nose-to-nose. My colleague in the lower secion tells me when trains are coming, how much there are and most importantly which one is the last so that no mistake is possible, and when all trains have arrived in the upper section I send them back after telling my colleague, I also tell him which one is the last and when it leaves. Another way of ensuring safety is to use switches that are connected to a system of light signals. Before entering the single track section, trains have to wait for the signal to open which only happens when all trains reached their destination. The station master in the lower section maneuvers the switches once he received all the trains that his colleague sent him. Tortillard is a small association and not all of its members have locomotives. To get enough trains to transport the public, they’re helped by model makers from other layouts who have their own equipment. This year, Jean-Claude Labrot came from Porte-les-Valence, Jean Bernard from Pithiviers and others came from Pully near Lausanne in Switzerland and from Germany, which says a lot about the attractiveness of this layout. Marcel Shultz came from north of Strasbourg, almost as a neighbourg. He uses the 5 and 7¼ inches gauge and is what we could call a serial steam engine builder. I come from Ergersheim, north of Strasbourg, I’ve been making locomotives for almost 30 years. This one is my 7th, I have 12, I also have a ½ scale steam truck, a ⅓ scale tractor and a 1 scale car. As Marcel doesn’t have a layout at home, he visits others in Germany and in France including here, on the track of his friend Nicolas. This layout is gorgeous, it is big and it has a great difference in height that must be 12 meters, it is great to operate on that. We can hear our locomotives working and it’s really nice. One has to know their machine and to be a good driver. Among the 12 locomotives he has, Marcel had to choose one to operate that day. I chose this one which is a Waldenburg engine, it’s rather rare to see one, it is Swiss and was built in Winterthour using the 3.75 scale which is a very nice proportion to run here, it is powerful enough and is quite easy to transport. It weighs 260 kilos, which is not too bad! Marcel still has 3 locomotives under construction, including one 5 inches and two 7 ¼ gauge engines which means we’re probably going to see him again soon on the Tortillard track with his new equipment. Space was not lacking here but the layout was still built in a way that optimized this space. The goal was to have a big station to be able to store lots of trains, and there had to be one at each end. Then we also wanted to have numerous trains operating on a single track at the same time. We also had to think carefully because of the difference in height not to get ramps that would go beyond a certain percentage so we did the work of a surveyor. The track will be modified in the following months as it will be extended to reach more than 2 km. Traffic will get smoother as the single track will be suppressed. We want to suppress the single track to set up loops and to operate more freely, within 2 years we’d like to add 300 to 350 meters of track to get a continuous rail traffic. Among the various locomotives he built, Nicolas operated a ⅓ scale Mallet Orenstein and Koppel which is the main scale used on this layout. Nicolas built 2 steam engines and is currently making 2 more, but he also has switchers as well as snow-removal trains to operate during Winter. On this side of the Vosges mountains at 500 meters in altitude, snow height can reach 50 cm. Tortillard also has a nice wagon fleet. It includes a handcar, a section reproducing equipments from the Abreschwiller railway, another one reproducing those of South Africa, a mobile crane, tank cars and even a rail cannon. They could not be displayed that week-end because of the weather. The rain led the Tortillard association members to organize a second open day in September. Now that we know the way I promise we’ll be back to follow the evolution of the layout. Next week in Aiguillages we’ll attend the Ramma exhibition in Sedan. 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