Why build Alpenrail? - “I had a dream” - by Rudi Jenni
Model railways - my mother grew up with them. My grandfather was a dedicated enthusiast.
During my mothers early childhood my grandfather constructed a model locomotive colloquially known as the “Crocodile”. This locomotive he gave to me when my parents left Switzerland to come to Australia. This locomotive is now located in our showcase - but it was this locomotive that was the inspiration behind the huge task to construct Alpenrail.
My first introduction to trains, although not remembered by me -(being less than one year old), -was a ride on the Swiss Federal Railways centenary (1847-1947) celebration train, a replica of the first train to run in Switzerland.
I saw my own first model train at age of seven, my own first real layout at age ten. My fascination with trains called upon the endurance / patience of my grandparents accompanying me to railway stations and in particular one large model railway display in the city of Zurich where we lived,
In 1960 at the age of 12 my parents relocated to Australia and that was my cue to construct a model display worthy of operating the “Crocodile” given to me.
Planning commenced for a large outdoor layout but the weather soon showed that this was not the way to go. Consequently my initial energy went into making locomotives and coaches for a possible future indoor display.
It was about this time that my fathers interest was really kindled and we agreed to take a step beyond the hobby and make provision for possible ultimate public access to our now “Indoor” enterprise. It was not until 1976 however that construction of a suitable building to house the model began.
In 1978 the building reached a stage where construction of the layout could commence, the first train running on a small section of track in 1979.
The years until 1985, the official opening on the 26th of January, were spent on the construction of the model now on display, working as a team in which my father contributed the artistic talent so evident in the realism, and I provided the engineering and technical input.
Since then my parents hosted the display, whilst I endeavored to maintain the equipment working nights, as I worked as a civil engineer with the road construction authority during the day.
In 1989 Ron Ricks joined us volunteering his help to ease the pressure on my parents and myself, helping out with running the attraction as needed, and is still with us helping out in keeping the attraction running.
In 1994 changes at my workplace offered the opportunity for a redundancy which I duly accepted to take up operation of the model as a tourist attraction “full time”.
It is at this point that I also wish to thank work mate volunteers from the road construction authority who helped during the initial phases of the construction of the building, and in particular help offered by Mike Gelling in the drafting of copious amounts of correspondence relating to the earlier stages of the venture.
Further thanks are also due to Robert Gardner who helped develop and continues to help with the application of his expertise in electronics and computer know-how to enable us to run the whole railway system by computer, and also Walter Sigrist who volunteers to run the attraction in times of need.
Last but not least our thanks also go to my brother Bernhard who spot-welded hundreds of steel reinforcing rods together to hold the formwork in place, and of course my mother who still helps in running the business as needed, and my wife Karen, who puts up with some of my absences from the home front to continue the improvement of Alpenrail, and its daily maintenance requirements..
Building a dream!