Runs Like Clockwork (2)

The Droz lay-out is being sold this week. I’ve written about it before, here

Here is the catalogue description

The Model Railway System of Josué Droz, 1925-35

Completely made by hand: An absolutely unique masterpiece of Swiss precision engineering. and a spectacular work of a lifetime!

For centuries, La Chaux-de-Fonds in the Swiss Neuchâtel Jura has been regarded as an instrument-making center of excellence, producing precision engineering, clocks, toys and musical boxes of the highest quality, some of which are now exhibited in the famous horology museum in La Chaux-de-Fonds.

The La Chaux-de-Fonds district is also the birthplace of the renowned horologist Pierre Jaquet-Droz, whose three ‘androids’ can be seen in nearby Neuchâtel. It is not by chance, then, that the name of the maker of this unique model railway system now offered for sale, is Josué Droz, a citizen of La Chaux-de-Fonds. Although we do not know the precise family connection between the two Droz engineers, the spirit of the master is evident in this remarkable model railway!

Born in 1895, Josué Droz began work on the construction of his scale model railway station installation modeled on the SBB – Schweizer Bundesbahn (Swiss Federal Railways) – when he was thirty. As a trained cabinet maker, he was familiar with precision modeling and devoted every free minute of his time to his meticulously-planned master work. It was not completed until 1936, eleven years and an unbelievable 18,000 man hours later. His complete railway station system, faithful to the original in even the smallest detail, remains absolutely unique throughout the world, surpassing the finest commercial brands in its precision and quality.

Droz designed and built the system himself, sometimes in consultation with well-known Swiss engineers and specialists. The system is designed to a scale of 1:30 (48 mm gauge), thoroughly thought out and executed with outstanding skill and care, and lacks absolutely nothing when it comes to originality and accuracy of detail. Its overall size is an impressive 6 x 16 meters (96 sq. meters/approx. 1,000 sq feet)!

In November 1936, whilst the effects of the world recession were still being felt, the complete system was exhibited for fourteen days by the municipal Documentation Office for Trade and Engineering, the first and only time that it has been seen by the public, in the old Apollo Cinema Theatre in La Chaux-de-Fonds.

Since that time, the complete system has rested in sturdy custom-built upholstered wooden boxes, protected from humidity and cold, in the attic of its creator in No. 17 Rue de la Réformation, La Chaux-de-Fonds, until it was discovered by ATB and made known to the public.

This important model railway represents the golden age ideal of a truly public transportation system which transformed the world during the first part of the 20th century. Words are not enough to describe the precision, accuracy, perseverance and patience, the great talent, which Josué Droz devoted to creating his masterpiece.

TECHNICAL DATA: 3 Complete Train Sets 236 x 630 in. = 1,033 sq feet/16 x 6 m System. ROLLING STOCK: 1) 3 Electric Locomotives, comprising: a) “Type CFF Series 10901” Locomotive, weight: 15 lbs (7 kg.), Length: 20 in. (50 cm), Tractive power: 55 lbs (25 kg). b) “Type P.O. Series 14304” Locomotive, weight: 17.6 lbs (8 kg), Length: 20.5 in. (52 cm), Tractive power: 55 lbs (25 kg). c) “Type Pacific Series 6106” Steam Locomotive, electrified. Weight: 16.5 lbs (7.5 kg), Length: 30 in. (75 cm), Tractive power: 44 lbs (20 kg). – 2) 8 Express Train Carriages, comprising the following: a) Pullman Carriage “Mitropa”, length: 25.6 in. (65 cm), Weight: 8.4 lbs (3.8 kg!). Mahogany interior fittings, 24 lamps, 16 mirrors, 12 glass-topped tables and small electric lamps, 24 upholstered seats, 2 clocks, ceiling lighting, toilets, curtains, luggage racks, linoleum floor and inlaid maple ceiling. b) Saloon Carriage, length: 20.5 in. (52 cm), weight: 7 lbs (3.15 kg). Rosewood interior, 2 four-branch chandeliers, upholstered leather seats and sofas, table, mirrors, toilets and 12 lamps. c) Restaurant Carriage, length: 20.5 in. (52 cm), weight: 6.6 lbs (3 kg). Pink cedarwood interior, leather folding seats, tables, mirrors, kitchen. d) Sleeping Carriage, length: 20.5 in. (52 cm), weight: 6.6 lbs (3 kg), Oak interior with mirrors, toilets, 12 lamps. e) Coach: First and Second class, upholstered folding seats (blue and copper colors), 9 lamps, gangway, mirrors, toilets, etc. f) 2 Coaches: 3rd class, length: 18 in./46 cm, weight: 4.4 lbs/2 kg each. With 8 lamps and folding tables at the windows. g) 1 Luggage Wagon, length: 15.4 in./39 cm, weight: 3.9 lbs/1.75 kg each. With 8 lamps. – All the carriages are faithful scale models of the originals; the windows and doors can be opened and the interior furnishings have been recreated down to the smallest detail and peopled with miniature passengers to give greater realism. The electric lighting is controlled separately, with a dynamo for the individual carriages. – 3) 6 Passenger Carriages, comprising: a) Mail Car, length: 14 in./35.5 cm, weight: 3.6 lbs/1.65 kg. With 8 lamps. b) Baggage Car, length: 12.6 in./32 cm, weight: 3 lbs/1.35 kg. With 8 lamps. c) 4 Coaches: 3rd class, one has 3 moving axles which automatically take bends, fitted with buffers, each with 8 lamps, moveable windows and doors. Weight: 3.3 lbs/1.5 kg each. – 4) 15 Various Freight Wagons. These are mainly open timber wagons of various lengths. Weight: 1.8-4.4 lbs/0.8-2 kg each. All fitted with loads!!! RAILWAY INSTALLATION: 1) Main Railway Station. Of modern construction with pavements and 2 ancillary buildings, all with interior fittings and lighting reproduced down to the finest detail. Dimensions: 56 in./1.43 m long, 27 in./69 cm deep, 19 in./49 cm high. Three illuminated buildings with a total of 40 lamps!! a) Left-hand Building: With luggage hall, stationmaster’s office, materials store, entrance hall, furnished dwelling: 3 rooms and kitchen, bath, WC, mirrors, pictures, hand basin etc. b) Main Building (Center): Large hall with chrome chandelier, flower and newspaper kiosks, hairdresser, ticket office, pedestrian underpass to the platform, automatic vending machines, illuminated electric clock (!), passengers and personnel. c) Right-hand Building: Furnished restaurant, marble-topped tables, counter, 30 chairs, cloakroom, fittings and 3-branch chandelier, passengers and personnel, first and second class waiting rooms, W.C., a furnished dwelling as in the left hand ancillary building. – 2) Freight Depot. Dimensions: 78 in./2 m long (!), 27 in./ 69 cm deep and 10 in./26 cm high. Roofed and closed with open platform, office, W.C., lighting with 8 lamps, space for unloading 4 wagons and 1 revolving crane. 3) 2 Platforms, a) With bench, letterbox, ticket machines, small central area, 8 switches for controlling the lighting and functioning electrical platform clock. b) With 7 lamps, a lighted electrical platform clock, 2 benches, pedestrian underpass to the railway station. Dimensions: 78 in./2 m long (!), 8 in./20.5 cm deep, 7.5 in./19 cm high. – 4) Signal Box. Faithful model of original. With 26 switches and 44 contact plugs. Dimensions: 23 in./60 cm long, 7 in./18 cm deep and 16.7 in./ 42.5 cm high. – 5) Engine Shed. For locomotives and waggons, with 3 entrances, 6 doors and 8 lamps. Dimensions: 44.5 in./1.13 m long (!), 27.6 in./70 cm deep and 19 in./48 cm high. – 6) Distribution Substation. Distributor for 10 different surface and underground cables with switches and isolators. Dimensions: 15 in./ 39 cm long, 3.4 in./8.5 cm deep, 13.8 in./35 cm high. – 7) Lineman’s Cabin. Furnished as a waiting room, lighting with 8 lamps. Dimensions: 18 in./46 cm long, 10.3 in./26 cm deep, 11 in./28 cm high. – 8) Overpass. With 2 stairs. Dimensions: 57 in./1.45 m long (!), 4.3 in./ 11 cm deep, 13.8 in/35 cm high. – 9) Bridge. With strengthened arch. Dimensions: 78.7 in./2 m long (!) 14.4 in./36.5 cm wide, 15.8 in./40 cm high. – 10) Turntable. Diameter: 29.5 in./75 cm. Motor and remote control, micro adjustment by means of worm drive, limit contacts. – 11) Roller Ladder. For installation of electric overhead wires. TRACKS MATERIALS: 1) Approx. 131 ft. (400 m) of Railway Tracks 132 lbs (60 kg) profile iron, secured in accordance with the original, using approx. 25,000 bolts. – 2) 3,300 Wooden Sleepers. – 3) Approx. 1,500 Fishplates, scured to rails by 3,000 track bolts. – 4) 22 Intersections (of which 21 are single points) with electrodynamic lanterns, 21.6 in./55 cm long, and 1 angle intersection. – 5) 8 Signals: disk, 3 pallets (of which 2 are automatic), 2 signal bells with 2 bells, 2 signal bells with 1 bell, all with electrodynamic remote control. FURTHER MATERIALS: 1) Approx. 320 Wheel Brakes on wagons and locomotives. – 2) Approx. 106 Overhead Line Towers with approx. 157,5 in./400 m of cable. – 3) 322 Porcelain Isolators and 250 Compound Isolators. – 4) 2 Cranes, one for double-track use on spoil car and one slewing crane. – 5) Approx. 120 Different Figures. ELECTRICAL OPERATING EQUIPMENT: 1) Specially Constructed Transformer: By “Ecole d’Electrotechnique du Technicum du Locle”. For 110, 125, 150, 220 and 250 V/3 A/per 50. – 2) Signal Box with photoelectric barrier remote control!

That’s quite a good description – excepting the hyperbole…

My question is, has anyone got a plan of the original layout? 

I entirely agree that this is a unique example of precision and miniature mechanical engineering. I also think that Droz conceptualised his lay-out as a complex interactive system. I guess it will take whoever buys this model about five years to assemble the layout. Even then, it might not be the original!

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