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MÄRKLIN & RAILROADS : A personal view by Christian Vinaa

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IMA Köln

Exhibitions : IMA

rating locomotiverating locomotiverating locomotive

The "Internationale Modellbahn-Ausstellung" ( IMA ) is a huge event in Germany organized by the Messe Sinsheim GmbH ➚ who also organizes the "Faszination Modellbahn" in Sinsheim and the "Faszination Modellbau" in Friedrichshafen.

The IMA has during the years been held in various places, but lately it has been held in even years in Köln in November and in un-even years in Göppingen together with the Märklintage in September.

IMA - Köln - November 2014

My photos from the IMA 2014 in Köln is in between the text below and right at the bottom of this page.
Click on any photo to enlarge
In November 2014 I was in Köln helping out my good friend, Mike Bisset, with his layout St. Marnock Engine Shed

Internationale Modellbahn-Ausstellung IMA Köln 2014
Click photo to enlarge
Although I was busy operating the layout, I did have some time to visit Köln and the rest of the exhibition.

The following are my personal and very subjective thoughts and observations.

The IMA is really a big event and it is very wisely placed in November while the other big event in Germany, Intermodellbau - Dortmund ➚ is placed in April.

One whole hall, the 4.1., was devoted to model-railroading, while the hall 4.2., which in fact is above hall 4.1., was the home of the "8' Kölner Echtdampftreffen".

Hall 2.1. was dedicated the "LEGO-Fanwelt" and the "LEGO-kidsfest".

The "Echtdampf" was fun to watch and you could buy ride-alongs. It seemed to be dominated by the Malu-Bahn ➚ but there were others too. To my disappointment there were no manufacturers of garden-railway equipment at the exhibition.

The "Lego" stuff in hall 2.1. was of course a huge children-magnet, and there is no doubt that this was the most sought-after and visited part of the whole exhibition.

The organization

First a little about the organization and the basic exhibition. IMHO the access and the signs were very confusing.

First you had to find where you could enter the exhibition. Not exactly easy for one who have never been in Köln or to the Köln-exhibition before.

Then when you entered at the "West-gate" you had to go up to the first floor to go through the ticket counter and then go down to hall 4.1.

The organizers or the Köln-messe should have prepared a less ambiguous map than the one above on the right.

The exhibitors access-pass was delivered without a holder and its size didn't fit the normal neck-strap pass-holders. So you bend it only to find out that the security personel wants to see both sides of the pass. Very inconvenient.

While there was no problems with the setting up of the layout it was rather annoying that even though the exhibition closed at 17:00 on Sunday, the exhibitors were not allowed to leave the hall till 18:00, or at least untill they had finished removing the carpets. This was not mentioned in the contract or the general agreement.

The reason : If they allowed some people to go out they couldn't stop the transport-companies outside from getting in soiling the carpets.

So we stood and waited for more than half an hour with the whole layout packed down just next to the big gate waiting to get out.

The food

Internationale Modellbahn-Ausstellung IMA Köln 2014 restauramt ampere
Click photo to enlarge.

Internationale Modellbahn-Ausstellung IMA Köln 2014 menu restaurant
Click photo to enlarge.
The food at the exhibition consisted of one cafeteria, which in fact had named itself a restaurant - "Restaurant Ampère" - on the middle floor and 2 snack-joints in hall 4.1. All three basically served the same typical exhibition food : sausages and cake.

I tried the food twice at the cafeteria; both times the sausage was luke warm.

The cafeteria should be treated as a tourist trap. I ordered a "brat-wurst" at € 3,00 from the menu on the photo to the right.

The waitress asked; "Do you want bread or french fries with your bratwurst ? ".

Something made me a little suspicious so I asked :
"What is included in the € 3,00", to which she replied : "oh - its only the bread - you have to pay extra for the french fries" - an extra which would be doubling the bill.

You really cannot trick paying customers like that. Look at the menu - there is no information as to what is / is not included with the bratwurst.

That the bread was yesterdays bread didn't make it any better.

So the bottom-line is that you are way better of with your own sandwiches, even though they too might be luke-warm at lunch-time.

Toilets and signs

Taking into consideration that it was a huge event there were surprisingly few toilets, and the signs for the toilets could be better.

The signs, or rather the lack of signs, is another thing that could be improved. It seemed that the signs were placed by someone who already knew where different things were, and therefore didn't think that it needed any signs.

There was only one place where you could sit and relax; at the cafeteria. And is was on wobbly camping benches. There most definitely should be more seating posibilities. After all - the typical model-railroader is 50+ if not 60+. But also parents with children had to simply camp out directly on the floor.

The exhibitors

Internationale Modellbahn-Ausstellung IMA Köln 2014
Click photo to enlarge.
As you can see from the hall-4.1.-plan there was a wide variety of exhibitors.

The market-leader "Märklin" of course had the biggest stand, but the rest of the main model-railroad manufacturers were there; Hornby/Bachmann, PIKO, Tilig, BEMO, Brawa; - only Fleischmann/Roco was not there, which of course is food for thought.

Fleischmann/Roco was at the Nürnberg Trade Fair but it seems that they try to avoid the exhibitions where their customers are. Don't they want to meet their customers ?

All in all it was Märklin, the whole accessories industry, the electronic industry and a lot of small niche-market manufacturers - especially tools and machinery was well-represented.

One remarkable thing, however, was that Conrad, the big international mail-order shop, ( where the model-railroad is just a tiny part of their inventory ), who also has a few real stores around Germany, was present with a rather large stand. They were probably the only stand, beside Brawa, who actually sold-out some items.

Conrad is important, because the new director of Märklin, Florian Sieber, has been saying in various interviews that Märklin no longer want to sell through discount stores like ALDI and Lidl, but want to sell in non-discount building markets.

Even though Conrad had some nice offers, which sold out, it wasn't the low prices that can be found in ALDI or on some internet-shops.

For the children

Memo to Märklin :

I hope that you had some people analyzing the play-spaces, noting what the children were focusing on; what worked and what didn't work.

Sure - you have no dobt had focus-groups made up, and analyzed into unbelivable details, but this was pure raw children power with no filters.

This cannot be bought or gotten in staged tests.
Every manufacturer in the model railroad world know that it is important to get the children interested in model railroading.

The typical model railroader is male, 60+ and is retired, so there are a lot of efforts trying to get the young ones interested in model railroading.

On the IMA 2014 in Köln there were several things that appealed especially to children.

Märklin had 2 spaces where tracks were laid out directly on the carpet, so children could just come and play with the trains.

Märklin had trains in H0 ( "My World" and "Start Up" series ) and LGB with the play-trains. PIKO also had a play-area with their track "G" play-trains.

Internationale Modellbahn-Ausstellung IMA Köln 2014 kid with assembled kit
CLICK photo to enlarge.
A young kid with the small diorama
he just built. Actually not bad at-all !
Another interesting thing was the "basteln-ecke" - a corner where children could sit and built a small kit.

The kit and the material was only about 2 euros because it was sponsered by Märklin - Auhagen - Busch - Faller - Noch and Viesmann.

A German organisation "Kooperations-netz Schule - Wirtschaft" participated and had brought some senior school-children to supervise the younger children.

Every time I walked past these play-spaces there were plenty of children playing with great enthousiasm.

There is still hope for the model railroad.

Buying stuff

By large all the 10-12 exhibitors that were selling things had found a buzz-word "Messe-preis" - i.e. special exhibition-price. Only sad that all but a few mis-used that word.

Sure - there were bargains to be found but you had to watch out and not trust the yellow markers.

Haggling is of course always done, but the sellers clearly has a limit as to have low they can go. - And they know that limit very well.

The better offers would be found at the manufacturers, where there often would be a real "Messe-Preis".

From the names on the many plastic bags that people were carrying around it seemed that it in fact were the manufacturers that sold well.

Things that stood out

Internationale Modellbahn-Ausstellung IMA Köln 2014 Franz Stellmaszyk
Click to enlarge

Watch movie
of the brake-diorama
in function.
One person who always impresses me is Franz Stellmaszyk

I've met him before, but it is always great to talk with him and to see his various technical achievements.

It is amazing what that guy can do at his metal work-shop.

His latest project is a working model of the hump brake-units at a shunting yard in scale 1:32, with 2 major achievements :
  1. The discs that press against the wagon-wheels are fully functional and does actually slow down the wagon.
  2. The wagon itself has fully working brakes clamping onto the wheels.

One thing that is often overlooked while admiring his diorama is the background. It is masterfully photographed and printed into the right scale.

The background photo is taken at the Köln-Gremberg shunting yard. A man told Franz Stellmaszyk that it looked exactly as it was when he had been working there about 10 years ago down to the last bush and pile of surplus gravel.

Being a Märklin Insider member I might be biased but the LGB winter-snow layout was quite beautiful. Let my photos speak for themselves :

LGB Winter snow layout IMA 2014 Köln LGB Winter snow layout IMA 2014 Köln LGB Winter snow layout IMA 2014 Köln
LGB Winter snow layout IMA 2014 Köln LGB Winter snow layout IMA 2014 Köln LGB Winter snow layout IMA 2014 Köln
LGB Winter snow layout IMA 2014 Köln

"MBC Holzminden-Stadtoldendorf" - a model railroad club from Stadtoldendorf, just south of Hannover in Germany, had a large layout built in segments.

MBC Holzminden-Stadtoldendorf IMA Köln 2014

The layout had a plethora of details; - almost too much sometimes. Enjoy the photos :

MBC Holzminden-Stadtoldendorf IMA Köln 2014
With the roof removed
the interior is revealed.
MBC Holzminden-Stadtoldendorf IMA Köln 2014
The pin-ups are scaled-down
copies of actual posters.
MBC Holzminden-Stadtoldendorf IMA Köln 2014
Sorry !.
MBC Holzminden-Stadtoldendorf IMA Köln 2014
Each bag is
made individually.
MBC Holzminden-Stadtoldendorf IMA Köln 2014
Who broke my window ?
The boy in back with a catapult !
MBC Holzminden-Stadtoldendorf IMA Köln 2014
Typical scene from
a small town in the country.
MBC Holzminden-Stadtoldendorf IMA Köln 2014
Most German layouts
has an "Easter Egg".
MBC Holzminden-Stadtoldendorf IMA Köln 2014
You need time off
to eat and drink.
MBC Holzminden-Stadtoldendorf IMA Köln 2014

MBC Holzminden-Stadtoldendorf IMA Köln 2014
Fresh beer
is arriving.
MBC Holzminden-Stadtoldendorf IMA Köln 2014
Where the manager cannot see
they are playing cards.
MBC Holzminden-Stadtoldendorf IMA Köln 2014
Sleeping quarters
But where are the pin-ups ?

HEKI had some nice building materials, especially some bendable plastic plates so you could make round buildings like this one :

HEKI  IMA Köln 2014 HEKI  IMA Köln 2014 HEKI  IMA Köln 2014

This round apartment building is a one-of-a-kind made from fantasy, but it is so well done that it could just as well been a copy of a real building.

What others have said

What does it actually cost to have a stall at the IMA ?

According to the official order form and contract for the IMA 2014 in Köln :
  • € 105,- → € 125,- pr. m2
  • Mandatory notice in the cataloque : € 150,-
Minimum stall-size is 9 m2.
All prices are excl. VAT.

Interesting that the contract in fact stipulates that the stall-owner must not sell second-hand items.

Basically it cannot be done for less than € 1.100,00.

Depending on profit-margin ( that can be anything between 25 - 50 % ), a dealer should sell for about € 5.000,- in order to start making a profit.

If a standard H0 locomotive sells at about € 350,00 then it is about 15 locomotives to sell BEFORE the break-even point.
On various forums there are already comments on the IMA-Köln in November 2014.

This is the short-list of the complaints :
  • Parking was worse than previous years. Apparently some parking spaces near the entrances had been closed, and a shuttle bus was non-existant.
  • Lack of directional signs especially from "Köln-Messe-Deutz".
  • Price of admission was too high, given that there were too few layouts to watch. People don't want to pay to enter a shop either !
  • The dealers didn't have good offers; - in part because the rent for the stall is so high.
  • Some have complained that the admission price was the same on all 4 days ( thurs - fri - sat - sun ), even though the LEGO-events were not open on thursday.
The things that so far has been remarked as positive :
  • The quality and the variety of the layouts displayed. Visitors really don't want to just see the manufacturers and the dealers.

To me it is quite easy.

If dealers think that the rent for a stall is too high - they shouldn't buy it.

As long as the dealers keep buying the stall, the exhibition will not lower the price. Only when they cannot sell the stalls, will they lower the price.

It is not rocket-science !

It annoys me to hear dealers complain about the price, but still buy the stall year after year.

Remarks about "St. Marnock Engine Shed"

I just have to publish this little tidbit from

Internationale Modellbahn-Ausstellung IMA Köln 2014

Yes - Mike and I and Udo for sure had a barrel of laughs as the German visitor mentions.

Köln city

Last - a little bit about Köln.

IMA Köln 2014 Hohenzollern bridge Dom
Click to enlarge

IMA Köln 2014 Hohenzollern bridge Dom
Click to enlarge
The IMA exhibition took place at the Messe-Köln which is just next to the station "Köln-Messe-Deutz". The station is a multi-level station with an impressive dome.

Sadly it was also the station used for the Nazi-deportation of jews during WW2 and the exhibition halls were used for temporary living-quarters for those waiting to be put on a deportation-train.

You can go on the Hohenzollern-bridge across the Rhein to the Central Station in Köln, and just at the end of the bridge there are several good photo-opportunities.

The brigde is covered in padlocks / lovelocks put there by couples as a romantic gesture.

The padlocks weigh an estimated 2 tons, but so far there should be no weight problem as with a similar brigde in Paris.

The train traffic across the bridge is heavy with many ICE - IC - Regio and S-bahn trains. Freight trains however very rarely, if ever, run over the bridge.

Just next to the Central Station is the famous Köln cathedral ( Dom ) which by a miracle was not destroyed during WW2.

IMA 2014 Kölsch in Köln The local beer in Köln is called the "Kölsch" and it is, by any standard, a rather weak beer.

It is traditionally served in high 0,2 glasses ( "stangen" ) and carried by the waiters in round trays with holes in them fitting the glasses.

I had the dubious pleasure of visiting some of the places in Köln that serve the Kölsch and there was never a time where it was perfect.

The beer-waiters generally, in Köln, are very snappy, bordering on snooty, and work and behave as if they are solely paid according to how many beers they can push.

Some of the Kölsch served was most surely watered down by the waiters / staff as it was very thin indeed.

IMA 2014 Kölsch in Köln
Another trick to maximise profit, is to not fill the glass to the marker.

When pointing this fact out you'll get a snooty answer like "...oh but the foam will materilize as beer - and then the beer will reach the marker..." or the classic answer from waiters "'s it not my table / responsabllity...".

When the Kölsch glass is 16 cm high, it really matters if the beer is 1 cm below the marker.

I have been visiting different regions in Germany for many years; this was the first time in Köln; and it was quite a negative surprise.

Only at 1, out of 3, bier-keller did we get a nice and proper service. I've been to big cities like Hamburg and Nürnberg and Stuttgart and never been ill-treated by German waiters the way the Köln waiters misbehaved.

Traffic in and around Köln

The autobahns around Köln are VERY congested. The traffic radio in fact only mentions "staus" with a lenght of more than 5 km. The autobahn-grid is also like a cob-web so you have to really read the signs.

Easiest way to get to Köln is no doubt by train unless you arrive in the middle of the day, during the night or on a weekend. Köln Central Station and Köln-Messe-Deutz are the stations you will want to exit from.

Köln share its airport with Bonn and there are many domestic flights and a few international flights ( UK - Switzerland - Italy ). Most international flights however use Duesseldorf Airport, but the Regio train goes from Köln to Duesseldorf Airport train station in about 30 minutes.

As in all German cities the cars go fast and the German drivers have a way with approaching a traffic light at full speed and then brake for the red light. This can, as a pedestrian, be quite an experience.

There are many pedestrian streets in Köln City center, and a walk along the river Rhein or over one of the brigdes is relaxing.

One last thing : Sexy model-railroad ?

As I have investigated in detail it seems that especially in Germany there is a "sexy side" to the model-railroad.

Just have a look at the content of the box the gentleman is holding :

Sexy scenes 1:32 IMA Köln 2014
Click photo to enlarge

And those figures are scale 1:32 !

An exhibitor had a female staff-member at the stall that turned a lot of heads :

Internationale Modellbahn-Ausstellung IMA Köln 2014
Click photo to enlarge

Some remarked that it perhaps was not proper to have such a dress on at an exhibition where there would be children and preteens present.

Anyway - it quickly made it into the model-railroad forums ( ) ➚

Internationale Modellbahn-Ausstellung IMA Köln 2014

Rough translation : "...[ the Czech exhibitor ] had a real eye-catcher - a very attractive young lady in a very cute outfit. WOW !. Whether she had any knowledge of the items they were selling remains to be known, and anyway - its doesnt matter !..."

Last but not least there was this poster for a glue-company :

KS Klebstoffe IMA Köln 2014

"We glue almost anything" - Well - sex does sell !

More photos from the IMA 2014 in Köln

Finse layout Norway IMA Köln 2014
Layout "Finse" from Norway.
Finse layout Norway IMA Köln 2014
Cleaning the "Finse" layout.
St. Marnock IMA Köln 2014
St. Marnock layout stall before assembly.
St. Marnock IMA Köln 2014
Assembling the St. Marnock layout.
St. Marnock IMA Köln 2014
"Didn't I do it correctly ?"
St. Marnock Mike Bisset IMA Köln 2014
Mike assembling the turn-table.
Hornby - Lilliput IMA Köln 2014
Hornby - Lilliput layout.
One of my favorite layouts.
Silvia Römpp from the Märklin Insider Club IMA Köln 2014
Silvia Römpp from the Märklin Insider Club
DB Bahn-Shop IMA Köln 2014
Two happy faces at DB Bahn-Shop
GeraMond IMA Köln 2014
Wonderfull smile at GeraMond
Prehm modelbahn IMA Köln 2014
Whipe that smirk of your face !
Fredensborg Modeljernbaneklub IMA Köln 2014
Group: Fredensborg Modeljernbaneklub
( Denmark )
Bubi-Model IMA Köln 2014
Nice Danish beer-car from Bubi-Model
( Czech Republic )
Bubi-Model IMA Köln 2014
Bubi-Model stall.
Garm / Jaquerod IMA Köln 2014
Swiss layout: Garm / Jaquerod.
Simba Group Schuco IMA Köln 2014
Discussion within the Simba Group
Josef Broich IMA Köln 2014
Herr Josef Broich from Troisdorf.
Minex Märklin IMA Köln 2014
His wonderfull and rare Minex layout.
Internationale Modellbahn-Ausstellung IMA Köln 2014
People in line to get in.
Märklin seminar IMA Köln 2014 To the left the "Seminar Menu".

Märklin tried for the first time
to hold seminars
at a big exhibition
as the IMA 2014 in Köln.

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