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A Love of Trains:
Dale's LayoutMr. Zul AhmadDale has always enjoyed railroads. Growing up, the Erie Lackawanna train passed by about 500 meters from his family's house on route 322.  An even earlier memory was his dad's model railway in the basement of the house on Garden Street in Meadville. These recollections date back to the heyday of rail transport, a time when Meadville boasted the largest train shed on the eastern seaboard. This was due to its location, being nearly equidistant from Buffalo, Cleveland, and Pittsburgh. Dale's grandfather on his mother's side, Fred Cotterman (a good Dutch name) was a fireman on the railroad back during the steam era (the guy who shoveled the coal into the boiler). As a teen, Dale had a model railroad in his room. Suffice it to say his interest in railroading and model railroad has roots deep in his childhood. Cut to retirement years, and he bought a small (2' x 3') model railway from an British expat leaving Kuala Lumpur. The layou is shown in the photo to the left. It developed an electrical issue just before leaving for Croatia, and was expertly repaired by Mr. Zolkafli Ahmad of the Kuala Lumpur Miniature Train Club. After all what is the fun of retirement without hobbies? The photo to the right is Mr. Ahmad when he was kind enough to drop by Villa Putra Putri to collect atund repair the layout.

Sign at Entrance to Backo Mini ExpressEntranceSo, imagine our suprise (and Dale's delight) when we learned that the largest model railway in Eastern Europe was just a 2-stop tram ride from our house? The Backo Mini Express is located about three blocks from the main square and occupies two floors of a downtown building.  Since its inception in 2011 it has grown steadily and the layout itself has undergone many changes. It survived a flood in July of 2020. The first level is the main layout, with a newer addition underway in an adjacent room. Downstairs there is a large work area and a room with a layout circling the famous Tomislav Square. In the adjacent room are three smaller layouts designed for use by visitors. The photo to the left shows the entrance from the street, while the photo to the right shows the entrance to the Backo Mini Express dressed up for Christmas 2018.
There is something for everyone at the Backo Mini-Express. Here is a brief description of the respective layouts

Trains in Display CaseLocos and Rolling StockOpen on Fridays and Saturdays, this is a true labor of love for the Antun Ubric and the men who build and staff the museum. For train aficianados, the layout is in HO scale (1:87 scale). The statistics are staggering: over 150 locomotives and over 1,000 cars or rolling stock of every variety. The trains run on 1,500 meters of track (nearly a mile) on seven different levels. The trains and switches are all computerized, and are controlled from a perch overlooking the layout. There are themed trains (The Santa Fe, Orient-Express, and Intercity-Express, to name a few) and locomotives from all six historical periods. In the panoramas below you can see the monitors that are above the layout and capture the trains from every angle. As impressive as that is, the details on the layout itself are equally staggering. Most scenes are animated, with people exiting train platforms, traversing the city square, skiing down Alpine slopes, and even hangliding off a mountain. Below is a screenshot of the dedicated team that keep the trains running, and who are constantly improving the layouts.
Backo Mini Express Team

Below is a virtual tour of the layout. It details the main scenic features of the layout using panoramic photography, audio narration, photos, and video. And, while it cannot begin to chronicle the incredible details of this layout (one could spend days examining the minute details of the scenes) nor begin to capture the sophisticated navigation system that guide the trains, it is hoped it will provide a basic introduction to what is clearly a labor of love. For those who would like to learn more about the Backo Mini Express from its creation through the many changes and improvements that have been made by this dedicated crew over the years, here is a link to a forum with 100's of photos, a veritable archive of the museum and its history.

Backo Mini Express Virtual Tour
Main Layout (Right Side of Layout)
Main Layout (Right Side of Layout)Snap Content

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