A Picture Is Worth …

A Picture Is Worth …

… A second look

By Ernest H. Robl

In preparation for major construction on my layout, I’ve been acquiring scenic components – and in some cases partly assembly and painting them – to speed up later installation.

For at least two parts of the layout, I’ve decided to use the Walthers street system, which uses pre-formed plastic sheets to depict pavement and sidewalks. Walthers has offered several versions of these sets for many years, with little change, other than that color of the plastic has improved some, to better depict the concrete or asphalt components.

But, still, you don’t want to install the raw plastic without painting. And, though I have several versions of “concrete” paint, none appeared to match the pavement I remembered from Austrian towns. The concrete paint had a slight yellow tinge, whereas I remembered the pavement being much more gray.

Which led me to take another look at the photo below, of one of my favorite small Austrian towns, St. Jodok am Brenner.


Village church of St. Jodok am Brenner, a small mountain town between Innsbruck and the Italian border, with an Innsbruck-bound train passing in the background. The “am Brenner” (on the Brenner Pass) designation in the town’s name is needed because there are other towns in Austria, also named St. Jodok. The photo was made in 1991.  (Click on the picture for a larger version.)

Besides giving me a good reference point for painting the pavement, the photo also brought back pleasant memories.


For many years much of my work consisted of providing stock photography – a library of ready-to-publish images available to publishers, ranging from book and magazine publishers to producers of calendars – and one of my favorite types of images was the “trainscape.” These were landscape images that showed what a particular place looked like – but also included a train, usually not as the dominant element.

When I would show these photos to friends, they would sometimes make a comment along the lines of “You were lucky to make the photo just as the train came along.” To which, I usually replied by explaining that luck had very little to do with it. The photo was very carefully planned and I often waited considerable time for all the elements to come together.

I had one much-published image (from the U.S.) of a coal train crossing the James River in the Blue Ridge Mountains of western Virginia. That image even appeared as a cover of a trade magazine. It was the result of multiple trips to that remote location – once I had initially found it and seen its possibilities — and a lot of waiting, as that line had only about one train per hour at most.

St. Jodok

Fortunately, in St. Jodok am Brenner, Austria, you don’t have to wait long. On the busy double-track Brenner line, trains, ranging from international passenger express consists to intermodal freights run every ten to 15 minutes, sometimes even more frequently. And, St. Jodok is only a 15 minute train ride from downtown Innsbruck.

Commuter trains, usually consisting of EMU (Electric multiple unit) sets, run at least once an hour between Innsbruck and the Italian border at Brenner/Brennaro. (They are more frequent in the early morning and late afternoon.)


A 4020 EMU set heading downhill to Innsbruck, providing commuter service to the small towns on this line, photographed in the spring of 2000, just below the passenger stop of St. Jodok.

Innsbruck is one of the great cities for exploring mountainous western Austria by train. Not only are there many hotels – some quite reasonable – within walking distance of the main Innsbruck station, but that station, at the crossroads of important north-south and east-west rail routes, sees many dozens of passenger trains per day.

For me, a key trip each time I visited Innsbruck, has been to make at least one trip to St. Jodok.

On a first visit, I would strongly recommend traveling the steep and twisting 3 per cent grade all the way to the Italian border. That’s only about half an hour from Innsbruck, with many intermediate stops. Then, on the way down, you can get on and off at any intermediate town that strikes your fancy.

The train “station” in St. Jodok — just a basic shelter on either side of the tracks — is just behind the church steeple in the main photo at the top of this post. A footpath provides the most direct route into town. If you plan to explore the area, be sure to wear solid shoes. (There’s also a large horseshoe curve further up the hill from St. Jodok.)


Taking another look at that photo didn’t just provide me a good reference for the color of pavement in a small Austrian mountain town. It also helped me decide to paint another structure in the town at the end of my branchline in that bright white of many of the Tyrolian mountain structures.

Maybe this photo will provide some inspiration for an Alpine town on your layout. There are certainly plenty of kits available the match the style of the small towns around Innsbruck.

Unfortunately, there won’t be space in my end-of-the line town for a substantial church – though I do plan to have a small chapel on a nearby hillside.

The other side

Of course, the trip north out of Innsbruck toward the German border isn’t bad either (look for a future post involving that route) – and neither are the routes east and west out of Innsbruck.

Innsbruck is well worth a stay of several days. That way, if you have a rail pass, you have complete freedom to travel in any direction as the mood strikes you — and to get on and off wherever you find something of interest.


One Response to A Picture Is Worth …

  1. Gordon Preller says:

    Thanks, Ernest. I always find your blogs interesting and informative. And, as you can see, that road in the first photo is most likely not concrete, but some sort of blacktop, so a dark blue/gray of some kind would be your best bet. It looks as though the retaining wall on the far side of the road is concrete, and finished with a coat of Portland cement. Light gray, as you mention.

    Cheers, amigo!

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