Field Trip with our Physics Teacher


Field Trip with our Physics Teacher

By Roger Heid


In late September of 1957, our High School class was scheduled for one of those dreaded all day field trips. The teacher that was lined up to take us, a nature freak, would most likely have us study the gestation period of field mice or the social structure of a common ant hill. We all were immediately engulfed in a sudden burst of false eagerness. The thought of scheduling a ‘sick day’ entered my mind. I’m sure I wasn’t the only one harboring similar sentiments.

But then, much to our surprise, it happened. It was the biology teacher who called in sick, not us; we may all just have a day off. This turned out to be sheer wishful thinking, however, a pipe dream. Our physics teacher, the model railroad man, got slated to take us, instead. We would probably wind up in some museum filled with technology, new and obsolete. We would carry slide rulers and plenty of note paper. We would have to figure out the diameter of some wretched cog wheel down to a picometer or even an Angstrom, maybe also the distance between two points that did not exist. Afterwards we would be forced to write a paper worth a Nobel Prize. Gloom, doom and despair sank upon us.

So I asked the teacher where we were going and if we had to write an essay in the aftermath. He grinned from ear to ear and informed us we were going to a freight staging yard near Stuttgart to watch the activities and that there would be no mandatory essay, but he would appreciate at least two of us to voluntarily write one. Stupid as I was back then, I volunteered as this whole event looked to be quite promising, after all. Actually, after having gotten to know our physics teacher we were not so surprised about his plan for the day.

We arrived at the Kornwestheim Train Station at about 9 am. He herded us into the restaurant for a breakfast that some good soul had pre-paid.

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Left:  Old Station around 1920                                         Right: Recent picture

Just about when we had gulped down the crumpets and the coffee, a man in DB uniform entered the scene. He scrutinized us like a sheep herder ready to lead his flock to the shearing facility. Now what? The man squeezed us into a small bus barely big enough to hold us all and informed us to sit still and to shut up.

After a seemingly arduous and bumpy road trip, the bus came to a screeching halt. The driver prompted us to get out and that he did not have all day. Leaving us in a cloud of nasty blue smoke, the bus took off as if the boogie man were after it. Now we had a glimpse of the staging yard. At first glance, it was suggestive to a modeling project. The teacher took some pictures. I smelled skunk, and so did my friend Bruno.


Aerial Photo of the Kornwestheim Freight Staging Yard

Then some large van pulled up behind us. Some guy in the blue DB uniform hopped off and immediately commenced to load us up like cattle on the way to the stock yards. We got dumped off in front of some large shed. In no time flat we were divided into three groups, the teacher in charge of one, Bruno and I in charge of the other two. Off we went.

My group wound up somewhere in the midst of this maze of tracks and switches. We got to watch various cars and short trains being pushed around, coupled together, separated, re-assembled, pushed or dragged for some distance, and all this was accompanied by a lot of shouting and yelling. It was outright hectic, but it was very interesting to say the least.

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All this really made playing with HO scale rolling stock look like child’s play. Here it wasn’t as easy as lifting a car of the tracks to put it in a different spot of the train. If something were to derail it would take more than just a few seconds to correct the problem. In a sense this was a real eye-opener. At one time, we got to ride on an empty flat car to the other end of the yard where some impatient locomotive was already waiting to get connected to her train. She was huffing and puffing in anticipation of taking off and do her job. She acted like a nervous race horse.

Suddenly, the show was over and we were herded back to the station restaurant where a hearty meal was waiting for us. Where had the day gone so quickly? We then boarded the train going to the Stuttgart Main Station; there we switched to an Express Train taking us to Aalen. Most of us fell asleep during that leg of the journey. We were bushed. It was a great day.

A few days later, our physics teacher informed us that one of the DB officials was his older cousin and that we were lucky that all this could be arranged on that day when the staging yard was not that busy. Oh my lord! What would it have been like on a busy day?

2 Responses to Field Trip with our Physics Teacher

  1. richard Sappeli says:

    I would have jumped at the chance to visit a staging yard with any teacher. I guess today that would not be possible with all the terrorist precautions. What a wonderful way to spend a day.

    RJ from USA

  2. Fred Preller says:

    A priceless memory!

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