Team pink DGKTC Season 1
Team pink DGKTC Season 1

What excitement!!!! We too watched the broadcast with tense bottoms. We did not know ourselves how the production would shorten over 150 hours of footage to 50 minutes. In our opinion, they succeeded excellently. Of course, we also missed nice clips explaining construction and engineering, and also hoped that the judges would be a bit more in focus with their fine opinions. But that it was very difficult for the production to choose and make concessions we understand very well.

We chose the film Unstoppable (viewable on Netflix and highly recommended) because we thought it was a beautiful film in the contemporary spirit of the times. And not so obvious, that we had set the bar pretty high we were aware of, but that’s what made this so much fun to do. Unfortunately, it failed to keep the theme American. The brands we could choose from had no American models in the range at that time, and if there were any, not available. There was a real push by the sponsor to find alternatives, but they simply weren’t there at the time. We could score some things secondhand, but then in one fell swoop our own budget (an amount for which we were allowed to buy items that the sponsors could not provide) ran out. We therefore chose to move Unstoppable to the German Ruhr region. Ah a bit out-of-the-box, but that also makes the theme a bit our own.

But what an experience. This started for us the day before the shooting. There we could meet the setting, the production team, the jury and, of course, Andre van Duin. Also recorded these days were the lead-up shots and the first footage introducing the judges and teams. Afterwards, we were all allowed to rest quietly in a hotel and prepare for the next day, the day the adventure really began. The top of the roller coaster had been reached and we really couldn’t go back now, it’s really starting.

Day 1: Builders ready, build on
The beginning of the adventure, which we immediately began in good spirits. A bare frame of wooden beams where in exactly 2.5 days a full-fledged model railroad with the movie Unstoppable had to stand….. But no pressure otherwise! First, we chose that Martin and Arnaud would cut the wooden boards to size while the rest would go find all the rails together.

This part was not at all foreign to us. Building structures with rails and electronics is something we do throughout the week in our company. This also went pretty smoothly and not much later the first train was running, after of course finding the short circuit in the C-Rails. Somehow we were very happy that C-Rail had to be used. It lays fast and simple, if we had to do this with rails without bedding we wouldn’t have been able to drive the first day. But as Martin said in the promo, “We’re going to ride.”

But then, nice the train runs…. Scenery…. Uhm yes, anyone any experience with it? Evan was therefore amazed when we indicated during construction that we had little to no experience in building scenery. Ellen had never built a model railroad in the first place. We had everything a bit from following threads and seeing how others build model railroads. So later we received quite positive compliments from the judges on the final result. Noting that we were not allowed to stop doing this.

Anyway, we had a lot of help from the judges. Both Evan and Dianne really gave many valuable tips that made you look at your model railroad differently. Just simple things like seeing the point of something or taking a close-up picture of your project at eye level.

But we weren’t that far yet; our goal was to have the landscape shaped by the end of the day. And we were going to do that with XPS rigid foam. Marcel, our structural engineer, had this all in his head and at his direction we started stacking. XPS works quite quickly and easily. Maaarrrr…. It should not be too easy, of course. It’s TV, and there are cameras and reporters and they see something nice every time and then ask if you want to put that bit back in or redo an act. And then we have the quotes, that we were briefly taken outside for an interview…… Nice TV, but when you’re really working at a killing pace it really takes a lot of getting used to.

By the end of the first day, we had gotten almost all the XPS done, but not as far as we would have liked to be. Meanwhile, Tijn and Arnaud were well advanced in installing the electronics and special effects.

Day 2: The sleeper
The second day, a wooden frame with some rigid foam and rails. By the end of the day, we wanted this completely covered with greenery. In retrospect, that turned out to be a bridge too far. The final XPS parts were glued in place. Just using wood glue but reinforced with skewers so we could continue building.

The XPS skeleton did require further shaping data. We did this with knives and rasps. Like true sculptors, Ellen, Marcel and Martin set to work creating the shapings in the XPS. To then finish them with plaster cloths. The advantage of the plaster cloths was that it dried very quickly. Afterwards, during the last day, it turned out that the glue of the XPS here and there was still not cured. But that was not very important, the job could continue to be built!

Just when Ellen was ready to arm herself with a Grasmaster and various grass fibers Andre blew his whistle … A sleeper. What a fun element, the assignment was that an element supplied by the judges had to be woven into the model layout. 3 ping pong balls and a whisk…. Soon we came to the fun idea of doing something otherworldly with it, a UFO floating above two crop circles and a saucer from the saucer factory. But then it came….. Ellen would do the job and she was just the person to put on the greenery. Martin had to take on that task….. Uhm yes he bought one once, but it is still sitting in the drawer unused. Martin wouldn’t be Martin if he just grabbed the grass by the master and got to work. It also turned out not to be difficult at all, and soon we devised the strategy that we would put everything in a basic color and have Ellen add additional layers, colors and details afterwards. She turned out to have a talent for this, which the jury noticed. The rest happy, the techs could keep teching and the builders could keep building.

Arnaud and Tijn, meanwhile, were busy getting the special effects ready for the final day. In addition to the locomotive, which in the preparation by Arnaud was equipped with over 40 smd LEDs in the bogies for the sparks and fire under the brake locomotive, the flat car was also prepared with tubes. Martin had found an old Marklin metal wagon and rebuilt it with a servo and function decoder. The tubes were just simple straws sprayed in color. But the remloc, surely that was the spectacle. Over 40 LEDs that were supposed to imitate a perception of fire and sparks. Wow! The cars had been expertly filthy and graffitied by Jeroen. Nice touch by the way were the cacti/middle fingers next to the text Team Pink… Anyone notice that?

The sleeper we unfortunately did not win, team orange had executed the creativity just a little bit better. But despite that, the sleeper gave the landscape a nice twist. More annoying was that we had not finished the scenery as we had hoped.

Day 3: For the fence

The last day, and unlike the previous days, we only had 4 hours of construction time. We were really gloomy and had already given up hope of getting the job done. We were tired from two days of speed building after months of excitement and preparation. It was chopping away. Because there was really a lot to be done.

For example, the entire front was still bare, this had to have grass, trees, bushes, dolls and cars in 4 hours. Only Ellen and Marcel actually had time for this because Arnaud had to go and place a whole load of emergency vehicles, this was also a preparation item. Arnaud fitted some 22 fire, police and ambulance vehicles with lights and indicators. These had to be placed, as well as the lanterns. The truck driven over middle and the pickup truck taken at the end also had to be tested and prepared.

Tijn and Martin had the task of rehearsing the entire scene and adjusting the Arduino so that the smoke and sound effects were played at the right times. In the broadcast you heard the tune from the movie playing at the bridge scene, this was also performed in real life.

4 hours time…. Because then comes the review….. HELP!

While Ellen, Marcel and Arnaud took care of decorating the course, Martin was really extremely tense. The success of the scene was in his hands… But what was so difficult about it? Surely there just has to be a train running around. Would you say, however, the front locomotive only runs at the beginning. The train is being chased by a second locomotive, the brake locomotive. This had to be hitched even before the train reached the bridge. And therein now lay the twist. Both locomotives are very heavy and very strong. The cars are very light and if the speed difference between the locomotives during coupling was too high it went wrong. If the rear locomotive travels too fast then it pushes all the cars out of track, if the speed is reduced too far after coupling then the locomotive pulled all the cars out of track.

The digital central unit controls the locomotives with a range of 126 speed steps. First, Martin had tuned the decoders so that the front locomotive reached its maximum speed at step 126. This allowed him to just turn that locomotive’s controller to maximum in the beginning. The brake locomotive was set to slowly catch up to the front locomotive at step 102, but not too fast because then it would have to turn the controller back too far during coupling. Just for comparison, at step 98 both locomotives were moving equally fast and the train was balanced. So that meant he had to learn the behavior of the cars to tell from the cars when the brake locomotive would engage the clutch. If the shock was visible, because the coupling might not be in sight, he could set the controller back 4 steps and possibly recognize that it was to be adjusted. Consider the lifting of bogies on curves or hitting buffers among themselves. These are indications that the locomotive was unbalanced.

The timing of the smoke effect was also very important. The explosion of the brakes is accompanied by tremendous smoke. For this we had built a smoking room under the rails, just before the bridge. Because the smoke had then cooled far enough, it remained on the rails and sank slightly along the embankment. But with Arduino and a light lock, we were able to build in a trigger based on time so that a built-in fan in the smoke chamber would push all the smoke out at exactly the right time. Hoping the locomotive would pull all the smoke with it across the bridge.

on the Bridge, of course, we also had the load that would fall off the wagon. This too was exciting, because the construction Martin had made is not actually appropriate on a wagon. The slider between the wheel sets gave quite a bit of friction, and the decoder also had a late reaction to pressing the function button. Again, practice was the only solution! But what you can’t control is how the tubes fall, which was different every time, sometimes they even blocked the train…. Exciting. And then you think gee, haven’t you already made it exciting enough for yourself?

No ya, it could be worse. The truck that was driven over center, would it fall out far enough that it didn’t block the cars and derail the train. This, too, was a matter of luck. And the helicopter, which turned out to be metal in plats of plastic. A servo with spring steel was not an option so someone with a rod had to fly the helicopter over the final scene … Marcel, fortunately, was a good angler.

And then that pickup, anyone notice how it moves along the road? The judges didn’t understand it at all, they were already thinking about a CarSystem, or magnetic tape, magnorails that kind of thing. No nice and simple: Magnet at the front of the locomotive buffer beam, and a spring steel wire from under the car to just before the middle of the track. The locomotive will do the rest. However, Arnaud did install a battery and gave the pickup headlights and taillights.

And then the whistle, time is up……. The job was just finished! Done, exactly as we had hoped and wanted. A monster-sized team performance that nonetheless caused quite a big upset for Ellen. But then.

The presentation … Martin didn’t feel that release yet. First it was lunch break, all the lights had to be adjusted, the decoder adjusted for judging, gear cleaned up. A total of an hour and a half wait which for Martin especially took forever. He will soon be at those controls, the pressure was high. And then you get called up. With lead in their shoes, the team walked back to the hall and there the Jury, along with guest judges and Andre were waiting for us as if waiting for us. The moment of truth. With sweat on his back, Martin started the locomotive. It had begun, the first hoist was already going well. The trailer fell neatly to the side and the brake locomotive gave chase. As if Murphy had gone for a pee, the locomotives also coupled together flawlessly. The smoke effect was beautiful and the tubes fell nicely next to the bridge. Then the entire train including the pickup came to a nice stop before the end of the track.

And then there is the discharge, the whole team felt it and it was really as if we had won the World Cup at that moment. We also no longer cared what the judges would think; we had won for ourselves. Our first model railroad, built as a team in 2.5 days was a true spectacle for us. A spectacle that was then rewarded with two sevens by the judges.

We were through to the next round…… wait a minute, we were not out, that means we have to repeat this trick again in a week. But with a new theme: Mother Earth, a natural disaster. The shoots were 3 days each time with 2 days in between. Since we were not in episode 2, we fortunately had 7 days to improve the theme. Because what we actually wanted to do, that had to go up a notch. The competition is strong, and the judges critical. The measure is set, the bar is set high. Ours has to go up quite a bit if we want to get through the next round.

Whether we will succeed, you will see October 27 at 8:30 p.m. on NPO1!

Until then 😊



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