On the right track
Ride those nostalgia-rails to this 1940's train town!
If there’s one thing we love at Minecraft.net, it’s trains! Oh, and Minecraft, I suppose. What isn’t there to love about trains? The sounds, the linear locomotion, the adventure of a new journey – we’ve regularly showcased our unconditional affection for these mechanical wonders by featuring builds like old railroads and rocky valley stations.
But it’s been far too long since the last one! Luckily, Minecraft.net's conductor Tom Stone, decided to stop my derailing, put me back on track and send me on an interrail trip across Europe to the Mecca of steam trains – the trainyard of Valvy!
Tom was too cheap to pay for a real ticket for me though – he just wrote ‘TICK KIT’ on my face and said that should work. Perhaps that’s why the ticket inspector has been chasing me through the cars yelling “SEIZE HIM!”? Hey, this way I get to ride the train AND get lots of healthy exercise – yet another reason to love trains!
Valvy isn’t your ordinary parking lot for trains. Founded by Gregory “GregVDD” Van der Donckt and co-executed by JoaoDaFonseca, it’s not only home to elegant locomotives and powerful steam engines – it’s a city in the making, meant to resemble southern Belgium in the 1940’s when steam technology reigned supreme.
“I wanted to make a world where everyone could experience a bit of how it used to be in that time, to not forget how our grandparents used to live.” GregVDD tells me. “To make a sort of time machine, where players are in an old, classic atmosphere, where they can walk around and explore, and may even find some Easter eggs.”
It all started with a visit GregVDD made to a Belgian railroad museum. At the time he was already an experienced Minecraft builder, having worked on builds of the Titanic and the Eiffel Tower, but after taking some pictures during his museum visit, GregVDD decided to try something new and recreate one of the trains from the photos – the Baureihe 52. Soon, more trains were added, and a dedicated map – ‘Train Models’ – was created to house them all.
“It became my goal to recreate a city around 1940, which is an interesting time period,” says GregVDD, “the world full of new technology coming up – that time before the war when steam trains still ruled the world, when you would go outside and see the tram passing by your street, and big steam clouds in the background of the locomotives who were passing by in the busy stations. For me it is a poetic view of a beautiful time. I can only see or hear stories about it, but in Valvy? Well, there I feel it.”
You don’t have to dabble in trainology (if that’s even a thing?) to appreciate the railroady aesthetics of Valvy. It contains everything from a town square and a tram station, to a park and a royal palace. There’s even a whole underground sewer system, as well as a lush river that runs next to the city, with rail bridges across it. “This place gives me a sense of silence, joy, a place where you can clear your mind just by looking at the environment,” explains GregVDD. “It is based on the region where I live so it does feels like home too.”
To create this idyllic scenery of tracks and fields, GregVDD and JoaoDaFonseca have paid a lot of attention to Valvy’s biodiversity and nature. There are forests and green sceneries you can explore, like the “Brothers Steilagen” farm – a place that GregVDD is particularly proud of. “It’s a nice little farm, between the fields but also close enough to the railyard and the factory, which results in a stunning view.”
But those stunning views are the result of several challenges and a lot of time investment. GregVDD explains that he’s worked on Project Valvy for more than two years and 800 game hours. Yet he still has plenty of coal to feed his inspiration engine – much thanks to his Portuguese partner, JoaoFonseca.
“Because of him, I got more excited to work on the project, because I knew I could work together with someone and also get the project going on a more logical and structural way of building. Now we plan things better and work as a team.”
All in all, there’s currently at least ten steam trains spread out through Valvy, and more will likely be added. As GregVDD likes to put it, when his mind speaks, Valvy expands, and he has no plans to stop working on his build - both an outlet for his passion and a tribute to another time.
“I grew up for the most part at my grandparents,” says GregVDD, telling me how his grandfather told him all about the place and time he grew up in, a clear inspiration in his build.
“We do also own two live steam models, one British 14XX class and a Belgian type 10, both on the scale 7&1/4, which are both in ‘Valvy’. The feeling of driving a steam engine is just amazing. It feels glorious! You have control over a 60 tonne living engine with steam everywhere, riding along the track in the beautiful countryside... You can’t deny it feels powerful! Even when you haven’t experienced it yourself, just by looking at it, it feels alive.”
That does sound fun! I’m not even allowed to ride trains anymore, now the ticket inspector has finally caught me. I can’t even get TICK KIT to wash off my face. Did Tom really have to use a permanent marker? :(
Renders by Nilzzz and ImperiumMC