["HO" is a 1/87th representation of reality.]



Greetings. I'm Alec Nesbitt and I've spent most of my life trying to make sense of what went wrong in Europe during the summer of 1914. Sadly, the more I learn the less sense the story makes. But it's a story worth studying, if only to learn how stupid we humans have been and probably still are. And what more entertaining way to examine human folly than a collection of model trains and tiny people who represent the world that went mad in 1914?
It may be unique, certainly one of very few model railway collections that represent so large an area at a specific moment in time.
When completed, the layout will be as much a work of art as a medium for running trains. People who have seen it identify at once with the stories of the individuals they meet in miniature.
Every HO scale person's life has been influenced by the forces at work reshaping the cultures of Europe.

My "SARAJEVO 1914" collection of trains, accessories and landscape, suggests a vast sector of Europe, greatly compressed, at 18:45 hours on the 28th of June, 1914. The "star" of the collection is the "Orient-Express" - the legendary luxury train - as it travels, on that date, from Paris to the threshold of Asia.

For more details or lager image look for hotspots or click on picture...
Departure of Orient-Express in  ParisClick for GentlemenClick for PorterClick here for DutchessClick for Newspaper readerClick for servantsClick for luggageDeparture of Orient-Express in  Paris

In twenty-nine minutes the "O-E" will depart the Gare de l'Est bound for Constantinople. None of the passengers gathering on the platform in Paris can imagine that the assassination in Bosnia that morning will change their lives. Some don't yet know that it happened. Too many won't care. Nevertheless, in 33 days the old European order will convulse and begin to die.

My collection and this website are devoted to answering the question: "Why?"

The murder at Sarajevo of the Archduke Franz Ferdinand is often said to have been the immediate cause of World War I but the greater reasons run far deeper than the wounds of his assassin's bullets. My layout doesn't include the Balkan states; Franz Ferdinand isn't here. But a man on the platform in Paris, waiting to board the "Orient-Express", is reading the special edition of a newspaper that carries the story. Perhaps he knows how single-minded the lust for revenge in Vienna will be - enough to chill the entire population of Europe through the heat of July. This elegant passenger's three sons are all officers in the French army. But what happened that morning is a matter between Serbia and Austria, no concern of France, or Russia or Germany or Britain or ...



Why is this subject important to the 21st century? The answer is simple: we humans learn our most necessary lessons slowly. Often, lessons must be repeated before we change negative behavior. War can be said to be negative behavior on an epic scale; world war more so. War is not represented in my collection. Instead, we meet people who will die in the conflict about to begin and in the following conflict that resulted from the disastrous handling of the first one. The history of our species holds no more horrifying example of human folly than the prelude to the First World War. Many scholars believe it to be the most horrifying example of all. How could so many men with so much power have exercised it so irresponsibly - even frivolously - or not at all? Few agree on the exact number of deaths their stupidity caused. "Somewhere between 10 and 15 million" is a common estimate. The very sound of so inexact a total is an insult to the dead, each of them someone's child, friend and foe alike, bound to one another by their common humanity.



And so the train quietly departs Paris in an odd coincidence of time - 19:14 hours - vanishing into the twilight, into the final weeks of the old European order. There is much to know and understand about that old order before we can begin to grasp what went wrong.



 The "MISSION" link of this website will take you to my "vision" for the collection as a teaching aid and how it might be expanded and used in the future.

The "STORY" link relates the collection to the events of June 28, 1914 and the following month, as well as describing how the "Orient-Express" makes its way from country to country discussing, for example, the role that Alsace-Lorraine played as one of the festering causes of the First World War.

The "TRAINS" link illustrates and describes the railway rolling stock, the towns and peoples of the empires, kingdoms and grand duchies through which the "Orient-Express" traveled. In this link you will discover how little related the southern kingdoms of the German Empire considered themselves to be to the mighty Imperial monarchy established in Berlin. Why did the Austro-Hungarian Empire see itself as irrevocably related to Germany?

The "HISTORY" link offers background to the crisis ignited by the assassination at Sarajevo. There you can go deep into the causes of the First World War, discovering that the more you know about the subject, the more disbelieving you will be that such irresponsible behavior could ever have happened. You will ask yourself - over and over - why no one could stop the inexorable march to destruction. Like myself, you may come to see this collection not as toys or, more correctly, working scale models, but as symbols of an age when pride and mindless power ran away with the ability of men to understand what might happen if there were no controls. You will meet many men here, any of whom might have stopped the madness unleashed in August of 1914. You won't ask who was "guilty" because you'll know that all of them were. "Our side", "their side" - it doesn't matter who's side you or they might have been on - the guilt lay among all of the so-called "leaders," a pathetic flock of sheep driven by aristocratic complacency, traditional hatreds and vicious national prides. The sleepy charm of my layout belies the sinister currents running beneath the smiles and waltzes of European life. The collection has been assembled to represent that final, suspended instant before the cataclysm.

Finally, the "LINKS" link offers you the e-mail and/or web addresses of especially knowledgeable craftsmen and historians, stars of the European model railroading world. No finer workmanship than theirs can be found. There are examples of their work on my layout. Some of it exists as superdetailling parts; some as background information, painstakingly discovered over a lifetime of research and study, assisting greatly my own research and craftsmanship.

The text of this website is copyrighted and may not be quoted in publications - including websites - except in brief critical reviews, without written permission of the author.
© Alec Nesbitt 2005






















The “Sarajevo 1914 Collection”, begun in 1979, has been and continues to be assembled
in partnership with Ingrid Bitter, Director MC W. Schueler, Stuttgart

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© Alec Nesbitt 2005-2008