|The oil refinery section of the spectacular ASAF model railway.
|Location of the model railway - ASAF (Seville Association of Railway Friends), at Santa Justa station.
Of the many attractions on offer in Seville over the Christmas and Reyes period, one of the least well-known, but most enjoyed by my seven-year-old son, was a spectacular model railway. Like something out of Harry Potter, it was to be found at the end of Platforms 8/9, at Santa Justa Station, from where trains depart towards destinations all over Spain, including high-speed, snub-nosed AVEs taking passengers to Cordoba, Madrid and Barcelona.
|Starting the journey at our local Cercanias train station - the first time we've ever used it.
To complete the train experience, we travelled by Cercania (local surburban train) from our nearest station on the new C5 Line, about 15 minutes' drive away. It was the first time we'd used the station, as there's only one service per hour, but our train was punctual and clean, with plenty of seats.
|Mountain village in the model railway...
|... and its ski station, complete with lift.
|One of the favourites with all the children was this car transporter.
The model has been built over several years by ASAF, the Associacion Sevillana de Amigos del Ferrocarril, founded in 1959. It measures an impressive 22m x 3.5m, took more than 10,000 hours to make, and has more than 450m of track, including tram and funicular, various different types of model train including AVE, as well as signal box watching over the entire area. One of my favourites features about it - and as someone with no interest in trains whatsoever, I was enthralled - was the detail.
|Miniature steam engine and truck used in the Expo 1929.
But before we'd even seen the model railway, there was an extremely cute mini-steam engine outside the ASAF HQ. The man at the door, who sold us our tickets (1 euro each), told us that it's one of the miniature locomotives from the Expo 29, which took visitors from Plaza de España, the centrepiece of the expo, along a track to Heliopolis and the Betis Stadium. Popularly known as a "tren Liliput", Niña is a little piece of Seville's history, it was welcome surprise to have encountered it.
|Amazing scale model of Santa Justa station.
|A very 21st-century feature - a field of solar panels, as seen in nearby Sanlucar La Mayor.
|A familiar feature of the countryside in southern Spain: the Osborne bull.
Moving on to the model - it has not one but two Osborne bulls; a replica of Santa Justa station; a field of solar panels; the aforementioned trams and funicular railway, as well as moving buses; a funfair which lights up at night; and many other extraordinary details I probably missed.
|Lake and dam, with one of the many tunnels.
|Factories complete with chimney.
|Fairground, which lights up
The model featured types of landscapes - town, city, Victorian-looking factories with tall chimney, a mountain with ski lift, tunnels (of course), a lake with dam and boats, sidings, a repair shed...
|Resplendent in his scarlet uniform, the station master keeps an eye on the action from his signal box.
For added authenticity, the railway even had a (live human) station master, reminiscent of the Thomas books, dressed in a zingy scarlet suit, who stood in the signal box and announced the departure of the AVE from Santa Justa, and the arrival of night, when the room lights were dimmed and the funfair and buildings lit up. I wasn't surprised to hear that he used to work on the railways.
|The AVE, Alta Velocidad (High-Speed), pride of Spain's railways.
|Just along the platform from the exhibition at Santa Justa station, we saw this real-life AVE high-speed train. They travel at up to 300km/h.
Note: I was given to understand that while the model is only officially open to the public at Christmas, visitors can be accommodated at other times. If you're a train-spotter, or just an enthusiast, I urge you strongly not to miss the opportunity to see this object of wonder.