TT/TO Ops

Oregon Coast RR map

I’d like to relay a message from SMD member Don Florwick, letting you know he’s taking reservations for a January operating session on Mat Thompson’s Oregon Coast Railroad. The session is scheduled for Thursday, January 17th, with Tuesday, January 22nd as an alternate date in case of bad weather. It will be a daytime session, beginning at 10:30AM until around 2:30PM. 

This session is Time Table & Train Order, and folks interested in learning about TT&TO are encouraged to join the group. The session can accommodate up to 15 people, and Don will be keeping a standby list in case of cancellations. If you’d like to go, please contact Don Florwick directly at DJFlorwick@comcast.net to reserve a spot for this exciting event. If you’d like to know more about the railroad, please visit oregoncoastrr.potomac-nmra.org/

Draft Meeting Minutes – November 11, 2018

Division members met at Bob Johnson’s home.  18 or so were present.  After viewing the layout and socializing, Superintendant Alex Polimeni called the business meeting to order.

South Mountain Division

Mid-East Region – National Model Railroad Association

Draft Meeting Minutes – November 11, 2018

Division members met at Bob Johnson’s home.  18 or so were present.  After viewing the layout and socializing, Superintendant Alex Polimeni called the business meeting to order.

Reports:

18.11-1 Clerk’s Report (Meeting Minutes):  Clerk Harvey Heyser summarized the draft minutes.  Pete Clarke pointed out that Item #17.10-4 should read as follows:  “The SMD gave $140.00 (most of the Mini-Con proceeds) to support Mainline Hobbies’ fall layout tour.  Pete Clarke made the following motion (seconded by Jerry Skeim):

Motion:  That the draft Minutes for the May 2018 meeting be approved as corrected.  The motion passed unanimously.

18.11-2 Paymaster’s Report:  Paymaster Ray Price reported that the Division has $4,017.11 in its bank account including dispersal of $119.40 to Yahoo and deposit of $41.00 from the MER.

Old Business:

17.5-3-d. T-Track Modules:  Richard Benjamin of Hobbytown Frederick thanked the Division for the donation of the modules.

18.10-4 2019 Mini-Con:  The date will be Saturday, April 13, 2019.  Chair Pete Clarke indicated the date was selected to avoid conflicts with the Timonium Show and Easter.  Members willing to give informal clinics should contact Mr. Clarke.

18.10-5 Web Site:  Tom Fedor reported that he and Roy Hoffman are working on a new site format based on Word Press, a blog type web building tool that will allow better ties between the site and the Wheel Report.  The new site format will provide a quicker way to publish (on a weekly basis if desired) but still allow printing of some content for the members receiving the newsletter by mail.  The new format will also allow for easier archiving and will facilitate coordination with future officers.  Finally, the new format will present a fresher web presence and will include more attractive material for potential members.  No interface problems are anticipated with NMRA and MER.

18.10-7 Change of date and/or time of SMD meetings:  Given the fact that the meetings have been held on Sundays at 2 p.m. for a very long time and that the meeting sites are varied throughout the area, the discussion tended toward keeping the day of the week and time as they are.  However, it was suggested and agreed that in the future the social portion of the meeting will start at 1:30 p.m. and the business meeting will start at 2 p.m. giving members the possibility of leaving a bit earlier.  (As this is not a part of the by-laws, no formal action was needed.)

New Business:

18.11-3 Host Bob Johnson welcomed everyone to his HO scale West Virginia Midland Railroad.

18.11-4 Gold Spike Award:  Achievement Program Coordinator Jane Clarke presented Bob Morningstar with his Gold Spike award.  She reported that host Bob Johnson is making progress on his Achievement certificates for MMR.

18.11-5 The Wheel Report Deadline for the winter edition is November 15.

18.11-6 Future notices and updates from the officers will originate from an SMD e-mail address rather than a personal account.

18.11-7 Operating Session:  Herb Biegel reported that Matt Thompson of the Potomac Division has invited SMD members for an operating session on his Oregon Coast Railroad (layout in Gainesville VA) sometime after the holidays.  SMD members interested in participating should contact Don Florwick by e-mail.   donflorwick@gmail.com

Adjournment:  The Chair accepted a motion to adjourn.  Notice of the next SMD meeting will be communicated to the members.

Minutes submitted by Clerk Harvey Heyser

Following the meeting, host Bob Johnson gave an informal clinic on how he makes his layout’s many trees from wild hydrangea gathered at railway and highway cuts as well as from other recently disturbed ground.  He reported that this method of tree making was developed by Harry Clarke.

December Business Meeting

Alex Polimeni, superintendent NMRA South Mountain Division. (Tom Fedor)

I would like to invite everyone to our December meeting at Frank Benenati’s home this coming Sunday, December 9th. Doors open at 2PM for a tour of the layout, with the meeting to follow. If you missed our last meeting, you’ll find our clerk’s impeccably edited minutes attached below.

Afterward, Frank will be demonstrating how to use a Decoder-Pro and a Sprogg to re-program DCC engines and adjust sound levels and other CVs. Frank says, “I’ve had good results with the exception of first generation WOW sound steam.  If anyone wants to bring an HO engine they want to “reprogrammed” we will use it as a demonstrator.  If you have the manufacturer’s decoder information bring it along as that will be of assistance.” Folks are more than welcome to stay and socialize, as well.

Frank models a Western Maryland themed railroad, which he started while living in Germany and is modular in design. His layout uses Digitrax DCC and features Campbell, Bar Mill, Foss and more in addition to scratch built structures. A Timetable, fast clock, and waybill routing to simulate operations, with first generation diesels providing motive power.

Frank’s home is the last house on the left at the end of his street.

Please email southmountaindiv@gmail.com if you need Frank’s street address.

The railroad is in the basement, so if any members would prefer to avoid the indoor flight of stairs, you may walk around the side of the carport, continue around the back of the house, and down the gentle slope to the basement door. There will be a couple of steps inside the door, however. All others are encouraged to use the basement stairs adjacent to the kitchen/carport door.

Furthermore, Frank cautions, “Just about every road into and out of Damascus has a speed camera cleverly located to generate revenue for Montgomery County.  Remember to keep an eye out for “safety corridor” and other warning signs.  Occasionally there are “doubles” placed to catch those who speed up after passing the first camera.”

In other news, I’d like to apologize for not getting this out sooner! I’ve been trying to send only two emails a month- an update and a reminder- a couple of weeks apart, but as it stands, please expect another reminder email this Saturday. This is also the first email from the Division’s new address, so I’m hoping this won’t get “lost in the mail”, so to speak.

I hope to see you all soon,

Alex Polimeni

Superintendent

Liberty Bell Special

by Charles “Chip” Stevens

Come celebrate trains in the cradle of liberty!

The Philadelphia Division, NMRA welcomes you and yours to Liberty Bell Special 2019! The next Convention will be October 10 through October 13, 2019 at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in King of Prussia, PA. After much deliberation, our committee chose the name Liberty Bell over such other favorites as Cheese Steak Special and some lesser titles. For those of you not familiar with King of Prussia, it is located 20 miles northwest of downtown Philadelphia adjacent to the Pennsylvania Turnpike and many nearby highways. In southeast Pennsylvania, all highways lead to Valley Forge.

Since Monday, October 14 is a Federal Holiday, the hotel has agreed to extend the room rates for the convention for an additional 3 days before and into the week following the convention. The hotel is in walking distance to the second largest shopping mall in the United States with shops and dining to meet any tastes. Also, in driving distance are the Valley Forge National Park whose accommodations during the winters of the American Revolution were not as luxurious as our hotel, Longwood Gardens, the gardens of the Dupont family and many more places of interest. More about the area can be found on the hotel’s website, www.cpvalleyforge.com. For those of you who collect hotel stay points, Crowne Plaza is a part of the IHG hotel group. Registration forms for the Convention and hotel reservation information will be published soon

At this time, we have one prototype tour on the Colebrookdale Railroad. The Colebrookdale is part of the former Reading Barto branch in nearby Boyertown, PA that is a short 50-minute drive from the hotel. In addition to the autumn foliage that occurs in early October,there will be the train ride, lunch, and a tour of the railroad’s shops. The committee is working hard on additional tours and will announce them through the Region and Division newsletters as well as on the websites www.libertybellspecial.org or www.mer2019.org.

Currently we have the first four layout tours scheduled, three HO layouts and a traction layout. Efforts are under way to add to the list both with individual and club layouts. We are attempting to keep all tours and open houses to drives of 30 minutes or less. We would also like to hear from owners and superintendents who are willing to open their layouts to those making the trip to Valley Forge, keeping in mind again that Monday, October 14th is a holiday. Those willing should notify Bill Fagan <bfagan777@hotmail.com> of ability to host. Remember, those Open Houses count toward AP Volunteer points.

Liberty Bell Special will begin on Thursday night with clinics which will continue through Sunday morning. We have one tentative, hands-on clinic planned with a noted presenter, as well as many more sessions tentatively planned. Again, check the website for additional or new clinics. If you want to present a clinic, please email John Seibert <johnhseibert@comcast.net> with your topic.

As usual, Saturday will include the Contest Room. Plan now to bring your latest modeling efforts for sharing with other MER members. More AP credits may be available for your efforts.

Sprinkled among all these activities will be opportunities to operate on some truly spectacular individual and club layouts. We’re keeping those AP Dispatcher ours in mind.

All roads lead to King of Prussia, PA. We hope you and yours will take advantage of this opportunity to visit the convention for a truly memorable experience.

Caboose Conundrum

The cabooses should be back in service in time for Don’s December operating session.

(Ron Polimeni)

by Ron Polimeni

When my friend Don Florwick first initiated TT/TO operations on his NYCS Pittsburgh & South Pennsylvania Railroad (P&SP), he needed cabooses. Models of NYCS’s 19000 series cabooses were the obvious choice. To that end, Don purchased 16 of the kits offered by Waterlevel Models for these cabooses. As building the Waterlevel kits would take time, in the interim, Don also purchased a pair of 19000 series NYC cabooses from Trix as well as a small fleet of bay window cabooses from Walthers.

The Walthers stand-in’s unfortunately were lettered for Conrail and consequently were bereft of end ladders and roof walks. They performed well, but the sight of a modern Conrail caboose bringing up the rear of a 1950’s era NYC consist had the effect of finger nails on a black board every time one passed me by during an operating session.

Learning of Don’s stash of Waterlevel kits, I offered to build them for him as he had enough on his plate maintaining a rather large layout to operational standards (which he does very well). I began by taking a single kit to examine with the intent of determining the best approach to gang building the fleet. I found however, that these kits were probably never intended as fleet equipment for operating sessions.

The Waterlevel NYC cabooses are high quality plastic craftsman style kits. The model company did their homework and the instructions are well written as well as informative, providing much background information on the NYC 19000 series wood cabooses. The kits themselves however, are a bear to assemble. As the picture (below) shows, the steps are constructed out of six tiny pieces that are nearly impossible to hold in proper relation to each other while applying glue. For sixteen cabooses this would require constructing a total of 64 step assemblies.

Since what Don needs are operational pieces, not contest pieces, we began looking for options. In the right hand corner of the pic is a set of steps from an Athearn “blue box” caboose kit. These steps, complete with end platform are a nearly perfect substitute for the steps in the kit. With the help of Jay Beckham we will be looking into having them 3D printed. The Waterlevel kits are therefore on hold for the time being.

As yard master for Somerset yard, switching the bay window Conrail cabooses when making or breaking up a coal extra was especially grating. To that end I offered to back date the cabooses. Don is in the process of realigning a section of mainline with the consequence of having to cancel Novembers operating session. This has allowed time to repaint and back date the Walthers bay window cabooses.

(Ron Polimeni)

The prototype for these Walthers bay window cabooses is most similar to Conrail as class N21. They are very nearly correct for NYC’s Lot 782, built in 1949 by Despatch Shops Incorporated. They have the correct bay window but the other windows should be square double pane rather than have the rounded corners with riveted aluminum trim. In the interest of simplicity and the need to have them back in service within a limited time period, Don elected to invoke modelers license and say the cabooses were purchased directly by the P&SP due to a shortage of NYC hacks.

(Ron Polimeni)

To that end, all I have to do is backdate them to a 1950’s appearance. Tichy Train Group came to the rescue with roof walks and friction bearing caboose trucks. Tichy has to be one of the best deals on the market for model railroaders. Their products are of the highest quality with some of the finest castings I’ve ever had the pleasure of working.   Plus their prices can’t be beat. A box of 10 trucks goes for 15.50 albeit with plastic wheels. The wheels however, are of the correct tread profile. The roof walks come three to a package for 5.95.

The Walthers cabooses came with very nice metal wheels. As can be seen in the photo, the wheels have been exchanged on the trucks with the metal wheels being installed in the Tichy frames and the Tichy wheels being placed in the roller bearing frames ( the pile in front of the cabooses). The third pic shows the roof of one of the cabooses with the file marks where the ribs have been filed down to accommodate the metal roof walk. Supports will be added at the ends of the roof with bits of styrene bent to shape and filed flat. The ladder walks are supported the same way with bits of styrene cut to shape. The ladders are gleanings from the scrap drawer where fortunately, I had just enough for the six cabooses.  However, scale ladder stock is available from several sources.

Once the roof details are completed the cars will be painted the standard NYC box car red with black roof. To avoid having to disassemble the car bodies, I decided to use Micro-Mark liquid masking film to cover the windows. This is a rubber like film that can be peeled off. Tedious to apply but much easier than disassembling a half dozen models that weren’t designed to be disassembled.

The cabooses should be back in service in time for Don’s December operating session. All he has to worry about now is having the mainline to Wheeling back in service by then.

As for the Waterline models, that’s another story for another time. Perhaps by the next installment of the Wheel Report I’ll managed to have the steps and end sills recreated via 3D printing and will be able to convey how I fared with that adventure.

Informal Operating Systems

I want to put in a good word about operating systems that have brought me many happy and informative moments.  Before we condemn these informal operating systems, we should be aware of their advantages and of those situations where their use might be appropriate.

Harvey Heyser III, clerk, NMRA South Mountain Division. (Tom Fedor)

by Harvey Heyser

Gentlemen’s Agreement and Mother, May I?

Introductory note – To my good friends Pete, Jane, Don, Bob, Steve, Ron, and Bill:  I realize that some of the following ideas disagree with thoughts you have expressed to me about prototype-based operation.  I thank you for graciously sharing your knowledge and for inviting me to your operating sessions.  However, I feel that the current focus on prototype-based systems may not work for all layouts, their owners, and train crews.  Less demanding operating systems may be the right approach for those intimidated by or stressed out by prototype-based systems.  Consequently, I feel that informal systems, though not well regarded in our hobby at this time, deserve to be acknowledged, talked about, and evaluated on their own merits.  The following is an attempt to do so.

Most model railroaders respect the more formal, prototype-based operating systems:  timetable/train order (TT/TO), track warrants, and centralized traffic control (CTC) for instance.  After all, those systems are modeled after the prototype procedures we attempt to replicate.  But what do you do if those systems result in stressful operating sessions for you and your crews?  There are less formal alternatives.  Many sessions I have participated in have used the informal systems described here.  I have enjoyed those sessions even though, among serious model railroaders, the procedures used do not enjoy the same level of respect as prototype-based systems. 

Recently, the SMD had a clinic presentation that categorized operations as either prototype-based or “fun run.”  While the latter term was certainly easy to understand, it was not particularly fair to anyone.  Prototype-based systems are also “fun.”  (If they were not, no one would want to participate in them.)  On the other hand, “fun run” sessions are not totally frivolous.  Categorizing informal systems negatively ignores their potential as stepping stones into the joys of operating and as opportunities to learn about the prototype.  Before we consign informal operating procedures to the trash bin of toy trains, it seems to me more useful to think of operating systems as falling on a continuum between prototype-based and “fun run” instead of fitting into one category or the other.  A system that starts out “fun run” can easily slide along the continuum towards more prototype-based when those involved feel better informed and more comfortable. 

This essay will examine two of the better known informal systems for managing the flow of traffic across a model railroad: gentlemen’s agreement and mother, may I?

Gentlemen’s agreement occurs when two or more train crews agree about how to resolve a conflict, such as three trains arriving in a town with only the main track and one siding not counting spurs. (The layout owner or dispatcher is not usually involved with the negotiations.)  If the crews are novices, they might decide to let the local finish switching before allowing the other two trains to come into town.  However, more experienced crews would consider the fact that the other two trains are likely more important (passenger trains or through freights, for instance) and would figure out a way to get the local in the clear so the other two trains could execute a pass (before the local gets back to work).  While the prototype would probably endeavor not to let this situation happen, it is a good example of how learning what the prototype does can result in a smoother operating session.  (By the way, trying to resolve a three-way meet by gentlemen’s agreement can get stressful when you have only two tracks.  Ballast conferences and brake clubs anyone?) 

Using gentlemen’s agreement places responsibility for resolving conflicts in many hands and encourages creativity from all participants. Bob Proctor handled mainline operations on his Western Antietam and Layabout using gentlemen’s agreement.  (His operators often accused him of sadism, but I think what he truly enjoyed was seeing the creative ways crews cooperated with each other.)  Resolving conflicts creatively can be very satisfying.  However, as seen by the three train example above, the solution dreamed up by the novices failed to take into account the priority of the trains involved. So, that solution, creative though it might have been, was the wrong solution.  Consequently, that situation became a learning opportunity reminding us of the railroad’s primary mission of moving passengers and freight in an efficient and timely basis by prioritizing trains.

Another opportunity to learn about the prototype arises when instructions are given to the train crews.  (Of course, you must first get the crews to read the instructions.)  I was party to a similar (four train) situation where the gentlemen’s agreement resulted in one local backing up to the previous town, one train holding on the main, one train moving forward, and the other local completing its work.  We were so proud of ourselves, but we had completely overlooked the fact that the local, which completed its work (the afternoon local), was supposed to pick up a cut of cars from the other (morning) local.  If we had read our train instructions, we could have avoided that unfortunate result.  Even informal operating systems require following instructions to run the trains effectively.

Experiencing challenging situations similar to those described above is one of the ways informal operating systems give us opportunities to learn about the prototype.  Experience is a powerful teacher.  (Why did the prototype have this rule?  Well, you have just experienced the chaos that can happen if they did not; that’s why.)

Use of gentlemen’s agreement with a common sense understanding of how a railroad operates and with knowledge of our train’s operating instructions can be an effective way to run a model railroad.  (A good set of nine basic, common sense rules for operating can be found in Mat Thompson’s “Mark Me Up” column in the summer 2016 issue of the Potomac Flyer, the Potomac Division’s newsletter.)

Mother, may I? is a system of obtaining permission to move your train from one person, usually the layout owner or a designated “dispatcher.”  Mother, may I? is not really a fair name for this system, since mothers (of crew members) are rarely the designated permission givers.  The name might derive from a problem frequently encountered.  With every crew wanting permission from a single person, mother, may I? can get quite hectic.  Sessions can easily get out of hand and resemble a bunch of children squabbling for their mother’s attention – not what we want in a relaxed operating experience.  Regardless, where train crews request permission to move from a single person, responsibility for resolving conflicts between trains rests in that person’s hands.

Mother, may I? is frequently spoken of with disdain.  Before we condemn it, we should consider its similarities with both track warrant and CTC systems – prototype-based systems which also place sole responsibility for permission to move in the hands of a single person – the dispatcher.  Clearly because of their wide use, these systems demonstrate that the prototype has had a great deal of experience making single person responsibility work.  (Perhaps, a better, more railroady name for mother, may I? might be dispatcher, may I?)

Model railroaders have also used systems similar to mother, may I?  For instance, in the past, DC block control often required calling the dispatcher for block assignments allowing a train to proceed.  More recently, roving dispatcher systems using verbal authorization have been used successfully on simpler, more compact layouts.  With this system, the roving dispatcher makes decisions based on his observations of the current situation from within the layout room.  Dave Moltrup’s Beaver Falls and Shenango (aka Moltrup Steel) operates using a roving dispatcher system.

A mother, may I? system can serve as a stepping stone to more prototype-based systems like track warrants or fill-in the blank train order systems (such as the one Tony Koester used for a while on his Allegheny Midland).  In fact, the problems encountered with it may encourage adopting one of the prototype-based systems.

Disadvantages of these informal operating systems:

  1. Not prototypical – a common complaint.
  2. Not suited for complex, high traffic layouts. (Consider TT/TO)
  3. Requires creative thought and consideration from the layout owner to set up the operating system.  Crews will need good, clear instructions.The challenge of coordinating crew efforts is still present whether the system is formal or informal.
  4. Can get quite chaotic.

Advantages to these informal operating systems:

  1. Low intimidation factor because there is much less to learn and put into practice.
  2. Simplicity: less paperwork,fewer reporting requirements (minimal O.S.-ing), and less dependence on time.
  3. Stepping stone to more prototypically based systems.
  4. Relaxing. 
  5. Less administrative oversight during the session. (Everyone, including the layout owner, gets to run a train.)
  6. Operations come naturally to crews.  (I’ve noted that when stressed, crews often fall into using informal procedures regardless of the operating system.   Crews working at the same station agree to who gets to work first; calling for help from the owner or dispatcher when the rules in place don’t give enough direction to address a problem.)
  7. Gives crew members (especially beginners) firsthand experience of the challenges encountered in coordinating the work of countless people needed to keep trains moving.

Conditions under which these informal operating systems might be appropriate:

  1. Smaller and simpler layouts where it is easy to get an overall idea of the status of operations at any given time.
  2. Layouts where only one or two trains run at a given time.
  3. Layouts with crews who are well acquainted with the layout.
  4. Layouts with good sets of instructions and crews willing to read those instructions (a script for their train, for instance).
  5. Layouts where the owner wants to run trains also.
  6. Layouts that feature switching (not much mainline traffic and few potential conflicts between trains).

Potentially these informal operating systems offer not only an easy introduction to operating but also for the system to become more prototypical while continuing to offer relaxing, enjoyable operating experiences.  Three things are necessary for that to happen. First, a commitment to learn more about how the prototype runs trains. Second, a willingness to set up a trial and error process. And third, a continuing effort to implement what is learned both from the prototype and by trial and error.

In conclusion, I want to put in a good word about operating systems that have brought me many happy and informative moments.  Before we condemn these informal operating systems, we should be aware of their advantages and of those situations where their use might be appropriate.  We also should be aware that informal systems do have some similarities to prototype practices.

While informal systems are not currently regarded highly in our hobby, I hope to foster tolerance for those modelers who prefer to operate that way.  While they might not be doing what we prefer, they may be having just as much fun as we are.  Furthermore, exposure to the joys of operations may lead them to learn more about prototype practices and to adopt more of those practices for their own operations (no encouragement from the model railroad police necessary).

Hellfire, Brimstone, & Damnation RR

Nonetheless I begged to see the activities down below. My uncle said, “You don’t want to go down there! There is nothing down there but hellfire, brimstone and damnation.” Yet this picture became etched indelibly on my mind thereafter.

 

Hellfire, Brimstone, & Damnation RR. “I think that a layout should tell a story.” (Robert Law)

by Robert Law

Everyone’s layout is an expression of one’s experiences and association with railroads.   I believe mine has taken a more circuitous path than others.  For me it begins when I was a young boy of about seven. My mother and I went to visit an uncle, a retired steel worker who lived on the outskirts of McKeesport, PA.  The single lane dirt road that led to his house offered an aerial view of the steel mills below. There was a steep embankment on one side with the old-fashioned post and cable guard rail to prevent cars from falling below. I could see the belching smoke of the steel mills with trains shuttling about here and there hauling odd looking freight cars. 

When we arrived, I begged to see what was happening below but was scolded and refused.  I felt trapped inside the house having to listen to my mother’s and uncle’s boring conversation.  Fortunately, they were in the kitchen and ever so quietly I slipped into the living room and then out the door.  I went across the road and sat on the cable watching the activities below.  After about 20 minutes, my mother and uncle came out to find me and give me a scolding.  Nonetheless I begged to see the activities down below.  My uncle said, “You don’t want to go down there! There is nothing down there but hellfire, brimstone and damnation.”  Yet this picture became etched indelibly on my mind thereafter. 

Some 15 years later at college I met Betty, the girl who would become my wife.  She also enjoyed trains.  When we married we went to see the Cass Mountain Railroad.  It was at this time that I became more fascinated with unusual steam locomotives.

Much later still, Betty decided she wanted to leave her career as a special education teacher   and study to become an electric power engineer.  Her first job was with Bechtel Power, which was then in Gaithersburg, MD, causing us to move from our home in upstate New York. As she prepared for her engineering licensing exam I ventured out so I wouldn’t disturb her. Curiosity took me to see the National Capital Trolley Museum.  Meeting with the volunteer staff there, I told them that I had a previous business of restoring old houses.  They encouraged me to work in the trolley shop and so I dedicated over three years part time to restoring an old New York City 3rd Avenue Trolley

When Bechtel moved to Frederick, MD, so did we.  We started investigating our surroundings and went to the B&O Museum where I got to see and climb around some camelback locomotives.  This is a truly ludicrous locomotive.  Because of the wide Wooten firebox, the engineer is consigned to a little compartment straddling the boiler.  The fireman is left to the acrobatics of having to balance himself on two bouncing and shifting footplates while tending the fire. The cab is open to the elements more than other locomotives and for the engineer and fireman to communicate with each other, they must use a “speaking tube.”

We also went to see the Strasburg Railroad and the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania.  There we not only encountered another camelback but also a GG1.  I had seen a few pictures of these from time to time but knew little of them.  I always admired the streamline appearance of the dark green and gold pinstripe livery. Betty quite naturally took to them as it was an electric locomotive.

When the Enron scandal struck, Bechtel lost most of its contracts for power plants.  Betty, being a junior engineer, was soon laid off.  In the recession that followed, she had some trouble finding work but at last landed a position with Con Edison in New York City.  We were loth to give up our townhouse in Frederick, MD because I had done so much work on it and we also thought Frederick would be a good place to retire.  With the willingness of our neighbors to look in on our place, we located an apartment right on the banks of the Hudson River in Jersey City, NJ that overlooked most of Manhattan.  It also overlooked the old Erie Lackawanna ferry terminal which was actively being restored at the time. 

Every month or so we would drive back to Frederick to look in on our townhouse and take care of things, always passing the Roadside America attraction.  Eventually we made time to drop in. This experience caused me to consider taking up model railroading.  I knew little of the hobby even though I had my car serviced at a garage where the waiting area had a stack of old magazines that included Classic Trains and Model Railroader. Those magazines gave me some conception of what was possible.

I was also faced with a dilemma.  As a young man I had suffered an injury to my hip.  With hip implant surgery I recovered and was able to do most things, including restoring old Victorian houses.  But with age, I started losing mobility.  By the time we moved to New York City it was getting harder for me to get around. I often had to resort to a cane.  We thought it would be best if I would take care of all the chores and shopping during the week so we could enjoy all the sights and entertainments of the city on weekends.  Nonetheless, this left me with much time on my hands which I tried to fill by reading history books.  Once I became bitten by the model railroad bug, I thought I could do the modeling in our apartment, box them up and then bring them back to our townhouse in Frederick to eventually put on a layout.  This I did on a tiny dinning table we had at the apartment which every late afternoon I would clean off for dinner.

I went to a hobby shop and got a Walthers catalog, magazines, and some how-to books, including John Pryke’s Building City Scenery for Your Model Railroad. As soon as I saw this a modeling concept began to slowly develop in my mind: a steel mill town in Pennsylvania that would have an electrified portion of the Pennsylvania Railroad passing through a steel manufacturing city with an anthracite railroad servicing the mills not unlike Bethlehem, PA.  My uncle’s comment about Hellfire, Brimstone and Damnation some 60 years prior was reborn as my model railroad.

Conceiving of a model railroad and delivering it now presented many challenges.  A townhouse does not have much basement space and we had already turned it into a combination office, library and entertainment room. With some ingenuity we converted a guest bed room into an office for Betty.  Bookcases were moved to create a wall.  This then left me with an area of about 19 by 11 feet. Not a lot of space, but enough for a respectable layout.

Next came the challenge of how to work in all the catenary and cables required for GG1’s.  I knew that modeling this would require a lot of work, possibly consuming too much time from getting the rest of the layout done.  I came up with the idea of building the city on a platform above the catenary system which could serve as a staging for these trains to appear and reappear. Thus, only a simple loop of track would be necessary for the GG1’s to play their part. To protect the pantographs as they went through under the city, Betty came up with a solution to use fasten discarded engineering drawings that had been printed on large sheets of plastic under the platform,  allowing the pantographs to slip underneath.     

I also had only built a few models as a kid.  All my life had been spent in building the macro not the micro. I decided to test my modeling skills by building the blast furnace kit first.  I figured if I could build that, I could build anything.  This was a challenge trying to build this on our tiny dining table at the New Jersey apartment.  Nonetheless, the parts held together enough for me to be able to transfer the model each evening to a small cabinet top a few feet away.

I chose the Fall of 1937 for the setting of my layout for several reasons.  First it was the “depression within the Great Depression.” This was so called because as the New Deal programs began to cause a recovery in the economy, Roosevelt desired to do some budget cutting.  This resulted in a recessionary economy which did not recover until the Lend-Lease policy started in 1939.

I think that a layout should tell a story.  The Great Depression opens a panorama of possible stories to be told in miniature scenes which I love to do: including hobo jungles, shanty towns, red light districts and tenement life. The New Deal programs hired photographers to go forth into the nation and record daily life in the 1930’s.  This provided me with all sorts of prototypes to work from especially industrial scenes.  It was also the point when the Pennsylvania Railroad was completing the electrification for the GG1. Dating a layout to a fairly specific date helps to eliminate anachronisms. I chose the fall season because it presents many interesting scenic possibilities and adds color to the depressing rust and grimy black of industry.

[This is the first part in a short series from Bob describing the history and construction of his layout. To read part 2 click HERE. -Ed.]

2018 MER Convention Report

by Bob Morningstar

The NMRA Mid Eastern Region held their convention at the Rockville Hilton This past October. The following is a recap of my observations as an attendee.  More information on the convention can still be found at http://potomac-nmra.org/MER2018/Main/index.html.

My overall impression was that the convention was well planned and executed. A convention official indicated approximately 200 were in attendance.

I stayed at the convention hotel Thursday and Friday because clinics were scheduled up until 10:00 PM each evening. This was a very nice, typical Hilton property, and the convention chairmen are to be commended for negotiating very favorable pricing. Room rates were almost ½ of what was available on expedia.com for the same location. There was ample free parking on site. The convention center was also accessible via the Twinbrook metro.

The only negative aspect of convention was that layouts on the tour were too far away or conflicted with evening clinics that I wanted to attend.   Some of these layouts were 1-2 hours away (one way travel). I found it hard to believe there were no closer layouts to view.

Many of the clinics were informative and well presented, yet some, while acceptable, were not convention caliber.

SMD member Jay Beckham gave a fine clinic on C/MRI. I learned a lot and now wish I had looked closer at it before I went with a Loconet solution on my layout’s signaling system.

I did spend an extra $5 and attended a 2 ½ hour 3D printing clinic. We were required to bring our laptops for hands on labs.   Using the  SketchUP program we designed and printed a B&O mile post. This clinic was well worth the time and I learned a lot of techniques on how to better use SketchUP.   I intend on taking the 3D design from the convention and printing it on my 3D printer at home.

The contest room had many models, including two that I submitted. I earned 3rd place in “On Line Structures.” I pried my scratch built WM yard light tower off the layout and placed on a piece of pink foam board with some ground cover to give it a finished look. This was my first NMRA competition and I learned quite a bit from the judges score sheets. The comments were helpful to understand their scores. I had no qualms with their ratings.

Bob Morningstar’s Western Maryland (WM) yard light tower is a scratch built rendition of the wooden WM light towers that were located near the yardmasters office at the east end of the Hagerstown (MD) yard.
It is constructed of Northeastern and Mt Albert scale lumber and Grandt Lines nut-bolt-washer castings. The searchlights at the top are non-functional and are made of Plastruct tubing with Canopy Glue lenses. The electrical cabinet at the base is a resin casting made from a latex mold. The master for the mold was constructed out of a block of wood and detailed with hinges and door handle. The timbers were individually stained with a diluted mixture of india ink and iso-propyl alcohol.
Build time was approximately 17 hours.
The scratch build model took third place in the Mid-Eastern Region, NMRA, 2018 convention model contest. (Tom Fedor)

My take away is that they look for contest quality models.  Mine were detailed for a level that I find acceptable for use on the layout but did not meet the grade to take 1st place. If a entry doesn’t have the same level of detail as a Tangent Scale Model, you will not be competitive. My light tower lost marks because I didn’t have the nut-bolt-washer details installed on one side of the tower.  This was a build decision I made, not wanting to super detail a side of the structure a viewer would never see when on the layout. My other entry was a Athearn “blue box” gondola that I had repainted and decaled for the Penn Central.   I got high marks for the paint and decals, but got dinged hard for lack of underbody detail and leaving molded-on ladders in place.

The Prince William Model Railroad Club had their module layout up and running with some really long trains.   They also had the John Allen Timesaver switching layout setup. At first my son, Nicholas and I were able to complete the switching puzzle in 42 moves (the host said the best you can do is 29 moves).  It took us 3 attempts to get it down to 32 moves but was an enjoyable hour spent with Nicholas.

Overall, it was a positive experience which both my son and I enjoyed together. We met many interesting people and the convention was worth the time and investment.

2019 SMD Spring Mini-Convention

On Saturday, April 13, 2019, with the support of Mainline Hobby Supply, the SMD will again host our very popular Mini-Convention at the Blue Ridge Mtn. Fire Co.

Join your fellow South Mountain Division (SMD) members in a day of great fun and fellowship, and spread the joy of model railroading.  On Saturday, April 13, 2019, with the support of Mainline Hobby Supply, the SMD will again host our very popular Mini-Convention at the Blue Ridge Mtn. Fire Co.

Our traditional format will be as follows…

Morning – Informal clinics.  We need 10 folks to volunteer to give one from 9:00 AM to 10:00 AM and repeat it again from 11:00 AM to 12:00 PM.  No formal presentations required. Just talk about a model railroading topic that’s of interest to you.  Bring what you want to have as examples or visual aids (no projectors, no loudspeakers).  It’s just you, talking to the attendees as they walk past your table.  The guests are free to stay and talk with you for as long as they like, or move on when they choose. Don’t think of it as a speech. Don’t think of it as public speaking.  It’s just chatting with other interested model railroaders. Note that you have an hour break from 10:00 AM to 11:00 AM.  That’s to allow you to get a snack, visit the rest room, look around to see what other clinics are doing.  Then, ten other members give their clinics beginning at 10:00 AM until 11:00 AM and repeating from 12:00 PM to 1:00 PM.

As of this writing, Ron Polimeni, Harvey Heyser, Bill Wilson, Jane Clarke, Jerry Skeim, Jeff Adams, Andrew Dodge, Don Florwick, Bob Johnson, and Jay Beckham have signed up to give an informal clinic.  Jay intends to bring his 3D printer and print items on site.

Afternoon – Formal clinics.  At 1:00 PM Jeff Grove of Carolina Craftsman Kits kicks off the series speaking on Laser Technology in Modeling.  Ira Silverman follows speaking about his new book, The Canadian, the Last of the Great Streamliners. SMD member Alex Polimeni will bring up the markers, speaking on “Model Railroading as Game Design.” 

At 10:00 AM we will also have two “Make and take” clinics.  Jeff Grove of Carolina Craftsman Kits will, again, donate a group of (small, easy) craftsman kits and Mainline Hobby Supply will donate (small, easy) styrene (plastic) kits.  Just like last year we’ll encourage young people by giving them priority on the make & take sign up lists. Another way you can help is by bringing tools to loan for these clinics.  X-Acto knives, glue… Look for a list of items once our build leaders, Brian Greenawalt and David Sweeney, have had time to identify their needs.

SMD plans to have a modular layout or two set up and running as well.  Please contact me, Pete Clarke, at ebtmx5@aol.com or call 301- 253-4913 if you are aware of a modular group and have contact information for that group.

There will be some vendors there with model railroad stuff for sale.  Carolina Craftsman Kits, Nyce Collectables (railroadiana), and SMD member Grant Berry (Misc. stuff) have all signed up. I am waiting to hear back from more.

Of course you can, and should, carefully walk across the road to Mainline Hobby Supply.  Show them your gratitude for supporting this Mini-Con by making a purchase, and while you are talking to them, say “Thanks for sponsoring the Mini” out loud.

Again this year, SMD will purchase a $150 gift certificate from Mainline Hobby Supply and sell raffle tickets ($10 each) throughout the morning.  Also HobbyTown USA – Frederick (Richard Benjamin) has donated a $50 gift certificate that we will give as a door prize.  Both of these drawings will happen at 1:00 PM.

We will have food on site.

All this is just what I already know about!  There’s more in the pipeline. Look for a final update in your Spring Wheel Report.

A call to action! SMD really needs you to make this happen.  Please contact me to offer to help.  Mostly I need folks to give informal clinics.  Everyone who’s done one of these clinics has had a great time.  There are other things you can do. We’ll need extension cords, tools, labor for morning set up and afternoon clean up. Know of a modular group?  I’d love to hear from you. Just can’t do any of those?  Attend, tell others about it!

Did you catch the part about having a working 3D printer on-site? I intend to spend hours just watching that do its thing.  Come on down!

Blame the Brass

Alex Polimeni, superintendent, NMRA South Mountain Division 10. (Tom Fedor)

Clutter from the Super’s Desk

If you receive the NMRA Magazine, you may have already read the President’s Car column in the November issue. It was suggested to me that I read it before writing this, and I’m glad I did. If you haven’t, I’ll do my best to sum up Pete Magoun‘s words in a nutshell: “National can’t overcome the challenges that face the Association alone. Regions and Divisions control their own web presence and PR efforts, and it’s up to them to do the boots-on-the-ground work to build, grow, and prosper.”

Pete’s messaged really connected with me, because I believe SMD is ahead of the curve. We already have an incredible outlet through which to engage with the public in the form of the annual Mini-Con. Our membership is very much involved in the hobby both within and outside of SMD by way of operating sessions, enthusiast groups, open house tours, and conventions across the country. Not only that, but a recurring conversation at our meetings is the idea of stronger outreach and networking efforts to both new and long-time members. Furthermore, our newsletter editor and webmaster have been looking at options to overhaul our website. You can expect more dialogue regarding both of these subjects in the months to come.

I want to take this opportunity to apologize to those members who do not use email, as I did not mail reminders for those meetings as I promised in the Fall edition of the Wheel Report. Thank you for your patience and continued enthusiasm.

In closing, I need to thank this season’s hosts, Rich Randall, Bob Johnson, and Frank Benenati for opening their homes to the Division. Congratulations go out to member Bob Morningstar for his his “Golden Spike” Achievement Program (AP) certificate. We’ve built a strong head of steam in 2018, and I know we’re only going to pick up speed through the winter.