Well, I spent the week in the fiddle yard of the layout my friends and I
were using to demonstrate timetable and train order operation. I had a
great time, even though it was Thursday afternoon before I had a chance
to see any clinics or do much outside the SIGs Roundhouse room.
As part of the OpSIG display, we offered nine three-hour clinics which
were extrememly well-received. We were amazed with how well the layout
functioned (for its first public outing), and how much demand there
seems to be to try organized operation. We filled the 145 operating
slots we offered very quickly and could have filled as many more if we'd
had them. We met a lot of neat people (Hi, Steve!), and had the
opportunity to introduce a number of younger modelers to prototype
A brief summary of how things went with our experiment in hands-on
operations clinics can be found at
all goes as planned, we hope to offer the same type of clinics at
Cincinnati in 2005.
Thursday afternoon and evening, my friends and I took in the last half
of the LDSIG layout tour. We picked up the self-guided tour at the
cookout dinner and managed to see five layouts before calling it a
night. The North York club and its neighbor were a study in contrasts.
One club had a complete rebuild under way to a multi-deck linear design
based on modern operations, while the other, in a large room next door,
had an established and nicely-scenicked classic spaghetti bowl design
under way. Clark Kooning's Sn3 layout was pretty neat, especially with
what he accomplished in a small space. His compact workbench arrangement
was pretty interesting, too.
On Friday, I finally made it down to the Prototype Modelers room. Most
of the guys had already packed up their models, but Walthers was showing
a test shot of the upcoming C&O 1600-series streamlined coach- a car
I've gone on endlessly about wanting over the last eight years here.
It's scheduled for late October/early November. They also showed a few
Italian-made smoothside cars from some obscure western road. I think
they were yellow...
I managed to get to two clinics on Friday before I had to head home:
Allen McClelland's update on the V&O, and Bill Sharpe's clinic on
scratchbuilding wooden cabooses out of styrene. The new V&O is well
under way. and will concentrate on a different at of the V&O. It's a
much more linear design, laid out around the walls of his new basement.
Bill Sharpe's clinic was one Bill has given for many years, but has
updated as his techniques change. I saw the first half of it seven years
ago at a regional in Ann Arbor, but was called away to deal with a leaky
roof in the dealers' area, and didn't see the end of it until this year.
I highly recommend Bill's clinic.
The slate of clinics available was top-notch, and the folks I spoke to
during the week were all very satisfied.
Family obligations back home prevented me from attending the train show,
so I can't say anything about it. I hear the Life-Like did not show
their new Berkshire as they'd originally planned.
The number of lots at the Silent Auction was disappointingly low, but I
found a few things to bid on, ultimately leaving with a stack of four
old Con-cor kits for a 1960s era auto hauler. These will be loaded with
the appropriate vehicles and become flat car loads.
I was a little disapppointed with the Company Store, since the
Convention cars just didn't appeal to me (too modern), and there wasn't
a lot of other stuff from previous conventions, as I'd seen at previous
Nationals. I'd especially liked being able to buy surplus cars from
various regional projects at Madison. Oh well, it left me more money to
spend at the shop Al Westerfield was running out of his hotel room.
When I left mid-afternoon on Friday, I had yet to speak with anyone who
wasn't having a really good time. Even without considering that the
Convention Committee had been dealt a really bad hand in the months
leading up the convention, the parts of the Convention I saw were
I'm very much looking forward to the North Central Region's regional in
October in Grand Rapids, Michigan- it'll be nice to attend a convention
and not be working. They're offering tours of Bruce Chubb's Sunset
Valley, a five (real) miles-long 7.5" live steam railroad, several very
nice large local layouts, and a good slate of clinics. It's being held
October 10-12. Details are found at
Webmaster, Rails on Wheels, Washtenaw County, Michigan's HO
Modular Club, at
The address in the header of this message is deliberately bogus to
foil address-harvesters. See my web sites for my real address.
Toronto was only my second convention (Kansas 98) but I was very pleased
with the clinics and the tours. Some days I went from 8.00 am to 12.15 am,
just to cram it all in.
The train show was a disappointment, due to the almost total lack of any
American manufactures and dealers. Too bad they subscribed to the mass
hysteria about SARS.
The company store was very thin. I believe that it is usually run by the
NMRA, but as you know, they pulled their support at the last minute.
Something that won't be forgotten by Canadian Modelers!
Several great clinics - Bruce Metcalf on "Lessons From the
Art of the Storyteller" and John Roberts" Appalachian Coal
Country" were two useful and memorable ones. Al
Westerfield's clinic on running a model railroad
manufacturing business was something different too.
The train show didn't offer much that most of the annual
Toronto shows don't. I would suggest that the next time a
Canadian group applies to host an NMRA convention, that it
be a cross-border event - that is, have the convention in a
border town like Niagara Falls, USA, and have tours that go
into Canada. That way the US manufacturers won't have an
excuse not to attend because of customs difficulties.