SMD NMRA January 12 Meeting Reminder

Alex Polimeni, superintendent (2017-2020), NMRA South Mountain Division. (Tom Fedor)

Happy New Year, everyone!

With the hope that you’ve all had a Merry Christmas and a joyous holiday season, I’d like to extend an invitation to our January meeting at Richard Benjamin’s Hobbytown USA location in Frederick, MD. Doors will be open by 2PM, with the business meeting to follow. Hobbytown’s address is …

454 Prospect Blvd., Frederick, MD 21701

In lieu of our typical home layout tour, SMD has been invited to visit the Frederick County Society of Model Engineers club car! Their doors will open at noon. If you have time, leave home a little earlier and come see what they’ve been working on! The FCSME club car is at …

423 East Patrick Street, Frederick, MD 21701

As always, if you need to catch up on last months meeting- I know I did, since I missed it!- you will find meeting minutes HERE.

In other news, the deadline for the Spring Wheel Report is fast approaching on Feb. 15th! Share with us what you’ve been working on this winter, or even what projects you’re planning for this coming year. 

April’s Mini-Con is also coming up, so if you’re signed up to give an informal clinic- or even a formal clinic, like I’m doing- absolutely don’t do like me and wait until the last minute to prepare it! April may seem months away but is, in fact, functionally tomorrow.

Speaking of the Mini-Con, I’ve only just now realized an error made it into the Winter Wheel Report; the Mini-Con will be held Saturday, April 18th, not April 20th. How did I notice this? By looking up the date so I could refer an interested friend who needs to apply for leave at work in advance, of course! Do make sure to invite your friends, relatives, coworkers, *their* friends, relatives, coworkers…

Here’s to another great year for the South Mountain Division!

Alex Polimeni, Superintendent 

SMD Draft Meeting Minutes – December 8, 2019

Minutes submitted by Clerk Harvey Heyser

Division members met at Bob Morningstar’s home near Greencastle, PA.  10 were present.  After viewing the host’s layout and socializing, Assistant Superintendant Jerry Skeim called the business meeting to order (in the Superintendant’s absence).

19.12-1 Paymaster’s Report:  Paymaster Ray Price reported that the Division has $4115.08 in its bank account, the same as in November.

19.12-2 Clerk’s Report (Meeting Minutes): 

– The Clerk summarized the revised draft minutes for the October meeting.  Item #18.10-5, revised with the assistance of Tom Fedor (webmaster), should read as follows:  “Web Site:  Tom Fedor, Wheel Report editor, reported that SMD member Richard Benjamin (owner of Hobby Town USA, Frederick) supports the Division by covering the cost of domain registration and annual renewals, which are currently paid through FY2020.  Richard’s business and personal web hosting service now hosts SMD’s domain.  While the web site is up, its main content (the blog for Division news and features) has not yet been re-created on Richard’s server.  Tom and Richard are working to re-establish the blog.”  Pete Clarke made the following motion (second by Ray Price):

Motion:  That the draft Minutes for the October 2019 meeting be approved as revised.  The motion passed unanimously.

  • The Clerk summarized the revised draft minutes for the November meeting (previously distributed by e-mail).    Ron Polimeni made the following motion (second by Pete Clarke):

Motion:  That the draft Minutes for the November 2019 meeting be approved as submitted.  The motion passed unanimously.

Comment:  Per the winter Wheel Report, the January meeting will include a layout tour of the Frederick County Society of Model Engineers’ layout followed by a formal meeting at HobbyTown USA, Frederick store (not the Airport per the minutes).

Old Business:

19.9-7 2020 Mini-Con will be April 18, 2020:  In addition to the description he wrote for the Winter Wheel Report, Chair Pete Clarke reported the following.

a. Informal Clinics:  3 or 4 slots remain to be filled.

d. Formal Clinics:  Three have been lined up.

1) MER – short presentation for the fall regional convention in Charlotte, NC.,

2) Alex Polimeni – Model railroading [operations] as game design, and

3) Lee Rainey – Shortline operating patterns:  What to consider when designing a schedule.

Pete requested that SMD members in attendance please move to the front of the audience for the formal clinics for the presenters’ convenience and to make more of an audience.

19.10-6 White Elephant Table:  (This item, previously covered under the Mini-Con minute, will now be considered under its own entry because of the SMD’s October 2019 decision not to sponsor a Division table at the Mini-Con.)  Frank Benenati, who has been looking into possibilities for the SMD, reported these alternatives:  a good show at Westminster – Lion’s Club ($22 per table), Brunswick Train Days ($20-$25 per table), the Hagerstown Model Railroad Club shows (in November & February), and the Mont Alto show (inexpensive tables but more of a garage sale).  Frank continued his report with some logistics.  The SMD would need a central place to receive items to be sold, a written record must be kept, and stickers will be needed for pricing. It was discussed that it would be best if members with items being sold be present at the show and that there be an agreement what to do with unsold items.

The discussion pointed out the possibility of attracting more members for the NMRA if the SMD is present at these events.  Bob Morningstar will investigate if the NMRA can assist in acquiring a banner to advertise the table.

New Business:

19.12-3 Host Bob Morningstar welcomed everyone to his HO Western Maryland layout.

19.12-5 Achievement Program:  AP Chair Jane Clarke reported that both Bob Morningstar’s Electrical Engineer certificate and Dave Thalman’s Gold Spike Award have been submitted for NMRA action.

19.12-6 Candidates for Superintendant:  Alex Polimeni has indicated he will not be able to run for re-election because of the many other things happening in his life (especially getting married).  Those interested in the office are encouraged to put themselves forward and are reminded of the AP credits possible.

19.12-7 Region Newsletter Editor:  Bob Morningstar reported the position is open and suggested anyone interested contact the MER.


The Assistant Superintendant accepted a motion to adjourn.  The next meeting on January 12, 2020 will be held at 2:30 p.m. at the HobbyTown USA, Frederick store following a layout tour of the Frederick County Society of Model Engineers’ layout (from 12 – 2p.m.).

Following the meeting, host Bob Morningstar presented a clinic on soldering.  He stressed using the right equipment (to achieve the right heat level), the right solder, the right rosin flux (not acid based), good contact between the parts to be soldered, and keeping the iron clean.  (Metal kitchen pot scouring pads are a good choice for the latter.)

SMD NMRA meeting reminder

Alex Polimeni, superintendent

With the holidays upon us, I’d like to invite everyone to take a break from the pressures of Christmas cheer and join the South Mountain Division for our December membership meeting at Bob Morningstar’s home this coming Sunday, Dec. 8th. 

Set in 1983 and featuring completed scenery, Bob models the Western Maryland Railway in HO scale. Doors open at 2PM for the layout tour, with the meeting and a clinic on soldering to promptly follow. Division members will find the street address in your winter Wheel Report. You may also contact me for Bob’s Address at

Bob asks that folks park either in the driveway or along the side of the road; the driveway should accommodate about 10 cars if everyone parks close enough. Minutes from the last meeting can be read here.

In other news, I’m afraid I won’t be able to make this month’s meeting as my fiance and I will be out of town attending a convention in Chicago. In my stead, I’ve asked assistant super Jerry Skeim to preside; go easy on him, huh?

Customarily, this is where I’d say I hope to see you all soon, but considering that I won’t have the chance until next month, I’d like to wish everyone a Merry Christmas and a happy new year! May the holidays bring you joy, and Santa, the toy trains you asked for…

Alex Polimeni, Superintendent

November 10 meeting minutes

Submitted by Harvey Heyser, Clerk

South Mountain Division Mid-Eastern Region – National Model Railroad Association

Draft Meeting Minutes – November 10, 2019

Division members met at Dave Thalman’s home near Winchester, VA.  8 were present.  After viewing the host’s layout and socializing, Superintendent Alex Polimeni called the business meeting to order.

19.11-1 Paymaster’s Report:  Paymaster Ray Price reported that the Division has $4115.08 in its bank account, the same as in October.  The Paymaster expects up-coming expenses for the Wheel Report and for Mini-Con 2020 preparations:  raffle and concessions.

19.11-2 Clerk’s Report (Meeting Minutes):  The Clerk summarized the draft minutes for the October meeting.  Because there was confusion about the minute related to the web site, the Clerk requested that approval of the minutes be delayed.  Those present agreed.

Old Business:

18.10-5 Web Site:  Tom Fedor is now the Webmaster.

19.9-7 2020 Mini-Con will be April 18, 2020:  There was minimal discussion in Chair Pete Clarke’s absence.

b. Food:  Members brought up the need to have bottled water for attendees.

19.9-9 Bob Law’s Open House was very successful.

New Business:

19.11-3 Host Dave Thalman welcomed everyone to his HO layout.  Tracks around the two 4 track helixes were operating smoothly.

19.11-4 Future Meeting for January 2020:  The Frederick Airport was suggested as a possible location for the meeting with, perhaps, a visit to the Frederick Society layout close-by.  Arrangements for using the Airport facilities can be made at the last minute.  There will be a charge for drinks.

19.11-5 Visitor:  Bob Hiller, N scaler and high-rail collector, introduced himself to the SMD, and members provided information about the NMRA.

19.11-6 Winchester MRRC:  Andy Arnold reported the Club has demolished and removed its layout but is finding that alternative locations are very costly.

19.11-7 SMD member Bob Morningstar has been elected MER Director.

Adjournment:  The Chair accepted a motion to adjourn.  The next meeting will be held at Bob Morningstar’s home near Greencastle, PA on December 8,2019.  Assistant Superintendent Jerry Skeim will preside in the Superintendent’s absence.

Minutes submitted by Clerk Harvey Heyser

Following the meeting, host Dave Thalman presented a clinic about weathering with washes, Pan Pastels, and acrylics.  He stressed doing weathering in the same light as on the layout.

From the Editor

Tom Fedor

By Tom Fedor

Our website is back up (along with this blog). Currently the web page includes just the basics and serves as a landing page for those interested in reaching the SMD. Links to documents like our by laws and archived newsletters will function as the data is migrated to the new server. Additionally the Winter Wheel Report has been published. Visit the website and locate the newsletters page to download this and archived editions. The “Train Rides” page is not included in the current edition. I made the decision to cut it due to space concerns and the fact that it’s content is readily accessible on line.

Rich Randall and friends have been very busy working on his Gettysburg, PA layout. I photographed Rich’s O scale Milwaukee Road for current the cover. Rich writes, “I am finally calling Avery East Yard finished, although there are still a few more small items to place. I received a lot of help with this project, especially from Leonard (Lee) Davis, master structure builder and scenery artist, and Tim Edwards who built the bunkhouse out of a San Francisco “Painted Lady” kit, and the depot addition out of a couple Ameri-Town track side sheds. Lee built the depot and other structures from scratch. Stu Gralnik of Model Building Services built the substation, which had to be 85% scale size to fit my space. It is amusing to me that after I crammed all the buildings into the scene, Tony Koester gave a clinic at the 2018 O Scale National Convention advising that the best way to compress a scene is to select a few key elements and space them so as to avoid cramming. Oh well! The catenary bents are made by Dave Hikel of Hikel Layouts & Trains. He assisted me in the construction of the catenary system. Tim Edwards made poles and sockets for installation in my various terrain. I still have a long way to go on the rest of my “Milwaukee Road Avery Division Point” O scale layout.”


Blame the Brass

Alex Polimeni, superintendent

by Alex Polimeni

“Clutter from the Super’s Desk”

Maybe it’s just me, but Thanksgiving always feels far off until it’s the coming  Thursday and you realize you haven’t bought a thing for holiday dinner…

Of course, Thanksgiving also means the South Mountain Division season is under full steam, and let me tell you, we’re highballing it down the main this year. The year kicked off with a visit to Jeff Grove’s new layout back in September, where Jeff gave a thoughtful talk on his eye-catching structure weathering techniques. Last month, we found ourselves in the south-west corner of Division territory, returning to Dave Thalman’s PRR railroad four years after we’d last seen it. Next, we’re coming back around to newly-elected MER Director Bob Morningstar’s home in the run up to the Christmas holiday- and while I’ll be away on travel that day, I’ve asked my assistant Superintendent Jerry Skeim to preside over what should be another good meeting.

Looking ahead, we’re starting next year with a couple of real highlights. In January, the Frederick County Society of Model Engineers will be opening their doors for layout tours at 12PM, ahead of the meeting proper at Richard Benjamin’s HobbyTown Frederick location- so, plan to get an early start! Afterward, in February, we’ve been invited to hold our Frederick meeting at the Cumberland Valley Model Railroad Club in Hagerstown, MD. I haven’t seen either of these club layouts myself yet, so I’m definitely looking forward to it.

Even further down the tracks, 2020’s Mini-Con is coming together thanks as always to Pete and Jane Clarke’s tireless efforts, Mainline Hobby Supply and, of course, YOUR incredible contributions. Simply said, we put on a great model train show, and that’s something every Division member should be proud of. On that note, if you’re not involved yet, we’re excited to have you come aboard!

Finally, I want to say that it has been my pleasure and genuine privilege to serve as your Superintendent these past two and a half years. After a great deal of consideration, I have made the hard decision to step away from the Super’s desk after May 2020.

I chose to accept my nomination in early 2017 because I wanted to honor Paul Rausch’s memory, and the Division chose to give me a literal vote of confidence (and a leap of faith) in electing me Superintendent. Considering a personal history in other volunteer organizations with a, shall we say, similar membership demographic, it’s meant more to me than I can say that you would trust your Division’s youngest member at the metaphorical throttle.

Going forward, I’ve got a few things going on, with the prospects of getting married, starting a business, and taking classes all on the horizon for me, and a position like this shouldn’t be allowed to stagnate around a single person regardless. If you think you’d be interested in taking a turn in the chair- or think somebody else really should!- we’ll be setting up the nominating committee come January, and I’m confident we’ll be in good hands no matter who steps forward for consideration.

Until then, I’ve still got 6 months to finish out, and plenty on the agenda to complete before then- including a “SMD Superintendent For Idiots” playbook I hope to pass along to our next Super, so maybe they can get the hang of it a little quicker than I did! I’ve learned a lot, had a ton of fun, and remain incredibly grateful to South Mountain Division for my time behind the Superintendent’s desk.

SMD Turns 40

Harvey Heyser III

by Harvey Heyser

This coming year marks forty years since the SMD received its charter on April 26, 1980. The initial geographical boundaries were Jefferson and Berkeley Counties in WV, Washington and Frederick Counties in MD, and Fulton County in PA. In the absence of records from that early period, I have summarized mentions of the SMD in the MER newsletter, The Local, including some of the people [SMD member names in bold face -ed.] and activities from the early years of the Division.

The first officers were:

Paul Berger – Superintendent

Ed Staeblein – Assist. Superintendent

Dennis Masters – Clerk/Paymaster

Directors – Larry Cunningham, Rick Morrison, and Ron Busey

Early activities in 1980 included, a fan trip to the EBT, a meet at the Maugansville Ruritan (with movies, clinics, model displays, model contest, and operating modules), and meetings at held by Ron Busey, Bill Madison, and Larry Cunningham.

Paul Berger was listed as Achievement Program (AP) assistant, and AP certificates were awarded to Paul Berger and William (Bill) Miller of the SMD.

Activities for 1981 included another meet at the Maugansville Ruritan, including contributions from Dennis Masters (HO modules), Bill Rinn (clinic on detailing cast locomotives), and Bud Sima (clinic on building structures from balsa).

This second group of officers was elected in 1981 (and re-elected in 1982):

Ron Busey – Superintendent

Robert Miller – Assistant Superintendant

Mary Synowiec (later Miller) – Clerk/Paymaster

Directors Warren Hart, Earl Reitzel, and Marv Kershner

Planned activities for 1982 included a clinic on wiring by George Perrine, a visit to Harry Clark’s Indian Creek Valley, tours of the Martinsburg Club’s HO scale Blue Ridge & Allegany RR, their O scale Ditch & Gauly RR, Lynn Breland’s HO Lost River & Western RR, Bill Wood’s HO B&O RR, Dave Southerly’s Piedmont Valley RR (WM branch), Jeff Madden’s HO WV layout, and Mike Kidwell’s HO Willoby & Western. There was a visit to the Hagerstown Model Railroad Club (including a raffle won by Dick Powell, Dispatcher for the WM Ry and a clinic on adhesives by Ron Busey), plus visit to the Strasburg (including mention of an injury to Rev. Harry Miller while demonstrating use of a handcar).

The March/April 1982 issue of the The Local contained an article about Paul Berger’s Potomac Central Railroad including a track plan.

Planned activities for 1983 included meetings and clinics at Ron Busey’s and John Kelly’s, a third meet at the Maugansville Ruritan featuring tape slide clinics, a “Pale Pachyderm” sale, modular layouts, and 10 new members. It was noted that the winners of door prizes were Chris Knight (antique bottle car kit (bottle and trucks – he had to figure out how to assemble it.)); Todd Michael (G&D hopper); and Jim Eells (B&O caboose). Meetings took place at Mike Kidwell’s HO Willoby & Western, and at Larry Snook’s layout there was a wood structure assembly session led by Ron Busey. Carpools to the MER spring convention in Wilmington, DE.

Officers elected for 1983 were:

Bob Miller, Superintendent

Mary (Synowiec) Miller, Assistant Superintendent

Steve Green, Clerk/Paymaster

Director – [names not listed -ed.]

Notice of the SMD’s first sponsored fall 1983 MER Convention in Hagerstown appeared in the November/December 1982 issue of the The Local. Paul Berger served as convention chair. Jay Beckham served as registrar, and Warren Hart gave a clinic on rocks.

The convention included layout tours to the following:

  • The Hagerstown Model Railroad Club,
  • Paul Berger’s Potomac Central,
  • Warren Hart’s Potomac Valley and Western,
  • Jay Beckham’s Columbia and Port Deposit Branch (PRR),
  • Will Snyder’s Antietam Valley,
  • Jeff Madden’s South Penn RR (B&O),
  • Mike Kidwell’s Willoby & Western,
  • The Martinsburg Model Railroad Club,
  • Luther Ratcliff’s HO layout (un-named), and
  • Dave Southerly’s Piedmont Valley.

According to reports in The Local, Jeff Madden won three (3) prizes for photography, and the South Mountain Fireball Award was presented to Paul Backentose for a diesel and slug.

After 1983, The Local did not give a complete listing of SMD officers; however, Mary Miller and Lynn Breland were mentioned as holding the Superintendent position.

In the January/February 1985 issue of The Local, there was a notice of the SMD hosting a layout tour for the Dixie Division including layouts by the following: Jeff Madden, Lynn Breland, Luther Ratcliff, Dave Southerly, Will Snyder, Warren Hart, Paul Berger, and Bob Johnson.

Over the early years of the Division’s history, the following SMD members served in various Regional positions:

Bill Miller – Director, MER

Mary Miller – Model Contest Committee Chair, MER

Paul Berger – Achievement Program Coordinator, SMD

Dennis Masters – Ballot Committee Chair, MER

After the 1985 Quad Regional Convention held in Harrisburg, Mary Miller thanked SMD members Bill Miller, Jay Beckham, and Dennis Masters for their assistance with the model contest.

Allow me to end this summary with some observations. Many of the activities the SMD scheduled in the past are similar to those the Division sets up today, including meetings in members’ homes, visits to their layouts, clinics, and railfan trips. Also consider that the early meets held at the Ruritan were strikingly similar to present our day Mini-Cons.

Although many of the names listed above may not be familiar, a few are still active. These are the people who established your South Mountain Division and gave it the solid foundation it enjoys today. They deserve congratulations for their efforts starting the Division.smdcharter001