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.

Author: Fedor

South Mountain Division Wheel Report newsletter editor