CANCELED – Mini Convention 2020

The SMD has CANCELED the 2020 Mini Con because of the Coronavirus (COVID-19). The 18 April event will not be rescheduled this calendar year. Subscribe to this blog for future details on the 2021 Mini Con. [-Ed.]

by Pete Clark

What:  Mainline Hobby Supply presents: The SMD Spring Mini Convention.

When:  Saturday, April 18, 2020. Doors open to the public from 9:00 am. to 4:00 pm.  Doors open for set up at 7:00 AM (vendors, modular layouts, clinicians ONLY).

Where:  Blue Ridge Mountain Fire Co., located at 13063 Monterey Lane, Blue Ridge Summit, PA 17214. This venue is directly across the road from Mainline Hobby. Attendees can park, free, to the north side of the fire hall nearest the convention entrance.

For a good time, be part of the Mini-Con!

Join your fellow SMD members in a day of great fun and fellowship. And, oh by the way, spread the joy of model railroading. Saturday April 18 2020, with the support of Mainline Hobby Supply, we will again host the very popular Mini-convention. New members might not know and old members might have forgotten, our format for the event, so allow me a quick review.

Informal clinics; morning: Hopefully 10 folks (You!) will volunteer to give one from 9:00 AM to 10:00 AM and repeat it again from 11:00 AM to 12:00 noon. Not a formal presentation, just talk about a model railroading topic that’s of interest to you. Bring what you need to have as examples or visual aids. But remember, 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. So, don’t think of it as a speech, don’t think of it as public speaking. It’s just you, talking to another interested model railroader, and maybe another will join in.

Note that officially you have an hour break from 10:00 to 11:00 AM. That’s to allow you to get a snack, visit the restroom, look around to see what other clinics are happening.

Then, hopefully, we get 10 other members to give 10 other clinics from 10:00 AM to 11:00 AM and again from 12:00 noon to 1:00 PM.

We want 20 informal clinics (two groups of 10), so there’s plenty of room for you.

Join in with SMD members and friends like:

  • Dennis Blank, Jr. (Lighting SD40-2’s with LED’s)
  • Bob Johnson (Rolling stock tune up for reliable operations)
  • Jerry Skeim (Structures & modeling water)
  • Andrew Dodge (Building a retirement model railroad)
  • Ken Kime (How to make molds and castings for making hopper cars.)
  • Don Florwick (TBD)
  • Bill  Reynolds (TBD)
  • Gary Nastase (Roadbed and ballasting)
  • Bob Geldmacher (Making pine trees)
  • Bob Morningstar (Make your own current keeper)
  • John Madden (DCC++)
  • Dave Thalman (Weathering & loading coal hoppers)
  • Ron Polimeni (Budget model railroading)
  • Harvey Heyser (Layout design)
  • Lee Rainey (TBD)
  • Jane Clarke (TBD)
  • John Glaab (Working on brass locomotives)
  • John King (Modify Kadee couplers to be more user friendly)
  • Dotti Polimeni (Painting Downtown Deco hydrocal kits)
  • Frank Benenati, Dave Sweeney and Tom Fedor (MARRS modules).

I can hear you saying, “Come on Pete. Look at that list. You must not need me.”  Wrong. We have space for you. More important, Like Uncle Sam says, “I want you!” And the members and guests who will come to the Mini want to see you and learn about the topic that interests you. Many on my list would be happy to give their spot to you, the new guy or gal. We have room for you. Can I make that any clearer?

I can hear you saying, “But I don’t know what to do.”  You may recall me writing this in the past, or saying it at a monthly meeting. “Just bring a model and work on it.”  I really mean it. No-one seems to believe it, but it’s been done and it’s very popular.

Make and take clinics: 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 will again donate (small, easy) styrene (plastic) DPM – 36000 – modular learning kit. Just like last year we’ll encourage young people by giving them priority on the make & take sign up lists. Also, another way you can help is by bringing tools to loan for these clinics. X-Acto knives, glue, and, well, look for a list of items once our build leaders (Brian Greenawalt, David Sweeney, and Tom Fedor) have had time to think about it.

Modular layouts: We hope to have a modular layout or two set up and running during the morning as well. I’m having better luck this year, and have gotten “probably” from two (Steve Sherrill and Wayne Betty). But we still can use more. So please contact me (Pete Clarke) if you are aware of a modular group and have contact information for that group. Email me at ebtmx5@aol.com or call 301- 253-4913.

Speaking of layouts, Brian Wolfe of Mainline Hobby Supply will have his layout open to tour during the Mini-Con.

Clubs and Societies: This would be a great opportunity to promote your club or historical society! So far, none have signed up. Please contact me to reserve your table at ebtmx5@aol.com or call 301- 253-4913.

For sale: There will be some vendors there with model railroad stuff for sale. Carolina Craftsman Kits, Dwarvin Enterprises (Fiber optic system of lights) and Bob Van Zant (HO locomotives and misc. stuff) have all signed up and we are waiting to hear back from more. And of course, you can, and should, carefully walk across the street to Mainline Hobby Supply. Tell them thanks for supporting this event by making a purchase, and while you are talking to them, say “Thanks for sponsoring the Mini” out loud.

Raffle: Again this year we will purchase a $150 gift certificate from Mainline and sell raffle tickets ($10 each) through 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 will happen at 1:00 PM.

Formal clinics: Also, at 1:00 PM we convert from informal to formal clinics. We hope to have a speaker from the Mid-Eastern Region (MER) tell us of the plans for the MER’s annual fall convention. Alex Polimeni will speak on Model railroading as game design, and noted historian and author Lee Rainey will speak on “Shortline Operating Patterns: What to Consider in Designing a Schedule.”

Food: We will have food and beverages on site. This will also be handled by SMD members.

The Mini-Con is almost here. We still need you to make it happen. Please contact me and offer to help. Mostly we need folks to give informal clinics. Everyone who’s done one of these clinics has had a great time. If you have questions, I’d be happy to talk with you about it. There are other things you can do, we’ll need extension cords, tools for the make & take clinics, help at the registration desk, morning set up and afternoon clean up. Just can’t do any of those? Attend, and then tell others about it.

Follow the SMD blog for Mini-Con updates at southmountaindivision.wordpress.com.

Improve Your Modeling

Jane Clarke, NMRA South Mountain Division Achievement Program (AP) Chairperson.

by Jane Clarke, SMD AP Chair

Thank you to those who contacted me about their aspirations in the Achievement Program (AP). I look forward to presenting your awards! Several of you are ready to have your scenery judged. This takes some coordination to get (preferably) three judges together. I appreciate your patience.

To qualify for the Model Railroad Engineer–Electrical certificate, you must:

A. Construct and demonstrate on your own or club layout, the satisfactory operation of an electrical control system on a model railroad capable of simultaneous and independent control of two mainline trains in both directions, and containing at least:

  1. Simultaneous and independent control of two mainline trains. This can be as simple as a single track main with sidings. This means that as long as you can cut power to the sidings individually, you can run one train, park it on a siding while you run another, then park it and run the first again. This meets the requirement.
  2. For conventional DC wiring (non-command-control), five electrical blocks that can be controlled independently. For command control wiring (DCC, TMCC, and others), sufficient gaps and switches to maintain polarity, phase if needed, and troubleshooting.
  3. One mainline passing siding.
  4. One reversing loop, wye, turntable, or transfer table.
  5. One yard with a minimum of three tracks and a switching lead independent of the main line. (“Independent” means that you are able to operate the locomotive switching the yard and the lead on a separate powerpack without interfering with mainline operations.)
  6. Facilities for the storing of at least two unused motive power units. Don’t make this harder than it is – these are just sections of track (usually spurs) that you can cut power to independent of the main.
  7. One power supply with protective devices (short indicator or circuit breaker) to ensure safe operation. You don’t have to build this yourself; you just have to have one in your control system. You can use a commercial supply that has these features, modify a commercial supply to add these features, or even build it yourself – but only if you REALLY know what you’re doing.

B. Wire and demonstrate the electrical operation of at least three of the following items:

  1. Turnout. Wiring up the simplest powered turnout from your hobby store will satisfy this requirement.
  2. Crossing. Most commercial crossings come pre-wired. Just set one up so that you can run trains through on both tracks.
  3. Crossover
  4. Double Crossover
  5. Slip Switch (single or double)
  6. Gauge Separation Turnout
  7. Double Junction Turnout
  8. Three Way Turnout
  9. Gauntlet Turnout
  10. Spring Switch
  11. Operating Switch in Overhead Wire

Note: Don’t make the requirements in parts B or C any harder than they have to be. You do not have to scratchbuild any of these; you just have to show that you can make them work electrically. Of course, if you want to go to the effort of building them yourself, you may learn many new skills in the process! The whole point of these requirements is for you to demonstrate a variety of skills.

C. Wire and demonstrate the electrical operation of at least three of the following items:

  1. Electrical turnout position indication on a control panel or at trackside for a minimum of four turnouts. (Remember that many commercial switch machines have electrical terminals to allow you to do this easily.)
  2. Track occupancy indication on a control panel or at trackside for a minimum of five blocks.
  3. Cab control, making provision for the connection of at least two power supplies to a minimum of five blocks as the trains progress. (This means that your layout has at least five blocks, each of which can be controlled by one of two power supplies. The five blocks DO NOT have to be in a row along the same stretch of track.)
  4. Engine terminal, including an electrically powered turntable or transfer table, a minimum of three stall tracks, and at least two blocked storage sections for parking locomotives outside the stall area. (This means you need to have a total of five tracks (three inside an engine house or roundhouse, and two outside), that you can cut power independently to store motive power).
  5. Two turnout junctions with electrical interlocking and protecting trackside signals. (This is simply a turnout with electrical protection to prevent a train from going through a turnout that is set against it. Again, the electrical terminals on a switch machine, combined with a couple of insulated rail joiners, make this a fairly easy project.)
  6. High Frequency Lighting (This is an old term for Constant Lighting.)
  7. Electronic throttle with inertia and braking provisions. (This requirement could be combined with requirement A-6, above.)
  8. Grade crossing with electrically actuated warning indication. (You don’t have to design or build the circuitry for this yourself. There are a number of commercial components available that you can just wire up to meet this requirement. Or you can use commercial plans that appear in magazines from time to time. Or you can do it from scratch.)
  9. Two-way block signaling with automatic train detection for at least five blocks. (See remarks under #8).
  10. Operating overhead wire, using either pantographs, trolley poles, or both for current collection. (Any traction fans out there?)
  11. Installation of an advanced electronic and/or computer control for the model railroad.
  12. Design, installation, and operation of animated mechanical and/or electrical displays. This doesn’t have to be a huge animated display – think about small eye-catching displays like animated industries or signs. Put a carousel in the local park or chase lights on the marque at the Bijou.
  13. Design, installation, and operation of mechanical and/or electrical layout lighting displays. (This means lights which illuminate the layout, as opposed to lighted things on the layout. For example, lighting which simulates the change from day to dusk to night)
  14. Installation of a command control receiver. Modifications or additions to the device’s wiring are required. Installing a plug-equipped decoder into a manufactured prewired socket is not sufficient.
  15. Installation of a command control throttle buss line around a layout capable of handling at least two throttles at three or more separate locations.

Commercially assembled complete units are not acceptable in the items below:

  1. Construction and installation of a sound system. This does not have to be an on-board sound system; it could be an under-the-layout system.
  2. Construction and installation of a signaling system.
  3. Development and installation of a CTC system.
  4. Installation and operation of an on-board video system.
  5. Computer generated block detection information.
  6. Hardwired or stored control program (i.e. computer) for operation of the railroad.
  7. Development and demonstration of a computer-to-railroad interface.
  8. Other. (Examples of ‘other’ includes flashing warning lights on locomotives, or end-of-train devices on cabooses, etc.)

Please note that operating third rail (center or outside) or overhead wire powered layouts may be considered for ALL aspects of the AP. Also note that the use of advanced power supplies, train control, track wiring, and track control methods shall not be restricted by the definitions in the minimum requirements listed above.

These items may not appear to be equal in difficulty – they aren’t meant to be. They are meant to provide a wide variety of things that people may have done that they can get credit for.

D. Prepare a schematic drawing of the propulsion circuitry of the model railroad in part (A) showing the gaps, blocks, feeders, speed and direction control, electrical switches, and power supplies.

Note that this requirement includes ONLY the propulsion circuitry. It is not required to include the wiring for electrical turnout control, signal systems, building lighting, etc. You do not need to include the details for parts of the diagram which are repeated. If a number of parts are wired in the same way, it sufficient to draw one section in detail and indicate other locations with rectangles.

E. Prepare schematic drawings identifying the wiring and components of the six items under parts (B) and (C).

For the sake of clarity, these schematics should probably be separate from the propulsion circuitry schematic in part (D), above. If you already have one over-all schematic of the layout, you might want to consider making multiple copies and going over the applicable lines with a highlighter for each feature.

Note that this is just turning in the kind of documentation that you should be preparing for your layout anyway. It will make trouble shooting much easier in a couple of years when you’ve forgotten how it all went together!

F. You must submit a Statement of Qualification (see below) which includes the following:

  1. The track plan for the layout used in part (A).
  2. A description of each of the features used in parts (B) and (C), including:
    • A description of the item.
    • The methods of construction.
    • Identification of commercial components used.
  3. Schematic drawings as required in parts (D) and (E).
  4. The signed Witness Certification form, showing that each of the above items are operational and meet all applicable NMRA standards.

Notice that there is no requirement for Merit Judging in this certificate. The presence and operation of the required features must be verified by a witness (the Region AP Manager, or their designee), but they do not have to achieve a minimum score.

Model Railroad Engineer – Electrical certificate recipients in the South Mountain Division:

Robert Beecher, Robert Johnson, and Robert Morningstar have received the Electrical certificate. I guess you must be named Robert to get this! I must say that Bob Morningstar’s wiring is the neatest I have ever seen (see photo below of his DCC and Power Supply Component board). It didn’t need to be this clean, but it sure helped me figure out what was going on.

As the division AP Chair, my job is to encourage participation in the program, answer your questions, and help with your paperwork, if necessary. You can contact me at: jjclarke57@gmail.com or 301-253-4913.

Budget Model Railroading

by Ron Polimeni

Ron’s “Corkys Diner” is a former Bachmann trolley with a bottle cap sign.

I recently completed a model of a diner for which I wanted to have a round sign on a pole. My problem was, how to make a round sign without attempting to cut it from sheet styrene. I figured I could possibly hack out a roughly circular shape from styrene and then file it into a disc but that didn’t really seem practical nor did a sliver of PVC pipe which would then have to be filled in. 

On my daily walk I happened to look down as I came up to Capon Bridge’s big green bridge and there were several bottle caps laying in the gravel. Miller Light bottle caps to be precise. And they were undamaged by a bottle opener. Twist-offs perhaps. A light went on and I picked them up. Back at my model bench a check of the scale rule proved them to be approx. 8′ in diameter in 1/87th. Good enough. 

As the pics show, the knurled apron of the cap can be sawn off in a vise. It is necessary though to put a spacer within the cap in order not to pinch the saw blade. The cap must be rotated as one cuts through it so as not to cut into the spacer.

When two bottle caps have been so prepared, a notch for the pole is filed in the lip and they can then be joined back to back using a wood or styrene filler piece. The seam between the halves can be covered with a strip of styrene or filled with putty or both. For lettering I used dry transfers, as I don’t as yet have the capability of making my own decals. Learning to print decals will be yet another project. Never a shortage of things to learn and/or do in this hobby.

The diner was bashed from an old Bachmann trolley. A skirt was made from styrene board and batten sheet. The steps are wood bits with commercial railings. The doors are Tichy castings. Caboose stove pipes, bits of wire, Microscale Industries Kristal Klear windows and a kitchen shed from the scrap box complete the structure. Paint and finish was done by my pal Dotti.

Figurines Add Life to Your Modeling

by Bob Law

Fig2-Ice-Cream_Stand.JPG

Who amongst us does not enjoy people watching? When you drive down a street, isn’t your eye immediately attracted to peoples’ activities? Utilizing figurines in your models can cause the casual viewer of your models to focus their attention not only on the human activity but also upon the buildings and scenery you have constructed.

I have had more opportunity lately to visit quite a few layouts. I am struck that very few modelers make much use of figurines. A very elaborate and well-constructed street scene will often be devoid of people making the scene seem abandoned. The addition of just a few figures can quickly make the same scene seem occupied and lively. Most of all it will draw the viewer’s eye into the details of other buildings to search out for more such human activity. 

A visitor to my recent open house commented on all the figurines I use on my layout. He wondered how I was able to use them in such different ways and most of all, how I didn’t have a vast surplus of little people since he could often only find use for one or two figures out of a set of five or six.

Figurines come in packets assuming that the set should be used to create a scene as provided in the packet. I have found that many of these prearranged scenes are often unusable because the scenes are often not the sort of thing that would be found along a railway or the figurines themselves are in poses that are not really useful or visually credible. By making a study of the various figurines available from all the manufactures I have come upon ways of combining different figurines from different sets to create new and more realistic human activity scenes.  This requires creativity and thought but the results can be as rewarding as building any model.

Fig1-Mr_Beer.jpg

Perhaps my most favorite scene on my layout is one I call “Mr. Beer gets a bath.” (left) It is actually based upon a personal experience I had with a next-door neighbor years ago. We had labored hard to restore an old house and yard only to have a family move in next door that collect all sorts of junk cars and trash all around their house. I would have liked to have dumped a bucket of dirty water on my neighbor’s head but never did – alas. 

In the Woodland Scenics set “Full Figured Folks” there was a fat guy with a beer who much reminded me of my old neighbor. In a Preiser set there was a young woman holding a bucket about to dump the water from a set called “Cleaning the House.”  This figurine is now available as a solo figure.  From this, the scene began to build in my mind. I obtained Woodland Scenics sets “Children” and “Dogs & Cats.” I also ordered Preiser’s “Women Hanging Laundry.” Of course, I also had to collect together all sorts of junk much of which came from my scrap box plus stuff found in the detailing section of the Walters reference book and a truck from Jordan Highway Miniatures. I assembled this altogether into the scene. It was great fun.

I used most of the figures purchased in the scene. Yet I had all the rest of the full-figured people unused with no apparent place to put them. Then it occurred to me that the most probable place for chubby people to be would be at an ice cream stand. (previous page, top) Yet I wanted to create some comedy to that scene. I perused the available possibilities and came upon a Preiser set called “Children” with a boy searching for pocket change. This kid would be holding up a line of people searching for the nickel he doesn’t have. Finding uses for the rest of the figures in the “Children” was easy. I used up a many figures I had left over from the “Mr. Beer” scene along with others.   

Fig3-Paradise_Burlesque.JPGSoon using up leftover figures became a challenge in itself that I came to enjoy. The scene I call “Photo at the Burlesque”(above) is composed entirely of left-over figures from various sets some of which I no longer can remember. The photographer is available from Preiser as a single figurine. The scene is inspired by something that I read about occurring during the heart of the Depression. Business was so poor that even the Burlesque houses couldn’t attract customers and had to resort to advertising (something they rarely had to do.) It was also inspired by a Depression Era song; “Lulu’s Back in Town.” Here a photographer is taking a picture of the ever-popular Lulu while the Mob and bribed police protect her. A pretty girl in front of a racy car always attracts attention in the newspaper.

Fig4-Utility_Worker.JPGFinding use for left over figures doesn’t have to be as elaborate as this. For instance, I was left with one figure from a Preiser “Truckers” set; a guy with both hands raised to open a roller door on a truck. I had no such truck. So instead he became a utility worker replacing a transformer (below) on a utility pole.

The possibilities are endless to create all sorts of interesting mini-scenes once you get into this as a creative challenge.

But take care. People may look at you askance and worry if you talk too much about the “little people.”