What’s on Your Workbench?

By Ron Polimeni

With no railroad of my own, I participate by assisting my friends who do have layouts. I’m ever grateful for being included in the operating sessions and enjoy contributing in whatever ways I can. The pandemic has brought this home. With no operating sessions, how do I stay involved and connected? By continuing to do as I’ve done all along. I have my shop.

I have my tools, my imagination, and my skills. Having projects from my friend’s layouts in the works on my bench allows me to feel connected. When operating sessions resume once again, I’ll have something to show for my time in isolation. Here are a number of the projects I’m currently involved in.

These passenger cars are O scale items for Jay Beckham’s railroad. Jay discovered 13 ancient Walthers passenger cars at a flea market for cheap. The kits had never been completed and were badly deteriorated. Especially the wood parts. I offered to do what I could to resurrect the old cars, flea market finds being of interest to me. It took a bit of doing to figure out how to disassemble the cars as they were pinned together.

Jay wanted the roofs removable. To that end, the stamped steel sides had to be reinforced by soldering brass channel just below the top edge. The most difficult part, however, is restoring the deteriorated wood. I’ve been using wood putty to fill in the shrinkage in the grain and will probably work with painters tape to simulate tar paper. The monster soldering iron is on loan from Bob Winkler. Bob was a plumber in a past life. He loaned me the iron with the comment that he hadn’t used it in 50 years and didn’t expect he’d be needing it in the near future. Turns out it’s ideal for the job.

Disassembling the car was a problem. I couldn’t figure a way to remove the screws that held the roof to the car ends without drilling through the floor. Then, on close inspection, I discovered two pins in the cast ends which held the ends in alignment with the floor. Removal of the pins allowed the floor to be slid to the side allowing access to the screws. Essentially the entire car was held together with pins. The stamped sides being attached to both the roof and floor with pins.

I’d always admired the open flat car lumber load as featured on John Allen’s Gorre & Daphetid. When Owl Mountain Models brought out their version of such a load I thought it would be worth a try. Bob Winkler has a sawmill in the town of Coryville on his Central Maryland RR. So far the mill has been shipping their lumber in boxcars and ties in gondolas. Now they can begin shipping lumber on flat cars. The load is modular, in that it can be constructed in several variations. It can also be built so as to fit several different applications and be removable. I constructed this one to fit the Athearn 40′ ‘blue box’ flat. It still needs to be painted and given a wash to help the individual boards to stand out. A simple fun build that will add a great deal to the layout.

Bill Reynolds needed a turntable for turning helper engines on his last layout. I had tried to modify an Atlas turntable to do the job but the mechanism wasn’t up to the task. Bill had a kit, however, for a turntable that would be ideal for the job. Never having built a turntable before, I volunteered for the task. It appears to be an interesting kit. The pit is to be constructed of several layers of plywood. Different diameters of pit opening and thickness of wood being used to create the step for the ring rail. I haven’t begun this project yet but am looking forward to it.

Bob Winkler has a set of locomotives he set up with a pair of old AHM FT cab unit bodies. I’m not sure what the chassis are but they run beautifully. They’ve always irritated me though as the wheelbase is wrong for the FT. To that end, I decided to fit out a pair of F7 shells to replace the FT shells. The stirrups on the pilot of one shell were broken. Rather than attempt a repair of the stirrups I thought it would be interesting to install steps on the pilot of one of the locomotives. Both will be fitted with Walthers “diesel dress-up” kits. Unfortunately, I have to strip these shells once more as I didn’t get my mix right when spraying the Scalecoat blue and it developed a case of orange peel.

The NW-2 is another project awaiting attention in the spray booth. It will be painted and lettered for Bob Winkler’s “Central Maryland”. Bob has a thing for EMD switchers. The handrails are his handiwork and are essentially scratch built as the locomotive shell had none.


Alex has expressed interest for some time in building a layout based on a “spaghetti western” theme. Think Clint Eastwood and John Olson’s ‘Mescal Lines’. To that end, I’ve turned over my MDC ‘old-time” equipment to him. At present, I’m working on his caboose roster. Adjusting coupler height on the bobber cabooses is proving to be a bit of a project.

And then there’s my drawing board.

Currently, I’m working on visualizations for the scenery on the turn-back loop by the entrance to Don Florwick’s P&SP Railroad. I took some pics when last I was there before the pandemic struck. We had mocked up some ideas using cardboard. I’m using the pics as a guide in developing the scenery ideas. The sketches will eventually be filled in with colored pencil.

Track planning is a hobby within the hobby for me. Superintendent Jerry Skeim is in the process of constructing a large, double-deck On30 layout. Jerry and I have enjoyed working together as a crew during operating sessions. Talking trains, one thing led to another and Jerry asked if I could offer some thoughts on his project. Beware of what you ask for.

Suffice to say, I’m busy. Despite not having a railroad of my own, I’m able to stay involved, active, and connected in the hobby through my friends.

What’s on Your Workbench?

By Tom Fedor

This summer I finally completed detailing and upgrading my Atlas Classic HO scale C-424 Phase 2 Locomotive, modeled after the Livonia Avon & Lakeville’s (LA&L) diesel number 424.

Atlas Model Railroad Company released the model in 2006 with a list price of $109.95 for the DC version. I ordered mine through a local hobby shop with plans to detail and install DCC.

Why did I choose this model from an obscure short line in western New York state? I worked for the LA&L for 3 weekends in the summer of 1990 until my college course workload prevented me from spending my Saturday’s on their track gang. I believe I even had a cab ride in number 424.

Fourteen years later, this locomotive was now unassembled on my workbench. Atlas’s version was a close replica, but due to industry practices at the time the manufacturer created models that generally adhered to the specific “Phase” (in my case phase 2), so not everything was a match. Some minor bodywork and paint were necessary to address a couple of obvious details that stand out on the real locomotive, making it a distinctive piece of LA&L equipment. Additionally, the Classic series was not plumbed for sound. I had to have the rear weight milled, drilled, and filed to fit a speaker.

Is my model an exact duplicate of the prototype? Not quite. There are things that would require extensive bodywork which I didn’t feel I could successfully achieve.

In addition to a SoundTraxx decoder, I used many images sourced from the internet (above) to place the following details.

  • Modified fuel tanks
  • Exhaust stack
  • Rearview mirrors
  • Sun visors
  • Air intake shields
  • Sand hatch
  • Snowplows
  • Windshield wipers
  • Wheel slip detectors
  • Speed recorder
  • Chain/chain guide
  • Radio antenna
  • Bell
  • Fuel filter
  • Air horns
  • Working front/rear ditch lights

From the Super; February Meeting Reminder

Jerome “Jerry” Skeim Superintendent


Upcoming Meeting Date: 14 February 2021

The next SMD meeting will take place on Sunday, 14 Feb. 2021 via ZOOM. Log on time opens at 1:30 with the business meeting scheduled to start at 2 PM. ZOOM logon information for the February meeting is the same as last month’s information.

If any member has any concerns that they feel need to be addressed to the membership, or discussion topics that they feel should be included in the February meeting agenda, please forward them to me through our Gmail address –  southmoutaindiv@gmail.com – as early as possible before the upcoming meeting. You will also find an impeccably prepared copy of our January meeting minutes here: http://portal.smdnmra.org/2021/01/31/smd-draft-minutes-10-jan-2021/.

In other news:

The results from our membership survey asked what day of the week and time of the day you would like to hold an additional virtual meeting over “zoom” to “Get-Together” and just chat about modeling and interact with your fellow members. Here are the results:  

    1. We had 28 folks respond which is about 33% of our membership.
    2. Preferred day of the Week: Saturday (Thursday and then Wednesday following close behind.)
    3. Preferred time of the day: 7:00 PM with 15 votes (No other time slot received more than 3 votes.)

With these results in hand what I am proposing is that we will hold the first Saturday “Get-Together” on Saturday, February 27th at 7:00, I will bring that up for a vote under old business at the upcoming membership meeting on the 14th of February.

Finally, we are always looking for anyone interested in providing a clinic or a layout tour following future Zoom meetings.  If interested please let us know through the SMD Gmail account as soon as possible: southmoutaindiv@gmail.com. We now have lined up clinics/presentations for the next two months with help from a few of our members. For February, Bob Morningstar will give a presentation on “DecoderPro”, and for March, Bob Geldmacher will give a presentation on “3-d printing”. Hopefully, we can get a couple more to round out our meeting year.

I hope that everyone is well and that those that are eligible for the vaccine can get their shots promptly.

Hope to see you all on Sunday the 14th of February 2021 at 2:00 PM.

Jerry Skeim, Superintendent

SMD Draft Minutes 10 JAN 2021

Minutes submitted by Clerk Harvey Heyser

Draft Meeting Minutes – January 10, 2021

Division members met remotely on the internet using the Zoom platform.  16 or so were present.  The Superintendent convened the meeting prior to the published start time for logging in.  After some socializing, Superintendent Jerry Skeim called the business meeting to order shortly after the 2 pm start time.

21.1-1 Paymaster’s Report:  Paymaster Ray Price reported that the Division has $3781.32 in its bank account (the same as last month).  That amount does not include invoices for the holiday card (item #20.12-3).  Alex Polimeni reported total costs of roughly $176.  He will send the Paymaster invoices for the $175 authorized by the motion made at the December meeting (minute #20.12-3).

21.1-2 Clerk’s Report (Meeting Minutes):  The attendees dispensed with the reading/summary of the minutes (previously distributed by e-mail).  Andy Arnold made the following motion (second by Ray Price):

Motion:  That the draft Minutes for the December 2020 meeting be approved as submittedThe motion passed unanimously.

Old Business:

20.10-7 Virtual Raffle:  The SMD has accepted the gift card donated by Mainline Hobbies.  The Superintendent has conferred with Bob Morningstar about conducting a raffle on-line.  Paul Mahoney offered a lifetime pass to the Great Scale Train Show for auction in the raffle.

The present plan is to hold the raffle in March/April, when the Mini-Con would normally take place.  

For future discussion, the Superintendent asked members to think about what to do with the proceeds:  SMD fund-raising, reimbursing Mainline for Mini-Con support, a combination, etc.

20.12-3 Holiday Cards:  Of the 84 members on the roster, only one (1) card has been returned so far.  (See minute #21-1.4 below.)

20.12-4 Second Virtual Meeting of the month for matters other than business (clinics, layout tours, electronic sharing, etc.):  As the SMD’s capabilities increase, remote meetings will offer a way to stay in touch (especially with members who cannot attend the regular meetings).  For the purpose of keeping in touch, it was suggested the Division continue to hold occasional remote meetings after the end of the pandemic.  The Superintendent has distributed a day of the week survey to the membership and will report next month.  

20.12-6 MER Hunt Valley Convention – fall 2021:  The convention is still planned to proceed face-to-face.  The SMD website has a link to the convention page.

New Business:  

21.1-3 Those present welcomed long-time member Steve Green to the meeting.  Steve expressed his thanks for the remote meetings, which make it possible to attend on busy Sunday afternoons.  (His wife is a pastor.)  He asked if a card had been sent to another long-time member Dennis Masters.  Alex Polimeni indicated a lack of contact information.  Several attendees volunteered to check their records.

21.1-4 Member Status – Response from holiday cards and other sources:

    • George Perrine of Oakland, MD passed away in 2020 at age 96.
    • Roger K. Landon’s card was returned by USPS as undeliverable.  (He had a Frederick address.)
    • Rich Nemchik has been hospitalized with Covid but is on the mend.

21.1-5 Possible Clinics:  Several members volunteered to give future clinics:

    • Bill Wilson – Panel-Pro
    • Bill Wilson suggested asking Bob Geldmacher to speak on laser cutting for car building.  (Bob models in On30.)
    • Steve Green – turntable indexing and building a train elevator

Alex Polimeni can set up practice Zoom sessions for prospective clinicians, and Andy Arnold can post Zoom clinics to the SMD Website/Blog.

Adjournment:  The superintendent accepted a motion to adjourn.  The next meeting will be held remotely on February 14, 2021 (second Sunday at 2 p.m.).  Members will be notified by e-mail.

There was no clinic after the meeting, but Superintendent Skeim is planning one for future meetings.