Annual SMD Spring Mini-Convention

by Pete Clarke

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 here’s a quick review.

Informal clinics

We need 10 volunteers 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 want to have as examples or visual aids (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 or public speaking. It’s just you, talking to another interested model railroader. 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 rest room, and look around to see other clinicians.

More informal clinics

Then we need 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 (TBD), Jerry Skeim (Structures/Modeling water), Andrew Dodge (TBD), Bob Law (Using dry transfers), 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 (How to make your own Current Keeper), John Madden (DCC++), Dave Thalman (Weathering and Loading Coal Hoppers), Ron Polimeni (Budget model railroading), Harvey Heyser (Layout design), Lee Rainey (TBD), and Jane Clarke (TBD).

I can hear you saying, “Come on Pete.  Look at that list. You must not need me.” Wrong. We have space for you. I’m like Uncle Sam. “I want you.” And the members and guests who will come to the Mini Con want to see you and learn about the topic that interests you.

Although many on the list would be happy to give their spot to you, the new guy, we do have room for you. Can I make that any more clear? I want you!

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 want to believe it, but it’s been done and it’s very popular.

Make And Takes

At 10:00 AM we will also have two “Make and take” clinics. Jeff Grove of Carolina Craftsman Kits (CCK) will again donate a group of (small, easy) craftsman kits and Mainline will again donate (small, easy) styrene (plastic) kits. 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 have had time to think about it.


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. 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 or call 301-253-4913.


There will be some vendors there with model railroad stuff for sale. Carolina Craftsman Kits, Dwarvin (Fiber optic system of lights) and Bob Van Zant (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 road to Mainline. Show them your gratitude for supporting this event by making a purchase, and while you are talking to them, say, “Thanks for sponsoring the Mini.” Out loud!


Again this year we will purchase a $150 gift certificate from Mainline Hobby Supply and sell raffle tickets ($10 each) through the morning. Also HobbyTown Frederick (SMD member 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 East 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.”


We will have food on site handled by the SMD.

And that’s just what I know about already.  There’s more in the pipeline, so watch for updates in the spring newsletter.

But we 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. Know of a modular group? I’d love to hear from you.  Just can’t do any of those? Attend, tell others about it.

Mainline Hobby Supply Presents
Eighth Annual SMD Spring Mini-Convention
Blue Ridge Mountain Fire Co.
13063 Monterey Lane, Blue Ridge Summit, PA 17214
Saturday, April 18, 2020
9:00 AM until 4:00 PM
For a good time, be part of the Mini-Con!

Convention Report


Bob Morningstar

By Bob Morningstar, MER Director

The 2019 Mid-Eastern Region “Liberty Bell” convention was held October 10-13 at the Valley Forge Crowne Plaza in King of Prussia, PA. I attended all 4 days and was really pleased with the experience. The hotel and hotel staff were excellent, the Convention committee did a great job of venue selection and negotiating a very reasonable room rate. The Convention Committee chair reported that there were 236 registered attendees.

The arrival and badging process was painless and took all of 2 minutes on Thursday. The “White Elephant” sale was well stocked with goodies to buy. I took up 15 items to sell, came home with only 5 items and I was $62 to the good when I checked out on Sunday morning.

Thursday night was the quarterly MER board meeting, items of significance included:

  • The MER newsletter editor has stepped down and the region is looking for a new editor, any takers?  Tom?
  • There was a discussion of having a full audit of the regions financials The expense is prohibitive and the board is working toward getting a financial review completed which serves the purpose of an audit but can be done by volunteers versus paying for a CPA. Not to worry as it appears we are in good financial shape and the MER treasurer is very conscientious.
  • The executive committee chairperson provided an update on the convention attendance and there was discussion about the competing RPM events taking away both presenters and clinicians from the NMRA conventions.

Friday morning there was a regional editor’s breakfast, for those involved in producing the divisional reports and the region report. Part of my duties as a director will be to oversee the production of the eLocal, so the opportunity to hear the various editors describe their processes and challenges was informative and useful. There was a interesting discussion about copyright and the importance that the editors ensure that any content (including photos and diagrams) be produced by the author or if from someone else that there is a written paper trail of permission to use. The main takeaway was that all the editors could use more content from the membership. Producing content for our Wheel Report provides an opportunity to share your modeling activities and is another avenue to learn from others. One division actually produces paper copies of the newsletter and places them in area hobby shops to increase the awareness of their division and the NMRA.   Perhaps something for us to consider?

The clinics were well done, the audio visual equipment worked, and the Philly division staff excelled in ensuring that someone on the convention staff was at each clinic to introduce each speaker, assist with the computer and projector, and present a certificate to the presenter at the end of the clinic (This was a great idea and I hope future convention planners do the same.).

My contest entry this year was the Western Maryland Cement Hopper clean out facility that was located on my layout. It took 2 hours to gently remove it from the layout and place it on a piece of homasote for display purposes. I entered it in the online display category and earned 3rd place with 79 points. I intend on taking the judges comments and revising the model for a later submission, hopefully to get to the 87 points necessary for a merit award.  Close but not close enough. The judges comments were encouraging and fair. A bit more attention to detail is what it needs.

I admit I am a clinic junkie and attended them from 8 AM until well into the evening (getting my monies worth). There were some very interesting clinics on 3D printing, another hobby of mine, and a fascinating clinic on poultry cars and poultry transport in the late 19th and early 20th century. Who knew that live chickens traveled by rail?  I didn’t.

Saturday was spent in clinics from morning until dinner, except for an informal meeting with a couple Master Model Railroaders and David Chance, MER AP manager.

They answered many of my questions and encouraged me to pursue the MMR.

I did not attend the banquet as I had plans to meet with old classmates from college that evening. The last day, Sunday, wrapped up with clinics in the morning and the annual MER business meeting. Twenty five or so members attended and yours truly was installed as a new Director at the very end.  

Overall it was worth my investment. I enjoyed a few days of total immersion in the hobby that I love. The new friends I made were priceless.   Next year’s convention is in Charlotte, NC. I have already marked off for it at work and encourage all to attend.

NJ Free-Mo at Liberty Bell Convention

By Mike Prokop

The Liberty Bell Convention will offer operations on the New Jersey Free-Mo HO scale modules throughout most of the convention weekend. While participating in operations or just viewing the modules, you’ll be able to admire the fine craftsmanship and modeling of the two module sets presented by the New Jersey Free-Mo group. Also, you’ll learn of the historic and prototypical significance of each module set.

Bill Grosse’s “Yardville” module features a look at the Pennsylvania Railroad’s presence in this small New Jersey town circa 1955. Part of the original Camden & Amboy line that successfully ran one of the first steam engines in the country in the 1830’s, Bill has represented the area very well with his modeling of local industries and customers along the line with superb details and interesting features of Yardville. If you like switching and spotting cars, Bill’s module offers plenty of operational opportunities that will challenge your skills and provide lots of fun and excitement.

Mike Prokop’s “Linden Street Freight Station” module is a late 1950’s replica of  the Reading Railroad’s facility on the Camden, NJ waterfront. Built to almost the exact prototype of the Reading property, this module operates just like the real thing. It features car float operations loading and unloading coal and freight cars. Coal is switched onto two raised trestles for truck transfer with freight spotted at the station and public delivery siding for processing. Transfer runs in and out of the facility offer additional challenges to operations. Mike’s Free-Mo module set was featured in the 2019 issue of Model Railroad Planning. If you have a copy, check it out and come operate on it in person.

One last note…when Mike and Bill connect up their modules, they generate plenty of traffic and car loadings between Camden and Yardville that keeps operations moving at a brisk pace. So, whether you’re an experienced operator or a beginner interested in learning and jumping into this fascinating part of the hobby, come operate on the New Jersey Free-Mo module setup. More details and information about operating times and format will be available in future newsletters and at the Liberty Bell Convention.

Liberty Bell Special Convention Update

By Charles Stevens, Philly Division NMRA

Just a friendly reminder to those of you who procrastinate like I do, the “Early Bird” registration date for Liberty Bell Special 2019, Mid-Eastern Region 2019 convention is August 31, 2019. You can register for an exciting weekend of clinics, displays and vendor visits at

Most of us probably don’t need a back to school calendar or reminder anymore. And for those who do need a nudge, the merchants on TV do an excellent job of reminding us that summer is almost over. But while you’re thinking of hanging up those white shorts and trousers you shouldn’t wear after Labor Day, give some serious thought to joining your fellow Region members at the Mid-Eastern Region convention at King-of-Prussia, PA, October 10th through October 13th.

The clinic schedule is full up starting Thursday night running through Sunday morning. In addition to the usual fare of presentations, there are several hands on or make and take sessions available for participants. Whether you want to learn T Trak modular, the finer points of resin car assembly, work on your AP Electrical award or build a Hunterline structure, we have something available for you. Many of the hands on sessions require prior sign up available on the convention registration form at You will also find a tentative clinic schedule on the site. As we approach the convention, please remember to check the convention website frequently for updates, additions and changes. There is even a place on the home page to sign up for emails whenever changes or additions are made to the site.

One thing not listed on the convention website is our vendor roster. Artist Peter Lero will be joined by such familiar names as, in no particular order, Micro Mark, Funaro & Camerlengo, CMR, Downtown Deco, Hunterline, and Nick and Nora Designs

And speaking of Nick and Nora Designs, our Saturday night railroad menu themed banquet will feature a presentation by Mike Baker of Nick & Nora Designs. Mike is been a professional artist and designer and founded TMB Custom Models in 1992. In addition to creating craftsman kits, Mike builds models and details rolling stock for clients. He will regale us with stories of his achievements and frustrations pursuing this career most of us only dream about.

In one of our previous articles we discussed the modular display from the Reading Modular Society that will be on display at Liberty Bell Special 2019. Your author would be remiss if he did not give equal time to the New Jersey Free-Mo display that will share the Reading Modular room. NJ Free-Mo will offer operating time or spectating time on their two modules. Bill Grosse’s Yardville module displays the Pennsylvania Railroad in the name sake town circa 1955. Mike Prokop’s Linden Street Freight Station recreates the Reading Railroad’s facilities on the Camden waterfront also packs a lot of operating opportunities in a small space. Mike’s module was featured in the 2019 issue of Model Railroad Planning.

As you can see, the Liberty Bell Special committee has strived (striven?) to fill all your Region convention expectations over Columbus Day weekend. Register on the convention website, pack the car and family and plan to be on one of the many roads that lead to King of Prussia, PA.

See you all there!

Liberty Bell Special 2019 Update

Submitted by Chip Stevens, Philadelphia Division/NMRA

Vacation? We don’t need no stinking vacation!

Said none of the convention committee for Liberty Bell Special 2019 ever. The committee and the Division are hard at work finalizing what promises to be a great experience for our attendees in October. The host hotel is so excited about our upcoming get-together, they’ve redecorated the entire lobby and common areas. Ask the Region Board members who navigated through the plastic curtains and plaster dust to hold their periodic meeting at the hotel last month if the renovations are actually taking place.

Your author is getting older by the day. I remember my high school sweetheart was pleased that she got an IBM Selectric typewriter as a graduation present. Typewrter? I mention this only to show how far we’ve come since 1961 and to demonstrate the importance of this new-fangled thing called “website”.  And I mention website because our webmaster is laboring diligently to keep the Special site updated with the latest news regarding the convention. In fact, he’s foresworn a vacation this summer to keep the site current with the committee’s progress. If you haven’t all ready done so, bookmark the site to stay abreast of all that is going on in preparation for October. Currently, the clinic schedule is on the site and I have it from good authority that the detailed clinic descriptions are about to be posted. Don’t let The Hot Rod Chicken leave you wondering. Check for an explanation.

Also on the site is a list of the Open Houses and OpSig sessions, again updated as we add layouts. There are a great number of super layouts covering all scales and interests. The committee has been in touch with the Weather Gods” to make sure there will be no rain for the outdoor layouts. Trust me! We would still like to have some of you “outliers” speak up for hosting visits at your empires for travelers to and from the convention.

For those who don’t want to leave our spacious new convention digs, there will be two modular layouts which will offer operating times within the hotel. Our thanks go out in advance to the Reading Company Technical & Historical Society Modular Group and the New Jersey FreeMo Group for donating their time and equipment to make this possible.

And what would a convention be without a banquet? Our very talented liaison with the hotel has challenged the hotel Chef to prepare something different for us Saturday night. This won’t be the usual rubber chicken drowned in gravy meal. Our liaison and the chef have agreed to prepare a buffet featuring actual dining car recipes for your enjoyment. We are hoping the banquet hall won’t sway and rock like a dining car, but the fare will equal or exceed what you may recall from the golden age of meals on rails.

So while you’re “down shore”, up in the Poconos, out at OBX, or wherever your vacation plans may take you, make time to register for Liberty Bell Special 2019. There are some deadlines posted on the website. Stay abreast of deadlines, additions, changes, and enhancements throughout the summer.

You’ll be glad you did!