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!

13063 Monterey Ln, Blue Ridge Summit, PA 17214, USA

Author: smdnmra

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