This coming year marks forty years since the SMD received its charter on April 26, 1980. The initial geographical boundaries were Jefferson and Berkeley Counties in WV, Washington and Frederick Counties in MD, and Fulton County in PA. In the absence of records from that early period, I have summarized mentions of the SMD in the MER newsletter, The Local, including some of the people [SMD member names in bold face -ed.] and activities from the early years of the Division.
The first officers were:
Paul Berger – Superintendent
Ed Staeblein – Assist. Superintendent
Dennis Masters – Clerk/Paymaster
Directors – Larry Cunningham, Rick Morrison, and Ron Busey
Early activities in 1980 included, a fan trip to the EBT, a meet at the Maugansville Ruritan (with movies, clinics, model displays, model contest, and operating modules), and meetings at held by Ron Busey, Bill Madison, and Larry Cunningham.
Paul Berger was listed as Achievement Program (AP) assistant, and AP certificates were awarded to Paul Berger and William (Bill) Miller of the SMD.
Activities for 1981 included another meet at the Maugansville Ruritan, including contributions from Dennis Masters (HO modules), Bill Rinn (clinic on detailing cast locomotives), and Bud Sima (clinic on building structures from balsa).
This second group of officers was elected in 1981 (and re-elected in 1982):
Ron Busey – Superintendent
Robert Miller – Assistant Superintendant
Mary Synowiec (later Miller) – Clerk/Paymaster
Directors – Warren Hart, Earl Reitzel, and Marv Kershner
Planned activities for 1982 included a clinic on wiring by George Perrine, a visit to Harry Clark’s Indian Creek Valley, tours of the Martinsburg Club’s HO scale Blue Ridge & Allegany RR, their O scale Ditch & Gauly RR, Lynn Breland’s HO Lost River & Western RR, Bill Wood’s HO B&O RR, Dave Southerly’s Piedmont Valley RR (WM branch), Jeff Madden’s HO WV layout, and Mike Kidwell’s HO Willoby & Western. There was a visit to the Hagerstown Model Railroad Club (including a raffle won by Dick Powell, Dispatcher for the WM Ry and a clinic on adhesives by Ron Busey), plus visit to the Strasburg (including mention of an injury to Rev. Harry Miller while demonstrating use of a handcar).
The March/April 1982 issue of the The Local contained an article about Paul Berger’s Potomac Central Railroad including a track plan.
Planned activities for 1983 included meetings and clinics at Ron Busey’s and John Kelly’s, a third meet at the Maugansville Ruritan featuring tape slide clinics, a “Pale Pachyderm” sale, modular layouts, and 10 new members. It was noted that the winners of door prizes were Chris Knight (antique bottle car kit (bottle and trucks – he had to figure out how to assemble it.)); Todd Michael (G&D hopper); and Jim Eells (B&O caboose). Meetings took place at Mike Kidwell’s HO Willoby & Western, and at Larry Snook’s layout there was a wood structure assembly session led by Ron Busey. Carpools to the MER spring convention in Wilmington, DE.
Officers elected for 1983 were:
Bob Miller, Superintendent
Mary (Synowiec) Miller, Assistant Superintendent
Steve Green, Clerk/Paymaster
Director – [names not listed -ed.]
Notice of the SMD’s first sponsored fall 1983 MER Convention in Hagerstown appeared in the November/December 1982 issue of the The Local. Paul Berger served as convention chair. Jay Beckham served as registrar, and Warren Hart gave a clinic on rocks.
The convention included layout tours to the following:
- The Hagerstown Model Railroad Club,
- Paul Berger’s Potomac Central,
- Warren Hart’s Potomac Valley and Western,
- Jay Beckham’s Columbia and Port Deposit Branch (PRR),
- Will Snyder’s Antietam Valley,
- Jeff Madden’s South Penn RR (B&O),
- Mike Kidwell’s Willoby & Western,
- The Martinsburg Model Railroad Club,
- Luther Ratcliff’s HO layout (un-named), and
- Dave Southerly’s Piedmont Valley.
According to reports in The Local, Jeff Madden won three (3) prizes for photography, and the South Mountain Fireball Award was presented to Paul Backentose for a diesel and slug.
After 1983, The Local did not give a complete listing of SMD officers; however, Mary Miller and Lynn Breland were mentioned as holding the Superintendent position.
In the January/February 1985 issue of The Local, there was a notice of the SMD hosting a layout tour for the Dixie Division including layouts by the following: Jeff Madden, Lynn Breland, Luther Ratcliff, Dave Southerly, Will Snyder, Warren Hart, Paul Berger, and Bob Johnson.
Over the early years of the Division’s history, the following SMD members served in various Regional positions:
Bill Miller – Director, MER
Mary Miller – Model Contest Committee Chair, MER
Paul Berger – Achievement Program Coordinator, SMD
Dennis Masters – Ballot Committee Chair, MER
After the 1985 Quad Regional Convention held in Harrisburg, Mary Miller thanked SMD members Bill Miller, Jay Beckham, and Dennis Masters for their assistance with the model contest.
Allow me to end this summary with some observations. Many of the activities the SMD scheduled in the past are similar to those the Division sets up today, including meetings in members’ homes, visits to their layouts, clinics, and railfan trips. Also consider that the early meets held at the Ruritan were strikingly similar to present our day Mini-Cons.
Although many of the names listed above may not be familiar, a few are still active. These are the people who established your South Mountain Division and gave it the solid foundation it enjoys today. They deserve congratulations for their efforts starting the Division.