MER Annual Group Meeting

My fellow MER members:

I would like to invite you to the MER Annual Group Meeting. Due to the pandemic, this meeting will be held virtually. The meeting will begin at 7 PM, Saturday, October 10, 2020. It will be held using the Zoom meeting service.

Links to both the Annual Group Meeting and the MER Board of Directors meeting are listed below. The MER Board of Directors meeting will be held on Thursday, October 8th at 7 PM.

Also there is a general service note for you to follow to install and use Zoom. This document was prepared for you by our Webmaster, Jeff Burch.

If you are not familiar with using Zoom, please do not wait until meeting time to attempt to use and install it. Jeff and I will open the meeting up between 6:30 and 6:45 PM Saturday evening.

I look forward to having as many of you attend as possible. This time the meeting is available virtually which means you don’t have to leave home to attend.

Kurt Thompson, MMR
President, Mid-Eastern Region, NMRA, Inc.

Detailed instructions regarding the MER-NMRA Board of Directors Meeting, please read if you plan to attend virtually.

Detailed instructions regarding the MER-NMRA Annual Group Meeting, please read if you plan to attend virtually.

Detailed instructions regarding the use of Zoom, please read if you plan to attend virtually.

Clutter from the Super’s Desk

Alex Polimeni, superintendent (2017-2020), NMRA South Mountain Division. (Tom Fedor)

My friends,

The months since we last enjoyed each other’s company at Jay Beckham’s house have undoubtedly been some of the strangest and most trying any of us have experienced. I’ll be the first to admit this year’s upheavals have knocked the wind out of me, and I can only imagine it’s the same for so many of you.

What this means for South Mountain is that we need to get our Division back on the rails for what is undoubtedly going to be a year like none before in SMD’s history. Invariably there is opportunity amidst adversity, and this pandemic has also created an opportunity for model railroaders everywhere to both work on their projects and collaborate with each other across the digital divide.

Moving forward, SMD will hold our postponed officer’s election during this September’s virtual Zoom membership meeting Sunday, September 13th at 2pm.

We’ll also be holding Zoom test calls Friday, September 11th at 7pm and again on Saturday, September 12th at 1pm so folks can make sure they’re able to connect.

As there are no contested races, we need only a quorum of 15 votes to elect this year’s slate by acclimation. We ask that all members, whether you’re planning to participate in the Zoom meeting or not, email your votes to, clearly specifying whom you’re voting to elect to each position (Superintendent, Clerk, or Paymaster).

Please make sure your votes are submitted by Saturday, September 12th. The Clerk will then allocate your votes by proxy during the meeting, allowing for a motion of election by acclamation to be made and carried. I will then hand off Division affairs to the new slate of officers at the conclusion of the meeting.

Our incoming officers have a huge task ahead of them- but, I’m not worried, because if the last three years have taught me anything, it’s no Superintendent could ask for a more supportive membership than you. I’ve gone into every term of my tenure as Superintendent excited about that year’s prospects for SMD, and because of all of you, this year is no different. You care about your Division, you want to see it succeed, and I have total faith that together, we will emerge from this tumultuous time stronger than ever.

Thank you again for a great three years,

Alex Polimeni, Superintendent

2020/21 SMD Officer Candidates

Jerome “Jerry” Skeim, candidate for South Mountain Division Superintendent, is pictured outside his Thurmont, MD home on 25 August 2020. (Tom Fedor)

Candidate for Superintendent

I desire to lead a truly outstanding group of model railroaders. Participation is the key to a healthy division. Besides the obvious love that we all share for railroading, for me the NMRA is all about the people. What you and I bring to the division makes it what it is and what it can become.

We are currently living with COVID-19. This pandemic is challenging us to both maintain our health and our associations with others. Until we can meet again in person we will have to use alternate methods to stay in touch. As most of you are aware, there are a number of ways to do electronic meetings, so one of the current available options will have to be decided on and implemented. The challenge is to serve as many members as we can. Also understanding that some do not have the option of utilizing current technology. It will be a challenge to be as inclusive as possible.

At the same time we need to be good stewards of our finances and do what we can to retain current membership and promote the hobby with the goal of increasing membership.

I managed a branch office of a financial institution for 15 years. Served in the military for over 20 years. Prior to my retirement I worked for the Army National Guard Bureau in Arlington, VA. For the past two years I have served as the Assistant Superintendent of the South Mountain Division.

I retired in 2017, and have been married for over 40 years to the love of my life. We have 5 adult children. 

I have been a member of the NMRA since 1971. I participate in as many railroad events that I can ranging from commercial shows, layout tours, NMRA sponsored events and meetings, national, regional, local conventions, mini-cons, presentations and operations opportunities.

I have a love for all scales in the hobby but my main interests are On30, On3 and 2-rail O scale. A new narrow gauge layout is currently in the construction stage. This was a point to point, 33 mile common carrier and logging railroad once headquartered in North Central Minnesota.

Incumbent Candidate for Clerk

Harvey Heyser III, clerk (2017-2020), NMRA South Mountain Division. (Tom Fedor)

As a scale modeler for 50 years or so, I have modeled in HO, O, and now large scale, specifically G scale (1:22.5), using gauge one (1-3/4”) track which represents meter gauge (I use it to represent 3 ft. gauge.).  The three layouts I have started all got to the ‘plywood dragon’ stage and went no further.

I find early 20th century (before WWII) prototype railroads quite fascinating.  My favorite is the Cumberland and Pennsylvania.  Now that I am retired, I plan to model the C&P as a freelance, 1920s, coal hauling, narrow gauge short line. Layout design and operations also fascinate me. Contacts made through the SMD have given me many opportunities to participate in both those activities.

I have been an NMRA member since the 1970s and an SMD member since returning to the Shepherdstown, WV area in the mid-1980s.  I very much appreciate the SMD for the opportunities for fellowship and the chance to learn new things about our hobby.

Incumbent Candidate for Paymaster

Raymond Price, Paymaster (2017-2020), NMRA South Mountain Division. (Tom Fedor)

I joined the SMD in 1987 after moving to Frederick County.  I reside in the eastern part of the county, almost along the Carroll County line.  I have served in all of the elected positions within the division and even edited the newsletter.

I am interested in modeling the late 19th – early 20th century to 1904, primarily because of smaller equipment and shorter trains.  Currently I am planning a small 4×8’ layout to test how I do with building one.  I also enjoy operations and participate in that aspect as often as I can.

SMD Draft Meeting Minutes – 8 March 2020

Minutes submitted by Clerk Harvey Heyser

Division members met at the home of Jay Beckham near Berkeley Springs, WV.  24 or so were present.  After viewing Jay’s layout, Superintendent Alex Polimeni called the business meeting to order.

20.3-1 Paymaster’s Report:  Paymaster Ray Price reported that the Division has $3930.17 in its bank account.  That balance took into consideration the $40.19 spent for two Wheel Reports.  Purchase of the $150 Mainline Hobbies gift certificate for the Mini-Con raffle prize will happen soon.

20.3-2 Clerk’s Report (Meeting Minutes):  Clerk Harvey Heyser summarized the draft minutes for the February meeting (previously distributed by e-mail).  Jerry Skeim made the following motion (second by Ray Price):

Motion:  That the draft Minutes for the January 2020 meeting be approved as submitted.  The motion passed unanimously.

Old Business:

19.9-7 2020 Mini-Con:  [Because of the Corona virus emergency, the 2020 Mini-Con had to be cancelled.  That decision was made in coordination with Brian Wolfe of Mainline Hobbies.]  Chair  Pete Clarke’s report from the March SMD meeting is, therefore, summarized here:  Food, raffle, door prize, clinics (informal, formal, and make & take), venders, clean-up, and electrical needs were all lined-up.  The Superintendent volunteered to print and bring name tags for SMD members, who do not have them.

The Corona virus situation was discussed based on the very limited information available at the date of the SMD meeting.  Disinfectant would be available at the event.  Members were advised not to come to the Mini-Con if they have respiratory issues.  It was noted that attendance could not be predicted because of the fluid nature of the situation.  It was clear that Chair Clarke and Mainline Hobbies were taking the situation seriously and had given a great deal of thought to how to respond.

20.1-7 Nominations Committee for the May Election:  Committee Chair Ron Polimeni reported two members are considering running for Superintendent.  Alex Polimeni indicated that he will help with the transition and that past Superintendents have been extremely helpful during his terms.  Three members can also nominate someone (with the nominee’s consent).

20.2-4 SMD promotional pamphlet (tri-fold) giving specific information about Division activities:  Bob Johnson reported that 400 brochures had been printed (using the graphics and text reviewed at the February meeting) for the cost authorized at the last meeting.  The intention is to distribute them at the Mini-Con and to place them at Mainline Hobbies, HobbyTown – Frederick, and other hobby shops.

New Business:

20.3-3 Host Jay Beckham welcomed everyone to his home.  The SMD expressed thanks for hosting the meeting.

20.3-4 Membership privileges:  In answer to a question, it was pointed out that NMRA membership allows for attendance to any division meet; however voting privileges apply only for the division a member is assigned to by zip code.  It was also pointed out that the NMRA has a data field for changing division assignment for members who wish to belong to a different division from the one based on their zip code.

20.3-5 East Broad Top Foundation:  The news of the forming of a non-profit foundation composed of experienced railroad people (including Joseph Kovalchik and Wick Moorman) was greeted with excitement.  Membership in the Friends of the East Broad Top (FEBT) was suggested for anyone who wishes to support the Foundation and its work.  Tentative plans are to get the railroad operating soon using rail car M-1 and diesel switchers.

Adjournment:  The Superintendent accepted a motion to adjourn.  The next meeting is scheduled for May 17, 2020 at Steve King’s home in Fayetteville, PA.  [Because of the Corona virus emergency, this meeting was canceled.]

Following the meeting, host Jay Beckham presented a clinic on laser cutters for model railroading.  He followed the presentation with a demonstration – cutting out an outhouse.  (Yes the interior furnishings were included but, thankfully, not the smell.  May Whit Towers rest in peace.)  Members modeling the less advanced years of railroading got outhouse samples to take home.

Model Railroading: An Ideal Hobby

Photography and essay by Jack Fritz

Never trust a man who doesn’t have a hobby, a female friend once told me. Thank goodness model railroading has been my hobby of choice for over 30 years – I must be very trustworthy.

Why do we enjoy this hobby so much? Forget the idea of the train set running under the Christmas tree or G-scale trains running around a sports bar ceiling. How do we explain our love for the hobby to inquiring minds at a barbecue or cocktail party? How do we convey our enjoyment of various aspects of the hobby: track installation and design, scenery and buildings, locomotives and rolling stock, electronics, simulating switching problems, creating a diorama depicting time and place, railroad research, history and documentation, and railroad art?

For me, the joy of model railroading is twofold.

  1. I get to recreate a world of transportation long gone by.
  2. I can create a complete transportation infrastructure in miniature.

We begin with a planning exercise – what do we want to see before our eyes – perhaps a train pulled by a steam locomotive trundling through the countryside as a period piece?

We strive to create a realistic depiction of time and place, as if we were standing on a station platform. What does our world of rail transportation look like in 1900, 1945 or 1970? In this process we find ourselves trying to understand what the physical world was like, especially the world of railroad work involving varieties of heavy machinery. It’s a way to travel back in time, historically and artistically.

Through this hobby, I am reminded that modern America was not borne out of Silicon Valley, but from workers and tycoons during the late 19th and first half of the 20th century in towns like Bethlehem, Pittsburgh, and Baltimore. For those of us interested in steel mills, coal mines, lumber mills and heavy industrial enterprises, research helps us dive deeper into the reality of that time. It’s important to learn about the organization of work in pre-internet America (for those of us who haven’t already experienced it) and the complicated battles fought between labor, management. Wherever there were railroads, there were adjacent enterprises dependent on national connections, and homes and neighborhoods subject to air pollution, noise, unpaved streets, and outdoor plumbing.

Because of model railroading, I’ve can appreciate even more those who inhabited these neighborhoods and did these dirty and dangerous jobs to create the America we know today. By creating these worlds in miniature and giving thought to their complicated histories, we honor those who built industrial America.