MER Convention Seeks Clinicians


I am the Convention Clinic Chair for the 2023 Around the Curve to Altoona Convention 2023 Around the Curve to Altoona Convention hosted by our Susquehanna Division 11. I’d like to extend a warm welcome and invitation to each of you and any of your Division members who would like to present a clinic at our 18-22 October Convention. As you know, Altoona was the heart of the Pennsylvania Railroad during the heyday of American railroading. The Convention will provide visits to historic railroad facilities, sites, attractions, and provide educational experiences for all attendees.

For those who have never presented at a regional convention they can earn 4 points toward the Author Achievement Program. This could be their first step in the path to achieving MMR status. We welcome any topic associated with model railroading or prototype railroading that is related to our model railroading hobby.

As currently structured, our clinic program will offer 50+ clinic slots over the four-day convention. A clinic slot is based on a 45-50 minute clinic, 10-15 minutes for Q&A, and 30-minutes for setup, tear down, and break time between clinics. Each of our 3 clinic rooms will have a full audio/visual setup, tables for model displays or other support material, and a convention clinic team member who will introduce the clinician and provide any assistance needed during the presentation.

We sincerely look forward to welcoming you and many of your members to Altoona in October.

Best Regards,

Barry Schmitt

[To contact Barry or others on the Convention committee please visit, or email the SMD at, and we will put you in touch. -ed]

UPDATE II – From the Desk of the Superintendent

No February SMD meeting.

I would like to offer my apologies to all of you for the Shakespearian events (The Comedy of Errors) surrounding the February SMD meeting.   The issue started way back in late august of 2022 when we were planning the monthly meetings for the 2022 – 2023 SMD year.  We had originally scheduled the February meeting to be hosted by Andrew Dodge on the 3rd Sunday of February (February 19th) to avoid any conflicts with the Super Bowl.

At the same time Jane and Pete Clarke were scheduled to host the March meeting on the usual 2nd Sunday. After some discussion we decided to flip the February and March meetings in the possible event of inclement weather in February.  Everyone was satisfied with this change so that is how the 2022 – 2023 meeting agenda was sent out to all back in September.

Unfortunately I apparently failed to make it clear to the Clarke’s that the February meeting was scheduled for the 3rd Sunday.  If I had, they would not have been able to host the February meeting due to a conflict of interest (something about a Winter Spectacular weekend at the EBT with engine 16 in steam for the first time in the tourist era).

When we sent the reminder out for the February meeting no one caught the date discrepancy.  At the last minute (like Saturday) I received two emails from members requesting the meeting date.  Things went downhill from there.  If I had let sleeping dogs lie it probably would have worked out but no – I had to try to address the issue.

Net result – There will not be a South Mountain Division in February and the March meeting will be at Andrew Dodge’s home (more on that soon).

Again, I offer my apologies for the mix-up (feel free to fire me  – but whoever starts the recall action will automatically become the new Superintendent).  If you’d like more information on the East Broad Top Winter Spectacular, click the following hyperlink.

Bob Johnson
2022 – 2023 SMD Superintendent

Hey folks,

Last week’s email [and this, now amended, post ~ed] was incorrect. The Division membership meeting at Pete & Jane Clarke’s is NOT happening on 12 February, but rather, this coming Sunday, 19 Feb., at 2pm.

Again, there is NO SMD NMRA membership meeting (Sunday, 12 February).

This decision was made all the way back during last summer’s planning meeting so as not to conflict with Super Bowl Sunday, and simply slipped our minds when we were publishing the reminder. As you all know, typically, our meetings are the second Sunday of the month, not the third.

We apologize for the confusion; we knew better and should have caught it. We hope to see you all at the Clarke’s next Sunday the 19th for the membership meeting and Mat Thompson’s clinic on the AP program’s Master Builder certificate.

The monthly meeting of the South Mountain Division (SMD) will be held on Sunday, 12 February at the home of Jane and Pete Clarke in Damascus, MD. As per usual, the event starts at 2:00 PM with the business meeting beginning around 2:45 PM.

Pete and Jane are rather narrow minded (HOn3 narrow that is) and have a very nice operational layout based on the East Broad Top Railroad. This layout has been featured in Great Model Railroads and is well worth your time to visit. Jane and Pete have provided the following information for your edification.

We model the East Broad Top Railroad in 1926. The EBT was a narrow-gauge line that ran from coal mines in the Robertsdale area of the mountains to an iron furnace in Orbisonia/Rockhill Furnace and then up to Mount Union where there was a coal cleaning plant, refractory brick plants, and an interchange with the Pennsylvania Railroad. (News Flash: It was bought on 2/14/2020 and has been re-opened. Very, very soon steam will return as engine #16, which has not run since the line closed for freight operations in the 1950’s, will again pull the trains)

By 1926 the iron furnace was long gone, but on our version, it has been re-opened by the current owners, the Madeira Hill Co. The furnace consumes large amounts of coal (which needs to be coked first), limestone, and iron ore. Its output is pig iron which is then taken to Mt. Union. This has added a great deal of operational interest to the railroad. The fact that the iron furnace has reopened created a renewed need for iron ore and limestone. Both those had been mined along the Shade Gap branch of the EBT. So, the Shade Gap branch, which had fallen on hard times since the furnace closed in 1908, has been rebuilt. In Shade Gap this line serves limestone and iron ore mines. In Neelyton (the end of the Shade Gap branch) it serves the ganister mine for the refractory brick plants in Mt. Union and a lumber mill. Both towns also get miscellaneous freight and have coal dealers for home heating.

The layout is in a 20’ x 26’ basement and is fully scenicked. It’s early fall, so it’s still warm in the valley but cold on the mountain. Both of us work on models. Jane scratchbuilt the Orbisonia station and roundhouse and Pete the company store and houses in Robertsdale. The excellent models of Ewings Mill and Neelyton station were built by Frank Benenati. Other structures are kits (many by White Ground) or kit-bashed. There are still models to be done, but there’s at least a stand-in for every structure so the layout looks complete.

For the street address, please email

Note: Park on the street or driveway and enter through the front door. Unfortunately, our basement is not handicapped-accessible

After the meeting, Mat Thompson, MMR will present a clinic on meeting the requirements for the AP Master Builder-Cars certificate and other general information concerning the MMR program.

The usual admonition is still in effect. If you have symptoms of COVID or have recently been exposed, we would ask you not to attend. Otherwise, everyone is welcome.

Turnout for the SMD year to date has been even better than I had hoped — Let’s keep up the trend and have an even better turnout as we continue in the new calendar year.

Bob Johnson
2022-2023 SMD Superintendent

Draft Meeting Minutes, 8 January 2023

Division members met in-person at the home of Steve & Hollis King near Fayetteville, PA.  21 or so were present. After admiring the layout and socializing, the Superintendant welcomed everyone and called the business meeting to order at 2:30 p.m.

23.11​  Paymaster’s Report:  Paymaster Ray Price reported the SMD bank balance was $3,457.91 (the same as last month).

23.1-2​  Clerk’s Report (Meeting Minutes): The attendees dispensed with the reading/summary of the minutes (previously distributed by e-mail). As there were no comments or corrections, per Roberts Rules of Order, the draft minutes, as submitted, were approved by acclamation.

23-1.3  Superintendent Bob Johnson thanked Steve King for hosting. Steve spoke a little about his Virginia Midland Railway: This is the 5th version of it that he has built3 while he lived in Chicago, one while he lived in Germantown and now this one. He told of how the V M was developed with the Virginian & Ohio of Allen McClelland and the Allegheny Midland by Tony Koester. In their Proto-Freelance world the 3 lines realized that they, like the real railroads of the time, had to consolidate to remain competitive. Together they formed the Appalachian Lines and have managed to remain financially competitive in the harsh railroad world of 1969.

Old Business:  

22-10.5  Mini-Con 2023 the second Saturday in AprilApril 8, 2023:  The general plan was reviewed.

Informal clinics will be held in the morning.
Rather than a break for lunch, during lunch time, there will be a group of experts who will hold a roundtable discussion of model railroad topics while attendees eat.
Lunch is expected to be handled by the same folks who did it in 2022.
Rather than formal clinics after lunch (as was done in years past), the plan is to then resume informal clinics for the afternoon. Members were reminded that informal clinics are as simple as bringing something to work on and just being willing to talk to people about what you are doing. These conversations should not be thought of as public speaking:  you are just talking about a topic you enjoy to those who have an interest in it.

22-11.4​  SMD Summer Trip in 2023:  The trip to visit the EBT in July was discussed. Jane and Pete Clarke were charged with preparing a plan and cost estimate. Discussion was had about the day of the week – weekend vs. weekday trip. While a vote was not taken, it was clear that everyone present felt that a weekday would make more sense.

New Business:

23-1.4  NMRA annual reporting:  The Superintendent stated that it was completed and submitted.

Adjournment:  The Superintendent accepted a motion to adjourn.  The next meeting will be on February 12th at Jane & Pete Clarke’s home near Damascus, MD.  Mat Thompson MMR will speak on the Car Builder Certificate (one of the steps to becoming a Master Model Railroader).  Members will be reminded by e-mail.

Notes for the Minutes taken by Pete Clarke (with assistance from Jane Clarke) and formatted by Clerk Harvey Heyser

Following the meeting, host Steve King showed slides of his 2004 trip to China to see the last of their steam engines at work.  These were 2-10-2 and 2-8-2 type locomotives working up heavy grades with coal cars – all real, no photo run by’s.

National announces NMRA Interchange 

From the NMRA…
We are really pleased to announce the launch of the NMRA Interchange. The Interchange will provide an online space for our members to collaborate, learn, exchange ideas and information, and much more! Born from the wish of members of the NMRAx team to connect members from across the globe without the need for any formality, as well as Marketing’s desire to move away from the website forums, and driven by the National Team’s wish to unburden Regions and Divisions from the costs associated with hybrid/online meetings, we happily present the NMRA Interchange. It is estimated that if each NMRA Region and Division had to self-fund online meeting software it would cost the organization over $25,000 per year. This is money that we would much prefer go towards growing the hobby in your local areas instead. 
The NMRA Interchange will connect you with members from across the NMRA using voice and text chat. The Hangout rooms are available for video conversations anytime without the need to pre-schedule. Each Region and Division also has its own space where only local members can see what is posted. It is a great place to promote local events, meetings, train shows, and even op sessions. Each SIG (Special Interest Group, as listed on has its own place to announce events and answer questions from NMRA members. In addition, we have created a place where you can have your own channel for your layout or share your model railroading journey. Events will be promoted at the very top of the menu, and we will be running training sessions for Division members who organize meetings so that we can show you how to create and promote events. 
The onboarding process is necessary to ensure the NMRA Interchange remains only for NMRA members. Without a membership number and completion of the onboarding process, your access to the NMRA Interchange will be limited. If you struggle with the onboarding process there is a channel called “#i-need-help” where the Interchange Team will assist you. As with the Digital Magazine you must use your membership number and a clearance code will be sent to the same email address registered with the website in order to complete the onboarding process. 
The NMRA Interchange uses the Discord platform, which is available through a web browser like Microsoft Edge or Google Chrome. You can also download the Discord desktop application or the Discord mobile app for your smartphone and/or tablet. The software works on iOS, MacOS, Windows, Linux, and Android you can download the Discord application from here:

Joining the Interchange

Register for Discord and find the NMRA Interchange 
1) Go to to log in as a member.
a) If you are not registered with yet, you can register with your email address on file in the NMRA membership system.
2) Read through the page and then follow the link invite link: it will look something like this –
3) You will then be taken to Discord where you will be prompted to sign into Discord if you already have an account or prompted to register.
a)You can find instructions for creating an account or logging into Discord here.
NMRA Interchange Onboarding
You will now be in the NMRA Interchange Server “Lobby” where you now need to complete the onboarding process.
1) Type /onboard into the message box at the bottom of the screen. When the command with the NMRA logo appears, click on this and then enter your membership number. Do not forget to add the 00 or 0A at the end if displayed on your membership card, including the space.
2) When you have entered your membership number, press the Enter key and you will see the Interchange Bot reply to your message with the email address you are registered with at Only you can see this message.
3) Go to your email mailbox and you should have received an email from the NMRA with a single-use code that you will need to enter into the Interchange to complete the onboarding process. (Remember to check your spam folder, too.)
4) Return to the NMRA Interchange and enter /clearance click on the interchange bot as you did during step 1 and enter the code from your email after input. (Make sure you don’t add any spaces.) Then press Enter again and the Interchange Bot will tell you it is working and confirm that your onboarding has been successful. If the Bot tells you onboarding has failed please repeat the /onboard membership number step.
You will know when the onboarding process has been completed when many more channels appear in your menu, as well as a channel just for your local division in your region. 
Discord has produced a handy guide to help you get started with the NMRA Interchange:
However, should you have difficulties or if you think the Bot has placed you in the wrong Division please use the “#i-need-help” channel for support from the NMRA Interchange Team. 
Finally, we would like to thank the months of efforts by our team and our NMRA Interchange testers from the James River, Central Indiana, and Twin Cities Divisions. However, a special thank you goes out to Speed Muller, Jordan Kramer, Michelle Kempema, Aaron Stinson, Frank Trocchia, and Brad Anderson. Without them, we wouldn’t be able to add this fantastic benefit to our members and local organizations. 
Gordy Robinson
NMRA President

From the Desk of the Superintendent

The monthly meeting of the South Mountain Division (SMD) will be held on Sunday, January 8th at the home of division member Steve King.

As we continue our revitalized home layout tour program I hope you will take advantage of the opportunity to see Steve’s reconstructed Virginia Midland.  This layout was originally located in Germantown, MD but was disassembled and moved to Pennsylvania several years ago.  The original Virginia Midland, which is modeled in N-scale, was a very nice operational line but Steve feels that the rebuilt version is even better.

Steve has provided the following description of his layout for your edification.

The Virginia Midland is a fully operational N-scale railroad located in the Virginia and West Virginia area and set during the 1969 period.  The layout is about 10 scale miles long and operates between two staging areas representing Marion, VA and Welch, WV.  One passenger train, four freight trains, plenty of coal trains, and several daily mine runs keep the layout busy.

Steve’s house is located in Fayetteville, PA (two houses down the street from Don Florwick). Please email the SMD at for the street address.

As always, the meeting will start at 2:00 PM.  Following the business meeting Steve will present a slide program focusing on Chinese external combustion (read steam) locomotives as they existed in mainland
China around the year 2000.

The usual admonition is still in effect — If you are ill, have symptoms of COVID-19 or have been recently exposed, we would ask you not to attend.  Otherwise, everyone is welcome.

Turnout for the SMD year to date has been very good —  Let’s keep up the trend and have an even better turnout as we start the new calendar year.

Please find and review last months meeting minutes on the previous post.

Bob Johnson

2022-2023 SMD Superintendent