Mainline Hobby Supply Layout Tours, September 2023

Mainline Hobby Supply

Open House / Layout Tours

16 & 17 September 2023

Mainline Hobby reports they have will several new layouts to view and lots of changes to the familiar layouts.

To participate you must show up at the store, 15066 Buchanan Trl E, Blue Ridge Summit, PA, 17214 (doors open at 9:00 AM Saturday, 12:00 PM on Sunday). Ask for a tour book. There is no charge for this event.

URGENT UPDATE re: East Broad Top RR trip

NEW DATE: Friday, 11 August 2023

I have been informed by Jane Clarke that the trains on 16-28 July will be pulled by the diesel instead of #16. Since one of the objectives for this excursion is going to see the, recently returned to service, steam locomotive it will be necessary for us to reschedule the SMD event.

Per Jane, the advance ticket sales for the 4 August are already almost sold out, so I have moved the SMD event to Friday, 11 August. In order to ensure that you can get a ticket to ride I am asking everyone to purchase their tickets online as soon as possible. When ordering get combo tickets for the 1 PM shop tour and 3 PM train. Use the link below.


In addition to the Robertsdale visit and pizza lunch, the SMD group will be doing all three Rockhill Furnace activities (EBT ride, EBT shop tour, & Rockhill trolley ride). Please purchase an “All Aboard” combo ticket package to stick with our group. Reminder, when ordering get combo tickets for the 1 PM shop tour and 3 PM train.

Combo Tickets

This package includes tickets aboard our one-hour, steam powered train excursion, our one-hour guided tour of the EBT’s remarkably intact belt-driven machine shop complex, and general admission tickets to the Rockhill Trolley Museum.

All other arrangements, schedules, etc. remain as originally announced so we will see you at Robertsdale on the morning of 11 August. The tickets for the Robertsdale museum area tour can be purchased on the day of the event.

I sincerely apologize for any inconvenience, but I am certain that at least 99% of us want to see #16 in action.

As before we ask that you notify me as to why and how many (including guests) are planning on attending so that we can make the lunch arrangement (which are still on the Division’s dime).

Bob Johnson, 2022-2024 Superintendent

Wheel Report – Summer, 2023 – SPECIAL EDITION

From the Desk of the Division Superintendent

Robert “Bob” Johnson, Superintendent (2022-24)

This special edition of the Wheel Report addresses a number of activities and events so please be sure to read the entire post.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank all of the people who hosted meetings and / or presented clinics during the past year (2022 / 2023). This was our first full year of face to face meetings since the 2018 / 2019 program year (something called COVID-19 seems to have gotten in the way since then). Attendance at the past year’s meetings was quite good although not quite up to the level that is was prior to COVID. My aim, with your help, is to not only get back to previous attendance levels but to exceed them.

East Broad Top Railroad Tour

The date for the planned special tour of the East Broad Top Railroad has been set for Friday, July 28th (Now Friday, 11 August). I realize that this date may not work for some of you that have to work on Friday but it was selected to avoid the large weekend crowds and allow those of us attending to have a better experience. Our semi-official hosts for the day will be our own Jane Clarke and her helper Pete Clarke. Both of them are very active in the Friends of the East Broad Top and are quite knowledgeable as to the history and operation of the EBT.

NOTE: The estimated cost for the day will be – $46.00 per person for all of the various tickets you will need (pay as you go – not a single ticket).

The schedule for the day is as follows:

  • 10:00 AM – Meet at the Friends of the EBT museum in Robertsdale, PA – Tour Museum & adjacent mine area
  • 11:30 AM – Lunch (Pizza) Provided by the SMD
  • Noon – Depart for Orbisonia (Est. arrival 12:45)
  • 1:00 PM – Guided shop tour
  • 3:00 PM – Ride Train (Engine 16)
  • 4:00 PM – Trolley ride

You are welcome to bring guests with you. We do ask that you email if you are planning on participating and let us know how many people will be in your group.

2023/24 Division Meeting Schedule

The regular monthly meetings of the SMD will start in September of 2023 and run through May of 2024. Meetings are held on the 2nd Sunday of the month September through March starting at 2:00 PM. In lieu of the April meeting we will again be hosting an annual SMD Mini-Convention at the Blue Ridge Summit fire hall (across the street from Main Line Hobby Supply). The May meeting, as usual, is moved to the 3rd Sunday to avoid a conflict with Mother’s Day.

For those of you who are not currently participating in the regular division meetings, a meeting normally starts with a social period to allow everyone to enjoy the host’s layout (if they have one) or to examine other aspects of the host’s modeling efforts. This is followed by a short business meeting and then we frequently have a modeling clinic put on by one of our members or a guest presenter.

The SMD does not collect any dues or supplemental fees. The meeting host typically provides refreshments and we do accept voluntary donations at the meetings to help defray the costs of these refreshments.

Membership in both the South Mountain Division (SMD) and the Mid-East Region (MER) of the NMRA is automatic if you live in the areas highlighted on the map below.

Call for Meeting Hosts and Clinicians

We make an effort each year to schedule most of our meetings at locations that are either new to the division, or locations that we have not visited for several years. Each meeting will give you the opportunity to see how your fellow modelers have approached the hobby and to learn new techniques.

If you would like to host a meeting during the 2023/24 program year and/or present a clinic, or have a suggestion for a future clinic, please email as soon as possible.

2023/24 Division Communication Strategy

Current plans call for the Wheel Report to be issued on a monthly basis starting with the September issue which will come out in mid to late August. Each issue will deal primarily with the upcoming meeting and any current issues of interest to the membership of the division. Other content will include, but not necessarily be limited to:

  • Notices of upcoming events such as train shows. The membership is encouraged to send notices to for inclusion.
  • Critical Division business that will be taken up during the next meeting for action by the group.
  • Short articles written by members of the SMD and/or photos of interest. These may include articles about your modeling efforts, fan trips, etc. We will also be printing content addressing NMRA content such as the Achievement Program, SMD/MER web content of special interest, etc. Again, the membership is encouraged to provide content.

Please email suggestions for ways we can improve SMD communications to

Along those lines we are going to try to cover, at least, the business portion of upcoming meetings (and clinics when practical) with a ZOOM link.

NMRA & MER Links

Don’t forget that both the NMRA Magazine and the Mid-Eastern Region (MER) newsletter, The Local, are now being distributed electronically. If you are not receiving these publications and other digital content, check to make sure your email address is current.

Change your mailing or email address:

Join or renew with the South Mountain Division:

Read The Local:

Read The NMRA Magazine:

Read recent eBulletins:

Surf web content from the Turntable:

Chat on the Interchange:

Attend the Region Convention:

Attend the National Convention:

Growing the Division

After several years of declining attendance participation in South Mountain Division activities seemed to stabilize a couple of years prior to COVID and then started to slowly grow. Post COVID active participation has been steady but slightly down from 2019. NMRA membership in the SMD area has been more or less constant at around 100 members. As previously noted, if you are a member of the NMRA, you are also a member of the SMD, so we are encouraging you to become active in your Division. You will meet other modelers, get fresh ideas to help your with modeling, and hopefully just have fun.

For those of you who are active… If you know of a fellow modeler who is a member of the NMRA, but does not participate in our Division activities, encourage them to do so.

Modelers who are not members of the NMRA are welcome to attend one or two meeting of the SMD as a guest but for insurance purposes they will be required to join the NMRA after that. I encourage all of you to reach out to non-NMRA modelers and encourage them to join us.

We have a supply of a very nice color brochures that you can use as a recruiting tool. These were printed just prior to COVID with the primary intent of placing them in area hobby shops to reach out to modelers. Due to recent NMRA changes (primarily concerning the NMRA Bulletin going to an electronic publication) some of the info on membership is out of date, but should not cause any issues.

Starting this fall we will start placing these brochures in area hobby shops again so if you have any suggestions as to where to placed them let me know.

I hope to see you soon; either at the EBT in July or at our first meeting in September (location to be determined).

Bob Johnson, Division Superintendent


From the Desk of the Superintendent

The last monthly meeting of the South Mountain Division (SMD) 2022 / 2023 year will be held on Sunday, 21 May at the home of Rich Randall in Gettysburg, PA. Please contact the Superintendent at for a map to get there, and parking instructions.

The business meeting will address several issues to include 2023 / 2024 officers and the planned summer outing to the East Broad Top Railroad.

About Rich’s layout:

The Milwaukee Road
Avery Division Point
Approximately 40’ x 34’ O Scale Model Railroad

This standard gauge (O5w) model railroad under construction will attempt to portray the Milwaukee Road prototype equipment and operation at Avery, Idaho on or about September 1973. The overall layout is a single track, dogbone with passing sidings. The center of the model is the Avery yard, much compressed, but laid out generally like the prototype. Models of several of the prototype buildings are nearly complete, to capture the essence of the area.

Traveling east from Avery, the 2.5% climb up the Bitterroot Mountains to Montana is simulated in the model with a grade up to the ceiling (partially, and unfortunately, with a helix), through a 3-track passing siding, and terminating in a 3-track return loop. Only a few tunnels, and one large steel viaduct will be modeled to represent the dozen + on the prototype. This line was electrified at 3300 volts DC from Avery to Harlowton, MT, and the model will eventually reflect this, but at much lower voltage. The wire has to go up last on the model.

Traveling west from Avery, the Idaho and eastern Washington area is simulated in the model with a flat run of track with a 3-track passing siding, and ending in the other 3-track return loop. There is provision for a takeoff here to a 5-track storage yard below the layout, via a helix – installed but not yet operational.

The layout main line is operational using NCE DCC, with scenery started in several places.

There are five “industrial” sites under development where local trains (called “patrols” on the Milwaukee) will switch cars.
Additional features planned for completion someday are:

  • Expansion of “Idaho” 3-track passing siding, and Montana return loop to 5-tracks each.
  • Incorporation of an interurban line, analogous to the prototype Spokane and Inland Railway (S&IR), that ran in the area until the 50’s. This will be an excuse for a trolley museum with all kinds of electric railway equipment for display, and for railfan excursions. The line will also interchange freight with the MILW main, using vintage electric locomotives.
  • Incorporation of a narrow gauge line, analogous to the Milwaukee owned Chicago, Bellevue, Cascade, and Western RR, that ran in Iowa. This admittedly will be out of place and time. This line will bring ore to trans-load into MILW hoppers.
  • Incorporation of a quarry line.
  • A branch line to run from Avery East Yard to a distant Gypsum Plant. Much modeler’s license is exercised here to include typical Milwaukee Road branch line customers from a half dozen different prototype branches in the West.

Prototype time and place will be stretched often with equipment that ran in a different era or never ran in the west. Examples are the famous Milwaukee Road Hiawatha steam engines and passenger trains. (Not totally unreasonable – Remember the “Chessie Steam Specials”?}

It is anticipated that one day the railroad will be operationally interesting, featuring through freights, through and local passenger trains, power changes at Avery, patrols switching at five modest industrial sites and the branch line, and blocking of cars at Avery. My intention is to have enough staging to permit an operating session to be conducted without returning trains through the scenes.

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 very good. Let’s finish the year with an even better turnout.

Bob Johnson
2022-2023 SMD Superintendent

Please find the March draft meeting minutes at this link: <>.

Draft Meeting Minutes – 12 March 2023

Division members met in-person at the home of Andrew Dodge near Olney, MD. 14 or so were present. After admiring Andy’s new layout and socializing, the Superintendant welcomed everyone and called the business meeting to order at 2:40 p.m.

23-3.1​Paymaster’s Report: Paymaster Ray Price reported the SMD bank balance was $3,332.91. That reflects his purchase of the gift certificate from Mainline to be raffled off at the April mini-con.

23-3.2​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.

23-3.3​ Superintendent Bob Johnson thanked Andrew Dodge for hosting.

Old Business:
22-10.5​Mini-Con 2023 – the second Saturday in April – April 8, 2023: Mini-Con Chair Grant Berry apologized for delays in getting event news to members. He has been battling “long Covid” (not contagious). He reported the following:

  • The building will open at 7:00 am. He encouraged members to arrive at 7:30 or 8:00 to assist with set up. He’ll bring coffee and donuts for early helpers.
  • Speakers and modular layouts can come as early as 7:30 to begin their set up.
  • The event opens for the public at 9:00 am.
  • The “informal clinics” should start promptly at 9:00 am.
  • He expects to have 17 vendors and 17 informal clinics. Per past Mini-Cons, the informal clinics will be in 2 groups and will cycle on and off (alternate).
  • An N-scale modular layout should be there.
  • The food vendor plans to open for business at 10:30 am and stay the rest of the day.
  • There will be a very short break to allow folks to grab lunch (but not be a “lunch break”). While attendees eat, there will be a panel of subject experts who will take questions from the audience. Bring your questions!
  • Once the panel is done, there will be one more cycle of informal clinics.
  • The Mini is expected to end around 2:00 pm.

22-11.4 SMD Summer Trip in 2023: Jane Clarke agreed to provide Wheel Report Editor Polimeni with more details of the proposed SMD visit to the East Broad Top Railroad this summer. This led to some general questions about current happenings on the EBT:

  • Steam locomotive #16 is up and running. #16 pulled all the trains in the “Winter Spectacular” event 3 weeks ago.
  • All 4 new passenger cars were in use at that same event.

New Business:
23-3.4​The Superintendant apologized for the confusion that led to the cancellation of last month’s meeting.

23-3.5​Wheel Report Editor Alex Polimeni apologized for not getting a newsletter sent out in March. He got busy with other concerns. He reports that the April issue will have double the content. His intent is to produce the newsletter 10 times a year. Since the division shuts down for June, July, and August there’s no reason to produce one in June or July unless there’s some time sensitive event that members need to know about. The August issue will contain news of the new year about to start.

23-3.6​Meeting Schedule: The Mini-Con will be the April meeting. The May meeting will be adjusted to May 21 (the third Sunday) due to Mothers day. That will be the last meeting of the SMD “year.” The division does not meet in June, July, or August

Adjournment: The Superintendant accepted a motion to adjourn at 3:20 pm.

The next meeting will be on May 21st at Rich Randell’s home near Gettysburg, PA. Rich models the Milwaukee Road in “O” scale and has chosen to focus on the town of Avery, Idaho – a somewhat unusual approach to modeling. He will present a program detailing the problems and rewards of focusing on such a limited area. Members will be reminded by e-mail.

Following the meeting, host Andrew Dodge spoke on his general modeling thoughts (always have more than one thing going on so when the paint is drying, you can work on something else, among other things) and converting his layout from its former Colorado theme to the current New England theme. What an interesting layout concept – essentially two separate railroads that don’t connect except by car float.