Business Meeting; 19 May

The May meeting will be hosted by Jay Beckham who lives near Berkeley Springs, WV, on Sunday, 19 May starting at 2:00 PM. Please remember that this meeting is taking place on the third Sunday of the month, as opposed to the normal second Sunday, due to the Mother’s Day holiday.

Déjà vu. When Jay first started a layout in his current location he was modeling the Chicago, South Shore, and South Bend Railroad in the 1960’s but later changed to the PRR theme.When you arrive at Jay’s location you will see that he is again modeling the South Shore. <>

Jay writes, “My new layout concept is to model in O scale the Chicago, South Shore, and South Bend Railroad in the 60s, the time I first saw it in person. I have always had an interest in traction, and interurbans in particular. It was the railroad I modeled when we first moved into this house. I am trying to use as much of the old layout as possible as far as track design but a mid-western railroad is certainly different from the PRR that I was modeling. We have redesigned the CTC to suit the South Shore. Trying to use as many of my many buildings, most of which were scratch built. Also have corrected most of the track to a 60” minimum radius and from #5 to #6 or larger turnouts.”

He says that he hopes to have trains running, by the time of the meeting, partly through some of the old scenery and maybe some of the new.

Following the business meeting Jay will present an overview of the prototype Chicago, South Shore, and South Bend Railroad. This line has an interesting history and parts of it are still in regular use today as a commuter line.

Email and we will provide the street address. -Ed

Election of Officers

We will be “electing” the division officers at the May meeting.

The candidates are as follows:

  • Superintendent (president) – Bob Johnson
  • Clerk (secretary) – Alex Polimeni
  • Paymaster (treasurer) – Ray Price

These are the only elected positions in the Division. There are numerous other unofficial positions (see listing at end of Wheel Report).

Please note that I have already announced that I will not serve again for the 2025 / 2026 program year, and Alex has stepped up to serve as Clerk, simply because no one else has volunteered. If we cannot get some new candidates for officers for the 2025 / 2026 we will be forced to declare the Division inactive.

From the Desk of the Superintendant

From Superintendent Bob Johnson…

Mini-Con 2024

A big thank you to everyone who participated in the annual SMD Mini-Con at Blue Ridge Summit in April. In my opinion the event ran very smoothly. A special shoutout to Grant Berry for again taking the lead on this ever-popular event. 

Mini-Con 2024.
Bob Johnson looks at a locomotive at his brass loco tuneup table.
John Pursell, D.M.A. talking about improving structures.
Dave Thalman talks about basic scenery forms.
Frank Benenati talks about making wire tree armatures for dioramas and detail scenes.
Maryland T-Trak.
Ken Mazer talks about fast tracks turnouts.

This year’s attendance was just about the same as last year. We still have not returned to the kind of numbers that we were seeing before the great COVID lock-down but those that attended seemed to be having a good time. Assuming we hold the event again next year I have some ideas for increasing the pre-event publicity that may help attendance.

Election of Officers

We will be “electing” the division officers at the May meeting.

The candidates are as follows:

  • Superintendent (president) – Bob Johnson
  • Clerk (secretary) – Alex Polimeni
  • Paymaster (treasurer) – Ray Price

These are the only elected positions in the Division. There are numerous other unofficial positions (see listing at end of the Wheel Report).

Please note that I have already announced that I will not serve again for the 2025 / 2026 program year, and Alex has stepped up to serve as Clerk, simply because no one else has volunteered. If we cannot get some new candidates for officers for the 2025 / 2026 we will be forced to declare the division inactive.

Summer Activity Planning

At a previous meeting we discussed the possibility of setting up a group trip on the Western Maryland Scenic out of Cumberland. The big draw there is of course C&O engine 1309. Unfortunately, I have been informed that the 1309 is currently out of service due to a cylinder issue. We will discuss this more at the upcoming meeting.

FYI, EBT number 16 is also out of service due to a cracked driver hub. It is not a good time for steam in our area.

Mid-Eastern Region Convention Planning

We have been officially asked to host the 2027 MER convention. Assuming we are still an active division I can see no reason not to do so. Under the current convention protocols the MER handles a significant portion of the work involved. I would like to form a small (3 to 4 people) exploratory committee to investigate available facilities, possible prototype tour activities, etc. If you would like to participate in this endeavor please contact me as soon as possible.

For details about the 2024 convention visit, <>.

Wheel Report Feature Articles

As previously noted, Alex Polimeni is now working with Division members (and others) to develop feature articles, layout photo tours, written clinics, etc. to supplement the basic Wheel Report content. Please consider reaching out to him and providing content.

Remember, this is your Division and we are depending on you to support us and provide us with content for the Wheel Report. We will not be issuing a regular edition of the Wheel Report until August, so you have plenty of time to work something up.

All submissions will be published on

Email submissions to – Ed.

Next Meeting; 10 March

The March meeting of the SMD will be hosted by Bob Johnson on Sunday, 10 March starting at 2:00 PM. Please remember that the 10th is the first day of daylight savings time for 2024, so be sure to set your clock ahead by an hour Saturday night.

The West Virginia Midland is a freelance HO standard gauge short line set in central West Virginia in the spring/summer of 1954. The Midland connects with the B & O at Holly Junction and the Western Maryland at Cherry Falls. Both interchanges are supported by small staging yards with represent Grafton (B&O) and Laurel Bank (WM).

The Midland’s base of operations is the twin towns of Webster Springs and Cherry Falls, WV. The main yard (all 5 tracks) and shop facilities are located there. There is also a small interchange yard at Holly Junction. The primary motive power for the Midland is a fleet of geared steam engines supplemented by several rod engines.

The major sources of income for the Midland are coal, limestone, and lumber. There is also a small industrial area in and around Webster Springs.

The main body of the Midland is “E” shaped (12’ x 16’) with an additional 65 feet of around-the-wall running. The scenery is about 95% completed and features trees (lots of those), and discrete scenes that are visually separated by viewing angles and scenic view blocks such as hills and, of course trees.

For those of you who have never visited Bob’s layout, you can see a September 2023 video made by Al Pugliese @alpugliesetrains9753 found on YouTube; <>.

Following the business meeting SMD member Larry Daily will present a clinic on developing plans for models when working from photographs.

By the way, Gary Brown, Mid-Eastern Region VP, will be attending the March meeting. Let’s have a good turnout to welcome him.

Special Directions & Parking

You can park on the street in front of Bob’s house (look for the crossbuck sign) or park in the driveway (room for about 5 cars) if you don’t need to get out early. If the weather is dry entry will be by the basement door. If it is wet or muddy, please use the front door. A sign will be posted to point you in the right direction.

Email and we will provide the street address. – Ed.

SMD membership meetings are always the 2nd Sunday of the month at 2PM. The only exceptions are for April, when the Mini-Con replaces our business meeting, and in May, which will take place one week later, on the 3rd Sunday. We have had some issues with finding hosts for meetings this year. Please consider hosting a meeting sometime during the 2024 – 2025 program year. If you would like to host, please let me know. We try to avoid back-to-back repeat visits so if you have never hosted, or it has been a year or so since you did, give it a thought.

SMD Meeting Schedule:
April 6 – Mini-Con, Blue Ridge Summit, PA
May 19 (3rd Sunday) – Jay Beckham, Berkley Springs, WV

From the Desk of the Superintendant

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

First, I would like to thank Pete and Jane Clarke for offering to host the February meeting. Unfortunately they had to cancel, literally at the last minute, due to that nasty COVID-19 virus. Fortunately they realized what was going on in time so they did not pass the virus on to the rest of the Division. I am hereby offering them the opportunity to be one of the 2024/2025 program years hosts.

Speaking of the 2024/2025 program year, I am seriously concerned about the future of the South Mountain Division. In last month’s Wheel Report I again issued a call for volunteers to step-up to support the Division by serving as officers, support staff, meeting hosts, and clinic presenters. To date, I have received one offer to host a meeting next year (including Pete and Jane that makes two volunteers), and no expressions to serve as officers or to fill non-elected positions.

If we cannot find members who will, at the bare minimum, fill the elected positions we will have no choice but to declare the Division inactive and turn our rather substantial Division funds over to the Mid-Eastern Region. I do not want to see this happen, but we cannot depend on only two or three people to run the Division year after year.

In addition to meeting hosts (2024/2025 program year) I am still seeking volunteers for the elected positions of:

  • Superintendent (president)
  • Clerk (secretary)
  • Paymaster (treasurer)

As per our bylaws, all Division officers must live within the Division’s territory.

There are other unofficial positions that serve at the pleasure of the Superintendent. Again, as per the bylaws the Superintendent will appoint the following committees and officials:

  • An assistant superintendent, who will act as superintendent when the superintendent is absent or otherwise unable to serve, and will perform any duties assigned by the superintendent.
  • An advisory committee, who will attend officer meetings and advise the current Division officers.
  • A nominating committee of two or more members.
  • A (financial) audit committee of two or more members.
  • An editor for the official publication of the Division.
  • An achievement program coordinator.
  • Other committees and officials, as needed, to carry on the activities of the Division.

-Bob Johnson

Bridge Out Ahead: The Past, Present, and Future of SMD

Alex Polimeni

This past decade has been a tumultuous time for the South Mountain Division. My Dad (Ron) and I first began attending membership meetings after NMRA annexed our county (Hampshire County, WV) into SMD and his email address was placed on the Wheel Report’s mailing list. The rest, as they say, is history… but let’s revisit it all the same.
My first years in SMD were under the leadership of Paul Rausch. With his unfortunate passing, assistant Superintendent Bill Wilson administered the election with three names in the hat: Don Florwick, Paul Mahoney, and my own, Alex Polimeni. The youngest Division member by at least two decades, it was incredibly humbling to receive your vote of confidence.
I served as Super for three years until declining to run again for the 2020-2021 season. Instead, the chair was turned over to Jerry Skeim with the agreement that I would serve as assistant Super to help in the transition. Sadly, Jerry became the first and only SMD member we lost to the pandemic, passing in the hospital after a severe COVID-19 infection. For the second time, I took the chair after losing our previous Super all too soon.
I’ve since yielded the chair once again, this time into Bob Johnson’s capable hands… but this job is too big for any one person, even if it’s “just” organizing a social club for model railroading. Under Paul, to me, to Jerry and Bob, the train has kept moving, but from where I’m sitting, the bridge is very much out ahead… and you, the Division, must decide if that means it’s the end of the line.
As things stand, Bob Johnson has said he will serve no more than one more year as Superintendent. Ray Price continues to serve as Treasurer, as he’s done since at least my first year as Super. Bob is currently acting as Wheel Report editor while I serve as acting Clerk. SMD has welcomed a number of new old faces and seen old ones return, yet the fact remains that we are not what we once were.
Although I kept the seat warm, I regard my time as your Super as a failure. There was so much potential I had hoped to harness, but I wasn’t the person to make good on it. The potential itself, however, remains unchanged. SMD has a storied history more than 40 years in the making, a membership that spans four states, and a crown jewel of the Mid-Eastern Region in our annual Mini-Con. With roughly 90 members at any given time, we have the potential to become a powerhouse and help the hobby to flourish in our Division.
This is your Division, but more than that, it’s our Division, each and every one of us. We decide its value, not just for ourselves, but the friendships we have because of it. If you’re reading this, think about what SMD means to you. The bridge may be out ahead, but it doesn’t have to stay that way.

-Alex Polimeni