SMD Draft Minutes 12 Sep 2021

Submitted by Clerk, Harvey Heyser

Draft Meeting Minutes – September 12, 2021

Division members met remotely on the internet using the Zoom platform.  20 or so were present.  Superintendent Alex Polimeni convened the meeting prior to the published start time for logging in.  

During the lead-up to the meeting, there was extensive sharing:

  • Frank Benenati – his full-scale fishing rods – he then recounted further progress with his trees using super leaves from Scenic Express,
  • Alex Polimeni – his new house with hobby room and garage (for which Ron Polimeni has already drawn a layout plan),
  • Rich Randall – showed photos of his new catenary at Avery, ID (to which Steve Green noted Bachmann’s new DCC’s LED for simulating sparks might apply),
  • Steve Green – his work on electronic projects, and
  • Andy Arnold pointing out that electric busses also spark – Andy Dodge recalling that those busses were so quiet his mother had to drag him from playing in the street when they came by – Alex Polimeni recalling the “singing rails” when the Acela passes (long before any other sound) – Jack Fritz reporting that Porsche is developing recorded engine sounds for their electric cars (to achieve the full Porsche experience).  [That brought many suggestions that we model railroaders could help them out with DCC and sound decoders.] – The discussion ended with a bunch of “codger style” complaints about cars that turn off when stopped to save fuel.

The Assistant Superintendent finally was able to call the business meeting to order shortly after 2:30 pm.

21.9-1 Paymaster’s Report:  Paymaster Ray Price reported that the Division has $3635.47 in its bank account.  The Paymaster reported that the $150 memorial contribution for Superintendent Jerry Skeim (passed by motion in April – minute #21.4-3) has not been made yet because we do not know where the family wishes it to be sent.  The Superintendent will check with Jerry’s daughter.

21.9-2 Clerk’s Report (Meeting Minutes):  The attendees dispensed with the reading/summary of the minutes (previously distributed by email).  Steve Green made the following motion (second by Don Florwick):

Motion:  That the draft Minutes for the May 2021 meeting be approved as submittedThe motion passed unanimously.

Old Business:

21.4-3 Superintendent Jerry Skeim’s Passing:  The superintendent reported that Mrs. Skeim has recovered to the best of his knowledge.

21.5-5 Hobby Hangout:  The Superintendent will try to set up another between meeting informal get-together.  Friday evenings (the typical operating session night), Saturday afternoons, or Sunday afternoons were suggested as times for the Hangout.  Members were reminded that the informal sharing can be them sitting working on a project and talking about it as well as “slideshows” or videos (via screen share) of something they have accomplished or are interested in.

New Business: 

21.9-3 Assistant Superintendent:  The Superintendent announced his choice of Mike Shockey.  Mike has been Superintendent previously.  Unfortunately, he works on weekends but will try to join the meetings when he can (as he did at this meeting by zoom during his break).

21.9-4 Clinics:  There is a need for clinics for the rest of 2021 while meetings are remote.  Experience with the Hobby Hangout and the pre-meeting sharing sessions demonstrates techniques (such as screen sharing) that make giving a remote clinic possible.

21.9-5 Advisory Committee Meeting Report – Held Friday, 9-10-21 – minutes not available yet:

  • The Committee recommended holding meetings remotely by zoom for the rest of 2021.  The Superintendent asked for feedback on this decision from Division members present.  There was a lengthy discussion with most responses agreeing with the Committee’s recommendation for the rest of 2021.  There was concern that the upcoming flu season may increase the negative effects of covid.
  • The Superintendent reminded members that the Division has already lost one member and stated that we do not want to lose any others.
  • When the SMD transitions back to in-person meetings, a questionnaire for hosts and attendees was suggested to give people pause (even if they do not feel comfortable answering questions about their vaccination status).  The Superintendent will consider this with the Committee.
  • Consulting the CDC status tracker was suggested as a way to plan for the future.
  • Also suggested was gathering in small groups or pods.
  • The Superintendent ended the discussion by stating that he 100% wants to get back to face-to-face meetings as soon as it is safe to do so.

21.9-6 Future Mini-Con: At present, the Advisory Committee is not certain about 2022.  Chair Pete Clarke is inundated with his work as Membership Chair of the Friends of the East Broad Top (by a doubling of membership) and will need substantial assistance with the arrangements for the next and following Mini-Cons.  He has indicated that he has organized the Mini-Con requirements on a spreadsheet that should make the task much easier for a new volunteer.  Volunteers are needed.

Member feedback indicated that holding an indoor event like the Mini-Con at this time is questionable – perhaps an outdoor swap meet late next spring.  The Superintendent remembered that swap meets within the Division have not always worked well and suggested taking tables at other train meets.

Brian Wolfe of Mainline Hobbies stated his readiness to put up funding for a Mini-Con in 2022 if the SMD is willing to put it on.  Mainline’s lead time is about a month to get out advertising and mailers.  Another date is possible if the fire hall is not rented.  (However, that may conflict with the election for officers scheduled for May.)

The consensus of the discussion was to wait to see if the pandemic situation is improved.  The Advisory Committee will revisit the issue in early December.  Contacting potential clinicians for the formal clinics was advised, so they can plan ahead (even if the Mini-Con cannot go forward).

21.9-7 Possible Outdoor Activities:  The following suggestions for a spring 2022 Division outdoor activity were made:  riding the EBT, railfanning at Horseshoe Curve, a trip to ride #1309, etc.

Adjournment:  The Superintendent accepted a motion to adjourn.  The next meeting will be held remotely by zoom on October 10, 2021, at 2:00 p.m.  Members will be reminded by email.

Minutes submitted by Clerk Harvey Heyser

Clinic:  Following the meeting, Jane and Pete Clarke gave a lengthy report (including screen sharing) on the East Broad Top Foundation Inc.’s plans and activities as well as those of the Friends of the EBT (FEBT).  Among the items mentioned were the following:

  • Joe Kovalchick, whose family was largely responsible for saving the EBT, will be on the Board of Directors for the Foundation.  It was gratifying to see that the formal Foundation picture featured three Kovalchick family members standing on the end platform of one of the passenger cars with the other Board members at track level.
  • The Foundation is conducting restoration work on Mikados #14 and #16.
  • The Foundation has moved 3 hoppers to the Robertsdale scale track for display.
  • The carpentry shop at Orbisonia has been jacked up, stabilized, and refurbished to serve as a workspace for the FEBT.
  • There are plans for a 2021 Fall Spectacular and FEBT Reunion using the railcars and diesel.
  • The Foundation is considering extending the rails south, but the tunnels present a formidable obstacle for going very far.
  • Linn Moedinger will be lending his restoration expertise to the foundation’s efforts.
  • At Robertsdale, the FEBT has cleaned out junk and salvaged artifacts for display.  They are working on exhibits for the old Post Office as well as upgrades to wifi/internet connections.  The gift shop is open.  There are walking tours of the outside parts of the mines, and the miner’s museum is close by.
  • The FEBT continues its work restoring the roof and trim on the depot.
  • Among the SMD, there was agreement that the revival of the EBT was one of the few good things to come out of 2020.

From the Super, 12 SEP Meeting Reminder

Alex Polimeni, superintendent

Another summer is coming to a close, and you know what that means: the South Mountain Division year is just beginning! Although it was my hope to be welcoming you back with a long-awaited and much-anticipated in-person meeting, I’m afraid that won’t be happening, at least not until 2022.

With the Delta variant of COVID-19 spreading in the United States and things set to get worse once more as the weather changes, everyone must decide for themselves what level of risk they’re comfortable with. Speaking as your Superintendent, I cannot, in good conscience, ask our membership to gather in the close quarters our hobby takes place in. 

That said, I believe there’s still plenty for SMD to do while this terrible pandemic runs its course. To this end, you’re all invited to our September membership meeting via Zoom next Sunday, September 12th. “Doors” open at 2 PM, with the business meeting to commence by 2:30 PM. 

I’m still looking for presenters to give clinics after the September, October, and November meetings via Zoom, so if you have something you’d like to share (especially if it works well as a video or slideshow!) do let me know. If we don’t have a clinic, I’m looking to turn the after-business time over to a round table discussion about a particular theme.

I believe SMD and the NMRA has a great deal to offer our membership even in a post-pandemic world, and I’m excited to talk with you about the possibilities these next few months. So, if you have the time, please stop by the Zoom meeting or, otherwise, drop us an email directly! Harvey, Ray, and I are eager to get the Division back on the rails.

See you all soon,

Alex Polimeni, Superintendent

Zoom meeting instructions were included on page two of the SMD members’ only version of the Wheel Report link that was sent to all on 1 September. If the connection details are needed, contact the Division leadership at

A copy of the minutes from the last membership can be found at this previous SMD blog post:

SMD Draft Minutes 16 May 2021

SMD Draft Minutes 16 May 2021

Submitted by Clerk, Harvey Heyser

Draft Meeting Minutes – May 16, 2021

Division members met remotely on the internet using the Zoom platform.  18 or so were present.  Assistant Superintendent Alex Polimeni convened the meeting prior to the published start time for logging in.  During the lead-up to the meeting, Frank Benenati shared video taken in 2014 at Cass.  The Assistant Superintendent called the business meeting to order shortly after the 2 pm start time.

21.5-1 Paymaster’s Report:  Paymaster Ray Price reported that the Division has $3668.40 in its bank account (the same amount as last month).  The Paymaster reported that the $150 memorial contribution for Superintendent Jerry Skeim (passed by motion at the last meeting – minute #21.4-3) has not been made yet because we do not know where the family wishes it to be sent.

21.5-2 Clerk’s Report (Meeting Minutes):  The attendees dispensed with the reading/summary of the minutes (previously distributed by e-mail).  Ron Polimeni made the following motion (second by Ray Price):

Motion:  That the draft Minutes for the April 2021 meeting be approved as submitted.  The motion passed unanimously.

Old Business:

21.4-3 Superintendent Jerry Skeim’s Passing:  Jerry’s absence has been keenly felt.  His obituary was published in the 5-14-21 Frederick Post.  An e-mail message from his son was read.  Elizabeth Bolsvert, his daughter, joined the meeting.  The family plans a small military funeral in Minnesota in August.  Jerry’s wife is still on oxygen as she recovers.

Bob Johnson picked up the Division’s projector and contribution car from Jerry’s family.

New Business:

21.5-3 Election:  Nomination Committee Member Tom Fedor reported that he sent election notices by e-mail or by USPS to all Division members listed in the most current membership roster.  Because he had monitored the returns, Webmaster Fedor abstained from voting.

Clerk Heyser reported the vote tally:  24 cast by electronic ballot, 1 cast by USPS, 1 cast by proxy, and 1 cast in person at the meeting for a total of 27 votes total.

For superintendent:  19 – Alex Polimeni (elected)

8 – Jay Beckham

For Paymaster: 27 – Ray Price (unopposed)

For Clerk: 27 – Harvey Heyser (unopposed)

Ron Polimeni made the following motion (second by Bob Morningstar):

Motion to accept the results of the election of officers for the year 21-22.  The motion passed unanimously.

21.5-4 Feedback from Members:  Superintendent-Elect Polimeni requested feedback from members over the summer about what they wanted from their officers in the coming year.

21.5-5 Hobby Hangout:  Following the success of the informal get-together held 2-27-21 (minute #20.12-4), members suggested holding another during the summer.

21.5-6 In-Person Meetings:  Given the uncertain status of the pandemic and the vaccination rate, there was a lengthy discussion about this matter.  The following were mentioned:

– The target for in-person gatherings is tentatively September of 2021.

– The SMD should verify that any prospective hosts be comfortable with having a large group of visitors.

– Everyone should be respectful of an individual’s vaccination status.

– It was suggested that, out of respect for the host, visitors wear masks.  Meeting notices should specify any mask requirements.  (Jay Beckham reported that, at his open houses this spring, requiring masks was graciously adhered to.)

– An outdoor event such as a swap meet may be preferable, even though model railroading events are generally held indoors.

21.5-7 East Broad Top Railroad:  Jane and Pete Clarke reported that plans are proceeding to open the railroad for tourists on the 2nd and 4th weekends of June and July.  The Friends of the EBT will hold a meeting at Robertsdale on June 12, 2021.

Adjournment:  The Superintendant-Elect accepted a motion to adjourn.  The next meeting will be held in the fall.  Members will be notified by e-mail or USPS.

Clinic:  Following the meeting, Frank Benenati presented a clinic on making foreground trees from twisted wire armatures.  He recommended referring to the Field Guide to Trees and Shrubs by Petrides (sp?) and the Scenic Express web site for information and diagrams of tree types.  Frank demonstrated armatures made by twisting 26 gauge florist’s wire coated with caulk and painted with artist’s acrylics.  (He uses the same technique at the bottom of the trees for roots.) 

Frank uses various materials for the branches (Huechera, Super Trees, etc.) and for the foliage (Scenic Express Super Leaves, for one) attached to the armatures with various adhesives.  He demonstrated his finished trees and reported one danger:  He likes his new trees so much that he is replacing the older trees on his layout.

Vote now: MER-NMRA – 2021 MER Director Election

Mid-Eastern Region

The MER is holding the MER-NMRA 2021 MER Election of Directors.

The voting deadline is Aug 31 2021 11:30 pm Eastern Time (US & Canada).

The Region is using an online election system to tabulate votes. SMD members should have been emailed and assigned a unique access key that can only be used to vote once, keeping voting choices anonymous. Do not forward the email. Do not reply to the email to vote, as votes will not be registered.

If you have election questions, feedback, or if you are unable to make the electronic Ballot work, please contact Howard Oakes ( and he will send you a paper Ballot.