As I write this note, we’ve all been put in a sort of “lock down” due to the Coronovirus (COVID-19). Each Division of the Region has already taken appropriate steps to comply with the various State of Emergency directives. I won’t list which events we have missed or are going to miss over the next four to eight weeks. It wouldn’t add anything positive.
I would like to echo some encouraging words I heard from Marty McGuirk on his blog a couple of days ago. First, our involvement in the hobby is just that, a hobby. Yes, we’ll be missing out on some of the social aspects of Division meetings and train shows and sales. Second, if I miss out on going to a show to buy something, it’s not a loss as I probably don’t have a real need for more stuff.
On Monday 3/16, I spent some additional time in my train room, working on the layout. With the new “standard” of not going out in the evenings, I’m hoping to get a lot of work done on my layout. It’s in the “some track work is done and some not done” stage. Today I pushed forward on that timeline.
Since my crystal ball is broken (and I haven’t found a reputable repair shop), I can only say: be careful with yourself and your health; get some modeling done, and maybe have something ready for judging or showing off at the first Division meet or MER convention in the Fall.
Now’s it time for me to head back to the train room and get some more track installed.
The SMD has CANCELED the 2020 Mini Con because of the Coronavirus (COVID-19). The 18 April event will not be rescheduled this calendar year. Subscribe to this blog for future details on the 2021 Mini Con. [-Ed.]
Join your fellow SMD members in a day of great fun and fellowship. And, oh by the way, spread the joy of model railroading. Saturday April 18 2020, with the support of Mainline Hobby Supply, we will again host the very popular Mini-convention. New members might not know and old members might have forgotten, our format for the event, so allow me a quick review.
Informal clinics; morning: Hopefully 10 folks (You!) will volunteer to give one from 9:00 AM to 10:00 AM and repeat it again from 11:00 AM to 12:00 noon. Not a formal presentation, just talk about a model railroading topic that’s of interest to you. Bring what you need to have as examples or visual aids. But remember, no projectors, no loudspeakers. It’s just you, talking to the attendees as they walk past your table. The guests are free to stay and talk with you for as long as they like, or move on when they choose. So, don’t think of it as a speech, don’t think of it as public speaking. It’s just you, talking to another interested model railroader, and maybe another will join in.
Note that officially you have an hour break from 10:00 to 11:00 AM. That’s to allow you to get a snack, visit the restroom, look around to see what other clinics are happening.
Then, hopefully, we get 10 other members to give 10 other clinics from 10:00 AM to 11:00 AM and again from 12:00 noon to 1:00 PM.
We want 20 informal clinics (two groups of 10), so there’s plenty of room for you.
Join in with SMD members and friends like:
Dennis Blank, Jr. (Lighting SD40-2’s with LED’s)
Bob Johnson (Rolling stock tune up for reliable operations)
Jerry Skeim (Structures & modeling water)
Andrew Dodge (Building a retirement model railroad)
Ken Kime (How to make molds and castings for making hopper cars.)
Don Florwick (TBD)
Gary Nastase (Roadbed and ballasting)
Bob Geldmacher (Making pine trees)
Bob Morningstar (Make your own current keeper)
John Madden (DCC++)
Dave Thalman (Weathering & loading coal hoppers)
Ron Polimeni (Budget model railroading)
Harvey Heyser (Layout design)
Lee Rainey (TBD)
Jane Clarke (TBD)
John Glaab (Working on brass locomotives)
John King (Modify Kadee couplers to be more user friendly)
Frank Benenati, Dave Sweeney and Tom Fedor (MARRS modules).
I can hear you saying, “Come on Pete. Look at that list. You must not need me.”Wrong. We have space for you. More important, Like Uncle Sam says, “I want you!” And the members and guests who will come to the Mini want to see you and learn about the topic that interests you. Many on my list would be happy to give their spot to you, the new guy or gal. We have room for you. Can I make that any clearer?
I can hear you saying, “But I don’t know what to do.”You may recall me writing this in the past, or saying it at a monthly meeting. “Just bring a model and work on it.”I really mean it. No-one seems to believe it, but it’s been done and it’s very popular.
Make and take clinics: At 10:00 AM we will also have two “Make and take” clinics. Jeff Grove of Carolina Craftsman Kits will again donate a group of (small, easy) craftsman kits and Mainline will again donate (small, easy) styrene (plastic) DPM – 36000 – modular learning kit. Just like last year we’ll encourage young people by giving them priority on the make & take sign up lists. Also, another way you can help is by bringing tools to loan for these clinics. X-Acto knives, glue, and, well, look for a list of items once our build leaders (Brian Greenawalt, David Sweeney, and Tom Fedor) have had time to think about it.
Modular layouts: We hope to have a modular layout or two set up and running during the morning as well. I’m having better luck this year, and have gotten “probably” from two (Steve Sherrill and Wayne Betty). But we still can use more. So please contact me (Pete Clarke) if you are aware of a modular group and have contact information for that group. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 301- 253-4913.
Speaking of layouts, Brian Wolfe of Mainline Hobby Supply will have his layout open to tour during the Mini-Con.
Clubs and Societies: This would be a great opportunity to promote your club or historical society! So far, none have signed up. Please contact me to reserve your table at email@example.com call 301- 253-4913.
For sale:There will be some vendors there with model railroad stuff for sale. Carolina Craftsman Kits, Dwarvin Enterprises (Fiber optic system of lights) and Bob Van Zant (HO locomotives and misc. stuff) have all signed up and we are waiting to hear back from more. And of course, you can, and should, carefully walk across the street to Mainline Hobby Supply. Tell them thanks for supporting this event by making a purchase, and while you are talking to them, say “Thanks for sponsoring the Mini” out loud.
Raffle: Again this year we will purchase a $150 gift certificate from Mainline and sell raffle tickets ($10 each) through the morning. Also, HobbyTown USA – Frederick (Richard Benjamin) has donated a $50 gift certificate that we will give as a door prize. Both of these will happen at 1:00 PM.
Formal clinics: Also, at 1:00 PM we convert from informal to formal clinics. We hope to have a speaker from the Mid-Eastern Region (MER) tell us of the plans for the MER’s annual fall convention. Alex Polimeni will speak on Model railroading as game design, and noted historian and author Lee Rainey will speak on “Shortline Operating Patterns: What to Consider in Designing a Schedule.”
Food: We will have food and beverages on site. This will also be handled by SMD members.
The Mini-Con is almost here. We still need you to make it happen. Please contact me and offer to help. Mostly we need folks to give informal clinics. Everyone who’s done one of these clinics has had a great time. If you have questions, I’d be happy to talk with you about it. There are other things you can do, we’ll need extension cords, tools for the make & take clinics, help at the registration desk, morning set up and afternoon clean up. Just can’t do any of those? Attend, and then tell others about it.
Follow the SMD blog for Mini-Con updates at smdnmra.org.
Thank you to those who contacted me about their aspirations in the Achievement Program (AP). I look forward to presenting your awards! Several of you are ready to have your scenery judged. This takes some coordination to get (preferably) three judges together. I appreciate your patience.
To qualify for the Model Railroad Engineer–Electrical certificate, you must:
A. Construct and demonstrate on your own or club layout, the satisfactory operation of an electrical control system on a model railroad capable of simultaneous and independent control of two mainline trains in both directions, and containing at least:
Simultaneous and independent control of two mainline trains. This can be as simple as a single track main with sidings. This means that as long as you can cut power to the sidings individually, you can run one train, park it on a siding while you run another, then park it and run the first again. This meets the requirement.
For conventional DC wiring (non-command-control), five electrical blocks that can be controlled independently. For command control wiring (DCC, TMCC, and others), sufficient gaps and switches to maintain polarity, phase if needed, and troubleshooting.
One mainline passing siding.
One reversing loop, wye, turntable, or transfer table.
One yard with a minimum of three tracks and a switching lead independent of the main line. (“Independent” means that you are able to operate the locomotive switching the yard and the lead on a separate powerpack without interfering with mainline operations.)
Facilities for the storing of at least two unused motive power units. Don’t make this harder than it is – these are just sections of track (usually spurs) that you can cut power to independent of the main.
One power supply with protective devices (short indicator or circuit breaker) to ensure safe operation. You don’t have to build this yourself; you just have to have one in your control system. You can use a commercial supply that has these features, modify a commercial supply to add these features, or even build it yourself – but only if you REALLY know what you’re doing.
B. Wire and demonstrate the electrical operation of at least three of the following items:
Turnout. Wiring up the simplest powered turnout from your hobby store will satisfy this requirement.
Crossing. Most commercial crossings come pre-wired. Just set one up so that you can run trains through on both tracks.
Slip Switch (single or double)
Gauge Separation Turnout
Double Junction Turnout
Three Way Turnout
Operating Switch in Overhead Wire
Note: Don’t make the requirements in parts B or C any harder than they have to be. You do not have to scratchbuild any of these; you just have to show that you can make them work electrically. Of course, if you want to go to the effort of building them yourself, you may learn many new skills in the process! The whole point of these requirements is for you to demonstrate a variety of skills.
C. Wire and demonstrate the electrical operation of at least three of the following items:
Electrical turnout position indication on a control panel or at trackside for a minimum of four turnouts. (Remember that many commercial switch machines have electrical terminals to allow you to do this easily.)
Track occupancy indication on a control panel or at trackside for a minimum of five blocks.
Cab control, making provision for the connection of at least two power supplies to a minimum of five blocks as the trains progress. (This means that your layout has at least five blocks, each of which can be controlled by one of two power supplies. The five blocks DO NOT have to be in a row along the same stretch of track.)
Engine terminal, including an electrically powered turntable or transfer table, a minimum of three stall tracks, and at least two blocked storage sections for parking locomotives outside the stall area. (This means you need to have a total of five tracks (three inside an engine house or roundhouse, and two outside), that you can cut power independently to store motive power).
Two turnout junctions with electrical interlocking and protecting trackside signals. (This is simply a turnout with electrical protection to prevent a train from going through a turnout that is set against it. Again, the electrical terminals on a switch machine, combined with a couple of insulated rail joiners, make this a fairly easy project.)
High Frequency Lighting (This is an old term for Constant Lighting.)
Electronic throttle with inertia and braking provisions. (This requirement could be combined with requirement A-6, above.)
Grade crossing with electrically actuated warning indication. (You don’t have to design or build the circuitry for this yourself. There are a number of commercial components available that you can just wire up to meet this requirement. Or you can use commercial plans that appear in magazines from time to time. Or you can do it from scratch.)
Two-way block signaling with automatic train detection for at least five blocks. (See remarks under #8).
Operating overhead wire, using either pantographs, trolley poles, or both for current collection. (Any traction fans out there?)
Installation of an advanced electronic and/or computer control for the model railroad.
Design, installation, and operation of animated mechanical and/or electrical displays. This doesn’t have to be a huge animated display – think about small eye-catching displays like animated industries or signs. Put a carousel in the local park or chase lights on the marque at the Bijou.
Design, installation, and operation of mechanical and/or electrical layout lighting displays. (This means lights which illuminate the layout, as opposed to lighted things on the layout. For example, lighting which simulates the change from day to dusk to night)
Installation of a command control receiver. Modifications or additions to the device’s wiring are required. Installing a plug-equipped decoder into a manufactured prewired socket is not sufficient.
Installation of a command control throttle buss line around a layout capable of handling at least two throttles at three or more separate locations.
Commercially assembled complete units are not acceptable in the items below:
Construction and installation of a sound system. This does not have to be an on-board sound system; it could be an under-the-layout system.
Construction and installation of a signaling system.
Development and installation of a CTC system.
Installation and operation of an on-board video system.
Computer generated block detection information.
Hardwired or stored control program (i.e. computer) for operation of the railroad.
Development and demonstration of a computer-to-railroad interface.
Other. (Examples of ‘other’ includes flashing warning lights on locomotives, or end-of-train devices on cabooses, etc.)
Please note that operating third rail (center or outside) or overhead wire powered layouts may be considered for ALL aspects of the AP. Also note that the use of advanced power supplies, train control, track wiring, and track control methods shall not be restricted by the definitions in the minimum requirements listed above.
These items may not appear to be equal in difficulty – they aren’t meant to be. They are meant to provide a wide variety of things that people may have done that they can get credit for.
D. Prepare a schematic drawing of the propulsion circuitry of the model railroad in part (A) showing the gaps, blocks, feeders, speed and direction control, electrical switches, and power supplies.
Note that this requirement includes ONLY the propulsion circuitry. It is not required to include the wiring for electrical turnout control, signal systems, building lighting, etc. You do not need to include the details for parts of the diagram which are repeated. If a number of parts are wired in the same way, it sufficient to draw one section in detail and indicate other locations with rectangles.
E. Prepare schematic drawings identifying the wiring and components of the six items under parts (B) and (C).
For the sake of clarity, these schematics should probably be separate from the propulsion circuitry schematic in part (D), above. If you already have one over-all schematic of the layout, you might want to consider making multiple copies and going over the applicable lines with a highlighter for each feature.
Note that this is just turning in the kind of documentation that you should be preparing for your layout anyway. It will make trouble shooting much easier in a couple of years when you’ve forgotten how it all went together!
F. You must submit a Statement of Qualification (see below) which includes the following:
The track plan for the layout used in part (A).
A description of each of the features used in parts (B) and (C), including:
A description of the item.
The methods of construction.
Identification of commercial components used.
Schematic drawings as required in parts (D) and (E).
The signed Witness Certification form, showing that each of the above items are operational and meet all applicable NMRA standards.
Notice that there is no requirement for Merit Judging in this certificate. The presence and operation of the required features must be verified by a witness (the Region AP Manager, or their designee), but they do not have to achieve a minimum score.
Model Railroad Engineer – Electrical certificate recipients in the South Mountain Division:
Robert Beecher, Robert Johnson, and Robert Morningstar have received the Electrical certificate. I guess you must be named Robert to get this! I must say that Bob Morningstar’s wiring is the neatest I have ever seen (see photo below of hisDCC and Power Supply Component board). It didn’t need to be this clean, but it sure helped me figure out what was going on.
As the division AP Chair, my job is to encourage participation in the program, answer your questions, and help with your paperwork, if necessary. You can contact me at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 301-253-4913.
Maybe it’s just me, but Thanksgiving always feels far off until it’s the comingThursday and you realize you haven’t bought a thing for holiday dinner…
Of course, Thanksgiving also means the South Mountain Division season is under full steam, and let me tell you, we’re highballing it down the main this year. The year kicked off with a visit to Jeff Grove’s new layout back in September, where Jeff gave a thoughtful talk on his eye-catching structure weathering techniques. Last month, we found ourselves in the south-west corner of Division territory, returning to Dave Thalman’s PRR railroad four years after we’d last seen it. Next, we’re coming back around to newly-elected MER Director Bob Morningstar’s home in the run up to the Christmas holiday- and while I’ll be away on travel that day, I’ve asked my assistant Superintendent Jerry Skeim to preside over what should be another good meeting.
Looking ahead, we’re starting next year with a couple of real highlights. In January, the Frederick County Society of Model Engineers will be opening their doors for layout tours at 12PM, ahead of the meeting proper at Richard Benjamin’s HobbyTown Frederick location- so, plan to get an early start! Afterward, in February, we’ve been invited to hold our Frederick meeting at the Cumberland Valley Model Railroad Club in Hagerstown, MD. I haven’t seen either of these club layouts myself yet, so I’m definitely looking forward to it.
Even further down the tracks, 2020’s Mini-Con is coming together thanks as always to Pete and Jane Clarke’s tireless efforts, Mainline Hobby Supply and, of course, YOUR incredible contributions. Simply said, we put on a great model train show, and that’s something every Division member should be proud of. On that note, if you’re not involved yet, we’re excited to have you come aboard!
Finally, I want to say that it has been my pleasure and genuine privilege to serve as your Superintendent these past two and a half years. After a great deal of consideration, I have made the hard decision to step away from the Super’s desk after May 2020.
I chose to accept my nomination in early 2017 because I wanted to honor Paul Rausch’s memory, and the Division chose to give me a literal vote of confidence (and a leap of faith) in electing me Superintendent. Considering a personal history in other volunteer organizations with a, shall we say, similar membership demographic, it’s meant more to me than I can say that you would trust your Division’s youngest member at the metaphorical throttle.
Going forward, I’ve got a few things going on, with the prospects of getting married, starting a business, and taking classes all on the horizon for me, and a position like this shouldn’t be allowed to stagnate around a single person regardless. If you think you’d be interested in taking a turn in the chair- or think somebody else really should!- we’ll be setting up the nominating committee come January, and I’m confident we’ll be in good hands no matter who steps forward for consideration.
Until then, I’ve still got 6 months to finish out, and plenty on the agenda to complete before then- including a “SMD Superintendent For Idiots” playbook I hope to pass along to our next Super, so maybe they can get the hang of it a little quicker than I did! I’ve learned a lot, had a ton of fun, and remain incredibly grateful to South Mountain Division for my time behind the Superintendent’s desk.
This coming year marks forty years since the SMD received its charter onApril 26, 1980. The initial geographical boundaries were Jefferson and Berkeley Counties in WV, Washington and Frederick Counties in MD, and Fulton County in PA. In the absence ofrecords from that early period,I have summarized mentions of the SMD in the MER newsletter, The Local, including some of the people [SMD member names in bold face -ed.] and activities from the early years of the Division.
The first officers were:
Paul Berger – Superintendent
Ed Staeblein – Assist. Superintendent
Dennis Masters – Clerk/Paymaster
Directors – Larry Cunningham, Rick Morrison, and Ron Busey
Early activities in 1980 included, a fan trip to the EBT, a meet at the Maugansville Ruritan (with movies, clinics, model displays, model contest, and operating modules), and meetings at held by Ron Busey, Bill Madison, and Larry Cunningham.
Paul Berger was listed as Achievement Program (AP) assistant, and AP certificates were awarded to Paul Berger and William (Bill) Miller of the SMD.
Activities for 1981 included another meet at the Maugansville Ruritan, including contributions from Dennis Masters (HO modules), Bill Rinn (clinic on detailing cast locomotives), and Bud Sima (clinic on building structures from balsa).
This second group of officers was elected in 1981 (and re-elected in 1982):
Ron Busey – Superintendent
Robert Miller – Assistant Superintendant
Mary Synowiec (later Miller) – Clerk/Paymaster
Directors– Warren Hart, Earl Reitzel, and Marv Kershner
Planned activities for 1982 included a clinic on wiring by George Perrine, a visit to Harry Clark’s Indian Creek Valley, tours of the Martinsburg Club’s HO scale Blue Ridge & Allegany RR, their O scale Ditch & Gauly RR, Lynn Breland’s HO Lost River & Western RR, Bill Wood’s HO B&O RR, Dave Southerly’s Piedmont Valley RR (WM branch), Jeff Madden’s HO WV layout, and Mike Kidwell’s HO Willoby & Western. There was a visit to the Hagerstown Model Railroad Club (including a raffle won by Dick Powell, Dispatcher for the WM Ry and a clinic on adhesives by Ron Busey), plus visit to the Strasburg (including mention of an injury to Rev. Harry Miller while demonstrating use of a handcar).
The March/April 1982 issue of the The Local contained an article about Paul Berger’s Potomac Central Railroad including a track plan.
Planned activities for 1983 included meetings and clinics at Ron Busey’s and John Kelly’s, a third meet at the Maugansville Ruritan featuring tape slide clinics, a “Pale Pachyderm” sale, modular layouts, and 10 new members. It was noted that the winners of door prizes were Chris Knight (antique bottle car kit (bottle and trucks – he had to figure out how to assemble it.)); Todd Michael (G&D hopper); and Jim Eells (B&O caboose). Meetings took place at Mike Kidwell’s HO Willoby & Western, and at Larry Snook’s layout there was a wood structure assembly session led by Ron Busey. Carpools to the MER spring convention in Wilmington, DE.
Officers elected for 1983 were:
Bob Miller, Superintendent
Mary (Synowiec) Miller, Assistant Superintendent
Steve Green, Clerk/Paymaster
Director – [names not listed -ed.]
Notice of the SMD’s first sponsored fall 1983 MER Convention in Hagerstown appeared in the November/December 1982 issue of the The Local. Paul Berger served as convention chair. Jay Beckham served as registrar, and Warren Hart gave a clinic on rocks.
The convention included layout tours to the following:
The Hagerstown Model Railroad Club,
Paul Berger’s Potomac Central,
Warren Hart’s Potomac Valley and Western,
Jay Beckham’s Columbia and Port Deposit Branch (PRR),
Will Snyder’s Antietam Valley,
Jeff Madden’s South Penn RR (B&O),
Mike Kidwell’s Willoby & Western,
The Martinsburg Model Railroad Club,
Luther Ratcliff’s HO layout (un-named), and
Dave Southerly’s Piedmont Valley.
According to reports in The Local, Jeff Madden won three (3) prizes for photography, and the South Mountain Fireball Award was presented to Paul Backentose for a diesel and slug.
After 1983, The Local did not give a complete listing of SMD officers; however, Mary Miller and Lynn Breland were mentioned as holding the Superintendent position.
In the January/February 1985 issue of The Local, there was a notice of the SMD hosting a layout tour for the Dixie Division including layouts by the following: Jeff Madden, Lynn Breland, Luther Ratcliff, Dave Southerly, Will Snyder, Warren Hart, Paul Berger,and Bob Johnson.
Over the early years of the Division’s history, the following SMD members served in various Regional positions:
Bill Miller – Director, MER
Mary Miller – Model Contest Committee Chair, MER
Paul Berger – Achievement Program Coordinator, SMD
Dennis Masters – Ballot Committee Chair, MER
After the 1985 Quad Regional Convention held in Harrisburg, Mary Miller thanked SMD members Bill Miller, Jay Beckham, and Dennis Masters for their assistance with the model contest.
Allow me to end this summary with some observations. Many of the activities the SMD scheduled in the past are similar to those the Division sets up today, including meetings in members’ homes, visits to their layouts, clinics, and railfan trips. Also consider that the early meets held at the Ruritan were strikingly similar to present our day Mini-Cons.
Although many of the names listed above may not be familiar, a few are still active. These are the people who established your South Mountain Division and gave it the solid foundation it enjoys today. They deserve congratulations for their efforts starting the Division.