The Mini-Con is Back!

From Grant Berry

On Saturday, 23 April, 2022, South Mountain Division (SMD) will present a Mini Convention in Blue Ridge Summit, PA, sponsored by Mainline Hobby Supply. Beginning at 9:00 AM, this free annual outreach programming consists of a morning loaded with informal clinics, including a couple of make-and-take opportunities, and then concludes in the early afternoon with a couple of formal presentations. Both NMRA members and the general public are invited to this no-cost gathering.

This Mini-Con activity is a great opportunity for the Division. It offers an occasion to reconnect with one another, encouraging active participation as a way to give back, and a path to promote the hobby to the public. It takes a large staff of volunteers to host this event. Most are Division members. Attendance in past years averaged over 200 persons.

To encourage casual interaction and an exchange of ideas, approximately twenty informal clinics take place during the first four hours. Clinic topics this spring will cover structure building and painting, rolling stock maintenance, upgrades, and weathering, locomotive tuning, DCC topics, a fiber optic presentation, Tortoise machine operations, and more. Clinicians will be seated at tables welcoming attendees to observe their projects. Conversation and questions are entertained as the clinicians work.

In some instances, guests may be invited to try their hand at the work.

Being sensitive to physical distancing protocols, no modular layouts will be present this spring to facilitate enough space between and around clinicians.

As in the past, the SMD will have two make-and-take clinics that focus on the beginner, giving preference to the youth in our hobby. Both culminate with a small structure to take home. An entry-level craftsman kit and a basic plastic kit are the foundation for this activity which is billed as a wonderful parent and child activity.

Two formal presentations are slated for the afternoon hours. Division member John Pursell will offer a program on frugal methods to model railroad, and lastly, member Pete Clarke of the Friends of the EBT has arranged for a talk on the happenings and progress at the East Broad Top Railroad.

The sponsor for this event, Mainline Hobby Supply, is within walking distance from the Blue Ridge Mountain Fire Co location. The Division encourages all to thank owners Bonnie and Brian Wolfe and to support their business. Mainline is offering a 10% discount to every Mini-Con attendee on the day of the event. Additionally, a $150 gift certificate for Mainline Hobby will be raffled off during the day.

The raffle ticket holder must be present at the time of the drawing on Saturday to win.

Watch this site to get all updates regarding this event.

What’s on Your Workbench?

Division member Charles B. Greenawalt will lead the craftsman kit make-and-take at the spring Mini Convention. Charles shares some recent builds from  FOS Scale Models kit of the month series.

He writes, “These HO-scale kits are great for learning how to build structures. FOS Scale Models sells the kits as either a 6-month or a 12-month subscription. The instructions are fairly well written and each kit can be completed in a few evenings.”

Arrive early to sign-up and build with Charles at the Mini-Con.

SMD Draft Meeting Minutes 13 February

Minutes submitted by Clerk Harvey Heyser

Draft Meeting Minutes – February 13, 2022

Division members met remotely on the internet using the Zoom platform.  16 or so were present.  Superintendent Alex Polimeni opened the zoom session prior to the published start time for logging in and sharing.  

During the lead-up to the meeting, the following was shared:

  • Mini-Con Chair Grant Berry requested that his e-mail address be shared with the membership.
  • Those attending welcomed the multiple “Harveys” present and commented that at least one of them had long ears and was assumed to be elegantly attired.  But no one could be sure, since he was not visible.
  • Bill Wilson described some electronic timers he and John Madden have been experimenting with.
  • There was a question of the by-law quorum requirements.

The Superintendent called the business meeting to order at about 2:30 pm.  

22.2-1 Paymaster’s Report:  Paymaster Ray Price reported the SMD bank balance was $3,508.43 (the same as last month).   The Superintendent will re-forward the receipts for zoom renewal ($157.40), which the Paymaster has not received.  The renewal will last until the summer of this year (2022) at which time the elected officers and Advisory Committee can consider further renewal.  

22.2-2 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 Tom Fedor):

Motion:  That the draft Minutes for the January 2022 meeting be approved as submittedThe motion passed unanimously.

Old Business:  

22-1.3 Nominations Chair:  A volunteer for this position is still needed.

22-1.4 Newsletter & Editor:  A replacement editor is needed.  The deadline for Tom Fedor’s last issue is next week.

22-1.7 2022 Mini-Con – Saturday, April 23, 2022 (confirmed):  The Mini-Con is open to the public, not just NMRA members.  

  1. Masks:  Being considered, although the Fire Department does not have any requirements.
  2. Distancing and Table Spacing:  Chair Berry has sketched out a preliminary table layout and has reviewed it with Brian Wolfe.  See item “A”  below for more about tables.
  3. Number of Attendees:  Attendance is likely to be self-limiting, but a 50% attrition can be expected.
  4. Food and Refreshments:  Although the SMD has decided to avoid providing food because of difficulties with past vendors, Chair Berry advised considering on-site food and refreshments in light of the pandemic and of the desire to keep attendees at the Mini-Con for afternoon sessions.  Even though we cannot be confident in the number of expected attendees, those present decided to investigate the food truck suggested by Brian Greenawalt.
  5. Clinics:

A. Informal Clinics:  Chair Berry has been contacting past informal clinicians.  So far, he has 19 to 20 tentatively lined up.  He reminded everyone that NMRA membership is not required for participation as a clinician.  With 20 tables available, 10 alternating clinics can go on during each of the 2-time slots and still allow clinicians to leave their work set-up at their table.   It was pointed out that in the past, there often was not enough room for all who wanted to listen to a particular presentation.  (Hopefully, more table spacing will alleviate that problem.)  Chair Berry will check with clinicians about their electric power requirements.

B. The make-and-take clinics: Brian Greenawalt has obtained laser cut kits from Carolina Craftsmen Kits (Jeff Grove). And it was suggested asking Brian to request DPM kits.  Additional assistance will be required; 1 leader is not enough to field all questions.  As in the past, preference for participation will be given to younger modelers.

C. Formal Clinics:  Chair Berry listed the following possibilities:

      • Pete Clarke – EBT
      • Alex Polimeni – Game design as it applies to model railroad operations – Alex expressed his willingness to defer to another clinician.
      • Bob Geldmacher – topic TBD
      • Fiber optics supplier – fiber optic lighting
      • John Pursell – the miser’s guide to model railroading
      • TCS – decoder installation

The expected number of audience members for the formal clinics has been relatively low in the past. The Division’s projector has not been found, but Bob Johnson has one he can loan.  We have the screen.

6. Set-Up: 7 a.m.:  Some who have set up in the past will not be available this year.  Grant Berry and Don Florwick will need assistance.  Alex Polimeni volunteered to help.

7. Publicity:  Don Florwick will notify other Divisions, the Region, and National.  Deadlines for the magazine have probably been missed.  He will also contact local clubs.  Tom Fedor will publish information in the Wheel Report and on the SMD website.

8. Raffle:  Bob Johnson made the following motion (second by Steve Green):

Motion: The Mini-Con include a raffle for a $150 gift card to Mainline HobbiesThe motion passed unanimously.

Ray Price will review past procedures and coordinate the raffle.

9. Insurance:  Since the Mini-Con is an SMD event, Chair Berry was directed to consult Pete Clarke and Bob Charles about obtaining NMRA insurance.

New Business:  There were no items of new business discussed.

Adjournment:  The superintendent accepted a motion to adjourn.  The next meeting will be held remotely by zoom on Sunday, March 13, 2022, at 2:00 p.m.  Members will be reminded by e-mail.

Minutes submitted by Clerk Harvey Heyser

There was no clinic scheduled following the February business meeting.


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.

CANCELED – Mini Convention 2020

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.]

by Pete Clark

What:  Mainline Hobby Supply presents: The SMD Spring Mini Convention.

When:  Saturday, April 18, 2020. Doors open to the public from 9:00 am. to 4:00 pm.  Doors open for set up at 7:00 AM (vendors, modular layouts, clinicians ONLY).

Where:  Blue Ridge Mountain Fire Co., located at 13063 Monterey Lane, Blue Ridge Summit, PA 17214. This venue is directly across the road from Mainline Hobby. Attendees can park, free, to the north side of the fire hall nearest the convention entrance.

For a good time, be part of the Mini-Con!

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)
  • Bill  Reynolds (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)
  • Dotti Polimeni (Painting Downtown Deco hydrocal kits)
  • 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 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 or 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