From the Desk of the Superintendent; Oct. 2023

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

I am happy to report to you that the 2023/2024 SMD program year is off to a good start. Attendance at the September meeting is historically small, but 17 members attended this year’s meeting which is very close to average for a regular meeting. This number included at least three “new” members. We welcome them and hope they will continue to participate.

My thanks to our gracious host, Don Florwick (well at least Betty was gracious). The one shortcoming was that we did not have a clinic of any type presented. Don filled in by giving us an excellent overview of the “back story” for his Pittsburgh and South Pennsylvania Railroad.

In addition to our regular September meeting, the SMD co-sponsored the layout tours program associated with Mainline Hobby Supply’s annual open house on September 16th and 17th. A large number of SMD member layouts were included on the tour and we thank all of you who opened your doors for helping.

-Bob Johnson

October Meeting:

Our host for the October will be Larry Daily. Larry has been a member of the NMRA for several years but says that until now he has always been a “lone wolf” modeler. In a burst of enlightenment, he decided to get more out of the hobby by becoming active with the NMRA. He has taken the big step of hosting us at only the second meeting he will have attended so I encourage all of you to come to the October meeting and show him a big SMD welcome.

Larry’s layout is based on the C&O’s Piedmont Subdivision in late spring/early summer of 1970. It occupies a good bit of his basement. The track plan is basically a big oval bent into an L-shape, about 25.50 feet on the long leg and 17.67 feet on the short side. About two-thirds of the scenery is completed and many of the structures represent actual buildings found on the prototype (this is always a modeling challenge). He says that if you really want to know whether it’s worth the trip, you can check it out on his web site

Clinic – TBD

Email the Division for Larry’s address.

Meeting Hosts Needed:

As of this writing we have filled five of the eight meeting slots for the coming year. We still need meeting hosts for November, December, and January. Remember that without hosts we cannot hold our meetings so I encourage any of you who can to throw your hat in the ring (it is painless). We are also always looking for clinic presenters so keep that in mind also. If you would like to host, or even have a question  about hosting, contact the division Superintendent at at your earliest opportunity.

From the Desk of the Superintendent; Sept. 2023

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

Welcome to the start of the 2023 / 2024 SMD program year. Per our long standing “normal” schedule we will be meeting once a month throughout the coming division year. The September through March meetings will be held on the second Sunday of each month from 2:00 PM to 5:00 PM. The April meeting will be our annual Mini-Con and will be held on the second Saturday (tentative) of April at the Blue Ridge Summit fire hall (across from Main Line Hobby Supply) and the May meeting will be held on eh third Sunday of the month to avoid a conflict with Mother’s Day. I am looking forward to another successful year of model railroading activities and hope that all of you will join in sharing your knowledge and talents with the rest of the division. -Bob Johnson

September Meeting:

Our host for the first meeting of the year (September 10, 2023) will be Don Florwick. His Pittsburg and South Pennsylvania Railroad depicts a portion of the South Pennsylvania Railroad (prototype) as if it had been finished and was operating as an independent line. The layout occupies 1100 sq. ft. of space and is operated by a NCE DCC system. The layout features a number of major industries and a significant amount of thru traffic is also present during operating sessions.
Clinic – TBD
Email the Division for Don’s address.

Meeting Hosts Needed:

We are still in desperate need of hosts for the October through January meetings for this year. We have a couple of offers but they are individuals who hosted last year and in general we try to avoid repeating hosts back to back. We thought we had a host for October but last minute conflicts raided their nasty head so we are back to looking for an October host. If you would like to host, or even have a question about hosting, contact the division Superintendent at at your earliest opportunity. As list of scheduled meeting hosts will be included ion the next issue of the Wheel Report.

Renew On Line:

You can renew your NMRA membership on line at the following link;
Remember that your national membership automatically includes membership in both the Mid-East Region and the South Mountain Division and you will receive the NMRA Bulletin electronically on a regular basis.
Membership is a requirement for insurance purposes but guests can attend one or two meetings without joining. There is also a trial membership category available at a reduced cost.

SMD Officers and Officials:

Superintendent: Bob Johnson

Clerk: Harvey Heyser

Paymaster: RayPrice

Webmaster/Digital Assets Manager: Tom Fedor

Wheel Report Editor: Alex Polimeni

Division Achievement Program Coordinator: Jane Clarke

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.

May 2023 Meeting Reminder

From the Desk of the Superintendent

The monthly meeting of the South Mountain Division (SMD) will be held on Sunday, 21 May at the home of Rich Randall in Gettysburg, PA. Please note that the May meeting will be held on the third Sunday of the month to avoid a conflict with Mother’s Day.

Rich models the Milwaukee Road in O scale and has chosen to focus on the town of Avery, Idaho. He will present a program detailing the problems and rewards of focusing on a limited area.

Additional agenda details will be provided in about two weeks but for now plan on being there.

The usual admonition is still in effect — If you are ill, have symptoms of COVID-19 or have been recently exposed, we would ask you not to attend.  Otherwise, everyone is welcome.

Turnout for the SMD meetings, including the April Mini-Con, has been very good. Let’s keep up the trend and have an even better turnout to close out the year.

Bob Johnson, 2022-2023 SMD Superintendent