The Railroad Prototype Modelers meeting, hosted for 16 years by Martin and Patricia Lofton (of Sunshine Models) at the Holiday Inn in Naperville, Illinois, changed hosts last year, to Joe D’Elia of A-line Products. That hotel then closed for complete renovation, and this year’s meeting, the 18th, was at the Hickory Ridge Marriott Hotel in Lisle, Illinois, a town adjoining Naperville. It appears likely that next year we will be back at the previous location, with the hotel now becoming a Marriott.
This year’s meeting was very good, in my estimation (I believe I have attended all but three of these meetings). The vendor rooms were generously sized and there were a great many vendors, with many chances to have a look at products not in every hobby shop--and of course to purchase the irresistible ones. The display room was large enough for perhaps two dozen display tables (I didn’t count them), containing hundreds of outstanding models, and two large modular layouts. But as always, a major part of the meeting is the clinic program.
This year, there were four parallel clinic tracks, in four rooms. There were six time slots on Thursday and Saturday, seven on Friday, making 76 clinic slots in all. Most talks were given twice, so this means at least 38 different talks. I won’t attempt to describe them all, or even all the ones I attended, but will indicate several that I thought were outstanding.
Steve Hile gave a fine talk about the Bettendorf Company, its founders and its history, as well as what survives today. Clark Propst gave one of those presentations I’d like to see for many railroads: “M&StL Freight Cars You Should Build.” He showed a lot of models and how to create them. Jack Burgess, dependably an outstanding speaker, talked about tools for model building. Of course we all own a certain number of tools, but believe me, Jack is in a somewhat different league when it comes to serious tools and clever ways to use them. Martin Lofton talked about box cars which had been converted from automobile cars, and yes, as he freely admitted, it was a promo for several of his Sunshine kits, but well presented and informative.
I always like to hear updates from our fine freight car modelers, on what they are doing recently (Clark’s talk was in that direction), and so I enjoyed Mont Switzer’s presentation on his recent projects, and Dick Harley’s clinic on modeling PFE mechanical reefers. An excellent slice of freight car history was contained in Ed Hawkins’ talk on Bethlehem 70-ton drop-end gondolas, which of course is in written form in the new Railroad Prototype Cyclopedia issue no. 23, but it was intriguing to see the entire thing as an oral presentation. Both Richard Hendrickson and Andy Sperandeo gave fine talks about making “ready to run” models really ready to run, involving correction of minor detail parts and trucks, and particularly weathering and addition of such details as chalk marks and reweigh and repacking dates.
I’m saving for last the talks that were the most intriguing for me, with my recent explorations of waybills for model layouts. Perry Sugarman gave a really thought-provoking clinic on “Prototypical Car Movements with Realistic Documents,” showing his computer technique, using Microsoft Access, to handle paperwork for Dan Holbrook’s large layout. You can in fact download the slides from Perry’s talk at his website, at: http://www.perryaire.net/RPM2011 but be aware that it’s a big file and will take a little time to download. From his home page you need to click on “Trains” and then on “Waybills,” then at the top of page, click on “RpmLisle2011” and finally on “Car Cards.”
The other talk I especially valued was Dan Holbrook’s talk on “Car Service Rules 1940-1960.” (It too is available on Perry’s website; follow the directions above but when you get to the “RpmLisle2011” page click instead on “Car Service Rules.”) Dan is still working as a BNSF Yardmaster and has worked for the railroad since the early 1970s, so with that wealth of experience, you really have to listen to what he says; theory it’s not. This was a great summary of all the Car Service aspects most of us understand only dimly. Hopefully my grasp is now a little less dim.
There were numerous other talks, but several were ones I had heard before, so did not sit in again. My own presentations were on “Improving Waybills: Adapting Prototype Paperwork,” aspects of which have been posted in this blog, and a joint talk with Richard Hendrickson on “Weathering Freight Cars.” Our handout is really only a summary of tools and materials, but it’s available at this link: http://modelingthesp.blogspot.com/2011/10/weathering-clinic-handout.html.
Another aspect of the meeting was the “Friends of the Freight Car” activities, both in selling the new shirts and in the dinner that was held at the hotel, but that is summarized separately, at: http://modelingthesp.blogspot.com/2011/10/friends-of-freight-car-2.html .
Last but not least, this meeting, along with the January meeting at Cocoa Beach, Florida, is a great chance to meet modelers from all over the country, some of whose names you will know from the Internet but can now put a face with the name--and of course get a chance to chat. And many old acquaintanceships can be renewed, always a pleasure.
I greatly enjoyed many of the talks I heard, along with the excellent vendor rooms, the fellowship, and the superb modeling display, and would (as usual) rate this meeting as high as any I attend in a year. If you have never been to a Naperville meeting, think about it next year. I’m sure you will be impressed with the experience.