Friday, October 28, 2016

RPM Chicagoland 2016

Begun by Martin Lofton as a promotional vehicle for his Sunshine Models business, and held every October for many years in the Chicago suburb Naperville, the conference has changed somewhat since Martin’s death. It seems to have found a new home in Lisle, Illinois, the town adjoining Naperville. It’s now titled the Chicagoland conference by new director Mike Skibbe, and this year, running October 20–22, was the 23rd annual meeting.
     I have not been to every one of these, but have certainly attended the great majority of them, and was looking forward this year to see how Mike would manage the meeting. In brief, he did a great job, and the enthusiasm and “buzz” at the meeting was definitely upbeat. Attendance was about 330, not as large as the largest turnouts Martin Lofton achieved, but better than most years. There was a full schedule of clinics, of which I gave one (on my waybill system), and clinic rooms were usually well filled. I felt that most talks were very good to excellent.
     For me, a high point of RPM meetings is the model display, and this year the turnout was of high quality, though not as numerous as some years. One of the exhibits, by Ray Breyer, typified what I think of as the best kind of “instructional” display, one that shows models in progress. Here are a bunch of Nickel Plate steam locomotives, most with brass and styrene detail parts added but not yet painted, clearly showing the work in progress.

     There are always manufacturers in attendance, some of whom man tables to offer their wares, but sometimes a new product is simply put in with the displays. This was the case with the new Cannon and Company 5000-series box car kit, with examples built by Dave Hussey. (You can visit the Cannon website at: .) This particular one is kit 5011 for the Great Northern, numbered 138224.

     An especially well-done freight car I liked was by Steve Hile, starting from a Proto2000 AC&F tank car of 8000 gallons, adding a dome from Tom Madden to represent a retrofitted second compartment (with rows of Archer rivets securing the interior heads), and with upgraded details, such as Yarmouth sill steps. The weathering on UTLX 530 is very nicely handled too.

     Another manufacturer present was Frank Hodina, of Resin Car Works, who I know sold quite a few new kits (see more about this business at: ). Here he is at his table, with the remaining stock of kits in front of him. I bought one of his boiler load kits myself. This is the kind of manufacturer seen only at meetings like this one.

In my previous post (see: ), I mentioned another seller you would only see at a meet like this: Ted Schnepf and his “Rails Unlimited” business, especially his superb reprints of railroad-issued Shipper Guides. You can visit Ted’s website for more information on purchasing these guides, at: .
     The Friends of the Freight Car dinner was held on the Friday night, as has been the case for several years. This year, instead of an after-dinner speaker, a panel was presented with the goal of informing attendees about the resources available at several railroad archives, and explaining how to go about tapping those resources. This was Steve Hile’s idea, and he organized most of it, with a little help from me and from Mike Skibbe. Here is the beginning of the session, with three panelists at the bottom. From left, they are Nick Fry (Barriger Library, St. Louis), Kyle Wyatt (California State Railroad Museum, Sacramento), and Ted Anderson (Pullman Library, Union, Illinois). Out of view at right was Roger Hinman, who gave the perspective of a user of archives like these. I apologize for not getting more of the presenters’ bodies into the photo!

     Often at these meetings, there may be an “off-site” opportunity to operate at a model railroad or two. This year, I enjoyed operating at the layouts of Bill Darnaby and Bob Hanmer. At Bob’s, I shared the yardmaster job at High Grade Yard on the DM&IR, where the great majority of the work involves entire trains of ore cars, loaded or empty, a really neat experience. This photo conveys the flavor of this yard.

     This was a good meeting, and frankly, an improvement over the meetings held in recent years under Mike Skibbe’s predecessor. I look forward to more good conventions in this fine series. Anyone who got discouraged with recent versions of this event should definitely plan to attend next year. Mike has a good feel for what makes a good meeting, and great organizing skills, along with plenty of helpers to make it all work. I will certainly be there in 2017.
Tony Thompson


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