Saturday, November 4, 2017

This year’s RPM Chicagoland meeting

The RPM (Railroad Prototype Modelers) meeting in the Chicago area was originated by Martin Lofton (of Sunshine Models) in 1994. Martin, with his wife Patricia, then hosted it for 16 years at the Holiday Inn in Naperville, Illinois. In 2010, with Martin having passed away, the meeting changed hosts, to Joe D’Elia of A-line Products. After that Holiday Inn closed for complete renovation, subsequent meetings have been held in Lisle, Illinois, a town adjoining Naperville, and located recently at the Sheraton Hotel.
     The final meeting run by Joe D’Elia was in 2015, and Mike Skibbe (and a number of members of the Midwest Mod-U-Trak club) took over. Mike has worked hard to bring back the successful past of this meeting, and it was especially evident this 24th year that he is succeeding brilliantly. Attendance was above 350 this year, the most in several years and only slightly below the best of the Lofton years. The name “Naperville” still is used occasionally for this meeting, but Mike, wisely I believe, is now using the regional name “Chicagoland,” and that seems to fit.
     This year’s meeting was very good across the board, in my estimation. The vendor space in the ballroom was generous, 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. Below is a snapshot overview of the area.

Very noticeable this year, partly due to the significantly increased attendance, was the pronounced “buzz” in the ballroom.  Almost every time I walked in, I couldn’t help but notice it. It is, of course, a very good sign for any meeting.
     The remainder of the ballroom was given over to two large, high-quality modular layouts (HO and N scale Modutrak), and to model display, with room for perhaps two dozen display tables (I didn’t count them), containing a couple hundred outstanding models. I will return to those in a moment.
     One of the highlights for me at most model railroad meetings is the clinic program. And the top meetings such as RPM Chicagoland and RP Cocoa Beach have truly outstanding programs. I won’t try to describe or evaluate the whole program but will just mention one that I really enjoyed and that furnished some excellent information. It was Charles Hostetler’s talk entitled “Modeling Canadian Freight in a U.S. Setting: Data and Implementation.” The title is a mouthful but the content was great. Here is a photo of Charles gesturing at one of his slides.

The talk stimulated a lot of thought on my part, and I will likely return to Charles’s topic with some additional ideas of my own. You can download a PDF of his slide package by going to his blog site, which is located at: and well worth reading. You can scroll down to this PDF link or use this one: Download Modeling Canadian Freight in a US Setting Handout .
    I always enjoy repeated visits to the model display area at these meetings, and usually take a lot of photos. This meeting was no exception. I will just show three entries I particularly liked, but of course there were dozens more worthy of attention.
     I will begin with an otherwise ordinary covered hopper, but thoroughly and convincingly weathered, in accord with a prototype photo. The model was by Tim VanMersbergen.

     Another very nice model represented one of the composite gondolas that Milwaukee Road converted for pulpwood service, removing the side sheathing and with heavy-duty floor and end lining. This fine model was built by Tom Baldner.

     Lastly, I always admire the modern modelers who strive to reproduce the colorful graffiti so prevalent today on railroad equipment. Like it or hate it, it is modern reality, and anyone neglecting it, in my opinion, is creating an unrealistic model. This one, which as you can see, is matched to a photo, is by Rick “Dakota” Kempf.

     As we know from some previous years, this can be a superb meeting, though we learned for a few years that excellence is by no means automatic. I felt that this year it was back where it had been at its best, and I very much hope and expect it to continue. If you haven’t attended RPM Chicagoland before, or not for a few years, I strongly recommend giving it a shot in 2018.
Tony Thompson 

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the great report on the Chicagoland meet. Also appreciate the photos and links to Charles's clinic and hand out (and also to Charles for making them available!).

    Regarding your comment about graffiti, I absolutely DESPISE that sort of vandalism, but I totally agree with you that if you model current railroading (and stretching back a number of years as well), you HAVE to model it if you want to be prototypically correct. And Rick has done an excellent job of it.