Wednesday, January 11, 2023

Cocoa Beach 2023

 Once again, the Prototype Rails meeting at Cocoa Beach, Florida’s Hilton Hotel was held in the first week of January. This event started in 2001, but was not held in 2021 on account of the pandemic, so this was the 22nd meeting. Not present at the meeting was its founder, Mike Brock, and after the meeting, we learned why: he had passed away on January 2.

Many will know Mike as the founder and long-time “sheriff” (list owner) of the Steam Era Freight Cars email list. He instituted two requirements which, from the beginning, have made the list, overall,  a polite and congenial place: first, that all posts were to be signed with the person’s full name, no “anonymous” posts or internet “handles;” second, that criticisms of individuals were prohibited. Would that more social media followed the same rules (or had Mike as the “sheriff”).

Mike was a very organized person, and ran the Cocoa meeting (and many other things) efficiently and effectively. And he was a wonderful meeting host, always generous with his time and most welcoming to everyone attending. He had a knack for noticing a new attendee, and would make a point of talking to that person. Below is a photo I took in 2016 at the meeting, in the Hilton ballroom. Mike is at left (in one of his signature Hawaiian shirts), and next to him, Marty Megregian, his long-time “assistant manager,” who will now take over the meeting.

They are talking to Steve Funaro and Sharon Camerlengo, proprietors, of course, of the Funaro & Camerlengo (F&C) resin kit business, who have attended most Prototype Rails as vendors. Coincidentally, in the background between them is Tony Koester. Here’s a photo across the same ballroom during this year’s meeting. The ballroom is now better lit and a lighter color.

But news of Mike’s passing did not reach us at the meeting. The usual clinic program, organized by Jeff Aley as always, was excellent, everyone greatly enjoyed the renewal of acquaintances, especially after the pandemic, and Florida came through with lovely weather. I always especially enjoy the model displays, and show a few examples below.

I will begin with one of a group of excellent loads by Eric Thur. The loads themselves are made by Multiscale Digital (visit:   . . . and if you do, note the photo from my layout!), some of them from information and photos submitted by Eric. The load is a flywheel gearbox for a Loewy hydraulic press. The P&LE flat car is from F&C.

Another example of a model I really liked was this rendition of graffiti on a box car, model by Preston Stinger (though exhibited by Jim Hopes). The dirt around the door and the excellent roof rusting made the model come alive for me.

A classic era model by Bruce Smith, a Pennsylvania GRA gondola, is modeled in work train service, specifically as part of a wire train serving the PRR electrified region. The wire reels are shown as empty, full (with paper cover), or partly used. Lovely work.

Last but far from least is one of the many boxcar kitbashes and upgrades displayed by longtime Prototype Rails participant Al Brown. It’s a simple-looking model, but here’s what Al told us about it: it’s a Red Caboose kit with InterMountain roof and doors; Plano running board; Tichy bracket grabs; and Tahoe trucks. And the painting is interesting too: the black roof was lightened by a light dusting with Tamiya Gunship Gray. The body color is Scalecoat II boxcar red and decals are Speedwitch.

Once more, an outstanding meeting at Cocoa Beach. I have been to practically every one, often as a speaker (as I was again this time), and am delighted to contribute to this fine event in that way. I just wish it was within driving distance so I could bring one of those model displays that occupy a full table!

Tony Thompson

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