Wednesday, May 3, 2023


This past week, the Pacific Coast Region (PCR) of NMRA held its annual convention, this time in Sacramento under the auspices of Sierra Division. As I almost always do, I attended the meeting and quite enjoyed the experience. 

I report on meetings like this not because of their intrinsic importance, or because it matters that I was there, but because I hope to encourage modelers who don’t typically attend such conventions to give them a try. I have always found NMRA regional conventions to really be fun.

For me, the primary attraction at such a meeting often is the clinics, where remarkable degrees of expertise in many, many areas of our complex hobby are on offer. This convention was no exception. I show below just one example, Mike Roque during his fine talk diving deeply into the prototype, “Signals: Identification, Aspects, Types, and Meaning.”

I did give a couple of clinics myself at this meeting, something I am usually happy to contribute to the fabric of the program.

I always enjoy the model and photo contest room, where often some very impressive modeling is seen. My favorite this year was Earl Girbovan’s pile-driver barge, a marvelously complicated and yet business-like model. I would love to have sat down and played with it, while examining all the details! Terrific stuff. (You can click on the image to enlarge it if you wish.)

Another part of most regional conventions is layout tours and operating sessions for local layouts. I had the pleasure of operating on Bill Burg’s “Sacramento Northern Belt Line,” modeling a very interesting prototype area in Sacramento, the in-town trackage of Sacramento Northern and Central California Traction. One of the challenges in such a prototype is that it was electrified in the era Bill has chosen. Of course that’s also a wonderful opportunity for equipment like this:

Bill confronted the overhead-wire problem with what I consider a very nice choice: include the line poles and the span wires, but not the line wire. That way, one can do switching without having to work under the wire over the track all the time, just avoiding the span wires at intervals. You can see this below.

But the main reason I took this photo is to show how nicely Bill solved the perpetual problem of disguising streets that should continue into the distance, but necessarily have to end at a rather close backdrop. He framed the street with trees, then used a photo of a shady Sacramento street where the road meets the backdrop. Very nicely done!

Bill took a few photos during our session, and in the one below, you see Seth Neumann in the foreground, engineer at the time, with his steeple-cab locomotive by his left arm, with me as the conductor in the background. Switching with a steeple cab! It doesn’t get more fun than that.

This was an enjoyable convention, as is almost always the case at NMRA Regional events, and as I mentioned at the outset, if you’ve never been to one, I urge you to consider attending when your nearest one comes up on the calendar next.

Tony Thompson

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