No. 53: St. Louis RPM, 2017, Part 1

The 2017 St. Louis RPM Meet was held on Friday, June 23rd and Saturday, June 24th 2017 at the Gateway Convention Center in Collinsville, Illinois…and it was a blast!


Above.  An overview of the room on Friday morning.  by Friday evening we already had 445 in attendance.

I traveled back to the US on the Sunday before the meet and spent the week seeing friends, doing some railfanning, and prepping for the meet.  It was a good week but it went fast.  The evens started on Thursday evening when we had our usual “social” at Bandana’s BBQ–which about 80-85 guys attended–and then we went over to the DoubleTree hotel next to the convention center–where many of our attendees were staying–and hung out there in the bar for a while.  Those were good times.  The meet started the next morning when we showed up at the center at 7 a.m. to unlock the buildings.

We had 56 tables set aside for models right as you walk in the front door.  We’re a modeler’s meet so we put the model tables right up front.  The tables were mostly full but not overflowing as in previous years. Quite a few notable modelers didn’t bring anything this time, including all of your hosts.  I think we were all too busy to pack up anything; I know I was.  I didn’t bother to count models this year but just guessing I’d say there were easily 2,500 to 3,000 models on display.



Conversations about models raged all day.  That’s what this event is all about–the modelers and the models.  I caught Lee Stewart (left) and Tony Sissons talking about Conrail engines here.


We had an expanded lineup of clinics this year, in two rooms, plus some spare room space for private meetings. Our speakers this year included, in order of appearance, Bernie Kempinski, Jared Harper, Paul Eillis, Jeff Otto, Michael Gross, Barry Karlberg, Clark Propst, Ted Culotta, George Bogatiuk, Ryan Crawford, John Green, Dave Roeder, Ed Hawkins, Tony Thompson, Blaine Hadfield, David Lehlbach, and Brad Hanner. I was able to catch part of Tony Thompson’s clinic on Wine Tank Cars and it was fascinating. Michael Gross had a standing-room-only crowd for his weathering clinic, and I heard that Ed Hawkins’ presentation on the PS-1 Box Car was riveting (pun intended).  This is Ed Hawkins, below, on the left, with Jim Canter.


18 railroad historical societies were present including two late-comers. Our historical societies are very important to our event because they are often the “bank” that holds all our prototype information for each railroad.  These guys are all unpaid volunteers and money is tight, and we are grateful for what they bring to the hobby. The final list included representation from the C&EI, CB&Q, CNW, GM&O, ICRHA, L&N, ACL/SAL, Rio Grande, Missouri Pacific, Nickel Plate, NYC System, PRR, Wabash, Illinois Terminal, Terminal RR Association, Central of Georgia, and also the Barriger Library and the National Railway & Locomotive Historical Society.

Below is a photo of one of our longtime favorites at St. Louis, Mr. Allen Tuten from the wonderful central of Georgia Historical Society.  Like most other railroad historical societies, the Central society offers models, books, archive material, photos, magazines, and more.


44 individual manufacturers and vendors attended.  The presence of manufacturers is a big part of the RPM movement because manufacturers need to know what we’re interested in, and what they’re doing right, and what works and what doesn’t.  Below is part of the Intermountain display, featuring their new, not-yet-released, beautiful Tier 4 locomotives.


Some folks say that RPM meets shouldn’t have vendors.  I couldn’t disagree more.  Below is a photo of one of the most important parts of an RPM meet–the photo dealers.  This is Bob Liljestrand of Bob’s Photos, overlooking a table-full of hungry RPMers.


Some of our favorite vendors are the small, niche companies that bring hard-to-find things for sale.  Below, the Proto87 Stores guys were selling cool, compact switch machines with rotating switch stands for $14, and showing off their awesome product line.  I personally am using a lot of Proto87 Stores stuff on my layout and I was glad them here this year.


An example of cool new stuff on display: These are new switch stands brought by Paul Federiconi from Details West.  How cool are these!


Another emerging product that was “all the talk” at the meet was the Proto Throttle, being developed by Iowa Scaled Engineering with the help of Scott Thornton.  Here’s Scott with one of the new throttles, which was a lot of fun to operate.  Scott is striking his “movie start’ pose here…


I was happy to see a lot of good friends like Clark Propst and Tony Sissons and others, and a lot of guys I admire, like Bill Darnaby, Bob Perrin, Lester Brewer, and honestly everybody else in the room.  Here’s Clark Propst (at right) giving Scott Thornton a stern talking-to:


Here’s one of our featured speakers, Tony Thompson of Signature Press (left) with Lester Brewer, a very-well-known freight car modeler.


I was thrilled to finally meet Harry Wong after all these years.  Harry hosts the famous Western Prototype Modeler’s meet and couldn’t be a nicer guy.  Here’s Harry at right with Chris Palomarez–another rock star in the hobby–with Dave Hussey providing the “bomb”.


We a couple of great modular layouts in house, including the fantastic Modutrak layout from Chicago, and Jim Canter’s traveling Proto48 Nickel Plate layout, and also the Mudhens, who brought a fully-scenicked, well running HOn3 layout.  Below is Jim Canter with his awesome P48 layout.  Jim is one of the hobby’s greatest ambassadors, and is a very humble guy and a very accomplished Proto48 modeler and cottage manufacturer.


Some of the manufacturers and vendors provided, free of charge, hands-on “learning stations” where you could do some hands-on modeling with the experts. Badger Airbrush provided paint demos, The Weathering Shop and Dave Schroedle offered hands-on weathering sessions, and Jeff Otto from Oak Hill Model Railroad Track Supply ( conducted a series of hands-on turnout building clinics at a very low cost.  LokSound and SoundTraxx were there programming sounds-equipped engines for free.  It costs these companies a lot of time and money to do what they do, and we are grateful that they could attend and be part of the big meet.

Here’s Jeff Otto, below, talking track.  He’s a pharmacist by day, and a track worker by night.


I’ll do another post to show some of my favorite models on display.  Meanwhile there is a nice write-up at the meet on Ted Culotta’s Speedwitch blog, which is reachable through Ted’s Speedwitch media site at speedwitch  Dick Harley has a good write-up available at .  I hope to link to a photo page from Dave Hussey sometime soon as well.

The official St. Louis RPM Photo Site can be reached at or just go to FLICKR and search for Golden and that’ll take you there.  This is our new photo site and it is still very much under construction, but you can click on the folders to see models and modelers by year.

Models below by Brian Banna.



If you want more info see our website at or just Google “St. Louis RPM” and check out our flyers, photos and reviews.

Our next meet is 20-21 July 2018, again at the Gateway Convention Center.  I hope you can make it out, and BRING – YOUR – MODELS!


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