No. 182: The 2023 O Scale National and 2023 Savannah RPM

Two weeks ago I attended two modeling events back-to-back. First, on March 17th I drove up to Chicago from St. Louis to attend the annual O Scale two-rail Train Show and Meet at the Westin Lombard Yorktown Center Lombard, Ill. I was only there for three hours, but I had a nice time and ran into a lot of old friends, and met some new ones, and also bought a few hard-to-find things. You can read more about that event at

Naturally the O scale community does things a little differently. This Milwaukee 2-6-2 was entered in the model contest hosted by the organizers. It was completely scratchbuilt in brass in the 1970s.

Very big engines were everywhere! Many of the vendor tables were manned by regular fellows selling off collections.

My old friend Ted Schnepf was there, selling his full line of O scale resin freight cars and parts. There’s Ted in the orange shirt at the right, holding court and talking to a few prospective buyers.

The O Scale National was a good time and it was terrific to see a lot of old friends. For a fresh look at the hobby, I recommend you attend an O scale or a European event. There’s a whole lot to learn out there.

The following weekend–on March 24th and 25th–I attended the Savannah Railroad Prototype Modeler’s Meet, hosted by Bob Harpe and his great team from the Savannah, Georgia area. The meet was held at the Southside Assembly of God church on the city’s south side.

Below. The drive to Chicago was characterized by low temperatures (15F), high winds, and snow squalls. The drive to Savannah a week later was totally different–clear skies, warm temps and LOTS of traffic. Here’s my view of Chattanooga, dead-stopped on the north (wrong) side of town on Friday, around 3:30, just as rush hour was taking effect…

The next morning, after getting a little rest, I was at Savannah RPM before the doors opened at 9:00 a.m. Obviously, everybody else was there before 9:00 a.m. too.

Savannah RPM is a small event, hosted by Bob and team as more of a friendly get-together than a regional or blockbuster event. That’s what makes Savannah RPM so cool–it’s small, and friendly, and you get to know everybody that attends. 40 modelers attended this year and it was casual and fun. The view below shows the main room where there are about 10-12 model tables, 8-10 vendor tables, three or four historical society tables, and a few giveaway tables tucked in the back corner. Clinics were hosted in a separate room.

I finally met my longtime online pal, Fenton Wells, at Savannah RPM. Here’s Fenton with his beautiful collection of FGE models. Fenton does terrific work and is a super guy, and a very motivational modeler. We spent half the day together on Saturday. I shared the other side of the table with Fenton–those are my HO and Proto48 models on display. I brought the O scale models specifically to antagonize Bob Harpe, but he didn’t take notice. I guess I’ll have to bring more next year.

What! More O scale? Yes indeed, and this piece is special. Georgia 302 was displayed by a gentleman who acquired the model through an estate. The engine was scratchbuilt in O (“five-foot”) scale, entirely in brass by the famous railroad photographer Bill Lenoir in the early 1970s. Bill’s craftsmanship is shown here in all it’s glory.

Below. Here is Stu Thayer, an old friend and an outstanding L&N modeler and historian. One of the most pleasant guys you could ever meet in the hobby.

This is the great Bill McCoy, at left, and the great Ed Mims at right. Both are retired railroaders and are giants in the southeastern modeling and railroad historical scene. Bill and Ed’s work is in the foreground. I spent a good half an hour drooling all over Ed’s heavily kitbashed purple ACL express car, seen at the far left of this photo. It’s a Walthers model that Bill re-worked. Bill fitted a prototypically-correct streamlined roof, made of wood, on the car.

John Degnan was at Savannah this year with an ever-growing display of fine S scale models. Note the use of the term “S Scale“. John is not quiet the king of S Scale but he’s certainly the prince. He’s driven quality manufacturers to S scale for over 20 years and here is the outstanding result.

Bob Harpe is a very-well-known locomotive builder and he brought quite a selection to display. Interesting that he’s using an old St. Louis RPM introduction card for his models.

It’s awfully nice to be back in the U.S. and have the opportunity to attend modeling events and catch up with old friends. Savannah RPM is worth your time to go.

I wasn’t in the Savannah area long–only two full days. I spent Saturday at Savannah RPM and on Sunday I went to Wilmington Island to visit my lovely 93-year-old Mom.

I’m back home now, recovering from full left-knee arthroplasty (“left knee replacement”) and contemplating continued work on the new Hermitage Road layout, seen below. Track laying is almost complete and I’ll send an update soon.

RPM Meets and specialty shows are great places to inspire prototype railroad modelers and meet old and new friends. Let good work and motivational people inspire you to do great work this year! – John G

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