No. 97: St. Louis RPM 2018, Part 2

This post on the 2018 St. Louis RPM Meet focuses on some of the 3,700+ models brought by attendees for display.

Here is a view of the 81 8×2-1/2-foot model tables on Saturday morning before the doors opened.  Most of the tables are filled although it looks like this one UP train took up three tables.  That’s okay though–that’s one reason why we get so many.


This selection encompasses only photos I took.  Our photographer, Mark Lewis, took a lot more photos and I’ll post some of those soon.


Above.  Dennis Eggert has always been a hero of mine with his cool CNW kitbashes and exquisite locomotive weathering.  CNW 1619 is one of my favorite engine types, an RSC-3, and Dennis has weathered it beautifully.


Above.  Clark Propst continues to bring interesting models to RPM meets.  Clark decided that displaying models by themselves was boring–and he is right–so he built this Walthers grain elevator kit and diorama to show off his freight cars.  He built the whole scene on a piece of Masonite.  How simple, and how cool.  


Lonnie Bathurst (with the help of another unnamed St. Louis RM host…) displayed the first stages of his Pillsbury Mills model.  The prototype was in Springfield, Illinois and Lonnie and Ryan Crawford tag-teamed a clinic on the subject during the meet.  The completed model will be installed on the Litchfield Train Group layout in Litchfield, Illinois.  The silos are 2-inch PVC pipe and the headhouse is a cardboard mock-up with a photo of the headhouse enlarged to fit.


Bill Darnaby sneaked in to St. Louis RPM and displayed this 1/48th scale model of a Union Traction car.  I don’t know for sure, but I suspect it is built to Proto48 standard…


Bill Welch continues to break new ground building HO scale freight cars.  Bill presented a clinic on extreme freight car modeling and—to back up the clinic—displayed models he’s kitbashing of several single-sheathed cars.


A closer view of one of Bill’s cars.  This I believe is an MKT prototype.


Brian Strom is a great guy and an extremely talented modeler, pursuing his art in both HO and Proto48.  This HO scale ICG F-unit is superbly finished.  The craftsmanship is simply brilliant. 


There was quite a bit of S scale at St. Louis RPM.  Dick Harley showed these beautifully painted and weathered S scale models.


David Stewart is a well-known DC-area O scaler, and brought this huge NKP Berk to St. Louis.  The prototype engines were regulars here into the late 50s.  This engine is absolutely incredible.  Thanks for making the big effort to bring this big engine to St. Louis, David!


In addition to models brought by attendees, vendors displayed a whole lot of models too.  Speedwitch Media showed off this future mini-kit for a NYC 50-fot box car.  As always, Ted Culotta’s detail and finish work is second-to-none.


Chad Boas, a cottage manufacturer from Lafayette, Indiana, produces a good number of HO scale models in small runs.  He’s famous in the Midwest for offering very affordable multi-media flat car kits.  One of Chad’s newest offerings is the cool Monon single-sheathed box car  I was able to get on and my model is already under construction.


Here are some of the many hundreds of vehicles that came along with the 1/87 Vehicle Group.  These guys had a tremendous display and filled at least eight tables with vehicles models.  If you know how small HO scale vehicles are, that’s a whole lot of models!


These vehicles were on display by Andy Weusthoff, one of St. Louis’s Finest, and one of St. Louis’s finest modelers. 


This truck was brought by Brad Slone.  Who knew Brad was a vehicle modeler!  And a damn fine vehicle modeler too!


After years of begging, my friend Jim DuFour made the big trip to St. Louis from his home in Massachusetts.  Jim gave a great clinic on his B&M layout and brought these exquisite some models for display.  Search for Jim DuFour, B&M layout on You Tube and you’ll see why we wanted him here!


A close-up of Jim DuFour’s exquisite prototype modeling work.


Around the late 1970s I used to read article in Mainline Modeler by this guy names Bob Rivard.  The guy was a visionary.  He modeled the prototype exactly like it was.  In all regards–trackwork, scenery, rolling stock, ops schemes–his modeling was unparalleled.  Bob is now a regular speaker at St. Louis, and he brought this cool display to show models in an absolutely prototypical setting.  Bob is a great guy and one of the most helpful and inspirational modelers you’ll ever meet.


Here’s another view of Bob Rivard’s display.  The simplicity of the detail, the color, the textures, it’s fantastic. 

That’s all for now.  Hope you enjoyed a few photos.  Other photos are available at and and there is additional coverage at

Enjoy! – John G




No. 95: St. Louis RPM 2018, Part 1

The 2018 St. Louis RPM Meet was held last weekend, 20-21 July 2018, at the Gateway Convention Center in Collinsville, Illinois.  Once again it was a great time and this year’s event was another record-breaker, with 662 prototype modelers in attendance.


Photos above and below by Norm Buckhart.


This year’s event featured 23 clinics and hands-on presentations, 51 scale model vendors on 128 tables, 17 railroad historical societies on 30 tables, three modular layouts (HO, N and O/Proto-48), six hands-on learning stations and exhibitors, three home layout tours, three evening social events, and the largest attendee model display in the nation, which this year topped 3,700 models brought by attendees in all scales and gauges.  The model below was displayed by Dennis Eggert.


Some people call this a train show, but it is really designed as a Modeler’s Meet.  The very heart of our event is the models brought by attendees for display.  This year we had 81 eight-foot tables set aside for models and they were full.  Showing models is the best way to meet new friends, show your best work, and learn from others. Attendees brought rolling stock, locomotives, structures and everything else related to railroad modeling.  In addition the 1/87 Vehicle Club was present and they brought hundreds of vehicles to see–almost too many to count.


This year’s vendors included Tangent Scale Models, Speedwitch, Intermountain, ExactRail, Yarmouth, Kadee, Bluford Shops, Protocraft, Rails Unlimited, Mask Island Decals, Plano, Bethlehem Car Works, Central Valley, Oak Hill Model Railroad Supply, LokSound, SoundTraxx, and many more.  Iowa Scaled Engineering was here selling their complete line, including the much-talked-about Proto-Throttle.  We’ve had a big lineup of photo dealers as well, including Bob’s Photos, Mainline Photos, Jim Shaw Photos, Mike Wise Slides, and John Fuller from Historical Rail Photos.

Vendors, like Keith Hapes of Plano seen below on the left, are a vital part of our meet.  Not only do they sell important modeling items, they meet and talk to their customers and exchange ideas.


We have not one but two HO model-building clinics. Ted Culotta of Speedwitch provided an HO scale freight car model, resin parts, decals, and a special clinic, all designed to build a Litchfield and Madison USRA gondola–a local favorite.  And the wonderful John Greene of Bethlehem Car Works offered a kitbash clinic to build a 6-3 sleeper as well. 

Below.  One of Jack Burgess’s clinics.   


Clinics were provided by Bob Rivard, Ted Culotta, Mont Switzer, Brian Banna, Dan Holbrook, David Lehlbach, Trevor Marshall,  Tim VanMersbergen, Steve Hile, John Greene and Bill Welch.  Jim DuFour and Randy Laframboise visited from the northeast and gave clinics on their wonderful prototype layouts, and Jack Burgess visited from the San Francisco area and gave two clinics, one on 3D printing and a second on his famous Yosemite Valley layout.  Dan Holbrook gave our featured Friday night presentation, focusing on our 2018 theme, The Grain Industry.


Two great layouts were operating in house. The Cincinnati Sipping & Switching Society brought a magnificent 35 x 20-foot HO layout, and Jim Canter was back with his traveling Proto48 Nickel Plate layout.  Home layout tours were provided on Friday night by John Schindler, Bob Brady and Mike Wise. 

  • John Schindler has a contemporary railroad with modern power and rolling stock. Major railroads operated include BNSF, UP, Terminal RR Association, Alton & Southern, and Amtrak.  John operates with a crw of 13 using car cards and train orders.
  • Bob Brady models the Frisco with a MOPAC interchange. The era is steam to diesel transition.  Bob’s layout features very prototypical scenes and rolling stock. Bob operates six times or more each year with a crew of six using a modified time table and train order system.
  • Mike Wise has a 1964-themed layout with a wide variety of operating scenarios. He runs second generation diesels and can set up five different railroads for an operating session, including PRR, Wabash, UP, and his own Sugar Creek Valley Railroad.  Mike operates using hand written switch lists and train orders on a single-sheet format that he copied from the Wabash.

Below.  The Cincinnati Sipping & Switching Society’s excellent 35 x 20-foot HO layout.


Another view of the Cincinnati Sipping & Switching Society’s layout.


Railroad Historical Societies representing the Missouri Pacific, New York Central, C&EI, CNW, L&N, Nickel Plate, Wabash, CB&Q, Pennsylvania Railroad, and the Terminal Railroad Association were present, along with the National Railway and Locomotive Society. The MoPac Society hosted their annual Railroad Historical Society Meeting on Friday evening.

Want to try your hand at weathering, or drawing CAD, or building trackwork?  St. Louis RPM includes that and much more.  


Our thanks to our partners, the Gateway Division, NMRA, for helping us make this happen.

Quite simply, the photo below is what St. Louis RPM is all about.  Modelers getting together, talking, meeting, sharing thoughts and ideas, and growing the hobby.  Why don’t you come next year and give St. Louis RPM a try?


We were able to pull off another record-breaking event thanks to the year-round dedicated effort of our 14-person team.  Our year-round team includes Dave Roeder, Brian McQuitty, Mark Lewis, Jeff Kuebler, Lonnie Bathurst, Dan Kohlberg and me, John Golden.  Our part-timers this year included Mark Lewis, Rich Velton, Felicia Kohlbger, Nora Kohlberg, Mary Bathurst, Don Ayers, David Lowell and Brad Slone.

Part 2 of this post will show some of the models presented at St. Louis RPM.

Mark your calendars: The 2018 St. Louis RPM meet will happen on 26 and 27 July, 2019.  I hope to see you there!  – John G


No. 90: US-prototype Freemo Event in Winnweiler, Germany

This weekend I invited myself to a private Freemo event in Winnweiler, Germany, about 40 minutes from my home.  My friend Peter Aue was going to be there so I e-mailed Peter and he arranged for me to visit Friday after work.

About 25 guys, most of them from Germany, brought US-theme Freemo modules and set them up in a grade school gym about 125 x 40 feet.  Here’s an overview of the layout, below.


Peter and I sat and talked for two hours about a whole lot of things.  Peter is quite a modeler and craftsman.  He makes his own etchings and produces parts for a small number of manufacturers, and makes outstanding decals.  He is an accomplished woodworker which comes in handy for making Freemo modules for friends.  He models the Santa Fe, circa 1950, and is a regular at the Santa Fe Historical Society conventions in the U.S.  

Peter spent a career working for various US companies, including Emerson, which was based out of St. Louis.  Peter speaks excellent English, which is lucky for me since my Deutsch ist nicht so gut.


The team arrived on Wednesday and started operations late Thursday night after all the modules were set up and some power distribution problems were figured out.  They ran four operating sessions per day, each lasting a couple of hours, and operated an entire week’s worth of trains.  This session, by the way, featured 1970s-1980s equipment.  I was told they have also held steam-era and transition-era meets.

They used a modified DCC system for operation; each locomotive had it’s own cab.  Radios were used to communicate with the train dispatcher.  Yes, there was a train dispatcher, yardmasters and car clerks.  Each town had it’s own operator who ensured operations in that town were efficient and all the right cars were picked up and dropped off by the right trains at the right places.


There were two main yards, one on each end of the layout.  This was one of the yards; multiple crossovers  allowed any train to reach any track in the yard.  It reminded me a little of St. Louis Union Station, or one of the interlockings in Chicago.  It was fantastic.


Here are some close-up photos of the crossovers.  Peter told me “Can you believe this guy–he scratchbuilt all these turnouts and crossovers!”

Notice how all the turnouts and crossings are perfectly aligned.  The diverging tracks are curved through the crossing…impressive indeed.



Underneath the junction was just as impressive.  This thing is entirely automatic and hooks right up to the Loconet.


This is the yard on the other end of the layout.  It is not quite as advanced but it did the job.  Here, trains as long as 12 meters could be staged.  Trains on this weekend’s layout had a limit of 10 meters–about 39 feet.  


These guys planned this operating weekend for months.  They built the largest layout possible based on the room dimensions, published layout plans, published an operations scheme for each day to include train schedules and worked out car cards for each car based on the industries available.  They got the layout and the operating plans together in less than a day. 

In the views above and below you can see trains staged and ready for the next run.  Trains were assigned to individuals at random; some trains were locals and some were long through freights like these.   


By coincidence one of the major towns on the layout was called Golden.  A schematic of Golden is included below.  A close look at the drawings reveals that each track is named.  Car spots for each track are shown.  Industries are shown along with other important details about the customer. 

Interestingly the German modelers deliver cars based on the AAR designation, unlike most American modelers, myself included, who delivery cars based on their general description such as “box” or “flat”.  I had several conversations with guys that would explain as a matter of course that this industry “gets an XM” or “I need to order an LO”, and so forth.

On the right on the drawing you can see when each customer is scheduled to get a delivery or pickup.  Every car on the layout has a car card, and clerks at each yard are able to route cars to the right destinations based on these schedules.  If cars are empty and are picked up by a local, the car clerks would diligently try to find a place along the way that needed an empty.  “We try to replicate prototype operations just like the real railroads do” one guy told me.  I was quite impressed at how prototypical the car forwarding system was. 

Keep in mind that all this planning was done for a layout that will only exist for four days.


The layout was interesting because, while it was Freemo and was built under standards with templates, there was a lot of variation in each module.  Some modules had manual turnout control, some had working signals, some had DCC-controlled turnouts, some had unfinished scenery, and on and on.  I didn’t see any sections built with foam subroadbed like my layout and many others.  

Many of the modules had scenery that I would consider to be “complete”.   This one, below, looked especially nice with the sun streaming in late on Friday evening.  This series of modules was called “Bend Of Brothers”…something like the HBO series…


Another view of the layout, below.  US-theme signs and flags and memorabilia were placed everywhere to help everyone get in the spirit.


Below.  My host Peter Aue, right, and my new friend Thomas Stauss at left. 


Thank you gentlemen for a nice visit!  – John G


No. 67: US-Modellbahn Convention Rodgau


My wife gave me a few hours off from family duty last Saturday—it was my 54th birthday—so I could drive up to Frankfurt to attend the U.S. Model Railroader convention in Rodgau, a town southeast of Frankfurt.  After living here two years it the first time I was able to get away and spend some time at a modeling event.

It was a really neat show.  It was something like a U.S. RPM meet, with a lot of vendors and a couple of manufacturers, but unlike U.S. RPM meets there were no clinics, no model displays, and nothing resembling a historical society.  And unlike RPM meets, there were a couple of thousand people there watching, buying, learning and enjoying.


What this event did have was A LOT of layouts.  There were about 30 layouts on display in three large rooms in the hall, brought by modelers from Luxembourg, France, Belgium, Finland, Croatia, The Netherlands, and of course Germany.  Just about every scale was represented; several layouts were narrow gauge.

All of the layouts were completely finished and everything operated well.  Every layout had staging on one or both ends, sound-equipped locomotives and features, and they all had a very well-defined theme or setting.  They were all very entertaining in their own way.  Many had operating signal systems.  Not surprisingly the majority of the layouts featured a western US theme with modern diesels.


There were about 20 vendors plus the NMRA table.  Here are some photos of the layouts.  The layout below was called Florida Switching and was an obvious knock-off of the Lance Mindheim Miami theme, but it was in N scale and built on a very narrow shelf.  It was nicely done and very prototypical, and was a nice tribute to Lance’s popular work.




The two photos above are of my friend Alain Kap’s layout, which measures about 2 x 6 and has staging on one end.  Alain is president of the NMRA European Division and has earned his Master Model Railroader certificate.  Below.  Bush Terminal was a neat, well-built switching layout in about five Placehosquare feet.  Kinda like a “pizza” layout but a little bigger, with a ton of switching.


There were a few “how-to” clinics going on.  This fellow was showing how to use MIG paints…


…and this lady was hard at work painting figures.  She was doing really nice work.


The Flaggtone East Terminal was pretty novel in a few ways.  First, it simulates a night operating scenario, and second it was Z scale.  It was outstanding.


The layout below came from Finland.  Yep, it’s Lionel Scale but it was cool–and loud–and about four times bigger than the photo shows.


“Beans”, below, was an interesting layout.  It was very long, about 16 meters or about 50 feet.  These guys had multiple trains running from a huge, fully-scenicked yard around the layout to a few town sites, and back again.  All this was done in a very over-the-top western U.S. theme.


Below.  The Feather River Canyon layout was a single-scene layout with zero switching.  These guys simply model a main track with a single passing track in the Feather River canyon and that’s it.  The layout featured very good, completed scenery, operating signals, and modern trains taking the siding or flying through the canyon.  It was simple and very captivating.  Very prototypical.  There was a staging yard behind the layout but I didn’t get a look at it.


From big to small.  This fellow had beautiful TT-scale trains in a guitar case.  He had lots of international awards and has apparently taken the layout everywhere.  I really liked the size of the TT scale trains.  They were a little smaller than HO.



Above.  This was one of two layouts that stood out.  This layout came all the way from Croatia, and had a working car ferry.  The crew would run a train around the layout, which was about 40 feet, to a car ferry port.  They would load the ferry, and then the ferry would move across the layout to a port on the opposite side of the layout.  You can see the water on the other side of the layout.  It was about 20 feet.  The moving car ferry was pretty cool–I’ve never seen anything like it.

Below.  Here’s the car ferry.  It’s unfinished but considering the rest of the layout, it’ll be nicely finished soon.


And finally, here’s a photo of the ferry loaded and underway.  It was slow, but operated nicely.


Below.  This was the N scale Escondido Row, another western switching layout.  Behind the layout was a huge staging yard.


Mara Harbour, below, came from France, and was an excellent layout.  It was a large scale, narrow gauge layout that featured lots of custom-built buildings in a harbor setting.  Think Malcolm Furlow.


Stirmouth, below, was pretty much the same as Mara Harbour, only this large-scale, narrow gauge layout was set in the mountains of the western U.S.


I unfortunately did not take the opportunity to photograph the Ferrocandill Andiso, but I wish I had.  This was a medium-size narrow-gauge HO layout set in Mexico (or elsewhere in Central or South America).  I have never seen a model of such a prototype; the equipment was unique and I like it because it was just different.  The operators were using a little railbus to move cars around and it was completely different than any layout I’ve ever seen.

And finally…here is my hands-down favorite.  This was the N scale Cleveland & Eastern, which was brought by a five-man team by layout owner Mike Ross.  I thought this layout best captured the U.S. theme because the scenery and features just looked American and not “over-the-top” like most of the other layouts.  Everything—the trains, scenery, backdrop, etc.—seemed to blend together perfectly.  The layout is actually part of Mike’s home layout, and he has constructed a portable setting for this part of the layout so it can be brought to shows.


Here are a few more photos of Mike’s layout.




Here’s one of the stub-end staging yards, below.


And here is Mike.  I was sure he was an American because his work looked “native”.  But he’s a Deutscher.  He was a great guy—very friendly.


And since I have the bandwidth, Mike markets a beautiful line of N scale signal and other equipment.  The working PRR position-light signals are amazing.  The guy is a terrific modeler!


So what did I learn?  I learned to make sure I FINISH my layout, and that I have to get more serious about the details (note that I wrote “the details” and not “details”, because I think a lot of modelers skip “the details” and over-do details).  The details are what separates a good layout from a great layout.

Hope you enjoyed as much as I did.  – John G


No. 54: St. Louis RPM, 2017, Part 2

Here are some model photos from the 2017 St. Louis RPM Meet last week.  More complete coverage of models is being assembled on our new Flickr site at

Our official photographer mark Lewis also took a lot of photos and I’ll get them soon and post a Part 3.  The photos below are models that I liked.

First, a few photos of the model tables.  We had 56 eight-foot tables set aside for models and they were almost full.



I take a lot of crap from people about not extending the tables up to eye-level.  We resist that, believing that most guys don’t have a problem sitting down comfortably and talking about models for a while.  Another thing to take into consideration is high tables required a skirt or else they look ugly.  Our convention center is nice enough to offer skirts, but at $25 each.  $25 x 56 tables = a whole lot of extra money.  These photos offer some proof that guys don’t mind walking or sitting.

Below: Clark Propst’s entire locomotive fleet–all five engines, led by his almost right-out-of-the-box Bachmann 2-6-0.


A beautiful, nicely detailed lead mine display.  I didn’t record who brought it, but it must’ve been a lot of work to get it out here.


Below.  Here’s a cool model of a rare prototype, brought by Craig Lattery.

Craig Lattery

Below.  Here’s another neat, not-often-seen prototype model brought by master-builder Lester Brewer.

lester Brewer

Below.  This neat L&N display was brought by Lee Singletary, who also manned the L&N Historical Society table.  I asked him if played linebacker for the Giants.  He said no, but he did play for the Bears under the name Mike.

Lee Singletary

Below.  A neat model of a local favorite, this one brought by Doug Forbes.  His brother David is the driving force behind the C&EI HS.  They’re great guys and look A LOT alike.

Doug Forbes

Below.  Tony Thompson wrote a post on St. Louis RPM last week in his great blog, and include comments on Don Schnurpfeil’s outstanding weathering.  Here are a few more of Don’s cars.  All are weathered differently which is quite an accomplishment.

Don Schnurpfeil (2)

Below.  This neat display of a plastic/resin pre-kitbashed model was brought by Geroge Thoman.

Don Schnurpfeil (1)

Three-pocket hoppers modified with roofs like this model are some of my favorite late-steam-era cars.  This model was brought by Clark Cooper and I love it.  His work rebuilding the Accurail hopper alone is worthy of praise.

Clark Cooper

Below.  This is a Brian Strom Proto48 model.  Brian did a lot of work and made a really neat, rare model.  Double-sided castings are NOT easy to do.  This is what RPM is all about.

Brian Strom

Love this model below of the landing craft load.  I recorded the model as built by Brian Flynn, although I am very familiar with Brian’s work and this doesn’t look like something of his.  I could be wrong and probably am.  Let me know if I got this one right.

Brian Flynn

And my favorite models is…


…this one, brought by the boys from Iowa Scaled Engineering and prominently displayed on their Proto-Throttle test layout.  We’ve been going back-and-forth on e-mail discussing how to set up the electronics for my forthcoming interlocking system on my layout.  Michael poked me in the eye one day and said my layout looked like something from LEGOLAND, and that started a long thread with us giving each other a ration of $h!t.  They got me good with this rendition of my prototype modeling.

I think the guy in the red hat is a prototype model of me.  Thanks to jet-lag I felt like a Lego most of the time I was home.

And while I was away at St. Louis…

Slovenia 1 (1)

…my family went to Radolvkia, Slovenia for swim team camp.  They had a fantastic time, swimming hard in the morning and the evening and having an “adventure” every afternoon.  They went canyoning, rafting, caving and did other exotic things, and on the last day my son–in addition to swimming 3,500-4,500 meters a day–also ran a local 10K.  Here is the fam, above, on their last afternoon.  My two daughters are up front, my wife is in the middle, and my son is second-to-last.  Our friend from Stuttgart, the lovely Tricia Huebschmann, was playing the role of Dad and bringing up the caboose.  What a backdrop!

Slovenia 1 (2)

Here’s another cool view–almost as cool as model photos from RPM (required content).  That’s my daughter Kirsten flying down an Alpine Slide towards Lake Bled.  Looks like a ton of fun!

Hope you enjoyed the model photos and I’ll get more from Mark posted real soon.  – John



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!


No. 43: 2017 St. Louis RPM

We’re about two months away from the 2017 St. Louis Railroad Prototype Modeler’s Meet, which will be held on Friday, June 23rd and Saturday, June 24th 2017 at the Gateway Convention Center in Collinsville, Illinois—just about 12 miles east of metro St. Louis and a short distance from the old PRR-B&O-TRRA Willows Junction.  Here’s a little info, plus some links, and some of my favorite photos from past St. Louis RPM meets.


Above. From our first RPM at the O’Fallon, Illinois Rec Center.  That’s Mike Budde on the right, displaying a ton of models.  Mike’s modeling has gotten way more extreme since 2004!

We expect about 500 of your friends and enemies to attend this year’s meet, all gathered in one huge 28,000 sq. ft. room in the Gateway Center. We added a fourth 5,000 sq. ft. room this year and it is already sold out, so we’re going to have a packed house!

There will be plenty of manufacturers and vendors here this year—115 tables, maybe a few more, all hand-picked vendors (no swap meet stuff!), plus 15 railroad historical societies, four high-quality visiting model railroads, five cool hands-on learning stations, clinics, home layout tours, and special evening presentations, plus after-hours parties fellowship, and a whole lot more. Our focus this year is on Freight Cars so most of our clinics will be oriented towards studying the prototypes, and building exceptional models.

Below.  One of our favorite manufacturers, and clinicians, is Ted Culotta–seen at far right in the blue shirt.  Ted will be at St. Louis this year with Speedwitch Media.  The guy int he white shirt is Jim Mischke, the B&O historian.


The heart of our event is your models. Last year we had 60 full eight-foot tables packed with your models. No kidding. This is a modeler’s meet and that’s what we do. So bring your models, one or a hundred, and be part of the big discussion. All scales, gauges, and models from all eras are welcome; bring locomotives, structures, freight cars, dioramas, vehicles or other models. Support our Freight Cars theme and bring plenty of cars. There are no contests.  The purpose of our event is to share and learn new techniques, and meet your fellow modelers from St. Louis and around the Nation.  Attendees normally bring around 3,000 models.

The models at St. Louis come in all shapes and sizes and scales.  One of my all-time favorites is this model of AC Tower at Marion, Ohio, built by Ben Bartlett.


There’s more…A LOT more…our highest count was 3,500 models in 2014.  Here are some more random shots from over the years…


Above.  L&N engines by Bobby Vaughn.  Below, Yosemite Valley models far from home.



Above.  This L&N module showed up at the 2016 meet.  I wasn’t able to record who brought it, but all kinds f modules like this show up regularly.  Below, this laser-cut wood depot is by Bill Hoss.



Above.  The Milwaukee Road Red Wing depot.  Below, one of many CGW models brought by Gregor Moe.



The PC covered hopper is a Chris Zygmunt kit.  Below, Stu Thayer, who attended the first St. Louis RPM meet, is shooting photos.



Above.  Fabulous engine models are everywhere.  This is one of the many engines brought by Brian Banna.  Below.  This model is from the mind of Mike Budde–smashed vans on a bi-level.  Who else could come up with something like this?


We’ve got a slightly expanded lineup of clinics this year, in two rooms, plus some spare room space for private meetings (in case you want to gather all the guys from the Proto-Layouts list, for example). Highlighting our lineup this year is Tony Thompson, Bernie Kempinski, Dan Holbrooke, Ted Culotta, Ed Hawkins, Clark Propst, Paul Ellis, Ryan Crawford and more, all discussing the prototype and how to model it.  We may even throw a few surprise presentations at you too. Presentations begin at 9:30 a.m. both days.  If you want a clinic room for a small group meeting, give me a shout at There’s no charge for the meeting room, but I do like cold beer…just sayin’…


We’ll have two hands-on weathering stations, one hands-on airbrush station (courtesy of Badger), and two new hands-on opportunities for 2017. First, Jeff Otto, of Oak Hill Model Railroad Supply, will guide you through track and turnout building, using Oak Hill’s fine product line, all day, both days. See Jeff’s website at And second, Matt Herman of Loksound will bring a Loksound programmer along so bring your Loksound-equipped engines for programming, including sound updates, function mapping and more (one locomotive per attendee please)!


Oh yeah…almost forgot…we’re featuring Eric Brooman’s famous Utah Belt Railroad and two other large, highly-detailed local layouts, open to registered guests only.

We offer this all at a great price—just $25 admission. No registration is necessary. Just show up and enjoy.


Events start on Thursday night. Meet us at Bandana’s BBQ (4 Commerce Drive, Collinsville, IL 62234) at 6 p.m. on Thursday for our annual pre-RPM get-together.  No reservations are necessary but it’ll be full so get there early.  After the BBQ join us at the Double Tree next to the Convention Center for a night cap with your fellow RPMers.  There are more parties on Friday—we’ll get you the info at registration on Friday morning.

Seriously…don’t forget to bring your models.  That’s what our event is all about.  One of our regular attendees–and one of the most outstanding modelers you’ll ever meet–is the swashbuckling Tony Sissons, seen below in the black shirt.  Check out our new photo site here at Flickr for model photos from past RPMs:


Want more info?  See our website at or just Google “St. Louis RPM” and check out our flyers, photos and reviews.

I hope you can make it to St. Louis this year—you won’t be disappointed!


No. 32: Marion RPM, Part 2

My last post on the great Marion RPM Meet was all about the location, the railfan action, and the AC Tower exhibit. This time I want to post some random musings on the models, the modelers, and the Marion Union Station Museum itself.


Above.  A beautiful display of HO scale Wellsville, Addison and Galeton (WAG) rolling stock was displayed by Ohio modeler Mike Schleigh.

As I mentioned in the earlier post, I attended CORPM (Central Ohio RPM) in 2011 and 2013 and thoroughly enjoyed it.  Denis Blake hosts a neat event with slide shows, clinics, as many model tables as he can cram into the depot, a free cookout, and lots more. When I visited about 70-75 modelers and railfans attended and they brought about 700 models to each event. Of course the railfanning there is incredible and the continuous passage of freight trains 40 feet away from the model tables adds a cool factor that can’t be beat.


Above.  James Evans of Worthington, Ohio displayed many beautiful D&RGW models in the shadow of a retired CTC machine.  CTC equipment is everywhere inside the depot.  See the photos below.








In this case, below, a modeler has used one of the CTC machines as his display table.  How cool is that!


Good modelers were out every time I attended.  Below, at the right, is Brian Everett.


Below, the great Bob Harpe, center, from Savannah, Georgia, schools Brian Everett on how to finish models.




This outstanding scratchbuilt Atlantic Coast Line branchline caboose, seen above, is the work of host Denis Blake.  It’s a shocking model, really, since Denis hates the ACL.


Mont Switzer was there one year, and he brought along some Monon and other equipment, including a lot of trucks and vehicles, and this 50’s-era military hospital car.  I brought the car below; I had just finished an article on it in the SCL Modeler magazine.  It’s an SAL G-7 gon, built from a Sunshien kit.


The models below were on sale by Chad Boas from Lafayette, Indiana.  Chad sells these and other cars, and resin parts.  He does low-volume sales from his home but does excellent work.


Also included on the depot ground is the Marion Model Railroad Club, which has a large, permanent layout constructed in the depot’s former baggage building by the legendary Joe Slanser. Joe’s basement-filling HO scale Erie layout was featured in the November 1978 Model Railroader. I had just entered high school in 1978 and I loved that article.  Joe was one of the founding members of the Marion Club, which celebrated its 60th anniversary in 2010. Joe worked for the Erie and was the key figure involved in restoring the depot and building the layout–spending much of his personal wealth and time doing it.

Some views of the layout are below.  Like I said, it’s old-school–with mountains, roundhouses, a narrow-gauge line, big stationary control panels, and everything a good 1970s-era model railroad was supposed to have.








Another great thing about Marion is The Shovel. The Shovel is the local diner next to the depot–so named for the Marion Shovels that were built in town for decades.  The inside is full of photos of the people and the equipment that made Marion, Ohio famous.  You can see AC Tower in the background; the NS main track is just to the right.  The Shovel is a lot of fun and they have cold beer and great fried cod.  I ate there four or five times on each visit.  There is nowhere else to go.


If you get a chance to get to CORPM at Marion, Ohio–go! You won’t regret it. The next meet is 27-29 April, 2017.  You can find out more information on Facebook at

– John

No. 30: Marion RPM, Part 1

One of the great things about having a blog is you can recognize people for their good work.

I was fortunate to attend the 2011 and 2013 Central Ohio Railroad Prototype Modeler’s (CORPM) Meet at Marion Union Station, Marion, Ohio.  I wrote about it in the SCL Modeler online magazine in 2013.  What follows is an excerpt of that article, plus a lot more photos and info.

Known by the modeling community as “Marion RPM”, this event followed the successful RPM format, with clinicians, model displays, layout tours, no contests, door prizes, and plenty of time for fellowship. About 75 modelers attended the 2011 and 2013 events–many from as far away as Georgia and Pennsylvania and Canada.   Also in attendance were many family members and railfans that flock to Marion every weekend.  I counted 700 models on display in 2013.

The meet is hosted by Denis Blake, a Norfolk Southern engineer and a longtime Seaboard Air Line RR modeler.  Denis is an interesting guy and a lot of fun to be around.  Denis is actively involved with numerous historical societies, hobby manufacturers, authors, and provides the Marion RPM as a non-profit service to the hobby community. Under Denis’s direction, proceeds from the meet go directly to the Marion Union Station Association, which maintains the facility and the historical artifacts on the site. Denis has hosted the meet since 2010 and is assisted by Kevin Tweed, his wife Robin and his daughter Jeannine Blake.  The late John Peters also helped Denis host several of the early events.


The view above greets you at Marion RPM.  This is one of the entrances at the Marion Union Station museum.

Unlike most RPM meets, which are hosted in a hotel or convention center, Marion RPM is held in the restored Marion Union Station, which is located in the middle of three busy double-track main lines—two CSX and one Norfolk Southern—about 45 miles north of Columbus, Ohio. In the glory days these lines were the very busy Pennsylvania Railroad Columbus to Sandusky main line, the New York Central St. Louis line, the Erie Railroad New York to Chicago mainline, and the Chesapeake and Ohio main line north of Columbus.  Marion was also the home of the world-famous Marion Power Shovel Co. which was an industrial giant and major employer in the city.

Today, the depot is a museum and the three big main lines still host 60-75 trains a day from NS and CSX.  The RPM event is confined by space and is a little smaller than most, but the clinics are always good and the railfan action can’t be beat.  There is also a large room with an old-school layout built by  model railroading icon Joe Slanser.  You may remember Joe from a late-1970s article in MR featuring his large basement Erie RR layout.  As a young teenager I thought that layout article was fantastic.  30 years later it was a real thrill to meet Joe and see his other large layout in the depot-museum’s baggage room.  More on that later.


Above, an eastbound CSX auto train is seen from the restored Erie AC Tower window at Marion. The train is on the former Erie-NYC shared right-of-way route through the interlocking.


Above. Marion is full of surprises.  Here an eastbound CSX local scoots through the interlocking with a former NYC caboose in tow.


Above. RPMers and railfans mix it up at Marion during CORPM 2011.  On the right is the great Warren Calloway.  He is not be found in front of the camera often.  Below.  Just on the other side of the depot, an NS engine pushes a northbound coal train through the junction towards the Lake Erie docks.  It is not uncommon for trains to be moving on both sides of the depot simultaneously.


The restored Marion Union Station is a destination in itself.  The depot museum includes CTC and tower panels from area sites, train control equipment, signal equipment of all types, books, photos, and historical documents on the station and area railroading.  A view of some of the equipment can be seen below.  In my humble opinion CORPM has hands-down the best location of all the RPM meets in the US.



Above.  A few miles north of the depot, this PRR coal dock still stands across the now NS main tracks.  Below is a photo from the Marion Station collection, showing the coal dock in action.  The J-1 is heading north.


The heart of the museum is the former Erie Railroad AC tower (seen below).  The tower was built in 1902 and includes one of only two fully-restored, vintage interlocking machines in the nation. The tower still has the original model board and interlocking machine and still operates thanks to dedicated volunteers who have fully restored the machines mechanically and electrically.

The passage of real trains is detected and displayed on the model board, and visitors can work the signals and switches to clear trains through the interlocking using all of the original equipment. Volunteers even use the original oils to lubricate the interlocking devices so the machine smells like it did when in operation.  I spent 90 minutes working trains through the interlocking during my visit and it was an unforgettable experience.  AC Tower is literally a hands-on time machine and is worth the trip by itself.



Above. The interlocking machine in AC Tower.  The “model board” showing the junction diagram mounted on the ceiling above.  Below the front face of the machine, below the red knobs, are the “locking dogs” (seen below) which are the heart of the mechanical interlocking machine.   The dogs are small, flat steel panels which move up and down and interlock to clear routes and provide safety in the event a leverman attempts to clear conflicting route. The dogs are built specifically for each interlocking machine and serve as a mechanical computer.  As it was explained to me, the dogs are the actual interlocking machine–not the levers or rods or anything else you see outside the tower.


A few more photos of the equipment are included below.  It smells wonderful–not quite like gun oil, but close.






Above is a view of the restored model board. The tower was donated to the Marion Union Station Association in 1995 by Conrail. The restored model board shows the pre-Conrail track alignment, with the Erie and New York Central lines going from left to right, and the Pennsylvania and Chesapeake and Ohio main lines going top to bottom (right and left, respectively). The round glass devices are mechanical timers which are part of the intricate system used to protect trains moving through the interlocking plant.

The lights on the model board actually light up when a CSX or NS train enters the interlocking limits.  To “play”, you must line up the route using the pistol-grips below when a train enters the limits of the plant.  You’ve gotta be quick, and smart–and it helps if there is an experienced guy there to help you.  The interlocker will let you know right away if you make a mistake.  Moments later the real train will rumble by and you can watch from the window.  Forget model trains, Brother–this is the coolest thing you will ever do.



When I was there in 2011, George Detwiler (at right), one of the principal men responsible for moving the tower to its present site and restoring the interlocking machine, assists a railfan in setting a timer to clear the interlocking during a simulation. George is a former railroad employee and understands the interlocking logic well, and is a very patient instructor.

You can read more about Marion Union Station at

I’ll cover the RPM aspect of the meet in my next post.  – John









No. 11: 2016 St. Louis Railroad Prototype Modeler’s Meet

The tenth annual St. Louis Railroad Prototype Modeler’s meet was held on Friday, August 12th and Saturday, August 13th, 2016 at the Gateway Convention Center in Collinsville, IL.

This year’s meet was a smash hit. Over 467 modelers attended (not including another 10-15 kids and wives, etc.) making it the largest RPM-style event ever in the U.S. Full admission for both days was just $25.00. We had 23,000 sq. ft. for hand-picked scale vendors, railroad historical societies, prototype modeling clinics, visiting prototype layouts, hands-on clinics and learning stations, and much, much more in the modern, professional Gateway Convention Center. About 2,000 models were brought by attendees and put on display on 60 eight-foot tables.


The models are the centerpiece of our meet, and the real reason we do what we do. Attendees brought 2,000 models, finished and in-progress, for display and discussion. All scales, gauges, and models from all eras were present including locomotives, structures, freight cars, dioramas, vehicles or other models. The core purpose of our event is to share and learn new techniques, and provide a forum where attendees can meet and get to know each other.

This year’s meet included clinics by Gene Semon, Ted Culotta, Roger Hinman, George Eichelberger, Tony Cook, Mike Wise, Michael Petersen and Nathan Holmes, Ed Hawkins, Jeff Eggert, Nick Molo, David Vaughn, Dave Roeder and Tim Costello, all discussing the prototype and how to model it.

Our vendors included Altoona Model Works, Badger Airbrush, Bear Creek Hobbies, Bethelehem Car Works, Bob’s Photos, Cannon & Co., CRM Hobbies, Ed Stoll Photos, Funaro & Camerlengo, Gateway Division NMRA, Jim Shaw Photos, Harbor Belt Lines, Horizon Hobbies, ICG Custom Decals, Iowa Scaled Engineering, Loksound, Mark Vaughn Decals, Mask Island Decals, Minuteman Scale Models, Mike Gruber Photos, Motrak Models, Moloco, Moon Dog Rail Cars, Norris Hobbies, OST Publications, Oak Hill Model Railroad Track Supply Co., Plano, Protocraft, ProtoLoads,, Q Connection, Rails Unlimited,, Spring Creek Model Trains, St. Louis Microtools, Speedwitch, Southern Car & Foundry, Tangent Scale Models, The Weathering Shop and Yarmouth Model Works.

Second Shot of Room

St. Louis RPM also features the largest annual gathering of railroad historical societies in the U.S. 17 Railroad Historical Societies participated this year, including the New York Central, B&O, Pennsylvania, Wabash, Missouri Pacific, C&EI, Nickel Plate, Terminal RR Association, GM&O, ACL, Seaboard, Central of Georgia, Illinois Central, CB&Q, Southern, and C&NW will be present, along with the R&LHS and the Barriger National Railroad Library. The Milwaukee Road and Grand Truck were last-minute cancellations. All these societies were present and more will be on hand to aid your modeling and research efforts. In addition, the very popular Railroad Historical Society meeting, once again run by the good folks from the MoPac HS, was held on Friday evening. Nick Fry from the Barriger National railroad Library gave a presentation on archiving and archiving materials.

We provided hands on clinics including a large airbrush clinic, hosted by Bill Welch and Badger Airbrush, demonstrating how to spray acrylics using many different brands of airbrushes. Dave Schroedle of offered hands-on weathering clinics all day, both days. And Jeremy St. Peter and the guys from were on hand too, doing live weathering demonstrations and showing attendees how to weather like a pro.

RPM 99

This year three prototype layouts were available for viewing and operating at the conference center. The magnificent Modutrak N Scale layout from Chicago was on hand with a 50 x 20-foot layout, Jim Canter’s Proto48 NKP traveling layout was operating in the lobby, and Chuck Graham and the Mudhens brought a beautiful HOn3 20 x 36-lopop layout. Bill Selick also brought the N scale Galesburg City Job—a 20 x 15 point-to-point ops layout.



Home layouts open for tour included Brad Joseph’s HO scale 1950-theme UP layout and Curt Regensberg’s Streator Connection, both in HO scale. Pete Smith’s museum-quality Sn3 layout was open in Shiloh, Ill. as well.

We hosted a number of after-hours social events, including the traditional Pre-RPM Meet BBQ and Social at Bandana’s in Collinsville and the “RPM Roundup” at the DoubleTree Inn next door to the Gateway Center. We also hosted a “PowerPoint and Pizza Party” at the center, along with slides and a few informal presentations on Friday evening. Coffee, beer and lunch and dinner were available at the center for attendees. A good time was had by all.

The meet was hosted by St. Louis modelers Dan Kohlberg, Lonnie Bathurst, Dave Roeder and John Golden, and co-sponsored by the Gateway Division NMRA.

Check out our 2015 and 2016 official event photos at

Another shot of the room

If you want more information on the 2017 St. Louis RPM meet, please contact John Golden at or Lonnie Bathurst at (217) 556-0314.

The crew at St. Louis are supporters of all RPM events. If you can’t attend St. Louis RPM, check out Joe D’elia’s RPM site for a meet near you at We strongly encourage you to attend, meet your fellow modelers, and bring your models.