Train Shows

SONC 2018 report

Attended the 2018 Scale O National Convention in Wash. D.C. (Rockville MD) last week. Spent a lot of time wandering the dealer tables and hit quite a few layouts on the tour.

Spent most of my money at Ted Schnepf’s Rails Unlimited tables. Picked up a CGW (PS-0) AAR 1937 box car kitbash – the RPM Chicagoland 2017 project kit – consisting of an Intermountain 1937 AAR box car shell with custom Pullman Standard CarBuilder ends, Superior doors and CGW decals. Also bought a USRA double sheath urethane body to build up, probably as B&M. Met Norm Buckhart of Protocraft (a key supplier to the Proto 48 crowd) and walked away with a set of P48 Andrews trucks and some B&M decals.

There were GE 44-tonners from every manufacturer I remember (Sunset, Custom Brass, W&R, RY Models) but no 70-tonners, which was what I was looking for. Lots of brass on the tables. Still quite a few Intermountain kits around but little bronze age stuff to be found.

Tony Koester and Jim Cantor brought their portable Proto 48 layouts — both are NKP theme. Tony’s will appear in a project series in MR next year.

The layout tours were second to none. Made it to Nick Powell’s wonderful B&O layout in Halethorpe, MD, just off the B&O Old Mainline near Thomas Viaduct. Nick was a 30 year veteran B&O engineer and part of John Armstrong’s Canandaigua operating crew back in the day. He has an outstanding roster of B&O steam and diesel locomotives. In the yard was every variation of B&O wagon top boxcar and Nick can give you a detailed account of each one. The layout is a John Armstrong design — you can tell by the aisleways! Nick himself designed the beautiful, detailed engine terminal and the long, long division yard. I loved the spotlights on the Capital Limited’s dome car roof. I met Nick at the Strasburg, PA O scale show early this year. He’s a great guy and his layout is a gem.

I got to two Western Maryland layouts. The late Wes Morganstern’s layout — also, I believe, a John Armstrong design —  was open one last time. It’s a layout built for operation and it operates flawlessly. And Pat Michael’s P48 layout that is an engineering marvel. He has a huge collection of WM big time steam and a 19′ train elevator to get complete trains up and down between levels. In addition to converting all of his steam locomotives to P48, Pat also casts his own detailed tie strips from urethane molds.

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There were two layouts that took my breath away. I saw his South Park On3 layout some years ago and Andrew Dodge’s new P48 Colorado Midland is just as spectacular. Even more so when you find out he scratch build eleven (or so) period steam locomotives to get himself started in P48! The scenery and backdrops are outstanding.

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But my favorite layout of all was Bernard Kempinski’s U.S. Military Railroad Civil War era layout in my old hometown of Alexandria, VA. It could be picked up and moved to a museum. The scenery, the use of perspective, and the understated backdrop art was to die for. I tried to absorb everything I could to bring back to the D&NE. There were a half-dozen or so 4-4-0s and lots of period rolling stock. The couplers are, of course, link and pin. It operates as a real railroad as did the USMR with strict timetables, the only difference being that if you violate Rule G you’re put in front of a firing squad! Military encampments and soldiers are everywhere. I’ve included a few photos but they don’t begin to do this layout justice.

I spent most of the weekend at Jack Keene’s Delaware & Hudson Susquehanna Division layout helping out with what I could reach. Jack’s layout is a triple decker! I can walk clear under the upper deck without stooping! That upper most deck — the one I need a ladder to see — is well underway. This is an operations oriented layout with several yards and a long run. I’d say it’s 20% built. We worked the last DCC bug out of the seven track staging loops and Jack ran trains on the third level from Oneonta out and back through the loops. The layout is planted in the mid-70s. Lots of big time diesel lashups. Jack’s crew are mostly HOers but I bet he picks up a few converts along the way. Beware though. There is a height restriction. You must be at least 6′-2″ to enjoy this ride! Just fooling!

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One thing missing was all the narrow gauge activity we used to have around the D.C. area. There was John Peterson’s SR&RL On2 railroad, Charlie Eckstein’s Colorado On3 layout, Gordon North’s pioneer On30 Denver & Western. They would have been open for the convention, but, they’re all gone now and I really miss them.

Well, after all that I headed south to Fredericksburg, VA to visit with family and then back to New Hampshire with two of my mother’s zuchini breads. A great time was had by all. Congratulations to the SONC 2018 crew!







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