Sunday, April 17, 2022

The 2022 RPM-Valley Forge

First, I'll start by stating, I'm not sure if this RPM advertises anywhere, but if it wasn't for a friend telling me about it after seeing my RPM-Cocoa Beach post, I wouldn't have known it existed and I do visit more than just O-scale related forums/groups and subscribe to RMC/MR as well. (If it was in the latter, than I must have missed the announcement.)

With it being so physically close, I used it as motivation to do more modeling. In preparation for this RPM, I spent about a month finishing a handful of projects and upgrading/repairing some models I built over a decade ago to my standards of today (magnetic air hoses, coupler lift bars, etc.) I also had fun figuring out how I was going to package everything for transport in my vehicle without putting everything back in their OEM box. I ended up using some spare Pelican case foam I was given by a friend.

(Note if you've never read anything on blogspot before, that all photos are clickable to see the original size.)

Here's an example of one such model that had broken or missing details that I fixed up for the RPM:

Transportation Tetris:

The RPMVF already took down their website schedule before I could write this, but here is a snapshot of Saturday's events with my notes.

For various reasons, I actually ended up going to the following:

  • Ramon Rhodes: The railroads of Birmingham, Alabama
  • Ted Dilorio: Hands on weathering clinic
  • Nicholas Kalis: Using artistic principles to enhance the story of your RR
  • Rich Mahaney: Perishable Operations in the 1950's
  • Larry DeYoung: What's available in O-scale modeler in this minor scale
  • Doug Chapman: A look at the Ralston Steel Car Company of Columbus, OH

I had arrived at the hotel before the start of the meet (even after stopping at the Chic-Fil-A across the street for breakfast) and was pleasantly surprised to find the registration table manned early and the model contest room open not long after my arrival.  I made good use of the luggage dolly and was able to setup my display, photograph the rest of the model room, and spend some time in Bob's Photos before the second session of clinics started.

Plenty of dollies to move models


Model Room

My first clinic of the day was with Ramon Rhodes and his childhood stories of riding the Southern Railway intertwined with his desire to model Birmingham AL...not to be confused with Baltimore MD. The mixture of story telling and historical significance of various railroad landmarks was rather entertaining, and I learned a bit about how the Southern did some of its operations in the area.

During the lunch time, I briefly visited the Vendor Room and outside of tools and books, there was nothing O-Scale as I expected.  I spent more time with Bob's Photos (he brought almost everything he owns, which was quite impressive) looking for more interesting rolling stock photos that I could use for modeling or weathering purposes. I ended up also buying a heavily discounted NP rolling stock color guide as it had a ton of useful rolling stock overhead photos for how to weather roofs in the late 60's.

Vendor Room (No O-scale)

Interesting Model Loads

What looked like one new product announcement for the HO guys.

Bob's Photos (He got that all in one large van. Impressive)

My next clinic was with Ted Dilorio to see what he could teach with hands-on weathering in about an hour.  As I expected, it was very much geared toward fleet weathering and how to weather a car in about 20 minutes using Mig weathering enamel washes and powders.  I think for those in a hurry and/or just want basic soot and grime, this was well worth the time. I brought a Lionel GLa hopper that I essentially wanted to rust out looking EOL. He was nice enough to let me experiment with some of the rust powders in addition to basic carside weathering. I'll have to do some more experimentation to get the look I'm looking for, but was able to see how the enamel washes worked. Congrats on your upcoming retirement.

I next sat in on a clinic with Nicholas Kalis, that he's apparently given several times with regard to telling stories throughout your layout. He provided steps to consider, but also highlighted several books that are key to understanding the topic.  Ray Anderson's The Art of the Diorama and Van Gils Dioramas are the two primary sources he said to buy and use.

As for the 4pm clinic slot, the clinic on Airslide hoppers of the BO, CO, and WM was cancelled and so I decided to actually listen in on Rich Mahaney's clinic on Perishable Operations despite its focus on an era earlier than my modeling era.  It's no wonder he gave five clinics that day. It was really thorough and provided great technical detail and advice for modeling reefers and gave historical perspective on how things came to be over time. I think the most interesting fact he provided was that by 1965 85% of refrigerator cars were actually owned by the railroads vs. private companies. Also interesting was the discussion of in the early days - heating the cars to keep them at certain temperatures.

For dinner, I ended up driving out to try Nick Filet to see what the hype was over their Filet Mignon sandwich (I thought it wasn't anything special) and across the street from it - an unexpected find - a decent Szechuan restaurant, in which I took a bunch of takeout to take home for the week's meals.

Filet Mignon Sandwich with Parmesan Truffle Fries

Double Cooked Pork

Chongqing Chicken

Cumin Lamb

I came back in time for Larry DeYoung's clinic on O-Scale resources.  The audience was extremely small (The title didn't exactly reflect the contents and most RPM attendees perhaps already know the resources for their given scale), but it was a good story on the prototype Larry was modeling, and how he was modeling it. Interestingly, when he goes model car shopping, he walks around with a template to measure the length of the wheelbase to help determine if a vehicle is 1:48 or not.

The last clinic I attended was with Doug Chapman on the Ralston Steel Company.  He went other a a decent set of cars built for the Mid-Atlantic railroads.  At some point in the past, someone had dumped a bunch of records about the company, and Doug picked up the mantle to go through it. I took a few notes on the N&W B-1 and B-5 series along with the SOU 45650-45999 stock car series. I can't remember specifically how much more material he has left to dig through, but he's looking for anyone who has ANY information on cars built by Ralston Steel Car Company to contact him.  In some cases, he only has bits and pieces, so any information others have will allow him to continue to piece more information together. At minimum he is trying to assemble the full list of every series of cars they built for all roads. TOC1885  AT yahoo dot com

Overall, I had a great time at this RPM. Thank for to those who took the time to put this on. Having helped with an O Scale National, I know there is a lot to do to put these on behind the scenes. I learned some interesting things, saw some great models. The venue is also a fine choice. If I had to change anything, it would be the model room. IMHO, some of the lighting left a lot to be desired, especially once the daylight wore off. Just very inconsistent. Get there early to get a table with better lighting!

Maybe this post will help get a few more O-scalers to bring their models out to the RPM the next time it is held. Other than myself, only one other O-scale model was on display, and I believe that its purpose was to get a sale. For those who are curious, I did get some fanfare when I was nearby my table, so it's nice to feel welcomed by the HO modelers. The MTH SD45 was the most discussed model I brought.  There were also maybe about a dozen 35 or younger attendees, which was something I wasn't expecting.

Here's a few photos of the model room...

My assortment of models

Ted Dilorio's weathered cars using his techniques

The only other O-scale piece, which was for sale at the time of the RPM.

And video of a really cool operating rotary plow.

The full assortment of my photos can be seen here:

Wednesday, January 19, 2022

My first RPM - Cocoa Beach 2022

I just happened to be at the right place and right time and took advantage of checking out a Railroad Prototype Modelers (RPM) meet that's held annually in Cocoa Beach, FL. It's about 2.25 days long, but I could only make Saturday. (

(Note if you've never read anything on blogspot before, that all photos are clickable to see the original size.)

Here was the clinic schedule for Saturday:

Not sure if its always at the Hilton, but this year it was. After checking the clinic list, I felt it was worth the $50 on-site entry and the 5-hour round trip to check it out and see what RPM's are all about. I also felt it was worth meeting with some other modelers and historians that I only have ever conversed with online. I made it to all but one clinic that I really wanted to attend. They were:

  • Tom Wilson: Brick - Making, Painting & Weathering
  • George (Ike) Eichelberger: Jacksonville Terminal Station
  • Chuck Davis: Passenger Cars - Detailing, Upgrades & Lighting
  • John Greene: Passenger cars w/ resin and 3D printed sides
  • O Fenton Wells: Kitbashing SAL Boxcars

I finally made it there around 930am and was pleasantly surprised to find I didn't have to fight for or pay for parking despite it being on the beach. I missed the start of the first round of clinics, but that was fine. I checked in (and curiously received 10 door prize tickets) and took in the main ballroom full of models and briefly browsed the vendor selection, in which I would return to later. I expected it to be HO-dominant (and it was), but there was Jon Cagle of Southern Car & Foundry as well as Ross Dando of Twin Star Cars.  A few O-scale models graced the display tables too.

I spent a good amount of time photographing models. I'll post an assortment of models at the end of this post. I also took a quick look at the N-scale module layout that FEC N TRAK brought to the show.  It was nicely done. 

My first clinic was from Tom Wilson on bricks.  IIRC, he said he used to be a building inspector and first provided a lot of history on how bricks are made, why they vary in color, and how they can weather over time based on the types of buildings they're on and where they are located.  He then went into his methods for painting the bricks, and passed around an example of his work, which I thought looked really good.

For lunch, I ventured over to a highly reviewed/rated local joint called longdoggers. They're known for quite obviously, their hotdogs.  I tried their version of a Carolina-style dog (chile+slaw) and their pipeline dog which had pork BBQ, hot sauce, and onion straws. They were actually pretty good with a local beer they had on tap. Their key lime pie, which they make in house was just okay.

I made it back just in time to listen to George Eichelberger from SRHA talk about the Jacksonville Terminal Station and how the Southern had access to it over time as well as the docks through agreements and other subsidiaries.  Also interesting was the history surrounding it being a stub station, and the havoc it must have been with operations, so much that Amtrak didn't use that station very long.

After George's clinic, I walked by some other vendor tables and found some interesting things to share. 

Iowa Scaled Engineering was there with their Protothrottle as well as some train detection gear and what looked like 3D-printed culver pipes. Some of the largest ones may actually be useful for O-scale.

I also stopped by Jon Cagle's table and was taking a look at what he had and he happened to be there and told me about his upcoming STC tank car project, which will allow multiple compartment configurations as well as working placard holders. IIRC, he said maybe six different variations. He had the master for the first car there with him under glass. I grabbed a few shots to share online.

Ross Dando and Twin Star Cars (also Modern Era O-Scale which he took over) had a table there.  Too modern for me personally, but the models of the railgon and railbox looked really sharp as did the detail parts.  Looks like he's coming out with some additional bolster, brake staff, and spark arrestor details as well as a new etching to improve the running boards on AtlasO's PS-4427 LO.

I'm really glad those guys were there for some O-scale representation. I also took some time to talk to the good folks over at the SRHA, seeming as I am a new lifetime member and had never met the leadership in person. I had some great conversations with Ike (Archives Director), Carl Ardrey (President), and Bill Schafer (TIES editor) then and throughout the rest of day between clinics.  I'm hoping to get more involved as time allows.

I also caught some photos of some really nice 3D-printed HO engine as well as cars (that I later found out had 3D-printed sides).  No layering and well-defined HO rivets. Impressive. The manufacturers as they run out of ubiquitous prototypes to injection mold, should be moving to this tech to produce more custom, BTO prototypes across all scales.

My next clinic was with Chuck Davis on how he worked on many passenger cars since the pandemic started. He is a Lehigh Valley modeler and he went over a lot of various models, some in detail, some less so. The most interesting part of his deck was the history of the LV vice president's car, in that it didn't ride well on the rails, and after attempting to fix it, the railroad relatively quickly just got rid of it. Here's his model of the car:

The next clinic was with John Greene on working with passenger cars that have resin or 3D printed sides.  I actually had no idea that this was the gentleman behind Bethlehem Car Works. I see their ads in the magazines, but of course have nothing to buy since its all HO.  It was actually really cool to hear how he got into the business and then how he's migrated from cast resin sides to perfectly printed 3D printed sides (that has no lines in them, etc.)  The HO guys really are lucky for having him as an amazing source for getting custom car kits.

For dinner, I ventured out again to run some errands and grabbed a blackened chicken pubsub (from Publix) down the street. 

When I got back, I had time to finally figure out what I was supposed to do with those door prize tickets I received at registration.  The meet had a large assortment of prizes donated by various vendors and you could place one or more tickets into the bags for each prize.  There were maybe one or two O-scale  prizes, a good assortment of books, and a bunch of HO-scale rolling stock and locomotives. Some of the HO guys left with some really nice stuff IMHO. I stuck to the books, an O-scale item, and a couple of weathering-related items, as they could all fly with me easily. 

After that, I also took time to stop back over at Mainline Photos and found myself a few 60's/70's era rolling stock photos that I will use for my upcoming modeling as well as a few issues of Diesel Era useful for Southern modeling.

The last clinic of the day for me was from O Fenton Wells.  He's one of the very active HO scale modelers and I've seen his name online many times.  He provided a good history on the SAL AF3 through AF5 boxcars and how he was able to make convincing models of them in HO.  At least one of them seems easy enough to replicate in O-scale. I also quickly met another craft beer enthusiast (and homebrewer), Bruce Smith. Wish I had made better friends with him as he was pushing crowlers of barrel-aged beer on his friends during the door prize session. )

I had never been at a meet where there were so many door prizes, but it was an interesting way to keep everyone there until the end of the meet and spread some cheer. You could buy more tickets at 10 for $5. Looking back, I probably should have bought another set of 10.  They had the most efficient process in calling numbers and having runners take the prizes to winners. You had to be present to win and only twice was a winner not there.  It maybe took an hour for them to go through all of the prizes.  

A lot of people won, a few won 3-4 times each, and I actually ended up winning a sealed copy of Penn Central Freight/Passenger Color Guide Volume 2 (Thanks Dave's Books!), which ironically I think I had the worst odds to win glancing at the bags as I dropped in tickets.  It'll come in handy for a few PC cars I have, though I'd be okay trading it for a morning sun book or two I don't yet have on Southern or SCL.

Here's what I walked away with, all easily manageable in my carry-on luggage:

Overall, I thought the meet was ran like clockwork and was a fine 18-hour day for me. It was great to meet quite a few people I had only seen write online. I learned quite a bit and saw a lot of nice models.  The only disappointment I had (other than having no models with me to bring) is that I didn't realize Bob's Photo's was there until it was too late. He has a great southeastern railroad photo collection from what I've read. I think I'll be getting a second chance with the Great Scale Train Show in Timonium a few weeks away.  I am also hoping the Mid-Atlantic RPM comes back later this year, as this was was a nice intro to RPM's.

Now onto the models that I know everyone is scrolling through to see...

(I was amazed to find a Rev. Malcolm Byrd Caboose at the meet! If you've ever seen his work, all of his cabooses are worthy of the tables at an RPM.)

The full assortment of my photos of the models can be seen here: