Friday, September 17, 2010


As promised, Part 4.    
It is day three of the meet, Saturday, and just when you can't take in anymore steel mill information, there is a day of layout tours.   Nothing like riding around the beautiful Maryland countryside visiting peoples layouts.   I really enjoyed all the layout tours this year for a few reasons - first, they either had a steel mill theme, or equally interesting for me, a hauling coal out of the mountains theme.   Second, they were all very well thought out and the track plans and geography of the layouts just seamed to flow well.   Thirdly, all the folks we visited were extremely gracious hosts (sometimes thanks to their significant others) and patiently took the time to answer every question, despite I am sure answering some many times during the day.  
Another neat thing about layout day is the opportunity to carpool with some fellow modelers.  We grabbed a work van this year to haul the module in one piece (in 2009 we split it in half and crammed it and all our other stuff into a Saturn Vue for the trip to North Carolina) .  The van only had two seats so we teamed up with Bill Wallace who just had enough room for us in his camper/conversion van.  Bill was at his first SMMM and hails from south Jersey like us - he is from Stone Harbor, NJ and has literally lived a few feet from the water for the past half-dozen years (ie no basement).   He had a large layout, the Lehigh Northern, at his previous house and he intends to build an exact/improved version at a new, slightly inland home with a large basement he has just purchased.  The few years without a layout hasn't slowed Bill's modeling down - he has built a few modules and numerous structures, including some steel mill related items.  (When you walked in the display room he had two tables full of beautiful models to the immediate right)   
The times that the layouts were opened varied a bit so we made the best route we could based on when we could get in and hoped for the best (that we could visit all five locations)    We headed south with the intention of being at John Glaab's home layout right at the 10am opening time.  John is modeling a West Virginia themed coal mining layout.  He does have a nice looking bank of beehive coke ovens, so there is a quasi-steel tie-in.   John has done an excellent job of portraying the hill and mountain railroading .  We also spent some time looking through John's extensive steel mill and railroading book collection.  I especially liked his conversion of his dining room into a library, complete with actually rows of shelves.  I have been trying to convince my wife to do something similar for years without success - John married a librarian so I guess that's the trick.  
From John's house we traveled a short distance to John's other home, Peachcreek Shops in Laurel, MD.  This model railroad shop houses the Magarac Steel layout featured in a Model Railroad Planning Magazine from a few years ago.  Although John had brought most of his steel mill related items to the show for sale I managed to find some Western Scale Models gears and pulley casting sets, after bumping into Vince Altiere also with a handful.   Jimmy picked up a gon and also a New York Central Bachmann GP-7 .  This DCC on-board loco with nice detailing and smooth running is a steal at less than $50. 
   From Peachcreek we headed north and west for a good distance to Bill Wolf's house.  Bill layout features an under-construction Tidewater Steel.  Bill has a well thought out layout design and very well built benchwork.  This bi-level layout with no doubt be something to see as he works on it in the years ahead.  Besides the layout Bill has a pretty nifty mancave, I mean workshop.  Complete with multiple work benches, bookshelves full of steel and model railroading books,  a large TV and several comfortable chairs - it's a wonder how he has the motivation to climb out of this well appointed lair and go to work.   
Leaving Bill's we had to make a dash for Howard Zane's layout as his 2pm closing time was approaching fast.  Fortunately we just made it in the door.  I don't really know where to start with this layout, just incredible.  No steel mill is modeled, but plenty of the just as exciting coal mining  hills and mountains of West Virginia.  The mostly scratchbuilt structures are beautiful and too numerous to take-in and appreciate in a half an hour.  Jimmy noticed Howard had a few of his books out for sale - he asked to buy "Howard Zane, My Life with Model Trains" .  Generally I stay clear of large photo books of model trains and especially self-published ones, but for $30 I relented.  In hindsight, clearly well worth the money - the pictures are all beautiful and plentiful so you can study the layout in more detail, however, I am enjoying the text, which is also plentiful, more than the photos.    With no editors,...etc., Howard just writes whatever he wants with some organization, but more akin to a blog than a highly edited book - but that is a good thing - I am a "too much information" kind of person - I appreciate all the minute details.    Howard also took the time to show us his substantial brass collection and his huge workshop.   
Next we ended our day at John Teichmoeller's under-construction B&O layout set in the lower Patapsco River Valley.  John is using prototype locations but giving it a fictional history - that the valley became sort of the Mon Valley of the east coast.  Again, sticking with the general trend of the day, a very well thought out, built, and conceived layout.   After skipping lunch we were more than happy to find that John's wife had put out a full spread of snacks and drinks in their lovely backyard.  Others must have felt that same as they could have probably opened up a bistro there were so many people sitting, eating, and relaxing.   
It was a very short hop back to the hotel.  We relaxed a bit and then headed downstairs for the group dinner.  It was the usual faire of perogies, kielbasa, kraut,...etc.  It wasn't bad in my opinion and I did finish most of my plate, although, there are some that take this food real serious.  I think short of having this event in Pittsburgh with a locally raised chef,  no one will ever be 100% happy with the food.   The diner ended with the Dean Freytag award, presented to the Canadian fellow with the N-scale electric furnace.  Well deserved.   And, then many door prizes.  My son was especially indignant that the last five  or so door prizes ended up in the hands of  "girls".  He suspects fraud.  Actually it was the first year he didn't win a prize  - one year he won an ore bridge and a locomotive, the other a locomotive.   I tried to explain to him that as the group grows his door prize odds drop - "but dad, they were girls".  Oh well.  
Unfortunately, some people have to head home early, so Sunday is always a little less crowded and the display room a little emptier of people and models.   After breakfast we went back to the amphitheater for the two remaining seminars.  Jim Diapola gave a very interesting seminar are building a BOF in HO Scale.  This is a pretty huge undertaking and Jim is moving along nicely and his modeling is first-rate.   The final seminar was on making segmented pipe elbows.  Mr. Duve built a jig for a miter saw to make this process easier.    Following the seminars is a brief wrap up session.  A big topic of discussion and one that will be revisited in the months ahead is that John Glaab is not going to take the reigns next year.  After six years of building this event into the success it is John is going to step back and enjoy the meet as a civilian - completely understandable.   As of now a planing committee will be getting together this fall to talk about the future of this event, but for the first years transition it sounds like the location might be kept the same to simplify things - and also it was a first rate location.    
Sadly we loaded our truck and set off for home, talking most of the way about our layout - new ideas and plans.   Besides for lunch we stopped at the US Army Ordinance Museum in Aberdeen, MD.  When Jimmy was little we visited here often as he marveled at there array of armor.  It was a nice little rest-stop and brought back memories.    I am including a photo from there of the rail-related "Anzio Annie"  - a WWII German rail mounted gun with a range of 30miles.  It was part of the barrage that pinned down allied troops on the Anzio beachhead for a few months - firing and then backing the gun into a tunnel for reloading.  

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