Sunday, June 5, 2016

New England/Northeast Railroad Prototype Modelers Meet - 2016

(if you're just here for ProtoMeetPics, scroll'on down... otherwise, stick around for "what I did with my weekend")

Whew! What a crazy, but wonderful, 72 hours that was! I only get to attend the NERPM on even-numbered years due to my day job, and I just about missed part of it this year due to work. But amid rumors we'd be working into the night, we gaveled out a just after 5pm Thursday. The State of Connecticut can rest easy now that the state budget/spending/borrowing package is done. Well, not really. But that's an entirely different post.

Suffice it to say that the last echos of the 2016 legislative session hadn't finished bouncing off the capitol walls and I was in my truck headed to Collinsville, CT.

Don't worry - I didn't forget that this year's NERPM moved from Collinsville to Enfield. I was just headed over to my buddy Randy's house to be 2nd shift for an ops session (the 2nd session there that day).

Randy models New Britain, CT - and while the scenery is just getting started, it's fully operational. I took a turn at the agent's desk but was still able to watch this northbound Holyoke freight pull into the station. Even in an unfinished state, you really get a sense of New Britain in the late 1940s. And those line poles really help set the scene!

After getting home late that night early the next morning, it was up-and-at-'em for a presentation on my Valley Line layout. I met friends Pete and Tom at the Cracker Barrel for breakfast and got to the Enfield Holiday Inn in time to score a few new books for my library, as well as set out some sales items myself. My presentation was set for the first timeslot of the weekend and I was wondering if many folks would be able to make it that early. But despite an initial hiccup when I discovered there was no laptop to show my PowerPoint, there was a good number of attendees (and I did get a laptop in time - thanks again Bill!)

Since I'd gone a little long the last time I gave this presentation, I really motored through and finished at 10:00am - right on time! Or so I thought. Then I realized I actually had until 10:30. Ooops! #rookiemistake But at least there was time for some Q&A and visiting. And I got lots of great feedback and some awesome comments on the material. Thanks again for everyone who made it.

And you can click here for the only known photograph of me actually giving a presentation (thanks Marty!)

As soon as I got packed up, it was off to the next clinic/presentation - "Scratch-building from a Photo" by Craig Bisgeier. He did an amazing job of modeling a large coal dealer from just one (at first) old photo. I expect I have a lot of scratchbuilding in my future, so his clinic was especially helpful.

If there's one "complaint" I have about the ProtoMeet though it's that there are almost too many clinics/presentations to choose from. For every time slot for the entire weekend, I had a hard decision to make between at least two clinics - talk about an embarrassment of riches! Unfortunately, going to Craig's clinic meant I missed Neil Schofield's talk. Among other things, he went over how he does scenery quickly - tips I really could use. Maybe next time...

But all was not lost scenery-wise. After lunch, I headed over to Jim Dufour's clinic on how he does scenery and details along his Cheshire Branch railroad. If you've been around this blog for a bit, you know my jealousy of Jim Dufour. If not, suggest you read about it here. They say confession is good for the soul . . .

And as if that weren't enough, the very next clinic was by Marty McGuirk on "Modeling the October Scene." Could it get any more perfect for the stage I'm at on my layout right now? (the answer is, of course, "no"). I'd seen a "preproduction" version of his article on the subject (and even, based on the article's recommendations, purchased a bag or two a fair amount a buttload of scenery materials), but I'd never seen his presentation before. It was great to be able to "interact with the article" in person. Just remember to use wax paper when doing his stone fence building trick.

After getting my fill of scenery techniques, it was time to get an actual fill. A bunch of us went to Bears BBQ for dinner and to an ops session afterwards. The session was great and the after-session visiting even better. But it made for another late night/early morning.

I'm not a morning person at all, but my favorite meal is breakfast (if you figure that one out, clue me in), so the next morning Craig and I hit my favorite diner - O'Rourke's in Middletown - the same place where the Valley and Air Line local crews used to get lunch. I figured it'd be the perfect way to start the day.

Since I didn't have to do any setting up of sales items or presentation, I was able to check out the model room before getting to my first clinic of the day. Here are a few random pics from my walk-about that will give you a little taste of the talent on display (as always, you can click on the image to "embiggen") . . .

Since I'd gotten a bunch of sensational scenery suggestions the previous day, I figured it was time to find out what the latest & greatest was on the structure front. As you've probably guessed - "there's an app a clinic for that" and Ron Poidomani had just the ticket - a clinic on using washes and dry brushing techniques to finish & weather his buildings and tips on using LEDs for lighting them up. Check it out:

That's his latest creation. Truly outstanding work. I mentioned to him afterwards that there's a knife edge between being inspired by the display of such talent. . . . and totally giving up on the hobby in desperation. Thankfully, his efforts as well as all the others you could see there, were so much more motivation than desperation.

But it was time for me to try some modeling myself, so my next stop was a "Hands-On" clinic where I'd be kitbashing a 1 1/2 door single sheathed outside braced (I can never keep the terminology straight) boxcar, courtesy of a detail kit developed by Don Valentine who, bonus!, was running the clinic as well.

You can click here for a pic of the clinic - I'm the guy with a determined look of bewilderment on my face. I was sitting next to Ron. I don't know if that has anything to do with it.

Now, I've never attended a "hands-on" clinic before and, considering my modeling progress is measured in terms of months I was pretty skeptical that I'd be able to finish in the 90 minutes allotted. But this was the speed-dating equivalent of modeling - and I finished with time to spare. Well, actually, I finished gluing on the doors. I still have to mount the hardware. And assemble the car itself. And paint and letter it. But other than that it's done. (I would have SO sucked at speed dating...)

After lunch it was back to scenery with a clinic by Bill Gill on how to model specific "Weeds Along the Tracks." Only true modelers will appreciate how much of a challenge that is (not to mention why you'd even want to try). Everybody else is probably reading the wrong blog (in which case, congratulations on getting this far).

Since I have a few brass steam locomotive modifications in my future, I next attended Mal Houck's clinic on "Building and Modifying Brass Locomotives." I figured it'd be perfect for where I'm at. But I quickly realized that I'm Nowhere. His collection of tools and techniques are, in a word, indescribable. Literally. There are some tools that I still don't remember the names of. But another two words I can use in describing his clinic are "impressive" and "inspiring." I hope someday to be able to even attempt some of the things he's able to do. But in the meantime, he graciously and patiently reviewed how to use a desoldering wick properly - which I found especially helpful. Sincerely. (my soldering isn't all that great, but my DEsoldering really sux)

By this time, my head was really spinning with all the inspirational and motivational things I'd been seeing, and I was starting to get overloaded. Trying to cram two years' worth of ProtoMeet into two days meant that the remaining clinics I attended (courtesy Tony Koester and Dave Ramos) were a little bit of a blur, but no less enjoyable and informative.

Another late night/early morning, and the last night at that, but I still didn't want it to end. Thankfully, I got to hang out with some really great guys and got a chance to get to know them a bit better. All the amazing tips and techniques I'd learned over the previous 48 hours were icing on a very large and tasty cake.

My weekend wasn't quite over yet though -  I still had a layout open house to host. After seeing the ProtoMeet Layout Tours sheet - and realizing that mine was a faaaaar outlier (all the other layouts were clustered around north central CT and MA) - I didn't expect many folks. But despite the long drive and bad weather, I still got some visitors. And the number was just perfect for being able to visit a little longer and share a little bit more of this wonderful hobby we have in common.

So thank you Dave Owens and the rest of the NERPM gang for putting on another wonderful event. All your hard work and attention to detail was obvious and appreciated - but certainly not surprising. And thanks again to my friends - old and new - who were able to make it to the meet and help make it such a memorable weekend. I'm already psyched for NERPM 2018!

Randy and Joseph on this morning's Saybrook Special heading north on the Valley Line past my house.

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