Clinic Descriptions

Clinic #1: Kurt Thompson, MMR®

Demystifying the AP Dispatcher Paperwork


Kurt Thompson, MMR®, Chesapeake Division’s AP Director will go over the requirements and paperwork needed for a member to earn this AP certificate. In a setting more of a seminar than a clinic, Kurt will also present the paperwork he submitted 25 years ago when he earned his first AP certificate. If you are interested in seeing through the “fog of the requirements” or just have some questions about your own paperwork, this clinic is for you. Bring along your paperwork as there will be time for questions and answers as well as some input about your paperwork. Remember that this certificate was easy enough that Kurt earned his.

Clinic #2: Alan Mende

Evaluating in the MER-AP and Model Contest or How to Build Better Models


Whether you are considering judging for the first time, judged at previous conventions or simply a modeler wanting to get a better understanding how models are judged for AP awards this is the clinic you should attend. Alan Mende, Contest Chairman, will review the forms required to enter the contest and the forms judges will use to judge the entry. Each category by which a model is judged is reviewed, examples shown and complexity charts explained. Want to garner points for Associate Volunteer consider judging. Want to be a better modeler consider judging.  

Clinic#3: Steve Benezra

Introduction to Model Railroad Operations


This clinic will the "what, why, and how" of operations on a model railroad.  The clinic will present the various options for operations on your model railroad.  This includes layout design, moving trains over the railroad, car forwarding, communications, and a discussion of the era of your railroad and how to emulate the prototype from different eras.

Clinic #4: Nick Santo

What is Decoder Buddy?


This clinic will describe the Decoder Buddy family, their differences and uses. The clinic will also show participants how a Decoder Buddy can make a DCC decoder installation easier, better, and safter for your relatively expensive decoder.

Clinic #5: Joe Skorch

An Introduction to JMRI

This is an introduction into the world of JMRI to help participants get started in Decoder Pro and Operations Pro. There will be a demonstration of how to read a decoders information through a programming track and then see the results on an operating track.

In Operations Pro I will show how to add locations, trains, routes and produce a train to run the layout.

Clinic #6: Bill Davis

Bring Up the Rear

A brief history of the caboose from the 1830s to the FRED of today.

Clinic #7: Andrew Dodge, MMR

Layout Planning and Design


This clinic will examine the wide range of topics a modeler should consider before going to the hobby store and commencing construction of a layout.  Topics will include geographic location, era, type of layout, how much is enough or too much, layout room issues, pointers on construction, and space management and environment. 

Clinic #8: Andrew Stitt

My Experience with Dead Rail

The clinic will begin with the basics of what dead rail encompasses. Andrew will go through the process of getting the locomotives adapted, and considerations for making the conversion successful. He will then transition into my experience with the new Soundtraxx Blunami decoders.

Clinic #9: Keith Iritsky

Foam Techniques: From Cutting to Finishing


How to select different types of foams for different applications. techniques, tips, and tools described for cutting, shaping, sealing and painting.

Clinic #10: John Sethian

The Art and Technique of Lighting

Lighting is a very effective tool for adding visual interest to your layout.   Controlling light and shadows not only makes for more realistic scenes, it can also give them visual impact.  Obviously, this requires far more than placing a brightly glowing incandescent bulb in the center of the building. The clinic will start with the basic techniques:  Light placement, Types of lighting, The use of light blocks, controlling light intensity, and How to prevent your walls from glowing.  The clinic will then cover more artistic topics such as using lighting to convey distance, to focus the viewer’s attention to a specific scene, and to create a mood. Finally, the clinic will discuss more advanced techniques such as the use of electro luminescent panels, indirect lighting, and shadow boxes.

Clinic #11: Dave Ellis

Planning a New Railroad after Moving

After moving in 2021, I started designing a new version of my branch line railroad set in the Pacific Northwest. The main gist of this clinic is how I determined what I actually wanted and could realistically attain. While your situation and desires may be very different from mine, the process that I took may be worth considering. The presentation begins with sections on evaluating my past modeling experience, building a "practice plank" to gain more experience, and looking at inspirations or influences. After prioritizing my goals, I followed one design method for planning the railroad, but ended up beginning construction of the new railroad using TOMA (The One Module Approach).

Clinic #12: Alex Belida, MMR®

Motive Power: You Can Do It!


No doubt you think that getting the Master Builder-Motive Power certificate is too challenging. Wrong. It is not only possible, it is well within your reach. You only need three Merit Award models. While they all have to run on track, you don’t have to build a steam engine. Alex Belida, MMR, explains how his interest in old-time backwoods shortline railroads generated three unique HO scale motive power models – a freelanced “Critter”, a kitbashed Motor Freight “Boxbug”, and a scratchbuilt Vertical Boiler engine. 

Clinic #13: Gil Fuchs

Do It Yourself Stay Alive and Keep Alive Devices

Keeping your locomotives and other electrical devices going despite an electrical gap in the tracks or some other electrical related issue is important to your railroad operations. In the Clinic Gil provides information on building your own Stay Alive and Keep alive devices.

Clinic #14: Andrew Dodge, MMR

Railroad Infrastructure


Every railroad requires a great many types of systems and standards to physical support their operations.  We will look at rail weight requirements, bridge building and design issues, fuel and water requirements, types and designs of locomotives, and the evolution of infrastructure standards.

Clinic #15: Chuck Davis, MMR®

Modifying and Detailing Plastic Steam Engines


Many railroads had rather unique steam engines which have not been produced commercially.  The clinic will address modifying and detailing plastic shell steam engines for unique, unavailable prototypes.  The modeling philosophy used, and specific classes modeled from Bachmann, Broadway Limited and Proto 2000 models will be described.

Clinic #16: Earl Hackett

Computer Assisted Design and 3D Printing for Model Construction

The clinic will describe several free CAD programs that are very capable of generating good output for model building.  When used for conventional scratch building techniques it will insure things fit before any wood or plastic is cut.  Use of 3D printing will also be discussed in clinic. Equipment for 3D printing has become so inexpensive. The original Elegoo Saturn is selling for $280 and will handle many HO buildings in one shot.  That cost can be recovered after building only 4 or 5 models.  In an online presentation Earl used OnShape, free to non-commercial users, to build a model of a small girder bridge.   Material cost for printing it was $1.50.  A similar commercial model would cost from $15 to $25 and the detail would not be as good.  For larger models, you are basically building a kit and Earl will show a couple of examples and maybe bring along a model that hasn't been installed on the layout.  Another application for 3D is designing mechanical systems such as a switch machine. 

Clinic #17: Bob Sprague

What’s new on the Old MA and PA

Progress continues on Bob Sprague’s reproduction of the Maryland & Pennsylvania RR on May 5, 1924.  Bob will describe the state of construction including the completion of a complex helix and swing gate.  He also discusses the use of 3D printing to create unique and prototype-specific rolling stock and structures, and the initial implementation of JMRI Operations Pro to govern car movements.

Clinic #18: Chad Barnette

Introduction to 3D Printing

In this clinic we will cover a broad range of topics related to 3D printing.  You will receive enough information to get you started on your journey to 3D printing.  We will cover types of machines, machine limitations, pitfalls and issues that you may encounter, as well as types of software you will use to import files.  Most of all we'll try to have some fun together!

Clinic #19: Lou & Cheryl Sassi

A Railbus Tour of Lou and Cheryl Sassi's ON30


A keynote presentation covering the construction of Lou & Cheryl's On-30 railroad including a close look at the layouts scratch-built and kit-bashed structures along with their counterparts on the prototype SR&RL, Cheryl's approach to developing realistic ground cover and tree fabrication, and the materials and techniques Lou uses to create his highly detailed power and for telephone lines.  

Clinic #20: Mike Shylanski

Painting and Weathering Rolling Stock with Vallejo Brand Products


Nothing improves the appearance of your model rolling stock like realistic weathering. Mid-Eastern Region member Mike Shylanski will use this clinic to introduce you to the user-friendly and safe Vallejo family of acrylic paint and weathering products. He will identify his favorite Vallejo products and advise on price and availability. He will show techniques that can be used to hand paint or weather freight car models in very little time and without making a mess. Using Vallejo makes weathering trucks and couplers and dulling down overly bright colors on models easy. No airbrush is required. The differences between weathering steam or transition-era models as opposed to rolling stock from more recent years will be highlighted. Samples of Vallejo products will be available and finished models can be inspected.

Clinic #21: Dick Bronson

LCC, What is it and Who is it for?

Where are we 8 years along the road? What can we see on the horizon?

Clinic #22: Bob Weinheimer, MMR®

Evolution of an Operating Scheme


This clinic looks at how the Pennsylvania Southern and its operating scheme have evolved over the past 40 years.  Any large layout grows with time to its current form.  This layout has moved twice offering opportunities for development.  Industrial growth led to a larger car fleet in turn requiring schedule adjustments.  Paperwork and dispatching systems evolved; all of this will be discussed in this clinic.

Clinic #23: Ken Wilson

Backdrop Painting – Painlessly

As model railroaders, we continue to perfect our skills with modeling rolling stock, track, structures, and terrain.  One area of modeling that seems to be pushed to the background (pun intended) is backdrops.  A backdrop helps to set the visual limit to cover distractions and to focus on the trains and structures in the foreground, but often they are ignored or rendered in an unrealistic manner, particularly skies.  This workshop will provide some easy steps to follow to create a backdrop with a variety of clouds and natural features such as hills, forests, and lakes.  Painting a backdrop is much easier than painting rolling stock: anything on a backdrop that doesn’t look right the first time can be corrected with very little effort.  Unlike a crooked decal or an uneven finish on a boxcar, you cannot make a mistake on a backdrop that isn’t easily fixed.  The clinic will be a combination of PowerPoint slides and a live demonstration.

Clinic #24: Eric Schrowang

Airbrushing 101

If you have ever wondered is Airbrushing for me or if you just want to brush up on some basics, then this clinic is for you. We will explain what an airbrush is and how to select the best one for you. We will look at air sources, setting up an airbrushing station, mixing paints, and PPE will also be explained.

Clinic #25: John Short

Scratchbuilding With the Cricut Maker


The Cricut Maker is a cutting tool used by modelers to increase the accuracy of designing and efficiency in cutting parts to scratchbuild structures.  Once dimensions are entered into the design program, the Maker efficiently arranges and cuts the components from common scratchbuilding materials, such as cardstock, sheet wood, and styrene.  The clinic will begin with an overview of the Cricut Maker and Maker 3; the software, Design Space; and system requirements.  Creating a digital plan, and the ease of editing a plan to incorporate corrections, or other changes, and matching the program settings to specific modeling materials will be emphasized.  The presenter will use examples from his HOn3 Rio Grande Southern layout, ranging from small sheds to complex structures.  The value of creating a simple mockup from inexpensive materials prior to finalizing the design will be shown.  A major advantage of working digitally is the ease of converting plans in one scale to another scale.  Lessons learned regarding the use of the Maker, and materials and settings suitable for use with the Maker will be shared.  The clinic will end with a demonstration of the cutting tool producing the parts for a structure.

Clinic #26: Nick Kalis

Practical Steps to Enhance Your Layout’s Story Telling in Any Scale


Examples of how an artistic approach to model railroading can enhance the story your layout tells.

Clinic #27: Andrew Dodge, MMR

Track Work


Laying track is not considered by many to be the most exciting job, but, like it or not, your trains will run on it.  To have a successful layout, one needs good track work so the equipment will stay on the rails.  This clinic will examine roadbed issues, grades, transitions in grades, curvatures, working with hand laid and flex track, track gauges and curvature tools, “S” curves, building a ford, maintenance access, using prototype standards, and environmental issues.

Clinic #28: Alan Silverblatt

Automating collection management and operating sessions with Train DB Plus


This clinic will introduce Train DB Plus, a software package that lets you track your collection of rolling stock and automate other model railroad related tasks.  The software is simple and easy to use "right out of the box" but still allows a great deal of customization to fit your particular needs.  With it you can track your rolling stock (and any other items you want), organize your books and magazine articles (and search them by title or keyword), record and retrieve other potentially useful information, build consists and automatically generate switch lists for operating sessions, generate reports, and import or export data to or from Excel, CSV or PSV files.  The clinic will cover how to download and install the software, and an overview of all its features.

Clinic #29: Tim Blaisdell and Ed Urmston, Sr.

Documenting Athearn Trains

Modelers and collectors of model trains everywhere have memories of Athearn Trains. Irvin Athearn was truly a pioneer in model trains spanning several generations of model railroaders.  After Irv’s purchase of Globe Models, the iconic F7 locomotive became the “kick-off” of a long and proud history.  Tim Blaisdell and Ed Urmston Sr. took on the documentation of Athearn Trains and its advertising over 40 years ago.  The result today is three books on the subject.  Advertising brought the introduction of Irv’s trains into Living Rooms everywhere. - Tim and Ed will bring this information to you, including revealing many models that many modelers may not realize even exist.  This clinic will provide a glimpse into the model trains and advertising which made it all possible.

Clinic #30: Steve Milley

Laser Cutting Technology and Craftsman Kits

Stephen Milley from Rail-Scale-Models will present an overview of laser-cut craftsman structure kit design and production - providing an overview of the laser technology and common materials used in these kits.  Also, Stephen will walk through design and components of some of the Rail-Scale-Models' kits to illustrate how laser-cut components come together for kit construction.  The examples shown will be updated structures from recent work at Rail-Scale-Models.

Clinic #31: Gil Brauch, MMR®

ABC'S of Scenery Part 1

Gil Brauch, MMR® presents a discussion of basic scenery concepts. It covers topics to be considered in planning and installing scenery on your layout ranging from the selection of locale and season, materials that can be used and tips and techniques to bring your layout from "plywood plains" to a "living wonder".

Clinic #32: Eric Dervinis

Planning a Model Railroad for Prototype Operations

My mid-1950’s Lackawanna Bloomsburg Branch has been under construction since February 2017, and much has been accomplished including all of the benchwork. The goal is enjoyable and challenging op sessions. Be warned, that I have decided against some of the ‘established’ norms for design.

Clinic #33: Ed Smith MMR®

ABCs of Scenery Part 2: Backdrop to Fascia


Demonstration of scenery techniques, using a 4-segment diorama, to produce a complete scene back to front, using easy construction techniques.

Clinic #34: Joe Walters MMR®

Scratchbuilding a Depressed Flatcar and Load

These specialized cars come in various configurations depending on the load. Variations include 4,6,8,12 and 16 axles. The 16 axle cars are designed to carry more than 100 tons and upwards to 200 tons. The center depressed area allows the car to have a low center of gravity while being able to handle extended heights. This type of rolling stock typically moves electrical transformers, electrical power equipment, and large industrial production equipment.   Joe will discuss building this unit from styrene and resin castings.  A transformer load constructed with over 100 parts will also be discussed.

Clinic #35: Rich Steinmann MMR®

Lessons from Modeling the Prototype Erie-Lackawanna Morris & Essex Division

The Erie Lackawanna Morris and Essex Division is a proto-freelanced layout modeling the railroad in Northern New Jersey from Madison to Netcong in 1965.  The clinic will describe the layout and the prototype elements such as buildings, bridges, and operations.  The clinic will cover some of the prototype source material, where to find it, and how it was used as a basis for modeling.  The clinic will also discuss the evolution of the track plan as the layout expanded to cover the entire basement and will also describe the operating scheme.

Clinic #36: Roy Becker

Reversing Loops for a Model Railroad

In this clinic we will look at the challenges of reversing loops in a model railroad.  The challenge is similar in both DC and DCC.  Why would we build one into our model railroad?  How can we operate (or wire) that portion of the railroad?  

Clinic #37: Bob Weinheimer, MMR® and Rick Coble VP NMRA

NMRA Discussion

Update on NMRA and an opportunity to ask questions. 

Clinic #38: Jim Murphy

"Hopper's Nighthawks Diner - Diorama with Lights and Sounds"


Taking Edward Hopper's iconic painting into a model in not new; now the image becomes a living model with lights and sounds of 1942.  The latest techniques of micro lighting and sound installation are presented.  The clinic covers kitbashing combined with scratchbuilt details.  Extra features, exterior and interior, bring a sense of mood and time to our layout.

The display (Off-Line) is a Merit Award recipient. 

Clinic H-1 Neal Anderson, MMR®

A Three-Part Clinic: Part 1) Lighting Your Layout Cost Effectively; Part 2) Speed Ballasting Great Track Work in Less Time; Part 3) Ballasting Turnouts and Crossovers

Limited to 24 Participants

No Charge


Part 1) Neal will show participants how to effectively light their layout or add more lighting to permit easier and faster ballasting and uncoupling and rerailing on their layout.  This system can be installed new or added without disturbing the existing railroad, and with only minor expense.
Part 2) Neal will take participants through a tried-and-true process he uses for ballasting track quickly.
Part 3) Neal will address ballasting turnouts and crossovers.


Participants can attend all three parts, or the part that want to attend.  Each part will run about an hour. It is strongly suggested attending the speed ballasting (Part 2) if interested in ballasting turnouts and crossovers (Part 3).

Clinic H-2: Martin Brechbiel, MMR®

Building Rail-Scale- Model’s Speeder & Oil Shed

Limited to 12 Participants

Martin Brechbiel will lead participants through the assembly of Rail-Scale-Models’ Speeder Shed which is a common model railroad structure, but this prototype has unique character. It has two rail spurs leading into the shed and also provides oil storage. The prototype stands at New Hope Valley Railroad in Bonsal, NC and can make for a unique structure on your model railroad. The footprint of the model (HO) is 4-5/8" x 2"; 8-3/8" x 3-3/4" in O scale.

This is relatively simple kit to build. Beginners will get their feet wet in building a craftsman kit and more experienced modelers will have an opportunity to add a prototype structure for additional detail on their layout. Skills learned include following instructions, distressing basswood, adding details, and weathering with stains and powders. The kit is available in N, HO and O scales. Seating is limited to twelve (12). Fee required: $15 N and HO scale, $25 O scale.  Detail bag for all scales is an additional $5.

Kit includes: laser-cut wall, roof, floor, & doors; laser-cut asphalt shingles; and stripwood. Metal detail castings are available for an additional charge.


Tools Required (Tool Box should be brought to clinic)

X-acto knife with #11 Blade

Straight-Edge Razor Blade (s)

Metal Ruler

Small files (Jewelers), sanding sticks

Cutting Mat


Razor Saw


Sprue Cutter

Paint Brushes

Ponce Wheel



Wood Glue (Elmer’s or Titebond)

Canopy Glue (window glaze)

Aileen’s Tacky Glue

White Glue or Glue Stick

CA Super Glue

3M #465 Transfer Tape

Clinic H-3: Patty Short

Making Trees from Wire

Limited to 24 participants

During this clinic, participants will create a signature deciduous tree ready to place on their layout. Participants will shape florist wire into a tree armature, apply latex texturing, tip limbs with static grass twigs, paint the armature and root system, dry for texture, and flock the crown of their tree to complete a layout ready work of art!  Each tree is unique and worthy of placement in the foreground of a scene on a layout. Tree makers will receive a detailed materials list and written notes to support them as they complete additional trees for their layout.  (Please note that liquid latex is used in this clinic.  Those who are allergic to latex should choose another clinic.)

Clinic H4 – Ernie Little, MMR® and George Meyrick

Programming using JMRI

This clinic consists of an introduction briefing on basic DCC fundamentals.  This includes programming modes and addressing types; equipment needed to access the decoder and program it; address programming; speed fundamentals; speed programming; and sound programming.  At the briefing, participants will be provided with a flash drive containing over 500 files of programming documentation for over a dozen vendors.  After the briefing, participants will be given the opportunity to do hands-on programming of HO-gauge or N-gauge locomotive(s) that they provide.

The hands-on equipment during the clinic with George or Ernie providing assistance.  It is anticipated that it will take approximately 30 to 60 minutes depending on the features being programmed.   If you do not a locomotive to program, you can still visit the hands-on area and watch other people doing the programming.

First eight (8) to register will have the opportunity to program their N or HO scale engine. If you do not a locomotive to program or not one of the first eight to register with their engines, you can still visit the hands-on area and watch other people doing the programming.

To offset the cost of the clinic materials an extra fare cost of $5.00 will be charged for each participant.

Clinic H-5: Bret Jones

Techniques for Creating Zero Depth Water Features
Limited to 20 participants

Presented by Bret Jones from Rail Tales in Charlottesville, VA. (James River Division)

Description: Whether making a diorama or a scene for a layout, water is one of those things that can easily go wrong. This technique avoids most of the pitfalls and allows the creation of water features independent of the eventual location. They are cheap and easy to make, so if you don't like it, don't use it! Just try again.

Participants will be making 2 small ponds or swamps (roughly 4" x6" oval) using a variety of mediums provided by the clinic presenter. Attendees will be able to take these items home.


All materials provided including: two primed Palight plastic ovals per participant, paints to create a water foundation, water paste, miscellaneous grasses, tufts, and bits for detail. Tools included but if participants have their own pallet knives and large brushes, they are welcome to use them. Residue vegetation will be divided among the participants. Other residues and tools are retained by the presenter.


Cost approximately $35 subject to material cost fluctuation.


This clinic was presented to the James River Division in September 2022.

Clinic H-6: Jim Murphy

Resin Castings for Unique Parts

Limited to 12 participants

When many parts are needed, or commercial parts are not available for your unique model, resin casting may just be the answer.  The advantages are no special printing equipment or supplies, no 3D drafting or computers expertise just basic modeling skills.  No high cost per part, and no big investment.

We will discuss how to get started, obtaining casting supplies, making a master pattern, then making the silicone rubber mold.  We will put the gloves on, measure and mix the urethane resin, and pour our own castings into prepared rubber molds, and in just a few minutes, have our own parts.

All supplies and gloves provided.  Glasses or goggles are recommended

Cost $15