The Civil War Roadshow Arrives in Atlanta! by Gerard Fitzgerald

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This is the first in what I will hope will be a series of special guest blog posts this week from the 2013 Atlanta NMRA National Convention. Philip has graciously appointed me the James River Division (Blog) Minister without Portfolio for the duration. As such I will hopefully be sending some nice photos and a few thoughts back to those of you at home in the next week or so. This is my third national convention and will be my longest stay to date (Five days!!!) as I was only in Philadelphia and Hartford for 2-3 days respectively. I used to live in the Atlanta area and as a proud graduate of the University of Georgia, it is always great when I get a chance to go back and visit the Peach State.

My interest in attending the 2013 NMRA National convention was driven in part by my membership and participation in two of the NMRA’s special interest groups or SIGs  (http://www.nmra.org/national/sig/sig.html). The Layout Design SIG   (http://www.ldsig.org ) is one of the oldest NMRA SIGs and turned thirty last year. In fact the LDSIG, which was founded by my friend Doug Gurin, may have been the very first SIG (?), but was nonetheless in the very first group.  On the other hand the American Civil War Rail Road Historical Society (ACWRRHS) is the newest, having formally joined the NMRA less than a year or so ago. The group has however existed for a number of years prior to formal NMRA affiliation, drawing together modelers interested in recreating the railroads and operations of not only the American Civil War but also the ante-bellum period though the end of Reconstruction.  The Civil War SIG is having a sort of coming out party in the railroad hub of Atlanta, Georgia with a number of members bringing layouts, dioramas, models, displays, etc… The ACWRRHS  has a Yahoo! discussion forum at http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Civil_War_RRs/ and much like the LDSIG is always interested in attracting new members.

When attending a national convention the LDSIG room is always an interesting place to hang out between clinics and tour bus trips to meet other modelers and see raelly amazing displays and architectural models built to assist modelers in creating and successfully completing their dream layouts, regardless of size or scale. The Operations SIG members often meet in the same or an adjoining room so there is usually an all star line up of famous hobbyists wandering around who are eager to discuss what is new and interesting in the hobby. One could for instance strike up a conversation with various members of the layout design intelligentsia… like current Layout Design Journal (LDJ) editor Byron Henderson. For the record, on Monday morning Byron is once again holding a Layout Design Boot Camp, a multi-hour, full immersion series of clinics, designed (no pun intended) to introduce new comers and even experienced modelers to the tools and theory of layout design.  If you are here in Atlanta and cannot get to the LDSIG Boot Camp, and still want to learn more about …say when to add a passing siding to a layout, whether a helix will work or fit, or how many staging tracks you might need for your next project layout (the quick answer is twice as many as you think!), drop by the LDSIG clinic room and pull up a chair. Or if you are not able to be in Atlanta this week, drop by the website, the yahoo group, or better yet subscribe to the LDJ, I think you will find it a great way to become a more well rounded model railroader.

My week here is going to be interesting and is somewhat scheduled although I hope to see some first rate clinics and some nifty layouts.. My primary responsibilities are to give three clinics and also transport and assemble the Civil War Roadshow layout, an O-scale fine scale portable switching layout which I had the pleasure of helping design and build under the carful leadership of my very good pal Bernie Kimpinski (http://usmrr.blogspot.com). Bernie is also giving two clinics. We are holding operating sessions this week in the CWSIG room and the layout will also be open for most of the week while that room is accessible.

On Wednesday Bernie and I, in addition to dozens of others, will be going on a self -guided tour of special layouts on the LDSIG layout tour, which is usually my favorite part of a national convention. It is a great opportunity to visit, study, and photograph layouts in various stages of design and construction. Better yet, visitors get to pick the brains of the layout owners and come away with useful insights in how to design and build better model railroads in the future. I predict about 600 photos that day with my digital SLR.

On Thursday I have a clinic in the early afternoon and then will man a help desk in the LDSIG room to discuss design issues with modelers who have come by to discuss what they are doing…or trying to do. The help desk is open all week and is by appointment. It is a very useful way to get advice on how to design the layout you have been scribbling on napkins for the past few years but not yet fully pulled together.

On Friday morning, NMRA members get first crack at the National Train Show before the regular/normal people are allowed in. The National Train Show is always interesting and a wonderful way to see all the new things you cannot afford but need to soon purchase regardless. Later that afternoon I will be attending the LDSIG dinner at the Trackside Grill followed by a lecture and tour at the which is being held at the Southern Museum of Civil War and Locomotive History (http://www.southernmuseum.org ) both of which are located in Kennesaw.
I have been to the museum in the past using their wonderful Southern Railroad archive and it is a great place to visit if you have an interest in the history of southern railroads and industrial technology. Finally, on Saturday, I plan to hit one or two layouts on another self guided tour in the greater Atlanta area before driving back to Charlottesville.

I think/hope later posts will be shorter on text and longer on photos with perhaps a wrap up a week or so later following my return to Charlottesville.

Let me note the day was not a complete success. While I was inside unloading the Roadshow someone (apparently another model railroader here at the convention) hit my car while I was unloading the Roadshow and destroyed my back tail light. They were nice enough to just drive away and leave a jumble of broken glass and metal next to my car. So much for my first five minutes in the hotel parking lot!!!

(Photos to follow in the next post)

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