Participation, motivation, and RPM meets

An idle freight yard before an operating session.
An idle freight yard before an operating session.

I’ve had random hobby thoughts recently that seem to be related. Over the course of the last month, I’ve hosted an operating session, attended another operating session, and attended an NMRA division meeting. I intentionally altered my schedule to participate in these events. Why? I guess I would have just thrown out a simple, “Because it’s fun,” response in the past. But I’ve become keenly aware that personal participation in activities with other hobbyists directly effects my hobby enjoyment. It’s not just about listening to others talk about a specific subject but taking part in a conversational process that gives me a good feeling.


At the NMRA meetings, people bring models of freight cars, buildings, locomotives, and other objects. They discuss the techniques used in building, painting, or weathering the models and others ask questions or raise other techniques that worked for them on other builds. At operating sessions, the railroad runs a little differently every time. The duties may be similar but the actions are not a specific repeat from the previous session. There are also questions to ask and answer with the others in the crew. I enjoy learning from these experiences as well as helping others understand aspects that push their hobby efforts forward. It’s this give and take from interacting with others that has inspired my own model railroad efforts.

I experience a similar effect with a band of email friends who all have an interest in the railroads of the pre-Depression Era. We share info, techniques, old photos, the latest efforts from the hobby bench, and historical data each week. Each of us have a specific interest and skill set that we share with the rest of the crew. We have a lot of laughs along the way. This group is spread across the country and we hardly get real visits with each other, but we find more hobby enjoyment because of what we have learned together. Some of their work has been featured here on the blog.

While much of our hobby activity is based on solitary efforts, it is the interaction with others that can keep our projects moving forward. Whether you are bouncing an idea or two around with friends via email, or attending an NMRA or RPM event, or hosting a work session on your own railroad with other modelers, participation with others can increase your enjoyment of a great hobby. Take advantage of easy communications, local modelers, and hobby events to expand your horizons. We humans are a social bunch and we tend to learn more together than alone. Model railroading has so many fascinating elements to share that we cannot fail to learn a few nuggets, or share some info, with others we meet along the way.

Weathered box cars that were displayed at an NMRA meeting.
Weathered box cars that were displayed at an NMRA meeting.

RPM Meets

The October calendar has a couple great events coming up. First up is one of the longest running prototype modeler meets in the country, the 21st annual RPM-Naperville Conference. This will be held in the Chicago suburb of Lisle, Illinois, October 9 – 11, 2014. This event was once hosted by Sunshine Models and now Joe D’Elia runs the show. It’s one of the premier events on the hobby calendar, especially for those interested in prototype modeling. I attended the 2005 event and came home full of hobby inspiration and ideas. Check out the website for more details.

Another RPM meet is set for Scotch Plains, NJ, October 25 & 26, 2014. The New Jersey Layout Design/Operations Special Interest Group and RPM Meet offers a combined event to set your hobby wheels in motion. The registration costs are one of the best hobby deals in New Jersey. Check out the event details on their website.

6 thoughts on “Participation, motivation, and RPM meets”

  1. Eric,
    Please permit me to continue this conversation.

    Your writings about building the Wheeling Terminal, resin cars, ops sessions, and other topics are warmly received here and among your extended “family” of modelers.

    Many of those that gathered at the National Train Show Free-mo layout agreed that renewing friendships and making new ones is a main reason to make the effort to attend such an event. The group dinner (at trackside in Berea, OH) is further evidence that our hobby has a strong social side to it.

    Hopefully, I will have some nuggets of information to share with you as you have shared with us here!


    Tim Moran
    Akron, OH

    1. Thanks for your comments, Tim. I know you have had a very busy summer with the NTS Free-mo set up. The photos I’ve seen online were impressive. I’m glad your hobby experiences are growing! – Eric

  2. Eric,

    You are right on about participation and motivation. Got my dose of collegiality this weekend at Oly Ops, a day of operations at great layouts in the Olympia, WA area, put on by the Olympia Operations Group. I get to experience two layouts, three hours each, with like-minded folks. This year was an HO diesel era layout, and an On30 turn-of-the-century layout. I suppose the second is closer in era to the late 20’s, but regardless of scale or era, I always come home excited to work on my own layout, or to sit down at the workbench and pick up where I left off.

    I wish there was an RPM in this area (Tacoma…heck, I’d even drive to Seattle). I have tried the NMRA clinic close to me and found it lacking in many ways, but mostly genuine hospitality. I’m glad you, and others, share your ideas on blogs. Keep at it – it is appreciated!


    1. Great to hear of your experiences, Galen. I enjoy operating on any layout, no matter the scale, era, or operating style used. I always come home with a few ideas or am inspired to move a project forward.

      As for your RPM situation, this can start with a handful of people gathering on an afternoon for coffee and pie. Everyone brings a few models and you discuss build techniques, weathering steps, prototype changes over the years, and many other tidbits. You all walk away with more info than you arrived with and look forward to that next time you get together. Keep it simple with a focus on models and sharing ideas. It can grow from there. – Eric

  3. On November 15th nine local model railroaders opened their layouts to an afternoon public tour. About fifty people came to my layout. The observations and questions from new visitors and non modelers were often thought provoking. Planning questions made me think about both mine and the overall process of layout design. The ladies were very observant of details. A young girl asked the toughest question for me: Why have a track plan on the fascia when the track is visible? I learned some about how others see my layout – and how I may make it better. Ideas and motivation can come from more than the local regulars and the organized meets.
    Dick Bradley

    1. Thanks for commenting, Dick. Indeed, sometimes we become so focused on our own planning and building that we miss a perspective entirely. Good ideas can come from many sources and inviting non-modelers to visit and question can be eye opening. – Eric

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