2017 National N Scale Convention

Seven NRMRC members (Derway, Kalinowski, Koss. McConnell, McCurry, Peacock, Wallis) traveled to Pittsburgh PA for the 2017 National N Scale Convention. Dave Koss and Joel McCurry were accompanied by their wives.

John arrived on Tuesday followed by Jim and Joe a little after noon on Wednesday. Later the three of us hung around the arrival area to help Derway and Koss unload, but they were no-shows. After boredom and hunger set in we repaired down the street to Houlihans for dinner. While there we got a phone call from Dave K where we learned that he and Pauline, and also David Derway had decided to take a rest from driving and parked — in a parking lot otherwise known as Interstate 79 (due to a 12 mile backup caused by an accident).

When they arrived tired, pissed off and hungry we helped them unload, and then “allowed” them to get some dinner.

It should be noted that Joel arrived too late on Wednesday to help unload, and left too early on Saturday to help with tear down and loading. He did help with setup.


The Sheraton at Station Square is located on the south side of the Monongahela River, directly across from Downtown Pittsburgh. Looking west we can see where the Monongahela and the Allegheny Rivers meet to form the Ohio River.

Between the hotel and the river are first a pedestrian walkway, the CSX tracks and the mooring location for some of the river tour and cruise boats. Almost all of us had hotel rooms that provide a view of the CSX tracks. The layout room had picture windows that provide a great view of the trains as they went past, and there were lots of them, and very long. I counted one train with mixed cars including tanks, stacks and autoracks at 159 cars, and a 132 car train of loaded coal hoppers. Most trains had no more than 3 diesels up front.

The NS main line was a block behind the hotel and elevated. We could hear, but not see NS trains from the hotel.

Overall the train watching was even better than Danville.

As well as the hotel there were plenty of spots nearby to eat including the Pittsburgh Hard Rock Café and a Houlihans.

The only downside was the parking was on city-owned lots and thus not as convenient as we are used to, plus loading/unloading was virtually through the hotel’s front door, and the layout room was at the rear of the hotel.


Congratulations to Jim Kalinowski for winning the First Prize in the Diorama category. You can view photos of his winning diorama at his shared album on the web: Kalenowski Diorama 2017


On Friday night Art Fahie of Bar Mills gave two clinics on scenicking. It was noted on arrival that Joel McCurry was seated in the front-most center seat, which held out promise that the clinic would incent Joel to scenic his Curves module. Unfortunately Art did not cover the topic on “How to Scenic Kraft Paper”.


The Saturday night banquet was well attended with NRMRC represented by Derway, Kalinowski, Peacock and Wallis. Good food. We had each purchased $20 worth of raffle tickets (28 tickets each), for a total of 112 tickets. Another attendee sitting at the table and attending his first NSE Convention had purchased a total of $140 worth of tickets, total 206 tickets. There were a total of about 450 numbers drawn during the evening. None of us won anything, but the new guy had one of his numbers drawn 7 times. This probably got him his money back.

Of course we each got one of the special Micro-Trains convention cars — an H.J. Heinz gondola with a larger single pickle load. We also go a small sample bottle of genuine Heinz ketchup!

A detailed and well-lighted circus module won the best module award.

Manufacturer’s Breakfast

Derway, Kalinowski, Peacock and Wallis attended the Manufacturer’s Breakfast. Again excellent food followed by several manufacturers talking about their products. Of note is the fact that Micro-Trains is releasing metal wheelsets in the next month or so. The shortness of the meeting allowed the four of us to get an earlier than expected start to get home.

Public Show/Swap-A-Rama

As usual all the N Scale dealers and many manufacturers set up in the Ballroom to display and sell their wares. Comparing the amount of merchandise for sale at 9 am Friday to what was left about 1 pm on Saturday it is clear they had a very profitable event.

The Layout

Setup began Thursday morning and continued through the day, with the last modules (RANTRAK) arriving just after noon. The layout went together exactly per the plan with the exception that a 2’ module was inserted in the long straight section to make the layout 2’ longer to better fit the available space.

The hotel apparently screwed up on times between our layout and a wedding reception Saturday evening. The result was we had to stop operating at 2:00 instead of 4:00 and have the room emptied by 3:00. The feat was accomplished with 1 minute to spare, then came the loading into vehicles. As Dave Koss was leaving immediately after his van was loaded we did him first, then David Derway. Remaining items were individually put into cars.

Several operators either individually or from other clubs operated on the ENL layout.

Module Items

Carl Nordberg who writes articles in the NSE magazine about the layout at the Convention spent a lot of time taking pictures and talking with David Derway about Rockin’ Toxin. Perhaps we will see something in print.


FitzGerald Yard We need to establish rules for how long a train may be parked unattended on a yard track. There were two instances of trains being left in the yard for almost a day, one of them on one of the main lines. One of the owners involved was a prominent member of the NRMRC executive.

Since Fitz is a working yard, parking should be no more than 5 minutes, except when putting on or taking off a train.

Some minor wiring issues were fixed.

Grand Strand Module One of two new Grand Strand modules was very much a problem. Due to many electrical problems encountered during setup the feeders were disconnected from the terminal blocks and the module was bypassed using our 8 foot track bus jumper.

The second issue is more serious. The Blue Track goes through an “S” curve near each end of the module so that it runs down the street of a well-done town. Both the radius of the curves and the distance between the curves on each end are below the standard for the Blue track. Much equipment running through this section encountered problems — steam engines and MT passenger cars in particular. This was pointed out to Grand Strand who promised it would be fixed by Danville. Note: there is plenty of room on each end of the module to start the curves earlier so they can meet spec, and not damage most of the town scene.

NJS Yard New Jersey Southern has replaced the toggle switches that operate the turnouts on their modules with a JMRI computer screen. This allows operation by a simple point and click of the mouse. Future plan is a touchscreen.

Quarry Balloon (RANTRAK) Initial problems with the auto-reversing were solved when the PSX-AR unit was replaced with an auto-reversing Booster. The module operated as it should for the remainder of the show.

This module has Unitrack rather than flex-track. No operational problems were encountered with the Unitrack.

Red Rock Junction The section of track between the gap just prior to the frog of the Green Line left turnout and the gap to the right of the frog on the straight route through the turnout was discovered to have no power Investigation showed that the power routing micro switch under the turnout was misaligned. This was adjusted by David Derway and the power routing operated properly for the rest of the show. This needs to be checked to ensure the micro switch remains in alignment; perhaps consider replacing with a Frog Juicer?

DCC Issues

Since the NRMRC DCS240 is in Panama City for repair the layout was controlled by my DCS240. The DCS240 was connected to the club computer using the built-in PR3. The system operated normally on Friday.

On Saturday morning I pushed the button on the DCS240 that cleared the loco addresses and consist, but I did not do an OpSw#39 reset. About an hour later the system locked up. The only action that would restore full operation was a cold restart of the DCS240, the computer (and JMRI) and the router, plus replacement of the built-in PR3 with a LocoBuffer. After that the system operated normally for the reminder of the show.

On the plus side, when the layout was initially powered up everything in our portion of the layout and powered by our DCC equipment came up normal — in phase and with no shorts.

Rich Businger of Digitrax was aware our DCS240 and DB150 are in Panama City for repair. He checked their log, but no action had yet been taken. He pointed out to me that all future Digitrax products (except decoders) would be packaged like the DS64 or BDL168; no more 44-pin connectors. They will also be iPLable.

Overall this was a great convention, and is the best convention for N scalers. Next year the 2018 National N Scale Convention will be in Salt Lake City UT, June  20 to 24, 2018. The host hotel will be the Sheraton Salt Lake City.



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