Traveling to see new model railroads is always a fun experience, especially when in the company of other modelers. When you add operating on those model railroads to the experience, the time becomes something to look forward to - as it was this year for a weekend around the greater Chicago area.
There are a number of great operating layouts around Chicago, and it was the home for one of the first organized operating groups for model railroading. Some of that stemmed from the early clubs in the midwest including the Purdue University club and the Batavia club, home for the Midwest Model Railroaders layout. That tradition continues today with the Chicago 'Rail Group' sessions, which this year is celebrating 50 years of operations and hosted ProRail 2022 to commemorate that anniversary.
As is typical of the bigger operating weekends, invitees choose layouts based on their desires and hosts then assign layouts across the group - you get some of the choices you wanted, and a few others that you didn't ask for but which are in their own rights amazing creations. My first choice on this trip was Lou Steenwyk's railroad that models a group of fictional but prototypical ore railroads around Superior WI and Duluth MN. It really captures the flavor of the branchline-to-port feel of that region, and was a pleasure to operate with the group.
Another top choice for me, conveniently placed nearby, was John Bauer's Rio Grande Southern, which is modeled in Sn3 and is an early work of art with all handlaid track, scratchbuilt bridges, and beautiful brass locomotives. The scenery is just starting but the operation is wonderful - time table train order, but on a well-built, slow-speed main line. It again captures the feel and is a real pleasure to run.
At John's I found a new product on the shelf - a new, conductive waxy oil that cleans and leaves a conductive (but not slippery) finish on the rails. I will be ordering this and trying it myself on the OC, a railroad whose heavy traffic and signal-equipped main line requires a lot of track cleaning! Learning new techniques by spending time with the masters of the art is a great reason to travel to see other's railroads.
You never know who you'll see out and about! Eric White, Kalmbach Senior Editor and a friend of mine, was there - wearing an Onondaga Cutoff shirt! What a thrill!
Other railroads on which I operated included John Goodhart's Lake Erie, Cincinnati and Southern, as well as Bob Hanmer's DM&IR/GN, both great fun railroads. I especially enjoyed seeing another adaptation of Centralized Traffic Control on John's railroad, and of all the sessions the whole weekend Bob Hanmer's really was a great and smooth experience. His railroad is another that captures TT&TO very well, and I do have a soft spot for the ore roads, which he models in earnest.
It was a great weekend! It's always refreshing to see a different region, and while I always miss my family when traveling with friends I came back refreshed and excited to be home - while carrying all the memories of a great weekend with a growing group of friends. It's the best of both worlds, and I am just happy to be able to participate!