For some time now modelers have discussed the costs of going to model railroad conventions and meets. Often the cost has been too much for some people, but the Southeastern Region of the National Model Railroad Association has come up with a solution… the Mini-Meet.
Other regions have sponsored Mini-Meets in the past, particularly the Pacific Northwest Region. According to Steve Prevette, who held the first Mini-Meet in Aiken, South Carolina, these events have been held throughout the Southeast since the fall of 2012. Steve, the Superintendent of the Central Savannah River Division, said this was a great way to support the hobby when the population of modelers is widely dispersed such as in small towns and rural areas.
I recently attended the latest event in Aiken which began on a Friday afternoon and finished on a Saturday afternoon.
Operating Trains with Timetable & Train Orders
Friday was devoted to two operating sessions. The first early afternoon session was on Steve Prevette’s Burnt Hills & Big Flats 20 feet by 30 feet N scale layout. Both layouts use Timetable and Train Orders to move the trains across the railroad.
After a group dinner the operators moved to Don Barnes’ HO layout, the Baltimore & Ohio. This is a huge, unfinished layout measuring 36 feet by 78 feet. When it’s finished Don says he will need about 30 operators.
The Station Museum
One of the side benefits of these Mini-Meets is a chance to see local attractions, and the big draw for modelers was the rebuilt Aiken Passenger Station. This effort was spearheaded by Don Barnes who is a rail fan, modeler, aviator, and business owner. Don even gave some of the modelers a private tour of the building and grounds.
In addition to the station itself, the grounds feature a caboose and two full size passenger cars. These will eventually be available for parties and receptions.
Upstairs in the station is the Aiken Train Museum featuring professionally built dioramas depicting the original route of the old Charleston & Hamburg Railroad in the early part of the last century. The showcased dioramas feature a moving train.
Also in the museum are a number of very clever interactive displays with questions and answers for the public to see what they know about railroads. The building also serves as the Aiken Tourist Center.
Don’t Forget the Clinics
On Saturday at the University of S. Carolina Aiken, the local NMRA Division sponsored a series of 10 different clinics ranging from DCC sound decoders, to building turnouts, to building a helix, to using Arduinos for controls, to weathering and even painting backdrops. The Meet was over around 5pm so everyone was free at that time to either head back home or spend another night in town.
The Southeastern Region provides the money for the rental of meeting and clinic rooms along with incidental expenses. Because of the Region’s sponsorship there is no charge to modelers to attend the event. These Mini-Meets are a great way to join with other modelers for a fun filled day or two doing what we all like to do… talk about trains. Let’s hope other Regions pick up on this idea to have fun.