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Visit a Prototype Modeler’s Meet.

June 15, 2009

Tim Keohane's Weathered Rolling Stock on display at BAPM 2009

There’s one facet of the hobby that’s surprisingly fun and definately informative and impressive. It’s your local prototype modeler’s meet. Here you’ll find beautifully detailed models in a casual, friendly atomsphere where you can really appreciate and enjoy them. You’ll often find the true “master modelers” at these conventions, often people you might be familar with through the Model Railroad press.

To check one of these out for Interacting with Miniature Railroading, I brought some of my weathered and kitbashed models to the event to see what reaction I’d get and also to see how easy or difficult it is to fit into these events.

I visited the Bay Area Prototype Modeler’s Meet in Richmond, Calif. (BAPM for short) last saturday and was extremely impressed. Tucked away in the cafeteria of a Catholic School in Richmond Heights, the well lit room lent itself to really being able to see the models in natural light.


When I arrived at 11:45 a DCC clinic featuring the new SPROG II computer-to-track programmer (which runs on JMRI) was just wrapping up. I paid $10 to get in the door, which wasn’t any problem for me, considering what and who I’d find inside. I also bought 2 Raffle tickets.

The room was mostly filled up, three rows of tables down a 75X30 foot cafeteria, with more than 100 models on display. About 90% of the models were HO, the rest were various narrow gauge scales, including my On30 2-6-0. It is no wonder why HO was represented so heavily as the sheer amount of aftermarket detail parts available is staggering. I asked where to set up, and a friendly member just told me to set up on any empty table, which I found quite refreshing in comparison to handling the insanity of getting a table at a train show.

I was met with pleasant remarks after setting up, and it felt good to finally have a group of modelers that are supportive instead of arrogant, close minded, overly eccentric individuals I often see at train shows. The prototype modeler group is not only nice, but extremely intelligent and informed on their particular area of intrest.

It was time to explore the rest of the tables during the lunch hour. I wasn’t disappointed.

Elizabeth Allen's spectacular SDP45 Southern Pacific Passenger Locomotive

The really neat thing about these prototype modeler’s meets is not only do you see the ‘finished’ models but you also get to enjoy the models in progress as well. Elizabeth Allen’s impressive model of a Southern Pacific SDP45 has been impressing people for the couple of years she’s been constructing it, and just look at the attention to detail!

All the gray parts on the locomotive are from the well-known modeling detail parts supplier Cannon & Company. The current owner was out to display his equally spectacular freight car models and talk with the prototype modelers to get ideas for his next products.

Next to the “in-progress” models all the tables were of course the fleet of beautifully painted and detailed complete models. This Southern Pacific “torpedo boat” GP9 is an excellent example. (The nickname torpedo boat comes from the airtanks on the roof, which are usually behind the fuel tank under the frame, but the fuel tank was enlarged to extend the locomotive’s range, and they had to go somewhere.)

Brazilian Little Joe Electric Locomotive

Not only were there plenty of Western US power, there was an excellent display of Brazilian meter and standard gauge equipment by Edson Yamazaki. All of these models were heavily kitbashed and superdetailed.

Vitoria Minas DDM45

The most impressive model I saw was a Brazilian DDM45 which is an SD45 built to run on Meter (3’6″ gauge) rails and has 8 axles featuring the classic DD40AX sideframes.

SP obscar

In addition to the Freight Cars& Diesels, there was a good turnout of steam era equipment and passenger cars, all nicely detailed.

You should find and attend the next prototype modeler’s meet in your area, there should be at least one annual event in your NMRA region (although it’s not affiliated with the NMRA in any way) check with other local modelers to find out about these exquisite events! For those willing to travel the Western Prototype Modeler’s meet is in San Bernardino’s beautiful mission-revival style AT&SF depot in Septemer.

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