Des Moines Meets

Great Midwestern and RITS

February 24

WARNING - This is an "indoor" excursion, and has no new images of prototype railroading!

The NMRA Great Midwestern Division model railroad meet was scheduled into North High in Des Moines Saturday and I'd been planning on attending.  A neighbor of mine was over on Thursday evening and, when looking over the program, had asked if I were going to enter the photo contest.  I'd not thought of it, but decided on Saturday morning to grab a couple of old images and take them along.

Saturday was rainy in southern Iowa and icy to the north.  The weather was apparently bad enough to keep some away and the meet appeared to me not very well attended.  One modular layout was set up in the gym, from the Central Iowa club's "Section Gang".  They had unit coal and grain trains circling the small 2-track layout throughout the morning.  I heard that another group was to have come down from Marshalltown, but cancelled because of the weather.  The number of vendors in the gym appeared fewer than normal, too.  I did pick up an undecorated Proto 2K Alco FA to stash away for that day in the future when I have time for all that kit-building and painting.

I dropped off my pictures at the contest room and got some shots of the models.  Today's categories were, Best Module, Bridge Diorama, Locomotives, Cabooses, Photos, Youth and Best of Show.  I took pictures of a bridge module, two locos - a CB&Q U30B and a BN SD40-2, and a wooden caboose.

Two clinics were offered, the first of which had been advertised in the GMD brochure.  This clinic was conducted by Ed Truslow from the Boone and Scenic Valley line.  Ed held a rules class, complete with a test we had to take before leaving the room.  The session was very entertaining and educational.  Ed was assisted with sound effects by Morgan Bush and with hand signal demonstrations by Mike Bush.  The B&SV is seeking volunteers - you can contact them at 515-432-4249.

The second clinic, conducted by Drew Cannon, was on a recently-developed standard for N-scale modular railroading called "oNetrak".  I learned from this session that there are a number of modular layout standards for different scales out there, including the one that was the subject of the clinic.  In oNetrak, the modules are smaller (1' x 4') than those typically seen at meets, and a single mainline goes through them instead of the familiar unrealistic three-track arrangement.  Drew was assisted by Larry Reinhart, who had brought along some sample modules, and by Chris Bell, who discussed using the modules to construct a home layout.

Aaron and Christy dropped by the meet to look around and have lunch with me.  After collecting their door prize they moved on and I went to an informal board meeting for the Rock Island Technical Society.  The meeting was attended by the Brothers Riebe, Drew, Byron Weesner, Jeff Spangle, Jim Welch and myself.  Topics discussed included publications (as usual), plans for the 2001 national meet in Peoria, and settling accounts not yet in order from the 2000 joint meet with the Burlington society.

Later in the afternoon prizes for the model and photo constests were awarded, along with more door prizes.  Drew and I exchanged our door prizes since I'm HO and he's (decidedly) N.  I took first place in the photo contest with these two shots taken at Albia: South Hill and North Hill.

Several layouts were having open houses in conjunction with the meet.  The  DesMoiNTrak folks were set up in basement room at College Ave. Christian Church.  The church provides space for a layout and meetings in exchange for some maintenance work by club members.  I took a some pictures of the layout, a typical 3-main N modular setup.  N's other standard, Giant Hand Action, was in play this afternoon, too.

Next stop on the layout tour was Mark Van Wyk's HO Iowa Western railroad out in Urbandale.  This layout occupies a 12' x 18' basement room and has a duck-under where you enter the room. This picture was taken from the doorway of the room.  BN and BNSF equipment is featured, along with a number of bridges.  Mark has modeled a semi-trailer after his dad's trucking business in Grinnell.  The layout was being operated today by Mark's son Dallas.

Another layout, Roger Leuthold's O 3-rail setup, was a bit farther northwest in Urbandale.  This large (I think he said 17' by 40') setup has a triple-track oval on a lower level and a separate "dogbone" upper level.  Roger was running four trains simultaneously and pointing out on digital guages the large amounts of current the trains were pulling.  Everything seemed to be equipped with lots of lights as well as sound effects.  The center of the layout had a yard full of trains (all lit) and there were working position-light signals on the mainlines.  Tracks were wide-spaced on curves to provide clearance for the long locomotives.

The last layout I visited was the "Tee Bone" line of Bill Walker.  This layout is based upon northern New England prototypes and has Rutland, B&M and Central Vermont locos.  A number of Alco engines were present and operating on the layout.  Bill's mainline is in a dogbone configuration with reversing loops, and the layout occupies a 15' x 13' area in the basement.  Bill's and Mark's layouts are both put together using modular construction to facilitate their removal should it ever become necessary.  They also both supplied handouts describing the layouts to visitors.

My full day in Des Moines ended with a dinner meeting of the Rock Island Technical Society at the Royal Fork Buffet.  The program for the evening was provided by Michael Petersen, who presented pictures and information about the Iowa Interstate railroad, current operator of the old Rock Island mainlines from Blue Island, Illinois to Council Bluffs, Iowa, along with the line in Illinois from Bureau to Peoria.  Michael is one of the proprietors of a very nicely-done unofficial IAIS web site at:  A brief business meeting was conducted (by Drew Cannon again) followed by a drawing for some "interesting" door prizes.  There was a rather small group (maybe 20 persons) in attendance.  We were done and on our way in a heavy fog by about 8:00 p.m.

That's It!