Rock Island Technical Society

National Convention 2002

September 20 and 21

Friday, September 20

Meet organizers Bryon Weesner and Jeff Spangle put together a great three-day program for this year's national convention in Des Moines.  The activities began on Thursday with a bus trip to the Boone and Scenic Valley operation at Boone.  I was able to attend much of the program, which was at the 4 Points Sheraton, but only on Friday and Saturday.

On Friday morning, a bus loaded at 9:30 to take about 35 of us on a tour of depots and other sites in western Iowa.  Our first stop was in Winterset, where the depot has been moved to a site south of the city that includes other historical attractions.  Most of the depot has been restored and set up as a museum with photos of the depot and other artifacts.  We were treated to refreshments and given a short presentation on the history of the Winterset station and the operation of the Rock Island here.  The depot's freight platform holds a "Garden" scale railroad layout.

Our tour bus then took the group to Earlham for a short stop to see the Iowa Interstate "depot" there, complete with the remains of a train order signal.

Around 12:30 we reached Stuart and went to the local recreation center, where a depot restoration committee was to serve lunch.  Afterward, we went to the location of the former Rock Island depot and had a chance to inspect the project.  We were given a presentation about the history of the depot and the group's work.  This building has definitely seen better days, but will hopefully soon reflect its history as a stop for the Rockets.  In Stuart, passengers could once find a convenient stop right across the road from the depot at the "Strictly Modern" Hotel Stuart.

Our westernmost stop, at about 3:00 in the afternoon, was at the depot in Atlantic.  This station building, with interesting metal scrollwork under the eaves, is still in pretty good condition, needing few structural repairs but lots of cosmetic restoration.  The floor of the waiting rooms is covered with intricate tile patterns.  There are some areas that appear to have suffered frost heaves, but much if it appears serviceable, surprising given the amount of traffic that has passed.

Like Winterset, a number of photos, like these showing Rock Island passenger trains, were on temporary display in the waiting room.  The Atlantic depot has a small upstairs room in the center, accessible only from the outside.  There is also a small freight house connected by a roof that spans the open area between buildings.  Unlike most such depot projects, the track side of the building is not fenced off from the Iowa Interstate right of way.

On our return trip to Des Moines we made a brief stop at a site where Jesse James is reputed to have derailed and robbed a Rock Island train.  A number of the group alighted for photos of the area, which is on an abandoned right of way just north of the current route.  I got these above shots from my bus window.

We arrived back at the hotel at 5:30 and went off to supper before the evening's activities began.  There were two things slated for 7:30, a meeting of the organization's board of directors and an "open projector" slide show.  I put in an appearance at the board meeting to pick up the handouts and get some pictures of the assembled RITS leadership in action.  The slide show seemed to be getting off to a pretty slow start and I planned to return on Saturday anyway, so I headed back to Indianola for the night.

Saturday, September 21

I arrived for the RITS convention Saturday around 8:30 in the morning.  A handout at the RITS table invited one to attend the "Swamp Meet", and I did!  There were enough vendors on hand to provide a nice selection of model railroad goodies and memorabilia.  I did my part to stimulate the economy and even won one of the door prizes, an HO outside-braced caboose model.  In a small room near the swap meet the Des Moines NTrak club had a modular layout going, featuring RI equipment, of course!

My next stop was this year's model contest where there were a number of excellent entries.  Here are shots of a few that caught my eye:

Flatcar Load
Alco Diesel
Transfer Caboose
Side door Caboose
Transfer Caboose
Next door, Greg Metge was giving his clinic on weathering that I'd seen at a Des Moines area meet recently.  This is an outstanding "how to" with a complete demonstration of all of Greg's weathering techniques.  There was also a morning clinic on "Gifting to RITS", which I believe was presented in Peoria last year.

In the afternoon the clinics were on "Chicago Terminal Operations of the 60's" and "RI MOW Equipment".  Chicago Terminal (Blue Island Yard) presentation, which was ably handled by Pete Hedgpeth.  This session was very interesting and at times filled with great stories and humor.

The last thing on the afternoon agenda was the General Membership meeting with reports from the officers, board and other organization adjuncts like myself.  Here are pictures from the meeting of Secretary Bryon Weesner and Treasurer Mark Huff, and President Jim Welch  with Vice President Jeff Spangle.  The board has decided that the 2003 national meet will be in Oklahoma City and headed up by Jeff Worones.  For 2004, RITS will be going to Lincoln, NE.

I wasn't able to stick around for the full evening's activities this year (Being one of Indianola's most eligible widowers is a serious obligation!) , so that concludes my report from RITS '02!

That's It!