Thursday, August 9, 2012

Recap from NMRA National Convention (GR2012)

Now that I have returned home and settled back in; I wanted to put up a recap of the convention and my thoughts around it. The Operation Sessions (OpSIG) stuff, I will put in a few other posts to make it easier to deal with.

The convention was held in Grand Rapids last week; Monday July 30th to Saturday, August 4th. I did not stay in the convention hotel, so some of my thoughts around the convention are going to differ from most other folks that attended.

Overall, I thought the convention went okay. I admit to not having too good a comparison point since the last convention I attended was in 1992, but I have attended many conventions/trade shows in the years since that were not model railroad related. Registration via the website before the convention was fairly painless, if a bit complex, as it wasn't really explained well on how the self guided layout tours were going to be handled. I did not sign up for any tours, as I was more interested in the clinics and OpSIG activities. The clinics did not get posted until very near the convention dates and I did not get any sort of email announcement that they had gotten posted; which would have been very helpful to plan out the days.

The convention timetable was pretty good with a handy fold out schedule, which I thought rocked.

Met a bunch of very cool folks, including some very accomplished modelers (including Jim Ferenc, Doug and Barbara Geiger, Steve-O, John Parker and others) that were nice enough to include me in their lunch plans on a day here and there.

I attended a few clinics; the two in particular that were most interesting were the OpenLCB. This is the beginning of a standard layout control bus that will eventually replace the Loconets, Xpressnets, etc of the world and give us a unified bus. What this eventually means is that you can buy a command station from one manufacturer, throttles from another, build you own signal controller and purchase block detection from yet another source and tie it all together. Very very cool. I've signed up to the yahoogroups for OpenLCB and have put a request in to get a dev kit so I can help the project along.

Some pretty neat stuff was available at the silent auction. I ended up winning two items, a #6 fast tracks switch kit and Doug Riddel's book about his experiences engineering on the SCL and Amtrak around Richmond and the rest of the system.

National Train Show:
Talked to a bunch of dealers about the breakout boards and bought way too much stuff! I concentrated on signals and related parts. Did find somebody with a locobuffer to replace the PR3 I have on the railroad that I hate; bought some tank cars and broke down and bought a beautiful Overland brass P42. Once I get a chance to put everything away down stairs, I'll snap a few photos of that P42.

I operated on three railroads; the Operations Road Show, Andy Keeney's Nashville Road and Duane Henry's Sister Lakes Southern. All of them were absolutely wonderful and I got to experience some very well built layouts using a few different operating schemes.