2015 Finescale Model Railroader Expo

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(Barry shoots a diorama built by the late Brian Nolan)

Over the weekend, Barry Silverthorn and I drove to Scranton, Pennsylvania to attend the second half of the 2015 edition of the Finescale Model Railroader Expo.

It was the first visit to this event for both of us, and we had a lot of fun as we covered the expo for a couple of upcoming segments of TrainMasters TV.

Each Expo includes a competition, with votes submitted by many of the 350 attendees at this year’s gathering. Barry and I were gobsmacked by the incredible modelling on display in the contest room.

Everything was top calibre, but among my favourites were this bait shop …

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… this crumbling narrow gauge stock car …

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… and this San Francisco cable car (which even included the mechanism that grabs the cable):

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The event also included several clinics, a highly unorthodox (but entertaining) kit-bashing contest to raise money for charity, a well-stocked dealer hall, and a banquet dinner with awards. Plus, of course, plenty of time to enjoy the camaraderie at the hotel bar and lounge.

Another highlight at the Expo was a display of dioramas built by the late Brian Nolan, presented by the Suncoast Center for Fine Scale Modeling. While the dioramas were quite large, careful attention was paid to even the smallest details. I look at the two vignettes below and realize I have so much more I can do to improve my modelling…

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On our way out of Scranton, we stopped at the Steamtown National Historic Site for a quick tour around the collection. Steamtown has a fair number of Canadian steam locomotives on the roster – understandable since steam survived longer here than it did in the United States. In the roundhouse, we spotted a couple of ex-pats:

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(CNR 3254)

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(CPR 2317)

They’re handsome examples of the locomotive-builder’s art – although they could both use a lot of TLC. Canada sure had some nice looking steam engines…

All in all, a terrific gathering. I’m very glad I went, and Barry and I had a fun time on the road together. If you haven’t been, bookmark the Expo’s web site and consider attending next year’s gathering, to be held in the Boston area.

Look for the reports from this show in upcoming episodes of TrainMasters TV.

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(Barry shoots the Scranton skyline from the top of the hotel parking garage – and the top of my FJ!)

6 thoughts on “2015 Finescale Model Railroader Expo

    • Hi Gerry:
      Barry was shooting the huge Electric City sign, if I recall.
      Scranton has some amazing architecture. I was really impressed by the many beautiful old buildings – even as I was depressed by the many empty storefronts.

  1. Scranton’s about an hour and a half from my cottage. The railway museum is awesome, but as you pointed out the area is economically challenged. Some mining still goes on but no where near the volume when coal was king.

  2. It’s a shame Scranton comes off as being a bit of a “hole” in terms of being run down and economically depressed. There are some architecturally speaking fantastic buildings in the downtown area. The difference between the first time I was there in 2000 and the second in 2007 in terms of the decline and loss of business was staggering, and no doubt the tough economic times since then have taken more of a toll notwithstanding the US Office and Dunder Mifflin! It’s a shame it’s been so hard hit by the loss of coal and not being able to transition to new industries/economies.

    It’s been 7ish years again since I’ve been and I’m clearly due for another visit to Steamtown. I need to see if I can find the pictures from going on an excursion there in 2000, as that was pre-digital, I’m sure I have the negatives somewhere at my parents! The 2007 pics are online at least: https://www.flickr.com/search/?w=55976115@N00&q=scranton

    In terms of the show, that is some fine modelling, always nice to see amazing work from others to inspire the rest of us to keep working on learning new skills and improving our own modelling activities.

    • Hi Stephen:

      Your comment reminded me of a thought I had while wandering the downtown with Barry.

      Scranton was a perfect venue for a show that, at its inception, focussed on structure modelling and even now is heavily weighted towards buildings.

      But we both noticed that the model structures tend towards rural subjects. There were a few examples of city structures – but the contest room was dominated by sawmills, tractor/machine shops, ship-building concerns and so on. They were all artfully done – and this focus makes sense when one considers that many of the larger, more complex structures were built from craftsman kits from companies such as Sierra West.

      Barry and I wondered about doing urban subjects to a craftsman level. For example:

      – Where a machine shop might have wrecked tools and piles of lovingly-rusted scrap, an alley might have dumpsters and garbage bags.
      – Instead of corrugated panels covering holes in the shingles and/or tarpaper on the roof, effort might go into accurately modelling building systems such as ventilation, heating, fire suppression, elevators, and so on.
      – Many of the downtown buildings in Scranton had elaborate ironwork fronts or intricate brickwork/stonework that would be a challenge to model accurately. Not to mention statues, gargoyles and the like!
      – Many also showed the advance of time – from the dirty of the city on the walls and under ledges, to the addition of modern signs, retrofitted windows (or ventilators installed in window openings) fire escapes from many eras, and so on.

      I know some modern modellers are exploring this subject (Lance Mindheim comes to mind) – although one does not have to model modern to model urban. And there are many fine examples of urban modelling – but I’ve rarely seen it done to the level that people routinely take logging, mining and industrial subjects.

      I would love to see someone tackle houses, townhouses, low-rises, stores with apartments above, and even office towers – of any era – with the same attention to detail, colour, texture, highlights and shadow that I saw on the models displayed this past weekend in Scranton.

      Cheers!

      • I’d submit that these folks are quite good at urban modelling. Admittedly, in HO scale, though…–http://nebw.club/layout

        Steve Lucas

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