Susan and I attended the Collinsville, IL (St. Louis) RPM meet last weekend. The show has grown tremendously over the last few years into one of the premier events on the RPM circuit, thanks to the tireless work of organizers John Golden and Lonnie Bathurst and crew. Despite the amount of growth, the show retains the intimate feel of a smaller event. In addition to the modeling, it was great to renew many friendships and make some new ones.

While manning the OST table, I met several modelers who were attending their first RPM meet and they were, to a person, impressed with the show and the outstanding quality of the modeling.

As with most meets, the models on display were primarily HO and N scales and featured the usual assortment of scratchbuilt and kit bashed locomotives, freight and passenger cars. Truth be told, my eyes are getting too old to really appreciate the finer points of work done in those two scales these days. Don’t read that as a criticism, it’s just the reality I deal with. There were many fine examples of the craftsman’s art on display and I’ve included a few here.

I have seen this caboose by Jim Zwernemann at other meets but it’s always a pleasure to share such a fine example of P48 modeling.

Cotton Belt Caboose Jim Zwernemann

Among modern era modelers, extreme freight car weathering is all the rage, as seen by this HO example from Butch Eyler.

Weathered box car by Butch Eyler

In addition, the Modutrak folks had their impressive N scale layout up and running that showcased the expansive scenes possible with the scale. The work was exquisite throughout the layout, as this yard throat reveals. I’m sorry that I didn’t get the name of the builder.

Modutrak New Lisbon yard module

Railroad subjects like these are what you expect to see at an RPM meet. However, my eye was drawn to pieces that were out of the ordinary to say the least and the work of modeler Steve Hurt of Delaware, Ohio didn’t disappoint. He provided the scrapped Geep shown in the opening photo along with other weathered rolling stock. What really caught my eye though was this large scale hi-rail vehicle and an equally impressive logging truck.

Steve Hurt's Hi-rail truck and trailer with backhoe
Steve Hurt's Hi-rail truck and trailer with backhoe

As you can see from the HO cars in the lower right foreground and the quarter-inch scale box cars in the background, this vehicle was a beast in size. I was so taken with the modeling and getting my photos that I neglected to look through Steve’s documentation for the specifics of scale and source of the kit. (Yes, I’m a lousy roving correspondent.) My guess for the scale would be 1/32 or 1/35. Needless to say the paint job and subsequent weathering were first rate and really shine on a model this big. However, the logging truck seen below was a jaw dropper.

Steve Hurts Logging truck
Steve Hurts Logging truck
Steve Hurts Logging truck

I’ve developed a genuine appreciation for the work done by the armor and aircraft folks. These models are the first large scale examples I have seen in the flesh and they did not disappoint. The nuances in the paint finish and weathering have to be seen in person to really appreciate what can be done with a model finish. Ever since I discovered work like this I’ve been convinced that there is much we could learn from it. Model railroading tends to be a closed society in many ways. Everyone reads the same magazines and uses the same techniques and products. This makes for a homogenous appearance to the work, especially since modelers tend to copy from one another, rather than innovate or experiment for themselves.

Over the last couple of years I’ve added several books on military modeling techniques to my personal library because I find work like this so inspiring. After seeing such stunning examples first hand, I’m eager to sit down at my work bench and start learning and practicing.

It’s frightfully easy to view such accomplished work and feel completely intimidated. It’s easy to tell yourself you could never do work like that and not even try. I want to assure you that even seasoned modelers carry on this conversation. The lesson I take away over and over is to start small, where the risk of failure is minimal.

Take one step, then another. The lessons of each step are built on the foundation provided by the previous. In the process you’ll develop a sense of judgement as to where your strengths are and where you need more focus or effort. Do this with regularity and you’ll be pleased with where the journey takes you. Attending an RPM meet is a wonderful way to share in our inspiring craft.