Skagit Valley & Whidbey NMRA Clinic September 10

Allen Frasch

Whidbey ClinicThe Skagit Valley & Whidbey Model Railroading Clinic will meet in Oak Harbor on Wednesday, September 10th at 7:00 p.m. to begin the new model railroading season.

Rich Blake and team have some great clinics scheduled for your enjoyment and edification this year, beginning with this month’s clinic by Rich himself.

OPS CRAFT — The Art of Operating Model Trains

In preparation for the upcoming OPS season (a.k.a. Model Railroad Operations), get a primer on train operations and how to make your ops participation more fun and realistic. This is not a how-to for setting up an operating session, we will focus on how to participate as guest or owner.

Whidbey2We spend considerable time modeling and developing our own operating method for our layouts but, when it comes time to operate on another’s layout, it can be confusing and difficult. We will show how to make life easier during an ops session while emulating the prototype. If time allows, we will also cover car forwarding methods using JMRI.

Remember: come to Summer Hill in OakHarbor on September 10 by 7:00. We will have our customary pre-clinic get-together at 5:15 at the San Remo restaurant, 421 NE Midway Blvd, OakHarbor. Come early and enjoy some great pizza and conversation.

Sn3 Symposium Discount Sign-Up Ends Soon

Russ Segner, Sn3 Symposium Coordinator

Sn32015Do you have a fondness for narrow gauge trains or just admire fine modeling? Then you can’t miss the annual 2015 Sn3 Symposium to be held in Bellevue next April 16! This is a national event with participants from all over the world.

The Symposium committee has lined up 16 layouts in several scales, most of which are not usually open. There will be several operating sessions available; clinics by nationally-recognized modelers; a model and photo contest; and vendors from across the nation. The Bellevue Sheraton has been selected as the convention hotel, with easy access to freeways and free parking.

Take advantage of the early registration rate of just $45 until September 10! Check out our website to see all that we have in store for you.

My Pal Al Passes

Bobj Berger

Long time active 4th Division member Alfred S. Robinson, 88, passed away from a heart attack on July 30th (as reported to me this week by his wife Doreen). Al often used the term “Pal” as a term of endearment and because of that I always referred to him as “my Pal Al.” He was one of my favorites and a mentor.

Al was perhaps best known for his many years of managing the Seattle Clinic Mart, back during the days of our Beacon Hill meetings, which is where I first met him about 30 years ago. Since the Seattle-North Clinic moved to the current meeting location, he has been unlocking the church doors, preparing the room for the clinic, and participating in the clinic events. Doreen, in the spirit of continuing volunteerism has offered to continue to unlock the building for the Seattle-North Clinic if we will call and remind her! Al was the founder of the 4D G-scale module program, and he was largely responsible for those modules morphing to become what is today’s Puget Sound Garden Railway Society. He and my (then 12-year-old) daughter Ashley were featured on Spokane TV news stories during the 1991 Railfest Northwest PNR Convention with those G modules.

He had been fighting diabetes, liver failure and cancer the past couple of years, and once said to me (while discussing his diagnosis) that he’d had a wonderful life. This was quite evident when I met with his supportive family over the weekend.

The family is planning services to be held at the Ronald United Methodist Church (same location as the Seattle North Clinic) on Saturday, August 30th at 2 pm. The church is located on the west side of Hwy 99/Aurora Ave N, just North of 175th, between the Cadillac dealer and the Deseret Thrift Store (where Al shopped before every clinic!).

Al had spent much of the past couple of years selling a large part of his train collection, but was still buying up to the day he passed. A true model railroader! The family and Railfun are currently working on an in-house estate sale of his collections of G, On30, HO and other train related items, as well as his extensive military collection of tanks, uniforms, and other items. This may occur near the end of September. Another notice will be sent out when the date is chosen.

Grab-Iron Now For ALL Members

Al Lowe

When we created the Digital Grab Iron a few years ago, we made it “opt-in,” which meant that you must actively request inclusion. Now the 4D Board of Directors believes every 4D member should be notified of all the Division’s news. Starting today, you will receive a short notification whenever any new article is posted.

Just click the link in the email to read the full article or, if you’re not interested, delete the email. It’s as simple as that. But now, all members will know what’s going on in our active Division.

Of course, if you absolutely never want to know anything, we understand. <grin> Send an email to email hidden; JavaScript is required and I’ll remove you. But you’re going to miss some of the best of what your NMRA dues cover: what’s happening locally.

PSC Model Railroad Show Asks For Your Help With Magazine Storage

Bobj Berger

Ask not what the Annual NMRA Pacific Science Center Show can do for you, but ask what you can do for our Annual NMRA Pacific Science Center Show! For 40 years this model railroad show has been the primary source of 4th Division funding of member services and projects such as the clinics, module program, and video library (to name but a few of our member services). We have been able to do this because of the volunteer efforts of the committee and those displaying their hobby work, and the staff of the Pacific Science Center.

Each year we have magazines to give away at the NMRA-PNR-4D Membership table. These magazine “gifts” have always been well received by the kids and adults (and even a few members too!). A couple of years ago “Railfun Model Railroad Estate Services” began storing and then donating the magazines from the estates we had under contract for the show. We have not run out of magazines to give away during the show.

This year we have a new problem because we have over 15 estates in contract, another 3-4 pending, plus we no longer have one estate storage locker that was used for both trains and magazines. We are buried in model trains and related items and have run out of space to store the magazines for the PSC Show donation.

We need someone to step up and agree to store about 20 cardboard boxes of Trains, Model Railroader, MRC, etc the next 5 months until the January 2015 show. We could even store them in more than one place if one person does not have room for all 20 (or so) boxes. Currently they are stacked on my front porch and the Truly Unpleasant Mrs Berger has indicated her dissatisfaction with this arrangement! These are all clean non smelly magazines and all they need is a dry place to sit until the show. We can deliver even if need be.

So how about it, are you ready to step up and participate in the best model railroad show in the Northwest and possible the entire country? You even get to read them yourself!

Call PSC Show Board Member Bobj at 206-948-0862 or email at email hidden; JavaScript is required and begin your volunteering for your hobby. Thanks for your consideration, and keep on model railroading.


Tacoma Clinic Scheduled for Sept. 11

Al Babinsky

Just a friendly reminder that the Tacoma Clinic will be held on September 11 at 7:30 PM in our usual place, in the Pierce County Library Admin. Bldg. on the corner of 112th Street and Waller Road.

Hope to see you there.

Update on New Fourth Division Clinic

Al Carter

New Mount Vernon Clinic update

There usually are “bumps in the road” when starting up a new activity, and the new clinic “up north” is no exception.

First off, we have changed the name of the clinic to the Mount Vernon Clinic, to better define where we are located, and eliminate confusion with the existing Whidbey/Skagit Clinic in Oak Harbor.

Secondly, we have changed the date of the clinic to the Fourth Tuesday of the month, so there is more time separation between the new clinic and the neighboring clinic over in Oak Harbor.  Hopefully, some folks will be able to attend both clinics this way, as it eliminates back to back clinics on successive evenings.

Here is the original article, edited to include the latest updates:

The Fourth Division has added yet another monthly clinic to better serve local NMRA members and other model railroaders.  The Mount Vernon Clinic will have its first meeting on September 23, 2014, at the Mount Vernon Senior Center, starting at 7:00 pm.  The Senior Center is at 1401 S. Cleveland Street, easily accessible from I-5 via the Kincaid Street exit.  All meetings will be held on the 4th Tuesday of each month.

A number of Skagit and Snohomish County folks were making the monthly trek to Oak Harbor for the Whidbey/Skagit monthly clinic and several of us decided to start a newer clinic closer to home.  Our goal is to work closely with our fellow friends over in Oak Harbor to possibly share clinic agendas and clinicians, which seems like a win-win situation.  We also hope to serve more NMRA members (and other model rails) in the Skagit, Snohomish, and Whatcom County areas.

As of this writing, Ted Becker has agreed to step up and be the first clinician and he has proposed several ideas.  As we get closer to September 23, we will make a more detailed announcement in the Grab Iron. In the meantime, if anyone has any questions or suggestions, or wants to volunteer to be a clinician, feel free to contact me at email hidden; JavaScript is required or 360-399-1226.  If you wish to be added to an email list for a clinic newsletter, just let me know.

OLY-OPS 2014 Scheduled for Oct. 18

Gregory Wright

Want to operate on two great layouts? OLY-OPS 2014 has a few spots left for operators, but sign up now!

Our 8th OLY-OPS will feature 6 or 7 great operating layouts on Saturday, October 18, 2014.

Confirmed participants must be in Olympia by 8:15 a.m. to pick up their layout assignments and will spend the whole day. You will operate on one railroad in the morning and a second in the afternoon. And you will be invited to an after-event dinner. The only charge is minimal: bring food or cash for our local food bank.

Register now! It’s first come, first served. Email email hidden; JavaScript is required with  your  name  and  the  names anyone  else  you  are  registering  for  in  your  carpool. Please  limit  each  car  to  4 persons. Please provide only  confirmed participants. (No-shows destroy our schedule and block others from attending.) Tell Greg if you have special concerns like you can’t do steps or tall layouts. This year we will not provide maps. If you don’t have GPS, make a special request in your email.

Check out our videos for either Windows or Mac or Android

OLY-OPS is brought to you by the Olympia Open House and Operations Group, O.O. & O. G. And don’t miss our Spring OLY-TOURS, when we’ll have 10 or more area layouts open to visit.

Stathi Pappas to speak at Eastside Clinic Sept. 18

Russ Segner

Click to enlarge

Click to enlarge

The Snoqualmie Museum is refurbishing a tank car.  Big deal; there are lots of these all over. But this one is special as it contains oil for the little locomotive just in front of it.  The second picture shows the loco in better perspective.

This the beginning of a new steam program at Snoqualmie.  Stathi Pappas will head up this effort and he will be our special speaker at the Eastside Clinic on September 18.  Join us to see how the larger scales are built and maintained.

StathiPappasEfstathios “Stathi” Pappas is Curator of Collections at the NorthwestRailwayMuseum. He has a wealth of education and experience in the railway museum field and is best known for his skills in the rehabilitation, maintenance and operation of steam locomotives. He comes equipped with a Master’s Degree in Industrial Archaeology and has performed major work on a variety of locomotives.

Stathi own his own personal, operational steam locomotive, an 0-4-0 Porter, the former Santa Cruz Portland Cement 2, that will visit Snoqualmie Railroad Days in August. The locomotive is dubbed the “Chiggen” for its former role as a chicken restaurant mascot near Stockton, California.  #2 returned to steam last winter and has been touring Northern California.

Click to enlarge

Click to enlarge

4D Balance Sheet & Budget for 2014-15

Mike Donnelly

As your new 4D Treasurer, I am pleased to submit the following Balance Sheet as of July 31, 2014, plus the Budget for the 2014-2015 fiscal year that was approved by the Board at its June 14, 2014 meeting.


Balance Sheet as of 31 July 2014
Old Checking  $       2,370.55
New Checking  $       1,000.00
Savings  $    29,276.70
CD Account  $    30,961.16
PSX2004 Trust  $       7,872.36
PNR2014  $       6,207.65
Total Checking/Savings  $    77,688.42
Other Assets
Prepaid Expense  $       1,000.00 Omni Trailer Downpayment
Total Current Assets  $    78,688.42
Other Assets
Patch Inventory  $          419.31
Trailers/Videos  $       7,680.52
Total Other Assets  $       8,099.83
Total Assets  $    86,788.25
Liabilities & Equity
HO Modular Liability  $       2,591.59
PNR2014 Liability  $       6,207.65
Total Liabilities  $       8,799.24
Prior Year  $    80,453.56
Net Assets -$750.00 (Fast Track Jigs)
Net Income -$1,714.55
Total Equity  $    77,989.01
Total Liabilities & Equity  $    86,788.25


Budget Fiscal Year 2014-2015
Cash from Savings  $       5,636.00
Membership rebate  $       1,600.00
Interest and Other Income  $          400.00
Sales  $            50.00
Spring Meet Income  $          500.00
Science Center Income  $    11,050.00
Ho Modular Income  $       1,500.00
Total Income  $    20,736.00
Admin  $       1,000.00
Insurance -Directors & Officers  $       1,500.00
Insurance-Trailers  $       2,500.00
Bond for Bank Acct Signers  $                   -
Membership Promotion  $       2,000.00
Publicisty (Public Relations)  $       1,500.00
Wash State Vehicle Registration  $          250.00
Website  $          150.00
Spring Meet (Annual Meeting)  $          500.00
Education  $       1,000.00
Memberhip  $            36.00
Science Center Show  $       1,000.00
Video Library  $       2,800.00
Bremertom Northern Modular Group  $       1,000.00
Hi-Railers Modular Group  $       1,000.00
HO Modular Group  $       1,000.00
OmNi-Rail Modular Group  $       1,000.00
NTRAK Modular Group  $       1,000.00
East  Side Clinic  $          500.00
Seattle Clinic  $          400.00
Skagit Clinic  $          250.00
Tacoma Clinic  $          100.00
Whidbey Clinic  $          250.00
Total Expense  $    20,736.00
Other Income Expense
OmNi-Rail Trailer  $       9,486.00
Fast Track Jigs  $          750.00
Total Other Expense  $    10,236.00



Mt. Rainier Scenic Railroad video from PNR Convention

Al Lowe

During June’s PNR Regional Convention in Tacoma, I signed up for the tour of the Mt. Rainier Scenic Railroad. I hope you enjoy the video.

Armand Cyr passes

ArmandBill Hupe

Armand Gerald Cyr, 64, of Port Orchard, unexpectedly passed away peacefully in his sleep Thursday morning, July 24, 2014. Armand was born in Madawaska, Maine, on November 25, 1949 to the late Leonide and Albertine Cyr. He graduated from Bassick High School in Bridgeport, CT in 1968. Armand is a U.S. veteran who served proudly in the Air Force for four years and served over twenty years in the civil service.

He married Karen (Yahnel) Cyr in Vacaville, California on February 19, 1972. Armand was a beloved member of the community and Crossroads church.

Armand was an avid model railroader. He frequently could be found building buildings, working on his railroad, helping build layouts, and participating in the local Pacific Coast and Pacific Northwest Regions of the National Model Railroad Association. Armand belonged to a Kitsap County model railroad roundtable, helping build and operate model railroads throughout the county.


Armand is survived by his wife Karen and two children, Armand Albert Cyr (Melanie) and Aaron Cyr (Rebekah), and by five grandchildren: Cameron, Shaun, Adrian, Zechariah and Adrianna. Armand is also survived by his eight siblings, Mona Cyr, Jeannette Sebastian, Robert Cyr, Rachel St. Onge, Roger Cyr, Jackie Gatchell, and Paul Cyr. He was preceded in death by his parents and his brother Ronald Cyr.

A private family viewing will be held on Wednesday, July 30. A memorial service to celebrate his life will be held at Crossroads Church on Friday, August 1, at 6:00 p.m.

In lieu of flowers or gifts, a donation fund to support his surviving family has been set up at

New Fourth Division Clinic

Al Carter

The Fourth Division has added yet another monthly clinic to better serve local NMRA members and other model railroaders.  The Mount Vernon Clinic will have its first meeting on September 23, 2014, at the Mount Vernon Senior Center, starting at 7:00 pm. (Editor’s Note – the original clinic name was Skagit Clinic, but has been changed to prevent confusion. The date of the first meeting has also been updated and is correct in this blog post.) The Senior Center is at 1401 S. Cleveland Street, easily accessible from I-5 via the Kincaid Street exit.

A number of Skagit and Snohomish County folks were making the monthly trek to Oak Harbor for the Whidbey/Skagit monthly clinic and several of us decided to start a newer clinic closer to home.  Our goal is to work closely with our fellow friends over in Oak Harbor to possibly share clinic agendas and clinicians, which seems like a win-win situation.  We also hope to serve more NMRA members (and other model rails) in the Skagit, Snohomish, and Whatcom County areas.

As of this writing, Ted Becker has agreed to step up and be the first clinician and he has proposed several ideas.  As we get closer to September 23, we will make a more detailed announcement in the Grab Iron.  In the meantime, if anyone has any questions or suggestions, or wants to volunteer to be a clinician, feel free to contact me at email hidden; JavaScript is required  or 360-399-1226.  If you wish to be added to an email list for a clinic newsletter, just let me know.


PSX 2014 – The PNR Convention in Tacoma, WA

Walt Huston

The day before the convention began several home and museum layouts were open for visitors who were on their way into Tacoma to view, including mine. I had ten drop by and am quite pleased. The convention took off with the Board of Directors meeting at 10:00 Wednesday morning. That was followed by a series of clinics Wednesday afternoon, and the first big mixer, the Ice Cream Social, Wednesday evening. The ice cream was delicious, as were the many toppings available. There was no ice cream left over, that’s for sure.

Thursday began bright and early with the bus leaving for the Mt. Rainier Scenic Railroad Tour and BBQ at 7:30 and clinics beginning at 8. The self-drive layout tours were in the area of Olympia, WA and were well attended.

Friday kicked off with the Tacoma Rail tour bus heading out at 8, while clinics headed into day 3. The layout self-drive tours were in the area of Puyallup, Spanaway and Lakewood. (I was open again.) Again, the layouts drew good numbers of visitors. (I had 39.)

Saturday the clinics again started at 8. There were no bus tours on Saturday, however, the self-drive layout tours were open in the Tacoma and Fife areas. Again, well attended. The General membership meeting was conducted beginning at 10 and adjourned at close to 11. A very good member attendance kept things lively and interesting.

The Banquet was held Saturday evening. The food was excellent; a good time was had by all. Awards were given to the contest winners, the 4D Golden Grab Iron Award (Person of the Year) was presented to Jim Sabol of Spanaway for the overwhelming amount of service Jim has given, not only over the past year, but also over a very long time. The highlight of the evening was the award of The President’s Award to Gary Hazell of the 7th Division. Gary is another PNR member who has given so very much of himself to his Division, to PNR, and to model railroading in general.

This was my final convention as President and it was a great way to bow out. Thanks to everyone who assisted me over the past four plus years. I’m not done visiting the cities and towns within the PNR, but from now on, it’s going to be for pleasure and to do AP assessments with the Jack Hamilton 4D Hit Squad. Or, maybe augmenting local assessors, who need a helping hand.

Keep on Training!

Tacoma Clinic

Al Babinsky / Photos by Chip van Gilder

First I want to apologize for the late report, but a number of things happened and I had to get the layout ready for the PSX 2014 tour as well as a few models for the contest.

MMR Gene Swanson opened the clinic on time as always and asked for topics for future clinics. We had 38 modelers attending including two newcomers. The up-coming conventions was mentioned and has since past with I believe great success. The Kitsap Live Steamers announced that they are operating on the 1st and 4th Saturday of the month.

What’s new in the Hobby Shop presented a number of new items in Z scale, N scale, HO and Lionel.

Walt Huston presented Al Babinsky with a structure merit award.

In the Bring and Brag category Chris Clancey had a Kato ALCO RS-3 heavily weathered and a Central Oregon & Pacific diesel. Scott Taylor had a Grandt Line 23 ton Box Cab diesel that he converted to an electric traction unit. It is powered with a Stanton drive. Dale Kraus showed a Bachurus locomotive test stand and a complete scratch built hardwood lumber mill. Stu showed an N scale curved turn-out and Mike Stepner had a weathered track mobilephoto 2.

Scott Taylor won the Model of the Month award with his traction locomotive.

The clinic was presented by Robert Scott and was a slide show titled North Dakota – Requiem for a lost land. It showed the before and after the current oil boom which changed everything. An excellent show as always by Robert.

Our next clinic will be in September with Chip van Gilder presenting 3-D photography. It will at our usual location in the Pierce County Library Admin. Bldg. at the corner of 112th Street and Waller Road. Have a great summer do some railfanning and enjoy, see you in September. 

photo 1

photo 3

photo 4

NMRA Economics

Frank Koch, NMRA CFO

This month I’ll discuss the Assets and Liabilities aspects of the NMRA financial world. Assets are things with a positive cash value that contribute to our value. Liabilities are obligations we have that decrease our value. The difference between the two is the net value of the corporation. (Remember, I am trying to keep this simple.)

ASSETS – We organize our assets into six categories: cash, receivables, capital assets, investments, inventory, and pre-paid expenses. Cash is the sum of the deposits in our various bank accounts and the cash in our investment account. Receivables are those sums owed to NMRA by others, i.e., invoices we made that are not paid by someone else. The biggest items in this area are the unpaid HDM pledges. Capital Assets are the depreciated book value (we depreciate capital assets above threshold values and life expectancy) for our equipment. There was a major change when we sold the HQ building as we converted a physical asset into a “cash” asset (it actually mostly went to investments). Investments are the current market value of the various investments – stocks, bonds, money market – that are held by the NMRA. I’ll cover this in a future column. Inventory is the value of the various items remaining in our company store – books, gauges, apparel, etc. Pre-paid expenses are those deposits and bills we have paid that provide services in a future fiscal year.

For 2013, here is a summary of our Assets at the end of the year:

Cash                                                   $ 502,01

Receivables                                        28,166

Receivables (HQ Sale)                 896,360

Capital Assets                                     16,752

Investments                                     834,634

Inventory                                            33,880

Pre-paid Expense                            64,463


Total Assets                              $2,376,266


LIABILITIES – The other side of the ledger is more complex in some ways as the NMRA has a large number of commitments that fall into broad classifications according to common accounting principles. The major elements are unearned revenue, taxes payable, fund balances, and equity. Unearned revenue is anything that has been paid in advance and is to be used in a future year to cover an obligation. This includes part of the Life Fund, member payments for future memberships or conventions, and a portion of the current year payments for dues and subscriptions which are reserved for next fiscal year. Unearned funds are moved into current income in the year in which they are to be used. Taxes payable are those taxes due to governmental groups that have been set aside for later payment – think of it as a kind of escrow. Fund balances are the various committed set-asides where the money is reserved for a specific purpose, either by the donor or the BOD. I’ll cover these in more detail in the future, but it includes the Diamond Club, the Howell Day Museum Fund, the Heart of America Fund, and several other commitments.

At the end of 2013, NMRA Liabilities were:

Accounts Payable                                                 $ 8,895

Accrued Vacation Liability                                12,000

Unearned Revenue                                              798,717

Taxable Payable                                                            175

Unrestricted designated Assets*                  323,209

Unrestricted, non-designated Assets**      910,997

Temporarily Restricted Assets***               322,273


Total Liabilities and Equity                        $2,376,266

*Life Service Obligation, Dean Freytag Memorial Fund

**Approximately 2.5 months operating expenses and BOD reserve fund

***Heart of America, HowellDayMuseum, Diamond Club

At the end of every fiscal year, the NMRA hires an independent accounting firm to audit our finances and prepare a report for the BOD and to prepare our tax filings. The firm reviews all our records and spends about a week at HQ to examine the documentation and to ask questions of the staff. We passed the 2013 audit with no issues or weaknesses. The results will be posted on the new website after the audit is accepted by the BOD.

Next time, I’ll review the various funds we use to keep track of specific commitments that will require cash at some point in the future…and we need to be sure to set it aside.

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