Detroit Convention

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Detroit NMRA National Convention, 2007

  • The LDSIG elected a new Director, Ted DiIorio, to a 3-year term.
  • The LDSIG passed the Bylaws Amendments proposed by the Bylaws Committee

Meet and Greet

The LDSIG Meet and Greet on Sunday evening was a great success, with a round table of 43 participants exchanging ideas about their layout plans and making connections for the rest of the week went on for about three hours.

Layout Tour and Picnic

The LDSIG Layout Tour and Picnic on Wednesday had 20 layout open houses from 11:30 a.m. until 9:30 p.m. Everyone I talked to had good experiences and many folks simply raved about it. The picnic was ballpark food, hot dogs and hamburgers, and the company was good at the picnic tables. The driving was strenuous, with my car covering 230 miles for 10 layouts. The layouts were memorable, with many good choices and a variety of scales represented, including O, S, HO and N, plus narrow gauge and proto-87, all with interesting layout design and construction features on view. The carpool etiquette required that everyone must get to see their one favorite layout, with other layout visits mutually agreed upon.

Annual Meeting

The LDSIG Annual Meeting on Wednesday morning went well, with reports from all the officers and other volunteers, plus voting (the Bylaws Amendments passed, and Ted DiIorio was elected Director). There were discussions on future events, with an emphasis on planning more regional and local (including in-home meeting) events. The President received several compliments afterwards on keeping the meeting moving along and interesting, so the 35 or so members in attendance were well served.


The LDSIG Reception on Friday evening was a success, with over 70 guests and a very entertaining program by Jack Ozanich on how union work rules and the idiosyncracies of railroaders can be incorporated into the design and operation of model railroad layouts. The PowerPoint slides were exceptionally good model shots, prepared by Bill Neale. I asked some of the ladies (non-model railroaders) afterwards if they enjoyed the presentation and they were very enthusiastic about it, as Jack is a talented model railroader and builder, and speaks from the heart.

SIG Room Exhibits

The SIG room was filled with exhibits of layout mock-ups, plans and data, plus a working CTC machine demonstrated by Mike Burgett and his crew. We even had a virtual tour of the M-K-T in Dallas on a computer monitor.

Layout Design Consultation Service

The "Layout Doctor" table, organized by Bruce Metcalf, was used by nearly twenty members (not counting kibitzers). One prospective layout builder I talked to later told me he was going to redesign his layout after meeting with Bruce, while another has asked me how he can get another consultation after he redraws his plan based on LDSIG member input.

Extra Layout Visits

The LDSIG was pleased to have four other layouts available on Sunday and Thursday, about 70 miles away in Blissfield, MI and Toledo, OH. These were the Blissfield Club, Pete Forbes, and Doug Tagsold's two layouts, and were a treat.

OPSIG Coordination

The [Operations SIG] coordinated closely with the LDSIG and made many great layouts available for 3- to 4-hour operations sessions on Monday, Tuesday and Thursday evenings. This is an excellent way to really get to know a layout. The LDSIG invites OPSIG members to our Picnic/Layout Tour and Reception, which otherwise are members-only events.


Over 140 LDSIG members attended this convention. The overall attendance was about 1200 NMRA members.

How We Can Do Better

We are aware of some problems. If you wish to report issues or make suggestions please email them to me at: president--(at) We conducted a survey last year which revealed various problems which we did our best to avoid this year. We can even consider reimbursement if anyone feels strongly about it. For example, to avoid running out of food at the picnic, we ordered 170 meals though we sold 130 tickets; so we did not run out of food, but had complaints about the cost of the ticket versus the quality of the food. The Layout Tour and Picnic event includes many more costs than than just the food; we put some of our convention expenses into the picnic cost (we no longer charge a separate convention registration fee); the tables, chairs, tents, portable toilet, layout maps, Local Area Convention Coordinator telephone and layout preview costs, as well as layout owner recognition plaques and complimentary picnic meals are included. The LDSIG plans to break even on our convention expenses for those attending. We do not project a profit, nor do we take money from the general membership to fund the event. Thus the Picnic/Layout Tour ticket costs more than might be expected for basic hamburgers, hot dogs, condiments, drinks, dessert, catering, gratuities and clean-up.

Other issues that cropped up this year:

  • Food at the Reception; we advertised and planned this event as a reception with hors d'oeuvres, not a dinner. As it turned out, it was like a snack buffet with meatballs, vegetables and dip, crackers and cheese, and pretzels and chips. When these started to run out, it took the hotel staff quite a while to refill them, a delay that caused some attendees to miss out on much more than chips. At the price of a ticket, to only get chips was unacceptable. Thus our offer of refunds. Many people got more than enough snacks, making a little meal out of it.
  • Drinks at the Reception; we had only one bartender, and a slow one at that. The wait in line was long. To get a soft drink or even a glass of water required a wait in line and a ticket. After your one free ticket, you had to pay for a glass of water. We will try to negotiate a different arrangement in the future.
  • Maps for the Layout Tour. The maps seemed pretty good for local areas of each layout, but not so good for relating the local areas to each other. I spent the day navigating, and without a AAA map of the Detroit area we would have had more difficulty. Of course, when you cover such a large metro area with 20 layouts it is a major project to produce maps and perfection is hard to come by.
  • Some confusion about the picnic location; I heard that some carpools supposedly missed the picnic location. The picnic was hidden from the street behind a house which was on the layout tour, and if carpools did not park in the particular church parking lot indicated on the map or skipped the layout visit they may have missed the picnic.

Report by Mike O'Brien, July 2007

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