Road Show



Texas Express 2023 NMRA International Convention

Gateway 2022 NMRA National Convention

As seen on
Trainmasters TV

Black Swamp Junction 2021 NCR NMRA Convention Participant

Lansing Lashup 2018 NCR NMRA Convention Participant

NMRA Kansas City 2018 participant

North Central Express 2016 participant

Highball to Indy 2016 participant

Cleveland 2014 participant

Maumee Express 2014 participant

Grand Rails 2012 participant

The Model Railway Show Episode #37
Episode 37

Dork Forest Podcast
As heard on The Dork Forest podcast #92
Episode 92

Hartford National 2009 participant

Fast Freight '08 participant

Great Lakes Express 2007 participant

Cincinnati Limited 2005 participant

Maple Leaf 2003 participant

Operations Road Show - News and Updates


The Wabash flag
Updated: 12-AUG-2023

The Operations Road Show Team at Kansas City

The Operations Road Show Team at Kansas City.

This section of the site is updated periodically to report on the progress we have made on the development, construction and exhibition of the Operations Road Show layout.

Owing to the scope of this project, these reports do not necessarily contain everything which is going on or has been accomplished at a particular time.


August 12, 2023

We're completing the paperwork necessary to support the operating session and beginning to pack up to go to Texas Express 2023. With the new approach where we don;t have to bring the layout with us, it is far easier to pack up and requires far fewer vehicles. If we had to take two trailers and tow vehicles, a box truck and one or more additional vehicles, I doubt that we would have been able to even consider making the trip and offering operating sessions this year.

Activity on the Discord discussion used to plan the event has been tremendously positive, with everyone involved looking forward to a having a great time operating on a large N scale layout.

The Quick Guide to Basic Operating Procedures for the Texas Express 2023 is now available for viewing and download. Printed copies will be provided to all operating session participants at the Convention. It is designed to be printed on legal-sized (8.5" by 14") paper in landscape orientation.


June 2, 2023

Planning continues for our participation in the joint Free-moN/Operations Road Show sessions at Texas Express 2023. Following reports we have heard of some NCE Light-It decoders losing their configurations after being disused for some time, we unpacked the Operations Road Show Portable Train Order Station, Mark 1 boards that we used at St. Louis last year, and tested them out. All passed, having retained their settings without fail.

John and Jeff continue to work on the car movement system that we will use at the Convention as well as the layout-specific paperwork.


April 5, 2023

20 Years of ORS Operating Sessions

August 5, 2023 marks twenty years since the date of our first operating session on the Operations Road Show Wabash layout! Since that time we have used the layout to demonstrate and teach timetable and train orders operation to several hundred people at over eighty operating sessions held at eight NMRA National Conventions across the eastern half of the United States.

At our home base, we have held well over 300 operating sessions with our local crews as well as invited guests, Regional convention attendees, ops weekend participants and groups from out of town at special sessions we have held for them.. The layout has served us well, as has our operating concept. While the layout is showing its age in a few places, it should still serve us well for many more years while we continue to operate it, upgrade it and add scenery.


January 29, 2023

Timetable & Train Order operation is on the NMRA International Convention schedule for 2023!

Preparations are under way to offer TT&TO operating sessions at the Texas Express 2023 NMRA International Convention being held from August 20 to August 26 at the Gaylord Texan Resort & Convention Center outside of Dallas-Fort Worth, Texas. As in 2022, we are working in partnership with a team of Free-moN, module owners who will provide the actual layout.

We are scheduled to be in Tate Ballroom B on the second floor of Gaylord Texan Tower and will announce the session schedule here once it is finalized.


August 12, 2022

Over the weeks leading up to the Gateway 2022 NMRA National Convention, Jeff Fryman and John Young put a lot of effort into developing the paperwork necessary to make TT&TO operation possible on the layout that the Gateway Free-moN group was putting together to run at the Convention.

With about four weeks to go before the Convention, we were talking about what to use to mark the train order stations, provide train order signals and a place to hang orders, since none of the Free-moN modules were set up to do that. An idea began to take form over a day and Fritz Milhaupt spec'ed out a design for a wooden plate and electronics that could be clamped to the side of a module to hold LEDs above track level and provide a mounting surface for a clip to hold train orders. He described it to the team one evening and by the next morning John Hartmann had cut some blanks out of Trex material, routed a hollow into the back to hold the driver electronics and drilled holes to route the wiring. While Fritz was wiring in the NCE Light-It decoders we used to drive the very bright LEDs that David Pickell provided, Paul Anderson laid out a signal control panel in JMRI to control them. John Young collected and assembled the rest of the mounting hardware and made a sectional cable bus to chain the train order stations together.

While our design could have run the signals off of the track bus, we decided that for a trial run we should set up a dedicated control bus for the signals, running off of its own booster. All of the components of our final product, which Fritz calls the ORS-PTOS Mk. 1 (Operations Road Show Portable Train Order Station, Mark 1) were assembled at our layout's home base on the Wednesday night before the Convention. With only a couple of minor tweaks, the system tested out beautifully.

"Smoke testing" the portable train order station panels

Following successful testing, we packed up the system and some LocoNet fast clocks and sent them with John and Cindy Young and Jeff Fryman to the Convention, where the equipment was used during the several operating sessions they co-hosted at the Convention Hall.

The Portable Train Order Station at K Town on the Gateway Free-MoN layout at the Gateway 2022 NMRA National Convention
(John Young photograph)

The result of this team effort is a set of portable train order stations that are an easy and "light touch" way to overlay infrastructure needed for TT&TO operation onto an existing layout. We thank Jeremy Janzen and the Gateway Free-moN gang for the opportunity to try out a different approach to holding TT&TO operating sessions at the Convention this year.


July 23, 2022

On-Site Operations Are Returning to the NMRA National Convention this year!

In 2018 when we decided that we would no longer be able to take the Operations Road Show Wabash layout on the road, we were hopeful that someone else would be willing to take the idea and continue it at future Conventions. We have let it be known that we are willing to provide assistance to groups who wish to try to duplicate what we have done and in the years that followed we had conversations with a few people who were interested in more-or-less duplicating what we had done. In some cases, the sheer logistics and expense of pulling this off proved to be a deterrent for some and others were were stymied by the effects of the pandemic-driven event cancellations.

Operations has an ally in NMRA President Gordy Robinson. He ran on the ORS layout at the Kansas City National Convention and we must have made a good impression, since he approached the St. Louis-area Gateway Free-moN group this year and asked them to set up a layout for operations at the Gateway 2022 NMRA National Convention's hotel. The plan is that there will be operating sessions three times daily from Monday through Friday on a 130 foot long N scale mainline.

When we learned of this, the Operations Road Show team raised our hands to assist. We have been assembling the paperwork to enable operation on the layout that the Free-moN team plans to set up.

Further details around these operating sessions will be available at the Convention.


July 16, 2022

In mid-July we staged a "Run What Ya Brung" day on the Operations Road Show layout for members of Rails on Wheels, our regular operating crew and invited guests. This is an event where we clear the mainline for a day and our guests can run whatever equipment they bring with them. This time, eight members and guests turned out for a relaxing day of running their equipment.

Our west-central Indiana scenery can pass for mid-Michigan pretty well.
Here we see Fred Moehrle's Ann Arbor 2-10-2 at a rural grade crossing.


May 23, 2022

The Operations Road Show was well-represented at the Indy Junction 2023 Tri-Regional NMRA Convention held from May 18 to 22 in Indianapolis, Indiana. John Young was part of the three-man team that demonstrated how we make car cards and waybills, a technique that we shared with Andy Keeney to use on his Nashville Road model railroad. Andy, John, and Ron St. Laurent presented the process over a series of three clinic sessions, twice during the convention.

Complications at his day job forced Fritz Milhaupt to postpone his clinic until Saturday afternoon and evening. He presented a clinic describing the decision processes a crew uses while taking a train across the Second District. This presentation was composed with the help of John and Cindy Young and David Pickell.

Our clinics were a well-received part of a very successful joint convention and RPM meet.


March 31, 2022

Upon completing our winter trackwork efforts, we resumed operating sessions in March. The replacement switch that David Pickell installed at the west end of the double track approaching Lafayette Junction nicely corrects a basic geometry problem we had with the previous switch (see below) and is working flawlessly. Similarly, the relaid curve at Delphi is more operationally and aesthetically pleasing.

With the track work out of the way at Delphi, we can now begin a scenery upgrade at the west end of town. We've pulled out the old ground cover, laid in a sheet of foam inside the curve and have begun to lay out the highway, the businesses and the park that will reside between the track and the aisle.

Over the past week, we permanently installed a Digitrax LNWI transceiver to support wifi-enabled throttles such as the TCS UWT-100 and UWT-50 we have on hand and are experimenting with replacing our three UR92 duplex transceivers with the newer UR93 device.


December 22, 2021

We have taken the railroad out of service for a few weeks to address a couple of trackwork shortcomings. These have given us trouble off and on over the years. The most common problem we have had has been passenger cars derailing coming through the turnback curve at Delphi. This is from our making a mistake when we relocated the freight house there and removed the switch that had been in the curve. The replacement track ended up with a curve well below our 30-inch standard minimum radius and none of the easement we'd had there before. Knowing that we were going to have to replace this track has held up some scenery improvements we want to make in Delphi.

The curve at Delphi, removed for replacement

The longest-running problem, from Day One, has been the curved switch at the west end of double track approaching Lafayette Junction. While it generally works well for nearly all trains, we've had occasional derailments coming through that switch with longer cars. Despite having fairly generous radii coming through it, something about its geometry has been a little "off."

The original handlaid turnout, beneath the stock Walthers curved turnout, shows where we had too much curvature "inside" the turnout

The tight curve within the turnout has caused us occasional problems with passenger cars and with longer freight cars. This shouldn't be a problem much longer.


October 30, 2021

Our participation in Black Swamp Junction 2021 went well- the Thursday night operating session went smoothly, and the Sunday afternoon layout tour saw about a dozen visitors come by. John Young, Andy Keeney and Ron St. Laurent's Saturday night clinic on the car card/waybill system we use on the 'Road Show and on Andy's Nashville Road was well-received. Up next, readying for an operations weekend event in mid-November!


July 30, 2021

The Operations Road Show now has its own domain name! As part of migrating the Rails on Wheels web site to a new web host, we now have, pointing directly into the 'Road Show's section of the Rails on Wheels web site.


May 20, 2021

We are resuming weekly work sessions, now. An ad hoc forestry team is making more trees to fill the need we have for a thousand or more trees around the railroad. We're making clocks that are more era-appropriate and will be permanently mounted in the layout room.

We will be participating in this Fall's North Central Region NMRA Black Swamp Junction 2021 Regional Convention as a layout open for an operating session on Thursday night, October 21, and as a layout open for viewing on the layout tour, Sunday afternoon, October 24. These activities will be open to Convention registrants and held at our home base in Saline.


March 21, 2021

The last several weeks have seen the addition of a few new pieces of rolling stock, including a new heavyweight coach for our passenger trains and a rider car for the Monon locals. The caboose painting project continues.

We now have a rider car for our Monon locals

The new rider car.


February 7, 2021

We really miss holding operating sessions. We're hopeful that things will improve enough that we can resume holding sessions, in the manner that we used to, by later this year.


December 30, 2020

We've had a few of the crew make solo visits to work on the layout over the past several months, so we've been able to keep up with layout maintenance and address some of the minor mechanical issues we kept putting off.

More new motive power is being readied for when we resume operating sessions, specifically in the form of a quartet of Athearn Genesis GP7s in the late "Beautiful Blue"/"dip-job" paint scheme. A pass through the back room to uncover some old, stalled-out painting projects uncovered a couple more unpainted cabooses. We've begun painting them, so there will be four new cabooses on the railroad soon, hopefully by the time that things improve enough that we feel that we can safely hold an operating session.

For those keeping score at home, that will bring us up to 54 operable Wabash locomotives and 20 cabooses. This does not include the industrial locomotives and Monon equipment.

We have acquired Digitrax's new DT602D and UT6D throttles as well as the new UR93 Duplex transceiver module and have begun evaluating them for potential future use, but have been unable to test them under the conditions of an actual operating session, yet.


August 13, 2020

As can be expected under the circumstances, our layout-related work has shifted to our homes with occasional visits to the layout to drop off things. We have added some more rolling stock in the form of freight cars that we've seen in photos of Wabash freights from our modeled era and a new coach for the passenger trains.


July 2, 2020

John Young and David Pickell spent an evening adjusting the switch throws on the Alcoa industrial switching area. They now throw more positively.

We added 15,000 new horsepower with the delivery of the six GP-35s that have been being painted and lettered over the past eighteen months.

Six new GP35s in the Fiddle Yard

15,000 new horsepower for the Wabash


June 8, 2020

In Memoriam - Jack Ozanich, Godfather of the Operations Road Show

We are sad to report that on May 29, 2020, John N., "Jack" Ozanich passed away from lung cancer.

We met Jack in 1995 after receiving an invitation to an operating session on his HO scale Atlantic Great Eastern Railway. The experience of operating on his model railroad completely changed how we looked at model railroading.

As a working rail, he took the prototype rule book seriously and applied that to his model railroad as well. If you came to his sessions, it was to run according to prototypical rules, and once you'd been there a few times, you wouldn't be cut much slack. This gave Jack something of a drill sergeant reputation. Still, if you showed that you were trying to play the game by the house rules (from the 1962 GTW rule book), and were willing to put up with his occasional expressions of frustration, it was a genuine education in railroading.

Jack's expectations were high once you'd been there a while, but then again, you were running alongside people who did this work for a living. Of course, two minutes after him chewing out someone, who Jack thought really should have known better, for violating a rule you'd see him making "chug-chug" noises while running a steam pusher up through Mahoosic Notch (in the days when he was running CTC-80, which had no sound).

In addition to his life-long fascination with steam-era railroading, he was interested in Civil War history, 1960s muscle cars, was a bicyclist and hiker, and enjoyed listening to bluegrass music. One of many memories is of an operating session where a neighbor stopped by and sat on a stool for about half the session playing bluegrass standards on a mandolin. Despite a somewhat fearsome reputation, he was outgoing, friendly and funny. His friends were fiercely loyal to him, and he was loyal to his friends.

We were devastated when Jack learned of his cancer in March. Due to his being in the respiratory care unit, he was not allowed visitors, so his last contacts with his friends were via the phone and through the windows of the hospital lobby.

Jack was a force of nature in the hobby. His tutelage influenced a large number of model railroads in a positive way, several of which you have read of in the hobby press, and many that you probably never have heard of. He gave us the definitive answer to the question "What do you do once you have built a layout?" You operate it as a railroad.

Without Jack, there would have been no Operations Road Show-- the way we operate our railroad is directly based on what Jack did on the AGE. It was during an operating session on his AGE that John Young had the conversation with the late Bill Jewett that inspired us to create the Operations Road Show project.

Jack gave us a valuable education in railroading over the past quarter century, without our having to endure the odd hours, hard labor in all kinds of weather, and aggravation that a real rail experiences. But more importantly, we were privileged to call Jack a friend.

Jack, we miss you, and we honor your memory by the way we operate and the way we share our hobby with others who want to learn.

Jack Ozanich copying orders on his Atlantic Great Eastern
Jack copying orders on his Atlantic Great Eastern


May 27, 2020

All work for the past several weeks has concentrated on adding new rolling stock to our fleet and on maintenance and repair of locomotives, with work going on at our various homes. Several of us had planned to attend the NMRA National Convention in St. Louis this July and were looking forward to being participants, as opposed to working all week as part of the program. While we were disappointed that the Convention was cancelled this year, we agree that it was the right decision.

In Memoriam - Duncan Kaufmann

It is with sadness that we acknowledge the passing of Duncan Kaufmann on April 18. Duncan was well-known throughout the model railroading community in the Ann Arbor area, and a frequent crew member at Operations Road Show sessions over the past several years. He was a long-time member of the Ann Arbor Model Railroad Club, an NMRA Life Member, and active in local live steam activities. He was a regular participant at the late Harold Allen's autumn lumbering parties, often spending most of his time at the throttle of one of Harold's 12-inch-gauge Shays.

Duncan was well-known for his gentle wit, his patience, his keen insight and his interesting anecdotes. He was one of those people who was welcome everywhere he went. He was truly one of the "good guys" in the hobby. Our operating sessions were always a little bit brighter when Duncan was here. Sadly, the coronavirus took him from us. We will miss him.


April 6, 2020

Our regular band of crews has been keeping in contact with each other (remotely), and so far, we're doing OK through the current public health situation. We're very much looking forward to being able to resume our work sessions and operating sessions, once it is safe to do so.

During the down time, we've readied a new locomotive to work the Monon local in Delphi, and a couple of new freight cars.


February 18, 2020

Work continues on the Alcoa plant, as John Young has installed grade crossings and begun laying ballast. Elsewhere on the layout, David Pickell identified a number of power feeders that have detached from the rails over the years and has fixed them.

While the GP35 project has moved forward, it is still several weeks from completion. In the mean time, we have put a new pair of F7s into service, and have acquired parts to repair broken details on a couple of our E8s. Two more F7s are in progress as well. We've long had enough locomotives to run sessions, but after over fifteen years of operation, it's nice to see some new ones. Our current roster consists of nearly 60 locomotives for the Wabash, the Monon, and a couple of industrial operations.

Operating sessions continue on a twice-per-month basis, and we've scheduled some group visits for 2020, as well as participation in operating events this year and next.


December 9, 2019

Over the summer and early fall, we held our regular operating sessions. Dick Helmick continued scenery work, planting a few hundred more trees, and expanding the area covered with grass flocking.

New grass flocking at Logansport
New grass going in at Logansport

This certainly "freshens up" the layout and is an important base for further detailing the layout's scenery.

John Young, Dave Zelisse, Jeff Fryman and Al Robertson have all put considerable work into structures on the Alcoa switching area and begun paving the access roads.

The GP35 project has dragged on, with a significant setback having occurred when painting and decaling the units over the past month. On several shells, the paint was applied in far too thin a coat, which wasn't discovered until applying setting solution to the decals. In some cases, this dissolved some of the underlying paint. Some of these shells may need to be stripped and repainted.


June 1, 2019

In addition to our successful operating sessions for the 2019 Southeast Michigan Ops operating event, on May 16 and 18, we enjoyed hosting our annual visit from a group of Southwest Ohio model railroaders on May 11. At our May 22 operating session, we were joined by Paul Hobbs, who has helped us at numerous conventions. He was visiting the US from New Zealand and has been a guest at a number of model railroads across the country on his trip.

We continue with scenery and motive power work, as well as some ongoing work on the layout room itself. The GP35 project has expanded from three new units to six which, when combined with the two GP35s we already have in service, will give us all eight GP35s the Wabash had on its roster in September and October, 1964. These new units are expected to be ready for service by late summer.


April 9, 2019

The Operations Road Show layout is participating in the 2019 Southeast Michigan Ops operating event, May 16-19, 2019. We are offering sessions from 7pm to 9pm on Thursday, May 16, and from 9am to noon on Saturday, May 18.

Southeast Michigan Ops features operating sessions on seventeen different layouts, organized into five session blocks over the four days. Layouts cover an area from Macomb County west to Lansing, with layouts as far south as Blissfield. To attend, you must either be an NMRA member, or purchase an NMRA Railpass.


April 4, 2019

Structure work is under way to populate the new Alcoa switching area, and the base layout has received a bit more foliage in selected places to test out new scenery materials.


January 13, 2019

We ran the switching job at the new Alcoa plant during our first session in January. Here is the plant's switcher arriving at East Yard, prior to heading down to the plant.

The new switcher for the Alcoa plant switching area

As a result of a lot of planning and careful construction work, the first switching job at the plant went off well. The plan going forward is that cars for Alcoa will be brought to the west/south end of the Lafayette Union Terminal trackage, then put onto a tray and taken across the aisle to the staging track for the Alcoa plant's railroad. This will happen at approximately 3:00am on the fast clock, daily except Sunday.

Working out how to switch Alcoa

Working out how to switch Alcoa

The new switching area is behind the Dispatcher and adjacent to the Rockfield end of the layout.


December 31, 2018

Over the past few months, David Pickell has reassembled the grit-blasting booth that he acquired from Skip McDonald's estate. This has required changing the air piping on the compressor we use to feed airbrushes at the paint booth in the basement and ultimately bringing in a higher-capacity compressor. We've begun experimenting with using the grit blaster to remove numbers from rolling stock and locomotives, with mixed success. We have had much more success using the blaster to prepare acetyl plastic parts, such as handrails, fuel tanks and grab irons for painting, as long advocated by prolific modeler and author Brian Banna.

One of the specific reasons we pursued this grit-blasting process was to try to improve the paint adhesion on the handrails on the freelanced switcher that is being built for the Alcoa switching area. This has been very successful: as the handrails are being applied, the paint is holding up extremely well to the abuse the handrails undergo when being pressed the into the Atlas S4's diecast frame. The switcher should be finished and ready for the Alcoa switching area's first official run at our January Sunday Afternoon Operating Session. Other parts we blasted during a traditional Year-End Work Effort are being used to add two more F7As, two more GP7s and three more GP35s to the Wabash fleet.

Sideframes, fuel tanks and handrails

The whole blasted pile of diesel parts, after rinsing and air-drying overnight.


November 27, 2018

Scenery work continues at several locations on the layout. We are beginning an evalulation of the stored cars that we no longer use and have accumulated over the years, with the intent of returning them to their owners. These are cars that we used to fill out trains in the early days of the project and/or cars that were replaced with better or more appropriate models as they became available. Some of these cars have been stored since before our trip to Grand Rapids in 2012!


October 31, 2018

With the layout back up and running, we held two operating sessions during the month of October. Both sessions went well, and we did not notice any issues. Work sessions have resumed, with a focus on increasing the number of trees on the layout and sorting through the freight cars that we think are in excess of what we need to run the layout. We are working toward getting the Alcoa plant switching area operational by the end of the year. At this point, we mainly need to print up waybills and figure out initial car frequencies for the various spots at this large industry.


September 30, 2018

The ORS project has received more media attention for its run at the NMRA National Convention in Kansas City, this time on pages 6 and 7 of the "What's Neat" column of Model Railroad Hobbyist magazine's October 2018 edition. Further, the October edition of Ken Patterson's What's Neat in Model Railroading YouTube vlog features a conversation with John Young about the ORS project. John's segment begins sixteen minutes in.

Layout reassembly continues at a much more leisurely pace than we approach set-up at a Convention. We have installed nearly all of the bridge tracks, Loconet cabling is in place, most of the structures are back on the layout, and the last of the power bus wiring is being connected. We're on track to have everything back up and running well before the operating session we are hosting October 11 for the Lansing Lashup 2018 NCR NMRA Regional Convention.


September 3, 2018

During the week leading up to the Labor Day weekend, and during the weekend itself, the layout was put back up on its feet, preparatory to resuming operation in Saline. A couple more evenings' work sessions, and we should be back up and running.


August 19, 2018 - Out to KC, Then Back for Good

With help from Dick Helmick, Andrew Justus, Gary Kaluzny, Greg Lim, and David Pickell, we packed up both of the trailers on Sunday, July 29.

In years past, we would have rented two additional trailers, but this time around, we were unable to locate anyone in southern Michigan who still rents 7x14-foot trailers. To fill the role normally played by the rented trailers, we had to rent a 27-foot box truck, which we picked up and packed on Thursday. Dave and Eric Bowman, Dick Helmick, Andrew Justus, Gary Kaluzny, David Pickell, and Dave Simmons all turned out to help our core team.

On Friday morning, August 3, our mini-convoy pulled out of Saline at 9:00am on the spot, for the first day's drive to Kansas City. Our Road Team, spread across four vehicles, consisted of Dave Bowman, Jeff Fryman, Bob and Fritz Milhaupt, Al Robertson, Dave Simmons, and Cindy and John Young. Despite some rather odd guidance from one of our GPSes, we made it to Edwardsville, Illinois before stopping for the night.

Saturday morning, we started out for Kansas City, stopping first at the Museum of Transportation in St. Louis for a few hours.

The ORS Road Team at the Museum of Transportation in St. Louis

The KC 2018 ORS Road Team at the Museum of Transportation in St. Louis
Left to right: Al Robertson, Bob Milhaupt, Jeff Fryman, Friz Milhaupt, Cindy Young, Dave Bowman,
John Young, and Dave Simmons. Missing: Paul Anderson, John and Tyler Hartmann

After our museum stop, we headed west across Missouri, arriving at the Westin Crown Center (the Convention Hotel) in the early evening.

Sunday morning, we started unloading into Century Ballroom A promptly at 8:00am. Every set-up has its own unique challenges: this year, it was a very steep driveway up to the ballroom. While we could pull the trailers up with our tow vehicles, a particularly steep bit between the street and the sidewalk prevented us from bringing the big truck up. As we often do, we improvised.

The ORS Road Team at the Museum of Transportation in St. Louis

Dave Bowman, Paul Anderson and Ross Kudlick push a cartload of stuff from the truck up the driveway to the ballroom.

Paul Anderson joined us for the week in Kansas City, working on set-up, tear-down and serving alongside Dave Bowman, Dave Simmons and Bob Milhaupt as a docent.

We had an amazing amount of help with set-up Sunday from volunteers, all of whom contributed to making this the fastest that we have ever gotten the layout up on its legs. Thanks for the rapid set-up go to Steve Benezra, David Correia, Mark Engholm, Vincent Gallogly, John Hartmann, Paul Hobbs, Ross Kudlick, Marty Lontz, Doug Mayer, Phil Monat, Wes Rupe, Tom Schmieder, Philip Sharp, and Tim Verburg.

Paul Anderson filmed the set-up.

We dined at Jack Stack's BBQ in the freighthouse complex across the tracks from Kansas City Union Station. If you dine there, we strongly advise that you check the dessert menu before ordering dinner so you can leave room! After dinner, the Road Team returned to the ballroom to finish placing the loose structures, staging freight cars and building initial trains. We wrapped up around 11:00pm.

During set-up on Sunday, we discovered that one of our DCC power-management boards had stopped working since we last used it. Whether it was due to it giving up after more than fifteen years' heavy use, or due to some kind of travel-related damage, we were unable to determine. It was far better to have discovered this at set-up than at the beginning of a session, as it afforded us time to implement a work-around and locate a replacement part. Bob Milhaupt and Dave Simmons wired around the bad circuit so that we would be able to run sessions on Monday, and Phil Monat put out a call for assistance from the OpSIG members. Through their help, a replacement board was located at a local hobby shop Monday morning, acquired and installed before the Monday afternoon session. Thanks, Phil! During the week, local modeler John Breau stopped by and gave us another board to use as a back-up. Thanks, John!

The line waiting to register for ORS sessions at Kansas City

The line to sign up at noon, Sunday

Since we'd announced that this would be our last trip to a National Convention, sign-ups went faster than usual. We even had a line waiting when Cindy started accepting sign-ups at noon Sunday.

Through the week, and with assistance at the sign-in table from Kathy Stewart, we easily filled all of the operating slots, going so far as to increase the crew size from two to three during some sessions. The wait-list to fill vacant spots was long enough that we could have continued to hold sessions through the following weekend, if we had had the ballroom available.

The first session went off well on Monday, leading into eleven more sessions that all seem like a blur over the course of the following several days. John and Tyler Hartmann joined us to serve as docents during the week.

The layout performed well, despite being fifteen years older than when we staged our first National Convention appearance in Toronto, in 2003. After replacing the failed power manager, our recently-refreshed control system (we have replaced our aging DB150 boosters with new Digitrax DB210s) behaved as solidly as it had at home. Over the course of the week, we were visited by various members of the model railroad media.

Logansport gets a bit busy at times during an operating session.

Logansport can get a bit busy during an operating session.

Tuesday morning, NMRA President Charlie Getz, and President-Elect Pete Magoun stopped by before our 9:00am operating session to deliver an unexpected highlight. Charlie presented the Operations Road Show Team with the NMRA's Presidents Award for our service to the model railroading hobby and the Association. We were surprised to receive this recognition, but thankful that our efforts have been appreciated.

The NMRA Presidents Award, awarded to the Operations Road Show Team

Our NMRA Presidents Award, displayed proudly, even if not elegantly, above Clymers.

Over the course of the week, many people who had run on the ORS layout at past Conventions stopped by to say hello, and to recount their experiences running on the layout. The fond memories these recalled were genuinely heart-warming and will provide us pleasant memories well into the future.

Paul Anderson shot video of our Tuesday evening operating session, from a vantage point above and behind the Fiddle Yard.


All too soon, the week drew to a close. As usual, immediately following the end of the Thursday night operating session, we, with help from John and Tyler Hartmann and Marty Lontz, packed up all of the rolling stock, control system and telephones, and began pulling out bridge tracks. During the day Friday, Phil Monat was of considerable help with tear-down.

Corridor sign leading to the ORS layoutAs we'd planned, we were packed up and on the road by mid-morning on Saturday, to make our mid-afternoon Sunday appointment with our unloading team back in Saline. We stopped overnight, Saturday night, in Terre Haute, Indiana, and arrived back in Saline around 3:00pm Sunday.

Our Road Team, augmented by volunteers Eric and Cheri Bowman, Tom McGeorge, David Pickell, and Tim Young, made quick work of unloading the truck and the trailers, moving their contents into the basement in about an hour, flat.

We all agreed to take a week off from working on the room or the layout, but as of the fourth week of August will start work on room clean-up preparatory to having the layout back up and running by some time in September.

Special thanks go out to Stephen Priest, the Convention Committee and the rest of the team which put together and executed NMRA Kansas City 2018, who all made our final outing a good one and one that we will remember fondly. Also, thanks to the staff at the Westin Crown Center Kansas City for their help with logistics and site matters.

Back home again after our last road trip with the Operations Road Show layout, the ORS Team would once again like to express its thanks and sincere gratitude to everyone who has helped us with this project over the years, both on the road and at home. We have tried to acknowledge everyone as we have gone along, and if we have missed anyone, we assure you that it was not deliberate.


July 14, 2018

At today's work session, we completed racking all of the modules except for the two large turnback modules at each end of the layout (Rockfield and Lafayette Junction) and the Wabash River crossing. These will be handled in special shevling mounted inside the trailer. We finished packing the unattached buildings and packed most of the miscellaneous materials that support our presentations at the show. At coming sessions we will finish packing the rolling stock, the DCC equipment, and the show signage.

Packing buildings for the trip to Kansas City

Walt Trancygier and Dave Bowman pack up the last of the loose buildings so we can rack the last of the modules

A lot of the photos on this site show the layout in states of assembly or disassembly. That's because the tear-down->set-up->tear-down->set-up process is such a big part of our trips to Conventions. With finishing up layout improvements and packing up, taking the layout to a Convention consumes the vast majority of our hobby time for a summer.


July 10, 2018 - Kansas City: The Last Road Trip

2018 marks the twentieth Anniversary of the Operations Road Show project, and the fifteenth year since we began taking the Wabash layout to NMRA National Conventions. It is also, we have decided, the last year that we will be taking the Wabash layout on the road. The 2018 NMRA National Convention in Kansas City is the last one to which we plan to take the layout.

When we started the project with a conversation at the 1998 Saline Celtic Fesitval, we were twenty years younger, and our five core members were at particularly good points in their lives to begin such a big project. After we spent five years getting the layout to a point where we were willing to take it out to show the public, it debuted at the 2003 NMRA National Convention in Toronto. We had no idea how it would be received. To our knowledge, nobody had ever tried something like this before. We were absolutely delighted with the warm reception that our crazy idea received. Since that time, we have offered operating sessions at six (soon to be seven) more National Conventions, both giving people who have never tried timetable-and-train order operation an opportunity to try it, and providing our own take on it to others who were already familiar with operation. In the process, we have had a lot of fun sharing our enjoyment of timetable-and-train order operation.

In 2018, we and the layout are all twenty years older, and showing some signs of wear. The work required to move the layout, set it up, run a dozen operating sessions over four days, then tear down the layout and take it home again, all in the course of a week, is exhausting. It was exhausting twenty years ago. It has been becoming harder and harder to do as the years have gone by. For this reason, we have decided that the layout's traveling days will end this year.

Our plan is that when we return to Saline after the Kansas City Convention, we will reassemble the layout and continue to hold operating sessions at our home base, both with our regular local crews and with guests. While we won't be taking it out on the road any more, we intend to continue to make it available for "introduction to timetable-and-train order" operating sessions, going forward, and will post an announcement here once we have decided how to do this best.

We have already scheduled an operating session at the layout's home base, in conjunction with the Lansing Lashup 2018 North Central Region NMRA Convention in October.

We would like to thank the over 1,000 people who have participated in our operating sessions at Conventions or at home, who have helped with setup or teardown or loading, or have contributed in other ways to the success of this effort over the years. We have also benefited greatly from the support of our fellow members of the Rails on Wheels club over the years, who all have our heartfelt gratitude. While this has been a lot of work, we have enjoyed it immensely, made new friends, and had a lot of fun.


June 23, 2018

After our operating session on May 23, we began the pre-teardown process leading up to our trip to Kansas City. This involves clearing all of the rolling stock off of the layout, identifying areas where we want to perform work on the layout before packing up, and setting to work on those projects. One of these is a new grade crossing that Dave Simmons is installing at the west end of Colburn.

A new grade crossing going in at Colburn temporarily provides this view of the back of Logansport.

With the backdrop out, you can see the back of Logansport from Colburn. Note the new grade crossing
that Dave Simmons installed, in the foreground.

Ground cover improvement is under way, with Dick Helmick, Roger Austin, and Al Robertson adding lots of trees and new ground cover.

Packing up the rolling stock becomes a bigger challenge each time we take the layout on the road. At this point, we believe that we have nearly twice as many cars in our fleet as we can pack for road trips. This leads to a problem with deciding where and how to store the ones that aren't coming along with us. It also means that we should start culling the fleet; there are some cars that we stored away before going to Cleveland, in 2014, that we haven't unpacked since then.

If you will be at the Convention on Sunday, and are looking for something to do, we can always use help with unloading and setting up the layout!


March 31, 2018

Model Railroader's "On Operations" column, May, 2018The Operations Road Show project is the subject of the On Operation column in the May, 2018 issue of Model Railroader magazine. Jerry Dziedzic's article offers a quick overview of what the Operations Road Show project is, and how we run the operating sessions we offer at NMRA National Conventions. Thanks for the coverage, Jerry!

On the layout front, we continue with scenery work, with efforts currently focused on Colburn and Peru. Our rolling stock fleet is expanding as more models that fit our needs are released, allowing us to remove some older or "stand-in" cars from the fleet.

We are continuing to work on updating our DCC infrastructure, with additional DB210 boosters on order, and we are tending to routine locomotive servicing tasks.


February 11, 2018

We have run two operating sessions using the new DB210 booster, during which it performed as we expected-- excellently.

The track has been laid and wired up on the separate switching layout that is to represent the Alcoa plant in Lafayette.

Basic trackwork on the Alcoa switching area

We had an operating session scheduled for the afternoon of the eleventh, but cancelled it due to icy road conditions and forecasts of significant snowfall during the afternoon.


January 1, 2018

Just before Christmas, we held a planning meeting to decide what projects we would work on before taking the layout to Kansas City this August. Most of the work is focused on finishing incomplete projects and addressing layout mechanical issues and upkeep, though we plan to start on at least a mock-up of the freight house, based on the minimal photographs we have been able to find of it.

We have acquired a Digitrax DB210 booster, which we have installed and are evaluating to see whether it offers sufficient advantages to justify replacing our DB150s, some of which are approaching twenty years of age.


October 30, 2017

Work continues on the Alcoa Plant switching area.

New switching area on Operations Road Show layout

The new Alcoa plant switching area, with fascia carpentry awaiting a coat of paint.

The backdrop has been installed and painted, with rough background details that will eventually be blocked by large industrial buildings. The track is in place and wired up, the turnout throws are installed, and John has completed the fascia carpentry. We will give this area a dedicated DCC booster. We've been planning out where cars will be spotted and have begun working on a list of commodities to be shipped in and out, so that we can print waybills. We expect to begin integrating the Alcoa plant into our operations before the end of the year.

We are painting and detailing a switcher for the plant, and have started working out how to model the unusual silver-painted boxcars that were used to ship finished aluminum tubing. We're likely to start switching operations long before this particular equipment is ready.

In the photo, the track is covered with blue tape to protect it while the backdrop and fascia are being painted.


August 27, 2017

Trainmasters TVThe Operations Road Show was the subject of episode 2017-08.4 of Trainmasters TV. Titled "Timetable & Train Order: Ops Roadshow", this episode, taped at the Highball to Indy 2016 NMRA National Convention, introduces our project through a conversation with John Young, clips of Jeff Fryman's introductory speech, footage from the sessions at the Convention, and photos of the history of the project.

We are very pleased with how it turned out and encourage you to take a look at the free sample clip available at Trainmasters TV is an online video series on the many aspects of model railroading, presented each month in four acts, with one act released each week. Topics that Trainmasters TV has covered in the past have included weathering techniques, benchwork construction techniques, 3D printing at home, an overview of the various adhesives and solvents used in the hobby, visits to layouts, handlaying track, and reports from the National Train Show. It is a subscription service.


July 14, 2017

Over the years, we've talked about adding one or more small switching areas apart from the main Wabash layout to use at its home base. We've considered a number of options, but never really moved on the idea. That changed when the 2017 issue of Kalmbach's Model Railroad Planning annual presented a trackplan for a switching layout based on the Winston-Salem Southbound Railroad. This plan was the right size to fit into an under-used space in the basement, and had the qualities we were looking for in a switching area.

John Young set about to building the benchwork over a weekend, and has led the project over the ensuing weeks. We adjusted the published plan by straightening out some track, removing some sidings and relocating others. The result is intended to be a single-industry switching area that will represent the large Alcoa aluminum tube mill in Lafayette, on a larger scale than we could fit on the main layout. Currently, Alcoa is represented by the ends of two sidings at the end of the Lafayette Union Terminal branch on the layout, with about a four car capacity. The new Alcoa plant on this addition will receive and ship far more cars.

The turnouts are built using FastTracks tools. The rest of the track is mainly Micro Engineering, with an Atlas crossing in the middle. In the weeks since this photo was taken, the track has been affixed to the foam, and wiring has begun. As construction continues, we're working out how we will incorporate this into our operating scheme. Cars will be brought across in a tray from the main layout and staged on the fold-down staging track seen to the right in the photo.

Our intention is that this section will not travel when we take the layout to conventions, such as our planned trip to next year's NMRA National Convention in Kansas City.


April 12, 2017

Over the past couple of months we've held a number of operating sessions and started a few new projects. Some, such as finishing more scenery and dealing with keeping removable buildings in place during sessions, have been driven by aesthetic concerns.

One project driven by operational concerns is the extension of the Monon mainline south and east from Deplhi. Recent scenery work placed a grade crossing across it at the east end of the town, effectively shortening it as a staging site for northbound trains. To make it more useful, it was decided to extend it onto the adjacent module.

Monon mainline extension south of Delphi

New Monon trackage south and east of Delphi.

This has the benefit of allowing us to stage longer Monon trains to come in and work Deplhi. In this view, fascia painting, ballast profiling and scenery work remains to be done. The new grade crossing at the east end of Delphi is visible at the left side of the photo.


January 15, 2017

A task that we've put off for the past thirteen years has been to begin using actual flags on our locomotives to identify trains as "extras."

Since the only scheduled trains we run are passenger trains, it has been easy enough for us to tell crews that they should just assume that any freight train they are running out on the road is flying the white flags of an extra. This has saved us the trouble of making the flags and saved the crew in the Fiddle Yard the step of applying the flags to the lead locomotives of outbound trains. However, when looking for a simple project to conduct over the week between this past Christmas and New Year's days, adding flags was an obvious one.

The effect of these flags is already noticeable in the most recent photos added to the gallery on this site.



News and progress reports for years prior to 2017
are found on the next pages.

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All original contents of this web site are Copyright © 1999-2023, John F. ("Fritz") Milhaupt on behalf of the Operations Road Show, All Rights Reserved.