Road Show


As seen on
Trainmasters TV

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 - Progress Report


The Wabash flag
Updated: 18-FEB-2020

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.


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 are two more GP7s. 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 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 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. As recent scenery work has placed a grade crossing across it at the east end of the town, effectively shortening it as a staging site for northbound trains, 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 © 1999-2020, John F. ("Fritz") Milhaupt on behalf of the Operations Road Show, All Rights Reserved.