The year is certainly cruising by us at record speed. It seems like the days and weeks have flown. I just finished visiting the St. Louis RPM and I have to admit; it was nice to be back at the show. Saw some old friends and lots of manufacturers. Not the plethora of announcements we might have seen in the past; as it appears that China is still reeling from their encounter with the pandemic; and it appears that international trade has been impacted as well. Lots of manufacturers across the country are impacted by the slow shipping in our nation; not just the model train guys. Maybe it’s time to move some stuff back over here and cut down on the lag time in deliveries? I’m game. Especially if we do our tooling and such back over here…We could let US machinists cut tooling for our stuff on the side; just like they do in China? We’ve already seen prices creep up to the point where we are feeling the pinch right here and now; and prices to afford such items (as the high quality freight cars we’ve come to expect) now. So, why not bring them over here? Ok; off the soap box.

The RPM meet was a success in my book. I even found items that did not expect to find there. I found an OMI N-7 caboose mint in the box for the Conrail trains at Karnak. I picked up a rare ROCK Tangent Air slide ( which is Dave’s finest model to date, IMO); and it has the new awesome Tangent trucks under it. My friends at ExactRail are releasing new road numbers in my favorite freight car; the Missouri Pacific 3737/3716 coal hopper; whose announcement goes with the coal industry theme of the show.

My good friend Blaine Hadfield was there with his outstanding replica of the upcoming Arrowhead Models ACF 4600. I had planned to attend both days of the RPM meet; but was unable to attend on Friday due to work and other issues. I did close it down on Saturday…but plan on being back next year with modules of certain areas of my new layout to show; with models to boot. I didn’t get to spend as much time with Blaine as I had planned; and really didn’t know I was going to be able to go until Wednesday afternoon of this past week. So, I’ll just do better next year. I don’t think we’ll see another show this year like the RPM; as I see that Trainfest is cancelled. I’m going to play it safe and stay home; and mask up again.

I picked up an automated interlocking from the guys at Iowa Scale Engineering. They even programmed it with my requested amount of delay time right at the show. These are the guys that brought us the Proto-Throttle. Can’t thank them enough for what they’ve done for the hobby.

I have pretty much everything I need for the layout at this time; and I am currently mulling over some more ICG coal hoppers to purchase for Benton Jct. However, I am also mulling an AEPX special run from Bowser (Yes I know their 3 bay car is not accurate; but it still is better than the Walthers car) and more affordable. In fact, I am still kicking myself for selling off my train a few years back. I had 50 cars total. Enough talk about that train…I’ll get depressed.

I have new decals now from William Brillinger at These are superb renderings of Missouri Pacific cab decals complete with the correct shade of Jenks blue; correct 2 digit numerals; and scaled hood numbers for the 20″ white numerals. Bill is a master at these and I highly recommend his work. I can’t thank him enough; as well as Steven Priest for introducing Bill’s company to me a few years back; As Bill produced some excellent Conrail decals for Stephen to go on some Arrowhead H39 hoppers that were featured in an Article in Railroad Model Craftsman.

This will speed up the building of my fleet as I can now work just like the Jenks Shop did…paint the engine blue…put the sill stripes and nose chevrons on; and apply a one piece cab decal and four digit hood number. Bill also did the engines I plan to build…so all that remains is to paint them up and install the decals. I have new number board decals too. Thanks again, Bill. I’m already drawing up the next project…I’ll email it.

I have a couple of special projects that are finally nearing fruition…and am very excited to finally complete them. Looking forward to fall and cooler weather. But, August looms ahead…so maybe one more month of hot weather? We’ll see.

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Thomas Austin

I am a Southern Illinois Native. I am a fan of nostalgia, and the history of Southern Illinois. Model Railroading has been a large part of my life; and it helps serve that interest. Through this interest I have learned much about the region; the people; and the industries that gave us all hope of building a life beyond our formal education. Small Towns in the Midwest built this nation...and this site aims to share that fact with the world.