A Recap of the Fine Scale Model Railroad Expo

Written by Richard Brungard, photos by John M. Sullivan.

I’m sure that many readers have been to a train show, in some form or another at least once in their lives. They run the gambit from local swap meet at a fire hall or community center, to the big regional shows, and the mammoth productions like the World’s Greatest Hobby Show, National Model Railroader’s Association Shows. The Finescale Model Railroad Expo, which is a relatively new show, is an entirely different animal.

This year, the “Expo” was held in Scranton Pennsylvania from March 26-28 at the Hilton Hotel and Convention Center, Less than a quarter of a mile from the Steamtown National Historic Site. The location provided plenty of opportunities to railfan, but with the frigid temperatures, most were happy to stay in the comfort of the hotel, browsing the vendor tables and displays, admiring the fantastic contest models, or attending the long list of fantastic clinics that were hosted by the best in the hobby. As was mentioned earlier, the Expo isn’t like other train shows. The Expo’s primary focus is on craftsman structure kits, tracing it’s heritage back to the first craftsman kit show in 2007. The vendors who attend are the best in the business, and if you love building these highly detailed kits, the Expo delivers. What really set the Finescale Model Railroad Expo apart from other shows, in my opinion, was the quality of the people, not just the unbelievably good models. As a smaller event, there was a connection between the vendors, clinicians, staff, and attendees that contributed to a true feeling of community. People who had never met quickly became friends, with great modelers from all over the world. The map at the Expo entrance was covered in push pins of modeler’s hometowns that literally spanned the globe, with attendees from the western half of North America, all the way to the Ukraine. I spoke to a gentleman who’s accent was certainly not from Texas, and I was quite surprised to find out that he originally hailed from Zimbabwe (formerly Rhodesia).

Apart from the vendor area, and clinics, the Expo also featured a charity benefit on Friday night which was a new event, called “The Kit Bash”. Four contestants had roughly 30 minutes to attempt to build a craftsman structure kit, while being verbally abused by the event’s hosts, Bob Mitchell and Bill Michaels, and hilarity ensued. Trainmasters TV was on hand to film the action, and videos of the event are up on their website. Readers should be warned, not every contestant remained fully clothed, or G Rated. Who knew train geeks could have such a good time? Saturday night completed the Expo with the annual banquet and awards show. The contest winners can be seen on http://www.modelrailroadexpo.com/ along with a complete list of vendors who were there. No layout tours were organized for this event, and it would hardly be considered a Model Railroad Expo without a Model Railroad, so the organizers brought a Model Railroad to the Expo! Trackside Scenery was on hand with their official display layout, The Spruce Coal and Timber Model Railroad. Attendees didn’t have to leave the hotel to enjoy the sights and sounds of Narrow Gauge Railroading in Slaty Fork West Virginia, circa 1935.

The final event for the Expo was the annual banquet and awards presentation, where the modeling efforts of the Attendees was showcased, and cash prizes awarded. There was never a dull moment at the Expo, and the Banquet was no exception, and MC Bill Michaels delivered. To prove that Model Railroaders can be Footloose and Fancy Free, in a display of Foolish Behavior, Bill demanded that Doug Foscale (FOS Scale) call Rod Stewart, while 180 crazy uncles sat quietly in the room. Yes. Rod Stewart. “Do Ya Think I’m Sexy” leather pants Rod Stewart, who is an avid model railroader, and craftsman structure builder. Unfortunately for guests, Rod wasn’t available, according to one of his staff. I guess it was probably fortunate for him, because prior to being seated, everyone was primed at the bar. The banquet was a great way to cap off the weekend’s events, with great food, engaging camaraderie, and some light hearted fun.

The 2016 Expo will be held in Boston Massachusetts, with details forthcoming on the Expo’s website. If you are interested in building craftsman structure kits, weathering, detailing, or just exploring that area of the hobby, the Fine Scale Model Railroad Expo is not to be missed.

Models from the Expo.