Chesapeake & Ohio Modelers Weekend 2017

(Hawks Nest @ Pipestem)

The 2017 version of the C & O Modelers Weekend is behind us, leaving us with some fun and some poignant memories. The annual event for model railroaders, who have chosen the Chesapeake and Ohio Railroad as their favorite subject, has been held at Hawks Nest State Park for 17 of now 19 years. In fact, most attendees and presenters just refer to the get together as “Hawks Nest.”

Due to a failure of the HVAC system at Hawks Nest Lodge in January the 2017 C & O Modelers Weekend was hurriedly moved to Pipestem State Park. It was somewhat humorous to hear people attending this year’s gathering referring to it as “Hawks Nest” as they strolled the halls at Pipestem.

Not even slightly deterred by the sudden change in venue, presenters and attendees alike seemed to enjoy the weekend of exchanging modeling tips, information and ideas in the relaxed atmosphere that has become synonymous with the C & O Modelers Weekend.

Friday evening’s sessions were started off by Karen Parker explaining the history of and differences between the various classes of Chesapeake and Ohio’s 2-6-6-2 locomotives. Karen’s informative discussion was the lead up to her Saturday evening talk on modifying currently available models to more closely represent the C & O’s mallets.

Ken Gager gave a very interesting talk outlining what goes into the production of 3D printed parts and their potential value to model railroaders. To help make his point, Ken displayed a complete HO scale C & O caboose interior he designed and had 3D printed. Additionally, Ken showed some of the behind the scenes details of the production of new sand domes for C & O H-4 and H-6 locomotives. The new domes are a prominent feature of Karen Parker’s discussion on modifying Bachmann HO scale locos.

Friday evening continued with Dick Argo presenting an informative talk on the C & O’s operations in Columbus, OH and the surrounding area. Dick’s presentation was full of interesting old images and tidbits regarding industries served by the C & O, including the Ohio State Penitentiary, which involved some unique operating conditions.

Wrapping up Friday’s sessions was the always informative Jesse Smith with an in depth talk on the topic of the severe operating limitations caused by the sharp curve at Hawks Nest and the planned, but never fulfilled, efforts to alieve the problems.

Jesse, a perennial volunteer at searching, sorting and filing the vast archives of the Chesapeake and Ohio Historical Society, has a knack for finding unique and interesting stories hidden in the history of the C & O.

Saturday morning is generally a time set aside for some railfanning and group or individual exploring the heart of C & O country. This year attendees were offered a tour and inside look at the archives of the Chesapeake and Ohio Historical Society, led by Tom Dixon and Karen Parker.

The C&OHS, based at Clifton Forge, VA is a treasure trove of information for C & O modelers and history enthusiasts. The mostly volunteer and nonprofit educational group maintains thousands of photographs, books and files as well as a collection of full size C & O equipment that tell the story of the Chesapeake and Ohio, its predecessors and successors.

There was also an opportunity to visit the Hinton Railroad Museum. The museum, operated entirely by volunteers, is normally only open during the spring through fall months, but was open this day just for the attendees of the C & O Modelers Weekend.

The Hinton Railroad Museum houses a large and varied collection of Chesapeake and Ohio Railroad artifacts and photos, many of which tell the story of the close ties between the city of Hinton and the C & O Railroad.

Hinton, WV is rich with railroading history. The C & O had a huge presence in Hinton for most of the 20th century with thousands of Hinton residence employed by the railroad. Railroad operations in Hinton are now only a faint shadow of what they once were. Amtrak still stops in Hinton, thanks to the beauty and the recreational opportunities of the area. Chesapeake and Ohio’s successor, CSX Transportation, maintains a small maintenance crew at Hinton and it is a crew change point for train crews.

Most of the tracks and structures of the yard and engine terminals are gone, but there are still interesting pieces of the past to be found in Hinton, for those willing to look.

Saturday’s sessions started with Karen Parker following up on her Friday C & O Mallet talk with a discussion on how to model the C & O’s H4 and H6 2-6-6-2 locomotives. Karen also displayed a Bachmann model that she is in the process of modifying to be a more accurate replica of a C & O locomotive.

Next up, Tom Dixon, long time Chesapeake & Ohio Historical Society leader, gave a slide presentation from his personal collection of images of the C & O from 1968 to 1972. Tom’s affection for the C & O not only provided the impetus to start the C&OHS but also to capture on film routine operations of the C & O. That Tom had the forethought to record such images is a windfall for modelers and historians today.

As the evening proceeded Jerry Doyle gave a short presentation remembering one the C & O Modelers Weekend regulars, Gary Burdette. Gary lost a battle with cancer just about a week before this modelers weekend. Gary was an educator, prolific modeler and enthusiastic historian. He was easy going, eager to learn and even more eager to share what he knew. His always positive attitude and smile were infectious.

Jerry continued the evening with a slide presentation of images taken at and around the C & O Huntington Shops in the mid 1970s. The informative show gave a rare look at what was being used at, worked on at and stored at the massive facility.

The last session of the evening was an explanation of prototype track laying engineering and how it transfers to model railroading. Rob Kitchen shared his experience designing track for real railroads from Chessie System to Canadian National. Using photos and video he demonstrated how good track laying practices, essential for real railroads, rewards model railroaders with smooth operations. As an added bonus, following prototype practices also leads to more realistic scenery as bridges and drainage culverts add interesting features to a model layout.

As the evening winds down attendees chatted and shared ideas and methods. There were several nice models on display and the owners are always ready to talk techniques and methods used to complete their models.

As in past years, the finale for the weekend is the drawing for raffle prizes. The C & O Modelers Weekend is the primary fund raising event for the St. Albans Chesapeake and Ohio Modelers and Museum, Inc. (SACOMM) and the raffle is a large portion of the income derived during the weekend. While the funds generated by the sales of raffle tickets are important to SACOMM, the drawing of tickets and awarding of prizes is just plain fun!

To select the raffle winners Paul Tabit was joined by Brandy Dudley of the C&OHS. Together they drew tickets and gave away nearly $1400 in prizes.

With raffle prizes awarded and modeling talks complete, most folks took some time to hang out and catch up with each other as the C & O Modelers Weekend is an opportunity for long distance friends to sit and talk face to face. If smiling faces are an accurate indication, the 2017 C & O Modelers Weekend was a success.

By popular demand, the C & O Modelers Weekend will return to Hawks Nest State Park for 2018. While Pipestem State Park is a beautiful facility, it is nearly impossible to beat the atmosphere provided by the view of the New River Gorge and the old C & O main line and bridge at Hawks Nest. Mark your calendar now, The 2018 Chesapeake and Ohio Modelers Weekend will be April 6 – 7 at Hawks Nest State park Lodge.

The St. Albans Chesapeake & Ohio Modelers and Museum, Inc. would like to thank the following for helping to make this event possible.

West Virginia Division of Tourism

Pipestem Resort State Park

WV Hobbies and Crafts & Nitro Hobbies and Crafts
304-757-6474 & 304-755-4304

Bowser Manufacturing

Broadway Limited Imports, LLC


InterMountain Railway Company

Micro-Trains Line Co., Inc.

Wm. K. Walthers, Inc.

Woodland Scenics


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