1. Easier to maintain
  2. Continuous running vs. point-to-point
  3. Downsizing to a smaller, more compact layout
  4. I’m not getting younger- the new layout should be easier to operate and take apart down the road

2023 NMRA Northeastern Region Convention

The NMRA Northeastern Region’s (NER) Cannonball Express Convention took place in Uniondale, Long Island, from Thursday October 5th through Sunday October 8th. Long Island is the home of the NER’s Sunrise Division. Three NMRA members from our Hudson Valley Division attended the numerous clinics, visited layouts, took a tour of Grand Central Terminal via the Long Island Railroad and participated in layout operating sessions.

Our Division had on display several dioramas, Scott Meyer’s portable layout and a PowerPoint slideshow put together by Henry Kramer. Quite a few Convention attendees stopped by and complimented our displays. Scott and Henry conducted two clinics detailing the construction of Scott’s ultra-light portable layout.

Gordy Robinson, current NMRA President, John Doering, past NER President and Christina Zambri, NMRA Marketing Consultant, presented in-depth thought, strategies, plans and available materials that the regions and divisions could adopt to further their own organizational goals and objectives. Basically, the old NMRA operating model is being replaced with a new 21st Century one.

The day-to-day schedule of clinics is included below.


Not too long ago, our Hudson Valley Division of the NMRA recognized the need for a portable lightweight layout that could be setup relatively easily at train shows and train meetings. Scott Meyer took on the task and constructed a lightweight layout that met these requirements. The layout itself weighs 9 lbs. and an additional staging area weighs 2 lbs. The layout section is 66 inches by 18 inches and the staging module is 36 inches by 6 inches. Both sit firmly on a 6 ft long table with a little overhang on both ends. Thank you, Scott, for spending the time to plan, build and demonstrate this layout.

Scott recently completed his portable layout project, and it is a masterpiece. The following photos of the finished layout attest to that. First, we have a photo of Scott’s completed grain elevator and the drawing it is based on. Truly a work of art.

Let’s review the original start of project. He started with a sandwich of 2 one-inch-thick pieces of Styrofoam glued together. Layering the foam base enables you to easily model depressed, flat areas like watercourses or in Scott’s case, an abandoned quarry. Cut the top layer before gluing.

Scott uses Liquid Nails for Projects exclusively for wood to foam, Styrene to wood/foam, cork to foam and track to cork or foam joints bonding. 

Four cross pieces of 1×2 topped with a 2″ wide strip of 1/4″ plywood were spaced out evenly and glued to the foam (drill wire holes first!).

1/8″ styrene is used for the fascia and backdrop. Scott’s was ordered pre-cut to 4″ and 8″ wide strips. These are now glued and screwed to the cross pieces and the foam. Yes, you can use screws in foam! They hold surprisingly well but will strip easily. Scott predrills and countersinks the styrene and tightens them until they just touch its surface. You can use 1.5 ” or 2″ wood screws or wallboard screws. Aluminum channel protects the corners and reinforces the backdrop ends.

Scott did go back and reinforced the handles. Lesson learned.   

Next, Scott put in cork roadbed for the mainline. 

The plan calls for small radius Peco code 72 switches. These switches were paired with Micro Engineering code 70 flex track. To keep things simple and save weight, the switches will be “finger thrown”. No issues with dead frogs yet.

Wiring is as simple as possible for DCC using 22AWG solid wire. It is anchored by cardboard strips glued to the underside. Scott uses NCE at home, so he bought their Twin Starter Set for a lightweight base station and 3-amp power supply. By plugging the antenna module in its port, he gets wireless control with all functions on his Procab.   

The layout is fully functional and, as mentioned earlier in the article, weighs 9 lbs. With structures and scenery, the estimated end weight will be less than 15 lbs. It is rigid and stiff. With staging, the 8 1/2-foot structure can fit on a 6′ table firmly, but an 8′ table is better to minimize overhang.

The staging module was built similarly. It is hotwired through a jack on the layout. Rail joiners physically connect the track.

For before and after comparison purposes, some of Scott’s original work is shown along with the completed “after” photo.