April 28, 2018

Convention Co-chairs: Marshall Abrams & Brian Sheron

MER is a partner in the convention; takes 50% of the responsibility, would also share 50% of the surplus or profit. Biggest source of income for the Potomac Division; dues share from National is small, and typically do not make money from MiniCons. Last conference made about $5000 for the co-sponsoring Potomac and Chesapeake divisions-- the biggest ever.

Costs have gone up. Have to pay for the meeting rooms this time. Costs this year are based on a break-even of 200 attendees. Expecting more than that. About 25 registered so far.

Convention is at the Hilton on Rockville Pike; I-270 to Montrose Road is the best way to get there. Indoor underground parking; will need passes for convention participants or there is a charge. Right next to the Twinbrook Station.

Starts Thursday morning, October 4th, runs through Sunday noon, October 7th. MER Business Meeting is Sunday morning. Have to be cleared out by noon. Tom is Floor Manager and Hotel liaison. Either Marshall or Brian will be at the hotel at all times, acting as Tom’s assistant. There will be a phone as a “command center,” and the phone will be passed to whomever is in charge -- an innovation from the last convention in Harrisburg.

There is a process for purchasing equipment and materials: needs to be discussed and paid through the MER Registrar, who keeps records. Can take 4-6 weeks to get reimbursed; Brian can intervene if this is a problem.

Floor Manager and Hotel liaison: Tom Brodrick

Clinic rooms are 16, 17, and 18. 770 square feet, all the same size.

19 is the model contest room

20 is the room for White Elephant sale

22 is the room for modules. 70x40, and a weird shape. Two, maybe three setups could get in there. Loading modules from the parking lot into the room is a bit difficult.

Need a new module coordinator/liaison. Tom Brodrick volunteered. Job entails contacting the modular groups (usually PMC, NVNTK, FreeMo group) asking if they want to set up. Members do not have to register if they stay in the module room (but can’t go out and sit in clinics, etc. We cannot afford to offer free registrations to volunteers, so we make a special case for modular members to allow them to set up and demonstrate their layouts without registering.)

Some divisions do have vendors at their meets; there are so many shows in this area we cannot compete.

Banquet menu: American barbecue buffet to keep the cost down. A lunch menu they’re giving us for dinner; plus a 23% service charge. Contract gave us a 20% discount -- but meal prices start at $55-60. Barbecue is $42 plus service charge, still less than dinner price.

Clinic rooms: Have to make sure to have good extension cords. Nothing with electrical tape repairs. Probably not lecterns, but some kind of table for laptops and models/materials. Will have a couple of make-and-take clinics for which tables need to be covered. Party City has good party tablecloths.

One of the room should be tables/chairs/classroom style; the other two can be theater-style. Rooms will seat about 40 in theater style.

Easels: We have 4; one for each clinic room and one for the lobby next to the registration desk for carpools, etc. Tom will check whether the hotel has LCD displays outside the rooms. John has extra easels. Marty does not have any easels.

White Elephant Committee: Chair/coordinator - Gary Eames members - Erne Little, Bill Sydow, Bill White

White Elephant sale: Room is 20x40; can have tables up against the wall, another table coming up the middle of the room, with 6’ aisles on either side, then against the other wall. (It’s not an auction; there is no bidding. People just buy at posted prices or make offers to sellers.) Will need 2-3 chairs. Convention takes 10% of the White Elephant.

We need a written description of exactly how the White Elephant sale is going to work for the website and convention book. Tom will supply seed money for making change -- probably $200-400. Can leave the box in locked room, perhaps better to take it home or leave it in hotel safe.

Will also have the raffle items out -- things donated -- will require table space and a sign.

Should lists of items/forms be completed in advance? Can be made available on the website. Sellers get 50 stubs and fill out with their information. Have an envelope with their name on it for each seller. Take the money and the stub and put it in the envelope. At the end of the auction at 4PM on Saturday, close the doors, take the Division’s 10%. Or have Tom there with the checkbook. Reopen at 5 or 6 for people to settle up.

We are a not-for-profit, tax-exempt from sales tax in Maryland.

Most important question: staff for the room - minimum 2, 3 at rush times. Have only 4 people, one of whom is has not responded to e-mails and calls. John Paganoni, Ed Rosado, and Steve Samul volunteered. Recommended that only one or two people handle the money to avoid mistakes.

A/V Committee: Chair - Gil Fuchs members - John Glaab

We have two projectors. We will have laptops. John volunteered his projector and laptop. No need for third projector from Chesapeake division.

Recommended that we have spare bulbs for each projector. Will need good extension cords. Will arrange for clickers. Need to have HDMI cables.

Will ask people to send presentations in advance to make sure the presentation works. Anything not sent 2 weeks before convention will be at presenter’s risk.

Mac users will not have Macs. Must use most common standards which is PowerPoint and PC.

Need people to be there at the beginning of every clinic. Schedule right now is a problem. Have only 2 people now -- need at least three more people to assist with clinic rooms. Was a proposal that A/V people introduce the clinician. No value seen in that.

Any public terminals? Things online? One or two computers people can use to get to stuff that is online. Most hotels lock down the computers in the business center. Tom can double-check whether we have access to hotel terminals. There is a business center.

There is Wi-fi. We will have free Wi-fi throughout the hotel.

Door Prize Solicitation: Bill Lyders & Barry White

Committee asked to add to the list for possible donors. Bill got about $400 worth of free stuff at Timonium.

Don’t overachieve; door prizes should be kept to 2-3 tables. 40 or so prizes. Raffle tickets sold at White Elephant and registration.

Barry asked to buy a roll of tickets. Turn the receipt into Tom or Brian.

Layout Tours: Chair - Bill Demas Southern MD coordinator - Bill Roman

22 confirmed, 7 confirmed ops session

Only thing needed: to have someone at the desk to see if someone needs a car pool, especially to ops sessions. Do we need somebody to sit at the main desk to make sure that everyone who wants to go to an ops session or a layout tour has a ride?

Often have a separate bulletin board for ops session or layout tour car pools. Can put just a signup sheet for drivers and people who want to ride with that driver. Meeting place is such and such. Putting somebody at the desk puts them in the coordinator role.

7 Northern Virginia layouts open on Saturday afternoon - people will have to decide, can’t see all 7 even in the expanded 4 hours.

2013 convention had 55 open houses and 13 ops sessions. How many should we aim for? Generally thinking that we have enough and do not need to solicit more.

Need to have a central location to post cancellations and changes. (Seems like we will need a lot of bulletin board space.) We would probably have to pay for anything from the hotel. Marty does not have a bulletin board either.

7 slots for layout tours; with 6-7 per slot, that is 45 layouts. Saturday afternoon is filled. Can have overlapping if we have enough to justify. Friday afternoon or Saturday or Friday morning for Southern Maryland. Out of 10 possibilities in Southern Maryland got no response to e-mail. Rockville to Bob Reid is 80 miles.

Marshall has a mileage and time chart between each of the layouts in a cluster. If people see the long times they may not want to go see a layout, when it is not really that far. For people coming from out of town mileage will be deceptive.

Have only 8 signs left. Call Susquehanna to see if they have more. Or just get more.

Timesaver Switching

At Susquehanna Convention Bill suggested this. Conventions follow a pretty standard format. What if we had the John Allen Timesaver switching puzzle? Have a prize or award? Didn’t know Carolina had them. Ask MER for a grant. Other Division superintendents pooh-poohed.

Going to set them up and let people try. Not a matter of time, number of moves.

Will set up in model room. Keep it for fun.

Convention Staff Armbands: Lee Stoermer

Just need something to identify us as staff. Go for the soft ones. Put “Convention Staff” on them.

Banquet/Speaker Liaison: Brian Sheron

Have Lou Sassi as speaker. Also doing 2 clinics.

He is getting free registration, room, and $200 to rent van to bring down stuff he needs for his clinic.

Clinics: Marty McGuirk

Need to beat bushes with other Divisions for clinicians? A couple from Carolina and a couple from NJ who have contacted Marty. NER convention is the week or two weeks before.

Volunteers for:

History of Control Systems

C&O Locomotives

When can Marty supply the list so that A/V committee can badger them for presentations?

Marty thinking about doing a mini-version of hands on clinics, e.g. make trees, where people just gather around. Trying to do it at NMRA conventions, not structured to do that.

Modular Club Liaison: Tom Brodrick taking over from Bill Sydow

Publicity: Ed Rosado

All can help by taking and distributing flyers. Distribute to hobby shops, other locations where people might pick up a flyer.

Ed has written 3 articles for MER Local.

Written to other areas to get word out. Ads in MR, RMC, NMRA. ⅛ page in the MR Magazine of August-September.

Website/Internet management: Marshall Abrams & Bill Mosteller

Web page is up. Making it accessible for small screens. Includes interactive maps that give directions to layouts, including how you get from Layout A to Layout B.

Bill and Marshall will be available throughout the convention to change the web page in real time, in case a layout is closed or cancelled. So people can check it.

A suggested addition to website: discussion or bulletin board? Marty still doesn’t have an easel. Lee Stoermer will look into having a Facebook group.


Does MER provide? Have one, but don’t count on it. Their photographer will stay at the hotel. If we want photos, should ask hosts. Speaker? Banquet? Modulars? Candids at clinics?

Will someone volunteer to take photos around the event? Marshall when he is there, assisted by John Glaab.

Registration Desk Volunteers: Brian Benoit, Jim Hellwege

Busiest on Thursday night and Friday, a little bit on Saturday morning. NJ Division will have a trainee. Should have total 3 people at the desk at all time, rotating through.

Any more volunteers? A lot of it is stuffing packets and handing them out.

Clinic Room signage: Ed Rosado

Need schedule for clinics. Marty will have a first cut within 6 weeks. Obviously will change. Something outside the clinic room before each session.

Convention Booklet: Marshall, Randy

Big challenge is reducing the information on the website to the page count available for the booklet. TBD whether will have a separate book for layout tours; costs a little more to have a separate book bound. May not be necessary when maps are online.

Marshall has a printer near Dulles, but is open to other providers. Shipping from out of time is prohibitively expensive.

Prototype Tours: John and Brian

Walkersville Southern RR is just south of Frederick. A guided tour of yard by a volunteer. Dave Collarson (?) owns one of the cars and owes Brian big time. Talk about what they have in the shop, the cars they have, old Pennsy caboose, 40s/50s freight car. Then the plan is to get a block of tickets. Probably 20-25 people at most; does not warrant renting an entire car, which is $450. People would rather ride in the open car up front. Get a block of tickets, put it on the registration form with a cutoff date. Once know how many people, go back to the railroad and give them back whatever tickets were not sold. Will set up car pools. Meet there at 9AM or so, get on train, take a ride (90 minutes) and then done.

Will need for that excursion is one person to be the leader. Need a volunteer to handle that tour. Jerry volunteers; Marshall needs a write-up.

Walkersville Southern RR didn't open for excursions until April. Brian plans to travel up there next weekend to talk to them.

The other option: Point of Rocks station and tunnel. Have not found someone able to give tours. Probably should scratch that.

Other option: Trolley museum in Silver Spring. Need a volunteer to work that with the trolley museum. No volunteers stepped forward.

Marshall has tallied 89 people who have actively participated in Division activities over the past year. Report from this meeting sent to that group might net some additional volunteers. Marshall will work with Brian to write it up.

Suggestions: Try new opportunities

- Approach assisted living facilities

- Service clubs



Local Convention Committee (4/28/18)

Convention Co-chairs: Marshall Abrams & Brian Sheron

Floor Manager and Hotel liaison: Tom Brodrick, Brian Sheron and Marshall Abrams will be backup

White Elephant Committee: Chair/coordinator - Gary Eames members -Erne Little, Bill White, John Paganoni, Steve Samul, Ed Rosado, Jerry Skeim

A/V Committee: Chair - Gil Fuchs members - John Glaab, Barry Thompson, Marty McGuirk

Door Prize Solicitation: Bill Lyders & Barry White

Layout Tours: Chair - Bill Demas Southern MD coordinator - Bill Roman

Time-Saver Switching Layout - Bill Roman

Convention Staff Armbands: Lee Stoermer

Call Boards: Bill Demas

Banquet/Speaker Liaison: Brian Sheron

Clinics: Marty McGuirk

Modular Club Liaison: Tom Brodrick and/or Ernie Little

Tours: John Paganoni & Brian Sheron

Publicity: Ed Rosado

Website/Internet management: Marshall Abrams & Bill Mosteller

Photographer: Marshall Abrams, John Glaab

Registration Desk Volunteers: Jim Hellwege

Clinic Room signage: Ed Rosado

Convention Booklet: Marshall Abrams, Randy Ghetler

Certificates (Open Houses, Call Boards, Clinicians, Volunteers): Lee Stoermer