Every fall the movement of a certain type creature begins in early October. It is unlike any other migration recorded. The stirrings begin in American Northeast, followed by activity on the Pacific Coast. Soon there is movement from the Southern Mid-West, the Northern Plains, from as far south as the Florida Peninsula, from out in the Southern Pacific Ocean and from Canadian provinces.
It is not a movement south to warmer climes, but rather a concentration in an unremarkable suburb of Chicago. The annual Prototype Modelers Meet in Naperville.(Technically Lisle).
Who are these creatures who make this trek? They are some of the best model railroaders in North America. They come together to share knowledge, experiences and comradeship. They come together to share adult beverages and mourn friends who have passed on. They look to see what new products are being offered by the manufacturers who help enable their interests.
Some spend hours flipping through the enormous collections of railroad oriented photographs that have been hauled partway across the continent. Invariably some previously unknown treasure is turned up, or some obscure bit of detail is confirmed, but more often , yet another question is raised about the glory days of railroading in North America.
Old friendships are renewed and new ones are made. Faces are connected to names that have only been seen on the internet.
Modelers approach manufacturers with suggestions about cars to model. Usually with photos, drawings and other important data in hand.
And then there’s the display room. Tables of beautifully rendered models, covering many eras and prototype railroads. Brought, not to be judged, but to be shared and to hopefully inspire others to greatness.
And the sheer joy of it all. My roommate for the 4 days told me he’d laughed more in the last 4 days than in the last 4 months. It’s hard to not be happy when surrounded by so many like minded people.
It’s over another year, the travelers have returned home. Already planning for next year’s return. Check your calendar for the 3rd weekend in October and consider making the trek, (pilgrimage?), to Naperville.
I plan to be there.