The Idea Store: Lincoln Square’s Imagination Shop – for RRers, 2!

Doing a small bit of advance work for the upcoming (March 30-31, 2019) annual Lincoln Square Train Show, I ran into an old friend, Jessy at The IDEA Store:

Let me tell you, they have some cool and useful stuff if you’re doing many things connected to our hobby that require art supplies or , umm, whatchamacallits!… I’ll show you some.

In among lots of obviously useful stuff for any artist, there are things like plaster, Celluclay, and more.

Like ephemera. I didn’t dig to see about old RR stuff, but the signs you can make for the layout will be legendary, because they will be real. No too fancy prices, this shop is run to benefit the C-U Schools Foundation. Your purchases and donations help bring stuff to enhance the educational experiences of kids in our schools. Note that, while the store will remain open for sales as usual, for the next two weeks the donations of materials to recycle and otherwise donate will go on hiatus beginning the week Feb 19. The IDEA Store will resume the intake of donations the week of March 5. Note they are closed on Mondays.

Like to scratchbuild with fine cardboard? Not sure if they have any Strathmore in stock, but I didn’t check. They do have a nice selection of paper items that can serve many scratch-building needs.

Need some brass to build that special loco, err, contraption? Or just to junk up that junkyard? How about these interesting brass clock with chime mechanisms? They need some love but could serve up many small parts and gears- or possibly even run again.

I was impressed by the selection of all kinds of stuff at prices that inspire you to say, “What could I do with that?” The Idea Store is located in the very south wing of Lincoln Square on the west side as soon as you enter the southern doors. They are looking forward to welcoming model railroaders, whether at the upcoming train show or any time else you happen to stop by.

Arduino & Model RRing Clinic: ITD Meeting, Feb. 9 in Monticello

NMRA member Thomas Ose will present a session on “Arduino and Model Railroading” at the next Illinois Terminal Division monthly meeting.  It is coming up on Saturday, February 9, 2019 from 1pm to 4pm at Buzz Swett’s home on the outskirts of Monticello. Write to our divisional email ( if you need directions

Arduino are small computers that have many different applications in Model Railroading.  The first part will be an introduction on what an Arduino is and why we as modelers care to use them.  The Arduino presentation will then go deeper into the usage of Arduinos in model railroading.  We will look at DCC++ in more detail and will look at the required components, how they are modified and configured.  We will then have a test track where we can see DCC++ in action using JMRI as the controller. If time allows additional topics on speedometer and sensors will be presented.

Thomas has a background in hardware and software design and has been modeling for a long time utilizing DCC and Arduinos for control and automation.

Lincoln Square Train Show, March 30 & 31, 2019 in Downtown Urbana

Mark your calendar now for the 2019 Lincoln Square Train Show! This year’s show will be March 30 and 31, 2019 from 10am to 6pm on Saturday and 11am to 4pm on Sunday. Admission is FREE! Organized for four decades by the Midwest Railroad Club and the Urbana Free Library, this year’s show is cosponsored by the Illinois Terminal Division of the National Model Railroad Association.

The ITD will organize the show beginning in 2020 and we look forward to carrying on the MWRRC and UFL’s rich tradition of bringing the local railroad community together for the free annual train show. Come on down and visit the vendors and display layouts.

There will also be vendors from the weekly indoors Saturday market sponsored by the Urbana Business Association on hand if you get there on Saturday morning, so for those not interested in trains, tag along and there’s other vendors you may want to visit.

For more information, call Mike Lehman at 217-344-5609

Newest Layout in the Division Gets Thumbs Up

The Tuscola Beltway Railroad, the newest layout in the Illinois Terminal Division, received visitors today at the monthly divisional meet-up. Owner/Operator Thomas was called to other duties today, but everyone else enjoyed a quick tour of this very much under construction layout. Located in the superintendent’s garage, it’s part of the division’s mentorship program, which delivers good advice and on the spot instruction in whatever setting works best.

In the top picture, Mark, Buzz, and Allen look things over and discuss track arrangements. In the second, Margaret, Terry, and Mark give the project a thumb’s up. Everyone is looking forward to seeing how things grow and encourage Thomas that once he gets past the wiring, it’s all fun – really!


First Run of Tuscola Beltway

After months of hard work, usually a few hours one day a week, the first run of the Tuscola Beltway took place on Wednesday, November 14, 2018. IC 6135 was the motive power, testing the as yet unspiked trackage. Thomas had to crawl underneath and do some last minute troubleshooting, but then it was showtime.


Lincoln Square Model Train Show Announces Change in Organizing Group, Fun to Stay on Track

Annual Spring Lincoln Square Model Train Show Announces Change in Organizing Group

Fun to Stay on Track


The Midwest Central Railroad Club and the Illinois Terminal Division of the National Model Railroad Association are happy to announce an agreement to transition management of the annual free Lincoln Square Train Show from the former to the latter group over the next year. Operating for more than three decades on a spring weekend timed somewhere around the last week of March or first week of April, Midwest Central Railroad Club, in association with the Urbana Free Library, created a remarkable legacy of community service, entertainment, and commerce that continues to serve local modelers during times of great change in the hobby. The Train Show is one of the bigger events in attendance numbers at Lincoln Square Village, helping draw customers to the mall and downtown Urbana.


Time takes its toll on us all.  The event founders of Midwest Central sought continuity in considering their options of how to carry on with the show. NMRA members in the Illinois Terminal Division appreciated what a loss it would be for them and others in the local modeling community if the show did not go on. Together both groups are pleased to announce that, while 2019 will be the last year that Midwest Central will organize the Lincoln Square Train Show, the ITD will shadow members of Midwest Central to learn the ropes in order to continue the show beginning in 2020.  Several key personnel from Midwest Central will continue helping ITD with various aspects of the show, as well as providing a ready resource for consulting.


The next Lincoln Square Train Show is scheduled for Saturday, March 30 and Sunday, March 31, 2019. Vendors and the public attending should anticipate a timetable and various connections very similar to past years, the same protocols for table reservations, and familiar faces along with meeting some of the new organizers. The ITD is just at the beginning of considering additional programming that its access to resources at the disposal of the National Model Railroad Association potentially provides. We look forward to seeing those we know and to serving those we haven’t yet met. See you at the show in 2019…and beyond!


For table reservation inquiries for the 2019 Lincoln Square Train Show contact:

Bruce Stikkers at 217-469-2793,


For general info about the 2019 show contact:

Rick Schroeder at 217-359-2868,


For inquiries about the 2020 Lincoln Square Train Show or if you want to know more about the Illinois Terminal Division of the National Model Railroad Association, please call Mike Lehman at 217-344-5609 (email to: or contact us via email links listed on our website at:




For questions or comments about this pending change, you can contact Rick Schroeder or Mike Lehman at their above listed numbers and email addresses.

Having Fun with the Illinois Valley Division Layout at Monticello RR Days

It was a very busy September, but the Illinois Valley Division brought its modular layout to Illinois Terminal Division territory for Monticello Railroad Days on September 15 and 16. Members from both divisions, led by Minton Dings, MMR, set the layout up early Saturday morning so it would be ready for the crowds. Our goal was to provide a hands on operating experience for kids to get a taste of model railroading. We prioritized getting track time for kids under 18, but usually found time for older kids to also operate.

A lot of the time, model railroaders like to run slow so the operating fun is more prototypical. Maybe it was just early, but that Saturday morning saw some REALLY slooow ops…

Latter on, perhaps to test things at a more normal kid-operating speed, things sped up quite a bit…

IVDITDfaster from Mike Lehman on Vimeo.

Then things slowed down a little, to almost normal, at least as normal as a group of train-deranged adults can be.

Things mostly settled down to entertaining the public after a few more hijinks. If you were there, you had fun and we hope to see you next year. If you missed it, we hope you’ll make time for Monticello Railroad Days next year!

Thomas Operates on the Monticello Railway Museum


When model railroaders get together to operate, they usually speak in terms of what the gauge and scale of the layout they’ll be working on happens to be. In this case. Thomas (NOT the famous locomotive, but one of our newest members) decided he wanted to operate some large scale equipment, REALLY large scale,  as in 1:1!

I got to ride along for the price of a coach seat and record the event for posterity. I used an iPhone 6 for the video, mounted in a Zhiyun Smooth-Q gyro-stabilized camera mount. This made it easy to take good video and when I learn how to use it better it might look even better. For now, it’s not a bad video at all. Enjoy!

EngineerThomas1 from Mike Lehman on Vimeo.

EngineerThomas2 from Mike Lehman on Vimeo.

Promoting the “Sharing Economy” of Model Railroading



The “sharing economy” might be something you haven’t heard of before. You’ve nonetheless likely experienced something like “…an economic model often defined as a peer-to-peer (P2P) based activity of acquiring, providing or sharing access to goods and services that are facilitated by a community based on-line platform.” (Google definition)   Except for the internet, that sounds a lot like good old fashioned sharing. Sometimes that sort of thing can be tough for kids to learn, but as we grow older it usually becomes obvious that helping others can pay big dividends. Model railroading is a great hobby made even better by connecting with others who share our interests. These relationships and interactions found in the working world form the basis of what model railroaders call operations. the engaging simulation in scale model form of what happens on the prototype. In effect, we share our interest in railroading by bringing the experience people had in working on it to life.

Railroads remain complicated, although they’ve lost their leading place in such human affairs to such things as nuclear physics, computational machinery, and, yes, the internet. A railroad still requires a a diverse and skillful workforce, everything from financiers, civil engineers, and muscled trackworkers to build it to yardmasters, crews, and clerks to operate it. Thus, it’s no surprise that modeling a railroad may include parts of all such occupations, plus additional artistic aspects involved with building models. It’s intimidating just thinking of where to start with one’s own railroad, even if it’s a fraction of the size of the prototype.

One could be lucky enough to get into this great hobby because of help from family or friends. Most of us have to look farther afield and then it’s quickly apparent there is an easily accessible national organization that modelers have been turning to for decades, the National Model Railroad Association. While the NMRA has a formal structure defined by legal documents like many such groups, for legal, financial, and and many other reasons, what it comes down to is encouraging us to share what we know with each other for the betterment of us all.

You might be surprised by the skills available among the Illinois Terminal Division’s modest number of members, something we are eager to share what we know about. If we can’t help with a specific need, consider that the NMRA Library and Archives gives you access to one the world’s largest collection of railroad books, pictures, and other research materials, plus hundreds of videos ranging from past national convention clinics to video productions from many commercial model railroad video  producers. You can find  a lengthy list of detailed member benefits at this link:

In many cases, though, advice, help or just finding someone with a common interest can be remarkably nearby. We have the beginnings of a small divisional library, plus many of us can be persuaded to loan an item from our personal libraries. The generosity of a former member provided us with an extensive collection of model railroad magazines dating back to the 1940s. Got a hole in your collection or need an old plan? Check with me and I might just have it, free for you to keep.

Tools are another place where members often help each other out.

For building skills, clinics were already mentioned as something members can consume, but clinics are also something any interested member can produce. New clinics are often the result of efforts members make toward their personal goals in the Achievement Program. The AP and its highest award, the Master Model Railroader is often misconceived as a contest. While contesting can be involved with earning the MMR, it’s an option, not a mandate.. What you really compete against in the AP  is yourself as you work to improve your modeling.

Perhaps one of the easiest ways to share is via the internet, since many people are on forums and, increasingly, social media. Here we now have a nearby spot that’s easy to use thanks to Allen’s efforts in setting up this blog. Especially if you’ve never posted to the web before, give it a try. The closest pic is probably already on your phone. Share it  with us and tell us more about it.

Trains are pretty popular subjects, but people go nuts over cats. If you can work a pic in combining both, go for it!