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Grand Scales Quarterly's
"Convention 2001"

By Jim O'Connor

The GSQ*note convention was to take place on October 5th and 6th, 2001 in central Wisconsin. Those dates were suddenly in serious doubt. Magazine publishers Greg and Susan Robinson (editors of the Grand Scales Quarterly ) envisioned a gathering of  large scale railroaders from all over.  The massive attack on New York and Washington on September 11 overshadowed everyone's daily lives and plans.  Travel was disrupted across America as all air traffic was halted for 4 days while security arrangements could be put in place.  In less than 3 weeks the convention was to be held. Should it be cancelled, postponed or held as scheduled?  A week after the attack, President Bush told the nation to get on with our business, our lives. 

By the time the convention was to take place, the Country was only starting to get back to normal.  Despite the difficulties and uncertainties, the decision was made to go forward and hold the convention as planned.  Considering the travel situation, with folks flying in from distant points, the attendance was excellent with about 200 Grand Scalers on Friday and Saturday. 

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The GSQ's convention was held at Lee Merrick's "Little A-Merrick-A" amusement park and railroad.  "The Whiskey River Railroad" takes its name from the river which runs through the sprawling Merrick estate. The nearly 3 mile, 16" gauge railroad wanders past exotic animals such as zebra, Texas longhorn and the ostrich-like emu.  Tiny Marshall, Wisconsin is home to the Little A-Merrick-A amusement park.  The park is located barely a quarter mile from the town's main intersection and yet, it's on the outskirts of town with a dairy farm across the road.  Lee Merrick's amusement park has dozens of rides including a Ferris wheel, tilt-a-whirl, a sky ride, 3 small roller coaster rides and a go-cart track.  But the center piece is definitely the 16" gauge steam railroad. Lee Merrick put Darrell Klompmaker in charge of operating his railroad several years ago. 
In addition to running the railroad, Darrell keeps himself very busy building locomotives and cars at the Merrick Light Railway Equipment Works just down the track from the amusement park.  The Merrick Works consists of several workshops located along the right-of-way.   On our tour of the shops we got to see what must be the rarest of grand scale sights; a 14-1/8" gauge Mallet which will be re-gauged while it's being rebuilt. It was at these "Works" where Darrell built No.1919, the showpiece Pacific locomotive (top photo). 

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The highlight for many of the visiting railroaders was "Rent a Locomotive".  For a nominal fee of  $45 ($35 for diesel) you could take a turn behind the throttle of one of  Darrell's rolling works of art. Here Claude Gresene from Miami, Florida takes No.1919's throttle as Engineer Fred Vergenz checks the water.  Fred took some time explaining the location and function of the various controls. Then it's release the brakes and a quick "toot toot" and Claude eases back the throttle and 1919 begins to move with the usual "whoosh" of steam from the cylinder cocks. Guest engineers make the entire [nearly] 3 mile loop in just under a half hour. 

The 2 day convention was packed with things to do.  You needed to schedule your locomotive rental around the frequent seminars given by several of the leaders in the industry.  Between seminars, you might have a few minutes to meet and talk with the folks at the vendors' tables. I had time to meet almost every vendor. They were more than happy to answer questions and show what they had brought.  Hillcrest Shops had a very nice display which included an operating demonstration of a complete air brake system.  Several companies are supporting "Miniature Train Co.'s G-12 and G-16 trains.  These included the Allan Herschell company and Gerry Warner.  I met a couple of owners of G-16 trains who spent quite some time with those vendors.  Unfortunately, several vendors that planned to attend had to cancel due to transportation problems related to the September 11th attack.

Participating vendors included:

  • Allan Herschell  Company LLC; Distributor of Miniature Train Co. parts.  716-692-1884

  • Atlantic Tempco Inc.; Drawings 3.25" scale Colorado narrow gauge locomotive. 304-485-4042

  • Gerry Warner;  Miniature Train Co. parts 570-297-5117

  • Hamman Miller Beauchamp Deeble, Inc.; liability and physical damage insurance. 800-272-4594 3633 East Broadway, Long Beach, CA 90803

  • Hillcrest Shops; equipment from 12 inch to 36.  559-638-2762 or 6943 S. Reed Ave., Reedley, CA 93654

  • Mammoth Locomotive Works; drawings and castings for locomotives 1.5," 3," or 5" scale. PO Box 312, Clifton, CO 81520. 970-434-2889

  • Merrick Light Railway Equipment Works; restorations and custom built steam, diesel and rolling stock Contact Darrell at 608-655-3380.

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Greg and Susan had lined up several outstanding speakers to hold seminars on various interesting subjects.  I found Andrew Jugle's talk about the Miniature Train Co. fascinating.  As a kid, I rode for hours on the G-16 train located at the small amusement park, Kiddyland, which was located near our house in suburban Chicago.  MTC, I learned, was a suburban company founded in Elmhurst, IL.

Seminars were conducted as follows:

  • Locomotive Construction; John Buckwalter; Atlantic Tempco Inc.

  • MTC History; J. Andrew Jugle; MTC Historian

  • Grand Scales in the UK; Simon Townsend, UK Railroad Writer

  • Brakes & Oil Atomizer; Sean Bautista; Owner, Hill Crest Shops

  • WF&P History; Dave Neubauer

  • Insurance Needs; Mike Deeble;  Deeble, Inc.

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It was busy at the GSQ convention but you always had time to ride a the famous Gene Autry Daylight direct from his estate, "The Melody Ranch", in California. There's enough grand scale history at the Whiskey River Railroad for several articles.

Two questions came up over and over:  "When is the next GSQ convention?" and "Where will it be"?  I put those very questions to organizer; Susan Robinson.  Susan told me that with the overwhelming positive response to the convention, there will definitely be another.  As for the second question regarding location, Susan says she and Greg will be looking into that soon.  For me, the Whiskey River RR was awesome and will be hard to top!  In the meantime, Susan said, they are planning a tour of the grand scale railroads of England.  She asks that anyone interested in such a tour next year, please contact her at

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About GSQ

* GSQ The Grand Scales Quarterly 
The only magazine devoted to 12 gauge or larger scale railways 530-527-0141 or PO Box 8953, Red Bluff, CA 96080 USA

About the host railroad for the GSQ convention

"Little A-Merrick-A" amusement park and railroad
700 E. Main, Marshall, WI (608) 655-3181

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OCTOBER 15, 2001 All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. 


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