Model railroading is our passion!

Prairie Line Experience features world-class clinics by some of the hobby’s top modelers, layout builders, and operators. Our goal is look, feel, and operate like a prototype railroad, while having fun doing it.

Download a copy of the Clinic Schedule Here

Here are just a few of the clinicians and topics you’ll experience at the 2023 PNR Convention: Prairie Line Experience.

Al TurnbullDC/DCC Wiring for your RailroadLet’s discuss layout wiring. How to, what to watch for and apply. I’ll go over the basics with instruction on DC and DCC electronics with methods of wiring a layout or converting from DC to DCC. We’ll explain bus and feeders and techniques, and why we should consider certain things. Some math included; bring your slide rule! 
Alan MurrayViaduct at Elsie CreekA single lane viaduct was constructed to disguise the portal where westbound trains leaving Hoover staging enter Elsie Creek on the Rio Como On30 scale layout for a long day of work. The viaduct was constructed off-site, using a jig which eliminated the trestle bent domino problem, allowed secure assembly, and safe transport to the site. The viaduct will be on display at the convention.
Alan MurrayModule Construction TechniquesModular clubs provide an outlet for those who want to operate on a large layout without building a home layout. Construction techniques differ from a home layout to ensure trackage and scenery survive transport and are compatible with other modules. Design standards, materials, construction techniques, transport, and storage solutions will be presented.
Bill FassettA.P. 101: From Golden Spike to MMR and Beyond!Bill Fassett, PNR AP Manager, will bring you up to date on how the Pacific Northwest Region is realigning the AP and empowering your Division leadership to better serve your needs. He’ll go over the basic elements of the AP and what it really takes to be a successful participant. Attend this clinic and you can assess your own goals and how to complete the Achievement Program.
Bill FassettA.P. 102: Evaluating Your Structures, Cars, or Motive Power ModelsBill Fassett, PNR AP Manager, will provide you the tools to assess your models and determine areas that need improvement to receive a Merit Award. You will participate in AP evaluations of other modelers’ work with experienced evaluators. Attendees are encouraged to bring a model you are not otherwise submitting for evaluation at the convention. This clinic is also suitable for potential evaluators.
Brian FerrisHistory of the Prairie LineThis clinic will cover the Northern Pacific Prairie Line from Tenino  to Tacoma. This route, the first rail line to reach Tacoma in 1873, grew to become a busy mainline to Portland, OR, during its first 40 years. The line then became a secondary branch line with some portions eventually abandoned. Recently, some portions are again a busy mainline. The clinic will include history, operations over the years, and a photo tour.
Burr StewartHow to Make a Video of Your LayoutIt’s easier than you think to make and publish a video about your model railroading. Burr shares what he’s learned so far, traveling down the slippery slope of videography obsession. He will start with the basics of uploading a cellphone video to YouTube and then delve into useful additional gear, file management and editing, and audience development. Every participant who brings a smartphone will then create a video and upload it in real-time.
Buzz AllenTBD
C J Riley MMRCreating a Sense of Rightness for Your Model RailroadThere is a sense of rightness frequently missing on a model railroad. There can be nice rolling stock cruising through complete scenery, past well-built structures, and yet the railroad just doesn’t feel right. In this clinic, I will explore the many things, large and small, that contribute to that “magical sense of rightness.” There will be slides from my collection and from my Kalmbach book, Realistic Layouts: Using the Art of Illusion to Model Like a Pro, that illustrate what contributes to a truly believable model railroad.
Chuck SouleThe Northern Pacific in Early TacomaThis clinic describes the NP’s facilities from its arrival in 1873 through the construction of Tacoma Union Station, presented with historic photographs and maps. We’ll discuss the original Tacoma Wharf and is collapse, the creation of Half Moon Yard, sawmills, coal wharves and bunkers, the trestle and then bridges across City Waterway. The wheat trade after completion of the line across Stampede Pass, warehouses, elevators, flour mills and the Tacoma Smelter, including a metal-lined “tunnel” so locomotives could pass through the Tacoma Mill without setting it on fire. 
Craig ThorpeRailroads, Art and American Life: An Artist’s MemoirCraig Thorpe explores the past, present, and future of rail travel through 30 years of his art. Railroads, Art, and American Life tells the story of rail transportation in America. His artwork depicts not only the golden age of train travel but considers the present and looks forward to a potential future. Featuring many color illustrations from the book, Thorpe’s personal story invites you to relive the heyday of American rail and better understand the role of railroads in our society today.
Craig TownsendBurlington Northern’s Issaquah BranchPrototype modeling is often a balance between researching and model making, with a large dose of scratch building thrown in. Typical layouts occupy a spare room, garage or basement in which the prototype comes alive in miniature. But what if, instead of indoor models, we took this modeling adventure outdoors? Come to an interactive discussion about modeling the BN Issaquah Branch outdoors in 1:29, ~1989. Learn the history of the prototype, dealing with Mother Nature and some massive scratch building projects. My goal is to recreate the railroad as it once was. Discover the ups and downs of prototype modeling outdoors. 
Jessica Smith
David Yadock MMRMaking an old AHM 2-8-4 locomotive compatible with modern track and DCC control systemsIn this clinic I will show the step-by-step process of how to take an older stock AHM 2-8-4 Berkshire locomotive and bring it up to modern track/DCC standards.  The stock drivers will be modified, a new motor will be installed, a sound decoder/Keep-Alive system added, and new attention-grabbing lighting made functional.
David Yadock MMRApplying techniques from the AHM 2-8-4 conversion to other older locomotivesYes, an 0-4-0 Docksider locomotive can have a new motor, sound decoder, and Keep-Alive system added!  This clinic will use the information provided from the previous clinic to show how other older locomotives can and should be modified to newer standards.  Attending Part 1 of this series is highly recommended.    
Ed LiesseMini-Clinic: Improving Kadee Coupler OperationLet me show you how I’ve improved my HO Kadee coupler operation for smoother coupling on my cars and engines. I do this on every coupler before it’s mounted. I’ll use a Kadee #5 for the demonstration so you can see how it’s done. The last time I this on MicroTrains N scale couplers and it seemed to give the same results as the HO Kadees.
Geoff BunzaWILD1: Embedded WiFi Control of DCC & DC locos and devices
Geoff BunzaAnimation Projects for Model Railroads
Geoff BunzaModeling with Magnets
Greg PriceInterior Construction and LightingThere are many techniques for creating a show-stopping building interior complete with lighting!  This clinic reviews multiple techniques for designing and constructing great interiors for your front of layout buildings!
Greg PriceBuilding Better BuildingsThere’s nothing worse than seeing a decent layout populated with shiny plastic buildings! This clinic offers some simple techniques to make sure that your buildings don’t look toy-like and you’ll be proud to have people visiting your layout!
Gregory Wright MMRColoring Outside the Lines: Using Color to Increase RealismJoin MMR Greg Wright and learn how using color, including bright colors, will make your modeling more realistic. Railroads may be drab, but they aren’t monochromatic; neither is nature! Intentional use of color, even the dreaded color wheel from grade school, can enhance your work. This clinic is not just theory; see several examples of weathering, color wheel-based color corrections, and brighter colors put to work on more realistic track, a boxcar, reefer and rock work.
Gregory Wright MMRWorkbench Tips and Ideas for Better ModelingJoin MMR Greg Wright and discuss little things that can make your modelling time more productive, more efficient and even safer. Greg will share ideas from his own work and borrowed from others. Topics include: business cards, baby monitors, shopping in the nail polish aisle, and wheely carts, to name a few. You will be glad you came.
Gregory Wright MMRBetter Automobiles for Your LayoutJoin MMR Greg Wight and increase the realism of your automobiles. Every layout from the 1910s on, needs vehicles. Unfortunately, we spend little time modeling them and less time making sure they look as accurate as our rolling stock and scenery. Poorly done automobiles detract from our scenes as much as having no automobiles at all. Both situations are easy to fix. Come learn how, no matter what scale or era you model.
Jack HamiltonWhat’s in My Tool Box?Every modeler starts with a few basic tools and gradually grows a tool box of items that work for them and make the quality of their modeling better. Along the way, they may find unique uses for items commonly found around the house but seldom in the workshop. They also have the pleasure of spending money on those perfect tools that turn out to be a flop. Jack, a self-confessed “tool junkie,” will go through the unique collection of tools he has accumulated over 50 years of modeling. You may be intrigued by some of the unusual finds, his sources, and his advice on some tools that are just not worth it.
Jack HamiltonPan Pastels: What are they and how do they work?Most of us are accustomed and perhaps experienced in the use of pastels to weather our structures and rolling stock. What happens when you use pastels in place of paint to essentially “paint” your entire project? What are Pan Pastels? How do pastels work on different construction materials? Do they replace paint? Are there secrets to making the techniques work? Come join us and find out.
Joe GreenModeling C&O Prototype ScenesIt is spring of 1974 in the mountains of Virginia on the Chesapeake and Ohio Ryder Gap Sub. The proto-freelanced layout features large, minimally compressed C&O-based scenes. Through prototype and layout photography, the presentation examines the challenges and rewards of prototype-inspired modeling.
Kevin KlettkeSo You Bought a Helix?We will review some conventional helix construction ideas, but the main focus will be the setup and review of a commercially purchased helix kit, which I mail-ordered from Turkey, of all places. I will reveal the benefits, pitfalls, cost, specifications, and performance of this kit and what led me to go down (or up) this spiral.
Lee BishopMilitary Railroad OperationsSince the middle of the Nineteenth Century, armies have used railroads to help win wars all over the world. Peaking in WW2, the U.S. Military had a massive network of railroad operations and ran trains all over the world. Lee’s program will discuss the history of military railroad operations with an emphasis on WW2. It will also show how military railway operations can be used on any layout. Lee will show historical photos and model photos from his On30 layout. He will go into detail on what is likely the first-ever, fictional railway operation unit in the hobby.
Paul RisingStudy and Train Room CoexistenceHow does one fit an HO model train layout on two levels in an 11′ x 11′ study and not compromise the function of either? This clinic explores not only this conundrum but the issues of acoustics, lighting, lightweight construction and an alternative to helix tracks. Benchwork construction, wiring and backdrops for the less-flexible senior citizen will also be discussed, as well as an alternative to traditional uncoupling ramps.
Paul VaughnFrom Moundhouse, NV to Keeler, CA by Rail in 1972We’ll follow the trip I took in 1972 from Mound House, Nevada to Keeler, California, following the SP narrow gauge line. Some of the line was broad gauged to standard gauge. All of the stations I photographed are now gone. I was lucky to have preserved some history by photography.
Rich MahaneyTank Cars 101 For Model RailroadersThis presentation looks at the different types of tanks cars that are used today, older style tank cars, tank car features, tank car models, how to increase tank car traffic on a model railroad layout, industries that use tank cars, and loading and unloading platforms/facilities.
Rich MahaneyInteresting Flat Car LoadsThis presentation looks at a variety of “stuff” that is transported on flat cars by railroads. It answers the question, “Do they really transport that on flat cars?” It gives the modeler ideas for flat car loads to build.
Rich MahaneyWhat to Do With “Old Era” Railroad EquipmentThis presentation gives model railroaders some ideas on what to do with “old era” railroad equipment. Old era railroad equipment becomes available when you change railroad time periods, equipment crashes to the floor, cheap plastic cars are replaced with quality cars, equipment interest changes, etc. These are all real examples.
Rich MahaneyHazardous Materials For Model RailroadersThis presentation provides the model railroader with a basic understanding of hazardous materials, DOT hazard classes, and placards and labels. There is a short look at old placards that were used on the railroads. This will help model railroader accurately duplicate correct transport of hazardous materials on their railroad layout and placards on their railroad cars.
Rich MahaneyRailroad Cars That Transport Hazardous MaterialsThis presentation provides the model railroader with a basic understanding of what kinds of railroad cars transport what kinds of solids, liquids and gas types of hazardous materials Discussion and photos illustrate the many types of railroads cars that are used to transport hazardous materials safely across North America every day, along with their placarding.
Rich MahaneyOMG: Prototypical Accessories to Buildings and Communities for Model Railroads!Take a look at the accessories and details that you are missing on your buildings and in your communities that stand out when you look around or travel around. The only thing you can say when you see these images is OMG! Most of these can come from the scrapbox or parts and pieces underneath your layout and workbench. You may not have much to buy when you go through spare stuff.
Rich MahaneyThe Second Lives of CaboosesThis clinic looks at cabooses still in service, that have been turned into businesses and information stands, and cabooses that can be found at train stations, parks and museums. You’ll get ideas for cabooses used on a modern era layout.
Rich MahaneyBig Pipes: Adding Pipe DetailsThis clinic looks at very large pipes on industries used to move solids, liquids and gases. Besides being an important part of the industrial process, they look cool. Get modelling ideas for industries on your layout.
Rich MahaneyStorage Tanks 101 for Model RailroadersThis presentation deals with the various kinds of industrial storage tanks for solids, liquids and gases. Atmospheric tanks, low pressure tanks, high pressure tanks, corrosive tanks, cryogenic tanks, etc., loading and unloading racks, and the tank cars that can be found servicing them.
Robert ParrishWorking with BrassBob will cover the fundamentals of working with brass: soldering, fluxing, tinning, sweating and the most important tools like drills, reamers, taps, breaks, heat sinks, rivets, and more.
Robin PeelLCC: What is it?  Why should I care?Layout Command Control is a new way to control all the stuff on your layout that aren’t trains, such as switches, lights, block detection, signals, etc. Robin will explain the fundamentals of LCC with he help of a small, working demonstration module. Come along an learn the basics, play with the module, and ask questions.
Robin PeelGravity JigglesWhat role does gravity play on your layout? Yes, it holds your trains on the track. But why do your trains jiggle unrealistically when they move? Bring along an apple and explore how Newton’s fundamental force that affect how our trains move… and explore some strategies to design more realistic, moving models.
Roger RasmussenMini-Clinic: Tree MakingLet’s make fir trees! Any size can be made using real wooden tapered trunks and a special material made specifically for the foliage. It’s traditional “over-the-top” fir tree making, with a twist. All Coastmans’ materials are provided free-of-charge. Roger personally guarantees your firs will look different than any you’ve made before.
Roger Rasmussen3D Printing with PLAWe are seeing more 3D printed models than ever. Learn how to you can take advantage of the most common 3D printing material, PLA. With its low melting point, this material produces little fumes. PLA is easily cut and completely “weld-able.” Unlike traditional soldering, solder and flux are not used. No jigs are needed to make very complex shapes. Roger supplies you with a few basic 3-D printed structural shapes, an iron, and a simple plan to try it out.
Ron Hopkins MMRTips, Tricks, and Techniques for Building StructuresTwo recent projects, one kit-bashed and one scratch built, trigger some recommendations that might improve your modeling. This is not a step-by-step description of construction. Rather, these two projects are the basis for describing various tools and methods. Clinic topics include general style of work, jigs and other assembly aids, siding and roofing materials, scratch building details like windows, chimneys, etc., finishing and weathering, and more.
Ron Hopkins MMRCreating an On30 Shortline in a Bedroom-Size SpaceThe Moclips & Beck’s Creek RR is an On30 layout portraying a fictional shortline which serves the cedar shingle and canning industries of the coastal Olympic Peninsula in 1940. The point-to-point track plan occupies 160 square feet around three walls and a peninsula. View blocks separate three major scenes. The clinic will consider basic planning parameters, prototype inspiration, layout design and construction, and specific problem solutions. A satisfying layout need not require a large space.
Russ SegnerCoals from Newcastle
Steve Hauff21st Century Train RidesRiding trains and trams throughout the world is just plain fun! This clinic looks at what is available in the 21st century and supplies hints to maximize your enjoyment of the experience. We’ll make our way through trains in North America, Africa, Asia and Europe.
Steve HauffRails in the Icebox: Alaskan RailroadsThis clinic provides a quick look at the Alaska Railroad and the White Pass and Yukon Railway, two completely different types of railroading. Along the way, we’ll take brief glimpses at the history of the two lines and mention of the other, long-gone railways that dotted the 49th state.
Steve HauffRayonierRayonier had two disconnected divisions, the well-known Grays Harbor line and the lesser-visited Clallam line. This clinic provides a history of the Clallam operation and its equipment, with some asides about the predecessor companies.
Steve HauffLogging DieselsMany manufacturers constructed diesel (internal combustion) locomotives for the wood products industry. This clinic takes a whirlwind tour of many of the different builders and models that found their way into the woods.
Tony ThompsonIncluding Signature Freight Cars in Your FleetA “signature” freight car is a car which is both distinctive and also characteristic of its owning railroad, i.e., the railroad owned a significant number of these cars. Even a car which was numerous on many railroads could still be a signature car for a railroad with a lot of them, like the USRA boxcars of Milwaukee Road. I will illustrate numerous examples, beginning with the five biggest railroads, followed by ten of the top 20, and a couple of small railroads.
Rich MahaneyModeling Industries and OperationsIndustry design and operations; how products are made and assembled; operations to support industries; “just in time” operations; car placement at industries; and railroad operations and traffic. Research the industries you model, don’t just place buildings on a siding.