A difficult year

Blog coordinator Eric Hansmann shares a few thoughts this holiday week.

2020 has been a tiring year as we each deal with the coronavirus pandemic. Our usual hobby activities and events have been put into hibernation until the National and Global situation eases.

On top of these alterations to our lives, we are losing friends and family members to the virus and to other health issues. The prototype modeling community was hard hit recently with the passing of three gentlemen who have contributed to our knowledge and skills in their own ways.

Many were shocked when Bill Welch revealed his pancreatic cancer diagnosis in early November. He departed our world within weeks of his announcement. Bill inspired and encouraged modelers with his extreme freight car detail work. He showed us how to harvest rivets from plastic model shells and install those on detail parts to upgrade other models. He helped take the mystery out of using an airbrush. He enjoyed sharing his knowledge of the Fruit Growers Express Company and had compiled two volumes of history that were nearing publication. He was a regular at Railroad Prototype Modeler (RPM) events in Chicago, Cocoa Beach, and St. Louis enjoying discussions with friends and making presentations.

Rob Manley was a regular at the Chicago RPM and CB&Q Historical Society gatherings. He was a member of the Mid-West Mod-U-Trak group, working to set up and staff their stunning HO scale modular layout. Rob introduced many modelers to the wonders of Pan Pastels as another media to use in weathering our models. He often performed real time Pan Pastel weathering demonstrations that convinced many to try this interesting material.

Dick Flock founded the RPM-East event with Larry Kline in the late 1990s. The metro Pittsburgh event was held every other year, alternating with an RPM hosted by a Philadelphia crew. Dick was a spark plug in the NMRA Keystone Division, which encompasses much of western Pennsylvania and northern West Virginia. He co-chaired the 1990 NMRA Pittsburgh national convention. He’s the one who sparked my interest in HO scale model railroading in the early 1970s, when I was a young pup. It was a thrill to join the RPM-East crew in 2004 to create the event website and marketing plans.

These three prototype modelers recently passed away within a week. Since January 2020, we have also witnessed the departures of Dr. Denny Anspach, Greg Martin, and Jeff Sankus. Each of them had been participants and leaders in RPM events and other groups related to our hobby.

As memories of these hobbyists roll through my mind, I am thankful to have had time with them as I have learned from each interaction. They offered encouragement to try a new technique or perspective that expanded my skills on the path to become a better modeler. Readers who have had interactions with these gentlemen have memories that will inspire their hobby enjoyment.

Pass along what you learn and help fellow hobbyists move forward. It’s one of the best ways to honor those teachers who have departed our mortal station.

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8 thoughts on “A difficult year

  1. I was constantly inspired and amazed by Bill Welch. All of our interaction was online, we never actually met or spoke. Yet, he was always supportive and creative. Seeing his work inspired me to stretch myself and try new things. He will be missed.

  2. What a wonderful tribute. Their lasting legacy will be some consolation for losing them way too soon, and a powerful reminder to spend what time we can with the greats that remain.

  3. As for one, I’m thankful to have been touched by each of these guys, thankful for the friendship, the encouragement. All class acts.

  4. God Bless them and thank you for sharing your tributes with all of us. I did not know these gentlemen personally, but knew of them and feel we are all richer and benefited from their friendships, knowledge and contributions to our great hobby.
    Hope all of you stay well and have an enjoyable Holiday Season with your families & friends
    3751 Crew & Santa Fe Modeler
    Tim Logan

  5. Our lives are the poorer for the loss of all those you mentioned, and others less public in the hobby. Greg, Denny and Bill are, personally, truly painful losses to me.

  6. Eric, thank you for your wonderful comments about three well known and respected modelers. Rob, I had known from the Chicago RPM when I was a regular. Many of his models rode the rails on the Mid-West-Mod-U-Track layout. Beverly (his wife), would call us “Manley and Hanley”. Dick, I had known since 1966. At one time, he and Barbara lived on the street as I did. He enjoyed operations and was a regular on Bob Prehoda’s layout. All three and those before them will be missed. May they rest in Peace.

  7. Thank you for this thoughtful tribute Eric. My gratitude extends to these gentlemen (whom I did not know) for the guidance and shared knowledge.

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