(ed.) Bob Jackson wrote a series of articles over a three year period (1986 to 1989) in the NASG Dispatch. The articles described the early days of "S" as well as the story of the beginnings of the NASG up to the early 1980s. Although the PDF versions of those issues are available on this web site, we have compiled the complete story from those articles on this page for your enjoyment.
(ed.) If you enjoy history, also consider the January 2021 issue of the NASG Dispatch, which contains an interview with Dick Karnes, the only remaining surviving member of the founders of the NASG, who also covers the history of the early days of the NASG.
Like most organizations that grow out of a special need, the National Association of S Gaugers' exact origins are lost in the dimness of receding time. Though many of us in the NASG have a general idea of the history of our organization, there does not exist anywhere a complete record of events, trends, and contributors. Still, the general period of its rising can be determined and those most responsible can be identified. Fortunately, most are still with us and their stories can be collected and assimilated into a record. An attempt is being made to create such a record and to archive it.
Three distinct eras are easily discernable in the nearly 30-year history of the NASG. These are characterized by the linkages of certain personalities as well as some fairly distinctive trends within each era. What follows is a series of articles which reflects the highlights and the spirit of each of these three eras.
The beginnings of the National Association of S Gaugers cannot be separated from the history of the A. C. Gilbert Company. Before American Flyer S gauge there was 3/16-inch scale "CD" gauge, introduced by Cleveland Models in 1937. CD ("Cleveland-Designed") had lured a small but thriving band of craftsmen who labored on in 3/16-inch scale despite the lack of significant support in the market. Then, in 1946, A. C. Gilbert introduced its S gauge American Flyer 3/16-inch scale line of toy trains. By the mid-fifties American Flyer had reached its own peak of development and, though it would take a while to realize it, was about to decline. Nevertheless, at that time A. F. was clearly a force with which to be reckoned, and had made S gauge highly visible. The number of American Flyer operators was large. Moreover, the generally high quality of American Flyer and its closeness to scale was the basis on which many of these operators chose it.
Scratch an American Flyer operator and you will find an incurable tinkerer. He/she can tell you exactly how to repair anything ever made by A. C. Gilbert and, what's more, can tell you how to improve upon it. It is not much of a leap from there to superdetailing and conversion to scale. American Flyer S gauge has surely been the object of scale conversion far more commonly than any other product. Initially, detailing and conversion efforts depended upon filching parts from other scales or building parts from scratch, not the easiest approach by any means. Still, the demand was there and growing. This demand included a hunger for information as to what worked and what didn't. Kits and parts to convert American Flyer S gauge to scale had appeared on the market by the early 1950s. The wave of conversions that followed led to a demand for greater and more accurate detail.
The S gauge collectors, AF operators, hi-railers, conversion nuts, and scale-hounds represented a far more diverse lot than was characteristic of other gauges. These groups were the fertile ground upon which the seeds of organization fell. They were to put a particular stamp on the organization that would emerge as the National Association of S Gaugers.
Although it does not appear possible to establish an exact date for the beginning of the NASG, it most probably should be set in late 1957 or early 1958. Jesse Bennett remembers seeing a note in Model Railroader's "Bull Session" column indicating that someone named Claud Wade out in St. Louis was looking for S gaugers interested in joining "circuits." He believes that the notice appeared in the winter of 1957. In any case, he wrote to Wade and soon became a member of a circuit which he remembers as having been started in January or February 1958. The record shows that Jesse was director of circuit 172S4, the fourth circuit organized around members operating on 172 rail with scale flanges. So, if that is the circuit that Jesse remembers, it was early but not the first and thus others would likely have been organized in late 1957.
It had occurred to Claud Wade that S gauge was ready for something akin to round-robins, a type of organization in which members circulate information to each other. However, he did not feel that "round-robin" was an entirely suitable model railroading term, and therefore came up with the notion of circuits. A circuit is a group of model rails who share some common interest around which the circuit has been organized. Ideally, these groups are small, usually with six to eight members. Initially there were three basic types of circuits, designated by "125," "172," and "AF," which indicated the type of rail on which the members operated. The rest of the designation indicated the type of flanges and the sequence number of the circuit. For example, circuit 125S1 would be the first circuit organized in which the members operated on 125 rail with scale flanges. Similarly, circuit 172TP4 would be the fourth circuit organized with the members operating tinplate flanges on 172 rail, while circuit AF2 would be the second circuit organized with members operating full American Flyer layouts.
The circuit letter is the means by which the members communicate with each other. Each letter contains the experience of the members in regard to a particular project or problem. As it passes from one member to the next, each member is expected to add what he/she can. In this manner the collective experience grows and provides invaluable insight and assistance to its members.
As he recalls, Claud's initial contact with other S gaugers came through advertisements in Model Railroader and Model Trains. Later most contacts came from the NMRA register. In a remarkably short time more than two hundred had been recruited into the ranks and placed into individual circuits with about seven members per circuit. A number of the earliest circuits continue in operation today. Interestingly, one of them still has three of its original members, Jesse Bennett, C. D. Lasley, and Gene Fletcher. It is known as the "old-timers" circuit because the youngest of its seven members is 61 and the oldest is 85.
Each circuit had a director whose responsibility it was to keep the circuit alive and functioning. The earliest directors included Jesse Bennett, Chester Bolly, Bill Crawford, Will Estes, Gene Fletcher, Leonard Giovannoli, Ambie Hennek, Evert Hoffman, Robert Shafto, William Sutliff, Bernard Thomas, and, of course, Claud Wade.
It was the rapid proliferation of these circuits that brought about the need for a national organization. By the middle of 1959 there were as many as 30 circuits in operation with members in every corner of the nation and some in Canada. The national character of the organization had become self-evident, and a name reflecting that character was needed. Suggestions were submitted to the membership and the name "National Association of S Gaugers" was chosen. The name had not been chosen without some dissent. For obvious reasons, the Canadian members preferred "International Association of S gaugers." However, being fewer in number, they did not prevail. Claud Wade, the founder of the organization, was appropriately named its first General Director.
By 1960, certain features were clearly characteristic of the NASG. It was informal and voluntary. It did not collect periodic dues and it urged that all members belong to the NMRA. The duties of the General Director included collecting items of general interest from the circuit letters and elsewhere and publishing them as "Notes, News and Flashes." They also included writing a regular column in a newly inaugurated publication called the S Gauge Herald. This column contained news of the NASG and frequently included the "NN& F."
It was fascinating to go over the early lists of members with Claud. They read like a Who's Who of S gauge. In addition to those already mentioned, there were Frank Titman, Barney Daehler, Hansel Main, Wallace Collins, Fred Schuster, Henry Sprague, Win Blake, and too many other familiar names to include here. There were some youngsters listed too, a young college student named Richard Karnes and several teenagers: 12 year old Tommy Riddle, 13 year old Gale Hall and 14 year old Donald Heimburger.
By 1960, two kinds of active membership had evolved: the special-interest circuits and the "engineers." The latter group reflected the growing interest in making castings in S scale and included those whose capabilities and equipment permitted them to make patterns or castings. By this time, many Flyer fans had made a full transition from detailing and conversion to building in scale and were hungry for a source of true S scale parts. Moreover, S scale had always attracted a number of craftsmen who preferred it to the more popular HO and O scales. Some of these, like Kelly Bryant, had actually entered S scale by building CD kits as early as 1938. Together those groups formed a nucleus of interest that became one of the strongest determinants of the NASG character of the early Sixties. Here are the roots of the NASG lost-wax castings program with its eventual offering of complete engine kits.
As the first General Director, Claud Wade was the guiding light of this period. A review of documents of that period makes it clear that Claud personally embodied much that distinguished S gaugers of that time. He was action-oriented, individualistic, resourceful, and full of energy. He saw to the coordination of the circuits, developing new ones as the membership grew. Moreover, he wrote and circulated the "News, Notes and Flashes." He also authored the NASG column in the S Gauge Herald. And, not having enough to do, he attempted to respond to the wishes of S gaugers by seeking new and different sources of supply for the scale. It is surprising to realize, in 1986, that efforts to import S scale brass engines go back more than 25 years yet it is true that Claud, on behalf of the NASG, was involved in discussions as early as 1960 with Cleveland Models to determine the feasibility of importing such engines. Then, as now, interest in steam engines centered on the smaller more common types such as ten-wheelers, consolidations, and mikados.
It was also under Claud's leadership that movement toward the selection of the NASG symbol with clasped couplers indicating unity got under way. The idea that the organization should have a distinctive symbol or emblem arose early, probably in 1959. In a circuit letter dated January 2, 1960, the idea was clearly set forth and suggestions were requested. Eventually the idea of a contest emerged and a total of 13 entries were submitted. Those who submitted entries included George Bergman, Gene Berry, Martin Daly, Pete Harmon, Herbert King, Bernard Thomas, Frank Titman, Tom True, Claud Wade and four "unknowns." Four finalists were selected by the directors. These were George Bergman, Gene Berry, Bernard Thomas, and Frank Titman. Their designs were published in the circuit letters and later appeared in the March 1964 S Gauge Herald. Members of the NASG were asked to vote on their preference and, as we know, Frank Titman's clasped couplers design was chosen.
When asked how the design occurred to him and whether it was conceived over time following a number of sketches, Frank replied that the idea came as an inspiration. He was watching a train go by and suddenly the symbol of unity in the couplers occurred to him and he sketched out the idea without much effort. He still retains the original drawing which Claud returned to him after the contest.
Without question Claud's greatest contribution is found in the lost-wax casting project and the ultimate development of complete engine kits. The magnitude of this undertaking can only be appreciated in retrospect. Presently there are castings from 195 different patterns available from Claud Wade. Many are comprised of several separate pieces which have been soldered together, thus several hundred parts actually had to be made in order to have all the parts to a single engine. This would have been a very considerable task for even a sizable group of skilled technicians working in a Japanese factory. However, nothing even comparable to such a group worked on making the patterns. Claud himself made the vast majority of the parts. In addition, several of the best modelers in S scale contributed patterns. When members contributed patterns they were given credit toward the eventual purchase of parts or kits. A partial list of contributors includes Chester Bolly, Kelly Bryant, Dave Engle, David Felmley, Ed Filer, Jack Fisher, Fritz Gemeinhardt, Evert Hoffman, Dr. Charles Johnson, Richard Karnes, C. D. Lasley, Joe Scales, Dr. Fred Schuster, David W. Smith, Henry Sprague, and Joe Swift. Grant Magee machined a number of the split frames. A compiled list of all contributors does not appear to exist, but it would not include many more than the above. All were volunteers. It was on the backs of this doughty band that the whole project rested.
The amazing nature of this project can't be fully appreciated without realizing that it never had significant financial backing and that it was undertaken by a man who never had any special training in machine work. Listen to Claud Wade: "I had my American Flyer layout set up in a spare bedroom, but as my children grew up I had to give the bedroom up. I then became more interested in the scale itself and when I saw a Max Gray O scale Nickel Plate Berkshire I began investigating how to build one for myself in S scale. I had no training in machine work except a little bit high school. I think I knew enough to set a lathe but nothing more. I simply taught myself. I figured out how things worked as I went along. I made lots of mistakes but I learned from them all. I also talked to a lot of people who had much experience and used that to good advantage. One of my best advisors was Dr. Charles Johnson here in St. Louis. I gradually turned my basement into a shop where I had an industrial lathe, a milling machine, a punch press, a small smelting furnace, and all the capabilities to do soldering and sand casting. I still have all the casting patterns and cores used in producing the cast boilers that were originally used. We initially experimented with zamac instead of brass because it gave such a smooth finish but, of course, you can't solder to it so we gave that up. I can't remember when the idea building my own engine got transformed into making kits for everybody else's use. It just seemed to take hold and became the most important goal.
When it came to financing the project it seemed to me that the NASG ought to finance it while I did most of the work. Financing came about in several ways. Some people simply donated money. These donations were acknowledged in the circuit letters and were gratefully received. Others made loans which I paid back with interest within about six months of receiving. A few donated patterns. In some cases I financed some things out of my own pocket."
Gradually the project took shape and the first castings were announced in "News Notes and Flashes" in late 1961. The good news was also broadcast in the NASG column in the S Gauge Herald of December 1961. The cast boilers are first, appearing on Sept. 1, 1961. Six days later the first lost-wax castings were received. Claud called Dr. Johnson and they celebrated. "They looked like gold to us." These first castings proved to be a boon to superdetailers and scratch-builders alike. American Flyer engines began sprouting lost-wax casting on hi-rail pikes all over the country. The appearance of a full line of castings took several years to complete. The first full engine kit did not make its debut until early 1963.
The importance of the castings project to the future of S gauge should not be underestimated. A. C. Gilbert was moribund at the time and the project gave hope that there was life after American Flyer. It is fair to conclude that the project provided stimulus to other S scale manufacturers since the availability of its and the number of manufacturers increased noticeably during that period. Although the full flowering of S scale would not occur for some time yet, there is little question that the castings project gave birth to S scale as we know it today.
Nothing approaching the castings project has ever been undertaken in any other scale and very likely never will. The undertaking of such a project reveals something very important about S gaugers. They work together in the common interest and they don't quit. The debt that S gauge owes to Claud Wade and that small band of unbelievably dogged doers can't a measured.
Every organization that endures and grows undergoes evolution. By 1962 the manifold duties that he had assumed as the first General Director had begun to weigh too heavily on Claud Wade. He began to look for ways to spread the burden among the rest of the leadership of the NASG and for someone to whom to pass the candle. In a circuit letter dated Nov. 12, 1962, apparently to the other directors, Claud made it clear that his intention a step aside was firm. He also expressed his deep concern about getting the right leader to keep the young organization alive and vigorous. It appears that Ambie Hennek had previously suggested Bernard Thomas. Claud wrote this about Thomas, "For the forest, I could not see the trees until Hennek suggested Bernie Thomas. First and foremost he is a good modeler, knows prototype railroading, is well educated, knows the ins and outs of many things and where to find them out if he doesn't. [Most important,] he is tolerant of all model railroaders and last, but certainly not least, he is an enthusiastic S gauger. So, I think that Bernard will make a very good leader." Thus it followed that Bernie Thomas became the second General Director of the National Association of S Gaugers.
In retrospect, Bernie Thomas was probably the perfect choice to be the second General Director. It was an understatement to say that he as an enthusiastic S gauger. The record suggests that the man was a tireless, unfailing, completely devoted booster of the scale. He of course continued with the duties begun under Wade. However, it appears that Bernie had earlier submitted a design for spreading the leadership burdens to a second level of directors. Though it took some time to implement his scheme, its first result was the assignment of Claud Wade as Field Director in charge of castings. This approach saved Bernie's energies for other matters. The development of new circuits continued apace but by his time they often centered about some very specialized topics. For example, a circus train circuit was formed in the latter half of 1963, a trolley circuit was announced early in 1964, and a narrow gauge circuit late in 1964.
Although circuit letters continued to be an essential part of NASG activity, the S Gauge Herald had by this time survived its own growing pains and began to emerge as the principal means whereby the NASG communicated to its national audience. This had not occurred completely smoothly as, at one time during 1962, publisher Wallace Collins had wanted to drop the NASG column from inclusion in the Herald. This was no doubt related to the fact that Bernie Thomas had become an Associate Editor of the Herald.
Meanwhile, the castings project was moving forward with a full head of steam. Wade had adopted a strategy wherein as each new casting was received it was sent to a group of about 20 S gaugers who were completing Nickle Plate Berkshires as the parts became available. By 1963, several of these were nearing completion. In that year Claud Wade's won a performance contest at the NMRA national convention. Others won even more prizes at the NMRA National conventions in the years following. Early in 1964 the NASG received notice from the NMRA of assignment of warrant No. 75 for its castings.
Bernie Thomas is remembered by those who knew him for his generosity and for his selfless devotion to the furtherance of S gauge. Looking back in the record it is clear that he accomplished considerable in that respect. Bernie was among those that strongly held the view that the long-range future of S gauge, and probably of the NASG, lay in close association with the NMRA. That view heavily influenced his tenure as General Director and accounts for his most noteworthy accomplishments. In a general sense, Bernie never lost the opportunity to strengthen the organizational structure of the NASG. He was always pointing out the benefits of club membership and holding up the need for new clubs in areas which lacked them. In a specific sense, he was directly responsible for the development of rotating-visiting clubs and for the promotion of a regional sense of organization. While these ideas were not original with Bernie, he surely should be credited with making these distinctive features of the NASG during the middle Sixties. Bernie was fond of referring to the members of circuits as "live-wires". It is quite clear that he was one himself.
The regionalizing of the circuit organization was on his mind from the very earliest and by the spring of 1963 he could announce in the S Gauge Herald its essential accomplishment. This was an important development because it let the groundwork for the appearance of regional S gauge clubs and the regional meetings that a number of them sponsored. Although a few regional organizations existed earlier, most notably the Northeastern S Gaugers Association, they were informally organized and the rapid development of these organizations after 1963 can easily be observed by studying the S Gauge Herald yearbooks of that era.
To stimulate the development of R-V (rotating-visitation) clubs, he published in the March 1964 issue of the S Gauge Herald a copy of a sample constitution and by-laws suitable for adaptation by S gauge clubs. This sample had in turn been adapted by Bernie from an O gauge club that had been set up on an R-V basis. He had obtained that club's constitution from the NMRA. Once more it is possible to see the results of Bernie's efforts in the growth of local clubs, most of them set up as R-Vs, during the course of the next several years.
Bernard Thomas is now larger than life. Following his untimely and tragic death in 1965, his memory was enshrined in the Bernie Thomas Memorial Award given each year to the person considered to have done the most for S gauge.
The memorial was created by the Deep South S Gaugers Association and was first presented by Dick Schlott to Wallace Collins, publisher of the S Gauge Herald, at the 1965 NESGA convention in Toronto. In establishing the award, the club recognized his devotion to our collective interests, his complete selflessness in promoting S gauge and S gaugers, his generosity, and his sense of humanity. A review of the record makes it clear that, whatever else he was, he was a skilled social engineer who had carefully laid the groundwork upon which a lasting national organization could rest. Though his goal of close formal involvement with the NMRA never was achieved, he provided the basis for the transformation of the NASG from a loose-knit, informal organization to a more structured and enduring one. It is this legacy that should be celebrated with future awards of the Bernie Thomas Memorial Award.
What would the NASG be like today if Bernie Thomas had lived? Would it have had a close relationship to the NMRA? Would its development have taken a different course? We do not know. What we do know is that up to that time the organization had remained essentially informal. It depended strictly on volunteer work and donations to conduct business. Its only force of authority came from the utterly remarkable energies that the first two General Directors, one a visionary, the other a skilled social organizer, poured into the organization. Bernie's death dealt the young organization a hard blow and it fell to Russ Mobley, who had recently been appointed by Thomas as Director of Circuits, to guide the NASG, as its third General Director, through some difficult times that lay just ahead.
These appeared as part of the original article, part 2:
On the morning of July 12, 1965, the bell tolled for Bernard Thomas. Within a few weeks Russ Mobley was tapped to be the third NASG General Director. Several others had volunteered but Russ appeared to represent stability and continuity. He had just been appointed Associate Director of Clubs on June 3, 1965 by Thomas as part of a plan to develop a more formalized structure for the NASG. (Thomas had simultaneously appointed Ambie Hennek as Associate Director - Trolley.)
Russ had been very active in S gauge for quite some time and had been involved in the development of the NASG since 1960. Russ was also a member of the NMRA. While stationed in Wichita Falls, Texas with the Air Force in the early 1960s, he wrote S gauge promotional material for the NMRA. During that same period, he helped development of the Southwestern S Gaugers Association. Later, after moving to Georgia, he initiated the formation of the Southeastern S Gaugers Association. Clearly his credentials as a promoter of S gauge were well established. Furthermore, he knew Thomas and his goals quite well and identified with them very closely. Thus he seemed to be a natural to succeed Bernie.
Given his background, it was natural that Mobley would set out to push forward with those goals that had already been articulated by Thomas and apparently accepted by the general NASG membership. He signaled his intentions in the NASG column of the winter 1965 issue of the S Gauge Herald. He wrote, "As a friend of Bernie Thomas, I would very much like to continue where he left off." Almost immediately, he began to reap the storm that had been gathering in the distance for some time. To understand this, it is necessary to examine the forces and influences that played within and upon the NASG from its inception.
Claud Wade's recognition that S gauge could be organized around "round-robin" circuits was probably a stroke of genius. Although everything that could be found in S gauge could also be found to some degree in other gauges, none had a mix of interests parallel to that of S gauge. American Flyer collectors were not as numerous in the late 1950s as they are today, but collecting was still serious business. The majority of S gaugers at that time were tinplate operators. Hi-rail operators, very rare in other gauges, were quite common in S gauge. And, of course, those geniuses who converted toy trains to scale operation by every imaginable means were a breed peculiar to S gauge. They, with the scratch builders and kit assemblers, comprised the S gauge scale operators. Not even the NMRA encompasses such a wide range of interests.
Spontaneous association of these diverse interests is virtually non-existent in any gauge. Merely sharing the same track gauge does not provide an automatic basis for kinship. Indeed, there may be cause for antagonism in some cases, as between the collector and the converter: One man's junk is the other man's gold. Loose federation of small units, each organized around a specific interest and linked through a more general common interest might. Within each small unit the great diversity disappears. The more general common interest provides both a reason for association of the small units and a sense of belonging to something larger and therefore more enduring. The loose federation ensures that no single interest can readily dominate the others and tends to prevent the central governing body from placing its own interests ahead of those of the small units.
Paradoxically, this principle of organization that so brilliantly got things started had inherent weaknesses which, with time, would become troublesome.
The very success of many of the NASG circuits (see Footnote 1) led to an organization that, when viewed collectively across all of the circuits, was by nature inward-looking. The circuits generally worked quite well and served the needs of their members nicely. Given this, there was no widespread perception that a strong national organization would be anything other than a distraction. Many members saw no need for anything beyond the circuits to which they belonged. The circuits were comfortable and useful, and they worked.
Meanwhile, the NASG leadership had for some years seen the necessity for S gauge to expand, and had spent great effort in that direction. S gauge promotion had been one of the distinguishing features of Bernie Thomas's stewardship. It was also to become one of Russ Mobley's. The leadership was not alone many individual members agreed. For some, promotion was equated with survival and this was linked immediately to association with the NMRA. Bernie Thomas had stumped strongly for formal association of the NASG with the NMRA. Toward the latter part of his tenure as General Director, he was urging members of all clubs to belong simultaneously to both the NASG and the NMRA. This was fundamentally an outward-looking view.
Moreover, at the national level the NASG was nearly a one-man show. Although each of the General Directors had assembled a panel of advisors, assistants and help. Moreover, at the national level the NASG was nearly a one-man show. Although each of the General Directors had assembled a panel of advisors, assistants and helpers, those arrangements were informal. This small group furnished manpower, effort, and money. However, the primary source of all these was the General Director himself. The burdens placed on the personal and financial resources of the General Director were too much for any one person to endure over a long period of time. Leadership was isolated to those few who were doing the most to support the NASG at the national level. The general membership really had very little invested in the NASG. Without a formal organization structure spanning all the interests of the membership, the clash between the outward-looking view of the leadership and the inward-looking view held by much of the membership was inevitable. It was not long in coming.
This phase of NASG history was closely intertwined with the success of the S Gauge Herald. (Perhaps someday, someone will write the history of the Herald in its first incarnation.) The Herald had carried the national voice of the NASG since 1962. It is quite probable that the NASG would not have survived beyond the early sixties without this support.
Wallace Collins and Frank Titman's explicit goal was to extend the appeal of the Herald to all S gauge interests. It is startling therefore to recognize that the Herald, quite unintentionally, posed two kinds of problems to the development of the NASG as a national body that could speak with meaningful authority for S gauge.
First, the NASG had never developed a "house organ" publication of its own. "News, Notes and Flashes" was meant to serve that purpose, but it never succeeded at that level. In 1965 the national voice of the NASG was the column that appeared five times a year in the back pages of the Herald. Thus, despite the Herald's generosity, the effect was to downgrade the NASG. In fact, most S gaugers of that period looked to the Herald rather than the NASG for information and guidance. The Herald's subscriber-ship was larger than the membership of the NASG throughout the sixties and most of the seventies.
Second, the Herald's influence was felt in quite another and, in some respects, more significant way. This resulted from the Herald's promotion of The Northeastern S Gaugers Association (NESGA), a group that was made up principally of its staff and early subscribers. Like the NASG, the NESGA (see Footnote 3) was informally structured however, it was far stronger than the NASG.
The NESGA grew out of a meeting at Frank Titman's home in Allentown, PA in January 1961. It rapidly came together as a group filled with energy and vigor. The "fathers" of the Herald were also the founders of the NESGA. It is not surprising, therefore, that early NESGA activities were featured in the Herald.
The NESGA's first convention, held in Woburn, MA in 1962, included contests, layout visits, and a banquet. It can be regarded as the prototype for the NASG conventions, the first of which would not be held for another 10 years in Kansas City.
The NESGA's success must be viewed against the fact that in the early Sixties 50 to 60 percent of the known S gaugers resided in Pennsylvania, New York (including metropolitan New York City), and New England. Thus, the NESGA could tap the resources of the largest concentration of S gaugers in the country. These included many of the most skillful and dedicated modelers to be found in any gauge. All that was needed to stimulate this group was the desire and organizing energy. These were provided at that initial meeting in Allentown.
The problem that all this posed for the NASG was the fact that so many of the services that would have been natural for a national organization to develop for its members were already being successfully provided by the Herald and the NESGA. Moreover, the NESGA, encompassing as it did such a large fraction of the known S gaugers, siphoned off energy and initiative that, under other circumstances, might have gone to the NASG.
With Bernie Thomas's death, Russ Mobley became the faithful battlefield lieutenant who seized the flag from the fallen captain. The stresses within the NASG had already begun to surface in the last months of Thomas's tenure. Russ had barely been installed when the first serious rupture became public. A vigorous debate among the leadership between those who felt the future of S gauge was best served by further and more aggressive development of the castings project and those who wanted a broader-based approach stressing increased membership had been raging for many months. The debate was resolved when Claud Wade, feeling the need to unshackle the project from the NASG, announced in the Winter 1965 Herald that the castings project was going "completely commercial." A private company called "S Scale Locomotive and Supply" subsumed the project. This left the NASG with no substantial membership benefit beyond the circuits.
If the need for a formal organizational structure had ever been doubted, it was now clear that the time was already late. Russ set the achievement of such a structure among his highest priorities within the first few months of his tenure. Bernie Thomas had earlier conceived a formal organization plan but it was never fully implemented. This plan served as the starting point for the one that Mobley later announced.
The chief obstacle to the acceptance of formalization had always been the revenue needed to support it. For five years the NASG had lived on handouts and the willingness of the leadership to fund operations from their own pockets. For much of the rank and file there seemed to be nothing to be gained by the payment of dues. The NASG had nothing to offer beyond what they already had been getting essentially free.
After months of discussion and argument, Mobley was finally able to announce in the Winter 1965 Herald that a formal scheme of organization had been achieved and would take effect on July 1, 1966. From that time forward, the NASG was represented by a General Director whose activities were overseen by a seven-member Board of Trustees. A staff including Field Directors, Circuit Directors, Regional Directors, and Treasurer assisted the General Director.
Russ Mobley continued as General Director. The first seven trustees were Frank Titman, Wallace Collins, Richard Karnes, David Engle, Eugene Fletcher, Edward Schumacher and John Sudimak.
To solve the problem of revenues, an initiation fee of $3 was assessed against each new member. For this the member received a lifetime membership and an official NASG patch. This was an obvious compromise, as existing members were not required to pay the fee. Mobley had recommended that all members be required to pay the fee. However, some Board members argued that this would drive away the old members, in effect changing the entire foundation of the NASG. This compromise was accompanied by the suggestion to the existing members that it would be most beneficial to the organization if they would also choose to pay the fee. In an apparent effort to stimulate many to do so, the holders of the first fifty membership cards were given the "Charter Member" status.
Membership card number 000 was presented to Claud Wade in recognition of his status as the founder of the NASG.
Membership under the new scheme grew rapidly in the first few months and then slowed to a mere trickle. Approximately two-thirds of the old members never paid the initiation fee. Since it was possible to retain membership in the circuits without paying the fee, many saw no reason to pay. In less than a year following its institution, it was clear that the $3 lifetime membership fee had failed to solve the revenue problems of the NASG.
With the failure of the initiation fee to raise the expected revenue, fund raising became even more necessary. During the next three years, Mobley pursued special fund-raising activities with a series of proposals to the Board of Trustees. Chief among these was the idea of an NASG-sponsored car kit. However, the S kit manufacturers were split in their views. Kinsman, for example, was opposed, fearing that an NAGS kit would compete with the already narrowly-based manufacturers. Regal Kits, on the other hand, supported the idea on the premise that the NASG-sponsored kit would be unique, and therefore would not duplicate anything offered or planned by any of the manufacturers. Even if the disagreement between the manufacturers could have been resolved, the problem of financing the project remained. Len Giovannoli offered to finance a major part of the project out of his own pocket if the Board could devise a matching scheme to produce the rest of the needed funds and a plan whereby he would eventually recover his money. However, neither the Board nor Mobley could assure Giovannoli that he would ever recover even a fraction of his investment. That, together with the probability of affronting an important kit manufacturer, caused the Board to reject the proposal.
Other proposals included the marketing of NASG hats and calendars and a compilation of the best conversion articles from the Herald. Some of these ideas were carried fairly well into the development stage but most never got to market. One that did was the proposal to sell NASG dry-transfer sets for lettering undecorated cars. In the fall of 1968 they were sold for $1.25 per set. This was a reasonably successful venture and pumped some much-needed revenue into the NASG coffers. However, it was another short-term fix which did not address the fatal flaw: there was no reliable, renewable set of resources with which to conduct the NASG's business. A fundamental solution was not in the cards during Russ's tenure.
In a sense, a more troublesome outcome of the initiation fee was what it did to the social structure of the NASG. Because the fee was required only of new members, it divided the NASG into those who paid and those who did not. The organization was already seriously divided between those that saw salvation in association with the NMRA and those that saw the NMRA as useless and threatening. One more serious division was too much. Whereas prior to July 1966 (the date of imposition of the fee), increased enrollment in the circuits precipitated a shortage in circuit directors, by 1968 many circuits were dying out for lack of interest. American Flyer circuits appeared to be hit the hardest. Mobley announced the consolidation of several AF circuits others simply languished.
With this decline, the argument between the pro- and anti-NMRA forces became strident no other issue was so divisive or so corrosive to the spirit of the organization.
Despite the problems of trying to lead a dispirited and cantankerous organization, Mobley was making some gains in achieving his stated goals. One thing that the NASG always offered its members was fellowship, which was less sensitive to the dissension of the times. Russ, perhaps instinctively moving to succeed where success was possible, spent much effort developing the social fabric of the NASG. Like his predecessor, he promoted the development of rotating-visiting (R-V) clubs. His new emphasis was to get these clubs to achieve 100 percent NASG membership. Several did in fact achieve that status.
In the same vein, Russ promoted increased family involvement in the NASG. This he accomplished by establishing the "S"ettes for the wives of S gauge model rails. Furthermore, he began a Beginners Circuit for the children of S gauge families. This circuit was intended to assist youngsters with modeling problems. The central idea of the circuit was to get the young members involved in a project on which they all could work simultaneously, a car kit for example, which could also serve as a family project.
One of the more important achievements during Mobley's stewardship was the development of a set of contest rules to be used in judging entries at officially-sanctioned S gauge meetings.
Contests were a standard feature at all NESGA conventions since the first one at Woburn in 1962. However, the rules governing these were determined by the local club hosting the convention. Usually they were some variation of the NMRA rules. Unfortunately, the lack of uniformity in the rules led to confusion and conflict. A controversy resulting from the 1967 NESGA convention contest in Tarrytown, N.Y. set in motion efforts to produce a uniform set of contest rules. In the fall of that year, the NASG Board of Trustees concluded that the NASG, being the only nationally-based S gauge organization, should develop such a set of rules. Mobley announced the undertaking of the project in the fall 1967 Herald. The rules were to be adapted from the NMRA rules. Progress, however, was slow.
Meanwhile, the Potomac Valley S Gaugers Association was preparing to host the 1969 NESGA convention. PVSGA president Ed Schumacher had assigned Dick Cataldi to be contest chairman. This task included writing a set of rules under which the contest would be conducted. Cataldi, together with Jon Watson, developed a set of rules which worked very well and which were well-received by the attendees.
Later that year, Mobley asked Schumacher to formalize the 1969 NESGA convention contest rules for proposal to the NASG Board as the official NASG contest rules. Schumacher again turned to Cataldi, who produced a version that was subsequently approved by the Board. The new rules were published in the spring 1970 issue of the Herald, and were first used at the 1970 NESGA convention at Hershey, PA.
At the Hershey convention, the NASG Board, having no separate national meeting of its own, decided that the NASG would sanction the future regional meets of the NESGA. Thus, in effect, it adopted the NESGA meets as the NASG national meetings. This simple stroke of the pen signaled the restoration of the NASG as the dominant S gauge organizational force.
Although it would take many years and several starts to complete, Russ in 1970 asked Jim Peters to undertake the development of a set of standards. The outcome of that story, however, belongs in another installment of this series.
During his five years as General Director, Mobley was moved by the Air Force from Ohio to Alaska and then back. He was also trundled around to several schools for short periods of time. These moves seriously hampered his ability to follow through on a number of projects. His frustration was at times visible in the NASG columns in the Herald. Moreover, he had had a troubled marriage, and almost immediately after his retirement from the Air Force on August 1, 1970, was divorced. At that time he suggested to the Board of Trustees that he be replaced by Ed Schumacher. The Board accepted, and that winter Russ passed the gavel to Ed. With the passing of that gavel, the "Beginnings" of the NASG had come to an end.
Three people linked in time and experience had defined and articulated the cause of the NASG the last had the fate to lead as the NASG went through the convulsions of intense self-examination. What took place in the NASG in the last half of the sixties was a socio-political struggle not unlike many others which have occurred in the American culture. In a small sense, the NASG was like the USA in that it had tried to absorb all manner of interests. By 1965 it was clearly having trouble digesting them all. The ensuing bickering was symptomatic of an organization trying to work out its differences and determine where it was going. At times the frustration became intense, and in one known case resulted in a fist-fight. If there is anything at which to marvel in those years, it is the very survival of the organization. There were many who were sure that it could not. During that period he NASG had no mechanisms for resolving conflict or achieving consensus. Thus, there was no possibility of real governance However, to his everlasting credit, Mobley tried and tried again. What is now clear is that he functioned as the NASG's conscience during an especially difficult time. Nearly all of the NASG columns in the Herald the contained messages about the decline in the spirit of the organization, pointing out that the membership could and should do better. Russ was the preacher expounding the sins of the congregation.
For those who felt that the NASG was dying if not dead, Ed Schumacher had a strong message:
"My fellow model rails and S gauge compatriots: An NASG obituary is not in the offing." With that he had set the agenda for the middle period.
These appeared as part of the original article, part 3:
In September 1970, when Ed Schumacher took over as NASG's General Director, he bravely said that the organization's "obituary was not in the offing." It is now clear that he made that prediction come true.
Ed was both frank and outspoken. There was never any doubt as to where he stood. His opinion that the NASG was weak and had to change was well known and bound to cause instant conflict. Ed must have known that the organization still had the same problems which had bedeviled his predecessor. He was a member of the Board of Trustees under Mobley and knew the organization well. He understood the dissension and lack of cohesive purpose within the NASG. By 1970 many felt that the NASG was mortally wounded. No doubt those things were on his mind when, in the Winter 1970 S Gauge Herald , he appealed for more cooperation than the membership had given to Russ Mobley.
Although some would call him a "benevolent dictator," Ed had really been quite hesitant to assume the role of General Director. His reasons are not entirely clear. Perhaps it was because he suspected that the organization might fail despite his best efforts. Perhaps it was because the inevitable conflict was distasteful to contemplate. As a major contributor to the S Gauge Herald burden of the NASG directorship could only detract from his work for the Herald.
Some of Ed's reluctance may have been because he was appointed, rather than elected, as General Director. However, there was no elective mechanism at the time, so the Board of Trustees unanimously approved his appointment per Mobley's recommendation, and he accepted. ("The entire board fingered me," recalls Ed.)
Ed Schumacher brought some special assets to the General Directorship. He had been in model railroading since 1935, including 14 years in S gauge. He was a professional illustrator for the Smithsonian Institution. Ed was a staff member of the S Gauge Herald from late 1962 onward. He contributed much of its artwork and many articles describing conversion of American Flyer equipment.
In addition Ed was one of those people who may well have been most representative of the spirit and soul of S gauge in the 1970s: a hi-railer. The peculiar genius of the hi-railer lay in effectively disguising the tinplate nature of American Flyer equipment without fully converting to scale. Ed had few peers in that realm. Then as now, there was tension between the scalers and the tinplaters. A hi-railer, standing somewhere in the middle between the two camps, has some advantage in dealing with this problem, for he cannot realistically be regarded as specially favoring either side. This surely helped Schumacher reduce the "heat" surrounding the conduct of NASG business.
Ed was also tenacious. (He had demonstrated this in solving the universal space problem for his dream railroad. As described in an article in the Fall 1966. This trait must have been an asset to the General Director of the NASG in the 1970s. Ed managed to build a fairly extensive railroad in a cramped attic.)
Finally, Ed was an early NASG member, a first-hand witness to the NASG's trials during the latter half of the 1960s. This provided him a perspective which none of his predecessors could have had. In terms of experience directly relevant to the NASG's problems, Schumacher may have been the best prepared General Director yet. Ed's thorough knowledge of the NASG's affairs most likely accounts for the dual thrust of his actions during the early period of his tenure.
A number of Schumacher's first moves were as much symbolic as substantive. For example, he completely redesigned the masthead of the NASG column in the S Gauge Herald talents. He changed his own title from General Director to National Director, and announced a reorganization of the NASG in the January 1971 Herald.
The reorganization symbolized a strong intention to break from the past. However, it was also very pragmatic. The Board of Trustees (Wallace Collins, Frank Titman, John Sudimak, Gene Fletcher, and Ed himself) naturally remained. Reporting to the National Director as his immediate staff were Secretary-Treasurer Dave Laux and Administrative Assistant Dick Cataldi. Most important was the addition of an Advisory Council comprised of nine directors. Conceptually it appears that Schumacher believed that the National Director should be responsive not only to a council of directors but also to the membership. If this were to work well, a responsible and active membership was a must. Given the NASG's recent past, it took supreme faith in human nature to believe that it could work. But Ed did not rely on faith alone. He immediately began looking for good people to fill the Advisory Council positions. In order to stimulate their acceptance and involvement, he opened up "The Extra Board" to members of the Advisory Council. In theory, that could have meant to any member of the NASG. While this action was mostly symbolic, a number of directors did in fact write columns during the next several years. The first was Dick Cataldi, who, as Contest Director, documented the NASG contest rules in the Spring 1971 S Gauge Herald.
The practical outcome of this approach was that it began the process of spreading some of the burdens and concerns of the organization to other shoulders, thus providing a solution to one of the more difficult problems of the past. By spring 1972 Ed could announce the major positions on the Advisory Council were filled. These included Bob Campbell as Director of Standards, Chuck Porter as Contest Director, Tom Riddle as Director of Membership, Dick Schlott as NASG Sales Director, and Gale Hall as Director of Circuits. Most of these directors also had assistants. Thus, the number of people directly involved in conducting the NASG's business had increased substantially compared to the late '60s. Moreover, as we shall later see, this organizational approach provided the NASG with badly-needed stability and continuity of leadership.
Even as he was setting out on a new course Schumacher was careful to nurture the roots of the NASG. In the January 1971 issue of S Gauge Herald, he called attention to the rotating-visiting ("RV") clubs and the circuits characterizing them as the "operational bastions of S." He made a strong pitch for renewal of interest in the circuits, and lectured on their proper conduct. It is significant that the only members of the newly created Advisory Council appointed up to that time were Director of Circuits Bob Campbell and Assistant Director of Circuits Gale Hall plus Claud Wade, the originator of the circuits, who continued as Field Director of Castings.
Ed returned to the subject of RV clubs in the Summer 1971 S Gauge Herald wherein he outlined six major features which characterized the Potomac Valley S Gaugers Association, a highly successful RV club. He was boosting the formation of S gauge clubs in general, and pointed out that an RV club often made the most sense since local clusters of S gaugers were frequently a mixture of tinplaters, hi-railers and scalers, making operation on a single layout difficult.
By fall 1971 Ed had set the NASG off in pursuit of a large number of projects and activities. Though some of these were new, many were ideas which had been tried earlier, particularly during Mobley's term. Schumacher evidently felt that the organization needed make a serious attempt at as many projects as possible. He felt that the NASG needed an opportunity to determine whether it was really prepared to put aside its differences and pull together to ensure its success.
Items which both symbolized the NASG and provided modest income were given special emphasis. Among these were an official NASG patch, an NASG logo dry-transfer suitable to S gauge rolling stock, and an NASG calendar. The patch and the dry-transfer were reasonably successful, but the calendar turned out to be a flop.
An S scale track and wheel gauge made up by C.D. Lasley was offered for sale. Schumacher took a number of these to the 1971 NESGA convention in Syracuse, N. Y., where they sold rapidly. Although small in scope, this project was quite successful. It was the forerunner of current practice in which the track and wheel gauge is a routine NASG offering.
A new photo contest, intended to become annual event, was announced in the Fall 1971 S Gauge Herald. Although reminiscent of the contest held several years earlier, it had some new wrinkles like subject categories which distinguished between scale and tinplate. The winners were to be announced at the national convention and their entries would be featured in the official calendar. However, like the earlier contest, response was poor and the contest failed. The calendar project died at the same time because its success depended on a good selection of contest photos.
The old notion of a newsletter resurfaced during this period. The idea reaches all the way back to "News, Notes and Flashes" instituted by Claud Wade. Although the need for a regular device for disseminating organizational news to the membership seemed obvious, the idea never took root. It arose once more toward the end of 1971, when Dick Schlott assigned to head the project. However, it was not to be. Given the success of the S Gauge Herald realization that considerable resources would have to be expended to publish the thing (Tell me about it!! -- Ed.) sealed its fate once more. A newsletter would have to await the passing of the S Gauge Herald almost eight years later.
Another early idea revived during this period was that of producing a history booklet. This was initially conceived as a promotional item to entice prospective NASG members. However in order to write a history it is necessary have enough history about which to write. The timing was obviously not right.
Yet another resurrected idea was a conversion manual. This publication would have drawn together all of the previously published articles covering conversion of AF items to scale and hi-rail usage. Furthermore, with updating it could continue to serve as a collection for future articles. It would have been a boon to those newly considering or entering S gauge. However, as with previous attempts, the idea died aborning.
There were still more efforts to create services for S gaugers during this period. A negative and film library was begun by Bill Oertly. Bill Fraley started a copying service which would provide members with reprints of articles. And finally, a "clearing house," the forerunner of today's, was started by Dick Schlott.
Many of these projects were only marginally successful and eventually were abandoned. Yet by the end of 1972 a betting man would have wagered that the NASG was going to survive. The primary reason was that the organization had begun to think like one. Though consensus on major issues was still lacking, a sense of commitment to the NASG was emerging. Much of this was due to the staff which Schumacher had drawn around him. But it was also due to an emergent feeling among the general membership that the NASG could not survive if it kept chewing on itself as it had in the late 1960s. Moreover, perhaps feeling a bit chastened by the experience of those years, the members were beginning to accept the fact that the ultimate burden of the success or failure of the NASG fell on themselves rather than on one or two people at the top. The era of the one-man show, so costly to the three previous G.D.s, had pretty much drawn to a close by the end of 1972.
Given the new mood, Schumacher felt that it was time to address what was probably the most serious problem confronting the NASG -- the matter of sustained revenue. From the beginning of his tenure, Ed had maintained that the lifetime membership was a mistake and that annual dues were a necessity if the NASG were to remain a viable organization. Increasingly he saw the lifetime membership as an albatross which the NASG had to drag around, and determined to ask the Board of Trustees to do away with it at the annual NASG convention in Kansas City. However, the NASG was not yet ready to face up to the problem, and the resolution was defeated by the Board.
Nevertheless, the Board of Trustees recognized that something had to be done and established a dual dues structure. They increased the lifetime membership to $5.00 for new members and established a second "participating membership" category with dues of $3.00 per year. Participating membership was voluntary and was paid in addition to the lifetime membership. The new memberships took effect on April 1, 1973, and they did offer a small amount of relief to the funding problem. However, the number of PMs never quite reached 100, and the poorly conceived scheme proved to be an unreliable source of income.
Meanwhile, the persistent problem of the relationship between the NASG and the NMRA had begun to abate. Though it remained a point of contention for many in the NASG, never again did the debate reach the level of rancor which caused such problems for Russ Mobley.
There appear to have been at least two reasons for this. First, both Thomas and Mobley believed that close association of the NASG with the NMRA was essential for the survival and well-being of the NASG. While this belief was solidly supported by many NASG members, there was an even stronger separatist view. Thus, as noted earlier, there was a crucial mismatch of goals between the NASG leadership and most of the general membership. Schumacher, by contrast, was regarded by many as strongly biased against the NMRA. In fact, Schumacher was a member of the NMRA, but during the 1960s and '70s he had come to feel that some of the NMRA's positions on S gauge standards were un-informed and misguided. In any case, whatever the depth of Schumacher's feelings about the NMRA, the fact that he did not continue to push for close association with the NMRA defused the problem.
Second, the failure of the NMRA to activate its S standards committee and to appoint an S gauger to it for a number of years despite repeated requests to do so created a clear impression in the minds of many that the NMRA had a low regard for the NASG and for S gauge in general. Although some argued that the reason that the office was vacant for so long was because there were no qualified S gaugers to fill it, an increasing number felt that the inaction was a deliberate affront by the NMRA. Thus it was difficult for the pro-NMRA forces to muster much support. The issue, though destined to resurface in new forms in the future, receded into the background. This perceived NMRA failing provided the impetus for the NASG to become totally serious about establishing independent S gauge standards. With its own sanctioned standards, the NASG became the organization which spoke with unquestionable authority for S gauge.
Meanwhile, the general success of the revitalized NASG was reflected in its growing membership. During 1971 a rather quiet but effective campaign to increase enrollment was underway. Large ads (bearing the unmistakable stamp of Schumacher's artwork) began appearing in the S Gauge Herald which had always existed for the NASG member. In any case, whatever was being done seemed to work. In the Summer 1971 S Gauge Herald, Secretary/Treasurer Dave Laux reported a membership of 450. By January 1973, 18 months later, the enrollment had risen above 650 and by the end of that year exceeded 700 members. Clearly, a resurrection had occurred.
These appeared as part of the original article, part 4:
As we saw earlier, by the end of 1973 the NASG had undergone a resurrection. A mere three years earlier it seemed mortally wounded. Many had bailed out. Many had thought that the NASG was largely irrelevant and did not count for much. But by the end of 1973 much of that mood had dissipated and membership had risen to its highest point ever.
Curiously, the resurrected organization was very like the one that had earlier teetered on the brink of demise. Very few fundamental changes had occurred. Although many additional services had been tried (or retried), few succeeded. All consumed precious resources and almost none paid for themselves. The circuits remained the principal offering of the NASG to its members. The voice of the organization was still a column in the back pages of the bi-monthly S Gauge Herald. Moreover, the concept of the NASG as the sanctioning body for official meets, established at the 1970 NESGA meeting in Hershey and consolidated by the first national convention at Kansas City in 1972, was blurred by a series of NESGA events sanctioned as dual purpose meets. The second "pure" NASG convention did not occur until 1975, hosted by the Chicagoland S Gauge Association in Elk Grove Village, Illinois.
Most important, the NASG was still saddled with a dues structure which could not provide the funds for either basic services or major initiatives. There was no hope of major advertisement of the NASG, let alone S gauge. There could be no brass import project. There could not be a newsletter. Indeed, there was not even sufficient funding for a mass mailing to the entire membership. Thus, the NASG was totally dependent on the Herald it to communicate to the membership. Ironically, without the means for mass mailing, the NASG could not even update its membership files and thus did not really know who its members were.
What had been clear to Schumacher, his lieutenants, and a few others for some time became increasingly clear to the general membership. Fundamental change had to occur. The final four years of Schumacher's tenure were devoted to this change.
Social change, even on so small a scale as within an organization like the NASG, never comes easily a price is always paid. Neither does it come straightforwardly in neat logical little steps. What follows is an account of the major changes in the perspective of the time but with no attempt to link them in a logical sequence. An account of the price will come later.
Actually the seeds of change had been planted back in 1969 when, as we saw earlier, Mobley asked Schumacher to come up with a new set of contest rules. Schumacher had turned to Dick Cataldi who, with Jon Watson, devised a well-received contest with new events for the PVSGA-hosted NESGA meet in Alexandria. Cataldi codified those rules, which were printed in the Spring 1971 Herald. They were the first set of printed S gauge contest rules, and they were used at the 1971 NESGA convention in Syracuse.
We have previously noted that the development of the contest rules together with the sanctioning of official meetings were a benchmark clearly indicating the determination of the NASG to become the authoritative voice for S gauge. The process, of course, took some time. The contest rules themselves were further revised by Cataldi in October 1972 and published in the March-April 1973 S Gauge Herald. A further revision was made in March 1974.
Interestingly, one of the principal concerns that led to the development of NASG contest rules was that the NMRA rules did not provide for a situation in which tinplate and hi-rail played so big a part. The newly added events were developed to acknowledge this and were intended to promote model-building by all types of S gaugers, unlike the NMRA where the contest is principally aimed at the top craftsmen. Thus the 1969/1971 NASG rules were farthest from the NMRA rules. However, revisions became necessary to avoid misinterpretation of the intent of the rules. As these occurred the rules (but not the events) procedurally came to resemble the NMRA rules more closely and permitted the use of NMRA qualified judges.
Establishment of a uniform set of rules was important in its own right. Such rules avoided the previous problems of each hosting group modifying the NMRA rules to local conditions. But the greater importance of these rules lay in the emergence of the NASG as the authoritative body for S gauge. Each revision of the contest rules reinforced this authority.
The importance of the contest rules as rules per se was obvious. Their importance to the maturation of the NASG was also understood even at the time. Less obvious and requiring the perspective of time was the significance of these events for the future leadership of the NASG. The efforts showcased Dick Cataldi's special talents and were a harbinger of the dominance that the Potomac Valley S Gauge Association was to assume. For more than 15 years the PVSGA provided the top NASG leaders.
Of all that took place during the mid-'70s, nothing validated the NASG as the undisputed representative of S gauge as completely as the establishing of S scale standards. Like everything else in the NASG, achievement of this status was difficult and somewhat costly.
To understand the significance of the achievement, it is helpful to review the history of standards used in S gauge.
As usual, reference to American Flyer must be made. Obviously A. C. Gilbert Co. made Flyer wheelsets and trackage to its own proprietary standards which were appropriate for toy-train operation. These standards had no bearing on the development of S scale standards and they probably had no bearing on the NMRA T-13 hi-rail standards. Indeed, it seems most unlikely that any S gauger ever modeled to T-13 standards. However, A. C. Gilbert's proprietary standards did have an impact on the development of S Hi-rail standards. Many hi-railers simply altered AF wheels to reduce their massive flanges. Some also reduced the tread thickness. Such wheels were then re-gauged to some personal standard which worked. However, an important objective of standardization is the interchange of equipment from pike to pike. Personal standards rarely permit such interchange to occur. While interest in this goal was highest among the scalers, it was also present in the hi-railers. Although hi-rail wheelsets had been produced since the immediate post-war era by several companies (Rex, Miller, Nixon, as well as others) these were not made to any generally accepted standard. The development of a specific set of hi-rail standards was essentially a solo effort by Ed Schumacher. They were adopted by ACE Model Railroad Equipment Company and were the basis for the many hi-rail wheelsets and trucks produced by that company.
Although it was generally thought that the NMRA S3 and S4 standards which existed in the 1960s were the result of scaling up HO standards, Barney Daehler pointed out that Ed Packard was using standards very similar to those NMRA standards in his production of C-D gauge engines. Thus it appears possible that the NMRA S3 and S4 actually go back to the late 1930s. HO gauge did not become dominant until well after World War II. Before that, O gauge was king. Thus, it may be that S3 and S4 were influenced by O scale, although O was in some turmoil itself over whether to use 17/64" or 1/4" scale.
The need to develop better standards for S scale had several roots. Code 125 rail, which was regarded as standard for S scale, was expensive and becoming difficult to obtain in the 1960s. It had not yet become widely accepted for use in O scale, and since there were only a few hundred S scalers at best, many of whom used code 148 rail, the demand for code 125 was low. Consequently, its production fell off. Moreover, S scalers were beginning to experiment with code 100 rail, reducing demand even further. Another factor was that S4 wheelsets were no longer being made1.
Ironically though, the most compelling development was the increasing use of an HO scale item, namely the Kadee coupler, in S scale operation. The Kadee, a bit large for HO and a bit small for S, provided a vast visual improvement over the gigantic American Flyer coupler. Moreover, it was leagues ahead of other couplers in terms of operational reliability. The use of the HO Kadee in S scale probably began in the late fifties or very early sixties. Its acceptance was accelerated when John Bortz adapted the Kadee by replacing the gladhand with a longer version better suited to automatic uncoupling in S scale. Bortz produced the modified Kadee as a commercial venture, and it rather rapidly became the accepted standard in S scale railroading. By the early 1970s few S scalers used anything else.
However, unless track and equipment were maintained to very close tolerances, the Kadee could slip by each other when coupling was attempted. Track gauge, back-to-back wheel gauge, and bolster pin clearance contributed to the problem, but the slop between the truck sideframes and the axle ends was generally regarded that the chief culprit. This permitted the car ends to be far out of alignment with each other.
There was a lively debate over what to do to cure those ills. Some argued that simply shimming the axles to diminish the play was all that was required. This seemed to work for some. Others argued that S scalers should just model to higher standards which would eliminate the problems. It became clear, however, that for most S scalers the NMRA standards simply were too crude at too many points for simple adjustments to solve all problems. For example, maintaining wheel spacing at the maximum allowable very often increased problems at turnouts. Thus the sentiment for changes grew.
Nevertheless, by the early 1970s there was no clear consensus on the matter. Some long-time S scalers like Jesse Bennett were strongly opposed to any change, arguing that changes would put existing S scalers out of business. Jesse himself modeled to higher standards than the average S scaler. Despite that, he lobbied hard through the Finescale Circuit and though correspondence with other S scalers and the NMRA engineering committee against changing the S3 and S4 standards. At the other end of the spectrum was Ron Whaley who modeled in 1/64 AAR standards -- an exact scale reproduction of the prototype. (Ron may well be the only Proto-64 modeler in existence.) Whaley did not propose that 1/64 AAR become the official standard for all S scalers. He did, however, call for a graded sequence of standards with each successive standard coming closer to the perfect 1/64 reduction. He also argued vigorously against "paper engineering" where individuals proposed a set of standards from completely untested calculations. He called for rigorous testing before the adoption of standards. This thinking undoubtedly had its effect in the testing that later ensued. In between these poles were people like Barney Daehler who proposed the use of Code 110 standards for S scale. Daehler had begun his S scale modeling in 1/64 AAR but concluded that it required that all construction be to such exacting standards that it was not generally practical. (As an example, Ron Whaley silver-solders all of his rail joints and meticulously adjusts all of his trucks and locus to effect perfect equalization.) Daehler shifted to code 110, arguing that since it had become the accepted standard in HO it should function even better in S. Daehler presented his views in both the NMRA Bulletin in the 1970s two sets of ... (original text missing - webmaster).
During the 1970s two sets of events involved the development of S scale standards, those within the NMRA and those within the NASG. Some of the same people were involved in both sets of activities but, in general, the action within the NMRA was cautious and conservative and happened far too slowly to satisfy the need as seen within the NASG.
Schumacher, responding to the building pressure within the NASG, appointed Bob Campbell as the first NASG Standards Director. Campbell had been Circuits director earlier and was also an NMRA member. Ed charged him with surveying the scene and making a summary report and proposal for further examination by the NASG. He made such a report which was presented in the Summer 1972 Herald. However, Campbell had difficulty with the NMRA in establishing his qualifications to comment on such technical matters as standards. Bob had built and operated a modest interurban layout which in the eyes of many, including some S gaugers, did not give him the background and experience to assess the general standards. Such standards are usually regarded as reflective of heavy mainline operation. Campbell resigned as Standards Director, and Schumacher appointed Jim Peters as his replacement in mid-1972.
Peters was not only a model railroader, but also a real railroad man and had a better time of it than did Campbell. In early 1974, Barney Daehler was appointed Engineering Committee Chairman in the NMRA, and very shortly thereafter he appointed Peters as the S scale Standards Committee chairman. In fact, Daehler had considered several S gaugers for the position. These included Ron Whaley, Dick Cataldi, and Del Amerine in addition to Peters. Barney had particularly explored Whaley's interest, but Ron rejected the idea and eventually Daehler settled on Peters. Thus Peters occupied the same position in both organizations, and it was widely anticipated that he would be able to effect peace and cooperation. It did not work out that way.
Peters, working with the proposal originally made by Campbell, felt the sense of urgency that existed in the NASG. Moreover, the environment within the NASG was heavily influenced by the fact that there had been no NMRA S Standards chairman for some three years before Peters had been appointed. The NASG simply did not trust the motives of the NMRA. Thus, when Daehler's cautious approach became evident, many S gaugers tended to take a dim view of it some felt betrayed by one of their own. Daehler believed that what the NASG wanted was too radical a change from S3 and S4. He proposed that S3 and S4 be left as is and that the changes proposed by the NASG be made "Recommended Practices" (RPs). If after a few years of use they proved out, they could replace S3 and S4. This was not an acceptable approach to the NASG.
Given what was interpreted as non-responsiveness by the NMRA, Schumacher gave Peters the green board to proceed with a testing program to validate the proposed NASG standards.
Peters set about making scores of wheel sets to the proposed standards and installing these in trucks made by the various manufacturers of the period. In some instances he also re-worked the trucks to reduce side play and in others he narrowed the truck frames to a more prototypical thickness. In the end he produced multiple sets of trucks that provided a controlled comparison of the proposed standards with the older standards. The trucks also permitted the controlled examination of the effect of reworking the trucks.
These trucks were then distributed to S gaugers around the continent who were requested to use them in a variety of ways under many different conditions, and then to report the results back to Peters. This testing program took place over approximately a two-year period. Though there were a few dissenters, a clear majority of the testers strongly favored the new standards.
Near the end of this testing period a further test took place. An S scale steam loco was built to the proposed NASG standards. This loco was a B&O T-36 class 4-8-2 built by Tom Beresford2 with N. Dick Cataldi donated some Nord parts, Jim Peters donated some others, and the remaining parts were purchased with NASG funds from S Scale Locomotive and Supply. Upon completion, the T-36 was numbered NASG 5567 and was sent to and operated on a number of S scale pikes around the continent. The locomotive was considered a rousing success. It had, for example, successfully backed through a double slip switch on Dick Arthur's layout at 100 scale miles per hour.
Given NASG 5567's stunning success and the general success of the truck testing, approval of the proposed standards was assured. Thus, in December 1976, the NASG Board of Trustees approved the new standards. More chapters to the S scale standards story were to be written in the following decade, but by the end of 1976 it was no longer debatable who authoritatively spoke for S gauge.
Meanwhile, during the same period under Barney Daehler's guidance, the NMRA had moved in its own groove. Standards had been developed for Sn3. Changes had been made to RP12.2, 24.1 and 24.3 in regard to S scale and S finescale. The NMRA paid scant attention to the NASG activities, and S3 and S4 remained unchanged. The two organizations had never been farther apart.
Without question the single most important event of the mid-70s was the legal formalization of the National Association of S Gaugers.
On March 4, 1976, NASG Inc., a non-profit corporation was legally established in the state of New York. Incorporation was the end result of a long struggle for self-realization which the organization had gone through since the early 1960s. Claud Wade first responded to the need for further organization by creating the Director's Circuit. Russ Mobley completed the more formal organization scheme which Bernie Thomas had only partially implemented at the time of his death. However, Russ' effort was crippled by too few real contributors to the management of the NASG. Had help been forthcoming, it is possible that there might have been no need for an NASG Inc.
Ed Schumacher pushed formal organization still further. However, his scheme differed from Mobley's in one important way. He introduced the concept of an Advisory Council, separate from the Board of Trustees. This provided both a means of spreading the management burden and access to others' energy and insight. Ed had the good fortune of acquiring several first-rate lieutenants to share the management burden.
Given Schumacher's success in the first half of his stewardship, why was there interest in creating a new NASG? Was success not enough? Actually, what had begun in the early '70s and became manifest in the mid-'70s was a struggle for the very soul of the NASG. While the arguments took various forms, they all came down to whether the NASG would continue to be the "shoebox" operation, as Schumacher called it, or whether it would become a shaping force for S gauge.
Nearly everyone could be placed in either of two camps: conservatives saw little reason to consider changes those who were more visionary strongly felt the need for a more activist role for the NASG. But action requires resources, principally money and human effort. While there were increasing amounts of the latter, money, as always, was in short supply.
For those who wanted the NASG to take a more active role, the situation was increasingly intolerable. They insisted that the lifetime membership needed to be scuttled and replaced by annual dues. However, they met strong resistance from those who reminded them that a lifetime membership meant exactly what it said. The latter group argued that life members could not be required to pay annual dues. Since at that time all members had lifetime memberships, only new members could be charged annual dues. The result would obviously have been unacceptable. The NASG once again moved into a period of intense internal debate.
However, unlike in Mobley's days, there was not merely a single soul to act as the lightning rod for discontent. Additionally, no conservatives had important positions in the NASG under Schumacher. Thus, they were hampered in their efforts at lobbying for their views. Moreover, activism had begun to carry the day. More and more members became convinced that redirection of the NASG was essential. Hence, the debate, although often fierce, never became debilitating to the organization.
The logic of lifetime membership could not be avoided. It meant what it said, and was therefore a box from which there was no escape. There was no satisfactory solution to the problem from inside the NASG. The only solution available was to walk away from the NASG and found a new organization. Thus, incorporation was not the inevitable consequence of years of development, as some argued. Instead, it was nothing less than a putting to death of the old NASG in order to be free of the confinement of the lifetime membership.
The decision to incorporate was reached slowly and evolved throughout most of 1974. By the beginning of 1975, Ed Schumacher could confidently announce in the Jan.-Feb. Herald the that in the near future the lifetime dues would be replaced by a modest annual dues. Ironically, even as he made the announcement he found it necessary to plead for an increase in the number of participating members in order to raise more revenue.
With the decision having been reached, Ed convened a meeting at Dick Cataldi's home in Vienna, Virginia on January 4, 1975 to organize the effort to develop a constitution for the proposed new organization. Jack McGarry and Bill Oertly were also present. Schumacher appointed McGarry chairman of the Constitution Committee and directed him to draft a constitution and by-laws using the NMRA constitution as a model, but to make it simpler and shorter. The specific charges to this committee were published in the March-April 1975 Herald. The Committee was also charged with overseeing the incorporation of the new organization and for effecting the transition from the old organization. The first target of the transition effort was the lifetime membership, the provision of which was eliminated effective July 1, 1975. For the following year all new members were accepted as Participating Members. Annual dues were accepted effective January 1, 1976 and were five dollars for individual members and ten dollars for contributing members (usually clubs and manufacturers). Incorporation and ratification of the new constitution was scheduled to be completed by July 1, 1976.
Jack McGarry was the constitution's principal author. He suggested most of its provisions and literally wrote the constitution and its by-laws. Cataldi and Oertly served as the critical sounding board, suggesting changes and clarifications. As the Committee considered the matter of how the new organization was to be politically organized, Cataldi pressed for the formation of mid-western and western regions. His views prevailed and the new organization was given the three regions known to us today, each with a vice president. Schumacher had also wanted a Canadian region with its vice president, but there were simply too few Canadians in the organization at that time to justify it. Initially the boundaries of the regions followed the time zones with the Mountain and Pacific zones lumped together in the Pacific Region, but this proved cumbersome to administer. Later the boundaries were changed to include only whole states or provinces.
Selection of a name for the proposed new organization was a real challenge. Many different ones were considered, some with humor from the resulting acronyms. However, after lengthy discussion, the Committee concluded that it could not really do any better than adding "Inc." to the old name4.
While McGarry and company were preparing a constitution, Wally Collins, strictly gratis, did the legal footwork to incorporate the new NASG in the State of New York. The new NASG was legally established as a non-profit corporation on March 4, 1976.
What remained was to gather up the members in order to approve what had taken place and ratify the constitution. Originally there had been some hope that this could be accomplished at the Chicago convention in 1975. However, the pace of progress made that impossible. Moreover, the symbolism of ratifying the NASG constitution during our nation's bicentennial year entered the thinking of the planners. Thus, the "Constitutional Convention" took place on Memorial Day weekend, 1976.
The convention, held at the Talisman motel in Ottawa, Canada in order to take advantage of cheaper rates, ratified the constitution and the NASG Inc. became a reality.
Simultaneous with incorporation came the announcement in the May-June 1976 Herald that the Circuits had been "cut adrift" from the NASG effective January 1, 1976. Symbolically the break-away was complete. A new bird took flight from the scattered bones of the old.
We left the NASG story at the point where the old NASG, along with the $3 Lifetime Membership, was moldering in the ditch along the roadside. The Mail Traveling Circuits had been cast adrift. The NASG, inc., minted anew, had emerged penny-bright and ready to travel new roads.
Although the constitution and the organizational format of NASG Inc. were formally
approved by the membership at the Memorial Day weekend convention in 1976, the NASG
had already begun the transition to its new status earlier in that year. The title
of General Director had been dropped in favor of President. Beneath the President
was an Executive Vice President and three Regional Vice Presidents, a Treasurer,
and a Secretary, The conventioneers also formally approved the following slate
of officers which had been announced in the Jan. - Feb. S Gauge Herald:
President: Ed Schumacher
Executive VP: Dick Cataldi
Eastern VP: Allan Craig
Central VP: Gale Hall
Pacific VP: Ed Loizeaux
Treasurer: Jack McGarry
Secretary: Dick Rosenbaum
These then were the first officers of the newly formed NASG Inc. Formal elections were scheduled to be held early in 1977. Mail ballots were sent at the end of April to all registered paid-up members of the NASG Inc. The results were reported in the Sept-Oct. S Gauge Herald. With the exception of Jack McGarry, the appointed slate won election to their respective offices. McGarry was a naval officer, and at the time was up for an extended tour of sea duty which would have precluded his active involvement. Therefore, he withdrew from consideration, and Bill Oertly was elected Treasurer instead.
During the eleven months between the Constitutional Convention and the election, the cost of restructuring the NASG became apparent. Many of those for whom the Mail Traveling Circuits were the very essence of the NASG (despite the sporadic low participation) simply could not countenance the formation of NASG Inc. One writer, commenting in the circuit directed by Len Giovannoli, said, "Well, I guess they don't need me, then I don't need them either." Others felt betrayed by the dropping of the lifetime memberships. A large percentage of the disaffected never joined the NASG Inc. Although accurate figures are not available, it appears that prior to incorporation the membership stood at something over 800. There was hope that, after restructuring, it would exceed 1000 by the end of 1976. It never made it. At the time the ballots were mailed out in April 1977 the paid-up membership numbered 165. The cost of incorporating was clearly measured in lost memberships.
Though painful and disappointing to those members who remained steadfast, in retrospect the severe membership loss can be seen as useful in the eventual development of the NASG. Clearly many of those who chose not to come along were the source of much of the contention that had characterized the debate over changing directions and especially over dropping the lifetime membership. Though there was to be plenty of argument in the future, it was in fact very helpful that the NASG Inc. did not have to deal with the same level of debate during those formative months. Moreover, communication with a smaller organization was easier and more affordable.
In a strange way Ed Schumacher was also a casualty of incorporation. Though he had led the struggle to reform the NASG, he had barely been elected President of the NASG Inc. when he announced his decision to resign. Ed had been at the helm for seven years, longer by far than any of his predecessors. He had early on enjoyed the success of a revitalized NASG, had instigated many changes, and on the whole had a highly successful tenure as General Director. Nevertheless, they had been highly stressful years and towards the end he was sounding tired and dispirited. Oddly enough he sounded a lot like Russ Mobley before him, worn down by controversy, dismayed by the apparent apathy, and wondering if anyone gave a damn. In any case, he had decided that it was time for others to take on the task of further development of the NASG.
Dick Cataldi, the Executive Vice President, was named Acting President. He simultaneously let it be known that he was a candidate for becoming permanent President. The Board of Trustees subsequently named him President by formal action taken at the beginning of 1978. He thus became the second President of the NASG Inc., and - curiously - the only one not elected by popular vote.
By now it is apparent to the reader that Dick Cataldi had been a major force in the evolution of the NASG for a number of years preceding incorporation. He was the guiding light in the development of the contest rules. He was also an important contributor to the development of the NASG standards, and he had been a strong member of the Constitutional Committee. Perhaps less well understood is the degree to which he set the tone and direction during Schumacher's reign. Ed referred to Cataldi as his good right hand, and with good reason. It was Dick who gave shape to the routine operations of the NASG. With the orderly mind of a trained engineer, he set about making the NASG function in a more straightforward and business-like manner. He continued this thrust during his brief tenure as Executive Vice President of NASG Inc. Many of the regular business matters as conducted today were first begun either by Cataldi or at his insistence. The annual reports begun in 1977 and the NASG newsletter (the forerunner of the Dispatch ) were also the results of his efforts. It was thus only natural that the Board of Trustees should select him to be permanent President to fill out Schumacher's term.
Cataldi also deserves special credit for recruiting to the ranks of NASG leadership many of those individuals who have guided the course of the NASG Inc. during the 1980s. Rollain Mercier became Dick's Executive VP and later succeeded him as President. Ed Loizeaux, who succeeded Mercier to become the 1985-89 NASG President, filled the Pacific VP position which had been created at Dick's insistence. Cataldi says that he merely cast a broad net and took whoever was willing. Perhaps, but the generally high quality of the officers' commitment to the NASG during the eighties suggests that Cataldi had some particular abilities in judging people.
Of all the things for which Cataldi deserves credit, none was more important than developing an effective means of communicating with the membership. In the Nov.-Dec. 1977 S Gauge Herald probable that he did not realize how prophetic that statement was at the time. One year from the date of publication of the statement, the S Gauge Herald would forever cease publication, and with it would disappear the NASG column which for years had been the sole means of regular communication with the NASG membership.
Prescient or not, Cataldi set about reducing NASG's dependence on the S Gauge Herald to be mailed independently to the membership. As Acting President, he continued this effort and announced that an NASG column would also appear in the S Gaugian. In point of fact, the NASG column did appear in the Jan.-Feb., March-April, and May-June 1979 issues of the S Gaugian, but by mutual consent it was not continued.
A further effort at more complete communications with the membership resulted in the "NASG Portfolio." This publication was to include all manner of information about the NASG: a membership roster, NASG standards, a financial statement, the constitution and by-laws, and the contest rules, as well as the annual report. It was to be mailed once yearly to the membership and to be given to each new member upon enrolling. The first "NASG Portfolio" appeared late in 1977 and included the first independently published and distributed Annual Report. The very handsome cover was designed by Ed Schumacher. Evidently the effort to produce the "NASG Portfolio" proved too great to sustain. The publication no longer is produced, although all of the items in its table of contents continue to be separately printed.
A newsletter had been discussed by the NASG for many years but had never been seriously considered, principally because the organization could never have afforded it before 1976. However, there were also many who felt either the Circuits or the S Gauge Herald or both together were an adequate means for communicating to the membership. Schumacher was among these. Partly because of cost and partly out of fealty to the S Gauge Herald, Ed was strongly opposed to the idea of a newsletter.
On the other side of the argument were those who pointed out that the S Gauge Herald was ill suited to communicating "corporate" sorts of information or for reaching the membership directly or for polling the membership on organizational matters. As for the Circuits, it was argued that they were narrowly and parochially focused and too erratic to be a reliable communications device.
Evidently, Cataldi concurred in the latter arguments, because upon being appointed Acting President he set in motion actions intended to develop a newsletter.
Dick himself prepared the very first newsletter with the help of his secretary, Kay Imbrie. It appeared with the date April 1, 1978. The second number appeared in August of that year, but by that time Cataldi had induced Bob Ristow (of Wisconsin Central Models) to take on the chore of editing the newsletter. Ristow shepherded the publication through four issues until Feb. 1979.
At that time, in a further demonstration of his ability to pick winners, Cataldi turned to Ernie Horr of the "Inland Empire S Gaugers Association of the Pacific Northwest" (IESGAPN). Ernie was editor of the IESGAPN's newsletter, and apparently Dick was impressed with the publication. After some thought Ernie agreed to take on the job. He felt that the newsletter should have a name and came up with "Dispatch." Cataldi quickly concurred, and thus Ernie Horr was the first Dispatch editor. The first issue was published in June 1979.
Ernie recalls that he had neither a budget nor any guidelines regarding the format or content of the new publication. Ernie had to pay all costs out-of-pocket and get reimbursed by sending a bill to Bill Oertly. To save postal costs, he tried to keep the weight of each issue under an ounce. At that time the Dispatch had to be hand-addressed and sent to some 400 individuals. As if that were not chore enough, the entire newsletter was typed on a borrowed electric typewriter. The margins had to be set by carefully counting spaces. Some very tedious work was involved, a far cry from today's word processors.
An examination of those early Dispatch dedication to the task. He surely set a high standard for all editors of the Dispatch who followed him. In February 1981 he passed that legacy on to Geoff Graeber, who became the second editor of the Dispatch.
The significance of the Dispatch should not he overlooked. With its advent it became possible for the NASG to take the demise of the S Gauge Herald in stride. Though by no means intended to be a replacement for the Herald, the Dispatch could and did serve as the official voice of the NASG, which, with the demise of the S Gauge Herald, was destined to become the voice of S gauge. Had there been no Dispatch, the NASG would have had to invent one and might well have fatally floundered with no voice at all while it attempted to find one.
If, as some have suggested, Ed Schumacher is the father of NASG Inc., then surely Dick Cataldi is its mother. He nurtured the organization, taught it how to take care of itself, and helped it learn to speak. Thus, when Rollain Mercier took over the reigns in 1981, he had a fully -functional organization which could address the task of finding its place in the world of model railroading.
There was to have been one more section of the NASG history called "Modern Times." However, with this fifth chapter of the history of the NASG I have chosen to set aside my pen and cease my labors. My reason is a growing awareness that at some point history begins to co-mingle with daily experience. At that point it ceases being perceived as history and is thought of as more akin to peeping and prying. I don't know exactly where that point is, but I have the perception that as my conversations come closer to those presently guiding the efforts of the NASG there is a growing discomfort. I judge that it is not worth it to make the current leadership uncomfortable, and therefore I leave the story of the 1980s and '90s to some future scribe. I trust that to this point I have done an adequate job.
When I undertook the task I believed that I could knock it off in an evening or two and finish with a three-section article. Or, at worst, I would have to treat it as three short summary-type articles. I severely misjudged the richness of the history that is there despite the raggedness of the record. I became fascinated with the subject, and then my problem became where to draw the line since I clearly was not out to write a scholarly treatise. Perhaps the thing that fascinated me the most was trying to find the answer to why the NASG survived. It really should not have, yet it found a way to metamorphose into something that could. (Incidentally, when I ask this question of others, I frequently get an answer to why S gauge/scale survived. That is a very different though related question. The one should not be confused with the other.)
Cataldi told me that I would never get to the bottom of the question. He is probably right, but I am sure of one thing though. As I have pored over the record I have been struck by the sociology of the NASG. Though it is complex, and includes the sociology common to most minorities, the key to NASG's survival in the past and probably in the future is to be found in the way it has met the social needs of those of us in S gauge.
I now want to acknowledge a lot of help which I have received in writing these chapters: Dick Cataldi, Wally Collins, Barney Daehler, Bill Fraley, Len Giovanolli, Don Heimburger, Ernie Horr, Dick Karnes, Jim Kindraka, Ed Loizeaux, Russ Mobley, Ed Schumacher, Don Thompson, Frank Titman, Claud Wade, and Ron Whaley. If I have unintentionally overlooked anyone, I apologize.
Claud got things off to a great start by pawing through his records and spending
a number of hours with me, providing life to the sterile data. I am particularly
grateful for that. Russ likewise spent a lot of time, as did Ed Schumacher. While
I never spoke directly to either of them, I did correspond repeatedly with both.
They deserve special thanks. Both Ron Whaley and Barney Daehler performed a particularly
useful service in reflecting on the development of standards. Finally, I am particularly
indebted to Dick Cataldi who served both as critic and counselor throughout the
preparation of these chapters. He contributed materially to whatever quality I may
have achieved. I owe you, Dick. Thanks.
- Bob Jackson