Rails By The Bay 2021 logo

NMRA 2021 Virtual National Convention


July 6 – 10, 2021
Santa Clara, California
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Welcome to Santa Clara, California - VIRTUALLY!

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The clinic recordings were removed from YouTube as of 12:30 PM PDT, August 16, 2021. Thank you for attending Rails by the Bay! We had a blast putting it on for you.

Click to open Timetable (3 MB)
RBTB Timetable front cover image

While we were saddened to cancel the live in-person convention we were all looking forward to, the 21st Century Limited Corporation and the members of the Pacific Coast Region are pleased to announce that planning for a substitute multi-day video virtual event via the Zoom Webinar Platform is well underway. There will be two clinic tracks, Daylight and Zephyr, a Great Hall, and up to 100 Birds of a Feather Breakout Rooms each day.

The Rails by the Bay NMRA 2021 Convention was Tuesday, July 6 through Saturday, July 10, 2021. This five-day event mixed live and recorded events, such as:

Each convention day ran from 8:00 AM to 10:00 PM, Pacific Daylight Time. The clinics were recorded and are available for playback on-demand until midnight Saturday, August 7, 2021. The "Clinic Goes On" and live panel discussions were not recorded. A dedicated team of 100 volunteers worked hard to make this a great convention.

The planning committee drew volunteers from 21st Century Limited Corporation, a California nonprofit corporation that successfully ran NMRA’s highly regarded San Jose 2000 and Sacramento 2011 NMRA National Conventions, as well as local modelers and operators, and even some volunteers from other countries! Pacific Coast Region of the National Model Railroad Association, Inc. is also a co-sponsor of Rails by the Bay.

While most of our committee members live in the Pacific Coast Region, we also had a truly international cast of volunteers and participants from all over the United States, Canada, New Zealand, and United Kingdom.

Events Included:

Video Clinics

A clinic by Frank Markovich, MMR® who described building parts of the "Magic of Scale Model Railroading" exhibit at the California State Railroad Museum in Sacramento, the capital city of California. We also featured more than 70 clinics by some of the hobby's most well-known modelers like Jack Burgess, MMR®, Bob Frankrone, Joe Fugate, Edwin Hall, MMR®, Mark Juett, MMR®, Tony Koester, Clark Kooning, MMR®, Bruce Morden, Seth Neumann, Byron Henderson, Pete Steinmetz, and Bob Weinheimer, MMR®. See the Clinics page for the complete lineup of clinicians.

Video Layout Tours

As of 6/30/21, we have 49 pre-recorded video layout tours for your viewing pleasure before the convention. Also scheduled were 6 live moderated Layout Owner Panels. You'll virtually visit the top-quality layouts of modelers like Jack Burgess, MMR®, Guy Cantwell, Dave Connery, MMR®, Bill Decker, Dave Houston, Otis McGee, Dave Stanley, and many more. See the Layout Tours page for the full list of layout tours.

We recommend you watch these videos before the convention to more fully appreciate the live Layout Owner Panel sessions with the layout owners.

The layout tour videos will remain available for viewing following the convention until the end of YouTube or the end of this website, whichever comes first. There are no plans to take down the website anytime in the foreseeable future.

Modeler's Showcase

Join us for a special Friday evening clinic as a number of local modelers show off their work. The Modeler’s Showcase is a series of brief presentations about a project special to them. From building a prototype telegraph sounder, touring completed scenes, 3D printing, kitbashing or detailing, there is something to interest everyone. Featured presentations include:

  • Dave Adams – An Approach to Building Operating Telegraph Sounders
  • Dave Croshere – Scenes around Port Croesus
  • Paul Deis – Building the Stenner Creek Trestle
  • Fran Foley – 3D Printing On30 Trains
  • Earl Girbovan – A Tour of the Clear Lake Lumber Company
  • Jesse Walden – Adding Easy Details to a Model

Special Interest Groups

Interested in layout design? The Layout Design Special Interest Group (LDSIG) had their OWN channel up for the whole convention to provide a virtual "SIG Room" experience. They also had a complete LDSIG program including SIG Meet & Greet Monday evening, July 5th, 5:00–7:00 PM, videos of LDSIG-recommended layouts, 45-minute consulting sessions, and SIG "Dinner" Friday night, July 9th. For the latest information about LDSIG activities during Rails by the Bay, check out the LDSIG, Rails by the Bay, NMRA Convention 2021 website.

We also offered a number of breakout rooms for interaction among the attendees to capture some of the feeling of meeting old friends in the hallways. The Hotel Bar was especially well-attended!

Be sure to check out the newly-updated Birds of a Feather Breakout Rooms page for a list of participating groups.

Operate the Silicon Valley Lines – Remotely!

Silicon Valley Lines (SVL), a club layout in San Jose, California, hosted a remote operating session Friday, July 9 at 7:00 PM PDT, for up to 30 engineers.

Contact James Brassill for questions.

Vendor Focus Sessions

Click for Vendor Focus Schedule

We also had hobby manufacturer-hosted vendor focus sessions breakout rooms for presentations, chat with the vendor, or to discuss their product line. These vendors hosted available were:

Actor Michael Gross Keynote Address

Michael Gross photoWell-known actor, modeler and railfan MICHAEL GROSS offered a special video address at the start of the dinner break Friday, July 9th at 5:00 PM. Michael’s past convention banquet talks have earned accolades. This one was outstanding! It is still available, along with all the other clinic recordings.

Mr. Gross is a model railroader, a railroad historian with a large collection of railroad antiques, and part owner of the 1:1 scale Santa Fe Southern Railway, a former branch line of the AT&SF which operates between Lamy and Santa Fe, New Mexico. He is spokesman for the “World’s Greatest Hobby” campaign, Operation Lifesaver, and the B&O Railroad Museum in Baltimore, Maryland. He is a member of the Santa Fe Railway Historical Society. In 2016, he narrated Kalmbach’s DVD release “20th Century Limited” about the famed New York Central train which ended service some 50 years ago. He also appeared in the 2016 documentary “Model Citizens”. The hobby is lucky to have someone from the entertainment industry so active in our organizations and programs.

Mr. Gross has been active in film and television since 1975. He starred as Steven Keaton in the TV situation comedy “Family Ties” for seven seasons, and played Burt Gummer in five motion pictures in the “Tremors” franchise. He has appeared in “Anger Management,” “Suits,” “How I Met Your Mother,” “Law & Order,” and many other productions.

National Train Show

The National Train Show, which is separately planned and operated, was not held this year. It returns next year in St. Louis, MO.


Check the News & Updates page for the latest updates on additions, cancellations, and other updates to clinics and other events as the information becomes available.


Media Inquiries: publicity@nmra2021.com
Registration and Refunds: registrar@nmra2021.com

This has been a year unlike any other, and we appreciate your patience and positive support as we continue to develop the convention under challenging conditions.

Ed Slintak
Rails by the Bay
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