O Scale Hall of Fame Chicago – 2018
Norm Buckhart founded Protocraft to produce products needed in the Proto48 hobby. The business has grown from its origin of supplying wheels produced by Steve Grabowski and his dad to an extensive line of exquisite brass freight cars, brass trucks, working magnetic couplers, wheels, driver parts and of course decals.
Norm is a native Californian raised in the Bay Area with a deep appreciation of the railroads and marine operations present in and around the San Francisco Bay.
His background includes a Naval aviator, Pan American pilot and real estate developer. Model railroading has been a long term interest of his.
We are fortunate that Norm has demonstrated the ability to identify products needed in the hobby and getting them done. Protocraft has developed a wide range of products that support accurate modeling.
Proto48 is about accurate modeling ranging from accurate gauge and wheel profiles to correct rolling stock and lettering. Norm has set about the task of developing a magnetic AAR Type-E coupler, hundreds of decal sets with art developed from photos rather than type setting font like the old Champ and Walthers decals. He developed and imported a wide range of accurate boxcars for specific prototypes for the major railroads. Rather than a generic car, Norm has obtaining actual AC&F and Pullman drawings for the actual cars purchased by railroads. The cars are done with the correct running boards, hand brakes, body details and trucks. Speaking of trucks, Protocraft has developed a whole range of ball-bearing equipped trucks. Finally, Proto48 modelers can purchase trucks based upon actual designs and not the generic “Bettendorf” design.
Along the way, Norm got involved with antique automobile ownership. He still owns a number of classic auto and drives a few of them on occasion.
Norm’s home layout is remarkable in its dimensions in size and the amount of beautiful equipment running on it. Many of the boxcars on the layout are Protocraft imports lettered with Protocraft decals. The cars are all weathered and feature Protocraft’s magnetic couplers.
With this huge layout, Norm incorporated an interesting vignette of a barge and slip. It fits perfectly with the San Francisco Bay Area theme. The barge slip has created an interesting operating point. Norm has found that he enjoys loading and unloading cars on the barge. He has reconfigured a hidden yard in his shop to provide an off-stage destination for cars coming off the barge. It turns out that this section of the layout is enjoyable to operate.