OCTOBER YORK – 2003
By Gordon Wilson – TCA #76-10023
The York Train Meet is filled with a week or so of wonderful
things and one not so wonderful thing. Let’s get the “not
so wonderful thing” out of the way first.
Here in the climate of Arizona we’ve been spoiled and
we don’t even realize it. Do you know what HUMIDITY is?
A great day in the Delaware Valley and southeastern Pennsylvania
area is somewhere around 60-70%. We “flinch” when
it gets to 40-50%. One of my main reasons for leaving the Delaware
Valley was the hot and humid to cold and damp climate that
dominates for 12 months. Parts of my anatomy begin reacting
when the plane lands in Philadelphia. Yes, humidity is a part
of the York Week I could do without.
The rest of the week (or in my case, 10-12 days) is simply
grand. An endless supply of toy trains, fresh seafood, relatives,
long time friends, cultural events (great opera and ballet,
not to mention symphony and musical shows) and of course, the
Phillies and “Iggles.” Add to all of this the times
of year the York Meets are held. In the spring plants are coming
to life again; the fall is a cacophony of color. The air is
crisp, dew/frost is on the grass, crops are being harvested
AND the trees are turning to vibrant reds, yellows, rusts,
browns, oranges, and every shade between. It is almost “sensory
Those of us who are “regulars” from the Desert
Division (I’ve missed one meet since 1976) have a ritual
that begins on Tuesday night – soft shelled crabs at
the “Paddock Bar and Grill” – a local York
establishment, little known to TCAers. Then there is the “Railroad
House” along the Susquehanna River. It is a B&B which
dates from the early 19th Century as a Canal Boat stop-over.
Its food equals the quality you expect to find at one of our
Phoenix area resorts. “Bumper Bob’s” is another
restaurant stop. The name’s a bit “hokey” but
the reason the crab cakes are called “Cadillac” is
obvious with the first bite. Just up the road is the “Hillside
Café”, well known to TCA members and where one
had better have a reservation. In York proper is the “Roosevelt
Tavern”, which still has a bar, but is much better known
for its wonderful food and impeccable service. Those are just
a few of our evening “haunts.” For breakfast and
lunch, it is very hard to top the “Round the Clock Diner” (modeled
on the Atonna Pike in Paulden, AZ). This spot is located amidst
some 5 or 6 motels, all of which are occupied by TCA members.
The food, waitresses, and prices are all top-rate.
interested in Trains? Nearby are countless Outlet Malls, historic
sites (York was the first capital of the fledgling
USA) like Gettysburg, the Amish Country (Witness with Harrison
Ford was filmed here), amusement parks, and golf courses. Philadelphia,
Baltimore, and Washington, DC are all less than a two-hour
drive away. York, this October, was merely a shadow of its
former self. I’m not referring to the trains or eateries,
but to the “Permanent Road Under Construction,” Route
30. We nearly thought we’d made a wrong turn – no
barriers, no barrels, and no construction workers pushing their
brooms. From Lancaster to York was a “straight,” uninterrupted
hike. What a pleasure! However, mornings were a different story.
Congestion equaling that of the Long Island Expressway was
the norm on Route 30.
From Monday through Thursday afternoon are the non-affiliated “Bandit” or
Hotel Meets. The oldest of these seems to be in its “death
throes.” The Billy Budd appears to have been the victim
of a greedy Hotel Administration and an over-zealous Township
Department of Revenue. Between the two entities they have managed
to “kill the goose that laid the golden egg.” Elsewhere,
the meets at the Best Western and Reliance Fire hall seem to
be growing, while the Holidome is maintaining.
Thursday is the day for TCA National to showcase its “gemstone,” the
National Toy Train Museum, Business Office, and Research Library.
Commencing at 10:00 AM and continuing until 5:00 PM, representatives
of all of the major toy train manufacturers conduct seminars
about their latest products. Between each presentation there
are door prize drawings and refreshments. As Chair of the TCA
Internet Committee, the day affords me the opportunity to have
a working luncheon meeting with many of the Committee’s
As Friday dawns the anticipation and excitement of the World’s
Largest Train Show permeates virtually every hotel room in
and around York, Pennsylvania. Somewhere between 12 and 15
thousand people will descend upon the York County Fairgrounds
for the Eastern Division TCA twice-a-year meet. This year was
highlighted by the opening of a new hall, called the Orange
Hall. Larger than two American football fields, it was crowded
for every moment it was open. Navigating this hall for the
first time was an “adventure,” to say the least.
Like so many regulars at York, I find myself doing more socializing
with friends than I do looking for trains. One down side of
being a Past TCA President is that my face is known to many
more people than I know in kind. I find it rude to ignore anyone
who greets me and wishes to speak about some TCA issue. I also
find that I learn a lot from these “chats.” It
has been some 5 years since I’ve been able to go through
ALL the halls at York, but I find the rewards of listening
to my friends and TCA members in general far outweighs the
need to search for a train to the exclusion of all else. I
was successful in landing a “half-smile” Mickey
Mouse 1971 Convention Car. My other “wants” were
available, but either too expensive or in a condition not to
my liking. The 1977 TCA Trolley, however, was nowhere to be
seen. Maybe in April 04? All too soon, Saturday afternoon rolled
around and things wound down.
Back to Philadelphia – a spectacular dinner in a Center
City Italian “Ristorante” followed by a magnificent
performance of Verdi’s operatic masterpiece, Il Trovatore
in the company of a long-ago junior high school classmate (now
a REAL Philadelphia Lawyer) concluded a fun-filled day. Sunday
saw yet another trek to a flea market where “new items” are
banned. Last April I found a #2341 Jersey Central FM here,
but such was not the case this time. A commemorative Phillies
baseball was my lone purchase. Prior to catching a flight home
on Monday, there was yet another treat to be had, although
it meant ignoring a diet. Nowhere but in Philadelphia can one
find TRUE Philly cheese steaks, and in a food court of Philadelphia
International Airport is one of the best.
Say you have yet to attend the York Meet? If you are a serious
ferro-equinologist, this place is a must do! One final observation,
and it is a sad one. The Modernaire Motel, where I’ve
stayed since 1976, has changed owners. I fear I’ve slept
in Room 22 for the last time. Unfortunately many things were
different and none of them an improvement – locked out
telephones, ripped sheets, no soap, burned out lights, no coat
hangers, sheets that didn’t fit the mattress, no air
conditioning, plus a room whose occupants seemed to be engaged
in the world’s oldest profession have left me a bit dubious
about returning next April.
The UP Side – well, that all starts on November 1 when
the Desert Division once again leads the whole of TCA. Dr.
Paul Wassermann officially assumes the Presidency on that day.
I know we all wish him the very best in his term. I, for one,
feel very confident that TCA’s 50th year is in the hands,
mind, and soul of an extremely able and competent President.