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THE WORLD’S GREATEST HOBBY

By The Eastern Division

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Eastern Division-TCA Snowplows through the World’s Greatest Hobby on Tour

PART 1

Eastern Division-TCA was invited to participate in the World’s Greatest Hobby on Tour (www.wghshow.com) at the Dulles Expo Center in Chantilly, VA (Washington, DC Metropolitan area) February 11 and 12, 2006.  Manufacturers and dealers were present from all across the USA.  The World’s Greatest Hobby on Tour is designed to involve new families and individuals in the toy train hobby…rather than cater to those already enjoying the hobby.

On short notice, Howard Serig made the necessary arrangements for Eastern Division’s complimentary 10’ x 30’ space in a prime location.  And, two brief meetings later, we had identified our focus and developed plans to implement them.  Members of the Eastern Division Board of Directors quickly approved the concept to build an operating layout with lots of buttons for kids (of all ages!) to push, to demonstrate and allow kids to use DCS and TMCC, and to educate visitors about our hobby using story boards and good ‘ole face-to-face, one-on-one conversation…all under a logo banner shouting “TCA…Fun for the Whole Family.”  We developed a set of Frequently Asked Questions for our booth staff, as well as our visitors.  A copy is attached.

Our discussions led us to talk up the advantages of the toy train hobby with event visitors, and we used the following themes:

1. Trains are fun for the whole family.  They are colorful, and have many special- feature action cars to attract attention.  Toy trains are easy to understand and operate.  Junior and Sis can be in control and enjoy impressing Mom, Dad, and everyone else.  Playing with toy trains brings the family together in the home.  And, one doesn’t need secret (magic) computer codes to play along.  Remember:  Girls like trains, too! 

2. Trains are safe for children ages 2 to 100+ when used as intended. They pose no health problems, and only a very remote chance of mild electrical shock.  There is no violence associated with toy trains!

3.  Trains have never been of better quality or more reasonably priced.  The variety is unending.  Toy trains are literally a buyer’s market. 

4.  The toy train hobby can lead to interest in transportation and other industries related to railroads.  As we all know, the transportation industry is not only indispensable, but a major private and federal employer.

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Dan Danielson and Steve Kehn built a super 5’ x 8’ three-level operating layout—fully landscaped with buildings, trees, people, and other accessories.  The first level showcased Standard and O gauge trains; the second, HO and S; and the third, N and a loop of wooden Thomas the Tank Engine trains.  The layout was topped off with Snoopy and the Red Baron flying their airplanes in circles.  There were lots of buttons for little fingers to push, including operating the crossing signal, lighting the buildings, blowing whistles, and swinging the boy in a tire swing.  Our American flag waved proudly.

TCA Kids Club members, 7-year old Matthew Kehn and 5-year old Anthony Massara demonstrated operating the trains with remote control, showed visitors—young and old alike—how to use DCS and TMCC.  Kids were thrilled to use the remotes; parents were skeptical.  The boys also handed out Thomas the Tank Engine stickers to all the kids.  Our layout was by far the most popular…probably because of all the interactive buttons and the opportunity to run the trains by remote control

We included a display of unusual “Trains of Yesteryear” loaned by Clem Clement.  Visitors posed many questions about the trains, and Clem was never at a loss for words to talk about them!

Using a very stylish and professional backdrop with a logo banner declaring “Eastern Division-TCA…Home of the World’s Largest Train Show,” we told the story of the Eastern Division York Meet through a decorative cut-out train designed by Hope Danielson.  From a podium, we invited visitors to be our guests at the April 2006 York Meet, and provided postcards when they expressed an interest in attending.

Under a WB&A Chapter logo banner, a story board announced the 2010 National TCA Convention, and included information and brochures about the convention being planned for 2010 in Baltimore, MD.

We also showed “I Love Toy Trains” videos provided by Tom McComas on a TV/VCR donated by Steve Kehn.

As if all this wasn’t enough, we invited York and Lancaster County tourist bureaus’ staff to join us.  York County representatives talked up their communities in front of a professional backdrop full of beautiful county scenes.  Lancaster County was unable to send representatives, but sent beautiful brochures and calendars which were handed out by the York County folks.

The tourist bureaus were a great tie-in to the Eastern Division York Meet.  Together we encouraged visitors to attend the Meet and stay the weekend in York and Lancaster Counties to visit historical sites, The National Toy Train Museum, and to shop at outlet malls, eat Sho-Fly pie, and see more trains—real and toy.

Shortly after the doors opened on Saturday, light—but steady—snow began to fall.  However, that did not keep visitors away.  We had been told to expect 25,000 attendees, but became a bit concerned as the snow continued to fall.  It snowed throughout the night, but Sunday morning broke clear and sunny, and more visitors came to the show.  All in all, attendance was estimated at 20,000 Moms, Dads, and Kids!  Great attendance for having 10+ inches of snow on the ground!

We had expected John Luppino, TCA National Business Office Operations Manager, and Bill Spanarelli, Eastern Division Past President and York Meet Chairman to join us.  However, the snow kept them at home.  They missed a great show!  Our thanks to them for their support and assistance with this event.

Our booth was staffed by our York Registration Team:  Dan Danielson, York Meet Registrar; Nancy Forrester; Faith Kehn; Jean Knotts; and Christine McClintock (all TCA members!); and several other Eastern Division and WB&A Chapter volunteers:  Clem Clement, Eastern Division-TCA President; Sandy Clement, Eastern Division-TCA First Lady; Hope Danielson, Eastern Division-TCA Secretary; Debbie Geiser, Eastern Division-TCA Awards & Decorations Chairlady; Sam Geiser, Eastern Division-TCA Vice President; Samantha Kehn, Kids Club Member; Steve Kehn, Glenn MacKinnon, Eastern Division-TCA Rules & Regulations Chairman and WB&A Chapter Treasurer; Janet MacKinnon, and Howard Serig.  …And, of course, our Kids Club engineers, Matthew Kehn and Anthony Massara.  Others were scheduled to participate, but were snowed-in!  Booth workers wore light denim Eastern Division-TCA shirts.  Hope Danielson designed special name badges for this event, and had generic Eastern Division-TCA business cards printed for those who do not have their own.

The World’s Greatest Hobby on Tour is a most interesting and informative event…literally touring the country promoting the hobby of toy trains.  Advertising was plentiful and very well done.  In addition to the many manufacturers, dealers, and Eastern Division-TCA, there were several fun attractions for the kids and their families.  There was a “100 Thomas the Tank Engines” play area…yards and yards of carpeting with lots of trains and accessories, and kids everywhere!  There was a neat ride-on train for kids and adults circling around the back of the hall. 

More than half of a second huge hall showcased operating modular layouts in many gauges, which were set up in four hours or less.  There were three S gauge layouts, a Japanese layout with incredibly quiet bullet trains speeding around.  ZZ gauge trains ran on watch batteries.  Technology!  Wow!  Monty Smith ran his Logo layout, and the local Lego club was there, too.  So much to see and learn!

Also included in this report is a list of participating manufacturers, dealers, etc., and a floor plan of the two halls at the Dulles Expo Center.  Our booth location is highlighted on the North Hall map.

Feedback on Eastern Division’s participation in this event has been very positive.  This endeavor was pulled together in a matter of weeks by a small group of dedicated Eastern Division-TCA members who believe marketing TCA to the public is a must to insure future growth of the organization.  Our budget was limited, and we ran over a bit, but we believe it was well worth the effort.  During the event, we signed up several new TCA members who had been planning to join.  We even re-upped a former member six years in arrears.

The Eastern Division and WB&A Chapter exhibits were on display at the April 2006 Eastern Division-TCA York Train Meet.  We hope you had an opportunity to see them.

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PART 2

WORLD’S GREATEST HOBBY ON TOUR
February 16, 17, 2008
Hampton, VA

After Eastern Division-TCA's success at the World's Greatest Hobby on Tour (WGHT) in Chantilly, VA in 2006, Clem Clement arranged for participation in the WGHT in Hampton, VA.  He asked Dan Danielson to coordinate efforts for this event.  We were provided with—free of charge—a 10' x 30' booth, covered and skirted tables, chairs, and electricity.  The booth was located near the entrance to the event on a large cross aisle.  At the October 2007 Eastern Division Board of Directors' meeting, $1,500 was allocated to support this activity.

The purpose of WGHT is to introduce families to the world’s greatest hobby—model railroading.  Major train manufacturers and dealers were present.  Many local modular clubs set up great layouts.  There was a pedal car-type train for children to pedal around the track, and a large Thomas the Tank Engine play area. 

Dan invited TCA Director of Development Jane Boyce to participate in the show, as well as York County Visitors Bureau, and Virginia Train Collectors (VTC).  Bob Heine invited Southeastern Division-TCA to join us.  Regretfully, Southeastern Division-TCA did not participate.
 
We rented a 10' U-Haul truck to transport the Eastern Division operating layout and other exhibit items.  Dan negotiated a reduced mileage fee—79¢ per mile rather than the usual 99¢ per mile—which saved about $100.  Glenn MacKinnon and Steve and Matthew Kehn helped load the truck Thursday evening.  It was the perfect size truck!  Dan drove the truck to Hampton Friday morning.  He was able to drive into the building and park at our booth.  Dan, Glenn and Clem unloaded the truck and set up the layout.

Sandy Clement and Hope Danielson worked with Jane and representatives of the Visitors Bureau and VTC to set up our booth.  Each entity brought a backdrop, banner(s), and/or other identifying items.  In addition to Eastern Division’s multi-gauge, multi-level operating layout, there was a display of current and older trains.  We also had a continuous-running “I Love Toy Trains” video showing on a TV donated by Steve.

We heard there were 500 visitors in line when the doors opened Saturday morning.  Total attendance exceeded 25,000.

Jane Boyce, Clem and Sandy Clement, Hope and Dan Danielson, Glenn and Janet MacKinnon and Faith and Matthew Kehn talked with visitors about the mission of TCA, its goals and what TCA has to offer.  Information on TCA, along with membership application forms, and information about The National Toy Train Museum 
were given to many interested visitors.  Some visitors signed up for membership then and there! 

We provided information about York Meets and the rapidly approaching 2010 TCA Convention in Baltimore, MD hosted by WB&A Chapter.  Interest in both events was great.
 
We answered at least 1,000 questions—maybe 1,000,000, questions—about trains.  We listened to tales of 'what happened to dad's trains.'   We looked at photos of home layouts shown by proud owners.  We had a great time!

Children and "big kids”, too, pushed buttons on the layout to operate a crossing gate, banjo signal, billboard, airplanes, a whistle, and other activities.  The smiles on the faces of the children were wonderful.  An older woman in a wheelchair was pushed close enough to the layout to push the airplanes button.  The delight in her face was priceless!  Matthew kept the trains running, and showed visitors how to use DCS and TTMC remote controls.

York Visitors Bureau representatives handed out York Peppermint Patties with their information on York County.  There was also a drawing for a wine tour gift basket.

VTC members talked up their club as well as TCA.  Many VTC members are also TCA members.  VTC was invited to participate because of its geographic location...and because of a growing relationship between VTC and TCA. 

The WGHT in Hampton was deemed a success by Jane, York County representatives, VTC members, and our Eastern Division and WB&A Chapter volunteers.
 
Glenn and Janet McKinnon, Faith and Matthew Kehn, and Bob Heine helped dismantle the layout and load it into the truck, along with the other exhibit items.
 
Glenn, Steve and Matthew helped us unload the rental truck and return the layout and other items to storage Monday morning.

Please join us in thanking our hard-working Division and Chapter volunteers:
     Clem & Sandy Clement
     Glenn & Janet MacKinnon
     Faith, Steve & Matthew Kehn
     Bob Heine (on his "39th" birthday!)

The allotted $1,500 didn't go quite far enough.  Volunteers absorbed some costs for this activity, i.e., mileage, most meals, some lodging, and give-aways.

Hope & Dan

Hope & Dan Danielson 

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