Attending the TCA National Convention

Posted by Roger Carp
on Monday, July 8, 2019

My wife and I just returned from a fantastic week spent in New Mexico, with the highlight for me being the opportunity to attend and speak at the annual national convention of the Train Collectors Association. If you have never taken the time to attend a national convention sponsored by TCA or another of the toy train collecting or operating organization, I strongly recommend doing so.

The convention, held in the magnificent city of Albuquerque, featured a number of tours to see local collections and layouts, along with many of the sights that distinguish New Mexico. There was also a trading hall, where vintage and new O, S, and Standard gauge trains could be bought and sold. Local clubs set up some terrific modular layouts to showcase the skills of their members at building scenery and assembling structures to create eye-catching and interesting vignettes.

My main reason for attending was to provide a look at the future of the toy train hobby. I had been invited to take part in the “Meet the Experts” panel put together by Scott and Elaine Eckstein, who supervised the convention, and Peter Atonna, newly installed as president of TCA. I spoke for 45 minutes about how the hobby has changed in the 30 years since Classic Toy Trains was launched.

I talked about the increase in the number of home layouts built and their evolution in terms of scenery, realism, and operation. While collecting remains strong and the study of the history of toy trains and their manufacturers thrives, growth in the hobby has come and will continue to do so, I believe, as more individuals and clubs build layouts. They are capitalizing on improvements in landscaping techniques and materials, the development of detailed structures and imaginative figures, and introduction of easy-to-use systems of command control.

The future of the hobby strikes me as exciting and bright. There’s no need to despair or sound alarm bells. Above all, toy trains will keep on bringing diverse individuals together, helping strengthen friendships and making life better and more enjoyable for participants. That point came to life while watching folks mingle, socialize, and have fun at the TCA national convention.

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