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TCA 49th National Convention
Ontario, California

The Train Collectors Association’s 49th annual convention was hosted by the Western Division June 22nd through the 29th, 2003 at the Ontario Convention center and the adjoining Doubletree Hotel & Resort just outside Los Angeles in sunny Southern California. Click here for photo gallery.

The Convention was well attended with over 681 TCA members registering. Attendees came from as far away as Germany and South America. Combined with family members, total attendance exceeded 1400. Western Division planned many exciting activities to take place during the 8-day event. These offerings included home layout tours, excursion train rides on Amtrak & MetroLink, a dinner cruise in Newport Harbor, day trips to museums such as the Getty Museum, the Orange Empire Railroad Museum, The Nethercutt Museum, and the Los Angeles County Travel Town Train Museum. One of the highlights of the tour agenda was a trip to visit the backyard railroad and large train collection of noted TCA Charter Member Ward Kimball. As well, popular Southern California attractions like Disneyland and Universal Studios were on the itinerary.

The Ontario Convention CenterThe modern and spacious convention hall served as a fitting location for the Western Division Convention Welcome Party and provided 2 days of access for the convention attendees to some of the finest toy train exhibits and trading imaginable. There was a huge 40,000 square foot trading hall filled with the greatest toy trains from all over the country. And there was another 28,000 square foot hall filled with modular layouts and unique displays. The theme for the convention was 'Hollywood and Trains', which was represented by an extensive exhibit of movie memorabilia from films where toy trains were part of the cast.

The excursion to the Orange Empire Railway Museum, which houses the largest collection of trolley cars, railway locomotives and railway cars in the Western United Sates, was a true highlight of the convention.  There are numerous operating Red Cars (Pacific Electric) and Yellow Cars (LA Railway- Narrow Gauge) The Emma Nevada sits on the newly restored turntable at the the mix there.  Ward Kimball’s new Train Barn built at the museum to house the “Grizzly Flats” Narrow Gauge equipment was of prime interest to the train collectors.  The most recent addition to the narrow gauge exhibit is the restored old turntable, which was completed after a lot of hard work and with financial support from the Kimball family.   Additionally, the Rail Museum is the home of Evan Middleton’s toy train display situated in two retired Denver & Rio Grand Baggage cars.  Evan was Charter Member #2 in the early formation of TCA, and the photos and letters displayed with the collection give a bit of insight into early toy train collecting.

A limited number of adult convention attendees, the first 200 to register, had the privilege and opportunity to travel by bus to Betty and Ward Kimball’s backyard A small portion of Ward Kimball's train collection.railroad in San Gabriel. There they viewed the famous original Grizzly flats Railroad, Ward’s vast toy train collection and antique toy collection which is housed in separate structures on the property. Ward Kimball built this railroad in his backyard because of his fascination and love of trains. The "Grizzly Flats Railroad", so interested and fascinated Walt Disney that he decided to build his own Carolwood Pacific live steam railroad in his backyard. Also located on the grounds is the Grizzly Flats station which Ward originally designed for use in a Walt Disney film, "So Dear to My Heart".

A train excursion from Los Angeles’ Union Station via the Amtrak “Pacific Surfliner” to San Juan Capistrano also took place for those who could not attend the Ward Kimball tour. Union Station was built by the Southern Pacific, Union Los Angeles' historic Union StationPacific, and Santa Fe railroads. Costing $11 million, it opened in 1939. It is the last of the great passenger stations in America. Its design and architecture reflect the opulent style of the period. Over 1˝ million people visited it within its first three days of operation, and in its heydays (the 1930s and 1940s), it served 7,000 passengers daily. After WWII, with the beginning of the jet age and deployment of freeways across the country, passenger train use declined, and Union Station saw far less traffic. But in recent years, train travel has increased in popularity again. Union Station now serves about 26,000 passengers a day arriving and departing on Amtrak, MetroLink and the brand new subway trains. The trip down the coast enabled viewing of the Pacific Ocean from the large windows of the Surfliner cars. San Juan Capistrano is the location of one of Southern California’s famous missions, which is a short walk from the Amtrak Station.

Mission San Juan Capistrano is the seventh mission founded November 1, 1776 by Fr. The Great Stone Church at San Juan CapistranoJunipero Serra. The Mission is a registered Historic Landmark & designated a National Historical Treasure. There are many areas of interest within the Mission walls. You can hear the tolling of century old bells and walk down its time worn paths. The serenity and peace amid the 10 acres of lush gardens and cool fountains, cloistered by old adobe walls, offers visitors seclusion from the sights and sounds of a busy world. The Mission is most notable for the historic annual return of the swallows from South America. The swallows migrate annually to Goya, Argentina in October, and return to their spring and summer home in Capistrano each March. Locally, TCA members found unique shops and restaurants. After a return trip to Union Station on Amtrak, tour attendees rode the Los Angeles Rapid Transit MetroLink commuter train back to Ontario.

Another of the convention's 'train adventures' was to Griffith Park, site of the Los A live steam 7 1/2 inch gauge train at LAL'sAngeles Live Steamers, the Walt Disney Carolwood Pacific Railroad Barn, and Travel Town.  This tour entertained the whole family, not just the adults.  The Los Angeles Live Steamers operate 7˝” gauge model trains for the public to ride on a main line that is about 1˝ miles long.  Some of the operating trains are actually wood or coal burning steam powered models of actual prototypes. The realistic miniature scale grounds of the railroad and scenery were built entirely by its members. Located on the same grounds is the Walt Disney barn, which contains a fascinating collection of Disney railroadiana, including documentation and pictures depicting the early development of the The Walt Disney Barn as it sits on the property at Los Angeles Live Steamer'sDisneyland Railroad. This is the actual barn that was in Mr. Disney's backyard at his residence in Holmby Hills, California for many years. It was in this barn that Walt, a member of LALs, had his workshop and ran the switches for his home railroad. Right next door to the Live Steamers is Griffith Park’s Travel Town, an outdoor museum that celebrates the railroad heritage of Western America.  Their roster includes 16 retired locomotives, 11 restored freight cars and cabooses, 9 different passenger cars and 4 interurbans, plus a miniature 16” gauge train that runs around the perimeter.

Other outings that provided entertainment for the families of TCA members in attendance included a trip to Southern California’s premiere attraction: the Disneyland Resort. There are now three attractions at the Disneyland Resort: the New California Adventure, which is a theme park, the original Disneyland, which is also a theme park, and the Downtown Disney District, which is a dining, entertainment and shopping experience. Convention attendees had the opportunity to ride the Ward Kimball inspired trains at Disneyland.

In keeping with the convention's theme of 'Trains Go Hollywood", convention attendees also visited the Universal Studios Hollywood Theme Park and the Universal City Walk shopping experience.  Universal is the world’s largest movie studio and theme park. The theme park's motto is "Universal Studios Hollywood puts you so close you can hear the cameras rolling". Convention attendees took a revealing inside look at the sets and uncovered some of the behind-the-scenes secrets of today's biggest films.

There was also a bus trip to the world famous Beverly Hills Rodeo Drive. This tour gave those who wanted to rub elbows with the “Stars” an exclusive view of Rodeo Drive Shops, and an opportunity to see the famous Hollywood and Beverly Hills. Celebrities John Voight and Jerry Springer were actually sighted on the streets of Beverly Hills by some TCA members taking this tour! And a side stop was made at the famous Grauman's Chinese Theater in Hollywood, where the foot and hand prints of almost every famous Hollywood Actor and Actress are encased in cement.

Western Division planned several events to provide convention attendees with the opportunity to meet and socialize with their fellow TCAer’s.

One such event was a delightful Newport Harbor Dinner Cruise. This was a first Cruising Newport Beach Harbor on HornBlower's Entertainerclass dinner on board the Hornblower’s cruise ship the “Entertainer”.  We cruised the tranquil waters of Newport Beach Harbor viewing some very impressive yachts, sailboats, and the palatial residences on the shore. Newport Beach boasts one of the largest small-boat harbors in the world, rimmed by the boat slips of the Balboa Peninsula on the south, the rocky shores of Corona Del Mar at the harbor's mouth, and bustling Mariner's Mile on the north shore. A real highlight of the cruise was being able to see one of Southern California’s magnificent sunsets after dinner.

The Thursday evening Welcome Party hosted by Western Division was another great way to greet old friends and make new friends in TCA. Over 575 convention attendees purchased tickets for the Party. Included with the reception and a full buffet dinner, was a silent auction for all to participate in and enjoy. Many unique items from Ward Kimball's private collection were offered in the silent auction. Most notable in the auction was a ceramic model of the TCA Museum by Stoney Express, number 4 of 1000 manufactured, which was presented to Ward Kimball for his efforts in helping get the museum in Strasburg, PA  built. It went for a whopping $850.

The reason TCA members came from all over the world to the convention in Southern California was TRAINS! The trading hall opened up for trading on Friday in a 41,000 Sq. Ft. ultra modern convention facility. The Ontario Convention Hall 'A' housed 470 tables of all makes, models, and gauges of trains and accessories, which were fairly rapidly scooped up by happy and enthusiastic train collectors. Hall 'B' housed a number of very special Southern California Modular Layouts and The Lego Layoutexhibits in what was billed as the 'Toy Train Expo'. This expo was open to the public, and resulted in the signing up of over 30 new members for TCA. The layouts included a new elaborate LEGO layout that was a delight for the kids and adults, a Standard Gauge Circus layout, a cog railway built from erector sets, 2 'S' gauge modular layouts, 3 'O' gauge layouts, a Thomas the Tank Layout in 'G' gauge, an 'HO' gauge layout, display layouts by Lionel & MTH, and a special Disneyland Monorail layout with rare Shuco trains.  A special exhibit of trains and photographs, and memorabilia from over 2 dozen Hollywood Films was the highlight of the 'Train Expo' in Hall 'B'. Saturday morning the regular auction was held at the Convention Center followed by the annual TCA Membership Meeting.

Friday evening was the traditional night for visiting local member's unique home layouts and collections. Five different busses transported over 250 attendees in separate directions to visit layouts and collections that included 'S' gauge, 'O' gauge, Standard Gauge and 'G' gauge trains.

On Saturday night, 500 attendees celebrated the TCA 49th National Convention gathering with a gala fete at the Ontario DoubleTree Hotel. The banquet event Western Division President Russ Lange and wife Jane enjoy the banquet festivities.marked the completion of an exciting week of sightseeing, camaraderie, exploration and train collecting. The evening began with a cocktail reception, followed by an excellent sit down dinner, and then a program with some special presentations. The special tribute of the evening was for the late Ward Kimball, who was a Western Division member. In attendance were his wife Betty, son John, and daughter-in-law Virginia. A high-tech slide presentation accompanied by speeches from Bob Spellmire, Steve Waller and John Kimball covering Ward's contributions to TCA, and with some anecdotes about Ward took place. Afterward, an outstanding Banquet Auction featuring many one-of-a-kind and unique items donated by Betty Kimball and the family was held. Over $26,000 was raised for TCA, setting a new record for TCA Convention Banquet Auctions.

All in all, the feedback from members who were in attendance at the 49th TCA Convention in S. California has been excellent. Everyone claims to have had a terrific time. Western Division declares this convention to be a huge success!

Western Division would like to gratefully acknowledge and thank the following contributors:

Allied Model Trains
American Models
Angela Trotta-Thomas
Bob Knee
Classic Toy Trains
Dave Otth
Don Ladenberger
Don McCutcheon
Dr. & Mrs. Hurbert Gulak
Gateway Computers
Gordon Wilson
Harold & Cheryl Shapiro
Hollis Cotton
James (J) Keeley
Jerry Blaine
Jim Kenney
John Kitterman
John G. Parker
John Scianna
John L. Thousand
Joseph Filippi Winery, Rancho Cucamonga
The Kimball Family
Lionel LLC
Mark Boyd
Mark Gaffner
Marx Trains
MDK, Inc.
Mike Stella
Milepost 38 Model Trains Monrovia
West Antique Mall
Morgan’s Big Train Emporium
MTH Electric Trains, Inc.
Nancy Swann
Ontario Convention Center
The Original Whistle Stop
Pentrex Media Group
Ralph Tomlinson
Ray Sugg
Richard Keppel, Jr.
Robert Langton
Robert Spellmire
Roger & Faith Clarkson
Ruby’s Dinner, San Juan Capistrano
Steve Waller
Stoney Express
Train Station of Mountain Lakes, NJ
TCA Grand Rapids
TCA Pacific N/W
TCA Ann Arbor
Wayne S. Sheriff

We apologize for any inadvertent omissions

The Western Division also wishes to thank every TCA member who came to this year’s convention. We sincerely hope that you all have had as enjoyable a convention experience as the 49th TCA Convention committee has had in putting it all together.

A special thank you to the more than 50 volunteers who have helped make this convention a success.

We all look forward to getting together again next year in Pennsylvania for TCA’s 50th anniversary gala celebration.

2003 TCA 49th Convention Committee Chairpersons:

John G. Parker           Wayne S. Sheriff
Treasurer - Harold Shapiro
Convention Cars, Children’s Activities, Banquet Auction - Robert M. Caplan
Registration - R. Dale Lange, Mark Boyd
Welcome Party - Russell S. Lange
Publicity/Printing - Wayne S. Sheriff, Harold Shapiro
Public Displays/Movies - Steve Waller
Security - Donald B. Stotts
Hall Table Layout/Set-Up - Dennis Taube
Raffle/Door Prizes - Robert M. Caplan, Peter Searls
Tours/Trips - Jon Lang
Trading Hall Auction – Vincent J. Garguilo

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