model train set on track


The Need. By the mid-20th century, a number of people had become fascinated by the broad range of old toy trains that were being discovered as trade-ins or at second-hand sales. As they began to acquire them, questions arose as to identification, variations, the need for parts and the need to make contact with others also “collecting” the old toy trains.

Early Organizing Efforts. As early as 1937, Louis Hertz had published a series of articles in Model Craftsman magazine on tinplate trains that stirred interest but did not provide for contact between interested collectors. An effort to create the National Tinplate Railroad Association then was followed by Burton Logan and Lou Hertz trying to form the National Tinplate Historical Society in 1944. Unfortunately, these early attempts did not meet with success. The Standard Gauge Association, devoted to operating that gauge more so than collecting, came into being in 1947, but ended after a few years.

Founding Action. In 1954, Bill Krames (owner of the Trenton, New Jersey Hobby Center) and Edwin P. Alexander (author of a number of railroad history books and a professional model-maker) issued invitations to collectors to meet at Alexander’s Train Barn at Yardley, Pennsylvania on June 19 and 20. This meeting—and the interest aroused during the following months—resulted in another call for collectors to meet October 17 to form an organization.

first TCA meeting
Founding Members meeting in Ed Alexander’s Barn, June 1954.
western founders
Western Division Founders, 1954.

Across the Continent. Meanwhile, in Southern California, in September of that year, Evan Middleton (operator of the Train Shop at Knotts Berry Farm in Buena Park, California) called together collectors who then met and formed the Western Chapter, later redefined as a division of what was to become a national organization.

Organization Commences. The result of these two meetings was the formation of the Train Collectors Association. Burton Logan was unanimously elected the first president of TCA, with Evan Middleton as vice president and Lou Redman as secretary-treasurer and editor of the Quarterly. Lou Redman became the long-range determined organizer of the Association, recognized as “Mr. TCA” for his dedication by the BOD in 1984.

The purposes of the TCA are to further the hobby of collecting tinplate trains by publishing information for collectors, establishing standards on descriptions and valuations and promoting train meetings, and to provide for the interchange of ideas and information between collectors. Although the name of the Association was adopted at the October 1954 meeting, adoption of the bylaws and creation of the newsletter was deferred until other known collectors could signify their intention of becoming members. December 10, 1954 was set as the deadline. Of the known collectors, 68 became “Founding” Charter Members.

Incorporation of the Association was deemed appropriate in 1956, in light of its continuing growth. With the bylaws amended to conform to the non-profit corporation law of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, the decree of incorporation was handed down by the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County at Pittsburgh in March 1957. In conjunction with the incorporation, all 179 of the TCA members at that time were designated as Charter Members of the Association.

Governance. The Association is governed by national bylaws, as published on this site, and by those rules and policies passed by the National Board of Directors and its officers (See Board Policy Book). Members must abide in their dealings by the TCA’s Grading Standards, as specified by the Board of Directors and such other policies as the Board prescribes. Members shall conduct themselves to further the purposes of the Association and to promote cooperation, interest and fellowship in collecting trains.

Today. Meetings are held by the various divisions and chapters of TCA at frequent intervals all over the country. The annual TCA National Convention and Board Meeting is held during the last full week in June at a location selected each year by the Board of Directors.

Worldwide membership in the Train Collectors Association now well over 19,000 active members, with an outstanding National Headquarters and National Toy Train Museum in Strasburg, Pennsylvania. The association is recognized as one of the largest and most prestigious collecting societies in the world, emphasizing both the enjoyment of the hobby and the observance of standards of grading and conduct.

members sitting at tables inside outdoor tent

Milestones of TCA’s Growth

Here are just a few indications of TCA’s wonderful progress.

As a result of the steady commitment and efforts of its growing membership base, TCA’s progress over the years has indeed been impressive, and these are only a few of the indicators!