49th Annual TCA Convention Report
by Gordon L. Wilson, TCA 76-10233
Phoenix to the Los Angeles basin is perhaps the most boring drive in the U. S A. It is essentially one desert (the Western Sonoran) to another (the Southeastern Mojave) the trick is how to make it interesting. Leaving Phoenix at 8:00 AM for the 380 miles trip to Ontario, California leaves only a few options along the way. Quartzsite is near the (California border and has primarily just one restaurant worth mentioning. The Bull Pen is a favorite Truck Stop, but an excellent restaurant is attached. Whether ordering from the menu or feasting at the buffet table, food is plentiful, tasty and inexpensive.
A bit further west on I-10 brings one to the Colorado River. Here there are two choices. Cross it and enter California or go north to Parker, Arizona and check out what’s new at the Arizona and California Railway. This time, we chose the California option. The drive through the Mojave Desert, to he kind, is less than scenic. An interesting side trip is to take a self guided tour through Joshua National Park. The Joshua trees and the rock are quite intriguing and have recently caught the eye of Toyota, which uses it as the marketing strategy for their newest SUV. Exiting on the west end of the park again provides choices. If you go west, you’ll soon be in the Los Angeles basin. Going South takes you to the Palm Springs area, which is what we chose to do.
The J.W. Marriott Desert Springs Resort in Palm Desert is the model after which our 2009 TCA Convention site, the J.W. Marriott Desert Ridge Resort was patterned. A unique feature of the Palm Desert facility is the large lagoon, which enters the main lobby. This affords guests the opportunity to ride to their selected restaurants in a canopy-covered boat. Virtually every luxury amenity known to mankind is offered at this resort. The Desert Ridge promises to be even better!
Moving west, the Ontario Convention site is only about an hour away. A Sunday afternoon tour of the nearby Orange Empire Railroad Museum filled out this day. The Orange Empire began as a trolley museum and has expanded into quite a large and extensive collection of railroad locomotives and rolling stock, including much of the late Ward Kimball’s narrow gauge trains.
Monday saw us on yet another railroad excursion, this time using Amtrak’s “Surfliner” and a Metrolink commuter train. Los Angeles’s Union Station was the midway point for this rail trip to San Juan Capistrano.
This is the old California mission so well known for the March migration of swallows each year. Alas, I only saw one solitary swallow. Lunch at Ruby’s turned out to he an adventure whose pain was eased by the presence of an overhead G-gauge railroad and a 10 foot model of a Santa Fe-3 in full war bonnet regalia It stayed in perpetual clockwise motion, thanks to the display turntable on which it was mounted. Out return trip proved to be more indicative of the real Amtrak than our ride down to San Juan Capistrano – it was only 1 1/2 hours late.
Tuesday saw the continued domination by Desert Division golfers of the TCA Convention Golf Tournament. Paul Wassermann won the low scratch golf score and,after the Callaway handicap system was used, tied Gordon Wilson for the low adjusted handicap score. Due to recent shoulder surgery, Gordon was forced to play using just one arm. Lynne Martin was actually a three time winner: 1) most improved, 2) low scratch (no handicap) score among female contestants; and 3) longest putt. Danny Martin distinguished himself with his retro hairdo, while Chris Allen invented a new golf shot. Almost everyone has heard of par, bogey and birdie; Chris has come up with the “Amtraker,” the “art” of striking a passing iron horse. Chris further distinguished himself by actually finishing the event with more golf balls than he had at the start of the tourney.
There were two absolute “givens’ during this tourney. Desert Division members continue to dominate, and everyone had a wonderful time on this beautiful Arnold Palmer designed course in Rancho Cucamonga.
Wednesday dawned and for the first day we had Southern California weather. The BOD convened for the first time and attended to the many issues before it. That evening saw nearly 400 Convention attendees boarding the Entertainer, a large excursion boat, for a sunset cruise and dinner in the Newport Harbor.
As Thursday came around, many people had discovered the nearby Homestyle Cafe. If you are familiar with the pancakes at the 4B’s in Black Canyon City, these were larger. The omelets were also huge. The financial ticket? Think 1960’s prices!
At the BOD meeting on Thursday, the main order of business was to listen to the updates for all future conventions through 2009 and to thoroughly review all of the proposals for Convention Cars and Golden Anniversary items for 2004.
That done, Peter Atonna presented the Membership Committee report and then all attention turned to nominations for next years National Slate of Officers. For President-Elect we will have Brad Fuller of NETCA and Merle Parise of Pacific Northwest; for Vice-President there will he Joseph Mania of METCA, George Wederich of Midwest, and Bob Keller of Dixie. Sarah Lavinus and Bill Miles are unopposed for another term as Secretary and Treasurer, respectively. For the first time in three years there is a competition for the three-year Investment Committee position. Bill McClanahan of Lone Star and Cordon Knight of Great Lakes are both seeking the position.
That evening saw nearly every attendee at the Welcome Party. An array of wonderful food and beverage, combined with an eclectic assortment of train items in the ‘Silent Auction” made this a very worthwhile and well-planned event. It was at this Welcome Party that we first began to realize just how many members of the Desert Division were in attendance at this, the 49th Annual TCA Convention.
For many, Friday night is Layout Tour time. Not for me, however. Nearly every year, near our Convention location is a professional baseball game – sometimes major league but preferably a minor league game. Nearby Rancho Cucamonga boasts an Angels farm team, the Quakes. Earlier this year in Philadelphia I witnessed a no-bit game. On June 27, I nearly saw my second no hit game of the year. The Quakes pitcher gave up one bloop hit with two out in the 7th inning. It was the only hit he surrendered to the Oakland A’s farm club from Modesto.
On Saturday it was back to the trading pits for the last day bargains, plus much time to be used exploring the fabulous public display area. Lionel was the most visible company with a large display featuring their TMMC. MTH was there also, but at a much smaller display. Operating layouts and static displays were outstanding, especially an unbelievable Lego’s layout. The TCA Kids Club operated continuously, providing all the future TCAer’s with a variety of toy train activities.
Around noon on Saturday the auction room hosted a wide variety of merchandise. Mid-afternoon was the time for TCA’s annual Membership Meeting. Most people then retired to their rooms to make ready for the Saturday night Banquet amid Auction. Aside from an incredibly lucrative auction (one Ward Kimball painting selling for
$11,000), the festivities were highlighted by a performance of the late Ward Kimball’s band, “The Firehouse Five plus Two.”
Early on Sunday morning we were on our way north to visit with friends in Lake Tahoe and Northern Nevada. As usual we had yet another great time at this year’s TCA Convention. On to Pittsburgh next June!