model train set on track

“A STAR-SPANGLED CONVENTION” The 55th Annual TCA National Convention

e*Train Issue: Nov 2008   |   Posted in:

Scottsdale, AZ      June 28 – July 5, 2009

By Christie and Gordon Wilson

In 1997, the whole image of Toy Train conventions changed – The Desert Division hosted the 43rd Annual TCA Convention, placing the emphasis on “The Family”.  That was twelve years ago.  Now comes the 55th version of “Family Fun” that will challenge everyone.  It is called “A Star-Spangled Convention” because for the first time ever, it will incorporate our Nation’s Birthday, July 4, 2009.

JW Marriott Desert Ridge Resort & Spa arrival

The venue is the most spectacular resort in the Valley of the Sun, J.W. Marriott’s premier location at Desert Ridge.  This 900-room hotel is pure, unadulterated LUXURY.  Every room has a “view”; every room has a patio or balcony; every room has a 27” plasma High Definition television; and every room has a room rate of $117.00, which was negotiated in December of 2001.  The lowest rate possible today, in August – the hottest most humid month, is $179.00 a day.  This hotel has nine restaurants, 4 acres of water fun from slides to a “lazy river,” two championship golf courses (one designed by Arnold Palmer and one by Nick Faldo).  Parking is free and the public display area is as big as the Red Hall at York.  This is like no hotel you’ve ever stayed in, ever!

Water Activities at Desert Ridge

Fund-raising for this Convention began three years ago with the introduction of a two-car set of box cars by Lionel.  One was painted in the Grand Canyon Railroad colors and the other in Verde Canyon Railroad colors.  Second was an Atlas beer car, touting Arizona’s own Apache Beer.  Both of these offerings have expired, but there is a third one still available.  Until December 15, 2008, you can order the Celebrate America Mint Car, produced by Lionel, by going to the Desert Division website or filling in the order form included with this article.  Our Convention store has shirts, hats, visors, tote bags, and a few other items.  All will be available at York in October and April, as well as at the Convention itself.

Celebrate America Mint Car

Our “Welcome Party” is going to have a “Silent Auction” that will involve the whole family.  Yes, of course, there will be toy trains, but when is the last time you saw quality items for other family members?  Well, folks, this one will!  Here are some teasers:  jewelry by Swarovski; framed and unframed art direct from Park West Gallery, the world’s largest, all with certificates of value and authenticity; pure silk scarves from China; lacquer hand-painted jewelry boxes from Russia; native dolls from the Grand Cayman Islands; a wavy flag Afghan throw; a Ward Kimball Mickey Mouse pencil sketch; and much more.

Among the tours and trips that will be offered are those that you may have seen on the Discovery Channel.

The Grand Canyon Railroad, as the steam engine winds its way up from Williams to the National Park for which it is named.

For starters, how about dinner in a restored Harvey House?  A round-trip by train ride in and out of the Grand Canyon?

La Posada is one of the few remaining Harvey Houses from the heyday of the Santa Fe Railroad.  Located on Historic Route 66, it still operates as a hotel.  Adjacent is the Railroad Station, into which two Amtrak trains pull each day.  In front of the Hotel (the side away from Highway 66), freight trains run continuously over the 5 sets of track.  The yard has seats from which to view the constant flow of train traffic.  The Hotel has been restored to its 1930’s splendor.  Even the Dining Room is “vintage.”
The Verde Canyon Railroad F-7 as it traverses some of the most beautiful scenery in Arizona.  Watch for bald eagles, as they can frequently be seen during the Verde Canyon Railroad Excursion.  On Sunday, June 28, we’ll do the Railroad trip alone; on Sunday, July 5, the Railroad trip will be followed by a dinner/show at the Blazin’ M Ranch.  What fun!

A trip into the Verde Canyon behind a pair of vintage F-7’s?  Pink Jeeps in Sedona?

View the Red Rocks of Sedona from a Pink Jeep.

Near Tucson, visit a forest of Saguaro Cacti and stop for a visit at a 16th Century Spanish Mission

The Saguaro National Forest.
The 16th Century Mission, San Javier del Bac, “Dove of the Desert”.

Prescott is also on the tour circuit, with layout visits and a catered lunch.  Two of professional baseball and football’s most unique stadiums are in Phoenix and Glendale.  The world’s #1 Native American Museum, The Heard, is in Phoenix, as is the most complete assemblage of Fire Fighting apparatus in the Hall of Flame.

Peter Atonna’s LayoutIn Prescott we will be visiting the layouts of Peter Atonna, Marlin Benson, and Ray Dextraze.
The Hall of Flame has a 1915 Robinson Fire Engine, one of only two known to exist.

If you have the urge to gamble, you need not go to Las Vegas, as Scottsdale and Phoenix are bordered by several Native American tribes casinos.  Nearby is Taliesin West, a School of Architecture based on the work of Frank Lloyd Wright, and in nearby Fountain Hills is the World’s Tallest Fountain – 615 feet high. 

The fountain in Fountain Hills.  When the Fountain Hills Town Council members learned that someone had a taller fountain than they did, they voted on whether to change all their stationery claiming to have the World’s Tallest Fountain or change their fountain.  The fountain won and new jets were added to the pumps so it would still be the tallest in the world.

All of that and more will be offered as tours and trips for the 55th Annual TCA Convention when it begins on June 28, 2009.

The details for signing up for the trips will begin with the January 2009 National Headquarters News.  Several of the trips will have limited numbers, so be sure to register as soon as you receive the information.  In the meantime, the Convention Cars are for sale, as advertised in the September 2008 issue of the National Headquarters News, and remember the early buy special is good until October 31, 2008.