model train set on track

More Than Just Train Collectors

e*Train Issue: Aug 2015   |   Posted in: ,

By Wayne Sheriff
Summer 2015

Train collectors, that’s what we are, right? But we’re more than that, and therein lies real potential for TCA to address the challenges of changing demographics and changing interests.

Certainly TCA needs to bring fresh thinking to the challenges of membership maintenance and growth, and while some of our best minds are hard at work coming up with ideas, several recent events lit up the proverbial light bulb.

It came about when two exciting events involving TCA members jumped to center stage of enthusiasm. They both involved working with people with interests in things other than toy trains, and they’re both recounted in this edition of e-Train.

First, the good folks in our WB&A Chapter rolled up their sleeves and participated in the inaugural run of Virginia Museum of Transportation’s “Fire up the  611” project, a major effort leading to the return to service of an impressive steam locomotive. TCA members assisted the public, got a chance to talk up toy trains, and showed that they can provide a pubic service while spreading the word about our hobby.  Bravo!

Second, when we got word that a group of vintage Packard owners would be in the Strasburg area, TCA rolled out the red carpet, leading to both an exciting and successful event and a demonstration of the viability of the National Toy Train Museum’s group visit service, which we’re now promoting as both a revenue source and an outreach to the community. We now have a video promoting group visits to the Museum. Tammy Hersh coordinated this project, with wonderful assistance from TCA volunteers and staff. Bravo!

And do note that great ideas require great implementation, and have to be balanced against cost, other priorities, and willingness of suggesters to roll up their sleeves rather than having “somebody else” do the work.

What TCA can do doesn’t stop with just these events. While TCA excels in things like train meets and its own meetings, its members have some other qualities that should serve us well. Members are often interested in more than toy trains, and whether it’s Packards, real trains, or other fields, this is fertile ground for extending our reach to broader communities. Comments by visitors to the Packard event show that many people who don’t think of themselves as train collectors, do have a train in their closet or in their memory.

Looking through e-Train, one can find stories of TCAers having reached out to hospitals and performing other services. In fact, just read the words in our Mission Statement and note the words:

… education, community outreach, fellowship

With many of our members in or approaching retirement, they have time, broad experiences, and a wonderful ability to engage others. Let’s apply those skills! Let’s reach out to do non-traditional community services!  Let’s think fellowship not just for ourselves, but more broadly. Let’s show that train collectors aren’t JUST train collectors, and in the process strengthen our own community position and our membership rolls!

Much of this good work can and does take place at the division level, where members know their community and are involved. If you have a story that rises above the usual train-meet event, something where members have performed an exceptional public or educational service, and can provide a good concise write-up with clear well-focused photos, let Tammy Hersh know, and we’ll be happy to spread the word!