October York – 2003
By Gordon Wilson – TCA #76-10023
The York Train Meet is filled with a week or so of wonderful things and one not so wonderful thing. Let’s get the “not so wonderful thing” out of the way first.
Here in the climate of Arizona we’ve been spoiled and we don’t even realize it. Do you know what HUMIDITY is? A great day in the Delaware Valley and southeastern Pennsylvania area is somewhere around 60-70%. We “flinch” when it gets to 40-50%. One of my main reasons for leaving the Delaware Valley was the hot and humid to cold and damp climate that dominates for 12 months. Parts of my anatomy begin reacting when the plane lands in Philadelphia. Yes, humidity is a part of the York Week I could do without.
The rest of the week (or in my case, 10-12 days) is simply grand. An endless supply of toy trains, fresh seafood, relatives, long time friends, cultural events (great opera and ballet, not to mention symphony and musical shows) and of course, the Phillies and “Iggles.” Add to all of this the times of year the York Meets are held. In the spring plants are coming to life again; the fall is a cacophony of color. The air is crisp, dew/frost is on the grass, crops are being harvested AND the trees are turning to vibrant reds, yellows, rusts, browns, oranges, and every shade between. It is almost “sensory overload.”
Those of us who are “regulars” from the Desert Division (I’ve missed one meet since 1976) have a ritual that begins on Tuesday night – soft shelled crabs at the “Paddock Bar and Grill” – a local York establishment, little known to TCAers. Then there is the “Railroad House” along the Susquehanna River. It is a B&B which dates from the early 19th Century as a Canal Boat stop-over. Its food equals the quality you expect to find at one of our Phoenix area resorts. “Bumper Bob’s” is another restaurant stop. The name’s a bit “hokey” but the reason the crab cakes are called “Cadillac” is obvious with the first bite. Just up the road is the “Hillside Café”, well known to TCA members and where one had better have a reservation. In York proper is the “Roosevelt Tavern”, which still has a bar, but is much better known for its wonderful food and impeccable service. Those are just a few of our evening “haunts.” For breakfast and lunch, it is very hard to top the “Round the Clock Diner” (modeled on the Atonna Pike in Paulden, AZ). This spot is located amidst some 5 or 6 motels, all of which are occupied by TCA members. The food, waitresses, and prices are all top-rate.
Not interested in Trains? Nearby are countless Outlet Malls, historic sites (York was the first capital of the fledgling USA) like Gettysburg, the Amish Country (Witness with Harrison Ford was filmed here), amusement parks, and golf courses. Philadelphia, Baltimore, and Washington, DC are all less than a two-hour drive away. York, this October, was merely a shadow of its former self. I’m not referring to the trains or eateries, but to the “Permanent Road Under Construction,” Route 30. We nearly thought we’d made a wrong turn – no barriers, no barrels, and no construction workers pushing their brooms. From Lancaster to York was a “straight,” uninterrupted hike. What a pleasure! However, mornings were a different story. Congestion equaling that of the Long Island Expressway was the norm on Route 30.
From Monday through Thursday afternoon are the non-affiliated “Bandit” or Hotel Meets. The oldest of these seems to be in its “death throes.” The Billy Budd appears to have been the victim of a greedy Hotel Administration and an over-zealous Township Department of Revenue. Between the two entities they have managed to “kill the goose that laid the golden egg.” Elsewhere, the meets at the Best Western and Reliance Fire hall seem to be growing, while the Holidome is maintaining.
Thursday is the day for TCA National to showcase its “gemstone,” the National Toy Train Museum, Business Office, and Research Library. Commencing at 10:00 AM and continuing until 5:00 PM, representatives of all of the major toy train manufacturers conduct seminars about their latest products. Between each presentation there are door prize drawings and refreshments. As Chair of the TCA Internet Committee, the day affords me the opportunity to have a working luncheon meeting with many of the Committee’s personnel.
As Friday dawns the anticipation and excitement of the World’s Largest Train Show permeates virtually every hotel room in and around York, Pennsylvania. Somewhere between 12 and 15 thousand people will descend upon the York County Fairgrounds for the Eastern Division TCA twice-a-year meet. This year was highlighted by the opening of a new hall, called the Orange Hall. Larger than two American football fields, it was crowded for every moment it was open. Navigating this hall for the first time was an “adventure,” to say the least.
Like so many regulars at York, I find myself doing more socializing with friends than I do looking for trains. One down side of being a Past TCA President is that my face is known to many more people than I know in kind. I find it rude to ignore anyone who greets me and wishes to speak about some TCA issue. I also find that I learn a lot from these “chats.” It has been some 5 years since I’ve been able to go through ALL the halls at York, but I find the rewards of listening to my friends and TCA members in general far outweighs the need to search for a train to the exclusion of all else. I was successful in landing a “half-smile” Mickey Mouse 1971 Convention Car. My other “wants” were available, but either too expensive or in a condition not to my liking. The 1977 TCA Trolley, however, was nowhere to be seen. Maybe in April 04? All too soon, Saturday afternoon rolled around and things wound down.
Back to Philadelphia – a spectacular dinner in a Center City Italian “Ristorante” followed by a magnificent performance of Verdi’s operatic masterpiece, Il Trovatore in the company of a long-ago junior high school classmate (now a REAL Philadelphia Lawyer) concluded a fun-filled day. Sunday saw yet another trek to a flea market where “new items” are banned. Last April I found a #2341 Jersey Central FM here, but such was not the case this time. A commemorative Phillies baseball was my lone purchase. Prior to catching a flight home on Monday, there was yet another treat to be had, although it meant ignoring a diet. Nowhere but in Philadelphia can one find TRUE Philly cheese steaks, and in a food court of Philadelphia International Airport is one of the best.
Say you have yet to attend the York Meet? If you are a serious ferro-equinologist, this place is a must do! One final observation, and it is a sad one. The Modernaire Motel, where I’ve stayed since 1976, has changed owners. I fear I’ve slept in Room 22 for the last time. Unfortunately many things were different and none of them an improvement – locked out telephones, ripped sheets, no soap, burned out lights, no coat hangers, sheets that didn’t fit the mattress, no air conditioning, plus a room whose occupants seemed to be engaged in the world’s oldest profession have left me a bit dubious about returning next April.
The UP Side – well, that all starts on November 1 when the Desert Division once again leads the whole of TCA. Dr. Paul Wassermann officially assumes the Presidency on that day. I know we all wish him the very best in his term. I, for one, feel very confident that TCA’s 50th year is in the hands, mind, and soul of an extremely able and competent President.