model train set on track

Our Great Time at the 2014 TCA National Convention

e*Train Issue: Dec 2015   |   Posted in:

By Clem and Sandy Clement

“My Fun Meter was pegged over! A flawless convention presented by a super Atlantic Division team.”

We thought that Clem Clement’s enthusiasm for the great job done by the Atlantic division would be a prelude to the upcoming 61st National Convention in the New York Metro Area just a few months away.

Get your reservations in now! — Bob Mintz

Excitedly, Sunday June 22 we left Fairfax, VA for the 60th TCA convention in Cherry Hill, NJ. En route we picked up 6 boxes of train stuff from Ed Beaver’s home for the Standard gauge tabletop layout we all were to operate. Woodbury NJ (15 miles from Cherry Hill) is where I was born and raised and we had not been there in too many years. Let the fun begin!

Gordon and Christie Wilson drove us past my childhood home in Woodbury and further on to his childhood home as well. My folks built their home in 1926 over a Hessian solder grave yard from the revolutionary war. I learned to speak German from the ghosts in the basement.

They then took us to Steak Out in Sewell, NJ. Super good cheese steaks we had!!!! Gordon sez they are better’n Pats’ or Geno’s. Certainly delish! On the way we passed the old location of the Mantua Trains factory (Thomas Industries).

Monday we toured Phila in an open top bus, ducking the many branches of linden and other trees around center city. Loved it big time. Phila is such a wonderful city. The tour took us through so many narrow streets to see many of the wonders of “The City of Brotherly Love.” It seems the story of Betsy Ross and who really made the flag has changed. Now the say they can find no direct evidence that she sewed it, although she was a seamstress and her husband was a signer of the Declaration. I liked the old story better.

Our City tour took us around many of the prominent landmarks of Philly. Places I had visited in my youth such as: The Franklin Institute; the National Academy of Sciences; the Rodin Museum with “The Thinker” out front (one of several original castings of that statue) ; The Philadelphia Art Museum (where we got to hear why Stallone’s statue is at the bottom of the museum steps, not the top); Elfreth’s Alley; Reading terminal; City Hall, and many others. It was like old home week for me.

After our city tour we had time before the return bus was scheduled. We walked over to the famous Reading Terminal (it is pronounced Redding, not Reading) for lunch. Gone are the days of the trains, coming and going and the viaduct running out of the city that fed the Terminal. Beneath the raised terminal platform is the Reading Terminal Market. Plenty of food stands, fresh veggies, meats and foods of every kind, plenty of stands/counters to select food to eat there or carry out. My fav seafood place is long gone. We selected Pearl’s Oyster Bar counter near on of the entrances and enjoyed great sandwiches. Then we walked the market looking at all the action. My grandfather sold farm products there in the early 1900’s and my father helped him some of the time. Some of the stores have been in place over a hundred years. I felt at home.

I took Ms. Sandy to Bassets Ice cream stand for a dish of the world’s best ice cream. Just as we sat down a couple of TCAers came by. I yelled “sit right down and have some ice cream with us.” In the old days they had a server who could dish up your fav flavor and slide the glass cup exactly to your place at the counter. The counter has water in pitchers, self service to the customers, as the ice cream is toooo rich to eat without water. I had a dish of my all time favorite: French vanilla. Whattaday for us.

Later on in the week as we were gathering in the Crowne Plaza Hotel for a bus trip to the battleship New Jersey and the aquarium, the tour leaders were getting ready to prebrief us. One of the leaders was this lovely blonde with the name tag of Ginny. Immediately I have the need to ask questions and intro myself. She says “Hi, I’m Ginny P.!!” Now many of our trainiacs in the room know me and are wondering why I’m suddenly hugging one of our tour guides… (And crying). Ms. Sandy came over quickly to see why I’m hugging this blonde as well. Happily she then recognized Ginny and joined in. Ginny is the widow of a high school classmate of mine. I had not seen her in 30+ years. We were so pleased to share lunch that day with Ginny and catch up on her activities and our classmates as well. She also asked to be informed about our 60th reunion plans. It gets more complicated: When I mentioned my flying career, she commented that she had given a tour to a military group of aircrews 3 weeks prior. Turns out my ex-wife from Ohio brought that group in for a tour of the Phila area. Phew: a close one… (Don Miller, President of the Heart of America Chapter from Kansa City, was witness to my huggings so I expect some grief from him…but you know the truth).

We got to tour the Battle Ship New Jersey (BB62). What a stunning piece of National Power. During her 70 years of service in WWII, Korea, Vietnam, and the Gulf War, she only had one combat loss of life. I’m happy she is not needed any more and saddened that her technology is obsolete. Our young tour guide asked for someone to close the hatches after our group passed thru and I volunteered. I’m proud to help out, but did not tell him he had a retired Air Force officer doing door duty for the Navy.

I was thrilled to see the RCA dog Nipper back in place on top of RCA building #17 in Camden. After my service career with the Air Force I went to work with RCA. That was the third and the successful time I tried to get a job at RCA. I loved my work there. When GE bought out RCA they fired 6000 engineers and took down the stained glass window of Building 17 with Nipper highlighted. In 2003 after much hullabaloo and work, the wonderful images again grace the Camden skyline.

I was overjoyed at the possibility of a cruise down the Delaware River. As a boy, Mother and I took the Wilson Lines from Philly to Wilmington, Delaware on the River. Like my Sandy growing up on Big Muddy, I grew up near the Delaware. She was a nasty river then: Daddy, in his youth fished the river for shad. When we canoed the river, we had to scrub the ring of sludge off the Grumman when we got home. All my life I collected rubber balls to play with: not from the Delaware as the tar was too thick on them. The two main beams of my train layout that I have now came from a canoe trip Daddy and I took from the River. The old Wilson Line had dark green caned rockers on her upper desk. Somehow the rockers on our front porch were the same color. I never figured that out… Now we were back on the river again. I also hoped to go down river far enough to see the Court house steeple of my home town of Woodbury. No such luck as the cruise did not go past the Schuylkill River or Hog Island (Philadelphia International Airport.). Still I thrilled at riding topside and seeing the Jersey countryside go by.

As we left the docks I was reminded of a deal we cooked up on the River. I was President of a local Communications Association Chapter, and the Commander of the University of Pennsylvania ROTC unit was on the Board. That unit was given a drug sailboat to teach the cadets how to sail. We had a BOD meeting on that boat at the docks. We thought we were “some punkins” wining and dining on about 74 slick feet of wooden decks, until Auggie Bush’s four story yacht cruised in…

We bussed over the see the Phillies play the Fish one delightful evening. It was a great night for Baseball and we had super seats behind home plate on the 400 level. The Phillie Phanatic was at his bes,t firing hot dogs from his special hotdog gun as high as we were. Even my not-so-big baseball fan had a good old time and the Philies won!

Those drivers who were new to Jersey got the chance to find out what a jug handle is. Even as a local I had to relearn. Someone said Jersey is slowly removing them. I like them as they function well, once you get the hang of them and the not-so-nearby signage. While I’m on the subject of Jersey highways, several mentioned to me how bumpy the concrete roadways are. I hadda tell them that most of the concrete work was done by WPA and CCC teams in the thirties and hadn’t been fixed since.

Terms and places know only to South Jerseyites:

Peanut Circle (Gone now)
Airport circle( sorta gone now)
The Pub
The Pine Barrens
Jersey skeeters are not known to us as they do not bite true Jersey boys
Surekill and Smellaware rivers
Jenny Linds
June thunderstorms (Of which we had none during the day!)
Jersey strawberry flies and greenheads
Saying “Billy” Penn and “Benny” Franklin rather than William Penn and Ben Franklin (golly them boys are locals and of course we call them as such; in fact, Billy Penn’s wife and I are related)
Knowing about the secret called Cape May
Jersey Devil Some think the Jersey Devil was a Tory. As the fate of the British was fading, many who favored staying aligned with Britain just moved to the woods of Jersey and vanished.
The Blue Hole
The secret of Clement’s Bridge
The Clement Oak
Benny Franklin’s iron source for his stoves came from the bog iron of South Jersey which can be 52% pure iron.

I told our TCAers from outa state (we call them furiners) that when they do their prayers, it is a local call from Jersey…

The weather was the goll-dern bestest I have ever seen for June in Jersey. Usually it is stinkin hot with terrible tstorms every afternoon. Whoever the weather person was, he done mighty fine.

The Crown Plaza was a fine hotel and perfect for our kind of convention. Their staff was always ready to do for us. We utilize a great deal of function space and they had plenty available. The Welcome party and Banquet were held in a separate permanent tented facility so our trading pits and meeting rooms were in the hotel proper. All food service was first rate. We had plenty of food for the welcome party, an event that can easily run short of food. The hotel was organized for the Party and did the best job I have seen for this activity. The entertainment was by 58 Mummers from the Quaker City Troop. Danced we did. The Saturday evening banquet food service was on time and served properly and hot. The banquet auction went well with Ted Maurer as the auctioneer.

The table top layout Ed and Norm Beaver and Kirk Lindvig and Chris Bogus built were sweeeeeeeto. Ed and Norm had a two track mainline and a figure eight in the middle. This was no ordinary figure eight as the crossing was a 30 Deg form, not a cross sign and extra ties were added. Ed said they removed one curve to get the lineup just right. That loop ran the several trolleys we brought. Kirk and Chris’ layout was pre-mounted on a panel and had lots of action. We set up the two layouts side by side.

STOMPER arrived 0.00000684 nanoseconds late as he was behind Jupiter dealing with divergence in the dihedral of a twin pair of moonlets. They got to be counter rotating causing their aluminum content to become magnetic. STOMPER ate one and sent the other backwards in time. As this event took place behind the Planet, the light waves need to go all the around the back side of the cosmos so they will take 54363623534634650.4879 light years to get to us from the east…

My Magic Train gave several select presentations to an overwhelmed audience. Her name is “Sequestration.” You shoulda been there to see it for yourself as the show is indescribable in words.

A young boy came by our layout. Both he and his younger brother were challenged by life very unfairly. They thrilled at the crash and dash of the huge standard gauge engines tearing up the road iron. His bro was in a stroller and he was holding onto his Mother. All of a sudden, as we chatted, the young boy took my elbow and guided me over to the LEGO layout next to us. I nodded to Mom that all was well. He walked me around the layout telling me the name of each and every special character they had on scene. He was hard to hear but not hard to transmit his love and feelings about this marvelous layout. He knew all the special characters such as superman, transformers, Darth, the Ninja turtles and on and on. My knees were weak with honor to have this young man describe to me what was happening. I’m sure he did the same to his little bro. His Mother and I crossed glances and her warm glow to me was heart filling. Proud to serve I am and clearly I was at my duty station at the right time.

My homey-did train yard caused lots of talk and interest. We parked the trains to the other side of the narrow hallway waiting for their time to run. It looked like a display and begged for “ID” cards: meaning that this was a modified Lionel engine or a SF copy or just farm junk assembled in a train-like fashion. That will come next winter when part of my homey-did collection will be the special display of the TCA museum for the 2015 season. Only two of my locos did not respond to the call. The orange trolley slept through the entire show and an e-unit coughed. STOMPER and SNOOKINS showed off their powers super well.

This is the first time I have had several train consists of homemade trains out in the public. When I was there to talk to folks through what they were seeing vs. what the original piece looked like or to point out a special technique in the construction, viewers got most interested. For instance: Cars built out of cigar boxes where the labels are still visible on the inside. Quality metal working techniques. Detailed rivet simulations. A wooden caboose with two flat washers over red cellophane and glued over to holes in the back of the caboose to let red warning lights show. So simple. Motors with additional frames, wheels and side rods. O gauge motors widened to serve standard gauge bodies. And my favorite STOMPER built like a brick with a motor of huge torque and unknown origin.

By assembling these pieces that I have obtained over the years from many sources into sets, we made a very interesting display as well as running examples of toys built by unknown hands for their kids.

A stunning idea was offered which I will get right on. Try this: Build a light hand car and mount a strong magnet on it facing backward. Mount another magnet on a powered trolley car with the polarity reversed. Have the trolley push the hand car around the layout, never quite touching it. Should be more mysto-magic and I will have to create some truths to go along with all the action.

The public got to attend and visit the Trading Pits and the layouts. I was on duty with the layouts and the public loved our tin a-runnin. Many had never seen Standard Gauge on the run. When finished I was so tired I could not even grab a beer, but not hurting like after days and days of sitting in meetings. Mark me down as HAPPY boy playing trains in Jersey. It was like my first flying job in the Air Force: hurricane hunter. I told my boss, please never transfer me. I’ll gladly serve for a full career flying weather planes and I’ll do it on Second Louie dollars.

Friday afternoon we heard a fine presentation by professional auctioneers Ted Maurer and Greg Stout. What a great talk. About 70 folks asked many questions about the auction process. I have never heard a better treatment of the subject than these two gents gave. And to Ted’s great credit he announced that he was retiring and that Greg was a very qualified and professional auctioneer. As usual I had my hand in the air asking all kind of questions. Ms Sandy had questions as well… I wonder what she has in mind?

Gordon Wilson took Chris Allen for a cheese steak at Steak Out in Sewell, NJ and to Pat’s and Geno’s in Phila. Chris told me of his experience at Pat’s. At Pat’s there is a conversation board that instructs the customer to have your $$ ready and your order in mind. Chris orders a Cheese Steak “Wid” and has his money right in his hand so he gets prompt service. The young kid next in line asks for a hotdog. The server sez: “Git outa here” and sends the kid packin! As Gordon and Chris are enjoying their steaks a tourist bus somehow gets to the intersection between Geno’s and Pat’s. It blocked all traffic and no one seems to mind. The tourists pile out, grab their cheese steaks from Geno’s and get back on the bus. Just a regular event at the famous cheese steak center of the world. Un- describable scene you just gotta be immersed in to believe. Did I mention that Tony Luke’s is mighty fine also? The boys in the big black cars eat there.

The power of a team effort by the Atlantic Division surely led to the success of this fine convention

Can we do the convention all over next week, please? I had too much fun for one week. I can’t wait for next year. Another convention in North Joisy focusing on New York City. I can’t wait. Me and Ms. Sandy are going to a play!!!!!

On the way home we stopped by the Quaker Meeting house in Mickleton, NJ. My folks and many of my late relatives are buried in the grave yard there. We dusted off several grave stones and said some words to my family. We went off course to the farm stand on R40 and grabbed some Jersey tomats, Jersey corn, jersey cantaloupes and Jersey strawberries. So delish.

Just to test the sales girl I asked for some Jenny Linds. I guess she was not local and she hadda ask an older person. Oh and they had a mess of sticky buns as well. If you have never had a plate of a dozen Jersey sticky buns, feel left out of one of the world finest eats. (During my senior year at George School, a Quaker boarding school in PA, we all had chores. One of my girl friends got me the job of dining room setup Sunday mornings. We had our own bakery and they would give me a full dozen sticky buns and a dish of butter which I quaffed during the setup time and still chowed down heavy for breakfast. Gone are those days!)

In our opinion this was another great TCA convention. My Fun Meter was pegged over most of the time! A flawless convention presented by a super Atlantic Division team. Well done all.

Sandy and Clem Clement