model train set on track

Planning and Promoting a Successful National Convention – 2017

e*Train Issue: Aug 2017   |   Posted in:

By Chris DiCianna and George Starz, Convention Co-Chairs

The 2017 TCA National Convention is now history, and what an event it was!

The Point, in downtown Pittsburgh, became the central gathering location for more than 600 TCA members and their families.  There were over 1,000 who gathered at the point of trains and celebrated and shopped.  We were on local TV Channel 2 (see video above) with as interview and highlights.  The public joined us on Friday and Saturday bringing in an additional 400, or so, people with their group family passes.

Nestled in the heart of the downtown area, the Wyndham Grand Hotel opened its doors and welcomed all who entered.  Layouts galore, people all over, and even the Furries added excitement and laughter!  Layouts included the Standard Gauge Modular Association (SGMA), next to the Train Marketplace, and in the ballroom lobby The Fort Pitt Kids Club O gauge, a Disney layout, an S Gauge with action buttons, and an N gauge.  On the first floor, the Fort Pitt Hi-Railers, another O gauge layout, the South Hills Model RailRoad Club HO gauge, and a G Gauge layout rounded out the exhibitions.  

A favorite of this convention was the “Meet The Experts” sessions.  Crowds of 40-70 attended each session ranging from a talk about the Beggs line of trains, to O Gauge Magazine, to Ghost Railroads, to modern Lionel,  to a tour of the Lionel factory, to Lionel factory history, to Postwar Lionel boxes, to how to repair and restore these old toy trains.  We also had small break-out sessions with some of the speciality groups within TCA including TTML (Toy Train Mailing List) our online chat group, T. T. P. & M (Toy Train Paper and Memorabilia group), The Ives Society, The Plasticville Group, and an American Flyer Group.

While planning started years before, following a standard TCA protocol, we stepped up the promotion to TCA members in October 2016, with a presentation at the National Toy Train Museum’s Open House, which was then made available to all members via our TCA NetVision service:

In April, at the Spring Open House, we followed up with another presentation:
A key element in our success was the development of an attractive website that provided key information and a sense of excitement:
It is our sincere hope that this Convention will be seen as not only a wonderful event, but as an inspiration for future ones!

Editor’s Note: Co-Chairs George Starz and Chris DiCanna went over and above to make certain that no stone was unturned to make this a destination convention. George even showed up in a tailor-made train jacket. Akin to the famous suit often worn by the late Lou Redman “Mr. TCA,” it stole the show on Saturday night at the banquet.

Innovation and something new were the orders for the days. Congratulations and a big THANKS to the Fort Pitt Division, President Sam Merando, and to each and every volunteer who helped make this a fantastic week.

George Starz special suit.
Lou Redman suit.

See Special Kids Program and Photos from the Convention