model train set on track

TCA Rides with 611

e*Train Issue: Jul 2015   |   Posted in:

By Carol Redman McGinnis, TCA #95-41066 Summer 2015

Hard work by the Virginia Museum of Transportation on the “Fire Up 611″ project made this glorious locomotive ready for steaming again. TCA’s WB&A chapter took the initiative by providing avid train-lovers who served as wayfinders and car hosts, assisting the public on the Manassas/Front Royal excursions.

This led to not only a great public service that was enthusiastically recognized by the event promoters, but fun for TCAers and a chance to talk up the joys of railroads, whether the big ones or toy trains. Here’s how it came about.

Beginning in mid May an exchange of email postings were sent by the President of the WB&A Chapter, Colleen Hall, to all chapter members.  Below in this article are excerpts from Marketing Consultant Trey Davis, and Chairman Jim Stump of the Virginia Museum of Transportation (VMT). 

Colleen initiated a weekly chapter eblast when she became an officer in the WB&A.  Early in May, she was contacted by fellow WB&A members Dan and Pearl Rollyson, who became actively involved with the Norfolk and Western J-611 restoration as a result of information shared in her eblast.  They suggested that Colleen reach out to the VMT to see if the WB&A could assist with further promoting of the J-611 unveiling and the public excursions.  Colleen contacted Trey Davis and others from VMT and asked what she could do and how could the WB&A help.

Ultimately, Colleen offered to solicit WB&A members to find out who might be interested in working for the Manassas/Front Royal excursions.  Soon there were volunteers who reached out to TJ Gaffney from Streamline Historic Services, and Trey, to offer their time and energy for this once in a lifetime opportunity.  The WB&A Chapter volunteers were given an ultimate opportunity that they took to heart. 

Colleen’s husband, James, went to the safety training and learned that the VMT was still looking for additional volunteers.  These folks could serve as car hosts or “wayfinders” to help guide guests from parking, to the train, and to their specific car for boarding.  This prompted Colleen to send out an additional special eblast offering an opportunity to be part of a WB&A volunteer team.  This teased the membership, by saying:

“How would you like to be part of the 611 Journey this weekend?  Now that’s an intriguing offer.  The WB&A is being given the opportunity to do so.  The WB&A is PROUD to be part of this majestic event and there is availability for 2-3 folks to be a car host for the Manassas trip.  While it’s not all play, it is a fantastic opportunity to be part of history.”

The WB&A team came to Manassas on June 6th and 7th, composed of Clem Clement, Jim Gray, John Buxton, and James Hall.  On Sunday, Sandy Clement and Colleen decided to join them. Colleen, having  just finished up a long 3 weeks of work in a neighboring state and the WB&A’s semi-annual swap meet and Board meeting on Sunday, went by the station in Manassas just to say hi to James.  She found him as he was about to take off for his third ride as a car host for Car 12.

Before she knew it, she was onboard with a safety vest and ID and working as a car host! She soon found her way to Clem’s car where she realized that, if a smile captured the look of heaven, that smile never left Clem’s face.  Later on, Clem found his way back to their car and, as you can see, he did what he does best.  He just began chatting, told a few Clem stories, and brought smiles to all around (and it was rumored that he didn’t mention a Blue Comet once)!

James Hall (l) and Clem Clement (r).

Jim Stump, TCA member 07-61647 and J611 Start Up Chairman, followed up with Colleen after she shared the photos she had taken by letting Colleen know how much the volunteers meant. 

 “It was great to meet you and so many of your wonderful TCA WB&A members who made a HUGE positive difference for J-611’s Inaugural Public Excursions this past weekend in Manassas. We could not have done it without your FINE team!  The folks from Manassas tell us this was by far the largest crowd they’ve ever had for Manassas Rail Day and you helped greatly to make it such as success.

“It’s amazing what a common love of America’s railroad heritage can do.  You folks were simply wonderful and so gracious with your time, your commitment, and your knowledge. The Virginia Museum of Transportation and our folks/event partners on the ground with you in Manassas are so grateful for our new friends from the WB&A/TCA. Please know that each of you are appreciated very, very much and we’d love to have you down to Roanoke for a day in your honor.”

Colleen is working on having a day in Roanoke and will be inviting the WB&A membership out to be part of the ceremonial gift of a $500 donation to the VMT on behalf of the WB&A.

Trey Davis added:

“Let me enthusiastically second Jim’s words.  We simply could not have had such a successful weekend without the hard work and dedication of the TCA WB&A members.  I so enjoyed spending time with you all onboard, and it was clear from the smiles on the faces of the passengers that they enjoyed their time with you as well.  Thank you all so much for making this special weekend possible!”

Working together, sharing knowledge, and having an inspiring experience all at the same time.  What a wonderful way to spend time enjoying our hobby! A video, which captures the excitement, may be viewed here.

Colleen, and the WB&A Chapter, are justifiably proud of everyone’s efforts and grateful for the opportunity to be able to be part of this once in a lifetime event.  We acknowledge that there was a lot of hard work done by others to make it possible.  Colleen said that she and the WB&A are looking at building on this and:

“… seeing how to capture the audience that came out to witness this event and bring them into a train show!  Folks took time away from their televisions and computers to stand out along the track to watch the steam of an Iron Lady Queen pulling its majestic cars and all the wonderful people on-board. Yeah, it was a good day for sure!”

As past President, I’m personally proud of the WB&A’s efforts on behalf of TCA membership as a whole.  They stand out among the crowd, are leading examples of extending their hands in friendship, and are reaching out to organizations that work to further promote the world of trains and the hobby itself. 

John Buxton (l) and Jim Gray (r) on the job!

Past TCA President Paul Edgar’s face tells it all!

I encourage all Chapters and Divisions to seek to find ways to further enhance their local experiences which, therefore, allows the TCA to shine even brighter as an organization made up of the finest hobbyists in the train world.