model train set on track

Twenty-Twenty: 2020 What Could Have Been and What Will Be!

e*Train Issue: Sep 2022   |   Posted in:

Our Christmas layout, Lou Redman, 1999

by Carol R. McGinnis  TCA# HE95-41066

Thirty years ago, in the Train Collectors Quarterly (TCQ) October, 1992 (Vol.38 No.5) Ron Antonelli, TCA #73-5030, wrote about a premonition.  This was one of several articles composed by this author over the years.  His article starts off “Dateline: York, Pennsylvania … October, 2020. “  This certainly caught my attention! 

Ron continues, “The Security and Exchanges Commission (SEC) had declared trains a commodity.  Tractor trailers lined up down Rt. 40 into York where they hoped to amass many, many trains.  Badge holders at the meet were carefully screened as they entered each hall.  Toy train manufacturers had reached out to the highest levels of government to influence decisions.  Vast databanks of interviews have been compiled by Disney and NASA from industry notables and even collectors. 

A senior TCA member is stepping up into a time capsule to become a first-time traveler.  Where will they go?  Back to the early 1900’s to see where is all began?  Into the board room of a major manufacturer to hear the discussions and interests?  Into the chicken coop in Seattle, Washington to see a grass roots manufacturer develop?  Ron ends his article pondering this: “Out in the crowd wry smiles outnumbered the disappointed faces. Some questions, it would seem, are better left unasked.”

How did Ron know back then that October, 2020 would certainly be a pivotal point in toy train collecting?  The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) had issued warnings in March, 2020 that shut the world down.  April, 2020 through October 2021 Yorks were cancelled.  While many of us hoped, wished, prayed, and yearned that this would all be over soon, but 4 shows in total were cancelled. 

We are now entering September, 2022, and we have had a show in April 2022 and are anticipating a promise that York October 2022 is a go!  We have made hotel reservations, we have sent in our registrations, we have set our travel plans in motion.  Well, at least some of us.  There are others who are waiting.  And, there are others who honestly will not come back.  There is no one among us who has the answers.  Much like Ron’s SEC debacle there are “no clear cut answers anyway!”

It has been a full 40 months since the world was completely shut down.  No one could travel, no one could work, and no one could even go out of their homes.  York was closed.  Slowly, so very slowly, essential stores reopened with unpleasant restrictions, long lines, and temperature checks.  WE played with our trains.

Imagine, if you will, what York could have looked like.  Table holders could have been put into a lottery, with a maximum number of tables in each hall.  If you don’t make the draw this time, maybe next time?  Guests would be allowed into the halls in small groups, spaced apart, and could only linger for an appropriate amount of time at any one table.  Table holders would have to stay behind their tables, and exchanges of money and items would be through a plastic window.  All doors would be open to help aid circulation, so you could look through the door and see some of the tempting items on those nearby tables but not much more!  Masks would be a requirement, temperature checks at each hall, and a quarantine area for anyone who was sick.  Certainly not my cup of tea!

In April, 2020 CNN reported that “This train set belongs to one of the forgotten hobbies people around the world have revisited during this health crisis”.  Well, perhaps forgotten by some, but certainly not forgotten by TCA.

I am ready to be a time traveler, but perhaps not into the future!  I would certainly like to travel back to the 1950’s and relive the growing up years.  I would certainly want to take advantage of talking with other train people and learning what they know.  I would want to rebuild the layouts and study electricity, amps, ohms, and wiring.  I would want to create more elaborate layouts with water falls, boats, oil derricks, and ski lifts.  I would want to know why a Big Boy is such a big deal, and why a Tuscan color is so rare. 

But wait!  First off, we can’t go back.  No matter how much we hope, pray, or yearn!  So, moving forward I will talk with others about all these things and learn now what I did not learn then.  As an official Tinplate Time Traveler, I will document what I learn so that in twenty years your children and grandchildren will have more than I had to go on.  I will read the past 68 years of TCQ and National Headquarters News (NHN) and keep track of who said what to whom and about which.  It will behoove me to go to York.  That’s where the train folks gather.  I will continue as a TCA member because I don’t want to lose what I have gained and I want to meet other people who are interested in these tiny tin and plastic trains. 

All in all, we have learned a lot of lessons.  Let’s move forward!