model train set on track

Women in TCA

e*Train Issue: Apr 2013   |   Posted in:

Christie Wilson, Amy Tompkins, Cathy Saypol, Carol Redman McGinnis

Editor’s Note: The participation and leadership of women in our hobby have long brought strength and excellence to TCA. With March being Women’s History Month, we are pleased to present several sample portraits that illustrate this, and note with pride the continued advance of women in TCA’s leadership ranks, as well as their valued participation in the membership.

Women, they are in TCA, and they are TCA!

By Carol Redman McGinnis
TCA President, 2012-2013, # 95-41066

Being the middle daughter of Lou and Jody Redman allows me a distinct appreciation of the toy train hobby.  I had the pleasure of being friends with a number of women who have been deeply involved in the growth and success of the Train Collectors Association.  While the TCA has been described by some to be an “old boys club,” I must disagree.  Since its inception in 1954 women have had a great influence on the hobby.  Margaret McCoy was the artistic genius behind McCoy Manufacturing.  Nancy Swan joined in 1974 because she saw the benefits of full membership.  Donna Robinson and Sarah Reed Lavinus, both held the office of National Secretary, a job previously held by men.  The current National Secretary, Christie Wilson, has served since 2008.  Katie Elgar is currently serving as the TCA Vice-President.  I just met Cathy Saypol and Amy Tompkins, the great granddaughters of Joshua Lionel Cowan, at the TCA Eastern Division York Meet in October, 2012 who are both members of TCA.  Like so many women of their day they enjoy trains.

And then there is Jody Redman, H-03-55985.  Jody, the wife of Lou Redman, was mother to Ruth, Lou, Peg, and me.  While Dad moved around in his infamous train suit (whether suit #1 or suit #2, but that is another story) she maintained the family unit.  She also edited and printed the first years of the Train Collectors Quarterly and the National Newsletter.  Now it must be added that “printed” is not what it is today.  She used a huge Multilith machine that Dad had moved into the basement.  The first machine was hand crank and then “technology” improved and the new machine was electronic.  (But nothing even close to the machines of today.)  Many hours were spent churning out the publication during those early years of TCA.  After getting us kids off to bed she would retire to the basement to crank out the publications.  Acknowledged with an Honorary Membership she became one of only twelve, and the third woman, to be honored in this fashion.  She was inconspicuous in her dealings with everyone, remaining in the background which was her preference.

Lou Redman was only 38 years old when TCA was started in October, 1954.  He had his own business selling church offering envelopes and accounting systems across the state of Pennsylvania.  He was a Trustee at his church and had a young family of a wife, 2 girls, ages 3 and 1, and a third child, a son, due in December.  In April, 1957, a 4th child, a daughter, was born.  With all this on his plate he became the Secretary/Treasurer of the TCA and Editor of the Quarterly.  He worked to create, edit, maintain and distribute the newsletters, directories, and quarterlies.  He handled registrations and new members and fielded questions about the up-and-coming association.  Mom, at age 30, supported all his efforts, fielded phone calls, answered questions, and maintained her sanity.  She clearly saw the joy that it brought him.  TCA gave the opportunity to travel and tour with her young family and many new friends.  And TCA will continue as long as its members make a commitment.

Lou had a captive crew.  In those early days he would type and correct the copy. His wife, Jody, would edit and run off the copies while the kids slept upstairs.  Directories, newsletters, quarterlies, and dues notices would be set up around the dining room table and the four kids, Lou, and 10 or so TCA guys would walk around the table, gather a packet, stuff it in an envelope, and stick on postage. Mom would cook up a meal worthy of an army and then Lou would take all the mail to a local post office.

As we grew up the family would attend all the conventions, attend as many shows and meets as we could, while dad worked with the Standards Committee, and published information as the Historian.  Best of all Mom and Dad could talk anyone into doing something or helping with something.  This was one of their greatest assets.  Jody would be by Lou’s side and enjoyed the friends and family that TCA brought together.

Even the great grandaughters of Joshua Lionel Cohen, Cathy L Saypol, and Amy E Tompkins (seen in center of top photo) have recently gotten back into the hobby. Right now, they’re both concentrating on standard guage and they report that each has a nice little collection!

Just as with Carol Redman McGinnis and Christie Wilson, toy trains just get in the family blood!

Nancy Swan, 74-6048, became a member because she saw the advantages of being a member.  She wanted to get a convention car, and could not do so as a spouse.  She also wanted to have her voice heard in national elections and discussions.  Looking through the current TCA directory there appear to be well over 2,000 members who are women.  That is taking into account the numerous overlap of names (It’s hard to tell if Chris is Christopher or Christine, or if Terry is Theresa or Terrance) and then, of course, there are the folks listed with their initials (like L.D.)  Even Life Members, those honored by their commitment to the National Toy Train Museum, have at least 25 of their number being women.

Trains are still a family activity.  It’s always more fun to set up and run a train if there are others around to enjoy the hobby.  Young children, and kids of all ages, love to go to layouts and watch the trains.  They also love to go to train crossings and see the power and beauty of live trains.  Women, moms, and grandmothers, see the advantage of having a calm hobby that can be set up in a bedroom or basement.

The train hobby encompasses a wide range of discovery.  Among them are electricity, physics, chemistry, math, creativity, building, woodwork, and more.  You can incorporate plumbing, too!  Bringing each of these subject areas together is educational and fun.  It’s also fairly easy to get started.  While some members have elaborate train rooms and displays many more have a single loop that runs around their Christmas tree from Thanksgiving into spring.  What a great way to share your love of the hobby.

OK, so the thread of this article has ranged from women, to education, to life in general, but then that is what it’s all about.  Each of us loves to share our joy and our passion and toy trains allow us to do just that.  Come and join us at the next meet in your area.  When your computer shuts down and the internet is funky, turn off the television, get away from the computer, and as Past-President Clem Clement would say “go play trains.”

The best of the hobby comes when you share it.

The Story Continues with Another Portrait