National Train Show report, Day 1...
Warning: the following is biased personal opinion of the basest nature and
may not come even remotely close to reality as perceived by those
unfortunate enough to be mentioned herewithin ;-)
4 days and 4000 km after departing Vancouver, BC, the Val Ease Central
Railroad roadshow arrived in Saint Paul, MN at 7:15 pm on Thursday, July
23rd. Stepping out of the car and into the 99 degree F, 95% humidity was
like sinking into a bath of molasses. Fortunately the Miami, er, Saint Paul
convention center was air-conditioned. We had timed our arrival to set-up
early before the official opening the folowing morning at 10 am.
Despite the heat, we were warmly greeted at the exhibitor registration desk
by Ms. Dottie Finch, wearing a green NTS shirt and a friendly smile. She
provided me and my crew with our NTS badges. My family from Winnipeg,
Manitoba had come to provide severe heckling, to create general havoc and to
embarass the family name in front of complete strangers. In order to help
the police make identification easier of our gang, we all wore custom
embroidered Val Ease Central T-shirts in slate blue - from L to R: yours
truly, my wife - Marthe, my mother - Joan, my nephew - Lee, my sister -
June, and my father - Ray. Our Lhassa Apso, Titi, was stashed under the
table in order to nip toddler's kneecaps and curious adults ankles.
With our suitcases in hand we set off on our quest for space #894 (Yes, I
had been moved for a third time!) which was somewhere in the far reaches of
Wilkins Exhibit Hall. Fortunately for my crew, I had invested in a heavy
duty luggage dolly which took care of my two VEC suitcases and the emergency
supplies box. http://members.home.net/trainmaster/NTS-dolly.jpg
We eventually made it to a likely spot and began to arrange the tables and
chairs in preparation for set-up. We were surrounded by vendors on the
front and right, modular layouts were to our left and back. The Susquehanna
Division layout did not show so our open space grew to a very comfortable
Noticing an even better spot in front of me that had a better table and a
tubular crowd barrier, I began to wonder if I couldn't change places...I
decided to ask the NTS exhibitor coordinator, Mr. Dean Dickerhoof, if I
could make the move. He kindly informed me that I had been setting up in
the wrong space and that the area that I coveted so unabashedly was reserved
for the Val Ease Central Railroad!
Set-up took until closing, 9 pm. The track was cleaned and tested, the
signs that I had prepared were in position, the new halogen lights I had kit
bashed gave an even accent light to counter glare from the huge vapor lamps
on the convention ceiling and the skirting that my wife had charmed from the
NTS maintenance staff had been installed. The layout looked great...but
don't take my work for it! http://members.home.net/trainmaster/NTS-VEC.jpg
The last item on my list before leaving the NTS was to enquire about
entering the VEC in the NTS layout competition. I was anxious to have the
layout judged on a national basis against some of the best in the business.
I also wanted to become familiar with the NTS organisation in preparation
for the year 2000 train show in San Jose, CA. Mr. Dickerhoof, who was also
the NTS competition coordinator, told me that one of the competition
officials would be by the following morning to fill in the paperwork. Note:
I had already prepared the NMRA module competition forms, but the NTS runs a
separate competition with its own prizes and judging.
I went to bed exhausted but satisfied and excited about the days to come.
To be continued...Day 2.