Tis Train Show Season!
A great man (Dagwood Bumstead's hobby shop manager) once said: "Trains is a winter sport". While that may only be partially true, our hobby does get busier starting in the fall.
Train shows (swap meets) have been coming back after an almost 2 year break caused by the Covid pandemic and the usual summer break, and my friends and I are very excited about that. Why? Well, in addition to the thrill of the hunt these shows provide opportunities to:
* See and chat with friends and acquaintances
*Make new friends
*Discover new things available in the marketplace
*Ask questions to learn about different scales, gauges, eras and manufacturers
*See and enjoy club modular layouts (usually at the larger shows)
*Watch and learn from product demonstrations (again, usually at the larger shows)
*Sell excess or no longer wanted train items
*Pick up that special item that you wanted or needed (or one that you didn't even know that you wanted or needed!)
From September through April you can probably find smaller shows in your area manned by hobbyists just like you and me. These shows usually have between 50 and 100 sale tables.
You may also be able to find larger reginal shows during this period at larger venues such as college gyms or fairground pavilions. These are the shows where you will likely find vendors that include hobby shops. There may also be modular layouts to enjoy and product demonstrations to learn from. They may even have train races for the kids to enjoy! 400 or more tables are common at these shows.
Then, there are the monster shows held by the Eastern Division of the Train Collectors Association (TCA), twice a year, every April and October at the York EXPO Center (aka "the fairgrounds") in York PA. To us train nuts these wonderful meets are simply referred to as "YORK". They are three day shows; Thursday through Saturday.
How big is this mother of all shows? Well, there are 7 large halls providing what I would guess to be about 400,000 square feet of train fun. Not all that long ago attendee count averaged 12 - 13,000 hobbyists. Even though this number is now down to around 9,000 (as we age out and internet sales become more popular) it is, by far, an event that all train nuts have to experience.
There is a lot more to the "York Experience! beginning on the Monday before the main event at the Fairgrounds, there are small and reginal sized shows at local firehouses, hotels and hotel parking lots. These are fondly called "the Bandit meets".
Locally there is the TCA National Toy Train Museum, the Choo Choo Barn layout and the Pennsylvania Rail Road Museum, not far away in Lancaster and Strasburg, PA. for you and your family to visit too.
At any train show there are certain etiquette "rules" that should be followed:
*Ask permission of the vendor before picking up items of value on their table
*To avoid harming graphics or marring paint (especially silver), if you pick up a train always do so my holding it by its wheel trucks
*If something you are interested in is in its original box ask the vendor to remove it for you. These boxes can be fragile and you don't want a torn flap to be your responsibility
*Sellers should (IMHO) have everything on their table clearly priced. If you think the marked prices are way out of line simply walk away without making snide comments. If the marked prices appear to be reasonable, most vendors would appreciate starting counter offers for 10-20% off. Don't hesitate to ask
*If you do make an offer, and the vendor accepts it, for golly's sake, buy the item!
*If buying an engine, operating car, etc. don't hesitate to ask to bring it to the test track before the deal is done. If the vendor will not let you do this, walk away
*If an item has been restored, refinished or has reproduction parts the vendor should inform you of these issues. TCA sponsored event vendors are required to label their product as respects to these issues. Ask the vendor and/or knowledgeable friends about any concerns you may have before the deal is done
*Do not handle items you have no intentions of purchasing.
*Watch your children - do not let them play with/fiddle with items on the tables
Most importantly; HAVE FUN!