The final Casey Jones Chapter TCA train show of the season is in the history books and our proverbial last train has left the station.
It was a very sunny and extraordinarily hot Saturday morning. The temperature and humidity soared to uncomfortable levels well before noon. Fortunately, that didn't stop people from getting out to the show. Over 150 people visited the show, which is a big crowd for what is typically one of the quieter shows of the season. Perhaps people were there to take refuge in the cool comfort of St. George's air-conditioned facility. Whatever the reason, it was great to see so many people come out to enjoy the trains on such a hot and humid June morning.
Saturday's show brings the Casey Jones Chapter season to a close. The 2017-18 season was an exciting one for both the chapter and the show.
Mike and Liz Kelly took over responsibility for the Kids Club and really notched it up (pun intended). They made and continue to make all sorts of adjustments and improvements to the club to enhance the show experience for our youngest members and visitors. This is perhaps our most important function as a chapter: introducing kids to the hobby so our shows and the hobby have a bright future.
Mike and Liz have some exciting changes planned for next year as well. They want to provide more hands-on activities to help kids develop their model railroading skills. We will share more information closer to the fall show.
Len Burke joined as Chapter Secretary in December and focused heavily on our marketing and communications efforts and show presentation and administration. We now have a social media presence, a webpage, a system for managing our email lists, the beginnings of a visual identity (things like a logo, colors, standard typeface), a streamlined check-in process, and we cut the amount of paper and postage we use as more of our communication and marketing is now done electronically. We also conducted our first satisfaction survey and received important feedback from both visitors and members on how we can improve the show. We believe this work is starting to pay off as we are seeing higher attendance.
Vendor participation was also up for the year thanks to Richard Gonzales' relentless pursuit of both old and new vendors. We nearly ran out of tables at every show! We are also starting to see a wider variety of trains offered as a result of his work. It's not just an o-gauge show anymore. This should come as good news to those asking us for trains in other gauges and scales.
While we are on the subject, we would like to thank our vendors. Without your support there is little reason to have a show. Your trains help keep this hobby alive. Your support, friendship and humor help keep the show alive and make it a more interesting place to be five times each year.
Bill Autry and Nep Maury continued in their roles as President and Vice President, respectively, and provided their expert guidance and leadership to the chapter throughout the year. Bill and his brother, John, are also important vendors for the show.
As always, there was the faithful crew of people from the Casey Jones Hi-railers that helped with the moving, set-up and operation of the layout. This activity involves a lot of time and physical labor. It is grueling work, especially in warmer weather, and the importance of their work cannot be overstated: there simply is no show without the layout. The layout is what everyone not buying trains comes to see. We hope to make some big changes to our train operations for next year to make our trains more interesting and reduce the work involved for the crew.
Higher attendance enabled us to add a few things to the show this year. These changes were part of our ongoing commitment to improving the show.
Probably the biggest addition to the show involved our giveaways. We were able to give away train sets at our Holiday and Winter shows. This was a first for us and a tradition we hope to continue.
We also started offering food at the show. Eric Meyers of Eat at Eric's Grill was on site with his mobile kitchen starting this past winter. It was a hit with some of the vendors because it meant they didn't have to leave the show to get something to eat. We also think it makes a nice addition to the show for attendees. Eric reports that business has been acceptable but that it could improve. He provides his services at no cost to us. We are hopeful show attendance and patronage of his kitchen will continue at levels high enough to support his continued presence.
We kick off our next season - the chapter's 40th Anniversary season - on October 6th. As we mentioned earlier, look for some exciting changes to the show as we work to make it the best it can be. We'll provide more details as we get closer to October. In the meantime, we at the Casey Jones Chapter would like to thank everyone for their support during the past year. We look forward to seeing everyone again in the fall.
Here are the show dates for next season:
Fall Kick-off - October 6th, 2018
Holiday Show - December 1st
Winter - February 2nd, 2019
Spring - April 6th
Summer - June 1st
We are 99% sure these dates will hold, but be sure to check back from time to time in case there are any changes.
P.S. Summer doesn't have to mean the end of trains entirely. There are still a few things going on around the area. Be sure to check out our Events page for more information.