Wednesday, February 05, 2014

Remembering the NMRA's 1983 national convention in Winnipeg

2013 marked the 30th anniversary of the greatest achievement of Winnipeg's model railroading community, when the NMRA held their national convention in the city. WMRC Vice-President Dave Downie has written a four part history of the making of this convention. This series of articles was originally published in The Lantern, the official publication of the WMRC. All four parts of this series will be reprinted in this blog, courtesy of Dave Downie and Lantern Editor Robert Weaver.

Railway Jamboree 30 Years Later - Part One
By Dave Downey

   In July of 1983, Winnipeg was the site of the NMRA's National Convention. People travelled from all over the World to see everything that Winnipeg had to offer. This story is a tribute to a small group of WMRC members led by Stafford Swain, Nick Andrusiak, Hilt Friesen and Wolfgang von Thuelen who staged one of the most successful and profitable conventions in NMRA history.

   The WMRC and many of its members has had a long association with the NMRA and the TLR (Thousand Lakes Region) and the city had hosted many successful regional conventions. When word was received that Calgary had been awarded the 1979 NMRA National Convention the seed was planted! The logic was: “Winnipeg is Canada's Railway Capital and is home of many of the country's finest layouts. Why can't we host a National?” The seed needed to germinate.

   In reality, it wasn't easy. NMRA National Conventions are awarded 4 years in advance and putting together a bid to host a convention typically takes at least a year. You are looking at forming a committee that will work together for 5 years. When the idea was first mentioned at the WMRC during the 1975-76 season, there were a lot of objections with many members asking if Winnipeg was too small. Undaunted, Stafford secured the 1978 TLR regional convention for Winnipeg. His logic was simple. If Winnipeg could host a  regional convention with 120 delegates over 3 days, why couldn't it host a national convention with a few more (like 12 to 15 times that) in a week? Needless to say, the 1978 convention was a great success and Stafford had his template and his organizing committee. The seed was germinating!

   At the 1979 Calgary convention, Stafford presented the bid laid out as a solid business plan with a budget and answers to every possible question or contingency. Winnipeg was competing against Indianapolis, Indiana and we had one big advantage.....Indy had hosted a National in 1963 whereas Winnipeg was looking to host its first. By the end of the meeting, Stafford and his team had secured the 1983 National (the NMRA's 48th National is better known as Railway Jamboree '83) and the real work was to begin. It was time to water and fertilize the plant!

  In part two, Dave Downie will cover the work that the Railway Jamboree'83 committee and countless volunteers performed before Winnipeg could welcome the World.

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