Friday, February 07, 2014

Remembering the NMRA's 1983 Railway Jamboree - Part two

Doesn't this image of the handbook and timetable bring back memories? This superb timetable was created by Nick Andrusiak. The illustration was by Ray Goy.

  In July 1979 Winnipeg was awarded the right to hold the 1983 NMRA National Convention. The committee's real work began as they commenced to put the plan from their bid into action. Volunteers were recruited, the Winnipeg Convention Centre and blocks of hotel rooms were reserved. Many meetings were held to formulate a plan where Winnipeg would observe what other host cities were doing, taking the good ideas and identifying the problem areas. One key area targeted for improvement was the “Handbook and Time Table” which had been a pet peeve of Nick Andrusiak, who agreed to invent a better one.

   Several members attended NMRA regional conventions outside the TLR with the purpose of promoting the 83 National. In 1980 (Orlando), 1981 (San Mateo) and 1982 (Washington, D.C.) Winnipeg's Railway Jamboree committee and the volunteers who attended wore bright red vests with a large crest on the back. They weren't there simply to attend, but to observe, document what they saw and to promote Winnipeg. 

   Behind the scenes, magazine articles were prepared and submitted to Model Railroader and Railroad Model Craftsman to showcase several of Winnipeg's great model railroads. At the same time, friendships were established with the editorial staff of both publications that lasted long after the convention was over.

   Probably one of the best pieces of promotion was “Duffy” a dummy dressed as a railway engineer and wearing a WMRC badge, along with WMRC and TLR crests. For over 2 years, Duffy travelled throughout North America to NMRA national, regional and divisional conventions, where people were asked to attach their own badges and crests and forward him on. Photos were mailed back to Winnipeg documenting his travels and showing the many new friends he'd made.

   The work continued as clinicians were lined up, prototype tours arranged, model railroads completed and lots of buses were booked for tours. A ladies program and teen program was created. One of the biggest tasks was assigned to the committee was to organize an exhibit featuring manufacturers, distributors, retailers and displays covering all aspects of our great hobby. We had the entire third floor of the convention centre to fill! We also had to attract enough members of the public to cover our costs. 

    Arnie and Shelley Walker volunteered to handle the huge registration job.  Stafford came up with the idea of having our own cable TV program to promote the hobby, the WMRC and the Train Show. Five separate programs aired. By mid June, Nick sent the Handbook & Timetable to the printers. 

   With less than four months to go, the pressure was mounting! Registrations were pouring in, and we were going to get just one chance to make a good impression on our visitors. By May of 1983 almost every member was working on the convention. Numerous ideas came up:

How about a “Railfan's Guide to Winnipeg? “Why not?” said Ray Goy, and one was created. 

Why don't we advertise the show on the radio? We did! 160 commercials ran on four Winnipeg radio stations. 

Why don't we do mall shows and distribute discount coupons to attract the public? We did! two mall shows and 120,000 discount coupons distributed via 7-11 stores.   

Why not put banners up on the many bridges in the city to promote the show? We did just that! After the convention, they quickly became collector's items!

Why not ask local businesses to put up posters promoting the show? We did just that!

Why not arrange for restaurants to give us discount coupons that could be included in the registration kits for the NMRA delegates? We did those as well!


The seed that had been planted during in 1975 had not only germinated, it was ready to flower!   

In part three, Dave Downie will cover the convention.


  1. Great story so far! I'm keen to read the next part.

    I have one of the convention grain cars.... picked up at a local show.

    1. Thanks for the kind words, Steve! Yes, those were great looking grain cars that the club produced.