Sunday, February 09, 2014

Remembering the NMRA's 1983 Railway Jamboree - Part three

Who's that handsome young lad with all that hair? It's Stafford Swain, of course!
There wouldn't have been an NMRA national convention in Winnipeg if it weren't for Stafford!

By Dave Downie

   On Sunday, July 17, 1983 the Railway Jamboree 83 committee took over the Winnipeg Convention Centre. My first memory was Wolfgang von Thuelen reporting that he had checked all the keys to ensure that all rooms could be secured. Countless boxes containing registrations, signage and company store merchandise were moved in and many volunteers, including some out of town delegates and other TLR members made short work to get everything ready. Everyone was excited when Shelley Walker reported that the final number of advance registrations was better than expected. All the promotional work had paid off! NMRA officials arrived and met with Stafford and his team to review the preparations. When we left to go home that evening we were all excited anticipating what the week ahead would bring.

   The Registration desk opened at 9am Monday morning and the people just kept coming. Monday was a “soft” opening for the convention because there were no clinics. There was the company store, shuttles to Roger Wood's layout and the Red River Live Steamers along with the NMRA BOD meeting. Early registrants were encouraged to visit the hobby shops and to use the Railfan's Guide. At 8pm the convention officially kicked off with a wine and cheese party to welcome our guests.

   On Tuesday the convention really heated up with clinics, layout tours, prototype tours, a switching contest, tour of Lower Fort Garry and a river cruise. Probably the busiest team was Moe Smith and his volunteers manning the transportation desk coordinating hundreds of people to ensure that they got on the right bus. Railway Jamboree 83 had adopted a “coloured ribbon system” for all tours which made things easier. This system was also used by other conventions. By Tuesday afternoon the feedback we were getting was universally positive. This made everyone happy.

   Wednesday brought more of the same with the contest room opening for entries and the start of the train show setup. We still wondered how it would turn out, and we had our fingers crossed. The radio commercials and the distribution of the discount coupons had already started.

   The train show was opened on Thursday at noon by Mayor Bill Norrie. We shot the last of our cable TV programs from the main exhibition hall, showcasing what we had to offer. During the afternoon, the show was open only to the registrants. At 6pm the doors opened to the public and the initial turnout was good. We wondered how the next three days would turn out given that we were heading into a weekend. Winnipeg was in the middle of a heat wave!

   Friday saw the last of the scheduled prototype and layout tours, along with a full slate of clinics and the last opportunity to view the contest room. The train show opened to the public at noon and throughout the day we collectively held our breath. Shortly after 7pm, Wolfgang announced that we had broken even! This meant that with just over 2 days to go, every person coming through the doors was profit! All the hard work had paid off! There was a lot of smiles on everyone's face when we walked out at the end on the day for a well earned rest.

   Saturday was a special day with out of town tours, the last of the clinics, the train show and the banquet / awards ceremony. One of the highlights of the awards ceremony was WMRC member Moe Smith receiving  MMR #100, much to the delight of everyone in attendance. Another banquet highlight was seeing Bill Taylor, Hilt and many other TLR members selling raffle tickets. Many of our guests had never experienced a “TLR style raffle” and probably spent a lot more than they planned. At the banquet it was announced that someone had stolen a number of license plates from the cars of our guests. Again, the committee came through with the necessary paperwork to allow these people to get home with a minimum of red tape.

   Sunday was the last day of Railway Jamboree and it was time to say goodbye to our guests. Aside from a few bus tours, the last event was the train show, and we were very happy to see another good turnout. By the end of the day, we came very close to 11,000 paid admissions which far surpassed our expectations.  By 5pm it was time to shut the doors and begin the tear down.

   The greatest eight days in the history of model railroading in Winnipeg was ending. The seed planted at the WMRC in 1975 had produced a healthy plant that had flowered very nicely!

In part four, Dave Downie will reflect back on the legacy of Railway Jamboree.

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