To paraphrase the great American writer and humorist Mark Twain, “The reports of the National Narrow Gauge Convention’s death are greatly exaggerated.” Having just returned from Hickory, N.C., I had a front row seat to the first convention since the 39th in Sacramento, Calif., and I am pleased to report, it went very well. With the ongoing COVID issues, there was real concern that few narrow gaugers would attend, or there would be a rash of cancellations, but the convention drew a respectable 640-plus attendees. A few of the vendors did not make it; several because of an inability to get product across the Canadian border and at least one due to a last minute non-COVID health issue. But last minute no-shows are not unusual for this event: Stuff happens. The vendors that did come reported very strong sales and the ones I talked to were quite pleased with how things went.
The contest room was filled with excellent models and photographs, with a greater number of entries than one might expect for the convention’s attendance size. Some of the categories had enough very high quality models in them, you could have picked any of 4-5 models and no one could have disputed your choice. You can get a complete listing of the winners and see photos in the November-December 2021 issue of the Narrow Gauge & Short Line Gazette.
Saturday evening brought the convention to a close with the awards and future convention presentation. Convention Chairman Johhny Graybeal was his usual entertaining self and at the end of his presentation left us with “Ya’ll come back,” which I took to mean he may just be crazy enough to do another convention in the future! The presentations for future conventions seemed to be in reverse order from year’s past, but I may be misremembering. The 2024 convention in Pittsburgh, Pa., went first and it looks to be a good place to go. Their facility seems excellent and they are promising multiple steam opportunities including trips to the East Broad Top and the Age of Steam roundhouse.
Denver 2023 started with a music video that featured photos of Colorado narrow gauge and home layouts, then their chairman stormed the stage like a portly Axl Rose and got the 250-plus crowd chanting “Denver-Yeah!” He then rattled off the stats from the 2017 convention in Denver and promised more of everything in 2023, much to the bemusement of the co-chairman who accompanied him.
None of the principles of the 2022 Seattle-Tacoma convention attended, so their presentation was given by the venerable Pete Smith of St. Louis. Unfazed by the human hurricane that stormed across the dais moments before, he coolly and professionally detailed the hotel, dates and activities narrow gaugers can look forward to in 2022. Pete is a stand up (and stand in) guy and put Seattle’s best foot forward for them.
Finally it was time for future bids and as you may know, bids were needed for 2025 and 2026. It looked like neither would be bid, but the St. Louis Area Narrow Gaugers (SLANG) modular group bid and was awarded 2025 for the St. Louis area. This seemingly puts the NNGC back on firm footing, and barring any unforeseen issue in Seattle-Tacoma, Denver, or Pittsburgh, the National Convention looks poised for continuing excellence into the future.
With that, I return you to this year’s HOn3 Annual. As always, I hope you find the mix of articles useful, entertaining, and inspiring, and all of us at White River Productions thank you for your continued support of this, and all our publications.
—Chris Lane, Editor