I’m a couple of months late, but this is still a good time to mark the 35th anniversary of the July, 1983 NMRA national convention in Winnipeg.
Called Railway Jamboree ’83, the convention was a big deal for a small market town like Winnipeg.
It also marked something personal for me; it revived a longstanding but latent interest in model railroading that put me on a path to where I am today.
In a three part series on the Winnipeg Model Railroad Club website in 2014, long-time member Dave Downie reflected on the hugely successful event.
The convention was awarded to the WMRC in in 1979. The organizing effort was led by WMRC members Stafford Swain, Nick Andrusiak, Hilt Friesen and Wolfgang von Thuelen.
Even though Winnipeg was a small city in the NMRA’s scheme of things for a national convention, the committee thought big: Winnipeg was Canada's Railway Capital, and home to many of the country's finest layouts. Why not bid for it?
It helped that Stafford was a meticulous planner and very persuasive. He laid out a solid business and marketing plan and was ready to answer every question.
Winnipeg’s competition was Indianapolis; but at the end Winnipeg prevailed.
When done, the convention was the most profitable in the history of the NMRA, Downie writes. Elements of the Winnipeg plan also became a template for future conventions, including the convention program—a Handbook and Time Table that fit into a front shirt pocket.
Another special feature of the convention was the Railfan's Guide to Winnipeg, created by Ray Goy.
As for me, I was recently married, and just back from a year in Europe. Although I had always liked trains, and had small HO and N scale layouts as a teen, ideas about building a layout were parked while we travelled, studied and started careers.
I attended the public show, and that was it: The bug re-bit hard. Five years later I built my first layout, and the rest is history.
Winnipeg has never hosted another national NMRA convention; the city is simply too small, too out of the way.
It has hosted a number of NMRA Thousand Lakes Region (TLR) conventions, however, and a Canadian national convention in 2005.
Called Golden Rails, the convention brought together the TLR, the Canadian Railway Modellers Association (CARM), and the CP and CN SIGs to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the WMRC.
Railway Jamboree '83, is long gone, some of the key planners are deceased, and many of the layouts from back then are dismantled. But the good memories still linger, all these years later, including in my own basement with the CP Rail Manitoba & Minnesota Sub.