Fort Pitt Division, TCA

The Fort Pitt Division is one of the 20 divisions across the United States that make up the largest toy train club in the world – the Train Collectors Association (TCA).  The TCA Mission: to develop an appreciation of and to preserve an important segment of history–tinplate toy trains–through research, education, community outreach, fellowship, establishment of collecting standards, and to promote the growth and enjoyment of collecting and operating toy, model and scale trains.  TCA membership approaches 30,000; and almost 2,000 of us live within the Fort Pitt Division.  The Fort Pitt Division covers TCA members in the western third of Pennsylvania and all of West Virginia.  This all means that we exist to help you to enjoy your interest in ‘toy, model and scale trains’ to the fullest.

Collecting Toy Trains Closer To Home
Our History In Toy Trains
(As remembered by Jim Burke)

Before 1974, the Fort Pitt area was part of the largest TCA division – the Eastern Division…the same folks that twice a year hold the famous York Meet at York, PA…the largest members-only meet in the world.  After our success hosting the 1972 TCA National Convention in Pittsburgh, interest grew to organize a local group.  In 1974, the Fort Pitt Chapter was formed as part of the Eastern Division.  After three of years of enthusiastic toy train activities, the Fort Pitt Chapter petitioned the TCA national Board of Directors and became the Fort Pitt Division, TCA - a full voting member of the TCA national Board of Directors. The Fort Pitt Division, TCA is incorporated as a non-profit corporation under the statutes of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, and is registered as a tax-exempt non-profit under section 501 (c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code.


From our start in 1974, we have had three main areas of activity.  First we hold four large train meets a year. Second, we have activities that focus on the history of toy trains and making new friends.  Third, over the last decade, interest in activities that support the needs of layout operators has grown.

Train Meets

Train layout and collecions  In the 1970’s, our early train meets were held at the Holiday Inn, Green
  Tree, PA. Growth forced moving the meets to the Monroeville area for
   two decades. Meets were held at the ExpoMart, Connelly’s Motor Inn
   and The Palace Hotel – all gone now. Just after 2000, the desire to
  accommodate a bigger train meet, a huge modular layout and an active
  “Kids Club” area again necessitated moving – this time to the Four Points
  Sheraton in Cranberry, PA. Look for our meets in September, right after
  Thanksgiving, late January and early March every year.

“Tinplate Talks” – Toy Train History and Friends

Joe mania Tinplate Talk TCA Fort PittOur “Tinplate Talks” started in 1975.  These are evening get-togethers, free to Fort Pitt Division members, offering a variety of program activities on toy trains – presentations, demonstrations and displays on toy trains, repair clinics, visits to collections, visits from manufacturers and writers – you name it.  “Tinplate Talks” has always meant discovering new interests and making new friends through toy trains.

Summer Train Activities

TCA Summer Train Outing   Starting in 2005, “Summer Outings” became an outgrowth of “Tinplate
  Talks.”  Combine a trip to a train attraction with good friends, food and
   a buy/sell/swap trunk show and you have a great family day out !
   “Outings” have included:
      - A live steam 7-1/2” gauge miniature railway.
      - A large modern train collection.
      - The Pennsylvania Trolley Museum.
      - Western Maryland Scenic Railroad.

Christmas Party TCA Fort Pitt Christmas Party

Attention all kids!  For over a quarter century the Fort Pitt Division Christmas Party has been anticipated as a holiday highlight.  The party celebrates the joy we all felt when we got our first train.  Free to kids of every age, everyone can bring and run a train on the multi-gauge platform, and Santa drops in with something for every child.

Kid’s Club

Locomotion Weekend  In 2000 the TCA determined that a major effort was needed to reawaken
  interest in toy trains in children and “Kid’s Club” was created.  The 2004
  Pittsburgh National Convention included a wide variety of “Kid’s Club”
  activities.  From that point on, all Fort Pitt Division train meets have
  included a large and very active Kid’s Club area where children run and
  play trains.

Ft. Pitt Hi-Railers Modular Club

Hi-Railer LayoutThe Fort Pitt Hi-Railers is a model railroad club whose members are from the greater Pittsburgh Area. The group is sponsored by the Fort Pitt Division and is dedicated to promoting model train collecting and operation through both TCA-sponsored and public events.

Members of the Fort Pitt Hi-Railers build individual modules which are made to established standards and specifications for length, track spacing, wiring, height, etc.  These modules are interchangeable and when connected together a train display can take many shapes and sizes.

Hi-Rail modeling is a concept in O-gauge where the 3-rail track is still used, but 1:48 scale-sized trains are run in as realistic environment as possible, with appropriate and 1:48 scale-sized details, structures, and scenery.

More information about the Ft. Pitt Hi-Railers Modular Club can be found here

Pittsburgh Home And Garden Show

  As part of the purpose of this Division, to search out, preserve and
  communicate information pertaining to the history of tinplate trains
  and to advance the hobby of collecting and operating these trains
  and items customarily associated with them, the Fort Pitt Division
  participates in the Pittsburgh Home& Garden Show which is the largest
  home event in PA.  The Show features more than 1,600 exhibits and
  10,000 products, and the experts who can tell you all about them.  It is
  held at the David Lawrence Convention Center, downtown Pittsburgh,
for 10 days and draws thousands of people every year.  The Kid's Club and the Ft. Pitt Hi-Railers Modular Club have both participated the past 9 years as part of the kids area in the show.

Carnegie Science Center Locomotion Weekend

For the third year, another community out reach program that the Ft. Pitt Division participates in is the Carnegie Science Center Locomotion Weekend event which features dozens of model train layouts, rail-related exhibits, and hands-on activities for train enthusiasts of all ages!

People were encouraged to bring their own model trains for a free check-up at the "Loco Doctor" table, which was staffed by members of the Train Collectors Association-Fort Pitt Division and columnist Joe Mania of Classic Toy Trains magazine. The check-up included basic repairs, routine cleaning, and oiling.

Visitors were able to see demonstration tables and activities provided by the Duquesne Incline, Pennsylvania Trolley Museum, and Scenic Express, and Locomotion Door Prize Winnermore.  Operating train layouts were provided by rail-related organizations including the Keystone Division of the National Model Railroad Association, the Fort Pitt Hi-Railers, the South Hills Model Railroad Club, and the Train Collectors Association's Kids Club (geared for little engineers!).  Visitors also had a chance to explore the Miniature Railroad & Village and saw the year's newest additions.

The Ft. Pitt Division also donated a Polar Express train set as a door prize.  The 2013 winner was 8 year old Nicholas Anderson shown here. 

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Lionel – Standard of the World, 1900 – 1943      Lionel Train Group

In 1974, the Fort Pitt Chapter’s early History Committee set out to play a role in preserving the history of toy trains and make the history available to all.  They started work to update a list cataloging Lionel tenders.  Simple enough.  Scope creep (I don’t think the term was invented back then) occurred, and the group became the TCA national “Lionel Book Committee.”  The project grew into the comprehensive reference book “Lionel Trains – Standard of the World, 1900 – 1943.”   The book documents and pictures examples of every prewar Lionel toy train product, and is used by almost everyone with an interest in prewar Lionel. After the First Edition was published in 1976 more and more information surfaced necessitating that the committee produce a Second Edition published by the TCA in 1989.

National Toy Train Conventions  

Each year the Train Collectors Association holds a ‘members-only’ week-long national convention in a different city across America.  TCA national conventions include a full week of custom tours of local attractions, layouts and collections, silent auctions, special displays, a members only train meet, a dinner cruise, a national membership meeting all capped with a banquet and banquet auction.  Fort Pitt area collectors have produced and hosted five national conventions, more than any other division – and we’re on track to host a sixth.  

1961 Daniel’s Farm, now site of Ross Park Mall, Pittsburgh. TCA Quarterly Write-Up

1965 Webster Hall Hotel, Oakland, Pittsburgh.

1972  Civic Arena, Pittsburgh.50 Anniversary convention

1984  ExpoMart, Monroeville, PA – TCA 30th Anniversary – featuring the “Ultimate Train Room”

2004  Radison ExpoMart, Monroeville, PA – TCA Golden 50th Anniversary – featuring the “Toy Train Treasure Room”, a banquet for 1,300 and gold-plated trains.

Coming. In 2017, Fort Pitt will again host the TCA National Convention this time on the point in downtown Pittsburgh at the Wyndam Hotel.  Mark the last week of June 2017, and be there for everything toy trains!

Limited Edition Toy Train Cars 

The blue 196TCA Fort Pitt Limited Edition Car6 Pittsburgh TCA National Convention boxcar was the first limited-edition TCA convention car…a string that continues to this day. Since 1966, we have produced special limited-edition cars for each of our conventions and to support Fort Pitt Division activities. They make an interesting collection sideline.

1972 “7+11” single dome O gauge tank car.

1984 Madison/Manhattan-style O gauge “Pittsburgh” Pullman car.Yellow Heinz Reefer

2003 O gauge H. J. Heinz yellow striped “Pickle” reefer.

2004 A complete suite of O, S, O-scale, and G gauge cars for our TCA 50th Convention.

2004 The 50th Anniversary TCA “Thunderbird” Trainmaster diesel freight set.

2005 O gauge H. J. Heinz red striped “Tomato Soup” reefer.

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Leaders In Toy Trains TCA Founder LJ Redman

Numbers show the Fort Pitt Division has a great history of local and national leadership in growing the toy train hobby because we have a history of dedicated energetic club members, leaders and supporting familes. Here’s just a sample: 

-          1954 Lou Redman, “Mr. TCA,” was one of four co-founders of the
            TCA .

-          3 Fort Pitt members have served as TCA National President:

    • 1981 Frank Hare
    • 1992 Dr. Donald S. Fraley
    • 2007 Jim Burke

 -          2 area members have been editor of the TCA “Quarterly” – the
               national full color club magazine:

    • Ray Galbraith
    • Frank Hare

-           5 members have chaired Pittsburgh TCA National Conventions:

    • 1961, Lou Redman
    • 1965, Frank Hare
    • 1972, Howard Whorley
    • 1984, Lou Redman
    • 2004, Jim Burke

-          130+ members worked to produce the 2004 TCA 50th Golden Anniversary Convention.
                    Several members have worked on multiple Pittsburgh national conventions.

-          6 area members have been bestowed the honorary "Neil Curran Memorial Life Membership Award"
              which is the highest award given by the Ft. Pitt Division to members who by their character,
             example, and service to the division, exemplify the true spirit of train collecting.  This
             award is presented only to Ft. Pitt members who have been members of the TCA for at least
             ten years, and members of the Ft. Pitt Division for at least five years, and have been found by the
             Ft. Pitt Division Board of Directors to be worthy and desrving of the award in consideration of it's
             stated purpose:

    • Carl Abinanti
    • Jim Burke
    • Frank Hare
    • Bob Hazlett
    • Gordon Hinkle
    • Sam Merando
    • Al Yeske

-          9 area members authored the two editions of the book “Lionel – Standard of the World, 1900 – 1943":
              Bob Boyer, Randy Berger, Jim Burke, Dave Felmley, Don Fraley, Vince Giovannitti, Cy Hosmer,
              Mel Nelms, and Lou Redman. They were assisted by Bill Blystone and Frank Hare.

-          1 member, Carl Abinanti, has been our train show meet chairman since 1976.

-          1 member, Sam Merando has been either Chairman or Co-Chairman of the National Kids Club
              Committee since 2004.

-          1 member, Bob Hazlett, chaired the three-year effort to modernize the TCA National By Laws and Rules
              & Regulations…a major effort for our hobby.

-          1 member, Bill Blystone has chaired the TCA national Library and History Committee. They are
              responsible for the national TCA Toy Train Reference Library, Strasburg, PA ...the only library
              dedicated to toy trains in the world. The library has over 50,000 books and 2,000,000 documents
              and is available for all to use.

-           And the list goes on…


I hope that you get the idea that over the years we have worked hard ‘playing trains.’ We’ve have had a great time doing it! If you’re a member, be proud of what you’ve accomplished. If you’re not a member, we invite you to join the TCA and become a member of the Fort Pitt Division, TCA  …we have a lot we still want to do. 

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