The NMRA National Show returned with the Gateway to the West in 2022.
Ah, the summertime and the living is easy and the perfect time for some model railroading. This year the NMRA's (National Model Railroad Association's) annual national show was set up at the Gateway Center in Collinsville, Illinois, just east of the famous Gateway Arch in St. Louis. It made sense, of course, to name this year's NMRA National the “Gateway.” This year, Athearn Product Support, Technician, and overall nice guy, Aaron Wagner accompanied me to the show for a weekend of clinics, displays, and model railroading.
Aaron and I left Champaign Thursday afternoon with the Athearn booth, product, and the small HO Inglenook layout. We arrived in Collinsville just after 4:00 pm and decided to check out the venue. The Gateway center, besides being aptly named, is a large convention center that suited the National Train Show very well so it should come as no surprise that this very building is used for the St. Louis RPM (Railroad Prototype Modelers) meet every summer. Having found our location, we got checked in with the show director and started setting up the booth.
It did not take long before our presence was known. There is something about that big blue backdrop with the newly refreshed Athearn logo that really stands out. While setting up the booth, both Aaron and I had the opportunity to talk to some of the modelers who were there as part of the display, be it a static or with a module and part of one of the modular clubs. We were lucky enough to have the NTrak guys by us and the modeling done on their modules was stunning. With the booth set up, we went to the hotel, checked in, and got rested for what would be a busy weekend.
Friday morning we were at the booth getting the last of the models put out on display. The show would open to the public at noon, so getting to the booth that morning would give us plenty of time to make the final adjustments. Once the show opened, we were busy with fans talking about the recent releases, what they wanted to see next, and just model railroading in general. To say modelers were done with the shelter in place would be an understatement. Later that night we caught up with Nancy and George of Soundtraxx and reflected on the day as well as talked about the latest tech from Soundtraxx, Blunami.
Saturday was the first full day of the show, and it was great to see both modelers and families come out to the event. We had the opportunity to talk with a wide age demographic and seeing the younger modelers there certainly cast doubts on the “hobby is dying” topic that is seen on older model railroad internet forums. At 10:00 am we made an announcement and showed off the very first test samples of both the Athearn Genesis Surfliners and California Cars. This was the first time the modeling public had a chance to see these train models since we had announced them the previous July.
By that night we were tired and ready for some refreshment. Aaron has family in the area, so he went to visit them while I had the opportunity to meet with Tim Blackwell of Cowcatcher Magazine. On my way to the restaurant, I spotted a cool mid-1980s Ford LTD station wagon painted like a Southern Pacific Daylight Streamliner. As unusual as this may seem, it wasn't the only passenger vehicle to sport a railroad-inspired paint scheme, a van had been painted in the Denver & Rio Grande colors as well. All common sights at an NMRA National show.
Sunday was slower and is typical for any train show, it gave Aaron and I a chance to see some great-looking models including a beautifully weathered Athearn Genesis HO Big Boy steam locomotive. With so many models it was hard to see them all during our breaks but what we saw gave us inspiration to do some of our own modeling once we were back home. Soon it was time to pack up and say goodbye to Collinsville, Illinois, and the 2022 NMRA National. It was a great relief to the Athearn crew to be back on the road again and in the middle of the NMRA Show. Next year, 2023, the NMRA Nationals will be held in the Dallas Fort Worth area of Texas. You can bet that Athearn will be there with all new models. We hope to see you there!