National Narrow Gauge Convention 2011
D September 7-10, 2011
    Hickory, NC 28601

Welcome to 2011 -   The year Narrow Gauge Railroading turns South.

The Organizers for the 31st Annual National Narrow Gauge Convention have been working hard to put together a program that will be remembered in modeling and railroading circles for years to come. This is the first time that an NNGC has been in the Southeast, and this part of the country has a lot to offer those interested in the iron horse, and its miniature counter part.

                                                             To Regular Convention Attendees

For those who are familiar with a National Narrow Gauge Convention, we are firmly committed to maintaining the traditions that have developed over the past 30 years. The clinic/manufacturer room/modular rooms will be open during the morning and evening, just like always. We have some fantastic clinics lined up, combining some new names and some Eastern subjects with the Western railroad clinic subjects we all know and love. Modeling is experiencing a boom, with new technology and techniques leading the way, and we will have clinics to get you up to speed on all the new stuff.

Our home layout tours are all new of course, so you certainly can’t say you have already seen them all. Our modeling committee has scoured parts of three states to find great layouts for the convention. These layouts run the gamut from Nn3 to 7 ½” live steam! The southeast has relatively mild winters, so many modelers have taken the hobby outside. Works great for the old eyeballs too.

We natives of the South still fondly remember old fashioned family reunions and church homecomings. Long time attendees of the National Narrow Gauge Convention say that an NNGC is like a family reunion, where long time friends get together once a year. We certainly plan to try to create that down home atmosphere throughout the convention. We want all of our old friends to come see us, and hopefully make some  new friends as well.

This part of the Southeast has a great narrow gauge historical tradition as well. The Chester & Lenoir Narrow Gauge traces its history back to 1873. It ran from Chester, South Carolina to Lenoir, North Carolina, and was completed in 1885. This 110-mile line ran right through Hickory, the home of the Convention, giving that town just as much a narrow gauge pedigree as Denver, Colorado Springs, and Ogden. Lets also not forget the mighty Tweetsie, positively the most famous narrow gauge in the entire region. Its tracks ran through some of the most beautiful mountain real estate in the South on its way to Boone, North Carolina, just one hour from the Convention. Even the little Lawndale "Dummy," an hour down the road from Hickory, drew the attention of the famous Bob Richardson, long before he moved to Colorado.

Luckily for us, the Southeast has remembered its narrow gauge history. The Tweetsie Railroad Theme Park in NC, and Dollywood in TN both feature narrow gauge steam locomotives and authentic 4%+  grades. You don’t have to go to Colorado to enjoy the sights, sounds, and smells of a historic steam locomotive struggling to pull a train up the grade. It might seem strange to the Colorado people to be able to see the drivers on these engines, but you might find it aesthetically pleasing after a while. We are working to make special arrangements with these and other steam and tourist operations in the region, actually offering more opportunities to ride behind steam in this region than in Colorado. If you like the smell of coal smoke, you can’t miss this Convention.

                                                           To Potential New Attendees-Modelers

To those who have never attended a National Narrow Gauge Convention, its not quite like anything you have ever been to before. For Modelers, it is a trade show that is 100 times better than any train show you have ever been to. Have you ever felt like you have seen enough used HO or N scale freight cars with the horn hook couplers still attached? Stacks of old plastic building kits, or old and rusty Lionel or Marx trains? You won’t see much if anything like that at an NNGC.  Instead you will find representatives from some of the best model railroad kit manufacturers from around the world. We’re talking about structure kits that will take your model town to a whole new level! How about scenery materials straight from the manufacturer? Have you been to a train show and talked to representatives from the management of Bachmann Trains lately? How about manufacturers of flex track and switches? Yes, here you can go straight to the source for your projects. Of course, the main emphasis is on narrow gauge trains and equipment, but structures, scenery materials, paints, DCC equipment, and a bunch of other stuff can’t tell the difference between regular O or HO and the n3 behind the letters. And don’t forget the artists, book and magazine dealers (some publishers), DVD program producers, and locomotive manufacturers who will be here as well. There will be more great “stuff” in this one place than you would see in years of train shows.

Next, we have the modular railroads. Its always  wonderful to see what groups get together and accomplish. Its usually one or two groups in the back of the hall, with the obligatory Thomas train for the kids. Sorry, but Thomas usually doesn’t come to a National Narrow Gauge Convention. Instead, we will have several thousand square feet set aside for modular railroad groups, in a room all their own, so their sound systems can be cranked up to the max. Scales from HOn3 to Fn3 will be there, from all over the world. Yes we said world, as one group is bringing their layout from Australia! Seeing all of these trains running at once will get even the most procrastinating arm chair modeler excited and ready to work on their railroad.

Don’t forget the clinics. It is becoming fashionable now for there to be a couple of clinics at train shows. How about five going on at one time, with each given twice over four days??? That’s the norm for a National Narrow Gauge Convention. We have experts on everything from trees, scenery, and backdrops, to installing DCC in the latest new releases. You can get tips from some of the best modelers in the business by attending their clinic. Some may even be hands on!

Finally, we have the home layout tours. Several home layouts, mostly in one general geographical area, will be open each day, in the middle of the day. The NNGC doesn’t do bus tours to layouts. You choose which layouts strike your fancy and you (and maybe carpooling with friends old and new) go on your own to see what YOU want to see. No additional cost for bus fare. You just need gas and snacks money. Maps to people’s homes will be in your registration packet.

                                                     To Potential New Attendees- Rail Fans

While it’s true that a National Narrow Gauge Convention is very much a modeler’s convention, there is still going to be a lot of things happening at this convention to attract the fan of the full sized iron horse. The Convention Committee is working with all of the railroad oriented attractions in the region to present a series of events that will eclipse anything ever done before in the Southeast. Some will be open to the general public, but others will only be open to convention attendees.

For openers, the New Hope Valley Railroad will be having one of their occasional steam up weekends on the Saturday and Sunday before the convention opens on Wednesday. Their little tank engine puts on a good show pulling trains in the Raleigh area.

On Tuesday, September 6th, the Convention Committee is offering a motor coach trip that will leave the Convention Hotel in the early morning, and take riders up into the mountains to Boone, then on a guided tour through “Tweetsie Country”, following the right of way of the ET&WNC and Linville River Railway as it winds through the mountains, passing through Linville, Newland, Elk Park, Roan Mountain on its way to Hampton, TN. Each coach will have a knowledgeable guide on board, to point out just where up on the mountainside the train ran. A stop will be made in Newland to see the unique Linville Depot, which is undergoing restoration. This is the last Linville River Railway structure in existence and it looks wonderful. Once in Hampton, there will be a stop at the Historic Doe River Gorge for a private train ride on restored right of way that takes trains and riders to Pardee Point and beyond, viewing the depths of the Gorge, considered to be the most beautiful right of way on the old Tweetsie line. There will be plenty of opportunities for photos of their small train in dramatic settings. After the train ride, motor coach patrons will follow the line on to Johnson City, then back to Hickory. This is an extra fare event, and not included in the regular convention registration.

On Thursday, September 8th, Convention attendees will have the opportunity to enjoy a PRIVATE afternoon at the Tweetsie Railroad Theme Park. Tweetsie is going to put on a stupendous show for attendees, using both of their historic locomotives, former ET&WNC 4-6-0 No. 12, and former US Army/White Pass & Yukon 2-8-2 No. 190. This event is PART OF Convention Registration, but will not be open to the general public. The Convention Committee does require that you sign up for this event, so seating can be assigned. Seating on the train is limited, and there is no guarantee of a seat at the last minute, so don’t wait too long to sign up. You must register for the Convention first, before you can reserve a seat on this special train event. Convention attendees will also receive a coupon in their convention packet for a discount price on admission to Tweetsie Railroad’s Rail Fan Weekend, which takes place the weekend the convention ends.

Friday, September 9th brings a very special opportunity in South Carolina. Palmetto Brick operates a narrow gauge railroad to haul clay to their brick making plant. You read that right, a narrow gauge industrial railroad operating in the 21st Century! They use a Plymouth locomotive to pull the cars back and forth. What makes this line totally unique is that the cars have no brakes and are connected by link and pin couplers! Yes, link and pin couplers! If you have ever wondered how cars connected that way acted back in the “good ole days”, you can come see for yourself. Now the railroad segment of Palmetto Brick has not operated during this recent recession, but the management has volunteered to run their train on this day, just for the National Narrow Gauge Convention. If you like “Critter Operations” or just small industrial lines, you can’t miss this event.

Saturday, September 10th offers two possibilities for unique events. The owners of the Handy Dandy Railroad at the Denton Farm Park has agreed to operate their standard gauge steam train. This is another private event, available only to Convention Attendees. There is a small extra fare charge for this event but the excitement that is contagious at Denton makes it well worth the price. The crew there really know how to put on a good show.

Just up the road from Denton, actually back toward Hickory,  is the North Carolina Transportation Museum. The museum has agreed, on this day only, to open up their ET&WNC narrow gauge passenger car, Combine 15, for visitors. This historic car is undergoing restoration at the museum, but is hidden away from the general public. This will be a special opportunity to see the last remaining piece of the “finest narrow gauge passenger train in the country”, which was the reputation of the ET&WNC in the 1920s. While you are at the museum, don’t forget that their roundhouse is the largest remaining railroad roundhouse in the nation, and is itself a must see item. Historic train equipment hauls passengers around this former yard of the great Southern Railway. There are dozens of pieces of restored railroad equipment on display, as well as some beautiful restored automobiles.

That is just the list of events confirmed here in January. We are in negotiations with several other tourist operations in the area, working out other special rail events that will take place either just before or just after the convention. More information on these events as we get closer to the Convention.

We have ladies events planned as well, including a motor coach trip to Biltmore House. There is plenty of things to do  in the Hickory area that will keep the significant other busy, so by all means bring her along.

To finish up a rather long blog here, the Convention Committee is working very hard to make September 2011 an event that will be talked about in the east for years to come. People come from all over the world to a National Narrow Gauge Convention. Its one of those things that you attend, and then never forget. Its going to be a lot of fun, no matter what your interest.