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Ed Mazur.
"The Chicago Maven"

Toy Trains Mailing List: TCA's Online Discussion Group

By Ed "The Chicago Maven" Mazur, TCA 86-24289           Winter 2021

The TTML is the TCA's online discussion group.  Currently it has nearly 1,900 members and features a total of more than 155,000 posts.  Many like myself, Ed "the Chicago Maven" (a title bestowed on me by Mr. Mint and Aquarium Car expert, Robert Mintz) Mazur, start their day by firing up the computer and reading and thinking about the daily postings on the TTML.

We who are toy train collectors and operators are a cultural manifestation attracted to learning about and sharing our knowledges with those who identify as serious or casual toy train enthusiasts.  Culture is an umbrella term that derives from a French term (last studied in my undergraduate days more than fifty-seven years ago at the University of Illinois) which in turn derives from the Latin (colore) (last studied in high school) which means to tend to the earth and grow, or cultivate and nurture.  Characteristics of culture according to most social scientists (I am a retired professor of political science and urban history) include the knowledge of a particular group of people that encompasses social habits, language, music, arts, and cuisines (think Maple Donuts at York as seen above).  People who collect and operate trains and participate in the TTML are a cultural group.

Joe Lechner.Moderator Joe Lechner
His daily Today in Railroad History posts add depth to our hobby.
In many nations across the globe, men and women begin their days with looking to a higher spirit, the rising sun especially on days when it is visible first in the East and then to the West.  Those of us who follow the TTML postings often begin our days with the ritual of seeking the daily discussions posted by the List's knowledgeable managers.  Armed with what we have read, we are better able to contend with the exigencies of family, earning a living, and seeking both mental and social state of equilibrium.

Do you have a question about toy trains?  Simply sign on to the TTML and take a look at the incredible variety of postings.  The group is moderated and the discussions are respectful.  The TTML is simply a veritable cornucopia (I write this as the 2020 Thanksgiving season is hard upon us) of toy train resources.

The TTML for its participants is a way to meet others with like interests and form what in many cases become lifelong friendships and collaborations.  Remember having a "pen pal" when you were in grammar school?  For me, it was my friend Pieter in the Netherlands who had survived WWII and was being raised by a family who survived.  We exchanged letters and photos when I was in the seventh grade and many years later I was able to travel to Rotterdam and meet him.  This was sort of like going to York for the Eastern Division TCA meet and encountering those who had familiar names but unfamiliar faces.

Former TCA National President Clem Clement holding court at the York TTML Breakfast April 2003.

Being a TTML member (it is absolutely free---hard to beat that offer) opens you to topics including but not limited to:

  1. how to clean trains;
  2. how to properly clean tracks;
  3. how to repair accessories such as replacing belts on #364 lumber loaders;
  4. what was the first locomotive to operate in the state you reside in--- for example the SANDUSKY in 1837 pulled its first train from Sandusky to Bellevue, Ohio;
  5. to be able to correctly date when Lionel began its space and military era (1958); 
  6. to discover the inventors of such products as plasticized polyvinyl chloride, Bakelite, smoke pellets and more;
  7. to discover toy train restoration and which paints from whom and where available;
  8. to be provided with the names of knowledgeable folks in the hobby who can repair and restore trains that need just "a little assistance" to get them back on the tracks and on your layout, under your holiday tree or Chanukah menorahs;
  9. to learn about the differences between exactly what is a Mint Car as opposed to a Window Display Car;
  10. to obtain a complete listing of a division's (METCA, NETCA, etc.) or another club's (LOTS, LCCA, TTOS, NMRA, American Flyer, Marx) offerings and more;
  11. to share experiences, both successful and not so successful on how to properly clean a boxcar or other rolling stock to restore it to its most pristine condition; and
  12. to expand our knowledge of the many railroads that have transported our country to where we are today. 

Of course, the TTML receives inputs from participants from overseas including but not limited to the United Kingdom, continental Europe, Australia and New Zealand and many too numerous to mention.

When you become a TTMLer, replies to your queries and observations usually come within hours.  No waiting for any publication to arrive long after you have moved on from your issue.  Using modern technologies, the TTML is like having an expert at your side when you are in the mood to do toy trains.

In the many years that I have belonged to the TTML I am simply amazed by the depth and willingness to share contributors' knowledge and opinions with each of us.  As that award-winning TV commercial once suggested: "Try It. You'll Like It."


Click to visit the TTML

Second Decade.
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