In our November 2005 issue, we published an interview with Dave Swanson concerning the then Great Western & Atlantic Shows (GWAATS). Now with the passing of that show, Trolleyville webmaster George Huckaby had the opportunity to discuss recent events with Dave at the Westin Hotel in Los Angeles early last month. Several topics were discussed and the information was thought to be of interest to our readers. So here is the result:
Well about 6 months ago, our reporter,
George Jones, interviewed you about
train shows. With the events that
have recently happened, we’d
like to get your prospective?
How did your World’s
Greatest Hobby on Tour (WGHoT) Shows
do in their
So nothing at all went wrong?
I recall a similar experience at
Long Beach in 2005! Do you have
your 2007 schedule yet?
By that do you mean GWAATS (formerly
GATS) or Hobbies Unlimited?
You know we reported that GWAATS/Hobbies
Unlimited was going out of the model
train business. Then we heard a
rumor that you bought them, and
then an even wilder rumor that the
former GWAATS ownership is hiding
in a cave in the mountains. Can
you tell us what really happened?
Wait a minute, Dave. We know the
company was profitable at the time
of sale so I can not see how you
can blame yourself. Without rubbing
salt in the wound, what do you think
I think that our readers would like
to know what venues formerly used
by GWAATS do you plan to use in
the next 12 months?
So what about your organization,
what changes are you making?
Paul Jablonski – Show Manager – He directs shows in the Northeast (VA, MD, PA, MA, NY, NJ, NH).
Kurt Jablonski – Chief Marketing
and Finance Officer – He manages
our advertising agency and does
all the media buying for all the
shows, as well as onsite Public
Before we leave the subject of GWAATS,
there are some people who have said
they have had trouble reaching them.
Do you have any information on how
to reach them?
OK, on a new subject, I heard you
were going to have something to
do with IHobbyExpo
Well it sounds like things are going
well and everything is under control?
Anything else you’d like to
Note: This is the second of two interviews with Dave Swanson about the model train show environment. To review the first interview, please click here.
Library Listing Expanded
To assist modelers in finding specific topics, listings for the Central Electric Railway Association Bulletins, Street Railway Reviews and Traction Heritage magazines have been expanded to allow better search for specific details. This expansion will be continued as time and resources permits. The library listing is updated at least twice annually. No library is ever complete and we realize that there are items that we need to add to the Trolleyville Library. If any readers would like to make items available, please contact the Trolleyville Library.
Great Western & Atlantic Train
Show - a study in management incompetence!
Last month, we reported the formal death of the Great American Train Show and the apparent successor, the Great Western & Atlantic Train Show. The last days of the Great Western & Atlantic Train Show did not do justice to what was once the greatest traveling model train show on earth. It seems like just yesterday, that model railroaders went to Model Railroader magazine and noted the Great American Train Shows scheduled in their area and made sure that the other activities did not conflict.
When GATS was sold in October 2001, no one expected the end would come less than five years later. The new owners were current participants in the train show business; the new owners had owned a model train shop at one time; it appeared that the new owners had executive experience, and the new owners had been excellent show managers for the Great American Train Show. At the time of the sale, the Trolleyville Times had been told of some of the terms and felt that they were more than fair.
The Trolleyville Times was recently made aware of all terms of the original terms of the deal and without disclosing the terms, we must let you know that they were generous and had the new management followed the example, procedures and business ethics of the previous owner, we would not have seen the premature demise of GATS! In other words, this business failure was not an accident. It was the result of direct action (or lack of it).
In column one of this issue, we interviewed Dave Swanson, whom we have known for some time. He is an honest, personable and fair leader. He values his workers and they are intensely loyal to him. We know that Dave did everything in his power to ensure the success of GATS before, during and after the sale. He would not dare to say all of the really incredible mismanagement that occurred at GATS/GWAATS after the sale to Moe Geoghegan.
In truth, the management incompetence was constant, frequent and consistent. At the time of the sale, the company had experienced and motivated employees working under a goal-oriented, ethical leader. Some stayed after the sale only to be summarily fired without any recognition for their many years of service. The company was in an established location with a well-known respected name. By the time the end came, the company had been inappropriately renamed the Great American Train & Computer Show, then the Great American Toy & Hobby Show. and the Great Western Train and Toy Show. Last summer, the name Hobbies Unlimited appeared along with the name Great Western & Atlantic Train Show, giving the appearance of trying to circumvent creditors. In trying to get into the computer and hobby business, the management of the core train show was almost totally neglected. Then there were the office moves. The original 'lean & mean' Chicago area offices were abandoned for more luxurious offices formerly used by an attorney. Then there was a move to Las Vegas, apparently for non-business reasons, another to Los Angeles and finally the abandonment of any formal offices.
Of course, nothing can alienate customers more than inaccessibility. In the last year, no one was there to answer phones. Return phone calls were late if at all. Messages given to one employee were not necessarily acted upon and talking to the principal owner almost required a court order. Most employees, vendors and customers had to get permission from an employee to talk to the principal owner.
Finally, when GATS became GWAATS and the ownership apparently shifted to the son of the original owner, the original owner suddenly reappeared as a show manager. But by this time the die had been cast. Both vendors and the public were dropping the shows at an exponential rate.
Good News is that the Great Western
& Atlantic Train Show is out
of business. Even Better News is
that the Geoghegan family has exited
the train show business. But the
Best News is that the Great Train
Expo is eventually coming to town....soon!
If you love a good train show, don't
miss any of them!
California Traction Club holds Spring
The Los Angeles area HO scale modular traction club held its annual spring barbecue at their clubhouse in Baldwin Hills on Monday, May 29, 2006 at noon. Most members and their immediate families were present for this feast. Shown below, l to r, are Nicole Gurzeler, Georgia Debeers, Fred Gurzeler, Pete Debeers, John McWhirter and George Jones.
These annual spring picnics have become an event each year since they began in 1999. First, there is always some video presentation, then there is the running or testing of trolley cars for the families and, of course, some great food. This year was no exception with George Jones showing rare train movies originally photographed in 1897. The movies were shown despite a balky projector, which was found to have a broken drive belt and sound problems. This year Fred Gurzeler, tested a Bachmann PCC that he bought for his daughter Nicole along with a Hallmark AS-616. The major activity at this picnic is always the food. As is usual, besides the hamburgers and apple pie, there was Korean BBQ provided by Akihisa Saitoh, all of which was grilled to perfection by club member John McWhirter.
John also surprised the club with a carrot cake that he made and decorated. This picture was snapped prior to most of the cake rapidly disappearing. ( It was fantastic!)
The club has seven major projects in process including the new subway train module, the two new downtown city modules, two more residential modules and two modules representing the Pacific Electric's Puente Largo Bridge.
Currently under intense effort are three city modules, 060, 061A and 062. Below are shown modules 060 (front) and 062 (rear). The rectangular holes in the forward module are to be entrances to the subway train module, 061A which will be below module 060. The subway will be visible from the front directly under module 060. Under consideration is the employment of Digitrax DCC for the module 060-062 trolley loop. This will be finalized during this month. As of late May, paving of the brick portions of the street had started in the lower left of the below photo.
A major announcement concerning the club's future was made at this event. Working with the Association of Modular Model Railroad Operators (AMMRO), the club will embrace the goals of the World's Greatest Hobby initiative by making arrangements for appearances at public areas where model trains are not normally seen. Fifty years ago, when department stores were the centers of shopping, each Christmas season produced huge model train displays in the stores themselves. We are sure that those readers who were around at that time can remember the whistle sounds and the smell of model steam engine smoke that filled the areas around these layouts. Well for the most part, these department stores are gone and shopping malls are now the center of most shoppers plans.
The world is much different today. Society is different. And both model trains and prototype trains have changed. So the placement of layouts in these areas must consider the social and legal environment of these times. As these problems are encountered and solved, the club hopes to make a significant announcement about such appearances within months.
In preparation for these possible Christmas season shows, one club member has prepared two Holiday Streetcars for use during those shows. Both cars are Bachmann Holiday Brill Streetcars, with Bowser 125143 mechanisms, A-line 20040 flywheel kits, reversing headlight diodes, two older Bert Sas trolley poles and two older basket fenders. One of these cars is shown below operating on the club test track.