TTR review of RCHTA '99

The annual National Model and Hobby Show, also known as RCHTA (Radio Control Hobby Trade Association), is a large and popular convention held in the Chicago area's Rosemont Convention Center. It is a lot like New York's Toy Fair, except RCHTA features mostly RC cars, airplanes and trains. The first two days are for the trade only. The last two days are open to the public. Attendance for the four-day show was over 10,000. 

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Lionel, MTH, K-line, Weaver and Atlas O all had impressive displays. Last year, Lionel won an award for their display, which was designed by John Kitterman (you may have seen it at York). The new Lionel catalog, which was supposed to debut at York, finally arrived and Lionel was doing a brisk give-a-way business.We at TM were happy as Lionel was showing Lionel: The Movies, parts 2 and 3, on their monitor. The new Hobby Shop accessory was on display, along with the ZW transformer. New COO Dick Maddox was on hand to press the flesh and the entire Lionel crew sported new dark blue v-neck sweaters with their names embroidered on the front.

Lionel unveiled a new line of small streamlined passengers cars which were obviously inspired by the MTH RailKing passenger cars. I guess turn-about is fair play.

Speaking of MTH, they had a new display at the show. The main part measures approximately 20' X 10' and is made of steel with glass shelves. The counters are made look like boxcars with the roadnames of New York Central, Santa Fe, Union Pacific and Pennsylvania. There are four towers of shelves at each corner where various product was on display.

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A separate MTH display was comprised of two giant blinking crossing signals. The lowered gates aligned with the edges of the table. MTH's new RailKing Hellgate bridge in red and cream was there. Eight trains were operating. Four on simple O-31 circles. A giant loop on a glass platform ran around the top perimeter. It featured a RailKing Amtrak Genesis set. Andy Edelman, Rich Foster, Dave Krebiehl and Brendan Lehane were among the MTH folks. Mike was in Korea and China keeping everybody in line. 

Gary Hartman of Weaver unveiled their new gorgeous, scale Hiawatha extruded aluminum passenger cars. They are the first O-gauge Hiawatha cars to look like the real thing. Weaver also introduced a 4-6-2 C&NW Yellowjacket locomotive. It will be offered in 2-rail and 3-rail versions, the latter with sounds and a delivery date in late 2000. Other locomotives included their Hiawatha, Union Pacific 49er, Santa Fe Valley Flyer and a Rio Grande M-64 4-8-4 Northern. 


K-line also had new catalogs and a Hiawatha passenger set with heavyweight passenger cars. Their fine line of scale cabooses is getting very favorable buzz (best caboose buy) and they are also touting a new "Super Steam" set that features electronic sounds, snap-together tubular track, a die-cast locomotive and four cars. All this, with a 110-watt transformer, for $249.95. Best O-gauge starter set buy at the show.

Atlas was handing out their new Atlas O Dispatch newsletter. Their display featured new single door and double door auto parts box cars. Those cars are scale and they are huge. New GATX 40' Airslide hoppers are also on the way.

They've just released O-27 curves for their track system and Vice President Jim Weaver told us that they'll be coming out soon with curved switches.

One feature of the display we particularly liked was the miniature video camera inside their AEM-7, giving a "RailScope" point-of-view. This was a big improvement over Lionelís version. The Atlas camera produced a quality, color picture and it didn't need the batteries changed every ten minutes. Unfortunately, this wasn't a product, just part of the display.

We stopped by to chat with the folks at Bachmann as well. Bud Reese, who is Lionel's J. Don Reese's brother, showed us some of their up-coming Plasticville offerings. These items, like the Signal Bridge and Turnpike Interchange, are re-issues and will be released in different colors than the originals so as not to disturb the collector's market.

It was a busy scene, especially when the public was allowed in. Not only are there model railroad displays, but also model boats, planes, cars, anything you can think of. Dealers and manufacturers from around the world came to Rosemont. A lot of families and Boy Scouts did too. A lot is said these days about the decline of hobbies, but you'd never know it from this past Halloween weekend.