Saturday, January 24, 2009

National Association of Train Order Collectors - NATOC

Seattle, 1960. I really can't remember how it came to be, but for a while, I was the treasurer of the National Association of Train Order Collectors. NATOC. I would bet that there are a lot of rail fans out there today who have never seen a "flimsy" - a train order!

The purpose of this association was to trade train orders amongst the membership. One of those deals wherein you send any number of orders in and select from the listing that someone had to maintain, which they would send you.

Our "house organ" was "Wire Tapping," (a title the late Dick Cheney would have loved!) Back in those days, without computers and desktop publishing, printing a house organ was a royal pain!

The process we used was known as mimeographing. The first step was typing the stencil, and you could NOT make an error. If you did, the correction process was also a pain!

The image transfer medium was waxed mulberry paper. This flexible waxed sheet is backed by a sheet of stiff card stock, with the sheets bound at the top. This "stencil" assemblage is placed in the typewriter, with the ribbon removed! The impact of the type element displaces the wax, which we called "cutting a stencil."

If the typewriter keys were struck too hard, letters such as "p" or "b" will be cut out, causing solid black blobs instead of loops with white space in the center. Not struck hard enough, a faint or missing letter resulted!

The printing part was the best part of the process, I forget the chemical used, but it was a very inexpensive high! Here's a delightful journey down memory lane for those of you who engaged in this practice - and a history lesson for those of you with all-in-one printers.

This particular issue is Volume II Number 4, June 1960. The inside cover features the Officers and Directors for FY 1960 to 1961. Because we were scattered all over the country, everything was done by US Mail.

We typed out our particular articles for inclusion to the editor, who then, you guessed it, had to RE-TYPE your submission on that stencil I mentioned, creating the master for the mimeograph machine.

This issue includes a treasurers report, which I remember my Mom setting up the basic "spread sheet." No, there was no MS Excel - remember - no computers!

Gene Glendinning wrote an article entitled "Train Order Kinks." Catchy titles were the rage then. He explained how to iron your flimsies to get the wrinkles out!

And then there were the listings of train orders that could be traded. There were 87 railroads listed in this edition! We must have been doing something well, at least for a while - we had some 5.5 x 8.5 inch stationary printed up!

All that remained was paper cutting, collating, stapling, typing mailing labels, affixing stamps and a trip to the post office.

The whole rotten process began almost immediately for the next month issue!

Postage on this piece, at the third class single rate was $0.03, a purple Statue of Liberty would handle that!

We peaked out at less than two dozen members - mostly kids with no business acumen. But it was a good experience. As I recall, internal bickering about how this thing should run brought it down. And I ended up with a pile of flimsies.

Uhm. I wonder if I can unload them on eBay?

3 Comments - Click here:

SDP45 said...

Boy do I remember mimeographs, and that smell. Also the stack of slightly damp paper when done. I never had to make the original, but I sure remember turning the crank.

A buddy of mine sells train orders:

There is still a demand for them. I just wish I could find a few from my neck of the woods.


Gene Glendinning said...

Bob: Amazing! Who would have thought an issue I typed, duplicated, and mailed would appear on a Web Site all these years later. I was a high schooler, fascinated with all things railroading. My dad would bring home GM&O flimsies off the road and they became quite popular with members as I recall. I still have a few in my collection, neatly pressed, just as I suggested how to do in my article. Thanks for the memories. My now 95-year-old mother was amused since it was she who brought home the stamps for the mailings. BTW, the gentleman on the cover of the issue shown was the GM&O operator at Lockport, Illinois (now just a METRA station). I took his photo for the first printed cover of Wire Tapping. Boy, what memories. Gene Glendinning

Robert in Port Townsend said...

For Crying Out Loud!

Gene - Contact me through my email button. I can't respond privately through this "Comment."

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