Toy & Hobby Expo 2003 – Novi, MI


Peter Guenther
Rick Hallman
Dave Laswell
Ken Koleda
Chris Leach
Sandy Leach
Larry Pieniazek
Steve Ringe
Jan Pruden
Trevor Pruden
Steve Weiser

Overall Picture Directories:

Ken Koleda Peter Guenther

Report by Larry Pieniazek

Pre Show:

As in the past, our participation level was at least partly determined by how many other clubs participated and how many tables were sold. Also this show is challenging due to the holidays… being right after Christmas makes for a tough weekend. Wasn’t sure we were going to have enough tables, buildings and stuff for the trains layout, put out a call for buildings. Chris and Steve Ringe stepped up to the plate nicely. Also, we convinced Ken to bring his very handsome armory.

We had asked for more space so we could do more than just trains. There was a lot of uncertainty about whether we’d get a space and castle display area. As time wore on, it became obvious that we did not have enough materiel for Castle. We ended up getting two areas with a main aisle way between them.


Started ½ hour late. Got tables up in 45 min using 3 crews (new record??), then shifted to the space/large creations tables. We used Chris and Larry’s track, and started at Larry’s mountain which featured a much reduced quarry area from prevkious shows. We ran out of green base plates so had to use grays in the yard area.

Steve Ringe brought his engine service stuff, which mixed in with Lar’s MOW filled in empty spot nicely.

Got layout mostly done by 6 PM and left. Ran out of bolts or would have had all the skirting up.

Spacers did great work and got their space layout up, PD had sourced a large quantity of trans dark blue so a mine seemed a logical focus Trevor P. worked in a nice space train with lowboy loco and mining cars carrying the trans dark blue crystal mine output. PD staged a Blacktronicle attack on the mine.

Steve W’s power station featured lots and lots of blinking lights. He also did a monorail with a nifty trans-dark blue windshield, which had a panel below it, forming a gamma or inverted L sort of shape when viewed from the side. He of course lit it, meaning that battery consumption went from 1 per day to 1 per 1.5 hours, unfortunately.

Continued set up was allowed to start at 6 AM on Saturday, so for security reasons we were encouraged to have at least one representative present at 6 even if we didn’t need the time. We didn’t really have that much to do so decided to only have one person do it. Chris, Peter and Steve3? drew for it via the “short straw” mechanism. Trevor held 2 1x8s and a 1×6, whoever drew the 1×6 got to come in early. Chris (who supplied the bricks for the draw) “won” on the first draw so no one else drew. The rumors that Peter arranged for Trev to trade out the 1x8s for twol 1x6s, knowing that Chris would want to draw first, are categorically false.

Fri night, went to the by now traditional Big Boy for dinner. I think we scared the waitress but she was a good sport about it. Larry was unable to convince her to bring Chris extra pickles with his grilled cheese. Then we went our separate ways. Chris had some building projects, as did Steve 2. Larry stayed at Peter’s place and Larry and Peter built a covered hopper car from his parts using the Dean Husby (VLC) design, and Peter promised that it would come to the show on Saturday.


Larry was on WJR morning show (called by Warren Pierce) at 7:10 AM. He wanted to talk about Hamley’s toy store in London (Larry had been there more recently than Warren had) and LEGOLAND (Larry had been there more recently too) but Larry managed to talk about show and layout a bit.

Then Larry went to the Fox (Channel 2) and set up a small tableau at their studio in Southfield… It featured the MTW 4001 Skyline Chili™ and two of Chris’s trees, with a circle of track (and some extra for displaying stuff) and a controller courtesy of Steve R. The train featured MTW 2001 in UP colors, an MTW 1004 drop center flat, the Guinness World Record participant grey MTW 1001 and a red BrikWorks gondola car. The tableaux also featured 6 containers from clubs around the world (FGLTC, VLC, NCLTC, NGLTC, GFLTC and ours (put in URLs???) ) and a MTW 3001 streetcar on the extra track.

Was on just after Angie the Home Depot lady (she did a segment on making up your first toolbox, aligned with the “Do it HERself” campaign that HD is running now, she is on TV all the time, apparently). Larry babysat her daughter, Shelby, who was quite taken with the LEGO trains and wanted to hold the sign that COSI gave us during our segment but that wouldn’t have been prudent.

The promo segment came off really well, although the on air personality wanted to talk about LEGO, Larry managed to get back to talking about the Novi show, also mentioned containers, and worked in the “5-10% of all LEGO® purchased is bought by adults for adults” statistic, everyone at the station was engrossed. The production people promised us that we could get a tape made if we bring one to station, unlike last year when they asked for 80 USD for a tape copy. I need to follow up with “Dennis” the producer to get that if we can. (although two members did make copies) We will try to get a streaming video made too if we can.

When we got our badges there was a bit of an uproar… turns out there were TWO LEGO train clubs there, at least according to the show organizers… Rails on Wheels (our old friends, we’ve seen them at a bunch of shows, really nice bunch, big DT&I fans which resonates well with our logo which is a DT&I fallen flag) had their badges saying they were a LEGO club too. They were sort of mad but we laughed it off. Usual joshing about how we have a Thomas, they have a Thomas…. They have a doodlebug in ATSF war bonnet, we have a doodlebug in ATSF war bonnet.

Larry got to the show about 9:45 and the crew had put up all the skirting. Unfortunately, the extra bolts purchased Friday night were too large, and the crew had to drill out all the holes and make them bigger. Oops! Also, for first time, we put skirting on the inside too (using the yellow plastic tablecloths we had leftover from GATS and various sources), because we’ve been noticing that our interior looks ragged. Very sharp looking effect, made the layout seem MUCH tidier. Maybe we should get cloth skirting for inside (may need to make more Velcro boards to hold it) It need not be as durable as the outside skirting necessarily.

Steve 2 had made up a banner stand out of galvanized conduit pipe. This stand gets our banner (which Steve added extra eyelets to so that it could be held taut) up about 15 feet off the ground. Looks REALLY sharp and you could see it from about everywhere in the hall.

Put medieval buildings sprinkled around to fill in space where there were gaps. Used up ALL trees the club had… the layout is much more forested than usual

Steve2 built a container yard prominently featuring the 6 now TV famous containers, the rest of our container fleet, and several old and new container related sets as well as custom streetlights.

During the day, Lar sat at the playtable a while and built a gut bomb store (White Castle restaurant knockoff) from play table parts. He is going to try to build a better one from real stuff. Lar put it on the layout right across from Chris’s construction site (the crane kept binding up all show. That big boom generates a lot of backlash and the micromotor can’t handle it, but it sure looks good.)

Jeff from Rails on Wheels came over to the play table, surprised Lar by how much part nomenclature he knows… already knew a 2×4 brick was 3001. We’re going to turn him to the good side! I know it!

Heard we had good traffic all day, many dealers happy. Many mundanes said they came because they saw Lar on TV. We also met a couple potential members.

4 of us went to Red Robin for dinner, scared waitress a bit, but not as much fun as BB was on Friday.


The show uses a shared security approach, dealers all come at 9 AM but are all let in at once at 9:15, this reduces opportunities for one dealer to steal from another dealers area (or from a display layout). Show then starts at 10. So Larry came by at 9 AM since Chris had to come at 6 the day before.

While waiting in line to get in, some lady dealer (after Larry mentioned that we were a draw and that we did a TV spot to help her out) told him that LEGO was just a fad and that Harry Potter would be something to bank on, we all should buy up as much as possible now. General snickering in dealer line (at that comment) ensued.

Generally a bit slower on Sunday (although Channel 7 came by with a reporter and cameraman), and a reporter from Oakland Press interviewed Peter G.

During the course of the show, Bob periodically called Larry (as show organizer) over. Mostly it was to point out something that needed correcting, which Larry would have to carry back to the club. Not a lot of fun. Sunday morning around 11, Bob got on PA again and called for Larry. Larry went to show office and came back. Called group together and told them there had been complaints turned in that “we’re having too much fun” and could we please stop because we were in trouble. Had group going pretty well for a while but then snickered and blew it.

Told group that actually Bob had wanted Larry to see the Channel 2 tape. It was a good promo, Bob was quite pleased as were the dealers who were there. Dealers very pleased with turnout and our overall efforts on their behalf from what we heard then and at other times.

Rest of show went uneventfully except that Steve2’s Burlington Northerns managed to take a floor excursion from inside loop (Ethan scared us many times but this one was actually not him, it was his sister Kira). Talked about possible batten boards along inside (Which would also hold the skirting, presumably?) to lessen the possibility of derailments.

Started pulling nonessential rolling stock and trees/figs at around 4:30 but kept trains running and layout essentially intact until exactly 5 PM at which time teardown commenced. Some sorting problems were caused by an enthusiastic dealer’s son who wanted to help us but he mixed track (and baseplates) that had already been sorted into Chris’s and Larry’s back together. Meant well though and had been an eager kid all show so we weren’t too mad.

Loaded out in 1.5 hours, a new record for us I think for this size layout. All Chris’s buildings survived but crane collapsed. Lar’s mountain may not be in good shape on return to GR as it didn’t go in to the car well at all. (update, end section is massively collapsed and will need rebuilding)

Putting up signage on play area requiring parents to remain with kids while playing helped a lot, we had no major play area incidents (kids getting out of hand).

Had dinner at Big Boy (again) and had same waitress who remembered us. She lost her purple feather pen (PD not suspected of absconding with it) so had to borrow Ethan’s crayon to take orders with. Once again could not convince her to bring Chris extra pickle.

Great show!

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