By John Schleicher

Sometime in the late 1950’s or early 1960’s, Chester and Margo Holley began to think of forming a Southern Division of the Train Collector’s Association. Living in Florida and knowing quite a number of people interested in toy trains in the southern part of the country, they promoted the idea of starting a Southern Division. Chester and Margo had been members of the TCA from its inception in 1954. Around 1965-66, they took positive steps to start a division. After receiving the needed information, Chester and Margo invited other train enthusiasts living in the Central Florida area to their home to determine the amount of interest there was in forming the Southern Division. In attendance were Chester and Margo Holley, Evan Earle, Jack Windt, Fred Clark, and Alan Windt. They all agreed that the need and interest was there to form the Southern Division. After this get together at the Holley’s home, Margo again wrote to the National Secretary to inform him of the interest and enthusiasm.

Shortly after this time, Chester and Margo were given permission from National to form the Southern Division and were told to elect officers. On September 17, 1966, at the home of Chester and Margo Holley, the first official Southern Division meeting was held. Dues were $1.00 per year and officers were elected. Chester Holley was chosen President, Jack Windt - Secretary, and Fred Clark-Treasurer. The first Southern Division newsletter was sent out in January of 1967. Shortly after that on January 21, 1967, a second meeting was held at the home of John Cressman. Meets continued on a regular basis.

Meets usually were one day and were held at the home of one of the members. Many times the members ate outside in picnic fashion; business meetings were held in living rooms and buying, selling, trading, and auctions took place in the garage. Despite these simple beginnings, the Southern Division grew. Fellowship, trading,

open houses, and camaraderie, along with a deep interest in toy trains, were the elements that worked then and continue to work now. By the end of 1967, the membership totaled 31 and was growing. The Southern Division was not yet 2 years old when, on March 10, 1968, it bid for the 1969 National Convention. This bid was accepted by National and the 1969 Train Collector’s Association’s National Convention was held at the Jack Tar Harrison Hotel in Clearwater, Florida. The Convention Committee consisted of Chester Holley-Chairman, Bill Gillen, Evan Earle, Fred Clark, and Margo Holley. The bulk of registration work and correspondence was done by Margo. By the time the Southern Division hosted the National Convention, the membership was between 50 and 60. The Southern Division continued to grow and by 1986, it’s Twentieth Anniversary, the membership had grown to almost 1,000 members. The division now held four 2-day meets a year with an annual banquet.

At this time the outlying areas of Georgia, South Carolina, part of Tennessee, and Florida west of the Appilachicola River were split off into other divisions. This took a number of previous Southern Division members. Although this depleted the membership somewhat, the membership of the Southern Division, now stands at about 700 and continues to grow. The Southern Division is alive and well and growing because it still offers fellowship, camaraderie, trading, open houses, and a continuing desire to advance and preserve the hobby of toy train collecting. We owe all this to an idea that two people who loved toy trains and fellowship had back in 1966, when they invited a few friends to talk about trains and starting a division of TCA. Chester and Margo Holley were those two individuals.

 Taken from the Southern Division Membership Directory, published in 1997.

[Our membership in 2014 is over 400 members.]

We are governed by our parent body, the National Train Collectors Association, and our own set of Southern Division By Laws. Click here to see a current copy of Southern Division Bylaws.