For the second time in a year, the National Model Railroad Association is canceling its annual in-person convention because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The 2021 “Rails by the Bay” convention was previously scheduled to be held in Santa Clara, Calif., from July 4 to 11.
“Planning and running a convention of this magnitude requires signing transportation and outside tour contracts plus having commitments from layout owners for tours and operations at least six months in advance,” said Ray deBlieck, chairman of the host committee. “Based on current government orders in Santa Clara County and the public health situation, we were unable to obtain commitments from bus companies and tour sites. Many key layout owners also wanted to wait and see how the situation developed before committing to tours or ops. We also could not determine what the allowable room capacity for in-person events would be. We had a timetable with milestones in January for certain commitments and we could not secure those commitments with the required lead-time. But bright spots are that our committee has tremendous talent and we had numerous excellent clinic commitments.”
Instead, a virtual convention is tentatively scheduled to begin on July 6 and will feature a mix of live and recorded videos and presentations by clinicians and layout owners local to the Santa Clara area. Video clinics, layout tours, museum, and railfanning tours are expected, with Q&A sessions and layout owners’ panels as well. Slack channels or breakout rooms are expected to allow live post-presentation discussions. More information will be released in April. The convention Registrar will contact all convention registrants in the near future and offer an opportunity to register for the July 2021 video virtual event at a $49 fee (which covers all days), donate their registration fees to NMRA, or receive a full refund.
In April 2020, NMRA canceled its 2020 convention slated to take place in St. Louis in July. It was the first time the national organization ever had to cancel its annual convention, which has been held every year since 1935.