Friday, July 30, 2004

TCA - Remembering Things Past....

I had an interesting discussion this week with a fellow TCA Member. We were talking about the giant spectacle that is York, the formality and function of the Toy Train Museum in Strasburg, the fact that the gates to the parking lot in Strasburg get locked at 5:15 PM sharp on a Saturday afternoon, etc..

This friend is a charter member of the TCA and is one of my all time favorite people. He's forgotten more about trains than I'll ever know.

To make a long story short, he reminisced about the days of old when Blue Comet sets were a little over $30 at a TCA swap meet and most of the big "meets" were in someone's back yard. Not much was over $50 or $60 (those prices were kind of high) at an early meet (this was in the 50's) and everyone always left with a treasure.

If something was missing from a table, usually the money and a note was left on the table. Honesty was just something that happened naturally because you don't steal from your friends.

I sensed a great deal of sadness from him, he seemed to be saying that while he doesn't love or hate what his club has become, it has changed from the comfortable arm chair it was, basically a sharing of the hobby with friends, to discussions about standard comittees, bylaws and giant meets with thousands of people, dealers, events and destinations. What was supposed to create personal interactions and friendships still does, albeit with an ever growing membership that can't survive without growing even more.

He thinks that this may be one of the things that has driven prices of tinplate sky high in the last 25 years. Meets weren't about money, they were about exchanging ideas with friends, plus seeing and swapping trains that had never entered your concept of collecting. Many Voltamp and Boucher trains changed hands that will never get re-made today or even be seen today outside of a museum or a $25,000 eBay auction. They are just unusual items that just happen to also be beautiful toys. These kinds of trains were often the norm at an early meet.

Plus dealers were never allowed at early meets, it was just individual buyers and sellers. This is long before trains became expensive commodities that were manufactured somewhere else. The business of toy trains was kept seperate from the collecting of toy trains. The story of the actual train (in the early days) was as important as the acquisition of the toy itself. This was part of the lore of Standard Gauge and much of that lore is gone. Try asking where a vintage Blue Comet set has been or what "farm" it was found on. Good luck getting a real answer (once you get past the $7000 pricetag).

The point of this discussion is not to say that progress is bad but that sometimes the things aren't broken shouldn't be fiddled with. At the very least, history teaches us that some things actually do work and shouldn't be changed. The personal interaction of this hobby is one of the reasons I love it. I really enjoy talking to my old friend in the TCA - I am 39 and he is almost double that. His knowleldge and the things he has seen will never be replicated. Toss in some wit and a fair dose of wisdom that comes from a long life and your own perspective will change when you listen to some of the stories. . I really wish I could have gone to some of those early meets and hung around with the Louis Hertz's and the Lou Redman's.....

As it is with Standard Gauge....

Posted by Hello
PS I liked the Rockwell picture because it reminded me of what I would be doing if I were late for an early TCA Meet. Driving like a maniac.

Thursday, July 29, 2004

Trains Trains Trains....

Originally uploaded by

I wish my collection looked like this. This Buddy L stuff is beautiful but it is so dang huge!

How many of these trains do you have in your collection?

By the way, can 2 7/8 gauge trains be run with a ZW?

Wednesday, July 28, 2004

Why no posts?

Hi Folks,

I have noticed that nobody has posted on the topics I have put up.  I will open up the forum and let someone else be moderators and post as well as engage in discussion.  I need your participation to keep this board interesting.  I have tons to say but I know you standard gauger's have opinions!  Let's hear 'em!


From the Toy Train Museum - Interurban

Originally uploaded by mrkuffler.

It isn't standard gauge but it is an Interurban I would love to have in my collection!
I didn't get a chance to look at who made this but it really caught my eye, especially with all of the bungalows around it. The color is really vivid, I just wish this little car operated in the display so I could see how it ran.

Tuesday, July 27, 2004

Terry Johnson's Layout

If you haven't seen this layout, it is impressive (check out the link).  It's one of those layouts that makes me wish I bought a larger house and figured out a way to cash in on the internet bubble before it popped. 

Speaking of cash, standard gauge isn't exactly helping my bottom line.   My problem is that whenever I see something, I always think it will be the last time I ever see it (on eBay, in person, etc.).  Ergo, I drop cash on items when I shouldn't.  Plain as day, I need to cut back.  Any stories out there?  My wife is ready to drop kick me, than she remembers that trains are fairly benign.  There are about a thousand other vices that could spell disaster for me and my family.  As is, my family does seem to get a real charge out of all this stuff. 

Any stories out there?


Original 441 in Action

Original 441 in action!
Originally uploaded by mrkuffler.

GREBNESI sent me another great picture of his standard gauge layout in action. Original 441's are really something.

Actually, Mike (the owner of this layout) only runs original Lionel, no repros. Goes to show antiques work every bit as well as the new stuff!!

How much of your standard gauge is repro? Let's get some discussions going!

Some of the standard gauge at Roadside America.  Posted by Hello

Roadside America in Shartlesville, PA

Here's a pic from the outside of Roadside America in Shartlesville, PA. I have included the link to their website although it isn't that exciting. I will post some pics this week.
If you haven't been to Roadside America - unless your spouse likes trains, drop him/her off at the Antique Store on the same road.
If you like trains, regardless of gauge, this place will leave your jaw on the floor. I have never seen a layout as extensive or sophisticated as this. I know they exist but this one is just over the top. It really is something to see, the word "incredible" doesn't do it justice.
By the way, there is a ton of standard gauge at Roadside America.  In display cases all over the place and displayed everywhere, there is classic standard gague.  Judging from how much is stuffed into this exhibit, the gentleman that built this layout (Laurence Gieringer) probably didn't have room to do everything he wanted to do, at least in standard gauge. 

It is a little bit of a tourist trap but once you see this layout and manage to pull what's left of your jaw off the floor, you won't be disappointed.  Wait for the tribute to America and the night time scene show.  It has some parts that are just a little bizarre but it is worth the wait (you'll see what I mean about the strange part when you go through the show).  Posted by Hello 

Yet another amazing display from the Toy Train Museum in Strasburg. Posted by Hello

Classic Layout at the Museum in Strasburg

This is from the Toy Train Museum in Strasburg. This is the amazing thing about standard gauge. Three buildings, two tunnels and two bridges and it is still going to provide years of entertainment. Ok, so I can't run a Commodore Vanderbilt Set on it, it is still pretty gorgeous. Posted by Hello

Pictures from the Toy Train Museum in PA

Ok, this weekend I went to PA. I drove all over the place. I went to Roadside America (pics coming) and the Toy Train Museum in Strasburg. My wife was not happy with me (most of our time was supposed to be at Hershey Park). One of my best friend's and his son had a great time, although his wife and daughter were ready to chase me through the museums with torches and pitchforks. I actually can't blame them, I tend to get tunnel vision when I get on a train mission. I loved hanging with them anyway (nothing better than having other grown ups around when you're taking a beating from your kids).

There is no better place to see standard gauge in its' native habitat than the Toy Train Museum in Strasburg. The displays are beautiful and the standard gauge is original and impressive. I liked the huge selection from lesser collected trains like Voltamp & Carlisle and Finch. Really gorgeous stuff that pictures don't do justice. More pictures on the way, I am trying to figure out how to do photo albums so I don't have to do bunches of individual posts.... Posted by Hello

Thursday, July 22, 2004

Which Track do you use?

Originally uploaded by mrkuffler.

Ok, I am hoping to get some posts and discussion on this -

I just picked up some of this Gargraves Track that works with O Gauge and Standard Gauge. The quality is really very nice.

Here is my problem - I have a limited amount of space. I need wide curves. I want to run my standard gauge race cars and an oval of 2 7/8 gauge as well.

Bending this Gargraves Track makes me nervous. Bending any track makes me kind of nervous. Also, I can kiss switches goodbye with the Gargraves track, they don't exist (spoke to one of the guys at Gargraves).

I have a ton of O Gauge stuff I really like to run as well as standard gauge. So what do I do?

3 ovals of track - Standard, O and 2 7/8? Buy a bigger house? Use the Gargraves and get a nice big oval for O gauge and standard? Where am I going to put my brass mountain and my 116 station and 840 Powerhouse?

Which track works best for everyone else? What track plans have you seen that work well for places that aren't huge.

Most standard gauger's seem to have 3000 square foot basements that are finished. I just don't have that.

Any ideas?


Wednesday, July 21, 2004

New England Toy Train Exchange Auction on Aug 14, 2004 (Click to go there)

NETTE has an auction coming up on August 14. My experience with these folks has been extremely positive. Very honest, forthright and prices that consistently seem to reflect reality.

It's an auction, yes, but the prices aren't typically in the stratosphere.

There is a little standard gauge in this auction (it's mostly toys). I'd love to buy all the Buddy L trucks I see but this standard gauge needs pantloads of room!

Also, you may want to check out the NETTE auction coming up on September 4th. That's going to be the big train auction!


Glenn Snyder Display - Displays in General

Originally uploaded by mrkuffler.

I just bought a whole bunch of these displays for my standard gauge. Up until now, I have been using shelving from Home Depot.

Let me tell you, I have ALOT more faith in Glenn's shevling than Home Depot's! Steel vs. flakeboarding... Hmmm. The flakeboards are already warping with some of my heavier items.

The Glenn Snyder stuff is really, really top notch. For the price, it absolutely can't be beat.

What do you use to display your trains?

Does anyone have any experience mounting Glenn's displays?

How high do you mount your displays? Since most standard gauge is not replace-able, how do you display your most treasured items?

PS Here is the link to Glenn's site (I will post it permanently in links):


Night Time Standard Gauge

Originally uploaded by mrkuffler.

It amazes me what you can do with just a little (or alot) of electricity. This picture is from GREBNESI. The amazing thing is that years before the 50's and "glow in the dark" or intense video games, just lighting up a layout like this one is a show unto itself.

Anyone that isn't awed by this kind of sight should check their pulse and make sure they are alive and kicking.

I have about 40 lights and signals (not including what's in my buildings) for my layout. How many do you have? Do you use MTH or original Lionel?


#6 off of a mirror

#6 reflection
Originally uploaded by mrkuffler.

This is a neat picture off of a mirror at the back of a layout. Thanks GREBNESI! It's always neet to see older steamers mixed with stuff from the 30's. It's amazing how well everything in standard gauge seems to work together.

Monday, July 19, 2004

eBay Items that are rare and expensive

I am always curious - who drops $15k for an engine on eBay? For this kind of money, I'd get on a plane and fly out to check this out. I have to ponder this out loud though - are these high prices really good for the hobby? I know there are people willing to pay this kind of cash for a rare antique. But is a 400e in a master carton that rare or even worth it? Has anyone out there paid this kind of cash for this kind of item? Just curious - not a condemnation of the seller or the buyer. Just seems like the hobby is so much more than making a profit....


Another Unusual Item for Standard Gauge

Originally uploaded by mrkuffler.

Another from the Danbury Railway Museum. Would be very unusual in any gauge.

Send me some other interesting pics. Not everything on a railroad is a locomotive!

In Standard Gauge?

Originally uploaded by mrkuffler.

This little pic from the Danbury Railway Museum shows that there are some amazing trains that could be done in Standard Gauge that haven't been touched. They have some other unusual pieces at The Danbury Railway Museum, definitely and always worth the trip.


Sunday, July 18, 2004

Some Ground Rules

As much as I love toy trains and especially standard gauge, I gotta set some rules:

1) No foul langauge on my blog.
2) No bashing train vendors.
3) Absolutely no bashing other train people.
4) Opinions are good, stay constructive and within the realm of the hobby.
5) Please, no posting "for sale", etc.. Use the TCA Interchange or eBay. The TCA Interchange is the safest means I know for selling toy trains.
6) References to clubs are ok. Please though, no bashing other clubs, their memberships or their meets (I happen to like them all).

Standard Gauge is alive and well. We can only keep it alive if we all pull together and keep it strong.


More from Jim's Train Table

Originally uploaded by mrkuffler.

Absolutely nothing better than seeing a table of incredible standard gauge engines. I am partial to the 1912 and 42's. There's just something special about them. Looks like some brass #7's are trying to sneak into the picture as well. What's your favorite standard gauge engine?


Jim's Amazing Steeple Cab

Originally uploaded by

Was over at Jim Cohen's house and saw some amazing standard gauge trolley's he has been working on. This is Jim's Steeple Cab Electric. Only one I have ever seen in Standard Gauge. I love this engine, it is amazing. You should see how smoothly this thing runs. Jim is really the "Van Gogh" of standard gauge - his stuff is art (and thankfully toys as well).


Saturday, July 17, 2004

Welcome to the Standard Gauge Blog!

Hello and Welcome Fellow Train Nut -

If you like pre-war trains, you have come to the right place! I am a nut for standard gauge - from Lionel, Jim Cohen, JAD, Joe Mania, MTH and anyone else willing to try building this amazing stuff.

Why are standard gauge trains amazing? Because they have stood the test of time. They are toys and yet much more. They are works of art. Moving art, that makes a music all its' own, has color that's all its own and can be as individual as the builder of the trains as well as the eventual lucky owner.

There are hobbyists that are purists, standard gauge toys from Lionel from 1925 to 1939 will only do. There are folks like me that just plain old love trains. But you are here for the standard gauge. I wanted to start this blog because I want a place for people to post ideas, new products and great layout photos and ideas.

We are the holders of rare and wonderful items - standard gauge toy trains. Let's talk about them as much as we can whenever possible.

Marc Kuffler
TCA# 94-40129