Saturday, February 26, 2005

Inman Auction (March 12 & 13th)

Hi All - Sorry I haven't been posting much lately. Work has kept me pretty busy. I do have some good stuff on the way though. Here is one item: the Inman Auction coming up. If you guys are like me, I love old toys. This auction has a pantload of really nice toys.

I was watching the Stout Auction today and the guys with the big, fat wallets were there. Most of the stuff with a box (standard gauge or otherwise) was blindingly expensive. I did pick up a very nice tunnel for about $300.

One thing I did find out that's kind of interesting. I got to speaking to someone at Julia Auctions last week and she told me that if you buy through eBay, the commission structure is over %22. Holy moly! That's insane. I bought a cool little bing station at that auction, I am anxious to see how it looks in person.

More on the way tomorrow....

M Posted by Hello

PS Does anyone know if there are repro Lionel tunnels out there? I have been watching one on eBay but it is way out of my price range (somewhere around 1900 bucks). Tunnels are like low hanging fruit for a manufacturer. No moving parts, each one can be a little different....

PSS I am still curious how to make the "Carrail like" bent brass mountains. There was an article in CTT about a guy that made a prewar layout and crinkled brass sheets and then painted them. I definitely want to try this but I have no idea of where to start.

Thursday, February 17, 2005

Greenberg Books?

I'm just curious.... I have been watching the Greenberg books on eBay over the past couple of months. The great reference one's that either go over American Flyer Standard Gauge or the catalogs (prewar especially) or Lionel Standard Gauge.

What happened? Why are these books commanding such a huge premium? All of these books are commanding over $100 a shot. Some way higher. I know collecting all of the original catalogs might be a hassle for some folks (I know I have a ton of them and still like the Greenberg reference materials) but still, $200 to $300 for a book?

I know, I know, before you log into your ISP and send me an email, "it's scarcity you idiot." As Aprochek said to me the other day in an email, how many of us in a pre-50 year old demographic are collecting this stuff? I am 39 and so is he. Most of the "younger" kids after me had video games. All of the children in my kids classes have never seen a steam engine (that's just stupidity on their parents part). And as Aprochek so amply pointed out in an email, current TCA Conventions look like World War II reunions. Most of the TCA and train collecting populace seems to also collect Social Security. I have a feeling that a small cadre of wealthy collectors are really jacking up prices across the board, although I could be wrong. And not just for books.

Ok, enough ranting, back to something useful.

Hopefully Kalmbach will sit up and take notice and start reproducing some of these books. They are great, they will sell out and I think Kalmbach would make a hefty profit. I'd like to see them produce the Lionel Catalog books and all of the prewar reference materials. Most of the recent toy train picture books (racked with nostalgia but not much meaningful content) as of late have been mediocre.

I have enough coffee table books. Print me up something that I can use!


PS The web has been woefully lacking in this area. The amount of toy train reference material is zilch on the internet. Now before you go trying to say I should compile this, this BLOG sucks up a huge amount of time but is a good outlet for me and hopefully entertains all of you. I think it is incumbent upon the manufacturers to chronicle their history. I hear a whole lot about 100 years of this and 25 years of that but I haven't seen much on the websites except short bio's on the companies. Perhaps it's time for some of these companies to have an online chronicle that is more than marketing fluff. I know they put their history's into books to be bought and sold, however books can't be easily updated. That's the whole point of the web.

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

This is a nice picture of a trolley. I think I have posted it before but I'm posting it again. I just like it (taken in Dec. 04). Posted by Hello

Sunday, February 13, 2005

More Mayflower

The Eagle isn't even on the front yet and this baby is already in pictures! Let's hope MTH has some success and decides to do a Brass Piper and cars!

M Posted by Hello

New Mayflower

I know Jim Kelly is partial to night shots, so here's one (albeit with a little movement on the trains part and mine) of the new MTH Mayflower. I'll take some stills of it in the light. Someone said it was extremely nice and I would have to agree. MTH made the last Lionel Classics Mayflower and they also made the President's Special and their anniversary set.

These guys really learn from experience. This set is virtually silent with the sounds off. It runs very smoothly, much smoother than even the original (which is pretty darned good). These things are packed for a real trip, you've never seen so much intricate packing material.

If you want a centerpiece set for a collection, bar none, this is it.

By the way, I have read some of your cards and letters. We'll stay focused on standard gauge and trains. Warm up that ZW for me!

MPosted by Hello

Quick question....

Ok, this is a bit off topic but I wanted to see if anyone had any interest. If not, I will stay on topic.

A very good friend of mine and fellow train nut is a tank commander in the National Guard. As you have probably guessed, he's over in Iraq for the foreseeable future. Now I know standard gauge is a great escape from the real world and most of us need that escape daily.

However, if anyone is interested, I can publish some of my friend Drew's letters here on the blog. They cut through a whole lot of jabber from the media and he really does a good job of letting everyone know what's going on. This guy is a soldier, a tank driver and a guy that is training the Iraqi army to defend their own country.

It isn't standard gauge but it's some pretty compelling reading. Before I posted it though, I thought I would ask what everyone thought. When I read it I stop dead in my tracks and re-read it a couple of times to take it all in. Let me know if you are interested and I will post some of his letters asap. Regardless of your political bent, wartime letters from soldiers are always something to be cherished. Especially from someone as young and as smart as my friend Drew.

M Posted by Hello

Saturday, February 12, 2005

Lionel Internet Survey

Hope springs eternal.

That's what I am thinking at least. Ok, here's a couple of thoughts on Lionel:

1) They have put out a survey and it is a good one.
2) They ask some simple questions to get an idea of their demographic.
3) Most important, the are interested in us folks that want prewar tinplate.

Now having said that, try the link that I have posted and give Lionel some feedback. Here is my idea (and the important part). I want Lionel to put out some great standard gauge. The Commodore and Hiawatha qualify as great standard gauge.

When you fill out the survey, you will come to an area where Lionel is trying to map out what their demographic looks like and what they will buy. You will see us (classic tinplate/standard gauge). Pick this as your ONLY choice. Why? Because there are other choices and as clubs/potential products they might be interesting but it muddies the waters for Lionel.

For example: I am looking at the results of the survey (sitting at Lionel). Remember, Lionel is not a big company, they are operating in a receivership and they have scarce resources. 5k people will buy standard gauge/prewar tinplate. 10k will buy postwar and maybe a little prewar. 75k will buy current roadnames and postwar plus maybe a little itty bitty bit of prewar. You gettin my drift? Numbers rarely lie in business (although they can be fiddled with).

I want Lionel to produce our kind of stuff and I want them to hear loud and clear that we are a valuable segment of their population. While I love MTH, I can't be stupid about my purchasing or even the future of the hobby. We need more than one vendor producing products. More competition is better, even if it isn't really competition. I would have bought one Hiawatha and one Commodore regardless of who made them. I also bought one MTH 115 station one Lionel 115 station and terrace.

Am I crazy? You bet! Do I have to sneak this stuff in my house? Absolutely! Do I want two major manufacturers producing great tinplate. Well, yes.

With that said, go and take the survey and influence Lionel to build some great standard gauge and prewar stuff. More is better, period.

MPosted by Hello

Stout Auction for Feb 26th is up!

This is a huge train auction. No doubt about it. Feb. 26th is the only day of the auction we'll be interested in and that's the second half of the day, most of the initial product on Feb. 26th is Postwar Lionel.

There are some very nice items, especially if you are in the market for 200 and 500 series cars. I wish I could go to this.... I also wish I had a pantload of cash (then I'd just fly to all of these auctions and buy stuff I like). Ok, I'll wake up now.

M Posted by Hello

Friday, February 11, 2005

Huge Toy Auction

Wow! James Julia Auctions is having a huge toy auction this weekend. It is on eBay live auctions as well as via direct absentee bidding. Some very nice standard gauge is coming up for auction. Plus just the sheer amount of toys and cool stuff is staggering.

If you want some decent Lionel Prewar, this is really an auction you should at least watch on your computer (get out that piggy bank!!).

By the way, I'm just curious.... I think that this massive, massive collection is all from one family (although I could be wrong). It is absolutely stunning.

Where does anyone get the kind of cash that it takes to buy all this stuff? (Ok, this is going to be a general money rant.) Most of these toys are in blisteringly great condition and the trains (even if they are refinished) are still ridiculously nice. I know, I know, I've heard it a million times; it's two old fogies that started collecting this stuff before anyone knew it had any value, blah blah blah. But ya gotta be loaded to even afford a place to store all this stuff, let alone keep it in good condition. Did I miss yet another compensation meeting at my job? What do these people do for a living where they can afford this stuff?

Sorry, I tend to get off an a rant. When I see $20k plus prices going on at some of these auctions, I have to think it's the same people that can afford those new $1 million homes they keep building near my house (and no, I didn't pay anywhere near that for mine). I gotta wonder how many doctors (specialists), lawyers (that are any good) and CEO's are out there buying trains and toys. And by the way, I know a few doctors that collect trains and they don't spend THAT much money. Who are these people?

(PS My guess is that it is probably dealers all off in remote locations that are marking this stuff up and holding it behind glass at thousands of trade shows and then end up trading it anyway, but that's just a guess.)

Rant over.

MPosted by Hello

PS The link is above!
PSS I still think this is a great auction and I do like the folks that run Julia, they are honest and friendly and they put together one heck of an auction. The people that bid this stuff up to $20k a shot? That's another story.

Thursday, February 10, 2005

March 5, 2005 NETTE Auction

The NETTE auction is up. Just follow the link above to see the great items, especially the standard gauge stuff. I am a huge fan of these auctions. Mark Tobias is a good guy and he knows what the good stuff looks like.

Check it out and let me know if you can make it - I'll buy a round of "after auction" drinks to drown the sorrows of treasures we can't afford.....

M Posted by Hello

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

A bigger pic of the Dorfan 772 Car! Posted by Hello

Just Opened....

I just cracked open a box of these MTH Dorfan Cars. Wow! They have exceeded my expectations. I'll put up a few more pics of these in a while but just look at the little figures in the windows!!! The paint on these cars is extremely nice. Honestly, I love an Apple Green (the 408E, the 418, 419 cars, etc.) but these are something different. This is one of those times when a picture in a catalog really didn't do an item justice. I haven't seen these anywhere on eBay either. I hope MTH can produce more items like this.....

M Posted by Hello

Friday, February 04, 2005

eBay Grading

Hmmm. Been seeing some talk about eBay grading, TCA Standards and the like. Is eBay really responsible for the grading or is the seller?

Well, at a TCA meet, it is incumbent upon the seller to accurately represent the item that is getting sold, bartered or traded. But eBay is different because it isn't the same kind of forum that a standard train meet has. Buyers and sellers are seperated by hundreds and even thousands of miles. Should that excuse a less than accurate representation?

Let me put another and more realistic shade on the discussion; what if the seller doesn't know what he or she is selling and is taking the word of a reputable source? Let's met this out further; what if an item is sold and it isn't returned in the same condition it was sent (and the TCA nor does the law have much remedy for this)?

Well, I kind of break it down like this: if I went to flea market (like the giant one by my house in Upstate New York called "Stormville"), if I buy from a seller there all I have to go on is his word. And there's no recourse if I don't like it, I don't have his address, his phone, whatever. I also get to barter the price down, not up because he doesn't want to go home with the stuff, much akin to a train show.

On eBay, nobody wants to get zero bids or not meet their reserve. Sniping is rampant (something that doesn't often happen at a train meet or flea market).

What about when I buy something at an antique store, usually owned by one of my friends and it has some repro parts? I still like the item but am I going to yell at one of my best friends and lose the opportunity to eat over at his house around Christmas time?

Back to grading: I asked my old pal Jim Cohen how he grades things. He said that if you really want something thoroughly graded, he had to get down and dirty by taking the item apart and checking almost every part/piece. I told him most of us collectors don't have time for that and I guarantee the new world of eBay won't permit it. He said that he heard similar complaints through the years at the advent of each new event and bigger get-together. "The only true test" as Jim said "is to have the toy in your hands and to inspect it with your eyes thoroughly." "You don't need to be a genius to recognize a refurbished item or an item that is rated as mint that isn't even good."

Thus some things that I learned from this:

1) If it is an expensive item, check to see that it can be returned.
2) Try escrow (ebay offers plenty of Escrow services and they work, I have used them).

By the way, I have worked with some folks buying some expensive items on eBay. Whenever someone won't do an escrow (either buying or selling) for an item over $1k, you should immediately question why.

3) Ask for some credentials! What qualifies someone to give a train an "excellent" rating.
4) Ask up front, before the sale, not after the item is delivered to your house.
5) Look at the feedback, that's what it's there for. You can quickly tell when a seller is accurate in their recollection of an item or not.
6) Call people on bad judgement. I have written several notes to people and told them that a boxcar that is half rusted, is O gauge and has no wheels does not equate to a "standard gauge materpiece".
7) Find reputable eBay sellers that you like and focus on them. I have tried to list a few but I actually can't do all of them justice.
8) If eBay is too agitating to look at, just go to another forum. Stay with auctions. If you live in the boonies, talk to the auctioneers, I guarantee they will help you do absentee bidding. Believe me, this is one of the best ways to acquire the best stuff. And even then you should still watch your back!

There are no rules for this in our new electronic universe. However I think the opportunity to expand our vistas and see some trains we don't normally get to touch or hear about is there. Operating in the world of common sense and keeping your cool are the first two best steps.

Remember, 10 years ago, there was no such thing as eBay. Who knows what it we'll be trading on tomorrow.....


Thursday, February 03, 2005

Pioneer Zephyr & Flying Yankee

I know this isn't standard gauge but it is defintely prewar; check out the link above. It is to the Chicago Museum of Science Pioneer Zephyr page. They (the museum) put together a really nice website detailing the Zephyr. Check out some of the odd facts on the site like the menus:

Ham/Cheese Sandwich
Hot Dog
Fried Egg Sandwich

Very interesting stuff. I wish someone would put together a standard gauge Zephyr. I saw one in G gauge and it was really nice (By Roberts Lines I think).

By the way, the Flying Yankee also has a fantastic website:

It is absolutely worth a vist for both. I hope the public gains some awareness about these two marvelous achievements. These two trains have a style and flare that are distinct in our culture. Someone please make them in standard gauge (it should have been done by Lionel in the 30's anyway!!!)


Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Bridges of Standard County...

Ok, it's a little cheesy but I love bridges. I haven't seen a layout that has these bridges set up this way. Most of the layouts I have seen are plastered with a Hellgate or two (or four or eight). These little bridges have some personality (they look like real bridges that you see everywhere in the Northeast, try driving up the Bronx River Parkway in NY to the Kensico Lake Damn or through the middle of New Jersey). They're everywhere.

I'm not sure how those ramps handle any kind of speed though. I have a mint version of the 101. I may try some heavy stuff on it....

I know there is probably not a ton of cash in reproducing these but it would be nice if someone did it. Some different color variations would be great.

Also, there is some nice stuff out on eBay this week. I am bidding on a #17 caboose. Saw some nice Ives out there as well. Yes, I know, it's probably a little overpriced but it's fun just to watch it get bid up.

M Posted by Hello