Friday, September 30, 2005

New Blog Masthead and T-Shirt

Almost a no-brainer, eh? Here's the new Blog masthead and logo. It's going to find its' way to Zazzle today as well to grace a t-shirt in both small and large formats.


LaDuke Toonerville Trolley

Arno sent me this awesome pic of a LaDuke Toonerville Trolley next to a Rich Art Toonerville.

Both are standard gauge. I know diddly about the LaDuke Trolley except that I like it!

Yet another take on an old cartoon and it is still as nice today as when it came out in the early part of the 20th Century.

I really liked Arno's comments on the Yahoo Standard Gauge Groups discussion about the various standard gauge manufacturers. I really don't know much about every single manufacturer that was architecting and building standard gauge. I think I am going to look a few more of them up in the TCA Directory and give them a call. Plus I know there were some directly after WWII that built very short runs but didn't really go for huge profits or mass production.

If any of them are reading and want to contribute.....


Thursday, September 29, 2005

Finished Toonerville

This is a finished little Toonerville in standard gauge. No, it can't pull any 200 series freights. Who cares? It makes noise and moves kind of strangely. It really is quite wonderful.

I look at this and I wish I could get one about 4 or 5 times larger for my train room. It's just too cool.

I see them on eBay once and a while and I know there will be a few at York.


Blog Shirt #2 - the 400E

I was thinking about this for a new logo design for the blog...

Matter of fact, this new logo has already found its' way out to Zazzle. I am working on a logo with Jim Cohen's Steeple Cabs. You all have to tell me which you like better....

Follow the link to see the new Tee.


PS I know the spelling is wrong. I will fix it in the final version. It's intentional, I don't want the logo re-used or published out until it is ready. The tee will reflect the change as well.


Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Standard Gauge Blog T-Shirt #1

Ok, here we go. I am using Jim Kelly's incredibly great idea. Here's the first T-Shirt in what I hope is a series of cool shirts. This is highliting the rare and extremely cool McCoy handcar.

On the front is the handcar and on the back is the Standard Gauge Blog font. My Brother is helping me with a more sophisticated upcoming design that is a little more understated. Trains are always cool but I like simple logos that tell everyone what the shirt is about without too many pictures.

But don't worry! I am working on well composed pictures as well for more T's! This isn't for $$$, it's because I'd like some train shirts and I can't stand most of the designs out there. Jim's was inspirational and got me thinking about different designs. Any ideas?

The link above will take you right to the shirt. If it is ok with Jim I will publish out the info on the Yahoo Groups as well.


Sunday, September 25, 2005

A Ton of Standard Gauge

Here comes some serious auctioning from Maurer Auctions. I have a fondness for this kind of auction house and the way they do business. It's like going to a friend's house and checking out a pantload of trains for sale.

Check out all the upcoming auctions these folks have on the burner. If you want some vintage standard gauge trains that are just awesome, I recommend going to at least one of these auctions. I know that York is but a few days away but not everyone is in the TCA. If you want to pick up some choice Lionel or Flyer gear, don't miss these.


Thursday, September 22, 2005

More Floor Trolley (hey, that rhymes!)

Another pic of the Dayton Floor Trolley. This picture really doesn't do it justice. I would love to push something like this out in Standard Gauge.


Dayton floor trolley

I picked this up at an auction a while back and believe it or not, it just came in the mail yesterday!

It is not standard gauge but it is one really nice trolley. All metal, looks like it was mass produced. I really don't know much about it. There's some really old tape on the bottom that says Dayton Schieble Floor Trolley from the 1920's. That could have been someone from an auction house getting creative though.

There's some paint loss on the roof and other side but it is definitely not worth touching. Looks great for its' age. It was definitely never intended for a track but it is large and is one heck of a nice looking model. I'll try to grab more pics of it. If anyone knows anything about it.....


McCoy Handcar

Amazing toys come in all shapes and sizes. This is from Bob McCoy.

All I can say is that everytime I see it I am blown away. I'll try and take some pictures of the guy in the chair, you can actually see his facial expression!

So I bought this off of eBay and my wife was royally unhappy with me. It doesn't work; I have to take it apart and fix it. But it is one of the neatest things about standard gauge. It's metal and it feels like... Quality. The only way I can describe it. O gauge handcars don't come close, this actually looks like quite a few handcars I have seen in real life. When I fix this I am thinking about setting up a bumper system where it bumps the end of the track and flips around. I don't see an e-unit or the like in it though although I'm not looking too hard. Any thoughts?


Sunday, September 18, 2005

Ralston Today....

Well I am not sure what highlites the Ralston Auction today will tout.... It wasn't a bad day for people that collect Classic Lionel Standard Gauge. The prices weren't too high at all and it looked like they had a decent selection of some key items.

Most of the gear in the auction was late Postwar Lionel. If you were in the market for it than it was really a great auction but the prices for the Postwar stuff made standard gauge look cheap (in some instances). The Bing Trains seemed to go for really big bucks. I can see why, they are impressive things, old looking yet toylike and detailed. They capture a mixture of interesting characteristics; antique, European, sophisticated. Very cool stuff.

I still don't know if I am going to York or not, I do want to go to some of the Maurer auctions before the end of the year. The high prices and lack of comraderie or abundance of dollar competition seems to not be at Ted Maurers auctions. I enjoy them thoroughly, even if I don't walk away with diddly.

That brings me to another point and I would love to hear from my readers on this. We're walking into a tough Christmas season and I just don't have as much to spend on trains this year or next as I have in the past. With gas prices going up and the cost of living generally going up, my train dollars are dwindling mighty fast. Do I go to York or take my chances at some great auctions with Ted Maurer? How do you all budget for trains (or is budgeting for trains almost stupid, you just ram them in the checkbook somewhere?). Usually about this time of year people get an itch to sell standard gauge or 2 7/8 or Prewar O. But I just haven't seen it. Not any good stuff at least.

That brings me to something else I am going to wonder about out loud. Has eBay started to kill local markets for trains? People seem more anxious to sell to a global audience now than just at a plain old train meet where they take their chances. A friend of mine who owns an antique store can't remember when business was so bad as it seems to be now. He said that if he didn't sell through eBay he'd be outta luck.

Kind of funny, I was reading through a TCA Quarterly from the early 1990's and there was an article lamenting the lack of internet presence of toy train companies. I wonder if it has gotten much better. Lionel and MTH's websites are fair to ok. MTH's website has absolutely crawled lately and there are actual HTML errors in it. Lionel's gets updated at least once a month. Who'd of thought that eBay would pop up and create a 24 by 7 global train show 365 days per year. I'm still not so sure it's a good thing, the jury is still way out.

I also noticed something else in the Quarterly - a list of names of people that had passed away. Specifically lots of people with the letters CM in front of the membership ID. I started to look through all of the Quarterly's. I began thinking that maybe I should spend a little less time thinking about getting my hands on trains and a little more time scribing down the thoughts, ideas and experiences of some of my elders. Our hobby is based almost solely on word of mouth. I was born in the 60's and I can tell you I'm no spring chicken. Regardless of whether you belong to a train club or not, maybe you should sit down and take some notes from your Dad, Uncle or crazy train neighbor about how they met Josh Cowen or got that first train in the summer of 1939. We are in a dangerous time, not because trains are scarce or expensive or whatever but because we risk the loss of knowing how they got here and where they came from. Or why.

Just a thought.....


Friday, September 16, 2005

Dust Settling....

So the dust is settling from some of the Auctions (Stout and NETTE) and we'll see what kind of magic happens this weekend at the Ralston Auction. Heading into York and the holidays it looks like there are a pantload of auctions that are about to happen not coincidentally right before Christmas.

So what did we learn from this round? Well, the prices seem to be in lockstep with the outrageous prices people are asking for their homes. Yes, I think quite a few folks that are selling their homes are out of their mind. Take a $10,000 piece of property and slap $50,000 worth of home depot building materials on it and you have a house for $900k. Please.

Now I don't want to disparage all auctions. Matter of fact it isn't auctions at all that I am tired of. It's the transaction garbage that the hobby has seemed to take on. Money has always driven toy trains, this isn't something that happens for free. It's commerce. But I have watched a steady and gradual progression where even refurbs are being treated like they are the friggin crown jewels.

Here are a few things that are bugging me:

1) Engines that cost more than $1000.
2) Sets that are not completely accurate to original (in any gauge) that cost more than $1500.
3) Dealers that think less than original sets should be sold for more than $1500. I've noticed that $1500 seems to be a favorite number in the train world. I guess the value of a train is somehow related to the lowest down payment someone can make on a new car that gets great gas milage.
4) eBay sellers that are just out of their minds.
5) Dealers that are TCA members and eBay sellers and are out of their minds.
6) People that sell trains but don't actually play with them.
7) People and TCA members that are treating trains as investments.

The last one really bugs me because it means that a beautiful train is getting pulled off the market and deposited in a closet for appreciation purposes. It's a fickle and dumb investment that shouldn't be made. There are a thousand dufus' that will argue one way or another (trains outperform the stock market, they are low risk because they can be readily sold and usually don't lose value, blah blah blah). How many people spending $70k for an engine or $75k for a station are going to play with them?

I have poured over years of TCA Quarterly's and I have read arguements on both sides. But it seems like the last few years has exploded collectors in certain markets and the prices are outrageous. And most of the products suck (either on the train table or on eBay).

Here's something to consider: in a few home markets (like the area I live in) there is more supply than buyers. The supply has gone up substantially and the realtors are trying to explain to sellers that buyers aren't going to pay a ridiculous premium for a *%&#$ house (you know, the one that looks like Home Depot exploded). It's gradually flipping to a buyers market.

Some would argue that we have been in a buyers market for toy trains for quite some time. Especially with competition from Lionel and MTH. With less people entering the hobby and far more exiting, how long do you think before the standard gauge market flips to a buyers market?


Monday, September 12, 2005

Finishing up on the MTH Catalog

Here's a quick pic of the accessories. The Leland's are offered again as well as the race car set and so on. The 116 station is offered in different colors and the 840 Power Station is offered in the late and early colors.

There are also more Ives sets, 500 series cars and some Ives Electrics.

All told, the catalog is absolutely worth picking up and checking out. Standard gauge would be but a happy memory without MTH, so we have to give Mike and Team a big hand. The catalog has a substantial amount of product from prior catalogs in it as well as a few new items that are eye catching (the Cardinal). There's also an AMAZING number of comet set flavors. I haven't seen so many offered ever. I'll be anxious to see if these new colors recruit any new collectors to the field or if they end up in growing collections of nuts like us that fill our homes until we're committed to a rubber room.

I was hoping for some tooling that MTH hasn't offered in a while or not at all. Here are some suggestions for 2006:

390E's in Comet Colors, Green with an orange stripe, and so on.
An interurban (that would be the 10 and 1010).
Maybe a set of 10 Series cars?
How about a Brass Piper to pull all these Flyer Standard Gauge Cars?
How about a Lone Scout set?

Just something to think about MTH. Look at a prewar Flyer catalog. There's more amazing product in there than you can imagine. The current catalog is solid, no doubt. But what gets ya noticed is not what's inside the box a year from now, it's thinking outside the box that wins the accolades. Looking forward to the Leland Monorails. Keep up the good work!


PS Quite a few folks have pointed out some glaring inaccuracies in the catalog. The wrong cars with the Cardinal, wrong couplers on boxcars, etc.. The only thing I can guess is that the prototypes MTH used for mockups and pics were put together quickly and have some things that are wrong. I am sure MTH will correct the problems before they start shipping!

MTH Motorized 200 Series Crane

We knew it was going to happen. It had to. Here's the MTH motorized crane. I like the PA version of it.

Get 'em while you can, I would bet that this is probably a short run item. I MTH offers this in a prototype "Bucyrus" flavor.

MTH Ives 190 Series

Getting these cars in their original condition is near difficult to impossible. Yes, I know, some TCA folks have them because they were sitting outside of the Ives factory in 1928 and managed to grab a few as Harry Ives sprinkled them on people outside his window.

For those of us that were born 37 years after the Ives Company departed, this is a darn good alternative. 200 Series boxcars are nice but these seem to have more character, especially when you run them next to American Flyer freight or passenger cars. I'm debating about which caboose I'd like to snap up. Since I am completely out of room, I gotta be a little picky....


New MTH Rolling stock

This is why this catalog gets an A. These boxcars are TOP SHELF (pardon the pun). The graphics are stunning and they look great on any layout and behind almost any engine. More on the cars in the next post.


#9 Trolley from MTH

Ah the venerable #9.... I love 'em. They are one of the nicest Trolley's in Standard Gauge. Probably one of the closest to the prototype available.

I am partial to the cream and green as well as cream and orange. The Pittsburgh one is nice and kind of unusual. Should appeal to all of those PA nuts that are looking for some traction to run on their layout.

There's nothing here that is terribly offensive (as many standard gauge folks had feared). MTH is giving us the choice of traditional or contemporary. Both are quite nice. These still make quite a racket going around the track but I gotta tell ya, those Pittman motors really make a difference in the performance of the trolley. Yes, I like old motors but this thing really does move around standard gauge track nicely. Dirty or clean, uneven or even with a short or two, this thing still doesn't miss a beat on the floor or a layout. Worth a look.

The Ives Cardinal

Here's the detail on the Cardinal. Everytime I see this set I think about how Ives was really onto something that was almost royalty.

My own thoughts look back to Ives Gauge 1 product. I was looking through an old TCA Quarterly and I saw a huge Gauge 1 layout. Incredible. Standard gauge was kind of small fry compared to 1 Gauge. The styling was very similar, I'll see if I can scan in the pic.

Very nice set though.... Marc

3242 Cardinal Special

This is unusual and I am glad MTH chose to remake this set. I used to have a refub flavor of this and I loved the color and style of the set. I gave it to one of my good friend's for her mantle (it looked almost too good to run).

I know the Cardinal was first offered in 1929. I am going to dig out some old TCA articles on it. This represents some new tooling from MTH and it looks like an amazing set. I liked the original Ives set. Does anyone have any pics of the original running?

If nothing else, it is a very nice change from the usual 408E's and 10E's.


400E Palooza

I like the B&O 400E. I am kind of anxious to see the others. Here's the thing: a 400E chugging around a nice prewar collection is special. They are big, noisy engines that are fun to watch, terrific to run and are versatile, you can put them in front of a passenger or freight consist and it doesn't blink.

But eight 400E's in different colors makes them not so special. At 900 bucks a pop, they are less expensive than their prewar counterparts but somehow they seem less special. I know I'd like to have 2 or 3 of them but I would rather see these offered in smaller denominations once or twice every 3 or 4 years. Clearly, these are beautiful toys. Is this the best showcase?


New B&O 400E

Normally I am underwhelmed by yet another 400E. They've been done before by MTH, Lionel and on and on. But the color on this thing is exceptional. The matching cars are really something as well.

I would really like to see one of these in action. I wonder how many of these MTH is going to make?


MTH Tinplate Catalog Vol. 2

The catalog gets an A-. Before I go further, it gets an A because of great content, solid tinplate selection and substantial improvements in offerings and product quality.

The minus comes from one place: The Club. The catalog was sent to dealers first (not club members) and has yet to be posted on their website. If I am paying a premium to be in the club and MTH is offering exclusive access as a feature of the club, you better deliver.

Great catalog, we need to sharpen up the club a bit!


Sunday, September 11, 2005

CTT Auction on eBay

Nice auction on eBay for CTT's. I know the person auctioning them as well as who's they are (Jim Cohen).

They are also being auctioned with a whole lot of "Railroad" magazine.

A pantload of amazing source material.

I wonder how the NETTE auction went this weekend? It looked like some really cool stuff. Did anyone go? Can someone write in with a trip report?


Saturday, September 03, 2005

Another 20th Century LTD. Shot

Ok, so the car is no fun without the vestibules. Still pretty cool no less. I'm anxious to see what kind of engine JAD sold with these. I think I'm going to bug John Daniel and ask him to send me a pic of the original engine. I guess a 400E would look really nice hauling these around a pike.


Twentieth Century Limited

Here's a nice shot of the 20th Century Limited Tail Car. These were made by JAD and Richart. This one is actually much nicer than the version that just recently sold on eBay.

The castings on it are excellent. It really is done like Lionel would have done it in the 1930's.

Dick Mayer was saying that the engine that pulled this really should be not be a streamliner but something like an American Flyer Brass Piper. He said something close to a Hudson should be at the front of these types of cars. All I could think of was a 400E. Anyone have any other ideas on what should pull these?


Friday, September 02, 2005

Hanging away this week...

I'm not doing too much with the blog this week. It's not that I don't love toy trains, I do. But it seems with a good part of our country completely trashed and people dying and starving, talking about trains seems almost offensive.

I am sure some of our fellow TCA, TTOS, LCCA members have collections that are now destroyed or are underwater. My guess is that they are wondering when (if ever) they can move back into their homes. Hopefully they all made it through with a minimum of injury.

New Orleans was easily one of nicest cities in our country or the world for that matter. It was real (meaning it had people that lived in it and wasn't just a tourist attraction) and it had a strong sense of history and it was always exciting to visit.

If anyone has any information on TCA Hurricane Survivors or their families, please send it to me and I will publish it.

Please donate to at least one relief effort. These are our people.