Saturday, November 26, 2005
Pridelines is putting out some very cool stuff, as evidenced by the preceding two flyers showing some incredible Voltamp Cars as well as the new Clown Train.
MK: John, I thought you were shutting down, going out of business! What happened?
JD: We are. Marc, I'm 72 years old. This is a 7 day a week deal. My son and son in law have been doing this for almost 25 years. They want to try other things. It's not that I don't like it, somehow I think it is in your blood, especially when you do it right. This is hard work and I just need to slow down.
MK: Then why start on the Voltamp gear? And the new trains?
JD: Well, when I started collecting, Voltamp, Carlisle and Finch and so on was plentiful and very inexpensive. Nobody collected it. At one point I had well over 30 Voltamp sets. They were spectacular.
MK: No doubt about that, from what little Voltamp I have seen it has a ton of personality and quality.
JD: Correct. And that's exactly why I thought it was appropriate for Pridelines to produce it. We produce items that other folks will never produce. Either the quantities are too small or they just aren't realistic for Chinese production. These Voltamp trolleys are a perfect case in point. They are highly unusual to see as a collector. Marc, guess how many people have asked for these in standard gauge? 42. Guess how many folks wanted them in stock Voltamp configurations? 3. We've sold 45 so far.
JD: I just saw some Voltamp go at the Ward Kimball collection for $32k. That's just outrageous. That just isn't what toy trains are all about. Great product should be reasonable for everyone to afford. And with originals, I don't see prices going down anytime soon.
MK: Again, I thought you were retiring (but I do hope you sell many more of these)!
JD: I am. I'm slowing down. That doesn't stop me from liking trains or wanting to build more. I have more Voltamp standard gauge on the burner!
JD: That's right. I am thinking about some very rare Voltamp Steeple Cabs in standard gauge. With a passenger and freight set. I'm considering the project right now, doing a little planning, and some drawing.
MK: Doesn't sound like you're retiring to me. Frankly that's ok, I'd like to keep a standard gauge manufacturer going!
JD: Well, that's not going to happen. We just can't invest the time and make the quality everyone expects. Quality being the key word.
MK: What about this clown train?
JD: That's actually kind of interesting. I like circus trains and I wanted to do something different. You know we actually also proposed and used the 1764 in circus colors and paint for the circus train as well?
MK: Sign me up? Actually, I'll pass, I have plenty of 1764's. What about all of the amazing Disney stuff you produced?
JD: When Eisner came in, the Disney stuff ended. There's more to it but it doesn't need to get published. Let's just say Disney Stores and Disney proper haven't had a nice train since Pridelines stopped producing them.
MK: I'd have to agree but I would love to see the franchise rekindled some day. The use of the characters with toy trains really seemed appropriate.
JD: Our stuff was the best, no doubt about it. We really did justice to the Disney vision.
MK: I know this is the stuff of many publications, but could you tell me how you got started?
JD: I came out of the Airforce in 1958. Much of my time was at Mitchell Field in Long Island, right by Hofstra University. I went to Hofstra for a while after I left the military but they raised the prices so I left.
MK: I know, they raised the prices right before I left as well. My degree cost an arm and a leg!
JD: Well, I went to Pratt in Brooklyn. That area of Brooklyn has changed but it is still a great school. Then I worked at Grumman for 25 years. At one point after 25 years, I quit. I looked at my boss and he said "You're giving up all this!". I said "I am taking all this with me. If I can do this, putting toy trains together shouldn't be a stretch." I haven't looked back.
MK: That's a good attitude. I wish I could take that attitude in today's world.
JD: Well, I do everything with more than a touch of quality. Look at the new Voltamp motors. They are exactly like they were in the Voltamp originals. Absolutely no compromises at all. No can motors or substitutes. I am not taking any liberties.
MK: What about all of the other stuff you produced? Has eBay had an impact on your business?
JD: I get quite a few repairs and the like from eBay. eBay tends to artificially inflate prices and rarity. People purchase items that need severe repairs; the repairs cost more than the item is worth. I would urge everyone purchasing on eBay to exercise caution, especially when purchasing Pridelines items. We will still sell parts for an extended period of time and very likely support our products in perpetuity. But I get all kinds of calls from people that purchase on eBay. Just exercise some common sense.
MK: Do you see fakes?
JD: Yes, I have. Some stuff has been manufactured to look almost original. Look on the bottom of every Pridelines item. It is abundantly clear who made it.
MK: John, did you ever produce that Boucher Blue Comet?
JD: No. Only about 30% of that project was completed. Again, Boucher was not as collectible in the early days, now it is beyond rare. In the early 70's, we couldn't charge enough to make a decent living....
MK: But now....
JD: Well now is a different story and a Boucher Blue Comet would really be something. I had quite a few original Boucher sets and they were amazing. We just couldn't produce something like that today. It would just be overwhelming.
MK: I'd still love to see it if you ever did produce it.
JD: It really would be something different. That's what's missing in today's toy trains. Everyone is competing to bring out the same thing. One manufacturer brings out a product and then 3 weeks later another manufacturer brings out an identical product made in the same part of China. I really miss the days when everyone was doing different projects.
MK: Well John, I am glad you are still making toys.
JD: Look for that Voltamp soon!
Thanks John and keep up the great work as long as you can! You do one heck of a job and I know I will miss Pridelines!
Thursday, November 24, 2005
Ok, I don't have a pacemaker but I will be ordering one of these sets. It's a nice looking set that has just the right amount of whimsy that I need.
I like circus sets and I have always liked K-Lines Circus speeder. The McCoy Circus set is legendary and I don't think this clown set will be any less.
Has anyone ever seen the Pridelines Boucher Blue Comet? Just curious -
Don't make us beg Pridelines!
When I see trolley's like this, I think of that old song from Schoolhouse Rock (filler inbetween Saturday morning cartoons from 1973 to 1985 that were brilliant and eventually turned into a Broadway Musical). "Interjections (Hey!) show excitement (Yow!) or emotion (Ouch!). They're generally set apart from a sentence by an exclamation point, or by a comma when the feeling's not as strong."
Heck, old Voltamp is hard enough to see so to see something new produced is exciting.
My Dad loved Lionel but he never had the time to actually collect anything. He had 5 kids to feed and still found time to take a precocious 9 year old to some very large train meets in Michigan and at the Fairlane Town Center in Dearborn, Mi.. That had to be the biggest meet I have ever seen in my life (no, not as big as York but close).
I am thankful that I have a family that tolerates my folly with trains and toys (sometimes going broke until the next paycheck) and lives with a train room and office that has been referred to as the "largest petry dish in the world". If you look in the Thesaurus under thankful, you will see "beholden, content, contented, grateful, gratified, indebted, much obliged, obliged, overwhelmed, pleased, relieved, satisfied". I am all of those things with my life, family and hobby. I hope you are too. Happy holidays -
I was really anxious to get up and play with some trains today but about a thousand chores before dinner got in the way.
To the left; a few McCoy items I have been looking for. The Interurbans are especially nice. The Rapid Rabbit is another cool little item I have wanted for some time as well. I just haven't seen this kind of innovation in standard gauge lately. Based on the scarcity and cost of these items, I have to believe there is a market for them. I'd love to test my new MTH switches with the Rapid Rabbit. I tried a McCoy Trolley I have (prototype built with Jim Cohen) on some Gargraves Track the other day and it was absolutely smooth as glass. I have to imagine the Interurbans run the same way. By the way, when I say smooth it runs better than some Pittman motor product I have. I think it's also because McCoy had the flanging on the wheels right. Whatever it is, I'd love to see the above trains!
Check out the catalog pics to the left. I was perusing an old McCoy catalog last night from 1982. This stuff was unusual and eclectic. I wonder how well these trains worked on a pike?
I've seen some nice McCoy sets going on eBay this week. Some of them for a decent chunk of cash. I've seen a few go at auction for a goodly amount of cash as well. I know these are great toys. I guess from the great collections I have seen like James' they must have passed into the realm of highly collectible. Truth be told, I've never actually seen a fully loaded McCoy Cascade pulling a circus train. It must be quite a sight! Can anyone send me some pics?
Friday, November 18, 2005
This auction is going to be amazing. Not much Lionel but an amazing collection of everything else. Check it out using the link above.
Thursday, November 17, 2005
This literature is detoriorating. I'm no paper expert but I can see the paper is breaking down. This isn't good quality printing (probably how they kept the costs down).
Matter of fact, it is mediocre printing at best, the pages were typed and then copied. Copiers just weren't at the top of their game in 1958. I'm not sure how these were printed, the font is courier from start to finish and the whole magazine looked like it was typed on a vintage Underwood (see the picture to get an idea).
The printing is really light and a bit difficult to read.
I don't think I'll be able to scan much of these into the blog although I do know some real paper experts (not train paper but people that are really experts with old documents). I'll see if I can get them scanned in.
So what do these read like? They read like the early days of toy train collecting. The pontification of bi-laws, rules and meeting minutes looks a lot like the early days of the TCA. Most of the folks in the club actually became long standing members in the TCA.
There was a die-hard brilliance to these guys I just can't get over. They were so serious about this stuff, it really floors me. This club and collecting was almost like a way of life for them. I only know one of them. Jim Cohen was a member but he didn't seem terribly enamored with membership. He's not enamored with membership in any organization (but that's a topic for another time).
Reading this stuff is like reading scripture. These guys were really serious about solving any mystery thrown their way. In one article, they look at the origins of the dark green 408E. They asked Irving Shull to take them to the Lionel Factory in Irvington where they spoke to the two guys that ran the paintshop in the 30's. Can you friggin imagine? These guys thought the dark green 408E they borrowed from Doc Robinson was a fake because it had some of the inside grills bent. It turns out the guys in the Lionel paint shop remembered painting some 408E's dark green and when they couldn't get the grills to fit in properly they bent them to get them to fit right. Turns out every dark green 408E they were sitting on was real!
They mention that at their meets many of the participants actually date the motors, parts and pieces so they can collect variations like stamp collectors. Price didn't really even enter into the picture because there was so much stuff and so few collecting. This access gave these folks something interesting; time to really compare and study the items. Plus it seems like they had access to a tremendous amount of high quality pieces at almost no cost (or what we would consider no cost). They also talked about fakes, which I found fascinating because the payoff for a fake was diddly (or at least what I think is diddly now; $10 then but a ton of fresh trains).
And if you are interested in Ives, I gotta tell ya, I know some Ives collectors and these guys have everyone beat. I have never seen so much detail about Ives production, especially by people like Hertz. Many of these folks had substantial amounts of experience in both the Ives and Lionel factories during production and they were interested even when they were kids.
I haven't counted them yet but I think I have six or seven of these. Not many were published. How do you think I should try and get these out on to the blog? I've only read about 6 pages and the stuff is fascinating. I know everyone will enjoy it.
Here is the flyer I just received for the Doyle book. Looks good, I'll definitely be grabbing more standard gauge literature.
It's friggin freezing here in the Northeast! I'm going to be eyeballing some standard gauge literature this weekend.
Wednesday, November 16, 2005
Friday, November 11, 2005
Here's my spin on that idea -
I have an extra MTH Standard Gauge boxcar (NIB). It's just sitting in my closet. If I were to get a whole bunch of really great pictures and some stories in my inbox, the "said" boxcar could get Fed Ex'ed to a lucky story teller.
I got an MTH 500 series freight, new in the box. The best pictures and stories about the largest layouts you have seen will win the boxcar. I get decide which story is the best (with a little reader feedback) and I get to decide who gets the freight. Rules and regulations? Solely my discretion and decision. Compensation for stories I don't use??? No.
Please send in any stories and pics you have of the biggest layouts you have ever seen. Even if they are of your own layout. You could win a free freight car (Standard Gauge, MTH).
Thursday, November 10, 2005
E. Carl Pieper instructs Michael Bartoli of the "work crew" on how to determine how much trock and signal wiring will be needed to set up a new track area. The amount of track in use at the time exceeded one half mile, valued at more than $1,000.
"We never know," Pieper said, "when the phone is going to ring and someone will say: 'Mr. Pieper, I hear you have a fabulous railroad and my son is going to celebrate his birthday next week. I'd like to bring a group over with him to see the railroad.' "
He added that they always arrange to accommodate their visitors. The home of this LPIU family at 12 Hunters Lane is always open to visitors on Sundays.
They never charge admission.
In addition to the railroad, this charming New England house has its own "game" room upstairs, which includes, among other hospitality divertissements, its own pool table and its own outdoor swimming pool that is part of the "back of the house" and not "out there" in the backyard.
The Piepers always hope that some of their guests have trains they don't want, or will spread the word to others who have old unwanted trains, to give or sell them for their line.
In addition to the railroad itself visitors see a maze of bridges, crossing gates, floodlights, water towers, loading stations, electric plants, towns, trees, rivers, animals - and even an operating ski lift complex complete with tiny figures zooming down a mountain slope.
In their living room, to the right of the mantel is a 1903 Lionel train, one of their very first, along with other trains. The dining room features the oldest model train - approximately 100 years old.
A baggage or emergency lantern can be seen in the hallway. If electric power ever goes out - they can light the candle in the lantern. The den features wallpaper with trains as the pattern.
Marker lanterns can be seen in the playroom, more train models and a large old bronze bell of a Norfolk and Western freight locomotive that gongs and reverberates.
The cookie jar in the kitchen is a "Puffing belly" done in pottery, and the stairwell to the basement is lined with rosters of maior railroads. Toy train catalogues can be seen back to 1903.
The cost of the locomotives ranges between $15 and $500 and all equipment is itemized and insured.
The situation has changed since the Piepers moved to Norwalk. At that time Carl couldn't interest any adu1ts in his railroad. Finally, one neighborhood child became interested, then another, until finally all the youngsters in the neighborhood at one time or another have helped. After that, some of the parents became interested and one of them painted a lake scene to be used as a backdrop.
Now, the Friday night "work crew" is drawn from all over Norwalk.
Since all the trains are at least 30 years old and standard gauge is no longer manufactured, Carl does his own repair work and has a huge supply of spare parts.
To furnish enough electrical power to run the rail line, when he built the house, Carl put in a 200 ampere electrical service - enough for a small factory - and uses 150 for the house and 50 for the railroad.
The youngsters aren't allowed to run the trains when they first join the "crew." "They start out as gandy dancers - track walkers - and work up, job by job, to engineer, after which they're allowed to run the trains," Carl explained.
He has a regular "work roster" to keep track of work schedued for his helpers. With a laugh this boss added: "At the wages I pay, I can't afford to fire them." When they report on Friday, they check their duty lists, don their uniforms (regulation railroad caps with metal badges donated by the Great Northem) and tuck a blue and red bandanna in the back pocket of their jeans.
The boys learn all there is to know about model railroads - wiring, track laying, maintenance and repairs.
Carl, who has heen the Union's correspondent for both Locals 90p and 65P and is now Local 90p correspondent for the GRAPHIC ARTS UNIONIST, said:
"As much as I like to run these, I get an even bigger kick out of watching these kids learn model railroading."
"That's the real purpose C & E," agreed Emily.
MAIN PASSENGER TERMINAL.
"Work crew" member Christopher "Dusty" Yost ond C & E Railroad Pres. E. Carl Pieper solder a broken wire on the bumper of a train sidetracked in front of the main passenger terminal of the rail line. The all chrome train on the right is on American Flyer display train which was featured at the 1933 World's Fair in Chicago. LPIU member Pieper says it is the most expensive train in his collection and would probably sell for $3,000. The youngsters learn from Carl all there is to know about model railroods.
Thanks to Mr. Cohen for helping me fill in some of the blanks on this article. Again, my apologies for the typos. This old typset is really nice to read and look at but can be a bear and a half to scan in. Please contribute to the blog, I'd love to hear some RECENT stories like this one.
Kenneth Frazier, one of the C & E Railroad's Friday night "work crew." under the watchful eye of LPIU's
E. Carl Pieper, conducts cleaning up operations in the eastbound classification yard. This is the area where freight cars are sidetracked and then selected,
assembled, loaded and put into operation.
Wednesday, November 09, 2005
This maze of wires is the central operation that runs six trains, in the complex C & E Railroad in E. Carl Pieper's home. On the night that the Graphic Art's Unionist inspected the line, there was a malfunction in this "brain," but it was diagnosed and corrected by Pieper after a quick look. The complete railroad occupies a total of 2,100 square feet in the basement, which was specially constructed to house the collection and is large enough to contain four full size bowling alleys.
TRACING WIRING CIRCUIT. John Bunzick, son of Stamford local 90P cameraman G. leo Bunzick, a shopmate of E. Carl Pieper at Graphic Color Plate, works with Pieper while tracing the wiring circuit on a gate crossing signal to hook it up so that it will operate automatically. The complete wiring circuit can keep six trains running simultaneously on a half mile of track.
To increase the space, "we cut tunnels under the eaves and the trains used to run right out onto the ledge that ran around the house we had in New Haven," Carl said.
The lack of space for the trains and commuting 500 miles a week to work got to be too much for Carl and the couple built the specially designed house for the trains when they moved to Norwalk.
Carl has also changed jobs through the years. Previous to his present job, he had spent 10 years at Fairfield Litho in Stamford, an offset platemaker (an LPIU contract shop of both Locals 90P and 76L).
Before that, he was a router blocker at Watson-Cheney, a contract shop of Hartford Local 33P and Rundbaken Engraving Co. in New Haven, a Local 65P contract shop, where he was secretary-treasurer for five years as an apprentice (the only photoengraver apprentice, perhaps, ever to hold such a high local post).
This veteran unionist has been a member of the Union since 1946, when he helped organize Rundbaken. He is also a charter member of the Train Collectors Association of America, an organization of railroad hobbyists, which does not dispute his claim to having the largest model railroad in the world. One model railroader from Southport, Conn. challenged his title, but, after getting a look at the line, withdrew his challenge. In telling of the building of his railroad's present facilities, Carl said: "It was two solid years afterwe started work before we could run our first train."
The Gold Spike laying ceremony was held in 1960, with 165 visitors watching the president of the Lionel Corp. driving the spike. Through the years, approximately 7,000 persons have visited the Pieper home to see the line in operation. Some have arrived from as far away as South Africa, Alaska, California, the State Of Washington, Florida and the Virgin Islands.
Tuesday, November 08, 2005
From all over the world, train collector hobbyists come to see the railroad put together over 40 years by longtime photoengraver member E. Carl Pieper of Stamford's Local 90P.
How would you like to combine two careers - that of a photoengraving router at a graphic arts plant and of president of a railroad? Elwood C. Picper, a member of Stamford Local 90P, has done just that. The railroad - the C & E Line is located in the basement of his Norwalk, Conn. home, which was constructed especially to house the cars, engines, tracks, stations and all other equipment of the railroad, which is now valued at $50,000. "The whole thing hegan when I got my first toy train 40 years ago on Christmas of 1928 - and I still have it," Pieper explained. "It hegan growing and just never stopped. "Last August my wife (Emily) and I had an offer of $50,000 from a West Coast millionaire for our layout. We turned it down. "Our rolling stock is worth $25,000 and the more than one half mile of track we have is valued at in excess of $1,000. We have more than 1,000 pieces, including 250 locomotives and 500 cars, Making it the largest standard gauge model railroad in the world." Pieper proudly declared. The railroad, which occupies 2,100 square feet - 28 by 56 feet by 28 hy 18 feet arranged in an 'L' shape - is big enough to contain four full size howling alleys.
The line officially received its charter in 1954, thc 'C' standing for Carl, Pieper's middle name (and the name his family uses), and the 'E' for his wife, Emily. Carl, known as "Ellie" by his shopmates at Graphic Color Plate Inc. in Stamford, is president of the line. Emily is vice president in charge of the president and is supervisor of dining cars, which keeps her busy on Friday nights when youngsters living in Norwalk, Conn., now numhering seven, come to work as the railroad's work "crew."
Every Friday, at 9:15 p. m., Pieper orders a "soda break" for his helper. A train bell weighing 300 pounds is struck to signal arrival of the soda and cookies - supplied hy Emily in her official capacity. After the soda break, thcy do no more actual work on the line, but operate six trains at once from the master control board. A fascinating pattern of motion, sound and light from the illuminated cars holds the viewer's attention. The engines puffing and chugging, signal lights blinking, crossing gates opening and closing, whistles blowing and the smoke and din is something to hehold. When the basement lights are all turned out, and the only illumination comes from the trains and signals themselves, the onlooker can easily become hypnotized. While Emily had encouraged Carl to bring his few trains out of moth balls (continued).
There's much more...
PS Sorry for the typos, the OCR isn't perfect.
I spoke to a friend of mine (Jim Cohen). He'd seen the layout and said it was by far the largest he had ever seen. He said that there was at least a half mile of track. I scanned in the whole article and did some optical character recognition. Ergo, here is the article and captions.
"MODEL TRAINS (AND BOY'S JOY) UNLIMITED. Typical of youngsters (of all ages) was the response of then seven year old Jefferson Moody when he first saw the world's largest model railroad, owned by Stamford Local 90P member E. Carl Pieper. Jeff was with his father, Managing Editor William Moody of the Graphic Arts Unionist, when he covered the story for the magazine. Jeff now has a lifetime C & E pass No. 209 "good for transportation on all trains, subject to conditions and rules started by the company". Jeff is now eager to "join the crew" of local youngsters who spend several hours of their time "working on the railroad" every Friday night."
Saturday, November 05, 2005
I probably shouldn't watch auctions and try to fix shorts in my track at the same time. It's my own damn fault, I need to get the track off the floor. I've stepped on it at least 6 times and I have a feeling the steel rails are saying something like "if this fat bastard steps on me again I'm going to send his precious Ives set into the friggin closet!". I already have an orange mark on my wall where a Hiawatha kicked off the track and took out a chunk of trim on the wall. As long as the train wasn't damaged!!