Sunday, December 31, 2006

Happy New Year!

Merry New Year!

Merry New Year! Check out this prodigious bit of motive power at the New York Transit Museum. I've attached a bit of Youtube video for your perusal.

Again, the models are great but just don't do the real thing justice. This 1910 Steeple cab is spectacular up close.

Remember, movies in 1910 were still silent and yet this Steeple Cab could be used today with no penalty!
This Steeplecab is Brooklyn #5. Click on Brooklyn (above) to get much more detail on these dimunitive little engines. I've heard about them almost my entire life but I've only seen one other in New Haven and it wasn't in nearly the same shape this one is. I recently read that this Steeple does fan excusions and the like. I will be watching out for that trip and maybe doing some advertising on the blog to get some of our readers out of the house or office!
This thing is just gorgeous, I hope that some clever manufacturers decide to put some of these together. Even the inside has some real personality, it reminded me of the inside of an old ship. Not every engine needs to haul anxious passengers around the East or West Coast. I'd be happy just get my coal from Jersey to New Haven!

Saturday, December 30, 2006

Here's some Transit Museum Trains....

These are wood elevated BRT (Brooklyn Rapid Transit Cars). They were built in 1904 and 1905 in Laconia, New Hampshire (I hope I spelled it correctly).

They were originally pulled by steam engines and were converted to electric. They were used at the World's Fair and refurbished in 1979. They were in service from 1904 through 1969.

Ok, some very basic history is out of the way. These cars are breathtaking. I'm not kidding. If you like old trains, these cars are the high mark in train manufacture. Maybe it's the New Hampshire wood or the decor that is nicer than most homes. I can only say these are the by far some of the nicest train cars I have ever been in.

First and foremost, they are made out of natural materials. The woodwork in these cars is just spectacular, outside and in. When you look at the cars from the front looking back, you get the spitting image of the Hudson Tube Train. Yes, I know this is an El and was in Brooklyn. The colors are so rich on this train, it's like rolling artwork. It's hard to believe people got to ride in these things. I would imagine the steam ride wasn't as smooth as the electric ride; I still have to believe these ride beautifully. I can see why old folks were so nostalgic when I was a kid. Subways today aren't even close to these cars. The wicker seats are vastly more comfortable than the plastic "ergonomic" seats today.

Yes, trolley's have similar amazing set ups as well but these things moved millions of people. Really, you have to go and see these things up close to appreciate them. I would really love to see tinplate of these trains. I wonder if there's anything even close?

More Transit Museum Pics

A few more pics of the ultimate ZW. As many of you know, there were a few trolleys in NYC at one point as well. This wasn't lost on the Transit Museum.

I wish there was a fully blown NYC Trolley, fortunately there were plenty of models and a ton of interesting history.

Check 'em out (there's a ton more I just haven't posted, we'll get to the trains shortly).



I've been chiming in about TMCC vs. DCS on the Standard Gauge Groups. I'd imagine everyone is tired of hearing my rambling.

This little pic is from the NY Transit Museum and it is a prewar bridge control (for a real bridge, not Lionel).

I will post a few more pics, it's really amazing. When I see this thing, it makes me think of how far we have come and yet how amazing this old stuff is. The interaction between the operator and the controls is so obvious, even 80 years after it was built. It's just an incredible chunk of machinery and I could easily see it controlling a standard gauge pike. No, I couldn't walk around but I could control a whole lot of stuff and never have to worry about anyone losing the remote!


Ok, one more:

Friday, December 29, 2006

Toy Trains Unlimited Layout

The guys at TTU just keep amazing me. I know they have plans to reproduce some larger layouts and I have a feeling nobody is going to be disappointed.

I am glad to have folks like TTU around. I know it's a longshot but I'd love to see one of their layouts at the next York.

Has anyone out there purchased the fabled Lionel Bridge Dealer layout that has some time to discuss it or show some pics?


NY Transit Museum II

The entrance to the museum is a very old subway booth. For someone into old trains, this thing is just over the top.

It's in gorgeous condition and gave me a couple of ideas for things I'd like to do with my train room.

What I noticed was how the structure was warm and inviting yet still kept the clerks away from the commuters.

Here's a stack of dynamite. Actually it's what's used to build railroads and subways everywhere. It's probably the most effective way to clear ALOT of rock or stuff all at once. Some fodder for layout ideas. Plus I just thought it made a neat picture.

More on the way!

NY Transit Museum

Well, I was knocking around Brooklyn today and I managed to jump into the NYC Transit Museum for an hour (or two).

If you have never been to this museum, it is worth the time, especially if you are in New York City anyway.

It's well thought out and has some of the nicest trains YOU WILL EVER SEE, especially subways. So here comes a series on the transit museum! The above picture is of Schermerhorn Street in Brooklyn (where the Transit Museum is located). The current exhibit highlites the actual building of the subway system (it is tremendously interesting). They also have an old toy exhibit (who'd a thunk it?) and some other stuff that's just amazing. I was there when it first opened many years ago and it doesn't disappoint to this day. There are quite a few tourists there as well as some very die hard subway people (I encountered one who COULD NOT stop talking).

Lots of pics and some video footage of a real 1910 Steeple Cab.


Thursday, December 28, 2006

The Use of Signals

FluxusReadymade sent me this great video of a #50 making the rounds and his excellent use of switches and signals. This is all of what trains are about. I need to slapped upside the head and reminded that it's the playing, not the collecting and acquisition that's important. This is really cool and Fluxus is experimenting with some newer vids and lighting. Hopefully he'll have some time! He asked that we please forgive the darkness, it's an initial attempt and not the only one.

On a different note, I have a question into Youtube. I am wondering how long the links and videos last before they are archived and/or discarded. I often look at old low tech bulletins and quarterlies (TCA, TTOS, etc.).

While low tech, they have preserved their messages for almost half a century. I need to work and make sure the blog isn't lost to antiquity as well. I got thinking about it when I tried to consider how I could read Jim Kelly's website offline in magazine form. It ocurred to me that I would love to have it as a reference for many years hence. I was looking at a CD last night and it had a picture from the mid-20th century of Louis Hertz and some folks from the Ives Train Society putting up the plaque on the Ives building. Low tech, yet seen by many....

I think of all of the computers I have in storage and how getting data off of them is difficult and time consuming. I've got to figure out a way to get the info off of the blog (and net in general) while retaining the formatting, etc.. I have thought about how many local TCA news columns and e-Trains I have seen online and the fact that I may not always be able to get to them.

It's easier to publish now; it's also easier to drop our work into the blowing winds of net-time and never see it again as well....

Quik 384E Jersey Central Vid

Here's a quick video I did of MTH's new set. It's downright hard to believe this is a starter set. I'll do some longer videos. Building these can be time consuming. I tend to do them at night which isn't such a great idea. The light at night in my attic is not great. It's great for train lighting, not great for filming. Here u go....

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Another YouTube Vid...

Ok, check out this neat little Youtube vid. I am hoping the poster gets a few more of these going...

On another note. If you haven't checked out the Tinplate Times..... Well, you really should. We're lucky to have a guy like Jim Kelly architecting an online magazine like this. I just wish some of the bigger publications would take note and follow Jim's lead (you know, articles that are easy to read an interesting to anyone).

Bounce over to the Prewar Times. There's a neat bit of info up on Toy Trains Unlimited. I am waffling on whether to irritate my spouse and pick up one of those incredible Prewar bridges/layouts they build. Damn they're good. And they are made in America!!! Makes it that much easier to justify (at least in my pathetic train addled mind).

Here is the vid:

Here's a video that has been making its' way around the Tinplate Forums. Be sure to leave feedback for the authors on Youtube and let them know that the effort and time is appreciated. This is time consuming and getting it right is tough.

Rob's Holiday Layout

Here's Rob's holiday layout. Rob is $$$mint on eBay. He's also a great guy and a train collector (which is what probably makes him such a cool eBay seller).

So here's some pics of his holiday layout.

And some YouTube video as well....

Many thanks Rob (and have a great 2007)!!!

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

New Holiday Tinplate!

Here it is, the latest addition to the rails just arrived Dec. 25. This new MTH 384E Blue Comet is just irresistible. I love the sounds and man, what smoke! The add on cars are great too, especially the wonderful floodlight car with the New Jersey Central lettering on the lenses. What a set!

Monday, December 25, 2006

Monday morning and what to my wondering eyes does appear? It looks like some new tinplate stacked by the chimney with care!
Jim (busy opening boxes)

Al Says "Merry Christmas"

A very fitting card from one of our readers (Al). Merry Christmas right back at ya (and a Happy New Year).

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Merry Christmas....

I thought this TTOS cover from 1975 kind of captured the spirit of the season. TTOS really had some amazing Christmas covers in the past. I'll post a few more. It shows quite a few of the items we treasured including (but not exclusive to) trains. Now if I can just find the Lincoln Log set in my Mom's basement....


Mike's #6 Youtube Vid

A great vid of why standard gauge trains are consistently the choice of holiday celebraters everywhere!


Thursday, December 21, 2006

Lionel #27 DC Car Lighting Set

Here are two photos of my Lionel #27 DC car lighting set, which was cataloged from 1911 to 1921. On the Standard gauge list there was some discussion recently of a set that just closed on EBAY for over $300.00. The high close was apparently due to the fact that the set had two pointed tip light bulbs, and the original box with an address for Lionel (381 Broadway) that dated the set to 1912. So I guess Lionel moved in the early years. Does anyone know what the Lionel New York factory addresses were by date?

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Grand Central & Christmas

Last Saturday I organized a trip and took 12 members of my local train club to New York City riding on the New Jersey Transit Northeast corridor line. Once in town we visited Grand Central Station to see the spectacular new light show and the MTA museum branch in the station. There is some tinplate on display and the Lionel layout is drawing a big crowd (see the write up in the December issue of CTT.) Other attractions we visited included FAO Schwartz and "The Station" multi-gauge layout at the CitiGroup building. FAO Schwartz has a nice contemporary Lionel display, but my cast iron floor toy collector friend and I spent more time in the antique toy department tucked away around the corner from Lionel. There we found many high end tin toy treasures suitable as a gift for the toy train collector who has everything!

Sunday, December 17, 2006

More On Bridges

SGB reader Jon Hinderer sent in these great shots of his favorite standard gauge bridge, the American Flyer "Salt Lake" wooden span. Jon is building a layout but unfortunately construction is on hold since he found out that his new Pride Lines Voltamp interurban won't clear the bridge! I'm with Jon on this one - I really like these AF bridges although I don't own one. I like the longer version with the approaches, light, and telephone pole castings. Does anyone have that version on their layout?

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Steam Layout?

I just saw this and it intrigued me. Has anyone ever seen this? A steam layout?

I was curious. How many people have experience with real steam? What happens if you mix it with a regular layout?

It looks to me like this stuff is pretty controlled. I've seen quite a few steam engines in my life and these look pretty cool. I saw an article some time back in CTT about faking steam power. This company (The Great Steam Company) also has some really cool steam driven people. Check them out (especially the machine shops they have). To coin a Monty Python phrase; And now for something completely different.


Thursday, December 14, 2006

Lionel/MTH Lawsuit Not a Done Deal... Again...

Lionel weasled out of paying or admitting any wrong-doing by yet again playing the appeals game.

This isn't reporting and I don't have to be fair or balanced (usually a phrase used by people that are neither).

It's my opinion. I'm sick of hearing about this lawsuit and I don't like it when corporations dodge responsibility by legal manuevering.

Check out the CTT article on it by using the link above. Lionel should have paid their bills and moved on. Make some great trains and let the customers decide with their wallets and loyalty.

Guess that rooster flew the coop today. More depositions! More attorneys fees! Less wonderful toy trains.


Wednesday, December 13, 2006

"Any Boy Will Be Proud To Own One Of Them"

...but I'd prefer to have three in a row! Picking up on the accessories thread and Marc's post about bridges, the Lionel 280 bridge is my "accessory of the day." I've always felt that the little 280 standard gauge bridge is an underrated item. I only have one on my layout in a spot where I could use two, but I haven't found the matching late light green/nickel plates piece that I need just yet. Introduced in 1931 and catalogued until the end of the prewar era, the 280, 281 (dual bridge) and 282 (triple span) boasted a design "taken from the great railroad bridges in America" complete with "a foot path on each side with a handsome portal at either end of the path." Does anyone have two of these, or even better, three of them in a row on your layout? Send us pictures of your single 280 bridge or multiple bridges, and we'll post them.


Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Congratulations Mike!

Congratulations to our good friend and regular SGB reader
Mike Isenberg, whose really beautiful standard gauge under the holiday tree themed photo appears on pages 18 and 19 of the just out January 2007 issue of Classic Toy Trains magazine. Mike is a real pro when it comes to the graphic arts and his photo shows just how talented he is with a camera. The photo shows Mike's magnificent Lionel black 400E circling under a dazzling tree with lots of great accessories in the background. One of Mike's wonderful Coke billboard reproductions can also be seen in the shot. Mike's photo is so good that it just blows away the two other photos included in the two page spread. 'Way to go Mike!
I happen to know that, in spite of how good it is, it took Mike several years to get his photo into CTT. I gave up trying to get them to publish any of my shots. Once I sent them what I thought was a charming photo of a couple of my old war horse standard gauge locos that were seeing duty on my layout at the time. They wrote me back saying that the locos were too scratchy, and didn't I have something that looked nicer (newer)! So I wrote them back and asked: "Isn't your magazine called Classic Toy Trains?" Well, they backtracked a bit at this, but rejected my photo anyway. They have their standards and publish the magazine the way they want to, but CTT's glossy, over-lit, fluffed up photo pages, which are mostly devoid of standard gauge, leave me wishing for something that better captures the charm, nostalgia, authenticity, and originality of our genuine Classic trains. We need a Classic Pre-War Toy Trains magazine or something like that with editors who appreciate the trains so many of us are collecting and running in addition to the new stuff. But then again, we have Marc's Standard Gauge Blog. So how about it? Send us some photos of your trains, accessories and layouts and we'll put them right here!

Seen any new bridges lately?

I like bridges. It's one of the reasons why I love New York City. You can have the restaraunts, the Bohemian lifestyle. I'll keep the cornbeef sandwiches, the bridges and the trains.

If there is one place I'd love to see some innovation, it is in the bridges. I'd love a Brooklyn Bridge. How about a standard gauge Bascule Bridge (saw one the other day when I was driving by Newark Airport). I drove by the Brooklyn and Williamsburg bridges yesterday on the FDR (yes, I also saw the Hellgate). They would look great even in an abbreviated form (as standard gauge tends to do). Plus instead of running JUST to Ward's Island (like the Hellgate) they also run to a slightly more populated area.

I'll try and dig up some pictures of the old Dorfan and Ives Bridges. They were nice but they couldn't handle heavy motive power or anything going fast. They are generally missing most of their paint but they had a quaintness about them that was always kind of nice. Go easy on the old Hellgate. It's getting overdone.


Monday, December 11, 2006

Books, Catalogs, and Paper

One of the aspects of the hobby I enjoy is collecting books, certain catalogs, and other paper like instruction sheets and magazine advertisements. I have, I think, a pretty good library in terms of books on prewar standard gauge, but only a small collection of related paper. I know that there is a paper collector's group that meets at York. I sent in a request to join a few months ago but I must have used an old address because the envelope was returned. If anyone has current contact information for the paper group please post it in the comments section. In addition to books I do keep the TCA Quarterly magazines I receive, and I buy back issues from time to time when I see them at train meets. The various Greenberg's Guides probably form the core of my standard gauge related book collection. Over the years I've managed to acquire most of them that focus on prewar trains. It's a shame that it is unlikely that they will ever be reprinted. The TCA Lionel book is also a must for any serious collector. David Doyle's book on prewar Lionel is a welcome contemporary addition to the library. Doyle also edited the recently published 6th edition of O'Briens Collecting Toy Trains - another excellent recent tome. I sure hope that there are more such books about prewar tinplate on the horizon.


Sunday, December 10, 2006

Mark Your Trains For Safety

There's an interesting article in the latest TCA National Headquarters News penned by Gordon Wilson entitled "Mark Your Trains For Safety." Gordon suggests using an "Invisible Ink" pen to mark your trains, so that no one can do the old switcheroo on you and claim you sold them something not as you advertised on EBAY, or just for identification in case of theft. Here's the bottom of one of my standard gauge tinplate tenders. No markings are visible, but thanks to the pen it does carry my TCA number written with the invisible ink pen.

The pen has a built in ultraviolet light source that you use to "see" the invisible writing.

The pens are available from the TCA Desert Division in quantities of one or more at $10.00 per unit including shipping. Send checks to Robert Herman, Desert Division Treasurer, 11429 N. 68Th Street, Scottsdale, AZ 85254.

It's too bad that we have to take precautions., but better safe than sorry.


Saturday, December 09, 2006

Where's the Railway System?

Ives got it. A "system" in 1909. We all assume trains are now made in a system. But with different means of control (TMCC vs. DCS) and different radius of track, high rail vs. low rail (or whatever isn't "super detailed") can anyone claim to have a system?

Does system mean ecosystem or was it just a clever way to sell trains 100 years ago? I like it, at least conceptually. Plus I think the advertising is neat. Better than the current dribble from toy companies and/or utter gibberish like drug/car/home improvement or whatever companies.

Should new trains and toys be made as part of a system? Seems like the concept has been lost (except by wildly successful companies like.... Lego).


Road Trip

Marc posted recently about accessories, so here's a look at one of my favorite accessories - my "accessory of the day" for today. This American Flyer goodie is a tough one to find in original, complete, condition because of the "zincpest" problem. Luckily, there are replacement castings available for some of the components that make up this accessory, which is known in some circles as "the monument." It's an impressive piece that looks great on any standard gauge layout.

Well, I'm off to Reading, Pennsylvania in a little while to attend the Great Train Expo there. My dad was born in Reading and he used to take me and my brothers there on day trips when we were kids. It's been a long time since I've be there, though. Dad died a few years ago but I'll be thinking of him as I drive to the show. My parents got me started with trains, so I'll be continuing the family tradition as I walk the aisles. I don't go to these shows looking for anything in particular, rather I just like to look at trains and talk to people about what's on their tables. You never know what you'll find, even at these dealer-oriented exhibitions. Books on tinplate, catalogs, and other paper and paraphernalia often show up, and once in a while some standard gauge tinplate treasure!

Jim Kelly

Friday, December 08, 2006

Lionel's 10 Greatest?

The December issue of American Heritage magazine contains an article entitled "Lionel: The Greatest Gift" penned by David Lander. Mr. Lander writes a column titled "The Buyable Past" for the American history oriented magazine. I picked up a copy of the issue so I could take a look at the Lionel article. I'm not a regular reader of this particular magazine, but I must say that there is quite a lot of interesting reading contained in this issue.

The Lionel article is a pretty good capsule history of the firm much like others that have appeared in print. There are some interesting photographs including one of Mr. Cowen showing off a 2-7/8" gauge piece to a youngster. One of the more interesting items in the article is a side bar listing "Lionel's 10 Greatest - A Roster Of The Company's Most Desirable Products" as selected by a collector named Michael Shames. Mr. Shames considers the 10 greatest Lionel products to be: The 20th Century Limited Set; The Blue Comet Set; The 400E loco; The Santa Fe four car set; The GG1; the 700E; The Hellgate; The 840; The 444; and finally, the 921 three piece terrace set.

I can't quibble with too many of Shames' picks, but in a few cases I think I'd make some substitutions. For example, I'd rather have a brass #7 than a 921 terrace set. And of course, I'd rather have ANYTHING in 2-7/8" gauge than a Santa Fe set or a GG1. However, It's fun to compare notes with this list, and the article is worth a read, as is the rest of the issue. Look for a great picture of Jackie Gleason having a drink with Toots Shor, and read the capsule review of the new movie documentary about the famous New York club owner. Yes, this magazine has a lot of appeal to an aging baby boomer like me!

Jim Kelly

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Ask your dealer....

Most of the train dealers around here suck. They have squat for tinplate and charge outrageous prices.

I do miss the days when a dealer or even a manager in a department store was a trusted confidant; willing to make suggestions on the big and little stuff. Most train dealers carry the big money items; motive power.

I hope they take a page out of Lionel's old playbook. I know it sounds kind of silly but what does Apple sell more of off season? $200 iPods or $1800 computers? The accessory will always be strong!


Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Of Toy Trains And Department Stores

Thank you Marc, for inviting me aboard the Standard Gauge Blog as a team member. I'm looking forward to adding a thought or two about our wonderful big tinplate standard gauge trains from time to time.

This is me c. 1954 or 1955 (age 5 or 6) probably at Gimbels department store in Philadelphia. I forget what I asked for that year, but by the expression on TV personality Sally Starr's face and Santa's glassy eyed stare I figure that it might have been something impossible like a 400E State set.

Speaking of department stores, the other day there was a report on one of the network TV news shows about their resurgence. I did a double take when this came on. Department stores? ...those retail dinosaurs that we city dweller baby boomers remember oh so well from our youth? Well, it seems as though shoppers have now decided that they like the big aisles and the warm and fuzzy feel of department store shopping once again. I've always enjoyed wandering through the big old department stores. I never warmed up to the specialty store or to the mega-mall shopping experience.

When I was a kid here in Philadelphia we had five major department stores downtown: three on one corner alone at 8th & Market (Lit Brothers, Strawbridge & Clothier, and Gimbels,) and two others: Snellenbergs at 11th & Market (which later became Philadelphia Community College's first campus,) and the great John Wanamaker Philadelphia flagship store at 13th & Filbert. They are all gone now. The last full line store was the Strawbridge store which closed earlier this year. The hulking building now sits cold and empty with its huge display windows empty and dark probably for the first time in decades. What a sad sight at the holidays. I used to love to go into that store at this time of the year with it's brass chandeliers on the main floor all decked out with bright red lamp shades for Christmas. But all that's left now department store-wise in downtown Philly is the scaled back Macy's store housed in the bottom three floors of the historic Wanamaker building.

Years ago the great old flagship department stores used to have wonderful train displays around the holidays. I can remember watching the trains on what seemed like a huge layout at Gimbels with my mom while waiting in line to see Santa. The Wanamaker store featured a great floor full of toys including electric trains, and they actually had a functioning monorail that ran around the ceiling of the toy floor that kids could actually ride in! Talk about fantasyland!

Wouldn't it be great to once again have a big store train display featuring standard and 0 gauge tinplate trains? Well, I guess it's too much to hope that the old time department stores return with their toy departments and train displays. But who knows? I saw an interesting post on another forum about the Lionel display at FAO Schwartz in New York City. Maybe there's hope yet! Standard gauge train displays in stores once again, now that's an item on my grownup Christmas wish list.

Jim Kelly