Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Monster 408E

I was going through some old TTOS bulletins from 1978 and I saw this pic. The guy's name is Joe Goldwater and this is supposedly a "backyard 408e".

I just love this engine, I don't care what gauge it is.

Has anyone ever seen it? What happened to it? I'd love to see more standard gauge get big like this!

I wonder if there were any other engines made or rolling stock to go along with it? What gauge is the right of way?

I'd love to see this reviewed in CTT. "The drawbar pull is 85 pounds...."



TTOS 1978

I just loved this picture from Ward Kimball in 1978. It is sort of the antithesis of creative toy "training".

I love the TTOS covers from the 60's and 70's. Ward was the art director and the covers are works of art. Someday someone will make a coffee table book of them.

By the way, a couple of folks have asked me why I haven't commented on the MTH catalog (newest) and the Lionel tinplate passenger set getting offered as well as recent developments in lawsuits.

The B&O set is very nice and I'll probably order one (in the Ready to Run catalog). Otherwise, I am not going too nuts with any new gear. I am extremely happy with MTH's stance on tinplate and I don't think we should dwell on it too much. Lionel is another story. But I feel like writing negative things about Lionel is like kicking a sick dog. It's almost cruel, it doesn't prove anything and certainly won't get me what I want. Lionel representatives have written off standard gauge as a market segment. Fine, we'll move on.

I haven't been paying too much attention to eBay and auctions lately, I've been scouring old literature for more information on different standard gauge products of the 20th Century. I'm just hoping there's 21st Century manufacturers coming along as well. More great stuff coming up very shortly though. All that scouring has to yeild something (besides a clean bathtub!!)


Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Wide Gauge Trains - Eclectic Manufacturers

There's a growing trend in standard gauge. There's something about this gauge that lends itself to creativity.

I collect pretty much anything. Well, anything that is prewar and predominantly standard gauge.

What I am seeing is that there is a growing group of people that want something different. Something besides the 200 and 500 series Lionel freights that have graced our pikes for the last 80 some odd years. Something besides the graceful 400E or the capricious and noisy 10E's and 8E's.

This article (to the left) is from the mid-70's TTOS bulletin.

McCoy, Forney, Rich Art, Randall and so on are names these collectors know. Al Merris and Templin are two more. Even collectors in the 1970's new something was up (hence this two page, well done article).

Standard gauge lends itself to modeling a little better than other gauges. We can take more liberties with scale, color and general accuracy and really nobody cares. It's the sounds, the color and general granduer of the trains that we find so damned appealing. I don't know any collector that will say no to a McCoy circus set or an Al Merris Steeple Cab. Maybe it's the wonderful Voltamp trolleys that John Davanzo just put out. Or the Rich Art Cascade or McKeen trolley. Whatever the reason, these items are becoming desirable.

I believe the reason they are desirable is because they represent a unique vision that can't be duplicated by reproducing old Lionel or Flyer gear.

Maybe this is a reaction to all of the heavily replicated O gauge hitting the marketplace. How many GG1's in O gauge can anyone have? In standard gauge, a Forney GG1 is a WHOLE lot different than a JAD GG1.

Friends and people we meet make toy collecting fun but I have to say these eclectic manufacturers appeal to the creativity in all of us.


Coulda Woulda Shoulda

I know of only one collection (James) that has one of these. Everyone that coulda shoulda woulda bought one of these when they were offered probably wishes they had.

I wonder how many would get sold at 75 bucks today?

I like this. It's simple, straightforward and just plain cute. I'd like it (believe it or not) to look more like the Lionel Mickey and Mini handcar. Yes, I know Pridelines made a standard gauge Mickey handcar. It is really nice and goes for a ton of cash on eBay and the like. I just think that the above is ALOT of toy for 75 bucks. And I know from looking on eBay that anyone that bought this for 75 bucks definitely got their $$$ back. I like simple and this fits the bill: it will warm up any train table on a cold wintery day.

What else did George Templin make?


Built Rite Structures

I was perusing some 1970's era TTOS Bulletins and I saw these buildings. They are quite a departure from the old Lionel bungalows and stations.

It's likely that most of the folks that chuck these out on eBay aren't going to know what they are or their signficance.

I am always curious what a company like this has in its' archives. They were obviously creative because they had designed some aestheticly pleasing structures in aan already competitive marketplace. Marx was very strong as well as Lionel and Flyer. As the article states, based on the Marx set in the picture these were probably produced in 1938 to 1942.

I can't remember (I have to look back) but I seem to remember Marx coming out with some interesting loading docks and stations for freight as well.


Monday, February 26, 2007

Not a full deck...

My Brothers came over yesterday, they hadn't seen my train room or office for years.

My brother snapped a picture - this is the corner of my office.

Both of them think I have lost my mind.

I love looking at these toys every day (which is why they are in my office and not with the rest of the toy train populuation in the train room).

They inspire me and they represent overwhelming creativity.

Am I really nuts?


Thursday, February 15, 2007

A Whole New Gauge For Me

I've somehow stumbled into Lionel 2-7/8" gauge. It was nothing I planned; it just sort of happened. I won an auction, and so now I have this whole new area to explore and learn about.

I've been doing a lot of reading about 2-7/8" gauge. Most of the reference books on standard gauge have chapters on 2-7/8" gauge. I've glanced at this material in the past but I never really paid much attention to this area because I didn't think I'd ever get into this stuff. The originals are rare and expensive, and even the reproductions are costly and somewhat scarce. And, then there's the whole question of layout space if you want to run this big stuff.

The track is a whole other matter. It's not readily available (is it?), and I suspect it's tricky to assemble, not really child's play. I can see how the move to three-rail tubular track was necessary. Yesterday, I built this display stand for my first 2-7/8" piece. I made a quick trip to home depot for a piece of scrap oak, some scrap steel, and some wood to make ties out of. I think it turned out pretty good.


Monday, February 12, 2007

Catalogs And The Magic Of Tinplate Toy Trains

"There are many today who would say definitely that the model railroad hobby of, say, 1923 to 1927 was more interesting and pleasant than the hobby of today, due not to any fault of today's hobby and hobbyists, but to a certain warm nostalgic glow that always surrounds the memory of pleasant things. One has only to look back over a file of Ives, American Flyer, Dorfan, Lionel, Boucher and Bing catalogs from 1920 to 1930 to recapture this feeling. Certainly the catalogs have changed, and in changing have lost much of their friendly attitude, and many favorite features which were once characteristic of every good tinplate catalog; pictures of the interior and exterior of the factory, the story of the company, pages devoted to technical information, features of the line, suggestions etc. These things might well come back to our catalogs. There has been a slight trend in this direction in the last few years, and Tinplaters are hoping for the best." - The one and only Louis H. Hertz, in "Riding The Tinplate Rails" p. 144, (1944)

Ah, that "warm, nostalgic glow," captured for sure in the great tinplate catalogs of the 1920's, but, contrary to Mr. Hertz's hopes, sadly missing in most of today's toy train catalogs. I think that some of the catalogs of the immediate postwar era have charm. I enjoy looking at the Lionel and AF catalogs of the 40s and 50s that I drooled over as a youngster. But today, with toy train production offshore, there's no hope of seeing pictures of the interior and exterior of the factories, and we wouldn't relate to them even if we saw them. However, I will give Mike Wolf credit for his Tinplate Traditions catalogs, where you do get the story of the company as well as an acknowledgement of what went before in the descriptions of his modern tinplate reproductions. I've begun to collect these Tinplate Traditions catalogs. I think Lou Hertz would approve of them.


A good idea twice....

Joe F. had liked the 1910 for a while but didn't have one. He liked it in Standard and O gauge.

Here they are, fresh from a metal press in standard gauge and o gauge. It's kind of nice how this design translated into another language (O gauge).

While not the most sophisticated of engines, it certainly is elegant. There are two sitting out on eBay right now and I guarantee they aren't as shiny as these two.

Slight topic change:
I am enjoying the discussions on pricing going on right now in the Yahoo Standard Gauge Groups. I've noticed that newbies (people that are new to the standard gauge hobby) tend to gravitate more towards the Tinplate O Gauge forums and the older folks gravitate towards the Yahoo Group. I've also noticed that the discussion on the Yahoo Standard Group is more operational. The forums tend to focus on what Lionel/MTH is making next. There's an occassional blast of an eBay price on both.

What's interesting is how the opinion and information is getting rolled out in the hobby. I tend to like hardcopy, meaning I like reading lots of old stuff and use it to influence what I read and see now. I post and reply sometimes on both the Yahoo Group and the forum. I've noticed in both venues that some old myths still live on. I think in one forum or another I've seen the old myth that JC Cowen threw the Ives dies into the Connecticut river (never happened). Or that Mike Wolf uses old Lionel tooling for standard gauge manufacturing (never happened).

The internet does tap into a part of our brain that is different from the rest of our brain. My Dad used to say people would call him on the phone and say things they would never say in person. He was 6 foot 1 without his shoes on and was a drill sergeant before I was born. Usually if you cussed at him it was best to do it while running in the other direction and you better be smiling. I don't remember many folks trying to argue with him face to face. I think the whole face to face part of the hobby is suffering at the hands of the internet. Toy trains are visceral and nobody will ask for a high/outrageous price for a friend or someone that you know in person. Having them removed through an electronic firewall tends to suspend reality; "if I can't see them than they are words on a screen or in an email and not real people"is the thought. Hopefully the mentality will change and we can use the net for more practical things that extend the hobby beyond commerce. We're already going in that direction anyway, I just hope it continues to foster more friendships and less dunning notices.

I periodically get notes from eBay sellers and from other train people that carries an "attitude". And that's not limited to just individuals, I've seen it from auction houses and toy train businesses. The communication is typically not civil. I'm always fascinated that people will say things to me and threaten me without even knowing who they have on the other end of the email. Who's the customer anyway? I thought I was the guy with the money paying the bill?

One thing I like about all of the print I've read from toy trains past is that it is almost completely civil, even if it is angry. Price seems to be one of the more emotional issues in the train world. I worked for a large tobacco company many years ago. They had almost 100 years of customer buying data compiled. I remember attending a meeting where the VP of Marketing told us that the primary buying impetus for tobacco products was not necessarily personal preference but price. He said people ultimately and always think with their wallets.

Now I don't take that as gospel because toy train people will pay alot of money for crap. But it does explain a bit. I know I myself have gotten into some stupid money quarrels. I feel bad about them afterwards and I try to learn from them so I don't get into them again. When I read TCA and TTOS literature from days past, there are interesting little tidbits to suggest that prices were not all they seemed even when they weren't all that high. There's always an article or two about counterfeit trains and about how this or that was stolen off of a table. At first reading, I thought to myself "Why the hell would anyone steal a State Car or a 392 if they could buy it for $20?"

I asked an old TCA guy at one point several years ago when someone had blantantly insulted me about some pricing (that's a story for another time). Ok, I'll tell the story:

I had a dealer that I used to buy items from coming to deliver two items I had purchased. He said he was in my neighborhood and that he could drop them off. I knew him but not very well. He came over to my house and asked to see my collection. Upon seeing my collection, he seemed to like it but wasn't particularly overwhelmed. On leaving my house as he was walking out the door, he said to my wife that if I ever died, he would give my wife $60k in cash for my whole collection. He thought he was being charitable. There are so many problems with this, I wasn't sure what upset me more:

My potential demise.
The fact that he said something like that to my wife.
The fact that he offered roughly $.08 on the dollar to my wife for my collection.
The fact that he was trying to take advantage of my wife and death long before I planned on leaving the planet.

It was just plain offensive. Needless to say, I am no longer his customer.

Back to the point: when I said something to my TCA friend, he said that $60k to most of his original TCA and TTOS colleagues would have seemed like a fortune. I reminded him that one surgical procedure in a hospital could run up to $60k. He agreed but he reminded me that "if you don't got it, you don't got it. $10 bucks might as well be $10 million.

Trains will always be out there. If they're too expensive at any one point, wait. The one screw up I've had in toy trains is that I have not been patient enough. It's a big regret I have. There's a reason patience is a virtue. There's an old Russian proverb that goes something like this: “Little drops of water wear down big stones.” I know it may seem silly when looking at high eBay prices but it isn't when looking at toy train collecting. Let's save anger and annoyance for that pesky wiring under the layout that seems to undo itself eventhough we haven't touched it for over 10 years.


Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Our TCA Library

Humm..., did they make this in Standard gauge or just in 0 gauge? I'll bet you know the answer.

What we have here is the cover of the October, 1992 Train Collector's Quarterly. I ordered a copy of this issue from Jan at the TCA's library because this issue contains an article that I found very helpful in my current research on early Lionel. The article, penned by old timer Max Knoecklein (64-1079) focuses on the discovery of what is believed to be the 1901 Lionel catalog. At the time of the 1992 article, this was thought to be the oldest Lionel catalog known, however, since then an even older catalog has surfaced, discovered by former TCA president Paul Wassermann, which he believes dates from 1900. Digging around doing some detective work with these documents is interesting. We're fortunate to have the TCA library, staffed by a really helpful librarian named Jan. Send her an email and she will try her best to answer your questions and provide whatever back issues or photocopies you require.


Monday, February 05, 2007

AF Classic Period Gems

Whew! I've been busy as I can be here with a ton of different projects...everything from selling trains on EBAY to repairing newly acquired trains to working on Tinplate Times, to...I don't know, there just aren't enough hours in the day to do all the things I want to. How did I ever find time to work?

Every once in a while I stop and just look up at the shelves in my room at some of the trains that live there quietly year in and year out, waiting patiently for a little attention, or maybe even a chance to see some duty downstairs on the layout. Here's a beautiful American Flyer Wide gauge stock car. What's not to like about AF Wide gauge? What a beautiful line of locomotives and cars. I'm fortunate to have a small but representative collection of these great looking tinplate trains.

We think of the period of the late 1920s through the mid 1930s as the "Classic" period of Standard gauge. This period was characterized by the big, bright, colorful Standard gauge trains made by Lionel, American Flyer, Dorfan, and IVES.

A.C. Gilbert, who would later come to own American Flyer (just after AF stopped producing Wide gauge trains) marketed a spectacular series of Erector sets during roughly this same period. These sets were the biggest and most spectacular Erector sets ever made. Erector collectors refer to them as "Classic" era sets. They came in beautiful red painted wood boxes, and boys could build spectacular models of trucks, trains, and even Zeppelins. Pictured here is a N0. 7-1/2 "White Truck" set from 1931 that I am just finishing up on - taking inventory and organizing it - in an attempt to make it look like it did, as closely as possible, on the day it left the factory. It's like doing a giant jigsaw puzzle because invariably when you buy these sets they're a jumble of hundreds of parts all loose and disorganized in the box. Pieces are missing and it takes time and patience to sort everything out. However, when you're done you have a wonderful looking display set. The Erector "Classic" period dates are 1924 until 1932. As with our beloved Standard gauge trains, economic realities after the crash of 1929 put an end to these large Erector beauties. Luckily, we can still enjoy some of them today.