Saturday, March 31, 2007

Seeing old things new again

Sometimes when you move you old stuff around into a different context, something new pops out. Like staring at one of those pictures of two silhouette profiles facing each other and then seeing it resolve into a vase. Usually I run my Finch 20 with freight cars, and my Lionel repainted day coaches with a Lionel #6 or Finch 34. Instead I happened to put them on the elevated line to clear the lower tracks for another train. Then I noticed something:

The #20 with day coaches looked really familiar. In fact, it looked an aweful lot like an early New York Elevated Railway train, which were run with Forney 0-4-2's before the cars were converted to electric operation.


The 20 isn't a Forney, and its too big for the cars, but for a toy it could pass for an elevated train. The earlier Finch 20 would work better because it didn't have cowcatchers. I don't think you find many cows on elevated rights of way. Now I am all hot and bothered to get 3 crappy day coaches to turn into elevated railway cars. From the looks of things, I just need to add some extra railing detail, fool with the windows a bit, lose the steps, move the trucks out, and add marker lights. I'd prefer to work with repros, but what are you going to do?

Thursday, March 29, 2007

A Great Looking #1 Gauge Blue Comet

Well, I too have had my eye on a #1 gauge locomotive model, but like Marc, I have a space problem in my train room, where stuff is literally piled on the floor now, and in my wallet, where there is too much space available where greenbacks are supposed to reside. But this baby sure is tempting. I'm a sucker for Blue Comets of any pedigree. This model I like. Look at the valve gear. It has many great features like: "Can Motor Drive with Built In Cooling Fan, All Drive Axles Gear Driven, 3 Patent Ball Bearing Equipped Prime Mover Gearboxes, 2 Flywheels For Better Locomotive Performance, Blackened cast metal drive wheels," etc. Ahhhhh, so many trains, so little resources...


Wednesday, March 28, 2007

MTH One Gauge Catalog

The new MTH One Gauge catalog is up.

The GG1 is one of the more impressive renditions I have seen in a large scale train. I may have to purchase one eventhough real estate in my train room is nil and there seems to be plenty of empty space in my bank account.

I've seen some other One Gauge GG1's and the usual cost is in the stratosphere. Figure $5k and above.

I have the Hudson and a Big Boy now. I liked the engines and they are spectacular out of the box, even if you don't run them. I think this GG1 will be no different. I am not a prodigious collector of One Gauge so I can't say with any certainty that these are lethally great models, I just know I like them and everyone that sees them ooohhhs and aaahhhs.

What is it with this engine anyway? It has a distinctive design to be sure. I worked for many years with a gentleman that drove GG1's for a living before he worked with me. He absolutely couldn't stand them. He said they were hot, had horrible visibility and emitted some really bad gasses internally (sounds like some York attendees).

Bad puns aside, I think it almost goes without saying that the GG1, Hudson and the Santa Fe F3 have been produced more than any other train in the US for a whole bunch of gauges. This one and the trains in this catalog are definitely worth a look, even if you don't like One Gauge.

I just wish a little effort went into shrinking this just a little bit and putting it on standard gauge track. Now that would be a tinplate catalog that we'd be talking about for a few years!!


PS As soon as I get my hands on the monorails I'll do some Youtube vids and post my observations.

Old Josh must be turning

In the first 2 decades of the 20th century Josh Cowan worked his butt off to put his 2" gauge competitors out of business. Within the first decade he pretty much killed off Howard and Knapp, and in the second he finished the job on Carlisle and Finch and sent Voltamp running into the arms of Boucher, only to have them convert to standard gauge soon after. So this must have been a real slap in the face....

Around 1910 or so a young model railroader named George Hopkins had a single Carlisle and Finch #34 and some gondola cars to call a railroad. He also had a friend who brought his train over, and then left it there. Accounts vary whether he abandoned them or told George just to hold onto them for him. Either way, pretty soon possession became 9/10ths and George decided he needed to do something with them. The train was an early Lionel thin rim #6, most likely split frame based on the solid 3 rivet tender trucks, with 1st series freight cars. What George did was convert them to run on 2" 2-rail track, exactly the opposite of what Josh had been marketing all that time.

Fast forward to 2004 and the estate of George's son, Dick, was being split up and the converted #6 was in play. This wasn't some deep dark newly found wonder - George and Dick had been running the #6 on George's Trans Attic and United Railway for the better part of 60 years, and both were well known in the 2" gauge train community. [I am currently working on a track plan of the TA&U and will post it when I am done. It was an amazing piece of work.] I was fortunate enough to acquire the #6, and in fact I seem to be the only one who had any real interest in it - even the guy selling the collection thought its value was pretty much only in the wheels.

But I love it. It’s not clear to me when George converted it; in interviews he suggests it was around 1910 which would have made him about 15. Parts of the conversion are crude enough that it could have been done by a teenager, albeit and darn talented one, but the courage to do something so crazy and the fact that mechanically it works so well suggests maybe he was a little older.

Regardless, an extensive amount of work was done to convert it. The entire frame was discarded and replaced with a long wood block. Parts of the side frames were kept for bearings. The motor was remounted on top of the wood block. The reverse unit was left intact. He may have originally used it but now it is not connected. A rectifier has been installed. George ran his layout on DC and the rectifier allowed him to remotely reverse the engine by switching track polarity. The wheels were insulated by cutting the axles short and inserting the stubs into a wood dowel with a hole drilled surprisingly accuratly down the center. The drive axles needed to be positively locked onto the wood dowels for torque, and he accomplished this by drilling holes though the wood dowels and axle stubs and inserting nails, essentially acting like cotter pins.

The engine was repainted black, some piping and air pump detail added, and for some reason a non-working headlight installed. However the headlight looks great.

When I got it, it required a little work. The wood dowels insulating the drive wheels were getting very dry and in fact one cracked in half. I wired it back together and used some epoxy to hold the nails in. The pony truck was simply screwed into the frame, with very limited range of movement. This worked fine for George's large 10' radius layout, but not for mine. I made a swing arm for it patterned after a real Lionel #6. It came with its original, though repainted, tender (unfortunately the solid sided 3 rivet trucks couldn't be found, so I got it with the later open sided 3 rivet trucks). I needed that tender for an original #6, so I made a slope back tender for it which was basically a combination of Lionel's prototype #6 slope back tender (TCAQ, Oct 2006, vol 52, #4)and the #5 tender. George never lettered it. Since the Pittsburgh and Lake Erie is one of my favorite railroads, I made up some rubber stamps using fonts as close as I could find to the ones used for the Lionel prototype slope back tender (also lettered for P&LE).

It runs smooth as a champ. I repainted and re-gauged a couple Lionel Day coaches to go with it and the whole thing sails around the layout. In all, I have less money in the entire train than the going rate for a single excellent condition 200 series freight car.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Tinplate Classics!

Frank Hornby was the originator of Meccano, Hornby trains, and so much more. My special attraction is to the really beautiful tinplate 0 gauge trains that Hornby manufactured during the prewar era. I have very little Hornby prewar tinplate in my collection, but my eyes have been opened to just how great these trains are. The fabulous book entitled "The Hornby Gauge 0 System" by Chris and Julie Graebe, is a spectacular over 400 page tome with some of the most colorful photos of beautiful tinplate toy trains that you will ever see.

Hornby opened a factory in New Jersey and made trains there in the 1920s for the US market. That venture ended in the late 20s with the sale of the factory to A.C. Gilbert. A much more lucrative venture was French Hornby. The factory in France operated quite independently from Hornby HQ in Liverpool, making French outline trains. The French continued to concentrate on 0 gauge even after the UK factory went into high gear producing the new "Dublo" (H0) scale trains in the late 1930s. The French continued with 0 gauge after WWII. Here's a great postwar 0 gauge tinplate set that I couldn't resist. It's French Hornby, ca. 1954. What a beautiful tinplate toy train...and look at the boxed presentation! It's a work of art.


Saturday, March 24, 2007

I forgot to introduce....

Forgot to introduce Alex Procyk to everyone! Coming off the high of Jim Kelly's Tinplate Times article, Alex is going to add some wrinkles to the old Blog (hopefully adding wrinkles won't equate to a hang over).

At any rate, I am hoping Alex does ALOT of writing for us. By the way Alex, I'll take a #10 set in all it's "crapitude".

I think it was Will Rogers that said "Never met a man I didn't like." Same goes for trains.

Welcome aboard!


Friday, March 23, 2007

In Praise of Roadbed

Well, I broke another promise to myself. The first one was that I was going to be the last white man in Houston to do my own lawn (you have to realize, I come from a Northern blue collar town where, to quote Garrison Keillor, an able-bodied man would no more have someone do his lawn than cut his food). But down here the lawn cutting season runs all year long and labor costs are, ahem, minimal (I have an agreement with my guy, I don't check his INS status, he doesn't look at my tax returns). A quick reflection on the time/money ratio finally brought me around...five years too late if you ask me. But I digress (actually, you can't really digress until you get to the point first). I had promised that my layout would be strictly period - nothing would be on it that was made after 1915 (except the MTH std gauge track - nothing is more miserable than trying to get trains to run on old track). That also goes for the materials - only plaster and wood. However, ever since I saw Tom Sefton's layout in "Great Toy Train Layouts", I had been enamored with Lionel's rubber roadbed. It was patented in 1930, quite a bit later than my layout's period date. I wasn't enamored with a comment I read somewhere that said it took him 20 years to acquire it all (over 600 feet!). I had not seen much of it at train shows, and when found, it was always too expensive. Fortunately Ebay seems to have increased the supply, and the average prices, as far as I can tell, haven't changed much since the 80's when I started getting into standard gauge. Throw in a little inflation and now it doesn't seem so expensive anymore, at least for a small oval like mine. And in fact, with a little digging it can be inexpensive. I completely forgot to bid on a lot of it in Stout's Auction a month or so ago (and I mean "lot" as in a lot - about 50 pieces, pretty evenly divided between straight and curve), and it went for less than $2.00 per piece. Another lot showed up on Ebay a few weeks later and to atone, I bought it for about 5 times that price. I only got 6 curve and 12 straight, but the high price was probably because I got two switch bases and a crossing base. Of course I have no crossing and only one switch on my layout (me and the Galapagos Finches are the prime exhibits to disprove Intelligent Design). Installation was a piece of cake, but true to form, I couldn't use the switch base because there wasn't enough clearance with a nearby track. So a friend of mine helped out by digging up some pretty bad pieces that wouldn't be sacrilege to cut up and fit under a switch. If you look closely, horrible things were done to this poor split pin Lionel switch. One swivel rail was removed and a jumper for the early Lionel slider shoes installed across the gap (not attached when the pic was taken), the other swivel rail was spiked into place, and the switch stand had to be removed and museum-waxed into place closer to the rails to avoid being hit by a Carlisle and Finch Interurban on the other track. Don't cry for it, it was a pretty shot switch when I got it, and I can reverse all the changes.

Anyway I would highly recommend using roadbed. That is, unless you like the loud rumbling effect of Standard gauge on a plywood table top; the roadbed really cuts down the sound. I don't know why MTH doesn't recreate this stuff. It seems to me that every layout is a potential market and its a good way to increase the appearance of the track. In fact, its a great way to add something new to an existing layout without having to create new real estate. The fact that I work to produce petroleum, chief component of rubber, has no bearing on my opinion. Lets face it, the 4-wide-ties-per-section look is getting really old (marklin came out with it arond 1891). Note how good the 2" gauge Finch track looks compared to the Lionel tubular track; the roadbed at least helps even the score.

P.S. no need to point out the conditional craptitude of the Lionel 10 set, and the fact it was made in 1925, not 1915. It was the first Standard gauge set my dad bought me, and he didn't buy much more. Its a keeper.
- Alex P

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Go check out the newest Tinplate Times!

It's up and as usual, it is terrific! What would we do without Jim Kelly?


<--- Maurer Auction

Sunday, March 18, 2007

2 7/8 - The forgotten gauge

Before standard gauge there were a multitude of different track sizes available. There was 2 inch track, 2 7/8 gauge track and so on. Voltamp, Knapp, Carlisle and Finch, Howard, Marklin, Hornby, Bing, Fandor and on and on used all different sizes of track.

Interestingly, markets and timing can make or break the scale of a toy train.

I had a friend up in my trainroom yesterday and he was looking at my O gauge stuff and he said "that's what I always thought was the big stuff". Since I have standard gauge and 2 7/8, there's much more that's bigger in my trainroom.

I'm not sure how much has changed since the turn of the century. All of those wonderful brands mentioned above are gone. We seem to have gravitated to two places: size and prototypical representation. Z, N, HO and O seem to be the mainstream. S gauge and standard gauge being the aging and ugly cousins of the above. 2 7/8 is the old man that lives up in the attic that walks around in a velvet bathrobe and rambles on about knowing Bing Crosby.

So why 2 7/8 gauge? Well for one thing, I love the heft of the trains. For some reason in my visceral mind, heft equates to quality. The more metal I have the better I like it. I bought my son a Z gauge set and it felt like I was setting up a flea circus. I've watched the T&M videos more than a hundred times and I do remember the whole story about how JLC got his first big break with the Electric Express in the window. I also remember the reason (it was reported) that 2 7/8 failed was because homes were getting smaller and there was no way to do switching. Actually, there is and there are some 2 7/8 gauge switches as well as some supposed prototypes from Lionel floating around. Laying 2 7/8 gauge track is a bit of a hassle but no worse than well balasted standard gauge or O gauge track.

To the point of this discussion; I urge everyone to look out for 2 7/8 both vintage and repro. After 1 or 2 recent purchases, here is what I can tell you.

1) It doesn't cost that much.
2) It is really fun to watch.
3) It's a bit easier to fiddle with because the parts are very large.
4) When it looks older it still looks really cool.

The accessories for 2 7/8 are really rare. I've only seen the bridge in person and things like bumpers. I know there are a few accessories out there but I haven't had direct access to them. One more thing; the Converse Trolley is the grand daddy of all the trolleys out there. Yes, I know there were trolleys before it but it still maintains a place in all train collectors psyche as the one trolley that epitomizes prewar trolleys. I've been working on the motor for one for a while and I can't seem to get some of the parts in correctly.

So some questions:

1) Who has seen 2 7/8 gauge accessories?
2) I know there are a few collectors out there. What's your favorite 2 7/8 piece?
3) Any pics?

I know 2 7/8 will never gain a large following in the hearts of large volumes of collectors. There's no steam and it only captures a small part of the United States prototypical running stock. But it does lend itself to one thing: it can be elevated using the cast iron pillars. It was designed to be elevated because the prototypes had elevation as well. Standard gauge (because of the way it is weighted) can have some pieces elevated. 400E's and 392's probably won't be so hot on well elevated layouts. Too much power too fast will give you airborne toy trains. Every peice of 2 7/8 can be elevated beautifully.

I've rambled enough. Any thoughts? Oh yes, the above pic is from the upcoming Maurer Auction.


Saturday, March 17, 2007

Something Green On The Tracks

Here's something GREEN to look at this March 17Th. Authentic Lionel 381Es have a lighting bus bar in the cab with a sprung contactor that picks up current from a hot point on the Bild-a-Motor and transfers it to the headlamps at either end of the cab. Many (almost all?) original 381Es have heavy cast iron weights riveted to the apple-green -painted intermediate frame. This was, of course, to improve traction so that the 381Es could pull the heavy State Car sets. I'm not sure if any of the 381E reproductions (Williams, MTH, etc.) have either of these attributes. Happy St. Paddy's Day!


Friday, March 16, 2007

Downsized 2 7/8 by Joe

This is a downsized B&O No. 5! Yes, it is standard gauge. Joe built this from scratch.

I'm trying to convince Joe to quit his day job and build trains full time.

Here's the thing that got me interested in 2 7/8 and this really captivating new standard gauge item: there are prototypes that reflect these models.

There's a couple of great books from Arcadia Publishing on New Haven, New London and Hartford Streetcars. I strongly recommend going out to Amazon and grabbing a few of these books.

I'd scan in the pics however they are copyrighted material and I know I'd receive a letter from an attorney after I hit the blogger "publish" button. Suffice to say, many of the work trolleys and the very early trolleys that carried freight look exactly like 2 7/8. Matter of fact (and I have said this before), it's kind of shocking how close Lionel came in the early days to a very strong reproduction of the actual real trains in CT.

Lionel wasn't in Connecticut! Actually, they were in Bridgeport for some time and JLC spent a good amount of time in Connecticut. The talent was here to build trains and Bridgeport is a port. I know from reading various opinions from 2 7/8 gauge experts like Louis Hertz that much of the "why" of 2 7/8 may have been lost to antiquity. I do know that I am glad guys like Joe are still bending metal and making some intriguing toys for those of us that never got to see the real thing....


Snowy day in the Northeast....

Well it's another snowy day here in the Northeast. I love these old Ives engines. Yep, they are part of the Maurer auction...

My kids are thrashing the house and I am still supposed to be working today. Today is definitely a toy train day. I really want to stretch some legs of these new McCoy boxcars. I'm also going to give the 384E Comet a few runs and maybe even break out some trolleys for local passenger service. Yes I know, I'm supposed to be working. I'll run the trains at lunchtime!

I was in Jersey City most of the day yesterday and I noticed some really old buildings that would be entirely appropriate for modeling on a standard gauge layout. I'll grab some shots next week and post them. I've always heard Jersey City has some huge train collections, is there anyone from Jersey out there that's seen one of these phantoms?


Maurer Treasures!

Well, it's shaping up to be family reunion day at Maurer's in April. This two-day auction is probably the most interesting and significant auction this year. I haven't looked at all of the pictures yet, but I don't agree that the early lots are mostly beat up or restored. Maybe it's just a difference in perception, or in what factors appeal to the individual collector, but I did see some wonderful Voltamp pieces, some interesting C&F, three great Boucher locomotives, and lots of other stuff that interests me. Of course, my approach to the older and rarer tinplate is from an historical perspective. For me that means that condition is secondary to historical importance and scarcity. For example, the Lionel/Converse trolley pictured is fascinating to me. These rare 2-7/8" gauge pieces were only made between 1901 and 1905. I have an article about the L/C trolleys set to be published soon in Tinplate Times, in which I argue that it is possible to date these trolleys precisely to one of four years/periods: 1901; 1902; 1903; and 1904-5. This trolley looks to me like a 1903 vintage piece. Wouldn't I love to add it to my collection!


Thursday, March 15, 2007

Another pic from the Maurer Auction....

I just had to post another pic. I know, I have to agree with Alex; some of the stuff looks suspect or beat on. Still, the stuff is pretty unusual. I'm glad to just see most of it.


Amazing Auction at Maurer (April 6th and 7th, 2007)

As you all can tell, I haven't posted as many auctions up as I used to. That's predominantly because they have become in large part kind of ho hum. Boring to be exact. Would I like more 200 series or 500 series cars. Well, ya. Do I want to look at them over and over again? Not really.

As you know from reading my blog, I like Ted Maurer's auction house. It is NOT pretentious, going to auctions there seems to be consistently interesting and fun and I like the people that run them and manage them. All told one of the best run operations around.

So this auction is something special. Lots of C&F, Knapp, Howard, Ives, some absolutely great Lionel trolleys and some substantial classic standard gauge. There's also some top notch 2 7/8 as well. I'll try and post some of the pics. Remember, this is the estate of a well known and long time TCA person. It took a lifetime to roll a collection like this....


PS The pics I'll post are of items that I wish I could see made by our curent crop of manufacturers.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Gold Standard's GG1

The below article was written by Robert C. Hendrich (above left) in the TTOS 1978 bulletin (John Trescott is the mold maker on the right):

"Several events culminated in this locomotive, which may seem unrelated, buth they all had a bearing on the ultimate outcome. It started with an old 42 and passenger cars, for which this nine-year old bought as a pile of sheet metal pieces for 25 cents in 1946! At last, a childhood ambition to have a Standard Gauge Train was realized! It was rebuilt and has been improved, added to, and run a lot in the succeeding years.

It came to our attention several years ago that other people also enjoyed these big trains and that there were many more treasures to be had in times past in this big size. Alas, many felt that it was rather a reckless attitude to even consider running anything since some old part was apt to break, never to be replaced and have something laid up for good. Such a shame, for the the fun was in watching this rumbling around the track, better yet, the track on a hardwood floor, to resound thru the whole house.

The years since saw many locomotives and cars scratchbuilt in several scales including live steam and career experience with casting and machined parts and their related manufacturing techiques. There came a kind of sudden inspiration several years ago to build a limited number of Standard Gauge engines which would fulfill several objectives. Namely:

1. It must be of absolutely first class construction, with large wearing surface to endure for generations and which no one would ever be afraid to run and run with no fear of wearing out or breaking anything.

2. It should be of a realistic proportion, much as O-72 did in O-gauge, thus combining prototype realism with Standard Gauge. (I guess we must confess that there was a long association with scale modeling by this time, if you hadn't guessed already.)

3. It must be able to negotiate regular track on the 42-inch circles that came with all Standard Gauge trains of the period (72-inch track was not out yet.)

4. There should be adequate power to pull a heavy train (By this time, realism was not a 3 or 4 car set from the catalogue but 15 or 20 cars in a heavy limited.)

On mentioning this desire and objectives a recurring thought was a GG-1, not from any catalogue either but from firsthand experience with the way these big locomotives would handle a train. And this gained from two years in the army stationed in Baltimore riding on military passes, more years ago than I care to remember but those machines endure to this day.

One night the basic engine was laid out on a drawing board and it really became an exciting program. The machinery was drawn on a 42 inch curve never losing sight of the need to run on this radius.

A chassis was made up and tried out. It indeed ran well and had power and control. Quiet and ran through s-curves, switches, pushing or pulling cars. Now for a body.....

The body proved to be a big hurdle. First just to make it and secondly to afford it. Some time was wasted trying for a fiberglass body but fortunately this proved impossible and we returned to metal which we felt all along was more in keeping with what we wanted this locomotive to be. The patterns for the trucks were straightforward and went well. The body was something else! Many times in the course of it's construction the pattern was taken to foundrys and information gained, the ideas were incorporated, more work, another visit.....

Finally we tried out a sample casting. It was just what we had hoped for! It finished up beautifully. Several more were made but this next batch was a disappointment. Nothing really wrong but the work had not been done with care and badly as we desired to push ahead, it was decided that this was just not up to our standard and they went back into the pot. The next group came out like we wished and were off.

Motors were the one area that were no problem. We had always planned to use commercial motors and ours have two field windings, twelve poles on the armature and spherical self-aligning bronze bushings on a quarter inch diameter ground steel shaft. The gears are industrial gears and we are sure may be obtained many years hence. The wheels and axles are turned from cold-rolled steel bar and it is just inconceivable ever running an engine enough to show any wear.

Of course while the work on the production locomotives was going on, the prototype was always one jump ahead and even without paint or details was run quite a bit. It too is now finished but has already run literally hundreds of hours and pulled as many as 26 cars, all we had or could borrow around the Gargraves track in the garage. This was a far cry from its first run which was over regular tinplate track, laid on the lawn. Only after the first run was it noticed that the gears were full of grass and weeds, the power never dropped off! It was however the first and last time it was on the lawn. Incidentally, nine cars were our maximum on the lawn since more would get pulled off the track on a curve.

The old 42 does not get run as much anymore since we now have a capable locomotive that takes all the car in sight and refuses to quit!"

I liked this article for a whole bunch of reasons, not the least of which is that it went through some of the nuts and bolts of making standard gauge. The more I read the more I want to make my own stuff. Who has one of these loco's? Can they make some video of it (I will do the editing and get it posted!). If two ingenius guys can make a prototypically accurate, workhorse locomotive in the 70's, why can't manufacturers with computer aided design and prototyping tools put something together like this now?

In prior posts I had posted the advertisement for this wonderful loco. This is the follow up article I promised detailing where, why and so on. It's definitely an interesting picture into standard gauge history. By the way please note that I didn't write the above article. It was written by Robert C. Hendrich. I am just marveling at their ingenuity back in the 2oth Century.


Tuesday, March 13, 2007

More Youtube Video....

What's not to love? A Vandy flying around AROSCOE's layout with lights and bells and crossing gates, the whole enchilada. You should give the author of this video some positive feedback on Youtube.

When I look at the Vandy I still think it is silly for Lionel not to make standard gauge. Sorry, I just had to say it. Maybe they should concentrate a little less on licensing their name to crap manufacturers (I just saw Lionel on a flashlight in a SPAM message I received from Publishers Clearing House) and a little more time inventing new and great trains. This Vandy supposedly didn't sell well yet they are in demand on the after market and are almost always white hot on eBay.


Almost 30 years ago....

More Graham Claytor Pics...

Friday, March 09, 2007

Looking At The Wheels "Go 'Round"

"There is something in the complex human makeup that stirs at the sight of objects in motion -that thrills responsive to the charm of flying spokes or smoothly-moving machinery; in brief, all of us, young and old, 'like to see the wheels go 'round.' It is this fact that makes the operation of a model railway, whether in the store window for attraction and profit, or in the home circle for pleasure and instruction, a thing of unfailing interest and sure return."

- from a ca. 1914 Voltamp catalog

This still holds true today, even in the information age, or whatever it is we chose to call the early years of the 21st century.

Our modern age does have its marvels. I'm just back from a delightful 12 day cruise in South America. I was able to check email and surf the web from on board the ship. I even bid on a couple of EBAY items. The ship was not one of those 3000 passenger giants. However, even though it held only 700 passengers, it had a computer room with about 20 terminals. Online time could be purchased in packages with lower per minute fees on the bigger packages. I found that a 200 minute package was just perfect for us.

I thought about my tinplate trains from time to time while on vacation, especially after the topic came up at the dinner table. I didn't run into any more train buffs, but my orange Lionel tee shirt did elicit a few responses from fellow passengers. I enjoyed describing my fondness for antique tinplate, and I felt good about the hobby and my participation in it.

Now it's back to the fun of standard gauge as there are some interesting events on the horizon. I have a local TCA meet this Sunday, and there are some online autions happpening. I'm also getting ready to publish the Spring issue of Tinplate Times, and I want to get back to working on some projects in my shop. Vacations are fun, but it's also nice to return to something that's fun all year long. Looking at the wheels going 'round is one of those all-year-long fun things that I really enjoy.


Sunday, March 04, 2007

Graham Claytor's Collection

About 30 years ago Ward Kimball did a brief story for TTOS on Graham Claytor. It was kind of strange because I remember hearing his name from when I was a kid.

I guarantee I would have remembered him (because I was playing with trains at the time this article was published) if I had known he collected old trains like Voltamp, Carlisle and Finch, Knapp and Howard.

Let me apologize up front for the quality of the pictures. While high quality film and photography was around in the 1970's, cheap 4 color printing really wasn't cheap. Ergo, these were the best my HP Scanner and my touch up skills could muster.

Graham Claytor was kind of an unusual guy. Both Graham and his wife had made the most out of their lives; both were career US Navy people and were hero's in their own right. They also loved trains. There's a story about them getting up at 4 am to follow the Washington Trolley snow plows while they cleared the right of way for the day's traffic (it's a true story by the way).

You can find out more via Wikipedia about W. Graham Claytor here. Most of the TTOS article is Ward discussing how amazed he was that a secretary of the navy and his wife could collect trains. Graham was secretary of the navy under Jimmy Carter. The truth is that his travels gave him access to collectors and toys others could only dream about. And at that point in history (50's, 60's and 70's) Carlisle and Finch, Knapp, Howard and so on weren't hot collectibles. Everyone was still looking for that favorite 400E or 1010 Interurban.

This guy had one amazing collection. I'll post some additional pics later. When I see these pics, I marvel at how many great items are made prior to World War I and World War II that don't have the Lionel "L" on them. When I was first flicking through the old magazines I had a slight sense of deja vu; predominantly because of the recent Pride Lines Voltamp production.

His wife collected Victorian Doll Houses. Honestly, I was amazed that his wife let him display his trains all over the house. I catch huge flack when one of my trains finds its' way anywhere outside of my little sandbox.

By the way, as a side note, long after this article was published Graham Claytor was the key guy that brought Amtrak out of the red and into the black. He retired from Amtrak in 1993 and passed away in 1994. This is one secretary of the navy I wish I had known!


Saturday, March 03, 2007

Heard It Through The Grapevine

Heard through the grapevine that the Leland Monorails are getting loaded onto a ship as we speak by MTH.

It's kind of exciting, this is the first time this rare item has been produced since 1931. I am kind of anxious to see if this creates a new ecosystem for monorails. I know MTH is selling track, etc.. I am kind of hoping they architect some switches and the like.

Oh ya, I liked this Ives picture so I posted it.


Friday, March 02, 2007

Some Very Rare McCoy

There's been a substantial amount of talk as of late about McCoy trains. What's rare, what's not rare and so on.

I like the McCoy family and admire their many accomplishments. Craftsmanship, tradition and a good attitude always gain my admiration.

I would bet that the car to the left is one of the rarer McCoy cars. The guy on the left is the Great Roy Rogers. My favorite Roy Rogers quote: "I did pretty good for a guy who never finished high school and used to yodel at square dances. "

The story of this car is as follows (from the 1970's era TTOS bulletin):

Rick Hacker had two of these cars autographed by Roy at the Roy Rogers Museum in Victorville, CA.. Roy personally autographed both cars and gave them to Rick for his collection. Pretty darned amazing at face value. Since he didn't need two in his collection, he donated one to TTOS to be auctioned off on August 5, 1978. Almost 30 years ago next year.

First, I have to say that I like Roy Rogers. I've missed him since he passed away in 1998; he was just a plain old neat guy. He was one of Cincinnati's and America's finest.

I also have tremendous respect for Rick Hacker because he gave up something of value both sentimental and monetary for TTOS. If you send me an email I'll be glad to send a PDF of the entire article or post elsewhere for download.

I think this is probably one of the rarer McCoy's. Not because of the particular car but because there are only two with Roy's signature and because one is floating around in the free market somewhere. What makes it valuable? Well, the fact that Roy signed it and that a great collector gave it up so his fellow collectors could enhance their club and have a shot at owning a nice McCoy car signed by a legend. That makes it priceless and scarce. The only thing I'm curious about is "where is it now"?



Thursday, March 01, 2007

Wow, what a collection

Blow this picture up and it really hits you. It's from an old TTOS bulletin (I know, you're probably getting sick of me writing that).

That's John Daniel, yep, the old TTOS President and one of the founders of JAD. That's a small part of his collection. Trains don't necessarily need to be on a layout to be well displayed.

Just remember that this was acquired over time going to meets and TCA/TTOS events. There was no eBay at that time. I think these guys knew something about collecting besides having a big income. I just wish I could have seen this collection when he was putting it together.

Oh what I wouldn't give to go back in time to my youth with a digial camera and a couple of plane tickets.....


Another Work of Art

Another Ward Kimball work of art. And the ironic part is that all of these cool characters, the train and the accessories probably didn't cost an arm and a leg at that point in time.

But only Ward will have known that for sure....