Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Jon's Custom Made Cars

SGMA member Jon Hinderer came up with some really unique cars for his Pride Lines Voltamp steeple cab loco to pull. Jon writes:

Thanks for the compliment on the mining cars. They're heavily kit-bashed "G
scale" logging cars from Ozark miniatures: I'm working on several more. Whole
thing started when I went looking for Voltamp couplers, and came up with link
and pin logging couplers that hook up to the Voltamp steeplecab by Pride Lines
quite well. There's a bit of work to enlarge the wheel sets from 2 inch to
2 1/4 for Standard Gauge, but nothing patience and a small file can't

Click on the photo to enlarge it, These are great looking cars!


Sunday, August 26, 2007

Still More On The Boxcab

Here's another shot of Pat's unique boxcab (photo by Jon Hinderer.) In the background: Bert's "Burplaspa Tunnel."


Saturday, August 25, 2007

More On The Boxcab

The brass and copper boxcab pictured in my last post is owned by SGMA member Pat Rolland. Pat writes:

...I purchased it at the TCA Atlantic div. show off of some guy. He said
that a machinist for the Pennsy made it for some exec there. It is mostly copper
with hand punched rivet marks, DC can motor with a reduction gearbox. We timed
it at Altoona and it is slow as molasses we had it running at 22 volts (full
throttle on the Z4000) and it was only drawing 1/2 an amp. Took a full 4 minutes
to make one trip around the Altoona loop."

Sounds like it was geared to run at a slow prototypical speed.


Friday, August 24, 2007

Neat Boxcab!

Here's a photo that fellow SGMA member Jon Hinderer sent me. Jon took the photo at the recent TTOS Altoona convention where the SGMA had a display. Isn't that a great looking boxcab? (Click on the picture to enlarge it.) I wrote to Jon to ask him if he made it.


Wednesday, August 22, 2007

An IVES Standard Gauge Rarity!

Congratulations to the winning bidder who won this gem on EBAY. I'm not an IVES expert and I'll have to consult my reference books, but I believe this is an extremely rare black painted late 1926 or early 1927 casting lettered "1132." This cast iron casting is usually found in green paint and lettered "1134" and "President Washington" and was a one year only item for 1927. In 1928 IVES introduced a new zinc casting for the 1134 series of locomotives. Maybe someone can correct me if I'm wrong or shed more light on this interesting piece. Oh yes, it closed at $5.4K.

Here's an update from Randy Berger as posted to the Standard Gauge list:

The black 1132 with the 4-4-0 wheel arrangement is an uncatalogued loco
from 1928. IVES did not receive the new 1134 loco castings in time to start
shipping sets. They painted several cast-iron 1927 1134 locos (the Pres.
Washington) black and labeled them 1132. They had the die-cast tenders and so
was born a rare variation. They do turn up from time to time and always command
a good deal of money. They do not have the engineer figure in the window.


Monday, August 20, 2007

More Blog Fixes

Another rare item from the upcoming NETTE Auction.

I changed the color per a recommendation from Bert. I liked the blue (reminded me of a Blue Comet) but the black on blue gave me serious brain fry.

The new color is closer to the 840 Power Station yellow we all know and love (dead matches on the web are kind of tough).

With all of the talk about how wonderful Bert's videos are, I thought I'd put up Blogger's video watcher. It's kind of cool and will go out and grab videos without me having to do anything.

That's the update for now. I finally got my hands on a Dehanes Santa Fe set. It's friggin huge. Thank the Lord I got the box before my wife saw it....


Sunday, August 19, 2007

The Blog Look & Feel

I am fooling around with the template for the blog. The old template was breaking all but one browser (Microsoft's). Ergo, I had to do something to make it compatible with everyone. I'll firm up the template a bit as time goes on....

Of course I actually care about what my readers think so if you have any ideas:

mrkuffler (at) aol (dot) com


Sept. 7th and 8th NETTE Auction

The NETTE Auction is up for September!

Sept. 7th has the stuff you'd see at a train show. There's lots of stuff, it isn't organized and it's alot of fun (just going and watching the auction).

Sept. 8th is the day most standard gaugers will want to tune in. There are some 400e's and a couple of must have's for Lionel people.

I've said it before and I'll say it again, one thing I like about NETTE is honesty. Mark and Naomi know this stuff cold and when there is a replaced steamchest or replaced wheels, couplers, motors, whatever; they say something. Sometimes Mark (one of the owners of NETTE and a great auctioneer) knows this stuff so fast I think that he is wrong. Even while I am thinking he's wrong he's already moved on to another project or is packing up something else (and he has been consistently right by the way).

It's a great auction by great people! Go check it out!


Saturday, August 18, 2007

Ward Kimball & Tom Snyder Part 4

I had someone ask me why I am posting Youtube videos when anyone and everyone can just go to Youtube and see them for themselves. Well, I agree but I could also tell everyone to go look in xy or z book or TCA or TTOS bulletin and the blog would be kind of underwhelming, wouldn't it? Fact is, not everyone wants to go fishing through Youtube for stuff we are interested in. Youtube is great but it also has (like the rest of the Internet) a substantial amount of junk. If nothing else, I like having all of my train content in one place; I have found myself looking back at my posts over a period of time with some interest. Go figure.


Thursday, August 16, 2007

Grizzly Flats w/Ward Kimball & Tom Snyder, Part 3

These computers are at least good for something! Where else are you going to see great footage like this?


Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Ward Kimball@Grizzly Flats Part 2

Only interesting people get to meet other interesting people....

It's why Tom Snyder did this terrific interview with Ward Kimball at Grizzly Flats. I read the wonderful article in this month's TCA Quarterly about Grizzly Flats and it made me wish I went and visited when I had the chance....

Standard Gauge Trains And Paint Containing Lead

According to today's New York Times, 80 percent of the toys sold in the U.S. are made in China. As you probably know, there are large toy recalls currently in the news of toys made in China that are tainted by paint that contains lead. New standard gauge trains are currently being produced in the Far East and sold here. Aren't some of them manufactured in China? I wonder if any are painted with coatings that contain lead? The Times article mentions how this recall can be good for U.S. toy makers, such as Whittle Shortline Railroad, a Louisiana company that makes wooden trains for toddlers. Read the full article here...and, in the meantime, don't put any of your shiny new standard gauge trains in your mouth!


Monday, August 13, 2007

SGMA Layout in Altoona

Seeing this terrific video by Bert makes me even sadder I missed Altoona last weekend. Unfortunately Altoona falls about the same time my son's birthday does thus I can never seem to make it.

Here's Bert's first vid:

And Bert's second vid:

And the 3rd (a good shot of the Bhurlpasa tunnel):

And #4 (I liked the double header #9E Engines and the different color state cars):

And video #5 (I think it is a 42 and some 10 series cars):

All in all, some very smooth operation from the SGMA. All that hard work and debate paid off wonderfully. I can see that these modules fit together beautifully. I haven't seen standard gauge operation come together so smoothly and disparate parts work so cleanly. If nothing else, I plan on learning a bit from the SGMA list and incorporating it into my layout.

After I watched these clips from Bert I went up to my train room and did further clean up. A friend of mine who is a master carpenter came up with a new ceiling storage and display system that should look alot like Tom Sefton's. If I can pair that with some SGMA benchwork.... The ideas just keep rolling like an out of control train.

Regardless, this layout is inspiring and the people that built it are on to something and are just exceptional! I love it when 100 year old technology can still create new ways of seeing things. I can't wait to see it in person.


PS Speaking of cool stuff, go check out the Prewar Times. Josh has some pics up of the new MTH 1694 and Ives set. It is a stunning knockout!

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Lionel Excitement

The new Lionel catalog marks the return of standard gauge production to their catalog after an absence of several years . I agree with Marc that the standard gauge summer trolley and trailer looks like a winner and that it's priced right. I've already placed my order. Let's hope that sales are brisk and that this will be just the first of many new standard gauge offerings from Lionel.

I also ordered the 0 gauge Harry Potter set. Although I really like British outline locomotives, I was planning to pass on this set after I saw the prototype at York in April. This is because the display model had a plastic locomotive shell. I asked a Lionel rep about this and he told me that production would be as per the prototype - with a plastic locomotive. However, he must have been misinformed because the catalog clearly states that the locomotive is "die-cast metal." Hooray! This set is also priced right at $300 and it should be a BIG seller for Lionel. I'm happy to be adding a 4-6-0 loco to my stable of British outline locomotives.


Sunday, August 05, 2007

How does this thing even run?

Here is a motor to a 1903 Carlisle and Finch interurban. It is factory original, but it looks more like something that was built out of one of those "50 more projects you'll never get around to" handbooks for boys. The main frame element is a wood block to insulate the two sides (this is 2-rail, after all). The axle is electrically isolated using fiberboard tubes to support the ends of brass stub axles. The reserve unit consists of little more than some brass wipers nailed into a small piece of wood touching a drum contactor. I mean, honestly. Could you imagine Lionel doing something this cheezy? Or Ives? The reverse is built into a motorman's controller just like Lionel 2 7/8" gauge cars. Ok, I'll admit that is a nice touch.

By all rights this shouldn't work, or work very well, or certainly not work for 104 years. I have seen cases where the axle ends wear into the frames, causing excessive friction and truck misalignment to the point where the mechanism freezes. My friend's interurban is like that and runs fine upside down but not when placed on a track. My axle bearing wear isn't so bad but would only run upside down as well. Then a miracle very slowly occurred. Ever few months I would give it a go, and it would sorta grumble a bit and occasionally move a few inches. Then one day it slowly moved a whole 3 feet until it hit a curve. Then a few months later I tried again and it worked its way around the whole layout. Well in point of fact it didn't because I had too many obstructions for something this big, but when it proved it could run I moved some elevated posts and cleared a path. And it kept running better. The best part is it actually sounds like a real old streetcar (if you haven't been to a streetcar museum, go! Now!). I still don't know what its problem was and why it doesn't have one now, and I am not about to start poking and prodding around to figure it out. If you want to see how it runs check it out on youtube at the link provided, all 18 second of it.


Saturday, August 04, 2007

Lionel Catalog - One more thing...

I saw this in the new Lionel catalog. Yes, it isn't standard gauge. Yes, it is brilliant.

I liked this for a couple of reasons: it makes setting up a slick looking layout, backdrop, track and so on a no-brainer. It will get more people into the hobby.

The design or concept isn't new. In the days of prewar World War II Lionel trains the displays to show off Lionel's wares in store windows and at retail in stores were very similar to the little layout to the left. The graphics were a bit nicer and the displays plugged Lionel's accessories but the concept was essentially the same. I'll see if I can dig up some pics of the old Lionel displays. Some time ago American Flyer displays were reproduced as well. Same concept: big and colorful backdrop, mock-tunnel the train could run through and a place for accessories and the like. Looked great with O or Standard gauge.

I hope Lionel reproduces this for standard gauge as well.


Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Why you should like the new Lionel catalog...

I was all ready to not like the new Lionel Vol 2, 2007 catalog. For the last couple of years since they introduced (and discontinued) the Standard Gauge Vanderbilt and Hiawatha, Lionel has catered almost exclusively to "low hanging fruit" Postwar reproduction sales.

Their attempts at prewar reproductions in the last several catalogs were singular, meaning that there was only one attempt per catalog and when the item was bought by collectors and even extensive runners, it wasn't exactly "collection" quality. Regardless, the Lionel name was on it and there was a tenuous wave in the direction of collectors and operators that like trains as toys and not as exact reproductions or scale models.

Change is in the wind and someone at Lionel listened to their customers.

I just looked over the entire Lionel catalog. Not just the tinplate parts that I will like but all of the parts including the Postwar reproductions as well as the new O gauge innovations and the new TMCC operating system that Lionel recently introduced.

First let's concentrate on the prewar products.

I do really like the fact that Lionel has actually created a brand called "Prewar Celebration Series". This is a very good sign for a collector such as myself and I believe for all collectors, regardless of whether they collect tinplate, scale, prewar or otherwise. It gives Lionel a bit of license to go back to the rich tradition of products it had prior to World War II.

I was initially skeptical of the attempt at the Flying Yankee. As a matter of fact, on the tinplate forums I poo poo'ed it completely. What changed my mind about this catalog is that we aren't seeing tinplate products as a one off or a special; there are multiple products listed in the catalog. The 262 set is the second run Lionel will be taking at this wonderful little prewar engine and if history is an indicator, Lionel will likely learn from its' mistakes early on and not re-create them in the second rendition or interpretation of the set.

The Yankee is a great product when it is part of a set of products. It's a yawner on its' own but it is a barn stormer in a catalog with other sets. When we look at Yankee pictures of the past in catalogs, it is rarely rendered by itself. It is always on a page with 2 or 3 other sets that hit similar price points. Typical JL Cowen marketing and hopefully the direction Lionel is heading now under the new/current management. Check out (below) how Flyer responded to the Lionel catalog in the 30's. Same tactic, slightly different trains.

The point is that these little sets are part of a trend, not a "let me dip my toe in the water and if I don't sell 10 million sets I am running home and crying to Momma".

I'm going to go out on a limb and say that it is highly likely I am going to purchase both sets. I want to reward Lionel for good behavior and frankly I think that we all should vote with our dollars and sense (no, that isn't a typo).

The 101 Trolley actually put me over the edge with this catalog. I already liked the catalog for a couple of other reasons I will outline later. I really appreciated and was heartened to see standard gauge back in the Lionel catalog. And this was a good product to pick; it is rare in its' original form and it is a gorgeous little trolley set. The price is completely reasonable and well worth it. Again, barring any unforeseen financial catastrophe the chances of me purchasing this product are near 100%.

They (Lionel) hit an exact focal point that collectors and operators look for in recent toy purchases: rarity, availability, manufacture (ie: playability) and price. This has a Lionel L on the side thus it is an authentic Lionel standard gauge trolley and the price point isn't so outrageous that I can't let the kids or guests try it out without blanching or grimacing (I can let everyone use it and not have to worry).

This is a big deal because it is 3 products that Lionel is introducing that aren't in the Lionel postwar cookbook as of late. One is an anamoly, three is a trend. It means that there is more than one manufacturer now producing prewar tinplate. That's good for us, all of us. The more track that gets sold, the more sets that get put out, the more Christmas trees that get trains around them the better off we all are in the hobby.

Now hold on, don't think I am going to proclaim my undying affection for Lionel in just one catalog. They're doing the right thing and that makes me happy as a customer and as a collector. I like seeing tinplate in other collections sometimes more than I like it in my own; human beings are infinitely creative and I guarantee that much of the enjoyment comes from other people having fun with their trains (and getting to watch, hear and see them). Lionel producing tinplate means that there will be more tinplate out there and that's good for everybody including other manufacturers!

Now the rest of the catalog. I liked it. And from those of you that know me or read me, you know that doesn't come lightly. I like postwar trains, I just don't collect them. This was a fine catalog that had some very nice innovations within the postwar train world. I found the sets and price points that they hit especially nice. I also liked the fact that Lionel introduced some products at lower prices. I do think they went a bit overboard with the Christmas stuff but I thought the Calliope car was a nice touch. Most kids have no idea of what a Calliope is; I wonder how it (the car) will sound?

I was glad to see the Polar Express back again as well as the elf handcar. I do wish Lionel would produce a tinplate version of the Polar Express; it would make that set a bit more special. Plastic tends to knock the wind out of even the nicest sets. Maybe some lithography? I also liked the halloween set, I think it will probably be viewed as the Girls set was by Postwar collectors. Poo poo'ed by current collectors and coveted 50 years from now.

The Hogwarts set looks nice. I've seen several flavors of it from European manufacturers. It isn't all metal which basically takes most of the excitement away for me.

The postwar stuff is also quite good. Again, better price points and some decent innovation with the roadnames and combinations (I like the handcars for instance) make this catalog stand out a bit.

The only real criticism I have is that I think the NASCAR and UPS licensing are out of place on Lionel products. The branding is inconsistent with Lionel and I am not sure what demographic they are appealing to. There's the usual Santa Fe/F3/GG1 sets and offerings. Those will probably be in Lionel catalogs until the end of time. I did like the offering of the inexpensive Hudson, I thought that the price is right and the engine tooling is quite nice; it would like great on a high rail layout or chugging around any postwar layout anywhere.

So let's recap: good catalog overall, getting much better tinplate offerings, overall offerings are positive. The new version of TMCC and the controller is rolling out and the venerable ZW is still available. Recommending the purchase/pre-order of the standard gauge trolley and if you are an O gauge collector, both tinpplate sets offered should stand out. Nice job Lionel, keep riding the trend. Please continue to advance the branding "Prewar Celebration Series", you've given collectors and operators something to celebrate.