Wednesday, January 30, 2008

It's a good time....

In spite of the fact that Wall Street seems to be tanking like a 500 series tank careening off the track in my attic, the words of Frank Petruzzo still resonate true: "Standard Gauge is hotter than ever.". Recession, no recession, politics, the internet, no matter what, standard gauge is hot.

How do I know?

Stout Auctions on February 8th and 9th, 2007. A ton of outstanding standard gauge popped up on eBay tonight. Boxed sets, some very nice variations and on and on.

New England Toy Train Exchange on Feb. 15 & 16th. An incredibly hot standard gauge auction. The April auction from NETTE should be even more outstanding.

Lionel and MTH are about to pop out new catalogs and MTH is on the cusp of shipping the first new 318E's (I think the first that have been shipped in the last 63 years).

Plus the Westchester Train Show in White Plains, NY is this weekend. It's always a good show. Honestly, I just like going into the County Center (built in 1924, it is a wonderful Art Deco building).

Still wondering if people play with trains? I was at a meeting tonight in Jersey City, NJ and I mentioned to one of my customer's that I like toy trains. He got a weird twitch in his eye and said he likes to take his kids to ride the #6 subway. He said that when it dead ends it actually turns around under the old New York City Hall and he's seen it a couple of times. He said there was nothing like it.

I feel like I just unleashed another train nut on the world....


Monday, January 28, 2008

Standard Gauge Blue Comet Variations

The recent appearance of a Lionel ca. 1935 Blue Comet set on the PBS Antiques Roadshow television show has sparked a discussion on the 0 Gauge RR Tinplate Trains forum. One time I remember reading a reference to someone who had a "Wall Of Blue Comets." How many variations are there besides the more common and easily recognizable ones? McComas & Tuhoy state that there are over 30 variations of the 400E. Are there that many, or more, variations of the Blue Comet set?


Sunday, January 27, 2008

Running 2" Gauge For The First Time

There is only a difference of 1/8 of an inch between Standard gauge and two-inch gauge, but there is a world of difference conceptually. I’m a new convert to 2” gauge, but these great electric toy trains have a certain special antique nostalgia and they exude tons of charm with their relatively simple (some say primitive) construction and subdued colors. Two-inch gauge, two-rail electric trains, manufactured by Knapp, Howard, Voltamp, and Carlisle & Finch, dominated the electric trains market during the 15-year period preceding World War I. Only one manufacturer, Lionel, was making Standard gauge electric trains during those years. Two-inch gauge trains are scarce and can be expensive but they can be found from time to time at prices comparable to mid-priced Standard gauge locomotives and sets. You will need 2”, 2-rail track and a decent DC power source to run them, but they are a bucket of fun to learn about, collect, and operate.


Saturday, January 26, 2008

Just hanging today....

Just hanging around today. Thought I would watch the Stout and Ralston auctions on eBay live.

The 10E set is from the Stout Auction. It's actually one of the best sets ever (this is the same set as my very first standard gauge Lionel set). It's unpretentious yet it runs forever and looks as good on a big layout as it does on a little circle of track.

The Stout auction has a ton of Flyer stuff. Must be one of the greatest S-Gauge auctions ever.

I'm blown away by those Rich Art Bi-Polars on eBay. Those things went for over $3.5k each to the same guy!

Auctions are funny things. I've seen great stuff go at auctions for diddly and than there's the $250k set everyone has been bombarded with since 2006. Watching the parade of toy trains go by almost never gets boring, it's almost as good as standing in the middle of Grand Central in NYC.


Saturday, January 19, 2008

New Olson Plot on eBay

Check out the new Olson Plot on eBay. Let me just make sure the record is straight on this - Olson Displays is trying to understand the marketplace. They may or MAY NOT decide to sell their goods exclusively on eBay. They are trying to get an idea of what will sell, what people will like and how many of each item they should produce. Basic market research.

Go check out their new website as well here.


Blue Comet O Gauge RR Article

There's a wonderful article in this month's O Gauge RR about restoring an O Gauge Blue Comet.

What makes it so good is that it was very well written, well illustrated and a beautiful train found its' way into deserving hands at the end of the article.

Ok, so it isn't earth shattering; it is still worth taking a look. This magazine is a bit different from other Toy Train magazines in that it seems to cater to people that just like toy trains. I know it focuses on O gauge and there is a ton of high rail stuff. Still, it does a great job of catering to model railroaders in general. And besides, whenever someone invites me (and probably all of the readers of this blog) to see a great O gauge layout, we all go!!!

Check out the article and the wonderful balance this magazine seems to be hitting on with all cylinders!


MTH Blue 390E

The 390E Blue Comet engine has been coveted for years, predominantly because of its' unusual color scheme and because it came before the 400E to support one of the most recognized and popular passenger sets of all time.

The new MTH 390E is a solid reproduction of its' prewar counterpart. Really, the review for this engine isn't a whole lot different than the other 3 390E's I have already looked at. Here's a few observations:

1) This engine comes with Central Jersey plates. That does in fact make it easier to pair it up with the 300 series cars MTH shipped with the 384E set as well as the Blue Comet freights MTH shipped. When you see these together you'll immediately get it (I'll try and take some shots later on).

2) The flanging on the wheels is correct. I know this sounds insane but I've had a problem with some recent acquisitions. The flanging on the wheels is incorrect and the engine sways from side to side. These engines all seem to have the wheel flanging right. You'll know it when you see it. It makes a huge difference in how the trains run.

3) Since I do not have an original Lionel 390E Blue Comet the best I could do was compare the paint to the many pictures I have in my archive and with several flavors of Blue Comet I have (both MTH and original Lionel). The paint is almost spot on. I say almost because the prewar counterpart changes color with age. The newer Comets from Lionel and MTH are spot on. It's the same color. MTH did a great job with the paint for this. I have to say, one very positive thing I can say about all of the MTH engines I have looked at is that they seem to have put a process in place for continuous quality improvement. The soldering is solid in all of the right places and the paint application and application of exterior items like grab rails has been grown much better over time. When I pull this engine out of the box, everything is exactly as it should on the exterior of the engine.

4) The batteries are coming charged from the factory. This makes it much easier to get up and running immediately.

Enjoy the pics for now, more coming later!


Friday, January 18, 2008

The Ives 1770

The paint on this is so shiny anytime I touch it I need to clean off my finger prints. I gotta tell ya, it is really good to see Ives on a steam engine.

The original version of this must have been a disappointment for many boys. You hauled downstairs on Christmas morning and expected to find a huge Ives set and you got a Lionel engine with Ives plates. And vice versa, if you were looking for a 390E on Christmas morning and you got slammed with the Ives version, how do you tell your Dad you wanted a Lionel?

Well, nobody will be disappointed with this engine in 2008. I'm glad MTH made it. I'll put up the Youtube video later. I don't have an original version of this engine to make a comparison however I can say that this engine is well put together and solid. One thing that does confuse me though, all of the 390E's except the Blue Comet version have freight sounds. I like the freight sounds but I tend to like to have a choice. I guess my next question to MTH will be to ask how to change over freight sounds to passenger sounds.

So what should we put behind these? What passenger cars would match an Ives 1770E?


Watch out for these....

In opening new toy trains, you have to watch out for these....

They are very prevalent in the new tinplate products and they are necessary. Just be careful, I turned around for one minute and one of these had fallen on the floor and my dog was chewing on it.

These used to be lethally toxic, now they're just "harmless but not edible".

Stick 'em in a box and use them when you store your trains. They absorb humidity wonderfully and are good for your trains. Just don't let them find their ways to kids and pets...


More 390E on the way....

Hi All,
I've been working further on the 390E review/unboxing. I am going to show a couple of things in the next posts:
An original 390E
An LTI (MTH) 390E
Compared to the new 390E's.
Now here's something that's confusing me. The Green Stripe 390E has NYC plates!
There's also some other strange little items here I'd like to know. For instance, on the box for the Green and Orange Stripe it says: "390E Rev. B". Rev B? What happened to Rev. A? Is this a second generation 390E? It just struck me as interesting that MTH has different revisions.

Also, the descriptions were a bit different. The green stripe 390E is described as a "State Green 390E with a green stripe". The green and orange 390E is described as just that, a green and orange 390E. Yet when side by side, the green's are identical. Was the Green 390E with a green stripe put in front of a state set? Needless to say, if I find it in one of the original catalogs I'll definitely publish it. I know there were quite a few one off sets for department stores and the like. I've seen state sets pulled by 400E's and by 381E's but not by 390E's. Any thoughts?

More on the way....


Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Wisconsin Standard Gauge Operating Society

Paul on the TCA Groups sent out a wonderful Youtube Video from the Wisconsin Standard Gauge Operating Society. The video is really wonderful, if anyone has any more of these they can send me, I'd love to get them posted.

It's almost a shame I can't go to Youtube and get a DVD cut of these. I'd love to be able to watch these without a broadband connection (say, on a plane!).


Tuesday, January 15, 2008

The New MTH 390E Cont

MTH 390E Cont

Here's a closeup of the front Southern plate. This isn't a felony or anything, I still like the engine; I'd just rather have other Pennsy or NYC plates. Speaking of plates, the Green 390E with the green stripe has NYC plates. I think I'll ask MTH next time I see them at a show (which is at least twice a year!).

Now this is one thing that frustrates me about the orange and/or green strip 390E. I know the frame on these is straight. Yet if you look at the stripe it looks a little crooked. I know, I know, it's the paint and not the engine.

Let's talk about the paint a little. I had a green 390E all original Lionel engine I sold a couple of months ago. This paint is almost spot on exact. The reason it isn't exact is because the Lionel paint was original and was aged. My guess is that it looked very similar to this when it was new.

MTH 390E Cont.

I unwrapped the tender first. There was the usual foam and wrapping. The wrapping wasn't as tight as MTH usually ships it, my guess is that this engine had been inspected and even tested prior to shipment.

Two things I noticed about the tender and this where MTH gets a minor slap on the hand:

1) The catalog shows this with Pennsy plates. The engine comes with Southern plates. Being that I am in the Northeastern part of the US, Southern plates really don't jibe with anything I have. Why MTH, why?

2) In designing more effective pickups, MTH put a wire underneath the tender that is strung underneath the tender from one truck to another. Now remember we also have a Protosound harness as well. I noticed a wire on the outside of my Flying Colonel engine as well. This is not a happy development MTH! Wires on the outside of trains is not a welcome development. Forgetting a minute about originals, wires (especially on the bottom of trains) are a huge potential maintenance hassle for operators. Is this something we can avoid in the future?

MTH did do a great job of making sure you oil the engine before it hits the pike. I'd highly recommend buzzing over to your local train store and getting some light oil. These trains do need to be oiled before they start running. MTH reminds you of it as soon as you crack open the box and I'd recommend you heed their recommendation.

Monday, January 14, 2008

MTH 390E Cont.

As per usual, this is a strong reproduction engine. No doubt about it, MTH did their homework and architected a wonderful product. What makes this product different and are there any problems?
Well, yes there are a few things that make this excellent. There are one or two things that you need to be aware of before you buy.

McCoy Circus Car Question

Ok, for all of the McCoy experts out there, here's a tough one!

First, check out the pics -

In the enclosed picture the sides are silk screened different than any other I have seen-has anyone else out there have one of these, and is this an early production model proto type (not marked on the bottom as such)? I am 99.999% positive this is not a repaint and I have found a picture in a December 1968 TTOS Bulletin of this exact same car on display at a November 1968 TTOS meeting at the Arroyo Motor Hotel. Question 2-In the other picture of a plain cardboard box that the Performer Car came in which at first I was ready to throw away as a junk box. Just before I was going to give it a toss I noticed a very distinct rubber stamped 255 on the side and the end. Is this to a very early unmarked McCoy box?

McCoy experts, chime in!


Sunday, January 13, 2008

Olson Displays on the way!

Bob Olson is working hard on some new prewar items. Check out his new add. These should hit eBay sometime this week.


PS Bob is looking for ideas! Anyone have any? Think new tinplate ideas.

The New MTH 390E Unboxed

There are some subtle and not so subtle differences between the 390E's of the past and the current MTH 390E. Obviously Protosound and Pittman motors can either add to your delight or dismay (depending on whether you take advantage of the new technology or prefer technology of the past).

I did feel a quick blush of privilege by getting to open a new 390E. The last 390E made its' debut in the Lionel Classics line in the early 90's. It was painted and remarketed by several people in one off colors and we see both the black and one-off colors on eBay from time to time. The original is quite a bit different than the current offerings both in technology and build. I'll show you both the new product as well as the venerable Lionel original.

390E's are one of those strange engines that everyone seems to love but nobody seems to be able to pay alot for. Sure, there are the green one's that go for a huge amount of money but on the whole, if you wait and watch a decent black 390E can be had for under $1000 in very good condition. They pull and run just about anything from passenger sets to freight. They look good in front of just about anything; apparently Lionel thought so because it headed up the Blue Comet set before the 400E. And whoever painted it green a couple of times at the Lionel factory also seemed to latch onto a winner.

This box came extremely well packed. It looked like it had been opened since it came over the ocean and had been repacked.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Overheard in NYC

This is absolutely one of the funniest websites anywhere. It is because truth is actually stranger than fiction. This website collects little snippets overheard in New York City. Follow the link above to see the site.

Below: some snippets captured (and out on from trains running in and around New York City. If you want to see some really unbelievable quotes go to the above site, it's hysterical.


Wednesday One-Liners, the Shepherds of New York

Conductor: This is the last stop -- Brooklyn Bridge, City Hall. Y'all have a nice day and be good, now... But if you can't be good, be baaad.

--6 train

Overheard by: Paul Schroeder

Conductor: Good morning, everybody. This is your 7:15 New Haven train, express to Greenwich. To infinity, and beyond!

--Connecticut-bound Metro-North train

MTA worker: This station is now closed. No train is coming here. You all have to get out of here!

--8th St N/Q/R/W station

Overheard by: bKSquared+AV

Conductor: Ladies and gentlemen, please remember that every car of this train has four doors, so 27 people in front of one door -- well, it is not scholarship material. Let's use our brains, people. Then you won't have to bump your guns and complain that the A is never on time.

--A train, 96th St

Overheard by: Emily B.

Conductor: Attention passengers, the last two cars will not platform at Bellerose, either. That means if the doors didn't open for you at the last station, they won't open at Bellerose, either, so stop standing looking confused, and walk forward!

--Hempstead-bound LIRR

Overheard by: Nathalie

Conductor: For those of you standing in the first five cars, the back three cars are almost empty. Come sit down! I'm lonely back here.


Conductor: And now... the mass exodus!

--F train

Overheard by: da sarkastik ninja.

via Overheard in New York, Jan 9, 2008

eBay Shipping

I've seen some very disturbing emails floating around and discussion topics on the forums on the above topic. Click on the link to go to the Might Bargain Hunter website to get some additional info on what's driving this new form of fraud.
I was actually just burned to the tune of $150 by one of these new eBay stores selling products on eBay for walk in customers. The devil is in their fine print and their shipping charges aren't obvious until you get to their checkout.

They actually want $5 for you to walk in the store and pick up the item! Why the heck don't they just push that cost into the net costing of the listing and item?
Here's what I've started doing - for larger ticket items, I go and look at the sellers past auctions and I now do read the fine print. I'm not going to dwell on this too long. Ebay also has substantial overviews on shipping that are excellent and very forthright. All I know is that I ship from the UPS Store and packing for a very expensive train (double boxing) is almost always $25 bucks and they do an excellent job (at least near my house).
Please, just be careful and read the fine print.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

New Prewar Tunnels?

I was just fishing around on eBay and caught this little biddy on the left.

Tunnels are one of those things that seem to be left out of everyone's production. Lionel and MTH seem to go for the complex stuff and leave the artsy stuff to the collectors.

This looks like a dynamite reproduction. I dropped a note to the company to see if I could get further info, supposedly standard gauge tunnels are coming.

If this is true, this could be exciting for us. I need some decent prewar style materials to model after and the colors are tremendously helpful for modeling landscapes for prewar trains.

The muted tones used in the tunnels and landscape plots look prewar and do serve a purpose. They provide color and still highlite the brilliant colors of the trains themselves. They help the trains get noticed and still add play value. They provide an important backdrop for the scenery however they don't plunge us into the world of highrail.

I can't tell you how cool this is if these folks proceed as planned. I'd love to see what they have in mind for the future. Please contact me if you know anything about these folks.

Sunday, Busy Sunday

I had a table at a local toy train meet today, sponsored by the the TCA Atlantic Division. This was the first time I actually sold stuff at one of these shows. After a while, after close to a decade of collecting, the time has come for me to adjust my toy train collection and sell off some of the items that I bought long ago in which I am no longer acutely interested. The benefits of this sort of thing to a collector are: 1. it makes room for new acquisitions; and 2. the money raised is welcome. So I was busy for a good part of the day today at the train meet. I had a good time and I did sell some stuff.


Saturday, January 05, 2008

Celebrate Tinplate on OGR

Click on the above link to go to a wonderful slide show from the OGR Forums on tinplate. It's a wonderful set of pictures that was put together from contributions to the forum.

I know, I know - where are the posts Marc? Heck, this is tinplate prime time and the pics and posts are NOT forthcoming! Well, my work has kept me in my car or on a plane unfortunately and not given me much time for tinplate. My trainroom has now been officially declared a disaster area and my wife thinks she hears a squirrel upstairs in my train room walls (he came in to ride the 20th Century Limited, I just know it).

At any rate, the room is thrashed, there are trains backing up onto my stairs and I haven't had time to write the articles I want to write. If anyone wants to contribute, now is the time. I do have some ideas for new articles that should be very nice. I did get some of those Arcadia books for Christmas; I got one on the New York Central that is just amazing.

That's it for now, keep running those trains!