Sunday, November 30, 2008

Classic Toy Trains Must Read

I'm not a great fan of Classic Toy Trains magazine because my interests are out of sync with the focus of the magazine. However, once in a while an issue of CTT does contain the kind of article that resonates with me. In the January, 2009 issue there is an interesting article on Standard gauge collector and operator Chuck Stone. I've met Chuck a few times at York, he's a nice, friendly guy who is fun to talk with. His collection, which focuses on Lionel and IVES, is extensive. The CTT article includes some good photos of Chuck's layout and collection. The text of the article points out that this is actually Chuck's third collection...he had to dispose of earlier 0 gauge collections for personal reasons. Today his interests in prewar Standard gauge are well represented on his shelves and on his layout.


The SGMA National Limited

Each of the eight Standard Gauge Module Association members who participated in the Syracuse Train Fair display have a car named after them. We ran the "SGMA National Limited" during the show. The Syracuse SGMA group came up with the idea. Pretty neat!


Friday, November 28, 2008

Metal Museum

Just doing a little web surfing and I found this neat little site called "Metal Museum". It's a little repository of Buddy L toys. Seems like there are quite a few Buddy L collectors out there. I do periodic searches on eBay and see the Buddy L prices are up there. Check out the Metal Museum. It's always interesting to see what other collectors are focusing on.... Marc

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Slightly Off Topic... Cargo by train!

Check out this interesting article on Salon here: Salon. It's a great little article on the price and value of rail freight and travel. Yep, I know it sounds kind of elementary. Take a second to read the article and do some of the math. Railroads certainly have one huge advantage...


Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Big Day for SGMA Jan. 3rd and 4th


CONTACT: Jim Kelly, SGMA Publicist, Philadelphia WGHS (


The Standard Gauge Module Association (SGMA,) the only national toy train club dedicated to the construction and operation of Standard Gauge (2-1/8” three rail track) toy train modular layouts, announces its participation at the Worlds Greatest Hobby On Tour train show in Oaks, PA on January 3 & 4 2009. The SGMA will help inaugurate a spectacular brand new venue for exhibitions in the mid-Atlantic region, the Greater Philadelphia Expo Center, located at 100 Station Avenue, in Oaks, PA.

The SGMA plans to construct a massive rectangular- shaped operating standard gauge layout 32' wide X 72' long, with a smaller the inner layout 12' wide X 24' long. Up to six standard trains will be operational at one time.

A SGMA layout attempts to recreate all the excitement, color and sound that go with the operation of Standard Gauge toy trains from the "Classic Era" of model railroading, when massive tinplate Standard Gauge toy trains dominated the toy train industry. There is something very exciting, even magical about seeing, smelling and hearing a classic era Standard Gauge "Blue Comet" locomotive puffing smoke and going "click-ity-clack" while barreling at full throttle down a long length of Standard Gauge track. No other gauge toy trains create the same high level of
sensory (sight, smell, sound) overload.

Members of the Public are always welcome to bring and run their Standard Gauge toy trains on a SGMA modular layout. For those who do, the opportunity can easily become a life changing event as a SGMA layout can easily be the largest Standard Gauge layout on which they will ever get a chance to operate their Standard Gauge toy trains.

For more information about the Standard Gauge Module Association click here:SGMA

For more information about the Worlds Greatest Hobby Show on Tour click here:WGHS:

For more information on the Greater Philadelphia Expo Center at Oaks click here:Expo

I'm not sure but I think this might be a bit of history in the making in 2009. Could this be the largest standard gauge layout ever?


Monday, November 24, 2008

My Site was hacked today...

Some scumbags hacked my site today and put up some social networking garbage. I don't belong to any group called "Hi5" nor will I ever. I had to dig the HTML out of my site which tells me that this isn't some ordinary spammer.

If anyone else sees it on my site in past blog posts, please let me know. I'm not sure how to tell everyone how angry this makes me. Think baseball bat and the movie Walking Tall and you get the idea...



Here is the main prewar table at the NETTE auction. I didn't take a video shot of the O gauge stuff. They O gauge boxed Blue Streak was fantastic. The American Flyer Zephyr and boxed Flyer Comet were two of the best I've ever seen.


Sunday, November 23, 2008

The Finelli Army Train

Mr. Finelli just finished his rendition of an Army train in standard gauge! I haven't seen this in person however I must say Joe has really outdone himself on this. The train is striking and is probably the best interpretation of the Prewar (WWI) Lionel item I've seen.

Joe makes trains in his spare time, he actually has a career and job in a highly skilled area. This guy's creativity and ability is outstanding; I wish there was a way to give him more time and resources to build these great items.

Whenever I see anything from Joe Finelli, Joe Mania, Jim Cohen or Dick Mayer and quite a few others (Bob Thon, John Harmon and so on) I marvel at their ingenuity and ability to make something out of nothing. With America taking some lumps right now in the manufacturing space, we need people like them. There's no disputing that what they do is amazing; they make the best quality, products that are very close to art and they do it with almost no help. Imagine what these guys could do if they had the resources to let their imaginations really go.

Keep up the great work Joe!

For those of you that have never seen a Lionel Army Train: Lionel produced an Army train around WWI. Details are a little sketchy around it, I seem to remember it coming in a few configurtions with a flat car, a passenger car, a plane, some army cast iron army men and so on. I have a Dick Mayer rendition of it and I think it is terrific. It wasn't really designed after any prototype, it was designed by Lionel to give kids with limited space some access to a military toy. Even the reproductions come in several different flavors and colors with many different items as add ons. When I run the reproduction flavor I have in O gauge it squeals around the track and sways a little bit. All told, it is really fun to watch. I have to imagine the standard gauge flavor above is no different.


Saturday, November 22, 2008

New England Toy Train Exch Today

Stopped by the NETTE Auction today in Connecticut. I gotta tell everyone, eBay is a terrific place to find trains but actually seeing them in person is still way better.

The prices were actually pretty reasonable compared with some of the high prices we've seen in the last few months. I perused the parking lot on the way in and noticed quite a few out of state cars there.

I watched Mark Tobias do his magic for a bit. I noticed that the postwar stuff seemed to be pretty hot at this auction. The room was definitely not packed however I got the feeling that many folks were coming and going depending on the items being auctioned and the interest the bidders had in them.

All told, I really did enjoy seeing the smattering of prewar toys they had there. I took some Youtube video as well. If you want me to post it drop me a note in the comments sections. Also, check out that Russian Transformer below (green). I've never seen one like it; the design was really novel and it caught my eye. I'm not sure I'd want to drive any trains with it but it was boxed and definitely was unusual.


Saturday, November 15, 2008

Save The Date (Amherst Train Show)

I know this January is going to kick off a whole bunch of things; a new President, a new year, leaving 2008 behind and a new layout in my attic!

It also is the time for a great train show in Springfield, MA. The Amherst Railways Society Railroad Hobby Show. It is fun even if you are exclusively prewar/tinplate. There are tons of parts dealers, train dealers and hobby dealers.

January 24th and 25th at the Big E Fairgrounds in Springfield, MA. My kids and I have been going since just after they were born and I gotta tell ya, they still like it.

See you there!


Friday, November 14, 2008

Good Crowds At Allentown

Hobbyists waited in line last weekend to get into the Allentown First Frost train show, always one of my favorites. I have a dealer friend who was happy with his sales during the weekend.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Very Big Scale

Some new items from T-Repro. I can't imagine how much room I'd need to do some diorama's like this. It is probably the only kind of "high rail" I'd ever consider doing though...


Saturday, November 08, 2008

Thoughts On Stout

I bid on 24 lots, but not many of my bids were serious and I didn't come even close on all but a few. I lost two lots that closed at my maximum bid to floor bidders including one C & F stock car that I really wanted. I did win this restored 1912. The 1912 was made for three years only, 1910, 1911, and 1912, and it's a pretty special loco, the forerunner of Lionel's great 42/402/408E series of electrics. Some of the closing prices are mind boggling like the Howard steeple cab that went for $24.5K. I think that now days auctions are NOT the best places to pick up trains at good prices. You're likely to be up against some deep pockets at high end auction houses.

Watching the Stout Auction

For an economy in the crapper there are some major, major dollars getting spent at a train auction today. Not many bargains to be had in standard gauge.
Plus I have to believe that if Jehu Garelick thought his little toy would sell for over $40k, he'd probably have made more!
PS $40k in 1895 dollars is $1,018,879.61. Guess the spirit of invention doesn't die and some people just get paid for it REALLY late.

Ballasting Standard Gauge Track Poll

Ok, so I guess quite a few of you don't care about my polls. If you are going to peruse the blog it would be really great if you could answer them. Come on, it's two button clicks.

Only 59 people responded to my poll on ballasting standard gauge track. Here are the results (above). Guess I'm going to steer clear of ballast for now....


Friday, November 07, 2008

Standard Gauge Mega Display In The Works!

Building upon our successful joint display at the Syracuse Train Fair, the Standard Gauge Module Association is planning what could be the largest, most spectacular and elaborate modular display yet. The date in the weekend of January 3rd and 4th, 2009. The venue is the World's Greatest Hobby show in Oaks, PA, a suburb of Philadelphia. It is possible that we will have members from the Midwest, the DC area, New York, and the Philly area participating. This could be a huge layout. As always, the SGMA welcomes SG enthusiasts to bring something to run at all of our events. You don't have to be a member to run trains on our layouts. Stay tuned for more information.


Tuesday, November 04, 2008

SGMA At Syracuse 11/08

Here's the first of several short videos I took at the SGMA event last tweekend. This video features SGMA Syracuse member Dick Gordon's McCoy Circus train.

Monday, November 03, 2008

The SGMA At Syracuse

This is just a note to publicly thank the SGMA display team members in Syracuse...Jim Cottzolla, Charlie Grover, Dick Gordon, and Max Champion, for their wonderful hospitality during our group's past weekend activity at the Great New York State Train Fair. For me it was an extremely enjoyable experience that was made so much better by the warm reception we received from these fellow standard gauge enthusiasts. There was a lot of conversation about joining up again ASAP and personally, I can't wait. You guys are the greatest!


Photo: one of SGMA member Pat Rolland's creations running at Syracuse, a steel-bodied steeplecab on top of a Lionel chassis and motor

Sunday, November 02, 2008

More From Syracuse

A large part of the fun of running standard gauge trains at shows like Syracuse is watching the reaction of the public and especially, the interest that kids have in these big trains. Yesterday I watched a couple of young boys as they ran around the entire perimeter of our 60 x 36 foot modular layout chasing one particular train that was running on our outside loop. I think we've made an impression with a lot of people at this big train show.

Today the show opens at 9 AM and the joint Philadelphia area/Syracuse area SGMA team will be back running trains. Later on we'll pack up a bit before the show ends and start our 5-1/2 hour trek back to the Philadelphia area. This show has been a lot of fun to do and well worthwhile from the standpoint of attendance and interest.

Watch for a full recap with more photos and videos in the next issue of Tinplate Times that I hope to publish around Thanksgiving.


Saturday, November 01, 2008

SGMA: Images From Syracuse

SGMA: Blogging From The Syracuse Train Fair

Here are a couple of photos from Friday. On the left is a shot of some of the Syracuse Standard Gauge Module Association members: kneeling is Dick Grodon; standing behind Dick is Max Champion; in the blue jacket is Charles Glover, and standing holding the module leg is Jim Cottzolla. The below photo shows the Standard Gauge Module Association Philadelphia area team loaded and ready to go to Syracuse, left to right, Pat Rolland, Chris Bogus, Jim Kelly, and Kirk Lindvig. The trailer is 20 feet long and is literally filled up against the back door with modules, trains and accessories, stored for transport in specially designed cabinets.

The drive to Syracuse was a pleasant 5 plus hour trip. We arrived at the Syracuse Fairgrounds just after 3 PM. The NY SGMA group had already set up their interior loop of modules. We got to work constructing an exterior loop of modules that is an incredible 60 feet long by 36 feet wide, eight feet wider than the Altoona layout. The exterior loop includes two specially designed "ravine" scenic modules, one of which incorporates a Hellgate bridge. The exterior loop also includes the SGMA "Horseshoe Curve" module grouping featuring a track curve maximum diameter of an incredible 122 inches!
Today the show opens at 10 Am and we're ready to go! I'll try to post some pictures of today's activity at the show later on.
From Syracuse,