Monday, September 26, 2022

Brad Kaplan - Early Standard Gauge Enthusiast

There is a downside to this hobby.  It isn't money, it isn't trades that go bad, it isn't toys that can't be had.  None of that.  It's when I see a note like this on Facebook before I go to sleep (and then fail to sleep at all):

When someone leaves us; whether expected or not.

When you have someone that is an important person.  To his family, his friends, to his co-workers and employees and is also a prolific collector and expert in his area.  Brad was tough as nails and incredibly diligent getting answers to questions about the rarest of rare toy trains.  And unlike Arno, he didn't have a great tome of work that we can look at and remember him by.  It is up to us to remember him as the important participant he was, both in our hobby and as a gentleman scholar of train history.

He will be missed by many, myself included.  We were scheduling and rescheduling lunch and time together.  Now I could just kick myself for not chucking my schedule and getting out to see him.  He was taken from us far too early.  Enough said.

Sunday, August 28, 2022

Newt & Arno's Collections

 I've seen two great collections at Stout Auctions this week.  I am glad that they are going through Stout as they are incredibly reputable, honest and family owned.  As a buyer (in the past), I've been incredibly happy with their packing and shipping and was even glad to pay their auction house costs as their service was (in fact) that good.  They also accurately describe what they are auctioning and it was my experience that the in-person auctions are every bit as fun (maybe more) than online.  With Covid starting to slow down and go away, going to an auction house for a great auction should definitely be on the menu.

The Stout Team is 100% spot on showing the Jerry Brown Green Diamond as the highlight of Arno's auction.  I highly recommend checking out both auctions.  My guess is you'll see many of the items running around the SGMA layout @ York or in one of the shows coming up.  Most of these trains are better on a big layout (like any of the SGMA layouts) and not on a shelf.

Yes, Arno's collection does make me a little sad.  Although I am glad his family will benefit from the sale.  And if you do not have the book from Arno and Dave Carse, please buy it.  It will give you much better insight into this auction.

Newt Derby's prewar trains are also extremely well documented and there are some unique items such as the prewar layout, tunnels and scenic lots.  Makes me wish I didn't live in such a small house!

Interested to hear what everyone and/or anyone picks up at these auctions.  They're both for great people from a very solid auction house.


Arno's Book and More

 Hello Fellow Hobbyists!  It has been a very long time since I posted last.  It seems we are entering a new era for standard gauge and I have to tell ya, it is pretty exciting.  

First Arno Baar's and Dave Carse's Book -

I have pretty much every book on standard gauge there is (including the Louis Hertz stuff).  I've been trying to think of the best way to encapsulate how I feel about this book.  This book is so good, it in fact IS a collectible.  Yes, I've seen the books that debate what Mario Caruso was thinking in the Lionel Factory or what the Ives management team was thinking in 1922.  I read the McComas and Tuohy books as well as the David Doyle books for years (and they are pretty great)  They are all really cool and make no mistake, absolutely worth the read.  

But this book is different.  It does so much more than capture the story of a company.  It depicts artists and their work, mostly in their own words or in the words of family and close friends.

This is one of the first books that I can pick up at any time, flip to a random page and really be blown away at what I learn and see.  

I've owned quite a few of the items in this book at what time or another.  Not knowing what they were, I thought they were cool for a short period of time and then let them go, usually to someone like Arno that I thought was nuts for buying a "no name brand Japanese Trolley" which turned out to be something a bit more specific and valuable.

And I have vastly more appreciation for the work that I thought I understood and knew about even as it was happening right before my very eyes.

I opened this book for the first time and I got pretty emotional.  I miss my discussions with Arno about the state of the hobby, CMT and CMC and all of the crazy rumors that couldn't be put in the book (because they are rumors).  I consider it pure luck that I am getting to know some of the great people he surrounded himself with that build standard gauge now (you know who you are).  But that still doesn't take away some of the sadness I feel about not seeing Arno role out this wonderful book.

I also am grateful that David Carse took on this book almost like a religious quest.  His commitment resonates through every page.  The writing is brilliant and thorough and demonstrates the same dedication Arno had to shining a light on great builders and their works of art.  

Get this book.  Hopefully there will never be an electronic or softcover version.  It's too special to be in anything other than a hardcover version with thick, heavy bond paper.  Every builders story is well told, every picture is worth a thousand more words.  And one can only wonder what they built that we aren't going to get to see.

Standard gauge is alive and well and is flourishing with Arno and David Carse's book. The book itself is a long awaited collectible that will reward the reader over and over again with new facts, new ideas and great people that are part of the history of this great hobby.


PS: there are a couple of pictures from my collection that seem to have snuck in.  Anyone care to guess which one's? 

Sunday, November 12, 2017

The Mythical Creswell 600E

I know, I haven't been posting.  Been loving the trains I have and missing the friend's I've lost the last few years.

I did watch an online auction today that rekindled some of my interest.  I saw quite a few standard gauge lots go on Ebay Live auctions (Craig Miller Collection) offered by Turner Auctions.  Very solid auction that was well done.  The prices were completely reasonable and what caught my eye was this:

The mythical Creswell 600e.  Went for over $5000 bucks with a buyers premium tacked on.  It was clearly the main event of the auction.  I bid once or twice however once it jet past $1500 I had to bow out.  It absolutely doesn't disappoint.  The Hudson in Standard Gauge has always been a "must have" and this is a really cool engine.  The last one I knew of was with my friend Arno.  The story of Harlen Creswell still sits in Arno's un-finished bible of Modern Era Standard Gauge (MESG).   I hope the buyer gets a ton of pleasure out of such a unique and wonderful piece.  The DD1's were also kind of cool.  Most of the auction was fun items at absolutely reasonable prices.

Here's a Creswell 600E one of the guys at the O Gauge forum was good enough to post here.

I hope some other folks take note - thinking outside the box and producing items that are NOT necessarily classic Lionel reproductions are in fact desirable.  I saw the Rich Art monster engines move as well.  For anyone wanting one, they don't disappoint. 

I also heard recently my friend Butch Alvarado passed away.  I was stunned by this as he seemed like a guy that was never healthy and yet was bound and determined to live forever.  He was Dick Mayer's right hand and a hold over from the 60's I always enjoyed talking to.  He's the only way I knew anything about Cal-Stewart and all of the cool train stuff there is in California.  I'll really miss him as he was also my dinner bud when I was in San Diego.  I'll miss Butch!!

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Prices and People in 2017

I watch the toy train world largely from the sidelines these days.  With many of my friends in the hobby gone and the hobby changing, much of the luster is gone for me.  I still love toy trains and I still have quite a few, however I haven't purchased a new toy train since 2015.  MTH's offerings are a bit on the high side for costing and most of them are re-treads of what was already there.  I really wanted a standard gauge subway set however that was not meant to be.

I watch may of the newbies struggling to find some of the stories online.  I periodically look at the forums.  I'm a little sad for them as they didn't get to meet some of the people I did like Lenny Dean or get to go to Madison Hardware (I did go and got to shake hands with Carl and Lou!).

It's time I hear some stories from some of my readers.  Send them to!


Saturday, October 15, 2016

A Reminder of What Was

A few shots of Arno's collection from the TCA tour.  Definitely a collection compiled by a great man.


Wednesday, October 05, 2016

We lost a titan on September 16, 2016 - Arno Baars

It is with sadness and very heavy heart that I report our very dear friend, Arno Baars has passed.  There is no way to fully articulate the kind of loss this is to his family, friends, the world.

I was lucky enough to call Arno a friend and an occasional co-conspirator in the toy train world.  His knowledge was vast, his ability to share and articulate was second to none and the humanity he gave to the simple hobby of toy trains will never be surpassed.

I tried my best to think of a way to describe him to future generations that might find this writing.  Why was he so important?  What made him different than the other thousands of hobbyists and collectors that have come and gone and are yet to be born?  What made him special to me?

Arno was so much more than a collector of toys and I was so glad to have known him.   I do know I will miss him and that my world is a little smaller and less without him.  I think a better definition (for him as a collector) would have been a Scholar of Modern Era Standard Gauge and the interpreter of the circumstances that produced both the creators of the toys and the items themselves.

Like the trains he loved, he had a colorful intellect that had a youthful sense of discovery and curiosity slightly beneath his surface.  He had a dry sense of humor that tended to sneak out unannounced.  Upon seeing him, he could have easily been mistaken for a farmhand.  However, assuming that his gentle brilliance was only because of a vocation or his own upbringing would be an injustice to someone that had such an abundance of both wit and wisdom.  Having both (wit and wisdom) put him in a special class of human being.

He was the type of man that could weigh his words carefully and still deliver a message anyone could learn from.  The importance of someone with his kind of capability could never be overstated.  He had the ability to frame an idea and surround it with a time and place.  No small feat however it was second nature to him.

I never saw him angry or confrontational.  When people were less than friendly, I saw him actually reflect in their behavior.  He didn't get angry so much as they tried to see where the negative action was coming from and try to plot a course around it.  Arno was very good at changing anger and using it as a tool to learn from and still see the color in both the people he interacted with and the toys he collected.

The loss for people that love the hobby of toy trains is profound.  What made Arrno special wasn't just that he was a collector of unique modern era standard gauge trains, he was a historian of the toys as well as the people that invented them.  He photographed much of my own collection.  I also know Jim Cohen spoke to him extensively about the many craftsmen he came into contact with.  Arno cataloged all of the interactions and carefully wrote down every bit of it on his trusty Macbook.

We have lost a librarian, a chronicler, a biographer, a lover of fine art and an artist himself.  He made an effort to reach out and not just acquire the trains, he also sought to acquire the history, the backstory and capture a little bit of the personalities behind them.   At one point I know he even planned on making a few trains himself and frequented York in search of information as well as sightings of rare and wonderful products.

In crafting his collection, he also told the story of art born out of necessity and how people could build something from nothing.  That's an important story as it is one of the things that is largely lost in our current society and remains a constant in human history; building things is part of being great.  And his fascination was not just with a toy or piece of metal, it was with the will to create it in the first place.  I know he was compiling a book on his beloved trains, I was never sure how far he managed to get on it.  I hope he managed to get much of it together as it would be a small part of Arno that could live on.  No book will ever replace him, however I do hope future generations know about him from his family and friends.  He was just so damn unique.

The first time he came to my house and we formally met, I instantly felt comfortable with him.  My kids also really took to him.  At the time, they were still very  young.   He was sensible and understated.  Yet his knowledge and experiences led me to very quickly respect and admire him.  Even having only known him a couple of hours, I bought him a steak dinner and traded stories with him until my kids were ready to fall asleep.  We spoke and exchanged emails many times since then.  My last conversation with him was a little bit about trains and a lot about music and our mutual favorite instruments (guitars).  He was a man that had a unique ear for sound and music and there are several Emmy's on his mantle to prove it.  I knew he was in a great deal of pain however I've rarely met a person with a toughness and spark such as Arno's.   This was a guy that wrung life out of every second he was on the planet.

The world is minus a wonderful story teller, artist and father.  I grieve for his family and close friends as they have lost someone of significant stature.  He was by no means an ordinary person.  His gentle soul and down-to-earth wisdom reminded me of a Will Rogers and a toughness that I'd wish more people possessed.

I know the trains that I once held in such high regard and fascination will have lost some of their luster as I have lost a friend that was part of them.  And yes, I'd trade all of them in an instant to have him back.

I quote from Abe Lincoln comes to mind for my friend: "And in the end, it's not the years in your life that count. It's the life in your years."  Truly his was a life very well lived.


PS I know Arno passed away in September and I am publishing this on October 5th.  What took me so long to publish this?  Part of it was every time I started writing, I was overcome with sadness and some regret.  I wish I'd spent more time with Arno.  I revised this no less than 50 times and I feel like I still didn't get everything I wanted to say.  I guess there's only so much the written word can capture.  That's what took me so long. 
PSS This is the last shot ever on my layout.  I have taken it down.  It was time. 

Wednesday, April 06, 2016

Antique Photos/85 Year Old Footage

I know I haven't posted a heck of a lot lately but I just had to post this.  An artist took 85 year old photos and added animations and motion to them.  The effect is just fantastic, especially for the trains.  Check it out:

I'd recommend going "full screen" for this as the effect of the movement and the pictures really pops with a larger screen (not on a phone).