Train Stories

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TinMan’s Train Story

        I believe the year was 1953 and I was 9 years old living in Chicago. Lionel trains had been in our family for many years, a fascination that I believe started with my oldest brother who was 10 years older than me.  It was a tradition that during the Christmas school break, it was time to drag all the train stuff out that was stored in the attic, down to the basement.  My Dad would then set up some 3 foot by 3 foot tables for the kids to build a layout on. I remember the concrete floor in our basement was filled with hills and valleys that made setting up a good layout quite the challenge. We had, as I remember, a nice O gauge collection of various engines, cars, and a few of those great toys Lionel came up with. Christmas presents were often additions to the train collection.  My older brothers were no longer interested in the trains, but me and my 4 year old brother were totally fascinated with them.        

                Within a few short days we had the starting of a layout, with lots of switches and multiple loops. To run the trains, we had from previous holidays a ZW and a KW transformer.  As I am sure anyone who has set up an annual train display can attest to, small parts have a way of disappearing during the set up and take down process.  I remember this particular year being short of pins, lockons, screws to fasten the tracks down etc.  Fortunately, there was a toy shop a little over a mile from our house. So I bundled up and headed out to the toy shop which had a great supply of Lionel train stuff. On this particular day my mission was to get some track pins. Mother gave me .50 cents which would buy me a couple of paper packs of pins.  So I trudged down thru  snow covered Chicago , that was always stained black as a result of everybody’s coal furnaces, to toy store. After the store owner gave me my pins, I decided to wander around the train section and there it was. The most beautiful thing I had ever seen. It was big Yellow and Blue with 12 drive wheels, 2 motors, and it said on the side of this monster “VIRGINIAN”.  The store owner saw me staring at this wonderful thing, and came over to me and told me how it had headlights, and a battery operated horn, magnatraction, and was the most powerful engine Lionel ever made. It could pull 20 cars. But, of course, he also had to bust my bubble by telling me they were very hard to get, he only had 1, and it was $50. That would equate today to $563!

      Well every day after that I would find some excuse to head up to the store and ogle over that engine.  Finally, it was Christmas eve and once again I made my way up to the store with a snowstorm howling away. I remember the store owner looking at me laughing, then telling me how I looked like a snowman!  Undeterred I walked over to the display case and my heart sank to the floor. My Virginian was gone!  Broken hearted I trudged home, forgetting I should be happy because tomorrow was Christmas.

                As usual my brother and I were up before down, and ran into the living room to see what Santa Claus had brought. And wouldn’t you know it…. under the tree… sitting on some track… shinning as bright as ever… was My Virginian.

Al D’s Train Story

My name is Al D

I started to become interested in model trains when I was 5 years old. When I was a little older, I went down to our basement and I discovered a Lionel prewar #752 diesel, a #265E locomotive with 4 cars, a #262E locomotive, a postwar #2035 locomotive with a whistling tender and a #2344 NYC diesel.

The pre-war trains that I had date back to between 1934–1936. We also had a KW and a ZW transformer. I was the only one in my family that was interested in trains. We used to set them up at Xmas time and then, they went back down into the cellar. When I was old enough to make money, I took all the engines to a guy in Keansburg, N.J. and had them all repaired. I believe the store’s name was Boyd’s Whistle Stop. My parents almost disowned me when I told them that I spent $800.00 to fix them.

Later in life, I found out that this guy in Keansburg had passed away. He was at the time, the foremost expert in Lionel trains. His house was his store, down in his cellar. He had everything, accessories, track, plastic Ville, switches, you name it. He was a full-service Lionel dealer as well as a repair shop. He had train sets on display from the floor to his ceiling all the way around his layout. His layout was 40’ X 20’. After this guy died, his 2 sons weren’t interested in the trains so they sold everything to private investors and other train stores. I wish I had known about it. It broke my heart when I found that out.

Later on in life I repeated with my son what my father did for us at Xmas time through the years. I taught myself through videos, you tube, and conversations with other train guys who I would see at train shows. I’ve rebuilt 2 KW’s and 4 ZW’s and serviced all of my engines over the years. I’ve learned a lot. To me, that was therapy. Can I have a job?

I still have them, but I’m keeping them. Since then, I’ve added to my collection. I’ve purchased a post war #2353 Santa Fe diesel, a # 2322 FM Morse diesel, and a #2340 GG-1. Great engines. It’s a shame that more kids these days aren’t interested in trains like us. Video games. This hobby treated me very good. I only wish I had an extra room so I could set them all up.

Thank you for allowing me to do this. I hope you enjoy reading this as much as I had texting it. Sorry for the long text. Be safe and may God Bless. Sincerely, Al

Papa’s Lionel Trains  

By Chris G

I was born in 1957 at the height of Lionel Trains.  My earliest memories were of Lionel trains running around the Christmas tree. In addition, I have found memories of my Grandpa Charlie coming out to Long Island by train once a month to visit. I always looked forward to picking him up at the train station.  My layout station is very similar.   I wanted to pass this experience on to my children and their children, so I always tried to set up a nice 4’x4’ layout around the tree for them as they were growing up.  Unfortunately, in 2015, my house burned down and with it my Lionel trains L. 

Having to remodel I finished off the basement and split the area of my workshop between woodworking and my re-collection of Lionel Trains.  To entice my grandchildren (nine and counting! J) to come but having a small area to work with, I designed what a call a MiniMax Layout.  My goal was to pack as much fun as I could into a small footprint (9×8 ft. L).  With TinMan’s help, I have 12 Turnouts including 4 spurs, 1 Helix, 2 levels, 6 automatic and 19 operating accessories run by his amazing modern old school controllers. I like to think of this as Interactive Electro Mechanical Antique Art.  My grandson Mason, every time he see his Papa asks “What’s new with the trains?!”  This keeps me on my toes and motivated to keep improving the layout.

When my grandchildren come over, they first earn their engineering hat by learning the basic knowledge for their age and skill to run the trains around the track.  After that, they earn stars for their hats with the addition of more knowledge and skill.  The last day of their stay, we have a ceremony where they are awarded their hats or additional star pins.  But first, they give ascent to Papa’s Engineer pledge: “Do you pledge to be a skillful and safe engineer?  Do you pledge to always keep your passengers, freight & train safe?  Do you promise to have fun?  After this, they are awarded their hat or pin, then an old colonial flag (Representing our Countries true Christian Constitutional values) drops from the rafters and we all say the Pledge of Allegiance.

Train Story

Warren W

I got my first train set in 1957 from my sis. The only thing they had left was the girls’ set you can see it in the pics . I started this about 20 years ago. Went from 0 scale to HO scale then back. All is MTh with command control the tables now that I am retired, I haven’t got anything new except from the Tinman he is a great man.  All are 4×8 foot sheets 28 of them I can walk on it have had lots of fun building and running trains , it can run 4 with 2 operators’.