Wrapping up my 2017 buying year with a boom!

Posted by Bob Keller
on Friday, January 05, 2018

The final piece of rolling stock bought for the year was an AMT baggage car for their New York Central streamliner outfit.

Wrapping up the 2017 buying year, I scored my fifth AMT passenger car and a trio of locomotives.

On the rolling stock front, the final car of the year was an AMT New York Central baggage car. It is in great shape (better than the second rear observation car I bought). While I don’t intend to build two complete train sets, well, I will have a few extras for two small trains.

Cough, cough.

But you know how this stuff can spiral out of control.

In the everything realm of “everything else,” to re-work a Hulk Hogan slogan, “Locomania was running wild” in the last couple of months of 2017.

Long desired and now finally in my shopping zone, is a New York Central SD80MAC by Lionel. The 2002 locomotive envisioned a 'what if' situation years before the Norfolk Southern Heritage series.

First up was the New York Central SD80MAC that Lionel cataloged in 2002. This is a sharp looking locomotive in itself, made even better with a freelance NYC lightning stripe design. The engine didn’t have a whole lot of run time. There was little wear on the wheels or rollers. I got it for about $120 off original price, which I thought pretty fair for a 15-year-old model.

USAF road name and an engine I saw as a lad, equals "sale" at full retail.

Next was a brand new MTH RailKing US Air Force SW8. I hadn’t been tracking these things and didn’t realize it was already in stores until I received one of those daily e-mails from MTH. Bam, I called Jack Sommerfeld and he ordered one for me.

The three SW8s the Air Force used to support the Titan program at the space center all had cabs, none were cabless calf units. I didn’t order the USAF calf, but I may revisit that. This will join my powered and dummy USAF VO-1000s I bought a few years back. And yes, I did notice the USAF 44-tonner in the 2018 MTH catalog and my debit card is on standby.

My number two favorite railroad is the Florida East Coast. In my day the rusty Geeps and Fs were being replaced by more modern power like the GP38-2.

The third locomotive in this frenzy was an MTH Florida East Coast GP38-2. I bought this one because the FEC was the “hometown” road, and with the cab number (507), it was theoretically possible that I saw the real 507 while I still lived in Brevard county.

It was cataloged in 2006, and as far as I could see, it was brand new. It had no wheel wear and had never been lubricated. I got it for about 50% off of the original retail. This engine was, however, the cause of some slight disappointment.

First, one of the deck tread sections along the engineer’s side of the engine fell off. Interesting though to discover it was etched brass, not plastic. A little superglue jell fixed that problem.

Second, though equipped with ProtoSound 2.0, it sounded really awful.

Third, the speaker (which may be the real problem) did a lot of snap crackle and popping. How bad? Turn the volume all-the-way-down bad. This will be making a trip to Sommerfeld’s to see if I need a new speaker.

The Metroliner set I got was from the first production run from Williams Electric Trains back in 1980.

The Metroliner I reviewed in 2001 was produced in 2000 and had updated trucks.

The original Metroliner run used MPC motors and die-cast metal trucks on the power units.

The unpowered cars used cheaper appearing plastic truck frames.

Last, but not least, I bought a 3-car Williams Metroliner outfit. I really enjoyed testing a 3-car set for our February 2001 issue, and I’ve been looking for one for some time. I don’t believe that Williams made another production run after 2000.

The set I bought is from the first run in 1980. The catalogs and ads I saw all sold them in four-car sets. Mine was a three-car set (extra unit probably sold).

I knew there were some differences from the later production model I tested. The original version’s powered unit used MPC motors with die-cast metal Alco trucks. The trucks that were used on the real Metroliner wasn’t an Alco truck. But, I imagine, that for toy train purposes, it looked close enough to the Alco to avoid the cost of tooling up a new truck frame.

 The later version used can motors and the trucks on powered and unpowered cars were the same ones used on the Williams Genesis diesel.

I was a bit surprised that both of the dummy cars on the older car set had, to be frank, some pretty darned cheap (cheapie-cheap) plastic Alco trucks. I guess the best defense is that nearly 40 years later, nobody is probably going to notice as it rolls by.

The set was sold as new. There was zero wear on the dummy cars and a light bit on the powered unit (like a once or twice around the track). The interior lights of the motorized unit flickered in spite of two pickups on each truck.  

 Not displeased, and I set out to spend under $225 plus shipping and I hit that target with ease.

 So my 2017 ended up being a bigger “buy” year than I’d ever anticipated and I’m actually pretty satisfied. While I’m a “value shopper,” I don’t think people are blowing out their collections because “the end is near.” Rather, as CTT’s great friend and contributor, the late John Grams/Ray L. Plummer once told me “Our trains are our favorite toys. We’ll keep forever, or until we want to sell them to buy our next favorite toy.”

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