Toy Trains and Our Dads

Posted by Roger Carp
on Friday, June 14, 2019

Whenever Father’s Day approaches, I think about my many years as a father and my many years as a son. All of them have involved toy trains.

Like many fathers, I made sure my two sons had an electric train set to enjoy. Specifically, I brought home from Classic Toy Trains a K-Line diesel freight set for them to play with more than 25 years ago when they were very young. The three of us played with it for a few years until the novelty wore off.

Looking back more than 60 years, I remember very well when my father presented me with a Lionel steam freight outfit. I was in kindergarten in 1956 and felt overwhelmed with joy when I unwrapped the set box to see the small Hudson and whistle tender inside, along with the five pieces of rolling stock and the track.

Oddly, however, it was not until I was a member of the editorial team at CTT in the late 1980s that I thought to ask my father if he had had an electric train during his youth in the 1920s. He mentioned having a set. Too bad Dad was not able to recall any details about it, except that his brother and he had really liked it.

Typically at CTT, when we ask readers to think back to their childhood, we want to hear about their first train. They share great memories of getting a Marx or an American Flyer or a Lionel set, usually in the first decade after World War II. We’ve been fortunate to publish many such Baby Boomer reminiscences.

But what about our fathers? How many of you know anything about the toy trains your dads played with? How many generations in your family does a love of miniature trains go back? This is the heritage we keep alive when we hold on to our childhood models and then are able to pass them down to our children.

On Father’s Day, think about how your father spent time running O or S gauge trains with you. Recall the layouts you built together and the knowledge he passed along about woodworking or electricity or assembling simple structures.

At the same time, however, acknowledge that your father was young once and he may have been the recipient of a toy train. Pay tribute to your grandfather or whoever may have been the first person in your family to bring home a small engine and cars. Thanks to them, you are carrying on a wonderful tradition, one we hope you can share with your children and grandchildren in a warm and caring manner. Bonding among generations is what this hobby has always been about.

As always, we invite you to share your memories and photos with us. Let’s see the vintage pictures of you with toy trains, especially with your dad.


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