Think about it before you purge!

Posted by Bob Keller
on Monday, April 27, 2020

Some of the boxes piled up for a last review before departure.

I don’t want to say I am downsizing my collection - because I’m still buying stuff. But sometime back I realized I had too many boxes that were still unopened, and too many trains would likely never be run. After thinking about it, I figured I needed to come up with a methodology for eliminating items from the collection.

The only other time I did this was about 20 years ago and I made some mistakes in what I chose to get rid of and I don’t want to repeat that. I don’t recall exactly what all I got rid of, but I can tell you a few things I regretted losing: Three MTH Whistle-only steamers (Santa Fe, Milwaukee Road, and New York Central) and a set of Atlas O Comet commuter coaches. So before jumping into it, I took some time to look at what I had, what I really liked, and what I was cool toward. Here are some of my thoughts.

Focus on favorite railroads: I had to start someplace, so road name was the key to getting started. My home road is the New York Central. Home roads usually had more of their own cars in their trains than cars of off road lines, so keeping New York Central was a given. I also fancy New Haven’s colorful cars so they were given the green light to stay. I’m really a Railway Express Agency fan so all my REA equipment stayed.

I kept a mix of other road names, often cars with colorful graphics or obscure short line names or reporting marks.

Locomotives:I looked at the fleet and decided I was happy with it the way it was. I had a good mix of steam and diesel, modern and older designs. The mix of conventional/command equipped closer to 50/50 these days. This command control thing just might catch on! One surprise was that I had three Pennsylvania diesels, but only two Pennsy freight cars! How did that happen?

General rolling stock: In making the selection of freight cars to purge, a deciding factor was what I’d call “memories.” Obviously my childhood trains stay. But real train memories are also a factor. As a kid, or young adult, for decades I would sit at grade crossings and watch a steady stream of freight cars urging me to ride The Scout, assuring me the Illinois Central was the mainline of mid-America, and that I needed to be specific and ship Union Pacific.

Later in life, Giant auto parts cars bearing Baltimore & Ohio or Cotton Belt markings said railroads were still doing big things. The occasional CN worm lettering passing by suggested an international operation. So if there were cars with designs that struck me from childhood, they were spared. I doubt if today’s heavily tagged cars with obscure leasing company lettering have the same impact on the next generation of enthusiasts.

Series cars: I’d prefer to use the term series cars rather than collectible cars. I’ve never bought a piece of equipment because it had collector value (read: buy low sell high). I had, however, accumulated a few that were parts of larger series which I later lost interest in. There have been a few things I’ve bought thinking it might lead somewhere, like as Christmas or Halloween train. But the interest waned.

Gone are dated annual Christmas cars. Another were cars from K-Line Super Stores. I did keep many of the blue Lionel Railroader Club Lionel Corporation cars and that great series of orange and blue Lionel Lines cars from the MPC/LTI era.

The one area I went all in on were LTI’s modern 6464-series cars. The cars were very nice, superbly decorated, and they rolled very well. All laid out on a table, though, there really wasn’t a wow factor for me anymore. In retrospect, some of the postwar liveries reproduced were kind of dull. I saved some of the pastel cars, but I have plenty of sexier cars of the same road name in the fleet. Well time for them to move on.

Size: Size was not a consideration for me. I’ve gotten pretty good at staging freights mixed with scale-size and traditional cars. The longer the train, the easier it is to do. While no car was eliminated because it was too small, a few were because they were too large! Era The time a model was made (Postwar vs Modern eras) or when the real prototypes ran (steam era or diesel era) was not a factor. The fantasy of my railroad is the Central lives and serve several eras of time (think Dr Who with a train).

Builder: Who made it was not a factor I did not worry about country or origin or maker. I run’em all. Lionel, MTH, K-Line, Atlas O, Menards, Ready Made Trains, and Williams. There are probably manufacturers or two I’ve missed, but I’m not a partisan. If I like it, it gets run.

Resale value: Recouping my cost isn’t something I worry about. Not that I’m rich, but if I have enjoyed the car and I’m done with it, I want to pass it along for someone else to enjoy – at a bargain price.

The great Purge of 2000 was pretty successful, but there were some things I got rid of that I wish I still had. So these are a few of the things crossing my mind as I considered moving trains along – don't make my mistake and purge in a rush!

What do YOU consider when deciding to downsize your fleet???

Maine Central is a nice design, but it just doesn't fit in these days.

A pastel Pacemaker and the Minneapolis & St Louis survived. Not sure if I ever saw an M&STL car in service, but I love the colorful livery.

The only 'series' cars I still acquire are brewery cars.

Fear not! All my Marx, vintage and Modern are still on the roster!

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