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Where the shoppers are: The strip shopping center from Menards

Posted yesterday by Bob Keller
The 279-4846 O gauge Strip Shopping center, $79.99  Remember the days when to shop, you went to the mall? The mall was the main destination of most Americans. But times (and habits) have changed, perhaps due to consumer whims, or simply the battle to find a parking spot and hike into the mall. The antidote for this has become the strip shopping center. Probably within a few miles of you, there may be one or more groups of newly built retail spots with anywhere from one to five or six st...
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A look inside Kalmbach's in-house layout: The Milwaukee, Racine & Troy (MR&T)

Posted 8 days ago by Rene Schweitzer
Let me preface this post by saying that Kalmbach's in-house layout is HO scale. However, when I asked forum users if they still would be interested in seeing photos of it, I received a resounding "yes!" So if HO scale isn't your thing, I won't be offended if you skip this post. Click on any of the photos to enlarge! Kalmbach's layout is called the Milwaukee, Racine & Troy (MR&T). It dates back decades and if you'd like a more detailed history, I'm sure you can find more at Model Rail...
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Making signage for your railroad

Posted 16 days ago by Bob Keller
In my last blog post I wrote about decaling to create “modern” equipment for the long-gone New York Central. This time I wanted to show some other methods of decorating your layout with signage, along with a few some do’s and some don’ts. I tried printing signs with photo paper, but in the long run, that hasn't paid off. My tip: Use decals. If you are making text signs, your only design concerns are for font and size if you want a clear decal. If you are making sign...
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Power up: The National Power & Light plant from Menards

Posted one month ago by Bob Keller
The Menards building line has produced some amazing structures. The mega-buildings they have made (the American Power & Light, Morton Salt plant, Pepsi bottling plant) have set a new standard for large O gauge industrial structures. It is hard to believe that the American Power & Light power plant arrived in March of 2016. The building was a fast sell-out at Menards and it has commanded some pretty high prices in the secondary market. If you missed it and balk at paying more than doub...
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Three cheers for stations!

Posted one month ago by Bob Keller
My Salute to stations: Every layout needs one (or more) It might not be a given that everybody who has a layout has a station, it is probably true that anyone who has a layout wants a station. They have just not found the right one. When I got back into toy trains (circa 1993) and built my first layout since childhood, one of the first things I wanted to buy was a station. The few years in the late 60s I had N scale did not yield station – oh, I saw them in the magazines, but never i...
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Halloween decor you can use on your layout: Hobby Lobby

Posted one month ago by Rene Schweitzer
Next up in my blog series is Hobby Lobby. I have to admit that I expected a bust when I stopped here. I knew that Hobby Lobby doesn't stock holiday buildings like Menards and Michaels does. However, I found a number of inexpensive items you can use as decor or accent pieces on your layout! Make sure you either print out a weekly coupon or show a coupon on your smartphone to save even more money. Right now, their Halloween items are 40% off, so you can get more bang for your buck. I found sever...
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Four for the road: Recent freight cars from Menards

Posted one month ago by Bob Keller
I recently had a chance to see some recent releases from Menards – two boxcars and two gondolas. Up front are the nos. 279-5341 Erie Lackawanna boxcar and the 279-5243 Soo Line Gondola. In back are the nos. 279-5241 Chicago & North Western gondola and the 279-5343 J. Shepherd & Sons boxcar. The traditionally–sized rolling stock have metal wheels and operating couplers. The boxcars have opening doors. All have good-looking graphics. The Erie-Lackawanna car has a white...
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Halloween decor you can use on your layout: Michaels

Posted 2 months ago by Rene Schweitzer
I'm back with another Halloween report! If you're new here, you might want to check out the other two parts to this series: Menards Target This time I visited Michaels craft store. They used to have a big Halloween display of buildings near the back of the store. I was pleased to see that it's moved to the FRONT of the store now and has a special display. Like Menards, Michaels has a selection of Lemax-branded structures, but most appear different. There's one called the Garden of Eaten at Mi...
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Your favorite RR long gone? “Roll your own” modern diesels

Posted 2 months ago by Bob Keller
Have it your way What is a guy to do when his favorite railroad has been gone for more than half a century? I know I’m not the only one with this dilemma. And what does that train person do if they want to run modern locomotion? First, you can hope that manufacturers take a chance, and run a vintage road name on a current locomotive or freight car design. Not impossible, but it does happen every now and then. Second, you can hope that a railroad gets heritage fever. They might paint o...
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Halloween decor you can use on your layout: Target

Posted 2 months ago by Rene Schweitzer
If you missed part one of this series (Menards), check it out here. Target has a decent seasonal Halloween section, but I can't remember them ever stocking any village type decor. They also tend to be trendy, so if something is popular one year but not the next, you can't count on Target stocking it. When Jim and I stopped by during the weekend, I honestly thought it would be a toy-train bust. While they don't have a lot for you, there are still a few things you might find useful. They had sev...
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More vintage train books ... that may still excite kids

Posted 2 months ago by Bob Keller
I had previously written about a few favorite railroad books from my boyhood. I was rummaging in the basement and found a few more from my pre-junior high days as an enthusiast. If you missed any of these you can find most of them at train shows, specialty railroad book sellers (often in the bargain bin), and of course eBay and Amazon.  Clear the Tracks: True Stories of Railroading by Julius Wolfe (1952, J.B. Lippincott): Clear the track: True stories written for youngsters (not f...
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Halloween decor you can use on your layout: Menards

Posted 3 months ago by Rene Schweitzer
Fall is on the way, and the Halloween decor is starting to appear on store shelves. I'm going to visit a number of stores and scour their shelves for Halloween items you can use on your layouts! No matter what your budget or if it's a permanent or temporary display, I'll likely find something you can use. First, some background. My husband Jim loves Halloween. In fact, our 3-rail layout in the basement is Halloween themed (it was featured in the pages of CTT back in 2002). We put out a lot of H...
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A look inside Kalmbach's modeling workshop

Posted 3 months ago by Rene Schweitzer
Note: Click on any photo to enlarge. I'm back with another "behind the scenes" look at something inside the Kalmbach Media building--the workshop! I took a panoramic photograph of the workshop but have no idea how it will replicate here on the blog. Please let me know if you can see it in the comments. It's the first photo here. The workshop is part of the original wing of the building, which opened in 1989. It's shared by Model Railroader, Model Railroader Video Plus, Classic Toy Train...
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Jack's Favorite: The G. Shepherd & Sons dog food plant from Menards

Posted 3 months ago by Bob Keller
The no. 279-4494 O scale G Shepherd & Sons dog food pant from Menards The secret is out: Jack the German shepherd is everywhere these days because he is part of the family business: G. Shepherd & Sons, makers of fine dog foods since 1926. And what is their top product? Jack’s dog food! The 279-4494 building adds another unique structure to the O gauge line of Menards buildings. This is a multi-story building with simulated stone construction that appears to be ready to pass the...
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Resources at Kalmbach and beyond

Posted 3 months ago by Rene Schweitzer
A couple of months ago, I blogged about Kalmbach’s in-house David P. Morgan Memorial Library. This got me thinking about other resources I have access to at Kalmbach. While there are many, it’s the people who make the difference. Here are some examples of staff and contributors who have helped me recently. For instance, Kevin Keefe (now retired) was a big help when I was looking for some dates related to the library. Kevin was once Trains magazine’s editor, and he still writes...
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Air Power: The O gauge Windmill from Woodland Scenics

Posted 4 months ago by Bob Keller
I have never tried modeling farming on my layout. I do, however have two ceramic barns (bought cheap) as filler for odd spaces left over from mainline curves. I always thought a farm would require too much real estate on an O gauge railroad. Until now, that was the end of my interest in three-rail agriculture. But not so much these days. The bolt out of the blue is that you don’t need a farm to use this. A green patch and a few cows or horses will work, or even a run-down, abandoned log...
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My Best Christmas Train Memory

Posted 4 months ago by Bob Keller
I was fortunate to have an amazing uncle when I was growing up. The year I was born he got me a Lionel starter set. He ran a store that seasonally sold trains (Lionel, American Flyer, and Marx) and he added to my fleet every year until about 1967 when the store stopped carrying Lionel. I still have all my postwar trains and they all still run. In fact, in about 1992, I took my gear out of the box. When I fired up my no. 1033 and hit the juice, and my Seaboard NW2 lurched to action, it change ...
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Christmas in July? Why not!?!

Posted 4 months ago by Bob Keller
It was pretty well-known around Classic Toy Trains that I had 600 or 700 Christmas songs on my computer, and that anytime of the year one might pass my office and hear Jingle Bell Rock, I’ll be Home for Christmas, Don’t Forget to Feed the Reindeer, or Christmas at NORAD.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ykzpUmKNw_Q Christmas music can be a palate cleanser year-round and can get you thinking about cool snow in the midst of a heat wave. The late Dean ...
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A true "Christmas in July" memory

Posted 5 months ago by Rene Schweitzer
Note: Click on any photo to enlarge. We at CTT are celebrating "Christmas in July" this month! Some of you might remember the Kalmbach magazine Collecting Toys.  It was a start up magazine that was a spin-off of Classic Toy Trains that featured toys of all kinds, from die cast, play sets, action figures, new toys, and more. When I started working at Kalmbach, I split my time between CTT and Collecting Toys.  It was a fun magazine to work for. The editor, Tom Hammel, would atten...
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Attending the TCA National Convention

Posted 5 months ago by Roger Carp
My wife and I just returned from a fantastic week spent in New Mexico, with the highlight for me being the opportunity to attend and speak at the annual national convention of the Train Collectors Association. If you have never taken the time to attend a national convention sponsored by TCA or another of the toy train collecting or operating organization, I strongly recommend doing so. The convention, held in the magnificent city of Albuquerque, featured a number of tours to see local collectio...
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Thank you, Richard Kughn

Posted 5 months ago by Bob Keller
  Thank you, Richard Kughn It would be hard to come up with a name of anyone who changed the face of the toy train world than Richard Kughn. Like many of us in the hobby electric trains were an exciting part of our childhood, and they were memorable in his. The main difference between he and most of his fellow enthusiasts was that he was in a position to change the course of the hobby. In my case the trains went into boxes in the late 1960s and other than for re-packing, didn’t co...
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Toy Trains and Our Dads

Posted 6 months ago by Roger Carp
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...
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What is the most unique building on your layout?

Posted 6 months ago by Bob Keller
What is your layout structure you’d call the most unique? Like most O gauge hobbyists, I buy the buildings I like, and only later think about what I’m going to do with them. I mean my central city is composed of ceramic buildings, but I’ve got several MTH multi-story buildings (my fave is the Menlo Park Tool & Die Co.), a few Lionel structures, a large number of kit-built businesses, and the rise of Woodland Scenics and Menards structures has resulted in a tower of stack...
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A look inside Kalmbach's David P. Morgan Memorial Library

Posted 6 months ago by Rene Schweitzer
Note: Click on any of the photos to enlarge   Did you know that Kalmbach houses one of the largest private collections of railroad photos and reference materials in the United States? It’s called the David P. Morgan Memorial library, and it resides on the second floor of our building. The creation of the library must be credited to founder Al Kalmbach, who started accumulating materials in 1934, when The Model Railroader began publication. When Trains magazine started publishing in...
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Trains in unexpected places: Rene visits the Neville Museum in Green Bay WI

Posted 6 months ago by Rene Schweitzer
Click on any of the images to enlarge! Last Friday, I drove to Green Bay to visit the Neville Public Museum. They had a history of Green Bay display that looked interesting. My mom's side of the family lived in Green Bay for decades. It's not a large museum but they had some train-related items I thought you might like to see. First, they mentioned the Chicago & NorthWestern Depot (right across the street from the museum), which is now home to Titletown Brewery's restaurant. I blogged ab...
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The Lionel Illinois Central E6

Posted 6 months ago by Bob Keller
After I was done testing the Illinois Central A-A combo (See Classic Toy Trains July 2019) , I decided to try something off the wall. Would the trailing powered unit function on it's own, or would it need the companion for operation. I was actually pretty pleased with the results. First, no sound was produced by the unit. I presume the sound command board is in the lead unit. It did produce a nice, steady stream of smoke. Speed range matched the A-A combo and each A unit racked up 1 po...
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The O gauge no. 279-4493 Sprecher Brewery from Menards

Posted 7 months ago by Bob Keller
The hobby demanded it! Menards supplied it. One of the most often requested additions to the Menards building line has been a brewery. The Wisconsin-based home improvement chains delivered with a hometown hero of sorts: The Sprecher Brewery. Based in the Milwaukee area, it was the city's first craft brewery, arriving on the scene in the 1980s. The company started in an old industrial building and later built a new brewery and visitor's center. The company is actively involved in community eve...
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O gauge County Suites Hotel from Menards

Posted 8 months ago by Bob Keller
This isn't your grandfather's roadside motel! The new no. 279-4427 County Suites is the perfect stop for your O gauge tourists or businessmen.  The structures looks as modern as any chain hotel you'd find out on the interstate, and better yet, it has a modest footprint (roughly 12x12-inches) that might find a home any any layout. The structure is fully decorated and assembled and features four stories plus a rooftop patio for entertainment. Rooms are a mix of occupied and unoccupied, s...
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Have any uncommon road names you run in your trains?

Posted 8 months ago by Bob Keller
It has been said there has been more than enough New York Central, Pennsylvania, Union Pacific, Santa Fe equipment made for toy trains and I tend to agree with that to a point. Most CTT readers would recall the days when being stopped by a freight train was almost an adventure. As the train rolled past you scanned the cars for the most exotic and remote road name you could find. Also high on the list was reading any advertising copy like “Route of the Chief,” or “Southern Se...
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New CTT posters!

Posted 8 months ago by Roger Carp
UPDATE: Learn more about the 6464 series of boxcars in my new Professor Carp video! Too often when I’m visiting the homes of toy train operators and collectors, the walls of their basement or attic where they display their treasures seem especially bare. Maybe a dusty old lantern hangs from a hook, or there are faded photos of vintage cars and planes. Fortunately,Classic Toy Trainshas the answer to your decorating woes. We are proud to offer an exclusive set of three full-color posters d...