9

What would YOU recommend to a newbie?

Posted one year ago by Bob Keller
What would YOU recommend to a newbie?  This year Classic Toy Trains has had more calls and e-mails from people trying to get started in O and S gauge trains. While this isn’t unusual for a November or December, it has been several years since we’ve had a spike like this.  So this time of year when there are many new people discovering the hobby, or folks with previous train time under their belt re-entering the hobby. Many of them call for advice, and I generally ...
3

It was 20 years ago today. . .

Posted one year ago by Rene Schweitzer
Twenty years ago today, I started at Kalmbach Publishing, working for Classic Toy Trains and Collecting Toys (now defunct) magazines. It seems surreal that I've been with KPC this long, and yet, feels like almost no time at all. Instead of boring you with a long ramble, I chose five things I've learned in my years here. I hope you enjoy. 5. Publishing has changed, (and will continue to change). When I started at KPC there was a room full of people who cut the films and lined up the pieces for e...
2

Trainfest Milwaukee, 2015

Posted one year ago by Bob Keller
Trainfest 2015 in Milwaukee is now in the history books. This huge show is a magnet for families, model railroaders, fans of prototype railroading, and people who might be a bit nostalgic about yesteryear in general.   The layout of the floor was a major departure from previous years. Manufacturers had been set up in a single area on the south side of the hall to allow a Friday night special event. This year that area was filled with operating layouts and a children’s activity a...
1

Menards watch 8: New track at Menards

Posted one year ago by Bob Keller
The sunflower seed was on sale at Menards, so I swung by and, of course, checked out the trains. The new tubular track is starting to arrive. The only track on hand was O-31 curves. Don't know if they had straights that sold out.  We did receive a selection of straight and curved track for Product News, and it had a good, strong feel to it and curved track ran from O-31 to O-96 (yes, O-96). We also received two small boxes with veeeerrryyyy interesting things inside them that will be...
2

Exclusive Lionel set available at Hallmark stores

Posted one year ago by Bob Keller
Hallmark stores have a new O gauge Christmas starter set available at your local Hallmark shop. http://shop.hallmark.com/ornaments/keepsake-ornaments/lionel-toymaker-santa-express-complete-ready-to-run-electric-train-set-1QHG5297.html ...
2

New at Menards 7: Menard's Power & Light

Posted one year ago by Bob Keller
Another new structure from Menards is the no. 279-3051 Menards Power & Light building. The O gauge compatible building has two illuminated signs (“Menards Power & Light” and “Harvey Hotwatts”), high visibility interior decoration, and LED illumination. The structure comes fully assembled and decorated and costs $99.99 plus shipping (free shipping to your local Menards). Go to www.menards.com to check availability or to  While this might be a tad small ...
1

New from Menards 6: The Sauerkraut factory

Posted one year ago by Bob Keller
Someone may have offered an gauge sauerkraut factory before, but I sure don't recall seeing it.  In stock on-line at at your local Menards is the no. 279-3073 Herman’s Sauerkraut factory. This is a fully assembled, decorated, and weathered structure sure to bring a smile to many a hotdog fan. The structure features an illuminated and animated “Herman’s Genuine German Sauerkraut” sign, two yard lights, a blinking red light on the silo, three figures, eight sauerk...
6

New at Menards 5: Fire damaged engine house!!!

Posted one year ago by Bob Keller
I went through 50 pounds of sunflower seed since last Thursday, so I stopped at Menards for more. Gotta keep the birds happy. Just yesterday I received a box from them with two new accessories (the Menard's Power & Light and Herman's Sauerkraut Factory) but … BAM … this was on the rack just above them! Pennsylvania RR of course, the New York Central obviously had a better fire safety record ... ...
2

Latest Lionel Vision Line Locomotive: The Pennsy GG1

Posted one year ago by Bob Keller
Just announced: A new scale-sized Vision line model of the ultimate electric locomotive – the GG1. The GG1 is no stranger to the Lionel catalog. First cataloged in 1947, the instantly-recognizable face of a GG1 has captivated generations of fans. It continues to call to us today. In homage to the Pennsylvania, who’s engineers and management alike appreciated the refinement of a locomotive to its zenith, Lionel is proud to raise the pantographs, and the bar against which all other mod...
6

New trains at Menards no. 4

Posted one year ago by Bob Keller
Carl and Roger might be at York, but a surge in bird seed consumption resulted in my making an early trip to Menards this week. Lots of new flats (short and long) with new vehicle and equipment loads (including the tank on flatcar), and a new display – an end cap at the end of the Toy aisle. And no, I don't have an iPhone. ...
5

My Marx

Posted one year ago by Bob Keller
Why Marx?  My first introduction to Marx trains was from my Uncle Chuck. Chuck was a great enabler of my train hobby, helped along by the fact that he had a Marx outfit as a kid, in pre-Second World War days. He also gave me my first Lionel set in 1955. When he died in the early ’90s, my family made sure his few trains found their way to me. And imagine my surprise when, as an adult, I started taking a closer look at my boxed up trains, and discovered that all the track and swit...
4

Still more new train cars at Menards No. 3

Posted one year ago by Bob Keller
New products in stock this week include large flats with missile, helicopter, and concrete mixer loads, and short flats with vehicle loads. I'm starting to look forward to the weekly bird seed runs! Oh, shot with my not-an-iPhone cell phone. ...
0

The day the 4449 Southern Pacific Daylight came to Milwaukee

Posted one year ago by Rene Schweitzer
One of husband's favorite locomotives is the 4449, so when he heard it was coming to Milwaukee in July of 2009, we had to see it. The engine made a trip from Portland, Oregon to Trainfestival 2009 in Owosso, Michigan and had a number of stops along the way. Milwaukee's stop was at the Amtrak station. A few things impressed me that day: * How BIG that engine was. It's impressive to see such a beast up close. * How many people had gathered to see it. While there were people of all ages, I wish...
3

Still more train stuff arrives at Menards No. 2

Posted one year ago by Bob Keller
The toy and train section has expanded a bit with several new Lionel sets, more Woodland Scenics scenery material, buildings on display (and illuminated), and a box of un-packaged flatcars for $7.99 each. I've now bought four of the NYC boxcars (one more this morning) and none have had the same number! What a concept. I can't wait to see what fills the shelves the closer we get to Christmas! ...
1

The story behind the November issue cover

Posted one year ago by Roger Carp
This year marks the 100th anniversary of the birth of Frank Sinatra, possibly the greatest entertainer of the 20th century and an enthusiastic member of the toy train hobby. Classic Toy Trains looked forward to marking the occasion in its pages. Of course, doing so meant plenty of planning and research although the magazine had previously featured Sinatra’s O gauge layout in its February 1998 issue. The process of developing an article began in March, when an essay about Sinatra in the Wa...
5

O gauge arriving at Menards No. 1

Posted one year ago by Bob Keller
One of the recent surprises in the hobby has been the introduction of O gauge compatible buildings, rolling stock and vehicles from home improvement chain Menards. I stopped by the local Menards on the way to work (to pick up 100 lbs. of bird seed, but that is another story). Some of the O gauge product is starting to arrive in stores now. I took some cell phone image (attached). These show a selection of O gauge freight cars, a Lionel Large scale Canadian Pacific set, and many, many vehicles...
4

Our two best failures

Posted one year ago by Bob Keller
Our two best failures: In toy train publishing there are few “sure things” Let me introduce you to two very handy books that you have probably never seen, nor will you ever read an updated edition thereof. These were based on the twin assumptions that train guys buy trains, and that train guys who buy trains, might want extra information about them before they plunk their money down. I believe both books filled a need, but the marketplace didn't agree. What are these two Titanics o...
4

World of Lionel Displays

Posted one year ago by Roger Carp
Excuse me if I seem out of breath and slightly exhausted. I have just finished writing and editing what may be the best special-interest publication Classic Toy Trains has ever assembled for you. I'm referring to Lionel Trains: Best Layouts & Store Displays, the fifth in our ongoing series of special-interest publications devoted to spotlighting the long and memorable history of Lionel. Not counting the many years of research I have conducted on these remarkable relics from the prewar and ...
6

A day at the National Railroad Museum

Posted one year ago by Rene Schweitzer
Recently, my husband and I visited the National Railroad Museum in Green Bay. Both of us had been there about 20 years ago, but a lot has changed in those years! (Note: click on any of the photos to enlarge. You know you want to!) The main building houses several exhibits, the newest  being "From Generation to Generation: The Love of Toy Trains," which opened on January 30. The collection features primarily vintage Standard Gauge pieces on loan from John Casperson. It also houses a ni...
3

Reference Shelf: Britsh Toy Trains, Vol. 1

Posted one year ago by Bob Keller
British Toy Trains by Michael D. Foster is a colorful and handy resource for anyone seeking to get a wee bit more knowledge of the history of British toy trains beyond Hornby or Bassett-Lowke. I recently received a copy of the first volume in a projected series of four books covering firms of Whitanco, Burnett, Chad Valley, Palitoy, and Astra (I had only previously known of Chad Valley). The book is a terrific assembly of newly photographed locomotives, rolling stock and accessories and well a...
5

Do you have a hobby?

Posted one year ago by Rene Schweitzer
Say you’re having dinner with a friend or relative you haven’t seen in a while. Have you ever asked them what their hobbies are? I find it interesting to ask someone about their hobbies, and see where the conversation leads. My husband Jim has two primary hobbies—toy trains and action figures—but has dabbled in a number of other things over the years. He also has a long list of projects to do or try, especially in model trains.  I have a stepdaughter and step son...
2

26,000+pages at your fingertips

Posted one year ago by Carl Swanson
We were happy guys around here when we got the green light to begin work on the Classic Toy Trains: 25 Years and Counting on DVD-ROM. Every page from every issue of CTT from Volume 1, Number 1 in the fall of 1987 through the December issue of 2014, right on our computers! How cool is that? Even better, every article is linked to a powerful search engine. Past issues can be revisited by flipping pages one-by-one or, if you know what you’re looking for, just type it in the search box and &n...
2

Looking back at our covers

Posted one year ago by Bob Keller
One neat thing about doing quality control checks on the upcoming Classic Toy Trains archive DVD is getting to take a second look at long-forgotten material. Our production schedule can have us working on three issues at the same time, so there is little day-to-day time for reflection on long-published features or photos. I was struck by that fact when I took another look at the cover of the October, 2007 CTT. This cover hit the spot for me in showing imagery of what the toy train hobby is all ...
6

My (sort’a) Iron Journey (Apologies to Otto Kuhler)

Posted one year ago by Bob Keller
Most toy train folks have probably ridden a train or two in their lives, and I’m no exception. The recreational train rides have far exceeded the “real” train rides, but all have had a positive influence on how I view the hobby. I divide my train trips into three eras, the “Hazy Memory” Era (rides up through elementary school); The Junior Railfan Era (rides up through high school); and the All Grown Up era (contemporary times). The hazy memory years Baltimore &am...
3

Train "stuff"

Posted one year ago by Bob Keller
Train “stuff” My interests in toy and real trains both evolved simultaneously, and went hand-in-hand. While I could spend hours watching the Baltimore & Ohio switchers shunt cars around the Hamilton, Ohio yard, I was always wary of them. Reportedly when I was three or four a switcher crew offered to ride me around a bit. I was later told that every time I got out of view of my father, my eyes filled with water and they sensed panic was near. I don’t believe it of course. R...
4

Adieu Weaver Models

Posted 2 years ago by Bob Keller
The last 15 years have been mighty rough on the hobby. In many ways it is the old “best of times, worst of times” situation. Never have O and S gaugers had as much variety in, well, everything from locomotives to cabooses. More than we would have ever dreamed of. Unfortunately, there has been a downside to the experience. Change happens. The retail hobby locations seem to be fading fast, and the realm of manufacturing has been fluid at best. Marx left the field of battle after the s...
2

Non-traditional sources for figures

Posted 2 years ago by Rene Schweitzer
For years, my husband has carried an Artista O gauge engineer figure in his pocket. When we go into a big-box store, he’ll peruse the toy aisle and use it instead of a scale rule. If you’re looking for non-traditional or unusual figures, here are some suggestions. (In some of the photos, I've included an unpainted figure as a size reference.) Heroclix These figures are meant for gaming and are mostly superhero themed. Each one is mounted on a round, black base. (You can usually...
3

After my first train set – what?

Posted 2 years ago by Roger Carp
I spent several paragraphs in my previous blog post reminiscing about something nearly all of you can relate to: my very first electric train set. As you will recall, I was thinking back a few weeks ago to the cool yet not cold evening in December of 1956 when I unwrapped a Lionel no. 1561WS/710 O-27 gauge freight outfit. I was only five years old, barely a few months into kindergarten in Los Angeles. Yet I was the proud owner of a magical little steam engine and tender. My no. 2065 had a power...
3

Stuff I Like: Modern Era – 2: the Lionel Nuclear Reactor

Posted 2 years ago by Bob Keller
No, your eyes don’t deceive you, this is a modern era product. The Lionel no. 14065 463 nuclear reactor hails from 2000, not 1952.  Oh, the concept may date from the time when giants strode the product development department at Lionel, but this baby only came to be through the efforts of Lionel’s management in the late 1990s.  There is not even the remotest connection to what a nuclear reactor would look like. Nope, this is pure “Future seen from the Past” in ...
5

Whimsy

Posted 2 years ago by Bob Keller
Whimsy. Not that British aristocrat with the monocle who detects crime in his free time. Light hearted humor. You see it all the time on our home layouts. This reader squeezes in dinosaurs. King Kong is astride many an O gauge skyscraper. Sight gags are found aplenty and one of the most watched reader video’s we’ve posted features a cat and rat frolicking through a fairly detailed downtown scene (I sure hope he planned on it being destroyed).  Me? I have Space Marines, Sisters...

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