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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...
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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! ...
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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...
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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...
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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...
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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 ...
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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...
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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...
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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...
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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...
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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 ...
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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...
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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...
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Adieu Weaver Models

Posted one year 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...
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Non-traditional sources for figures

Posted one year 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...
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After my first train set – what?

Posted one year 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...
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Stuff I Like: Modern Era – 2: the Lionel Nuclear Reactor

Posted one year 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 ...
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Whimsy

Posted one year 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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Saluting Gustav Taus of ETS

Posted 2 years ago by Bob Keller
We recently learned of the passing of Gustav Taus, owner of train maker ETS of Prague, in the Czech Republic.  My dealings with Gustav were always professional and he was a gentleman in the classic sense. For many years the ETS booth was next to Classic Toy Trains at the Eastern Division (TCA) train meet in York, Penn. Whether the show was good or bad, he always had the same positive spirit and he was always took time with customers to explain his product line and put the trains through th...
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Live from York: Just before the doors open

Posted 2 years ago by Rene Schweitzer
Bob Keller shares some photos of the York show floor, just before the doors open! Enjoy, and if you're going to the show, stop by and say hello to Bob! ...
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Bob has arrived at York!

Posted 2 years ago by Rene Schweitzer
This just in from the road--Bob Keller has arrived at the TCA York show. If you are attending, please visit the CTT booth in the orange hall! ...
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York: Center of the toy train world twice a year

Posted 2 years ago by Bob Keller
I had my pre-York haircut yesterday which signals that soon I’ll be packing the bags. I’ll be flying off to Pennsylvania to wave the banner of Classic Toy Trains at the Spring 2015 York Meet. Nineteen years ago the Spring 1996 show was my first “York,” and I’ve usually attended one a year for the magazine ever since. It is an amazing event.  What is York? It is a semi-annual train meet hosted by the Eastern Division of the Train Collector’s Association (...
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Seeking input: What topics would you like to see on this blog?

Posted 2 years ago by Rene Schweitzer
The CTT editors' blog has been live about four months. As a staff, we've tried a number of different topics you, the reader wouldn't find in the print magazine, but that are hobby related. Some ideas we are tossing around include: 1. A series called "What happens when?" This could include topics like what happens when a new product comes into Bob's office, or what happens when a manuscript arrives in the mail. 2. More "mini how tos," such as the example of using Flarp to clean locomotives. 3....
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Treason to O gauge? My foreign trains in OO

Posted 2 years ago by Bob Keller
I’ve often voiced a theory that most American model railroaders would only look twice at a European train if said train was loaded with tanks and anti-aircraft guns. That might be an exaggeration, but probably not by much.  So I’ll confess that I have a soft spot for British trains with or without heavy artillery.  This interest is thanks primarily to the Sherlock Holmes stories and old British movies (Terror by Night, The Thirty-Nine Steps, and The Great Train Robbery ...
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Thinking about Dad's Berkshire

Posted 2 years ago by Rene Schweitzer
When you see a photo of this locomotive, what do you think of? Some might say, "that's a Lionel 726RR Berkshire." To me, it's the first toy train I ever laid eyes on as a child. I wrote about this Berkshire in the January 1999 issue of CTT. I sneaked it out of my parents' basement and restored it as a surprise to my dad. He was excited at first to see it restored, and it ran under the Christmas tree for a few years afterward. However, the beloved Berk has returned to its crate in the basemen...
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I opened a box – and my life changed!!

Posted 2 years ago by Roger Carp
It sounds more than a little melodramatic and yet it is true. The day I opened the box containing my first Lionel train set was the day my life changed – and all for the best!  Let’s go back almost six decades to Chanukah of 1956. I might have been just a few months into kindergarten, but my education was pretty advanced when it came to trains. I loved watching full-size Southern Pacific freight trains amble down the long-gone line paralleling Santa Monica Boulevard in West Los...
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Stuff I like – Postwar no. 1 (Lionel no. 6250 Seaboard Air Line NW2 switcher)

Posted 2 years ago by Bob Keller
  I had a terrific uncle. He was the manager of a store that originated as a tire shop, but eventually turned into a regional chain called Moore’s. It was branded as an automotive store, but by the time the chain folded in the 1970s, you could go in, buy a tire, a shotgun, a refrigerator, basic household electrical appliances, lawn furniture, and of course, at Christmastime, electric trains.  He gave me my first train set in 1955 and added to it every year. Around 1967 (about t...
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A new way to remove dirt from your locomotives

Posted 2 years ago by Rene Schweitzer
Several years ago, I discovered a putty called "Flarp." It's a goofy product made to make flatulent noises. However, I discovered that it has an interesting property: It can easily remove dust and dirt from locomotives. You can buy Flarp online, or at Walgreens or Walmart. It costs between $1.50-$2 per can, and one can does quite a bit of work. Bob Keller generously donated a locomotive that was dusty for this project. (Come back to our blog soon to read more about this locomotive!) Flarp ...
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A layout “must”

Posted 2 years ago by Carl Swanson
Here’s a sad fact. I’ve built and torn down three O gauge layouts in the past 15 years. All have been fun but none have been entirely satisfactory. Now I’m planning my next O gauge layout – version 4.0, you might say – and I’m determined to get it right this time. Or at least more right than last time! It’s early in the process, but I’m leaning toward a fairly toy-like layout but one with slightly more developed scenery than, say, a carpeted platf...
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Stuff I like – Modern Era no. 1 (MTH no. 1101 4-8-2 Mohawk)

Posted 2 years ago by Bob Keller
Someone recently asked me a question about product reviews that I didn’t know the answer to. It was quite simple, really,  “How many reviews have you done?” The first number that went through my head was “A couple of hundred.” Then I decided to find out for sure and the number even surprised me: 591 locomotives, pieces of rolling stock, accessories, and the occasional kit. So far. Wow. But that got me thinking to the very first review I did – and it was...

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