Memories of Madison Hardware

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Memories of Madison Hardware
Posted by NYC Fan on Saturday, November 17, 2007 9:28 PM

My memories of Madison Hardware go back to the Late 1950's. The holiday season saw Madison with a store full of people to be waited on. I can still hear Lou yelling, "Harry." Harry was an overweight gray haired guy with a big mustache and glasses. Once Lou had determined what it was the customer wanted he would have Harry find it in the back, or up on the shelves.

Carl would see what the customer wanted and many times go and get it himself. This would cause Lou to get furious with Carl, and many shouting matches resulted between the two brothers.

I remember being in the back of the store with my Mom looking at the layout that was to the right of the cash register. Most likely Harry was getting my Dad's order together, my Christmas presents that is, while I was distracted.

As crowded as the store was, the boys would wrap everyones purchases in brown paper tied up with string and one of those old wire handles.

Another guy who used to get summoned from time to time was Joe. He mainly took care of repaires, but when the store was busy, it was all hands on deck.

In later years, Harry and Joe were gone and Lou would shout for Angie instead. But, much was just as it had always been. Carl was a real funny guy. He wore eye glasses with no lenses in them and a gun holdster which held pens and markers, scissors and such. I once asked him about the glasses and he said his hearing aids were built into the ear pieces. Back then hearing aids were pretty big and he was too vain to wear such monstrosities. The bickering probably continued til the day they closed the doors.

The more I think and write about Madison, the more I miss it. There are many very nice Train Shops, but there will probably never be anything like Madison Hardware or Lou and Carl ever again.

Happy Holidays!

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Posted by wrmcclellan on Saturday, November 17, 2007 9:42 PM
I had the pleasure of going to Madison Hardware several times back when I had business in NYC and before they closed. A really facinating place. Floor to ceiling parts. Parts is what I usually purchased when I was there (when I could finally stop staring at the post and pre-war mountains of parts), although once I purchased a PW REA reefer that they had on the counter one day.

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Posted by LL675 on Saturday, November 17, 2007 10:12 PM
one of my biggest regrets is never making it there.

Dave

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Posted by PostwarMan07 on Saturday, November 17, 2007 10:22 PM

Im way to young to have experienced madison hardware.  But hearing that makes my a little sad as well.  Sounds like an awesome place with great people as well.

Makes me think of my hobby shop when I was a kid.  Larrys model trains in midland park, NJ.  I was always stopping in there when I lived 2 blocks away and when I moved 30 minutes away I would still stop in from time to time.  He wouldnt always remember my name but would remember where Im from and would joke about how he remembers when I was coming there at age 8.  Nice and honest guy.  Unfortunately, one day I went there and he went out of business.

Just a few questions on madison hardware:

1) around when did they open/close the NYC store?

2) Is it true about them moving the store to michigan when lionel moved there?  If so are they still around?

John W
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Posted by 1688torpedo on Sunday, November 18, 2007 8:22 AM

 Hello John W!

Madison closed in August of 1989. All of the contents in the store were loaded on 18 Semi-Trucks & altogether 240 Tons of Trains & Parts made their way from NYC to Detroit, Michigan & the merchandise was stored in a huge warehouse on W.Fort St in Detroit near the River & that is where Richard Kughn set up Madison Hardware as a mail-order business. Now, when he bought out Madison, he also bought all of the signs & displays there plus the Front & Rear Doors of the store & their Key Making Machine as well as the Shelves,Factory Parts Bins From Lionel,& he even saved the nails from the shelving in the store! I have mail ordered parts from Madison when they were still in NYC back in the mid-80s for my Prewar Trains. Carl Shaw was the one who usually answered the phone & when you asked for a certain part he would put you on hold anywhere from 5-10 minutes to find what you were looking for & they would usually have it in stock too. Keep in mind that not all of the parts were in good condition or even usable at all as quite a few of them were factory seconds that were obsolete or Lionel had no interest in storing them any longer than necessary. Lou & Carl would pay about $25.00 per ton of parts which is why they had such a huge stock of such. They also bought huge quanities of Trains & Engines, Freight Cars, Passenger Cars, & Accessories as well. It would have been fun to visit them while they were in NYC & that is one of my regrets in life as they are now gone forever due to the fact that Richard Kughn auctioned off the Contents of Madison a few years ago. They were one of a kind, Thats for sure. Take Care.

Keith Woodworth........Seat Belts save lives,Please drive safely.
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Posted by 1688torpedo on Sunday, November 18, 2007 8:33 AM

 Hello John!

Forgot to answer your other question. Lionel moved to Michigan in 1970. They still had their repair shop in the old factory at Hillside,NJ on Sager Place as they still had a huge stock of old Pre-Postwar Parts & the skilled employees from the old days who were faithful to the company as well. They shut down Hillside around 1975 & moved their repair facility to Little Falls,NJ which is not far from I-80 & in 1979 they moved all their remaining parts & repair shop to the factory in Mt.Clemens,Michigan forever ending their manufacturing/repair presence in New Jersey. Take Care.

Keith Woodworth........Seat Belts save lives,Please drive safely.
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Posted by sir james I on Sunday, November 18, 2007 8:45 AM
I never got to see Madison Hdwe. But remember their ads in MR. going waaaay back. I sent orders to them and always got prompt shipping, A lesson some ebayers should learn. it's the holidays and Madison sure was part of it for a zillion years.

"IT's GOOD TO BE THE KING",by Mel Brooks 

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Posted by Lenny the Lion on Sunday, November 18, 2007 9:26 AM
I never could help notice their phone number was listed as SP 7-1111 during the late 70's even when telephone prefixes haven't been used for years.
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Posted by traindaddy1 on Sunday, November 18, 2007 11:10 AM
I remember Madison Hardware well.  Does anyone remember a multi-story hobby shop on 5th Avenue called Polk's? They had an entire floor dedicated to trains, parts and supplies. Thanks.
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Posted by msacco on Sunday, November 18, 2007 3:34 PM

I was pretty young, just out of high school, and in my first year of art school (early 80s). My school, the School of Visual Arts, was located at 209 E. 23rd Street. Literally a a block or so down from Madison.

    I passed the store several times my first year of college and always read the name and then saw the Lionel sign. Hardware? Lionel Trains?, it just didn't make sense. After several passes I realized they were really a Train store.

    Then one day I decided to bring them my Dad's 2056 to see if they could get it working again. I went in the store with my friend and it was pretty amazing. Stuff everywhere from what I remember. I was definitely intimidated by the guy behind the counter (don't know which Shur I was dealing with), but I approached him with my Dad's loco. My memory fails a little here, but I do remember leaving and being scared crap of this guy. He was pretty abrupt and I was a young, shy, Long Island boy. I was pretty taken a back at his gruffness.

   I never went back in there. Years later I got that same loco fixed at Trainland in Lynbrook , L.I.

  That's my Madison Story.

 

Mike S.

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Posted by SotaPop on Monday, November 19, 2007 9:21 AM

Does anyone have any photos or an internet link that has photos and/or some history on Madison Hardware? ... or maybe point me to a CTT article.

Must have been a fascinating place ... now lost to history.Sad [:(]

One thing about trains: It doesn't matter where they’re going. What matters is deciding to get on.

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Posted by 1688torpedo on Monday, November 19, 2007 9:30 AM

Hello Sotapop!

 If you do a search function on this forum,you should be able to find some info/pictures on Madison Hardware. Bob Keller or Kent Johnson can help you out if you have trouble finding anything. Take Care.

Keith Woodworth........Seat Belts save lives,Please drive safely.
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Posted by SotaPop on Monday, November 19, 2007 10:26 AM
Looking through the CTT 2004 index, I found:

"Madison Hardware building today", Feb 2004 p.25

I'll check it out later tonight.

One thing about trains: It doesn't matter where they’re going. What matters is deciding to get on.

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Posted by Train Memories on Monday, November 19, 2007 11:26 AM
    My only memories of Madison Hardware were ads in MR as I paged through that magazine in the early sixties. I would always wondered, as many people would, why would they have named that store that way when all they sold was Lionel trains. Does anybody know? Well that's my short story.                  Reuben
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Posted by msacco on Monday, November 19, 2007 2:35 PM

Reuben,

I found out years later that before they sold trains they were in fact a hardware store. They started out selling some Lionel and eventually it took over the store. They left the name unchanged.

Mike S.

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Posted by ADCX Rob on Monday, November 19, 2007 3:20 PM

 Train Memories wrote:
... I would always wondered, as many people would, why would they have named that store that way when all they sold was Lionel trains. Does anybody know? Well that's my short story.                  Reuben

"Legend" has it that 20th century wives going through laundry or papers were not as likely to question register tapes or sales tickets with the name "Madison Hardware" as they would "Jim's Lokie Shop" or "5th Avenue Train & Hobby" or "Model Train Equipment Corp"(I think that last one really exsisted).

Well, legend anyway.

Rob 

Rob

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Posted by cnw1995 on Monday, November 19, 2007 3:35 PM

I never went there myself but I remember my dad telling me how he drove all the way into the city in 1983 (from our home in Connecticut) to have his pre-war 248 and a few other tinplate items, as well as his R transformer completely refurbished. They did a pretty good job. I have and run them today - complete with their Madison repair tags

Doug Murphy 'We few, we happy few, we band of brothers...' Henry V.

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Posted by Anonymous on Monday, November 19, 2007 3:38 PM
From some of the replies on The Other Forum the Madison Hardware guys sound like slightly strange birds. But that's like many an LHS, especially back in the day. Just makes me glad I have a great shop like Todd's Train Depot close at hand.
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Posted by jimsrpo on Wednesday, November 21, 2007 7:02 PM

 traindaddy1 wrote:
I remember Madison Hardware well.  Does anyone remember a multi-story hobby shop on 5th Avenue called Polk's? They had an entire floor dedicated to trains, parts and supplies. Thanks.

Polk's was one of the stops on the yearly pilgrimage my father and I would make shortly after Thanksgiving in the 1950's . 

First, it was the Lionel showroom for a copy of the new catalog and the grandest layout of all time, then over to the Gilbert Hall of Science to see the newest American Flyer.  A quick stop in Madison Hardware even though there wasn't much for a little kid to see or appreciate.

Then we would walk up 5th Avenue stopping at Polk's on 32 St.  Then over to Macy's and Gimbel's to see their huge Lionel Christmas displays (and the required picture with Santa - ugh...the only bad part of the day!) 

Lunch was always at the Horn and Hardart Automat where coins inserted in the slot would open a little door leading to a sandwich or a piece of pie.

Then up to West 45 St to Carmen Webster's basement shop called Model Railroad Equipment Corp.

Then the subway trip back to the Bronx with the Lionel and AF catalogs to read on the way.

Life was good if you were a kid in New York City who loved trains .

Jim

 

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Posted by traindaddy1 on Wednesday, November 21, 2007 7:26 PM
Jim: Born and raised in Manhattan, reading your post brought tears to my eyes as I can relate to the scenario. Those certainly were the days!  Many thanks for the memories.
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Posted by LL675 on Wednesday, November 21, 2007 9:26 PM
 SotaPop wrote:
Looking through the CTT 2004 index, I found:

"Madison Hardware building today", Feb 2004 p.25

I'll check it out later tonight.

 

love to see that/ could you share that? thanks

Dave

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Posted by Train Memories on Wednesday, November 21, 2007 11:24 PM

    There should be some kind of "Lionel hall of fame" for hobby trains and I'd vote for "Madison Hardware" to be inducted. YEAA!! lol.

                                                    Reuben

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Posted by envfocus on Tuesday, January 15, 2008 10:01 PM

I was looking at some archived TCA articles and came across this photo.  Thought some of you would enjoy....

Take Care......RJ (TCA 07-61869)
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Posted by bobo3138 on Saturday, October 22, 2011 12:27 PM

I was a stock boy there in1967-1968 They sold Keys which Harry Usually handeled.

Lou shur told me on the first day "well Bobby have you ever seen so many trains in your Life"

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Posted by Train-O on Saturday, October 22, 2011 11:09 PM

Having been born and raised in Manhattan was great, especially around the holidays.

There, were so many places to shop at and Madison Hardware was the special place to go to.

Though, there were many stores that sold Lionel trains, Madison Hardware was kind of a "Lionel Central," because they had a large inventory of Lionel trains and had sort of a relation with Lionel.

The building that Madison Hardware was located at, was owned by Madison Hardware and as a result, they were able to store their large stock of Lionel trains.

Ralph

 

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Posted by Seayakbill on Sunday, October 23, 2011 5:10 AM

Living in Seattle during my younger years a visit to Madison Hardware was never an option. Every spring I would get a sales flyer from Madison Hardware of items they were discounting to reduce stock after Christmas. I still have one of those discount sheets, very interesting prices. One item I did order was the #59 Minuteman Vulcan  switcher for $5.95, that took mowing 3 lawns at $2.00 per lawn. Still have that little guy and it runs and growls just like it did 50 years ago.

Bill T.

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Posted by DMUinCT on Sunday, October 23, 2011 8:27 AM

traindaddy1
I remember Madison Hardware well.  Does anyone remember a multi-story hobby shop on 5th Avenue called Polk's? They had an entire floor dedicated to trains, parts and supplies. Thanks.

Polk's is a family operation now based across the river in Irvington NJ and run by Nat's son Louis.  "Polk's Model Craft Hobbies"is one of the largest "G Gauge" manufacturer under the name "Aristo-Craft".  They also make advanced radio control setups for the hobby industry under the name of "Crest".

Don U. TCA 73-5735

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Posted by Train-O on Sunday, October 23, 2011 9:06 AM

Don,

That is something to know about Polk's.

Years ago, I've been to Polk's store in Mann. and I knew they moved out of Mann,, but I did not  know that they reestablished in N.J.

Probably, because of the beautifully, outrages rent and taxes, of both N.Y.C. and N.Y.S., is what drove them and many other businesses out of N.Y.!!!

Ralph

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Posted by SPMan on Sunday, October 23, 2011 12:46 PM

I never had the pleasure of going to Madison Hardware but ordered parts from them for repairing my post war trains.  I remember getting things like original Hiawatha engine wheels from them and other hard to find items.  I still save those little Madison Hardware parts boxes with their label on it for a souvenir.  They were an institution.

Ray

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Posted by cwburfle on Sunday, October 23, 2011 6:48 PM

The building that Madison Hardware was located at, was owned by Madison Hardware and as a result, they were able to store their large stock of Lionel trains.

Sorry, but this statement is incorrect.
From the mouth of Lou Shur: they had a long term lease on the store. It was up for renewal, and the building owners wanted a very significant increase in rent.
A lot of factors went into their decision to sell the store, the lease only being a small part.

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