I agree, I collect and operate model / toy trains. If I had the space and money, I'd collect and operate the 1 to 1 scale toys too.
What I really resent is when generalized statements are made about "what kind of forum this is" or "you'd have better luck posting in forum "X" because this forum is mostly..." and stuff like that. I realize that people are more likely than not just trying to be helpful, but I also realize that human nature is often about making incorrect assumptions. The term "Classic Toy Train" doesn't refer to any specific era, but a lot of people like to infer that it means only post-war Lionel or pre-war Ives or etc. etc. etc.
I wasn't around until November 6, 1969. By that time, Lionel wasn't Lionel anymore, Flyer wasn't Gilbert and Ives was long gone. So the few trains I saw in stores during my youth were MPC (and let's face it, MPC has gotten a bad rap for years). And since I wasn't around between 1880-whatever when the first toy trains started to be mass produced and the time when Lionel was sold, I have no loyalty to any train manufacturer or scale.
Anyhoo, back to the topic at hand. When I saw the tiltle of this thread, my first thought was "Ding! Ding! Ding! It's the grudge match of the CENTURY! Let's get ready to rummblle!" It's been going on since Gilbert introduced S-Gauge and it will continue long after we're all dead and buried. Fact is in the 21st century Lionel owns American Flyer (and Ives) and Lionel isn't owned by the Lionel who made those classic toy trains. You know, the ones we like to label as "classic" even if they aint so classic. My 1984 Dodge Aries would be considered a "classic" , if I still had it, simply because it would be more than 25 years old. But who would really consider a Dodge Aries that ate carborators like potato chips a classic car? (I had that carb rebuilt at least 7 times in the 4 years I owned the thing!) Since Ives got rolled into Lionel, and Flyer did too, I guess you could say that Lionel won. But then you have to remember that Lionel itself capitulated to market forces and the Lionel of today isn't Cowen's company. So who really won the war?
Lionel, American Flyer, O gauge, S gauge, etc., etc., etc. exist today for one reason. Because we the collectors (and operators) refuse to let them die.
P.S. I'm gonna close with a dirty word! OGR