Kalamazoo Toy Train models

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Kalamazoo Toy Train models
Posted by statistician on Thursday, January 25, 2007 7:05 PM

When I was a kid, my parents took me to a toy train factory in Bangor, MI called the Kalamazoo Train works.  I seem to remember it being located in a train station, and that they primarily manufactured an American General 4-4-0.  I've seen a few on eBay and have wanted to pick one up. 

Does anyone know if they are any good?

Did this company go out of business?

Thanks!  

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Posted by Anonymous on Thursday, January 25, 2007 8:40 PM

When Kalamazoo went out of business, I acquired a caboose and a gondola.  Not too detailed but they work fine, weren't costly although not as heavy as LGB cars, and were robust enough that I didn't worry about the kids.  The girls have finished college and moved away but the cars are still in first class shape.  Hartland had a close out on their gondolas, same molds and everything, so I added three more to the fleet.  All have the same car number (different from Kalamazoo) and some day I'll do something about that. 

Art

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Posted by tangerine-jack on Friday, January 26, 2007 7:51 PM
I have one Kalamazoo combine car and I can't say anything bad about it.  Acceptable detail, tough as nails and not too expensive and MADE IN USA.  I wouldn't hesitate to buy more in the future if one comes my way.

The Dixie D Short Line "Lux Lucet In Tenebris Nihil Igitur Mors Est Ad Nos 2001"

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Posted by Anonymous on Monday, January 29, 2007 4:16 PM

Forgot to mention a neat thing about the Kalamazoo/Hartland gondolas.  The sides, a one piece molding, are removable; they have prongs on them that fit into the stake pockets.  Once the sides are off, it is a flat car with stake pockets and NO NAME or Number.  So it's easy to add whatever markings are wanted.

They are very light weight, though, but even the full scale guys put empty flats at the rear of a train to prevent 'straight-lining', so the light weight is not a show-stopper.

Art

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Posted by RR Redneck on Monday, January 29, 2007 4:35 PM
I have never heard of Kalamazoo. Learn something new everyday.

Lionel collector, stuck in an N scaler's modelling space.

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Posted by statistician on Monday, January 29, 2007 7:08 PM

Thanks for all of the updates. I always did like the colorful red/green MCRR 4-4-0.

I recently came across an old Kalamazoo catalog I had when I was a kid, so I thought I'd inquire... Kalamazoo TT used to leave Mini-Catalogs at Holiday Inn's scattered around Michigan, so whenever my family was on a trip I'd pick one up. I still remember the factory tour, small staff, all hand built/painted trains.  They basically made two engines, which they painted many different ways to give the impression of a "full locomotive line." But this was before LGB made American prototypes, and Delton was just getting started.

I'm glad to hear that Hartland is renewing the old Kalamazoo line and that they are still made in the USA... 

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Posted by S&G Rute of the Silver River on Tuesday, January 30, 2007 6:17 PM
The best way to fix "streight lining" on anything is to but a five gal tub of leadputty (you WILL develop a few henias tring to lift the stuff) and add a half inch layer to the bottom.
"I'm as alive and awake as the dead without it" Patrick, Snoqualmie WA. Member of North West Railway Museum Caffinallics Anomus (Me)
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Posted by Texas Zepher on Tuesday, January 30, 2007 6:27 PM

 statistician wrote:
the Kalamazoo Train works.  ... they primarily manufactured an American General 4-4-0. Does anyone know if they are any good?
I have three that have been running around the Christmas Trees for hours on end every Christmas season since 1984.   The only problems I've had are not related to the locomotives themselves but accidents or modifications.  They only pick up power on the 4 driving wheels.  This is not usually a problem but I used one wheel as a cam for PFM sound.  That left only one power pick up on the one side so it began to stall on turnouts with an insulated frogs.  I fixed it by adding metal wheels with pickups to the leading pilot truck.  I also added a fairly strong piano (spring) wire to the truck so it actually turns the front of the locomotive into the turn.

I can highly recommend them for their running quality and durability.  They are obviously narrow gauge and not a model of a prototypical locomotive, if those are important to you.  I have not run them outside, but as I recall they were designed for it.

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Posted by Sahuarita on Monday, January 28, 2019 10:14 AM

Java an old 440 Kalamazoo set I would like to DCC/sound To adapt it to my existing garden RR.  Did you ever try to access the weather-proof motor enclosure?  Can’t figure it out.  Great design though.  No wonder it runs like new after 30 years!

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Posted by chocho willy on Tuesday, January 29, 2019 4:34 PM

Yes they went out of business but got picked up by Hartland Locomotive Works and are going strong, the engines have under gone alot of change and seem to be of excellent quality. Read the post I did on the Phil Jensen story which gives you an idea on the history of the company and Phil still works at Hartland on Tuesdays and Thursdays. I have one of the original motor blocks that I can't tell the defference in between it and a LGB  block. 

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Posted by chocho willy on Tuesday, January 29, 2019 4:35 PM

Do you have any pictures of the mmotor block, I have an old one but it looks the same as an LGB, Bill

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Posted by emdmike on Sunday, March 03, 2019 3:25 PM

I first saw Kalamazoo trains at the local ACE hardware store.  They put out one heck of a Christmas tree village and several trees had those trains circling underneith.  Never convinced my parents to get me a set back then.  But once I had my own source of income, I put the MCRR 4-4-0 at a train show and the full consist of the tan/green coaches that I have relettered for the Autism Express.  I converted the locomotive to battery power, which did away with its power pick up issues.  I got to meet Phil Jensen at the National Garden RR show when it was in Cincy a few years ago.  Many of the older Kalamazoo engines have split axle gears, but the new ones from Hartland drop right in.  I have plans to purchase more of the Kalamazoo/Hartland line as it fits my logging theme my garden railway is evolving into.   Cheers   Mike the Aspie

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Posted by emdmike on Sunday, April 28, 2019 3:53 PM

For those wanting to open up the motor block, its a "clamshell" design like the early LGB ones.  You have to remove it from the model, remove the side rods, then remove the drive wheels(be careful as there are sprung pickup brushes behind those wheels that can go flying), then there are screws to remove.  After all that, the block will open up with a little light prying with a small flat blade screwdriver.  Mine used Globe brand industrial motors(also made in the USA).  My venrable old MCRR 4-4-0 just put in nearly 6 hours of continious running yesterday at the Austim Ability Fest in Indianapolis, pulling my 3 coach passenger consist. Which is at the limit of the engines traction.  Only down time was 30min for a battery recharge(mine has a 7.2vt, 5000mah Nimh battery in the tender).  Hartland took some of the improvements from the Delton C16 like the headlight and cab tooling along with better domes and upgraded their 4-4-0 as we see it today.  I just wish they had retained the more correct tender trucks that Kalamazoo used.  The freight care style trucks just look out of place on the current models tender. I always pick up Kalamazoo stuff when I find it. Great for bashing or leave it like it is.  Their wheels are very quiet running(important to someone on the autism spectrum).  The early folks at the event(before it got noisy in there) commented on how quiet the train ran.  The noisy 3 rail train they have wasnt very enjoyable for their autistic son.  But he loved my Kalamazoo set!   Here is a pic of my display(I also took my Marklin HO portable setup).    Mike the Aspie

Just before the event opened, the Colts, Pacers and Indy Fever set up in that open area behind us. My wife is sitting at the far end of our display

Shortly after opening, after that it got to busy to do anything but run trains and answer questions about where to get them as many have no clue where to purchase G scale or that its even made here in Indiana up in LaPorte. 

Silly NT's, I have Asperger's Syndrome

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Posted by PVT Kanaka on Monday, April 29, 2019 11:13 PM

Mike,

 

Thanks for the history lesson and practical tips.  Also, thanks for your community service!  That is really special what you are doing.

 

On another note, yeah, I am shocked how few people know large scale exists, let alone that it is outdoor capable, and, if you are lucky, not always much more expensive than a starter set of any quality in a smaller scale.

 

Aloha,

Eric

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Posted by emdmike on Tuesday, April 30, 2019 12:50 AM

Many of them didnt know much exhisted in large trains other than the cheapo plastic ones you find during the holidays with plastic G gauge track.  Several are now hunting down either LGB or Kalamazoo sets for thier sons thru a couple online sources I recommended for them to look at.  Hartland really doesn't have much for sets at the moment on thier site, and second hand is normaly much more affordable for a family dealing with a special needs child.  My set up was very popular as I did not mind if the kids touched the trains.  First and foremost they are toys and ment to be played with.   My wife and I really enjoyed our day letting others enjoy our trains.     Mike the Aspie

Silly NT's, I have Asperger's Syndrome

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Posted by PVT Kanaka on Friday, May 03, 2019 2:29 AM
"First and foremost they are toys and ment to be played with." This is an admonishment I remind myself each time the old iron horse come off the shelf!

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