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1920s Electric Shop Christmas Window Display- 2022 edition

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1920s Electric Shop Christmas Window Display- 2022 edition
Posted by SantaFe158 on Friday, January 6, 2023 12:30 PM

I posted about the first version of this display last year so I won't repeat a ton of detail with the specifics:

https://cs.trains.com/ctt/f/95/t/290793.aspx

My description from last year's post that mostly carries over to this year:

"I helped out with this new window display for the Holiday Nights program at Greenfield Village.  It's based on a 1921 photo sourced from Shorpy that depicts a Christmas window display of a Washington DC electric appliance shop which of course featured Lionel trains.  I sourced a decent array of O gauge trains from the period (including an Ives O gauge set for something different) and we assembled a small collection of household electric appliances that were fairly representative of what were offered by electric appliance shops of the time.  Pricing signs were based off of 1921 holiday ads in various newspapers and train price tags came directly from the 1921 Lionel and Ives catalogs.  One locomotive was modified with a modern chassis and operated on a small loop of track.  Overall it was a big hit with the visitors who were drawn into the display just as folks from long ago were likely drawn to the display shown in the reference photo."

This display was well recieved last year so we brought it back for this year's holiday event at Greenfield Village where I work.  We focused on 1921 specifically last year since it was 100 years from the taking of the historical photograph we used for inspiration.  This year I added a couple of items that were made in the year or two after 1921 but were still in keeping with the general idea.  The modern chassis I modified for the operating locomotive last year wasn't terribly reliable.  This year I cut down the chassis from a ruined Postwar Lionel trolley and used it for most of the event.  A bit of an accident led to its removal from service during the last weekend of the event but last year's chassis was reinstalled and got us through the last few days.  Now that the display is a little more set to be an annual tradition, I'll be doing a bit more R&D over the next year to see if I can outshop a ruggedly reliable locomotive... 

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Posted by pennytrains on Friday, January 6, 2023 6:27 PM

Bow

Big Smile  Same me, different spelling!  Big Smile

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Posted by 8ntruck on Friday, January 6, 2023 10:13 PM

Very, very nice.

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Posted by Flintlock76 on Saturday, January 7, 2023 8:37 AM

A fun video and an incredible display of antiques!  And you know what really impressed me?  Those cylindical six volt batteries!  I remember those still being available in the 1960's and haven't seen any in years!

Love the background music too!  Now I'm in the mood to go shopping for a Ford Model A!  Big Smile

Thanks for the link!

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Posted by Northwoods Flyer on Saturday, January 7, 2023 9:21 AM

Great video. Thanks for all of the work you put in on that display and the one at the theater.  You are a great ambassador the hobby.  And you know how to stir up some real nostalgia.

Northwoods Flyer

Greg

The Northwoods Flyer Collection

of

American Flyer Trains

"The Toy For the Boy"

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Posted by smokey1 on Saturday, January 7, 2023 10:25 AM

What a great collection and display of the days of yesteryears. 

Here is my Standard gauge set as it stands now.

 

 

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Posted by SantaFe158 on Saturday, January 7, 2023 10:46 AM

Flintlock76

Those cylindical six volt batteries!  I remember those still being available in the 1960's and haven't seen any in years! 

 

Thanks for the kind words everybody!  This is one of my favorite displays to work on as it's just so cool to bring the essence of a 100 year old photograph to life.  About as close to a time machine as I'm ever going to get I'd imagine.

The batteries were an important detail for the display as most train sets back then came with a "battery rheostat" to operate the trains via battery power.  Transformers were available but cost nearly as much as Lionel's lowest price train set of the time.  In those days, not all houses were necessarily equipped with electricity yet either.  

You can still find them available as a support item for antique radio collectors and hobbies of that nature, but they're definitely not commonly manufactured these days.  The ones in the display are actually replicas I found on eBay that are made of PVC pipe and have battery holders for two D-Cell batteries inside to maintain the old appearance while using more readily available batteries.  They're not perfect replicas but they look close enough to do the job.

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Posted by fifedog on Saturday, January 7, 2023 3:30 PM

YesCool So cool.

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Posted by Flintlock76 on Saturday, January 7, 2023 4:00 PM

SantaFe158
The ones in the display are actually replicas I found on eBay that are made of PVC pipe and have battery holders for two D-Cell batteries inside to maintain the old appearance while using more readily available batteries.  They're not perfect replicas but they look close enough to do the job.

Interesting!  I wish I knew that several years ago when I was in an antique shop and saw a WW2 US Navy battle lantern for sale.  When I opened the top I saw it was intended for use with those old six volt batteries.  Since I knew they weren't available anymore I passed on buying it.  

That battle lantern was one big impressive piece of gear!

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Posted by pennytrains on Saturday, January 7, 2023 7:19 PM

I recall finding a website a few years back where you could download and print labels to make your own "new old batteries".  That may have actually been the name of the website now that I think on it.  At the time I was looking for "Everbest", "Eastern" or "Climax" since Lionel sold them in packs of 4 in the 1903 to 1905 time period.

Big Smile  Same me, different spelling!  Big Smile

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Posted by POTRZBE on Sunday, January 8, 2023 9:44 AM

That was a wonderful video. It reminds me that I got all new track from a store on 14th Street in DC called downtown lock and electric. They are still there but no longer in the train business. I got the track when my children got renewed interest in toy trains in the '70s.

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Posted by dsmith on Tuesday, January 10, 2023 8:26 AM

I found this website where you can download labels to make your own "new old batteries".

https://crystalradio.net/misc/batteries/index.shtml

  David from Dearborn  

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Posted by pennytrains on Tuesday, January 10, 2023 5:24 PM

That's the one!  Thumbs Up

Big Smile  Same me, different spelling!  Big Smile

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Posted by SantaFe158 on Thursday, January 12, 2023 8:55 PM

The battery replicas as I purchased them came with labels created from scanned originals.  Due to the age of the labels they scanned to create the image, they looked old.  Not a bad look, but not quite what we were looking for in our display of "new" items.  I purchased some new labels from a radio restoration company and stuck them on over the originals.  There are definitely quite a few different options available if you do some digging.  The research aspect was one of the more fun parts of putting the display together.  It's not 100% perfect in every detail, but it conveys the feeling of what we were going for quite well.

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Posted by palallin on Friday, January 13, 2023 6:57 AM

I was happy to see the variety of trains, and, even more, the variety of appliances.  I'm sure those kinds of things are still hiding out in plenty of attics, but being able to assemble them all makes the display seem very real.

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Posted by Flintlock76 on Friday, January 13, 2023 5:36 PM

palallin

I was happy to see the variety of trains, and, even more, the variety of appliances.  I'm sure those kinds of things are still hiding out in plenty of attics, but being able to assemble them all makes the display seem very real.

 

Believe it or not (OK, it's believeable!) there's antique appliance dealers who specialize in finding, restoring, and selling the same. It would amaze you what's still out there. There was a dealer at the D.C. Big Flea Market who used to display there, and his wares were quite impressive.  Oh man, was I tempted more times than once!  But the right side of the brain always said "And just WHAT are you going to do with it?"

No matter, I've got my grandparents oscillating fan from the 1930's out in the Chugger Barn.  Still works too!  

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Posted by El Fixes Things on Saturday, January 14, 2023 10:31 AM

Years ago my brother bought this cool old hair drier from the 40s or 50s at a yard sale. Years later I looked at it, and turns out a) it was made by good ol' AC Gilbert as part of the Polar Club line of appliances, and b) it has an extremely cool cord with a plug that has "Gilbert" on it, just like how it looks on an American Flyer box.



Not 1920s era, but I remembered about it and it felt relevant to the conversation at hand, almost.

-Ellie

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Posted by pennytrains on Saturday, January 14, 2023 6:38 PM

First thing I thought about when I saw the display window was "I wonder if that's a Lionel fan?  Or maybe even a Gilbert?"  Then I went looking at the train in detail.  Wink

Big Smile  Same me, different spelling!  Big Smile

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Posted by SantaFe158 on Sunday, January 15, 2023 12:46 PM

I can't recall who the manufacturer of the fan was, but it wasn't Lionel or Gilbert (we did look for a Gilbert one at the time).  It still runs great though after a basic servicing.  It serves a useful purpose in the display by circulating air against the glass to keep the window from fogging up.

The other appliances are all reasonably period appropriate.  A couple are a bit too new, but still have the general appearance of earlier examples.  Most are GE Hotpoint products if I recall correctly.  We had a lot of fun researching and collecting those items as well for the display.

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