Trains.com

Subscriber & Member Login

Login, or register today to interact in our online community, comment on articles, receive our newsletter, manage your account online and more!

Your first hobby shop

27784 views
170 replies
1 rating 2 rating 3 rating 4 rating 5 rating
  • Member since
    November 2019
  • 402 posts
Posted by The Milwaukee Road Warrior on Monday, January 30, 2023 9:32 AM

There was a hobby shop somewhere on the north side of Milwaukee that I went to as a kid.  It was not Walthers.  I want to say it was something like Gorman's or Garman's.  First place I remember going to.

Andy

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Milwaukee native modeling the Milwaukee Road in 1950's Milwaukee.

https://www.flickr.com/photos/196857529@N03/

  • Member since
    December 2001
  • From: Smoggy L.A.
  • 10,743 posts
Posted by vsmith on Monday, January 30, 2023 4:39 PM

Officially the Toy Train hobby shop that used to be inside Knott's Berry Farm, as a little kid I could spend hours inside looking at all the old and new model trains. First hobby shop I took myself to? Earls Hobbies in Bellflower. I would ride my bike there from Cerritos. Later I added Hobby Warehouse, the Military Shop and another shop name long lost to history in Artesia. Once I got a car the Train Shop in Hobby City and a couple others long gone that were once around SoCal.

   Have fun with your trains

  • Member since
    February 2003
  • From: Guelph, Ontario
  • 4,815 posts
Posted by Ulrich on Tuesday, January 31, 2023 2:59 PM

Art and Photo, in Sherbrooke, QC. They sold mostly art supplies, but they also had Triang trainsets. 

In 1972 my parents took me to a hobby shop in Manhattan, NY. I don't recall the name of it, but it had several floors of train displays. I remember being blown away by the sheer number and quaility of the models on display. It must have one of the largest hobby stores in NYC.. if anyone has a name please pass it on. We're going back over 50 years.. so in all liklihood they're long gone. 

  • Member since
    January 2019
  • From: Henrico, VA
  • 9,681 posts
Posted by Flintlock76 on Tuesday, January 31, 2023 3:39 PM

Ulrich
It must have one of the largest hobby stores in NYC.. if anyone has a name please pass it on. We're going back over 50 years.. so in all liklihood they're long gone. 

I'm guessing it might  have been Polk's Hobbies.  I went into the city a few times (I lived in North Jersey) with a friend from high school.  As I recall Polk's had at least four floors; one for cars, one for trains, one for planes and one for ships and packed  with merchandise.  And just like yourself I'm speaking of over 50 years ago, so don't trust my memory 100%.  I do recall Polk's was the biggest in the area and the place to go for the hard-to-find.  As far as I know they're gone now.

  • Member since
    February 2003
  • From: Guelph, Ontario
  • 4,815 posts
Posted by Ulrich on Tuesday, January 31, 2023 4:05 PM

Flintlock76

 

 
Ulrich
It must have one of the largest hobby stores in NYC.. if anyone has a name please pass it on. We're going back over 50 years.. so in all liklihood they're long gone. 

 

I'm guessing it might  have been Polk's Hobbies.  I went into the city a few times (I lived in North Jersey) with a friend from high school.  As I recall Polk's had at least four floors; one for cars, one for trains, one for planes and one for ships and packed  with merchandise.  And just like yourself I'm speaking of over 50 years ago, so don't trust my memory 100%.  I do recall Polk's was the biggest in the area and the place to go for the hard-to-find.  As far as I know they're gone now.

 

 

That name sounds right! Thanks!

  • Member since
    January 2019
  • From: Henrico, VA
  • 9,681 posts
Posted by Flintlock76 on Tuesday, January 31, 2023 4:52 PM

You're welcome!

I did a little quick n' dirty on-line research on Polks and it looks like they went out of business in 2013.  RIP Polk's, it was an incredible place!

  • Member since
    January 2017
  • From: Southern Florida Gulf Coast
  • 18,255 posts
Posted by SeeYou190 on Wednesday, February 1, 2023 7:55 AM

Flintlock76
I did a little quick n' dirty on-line research on Polks and it looks like they went out of business in 2013. 

Wow. I visited New York City about a dozen times between 1978 and 2013, and I never went to Polk's.

I did make a few visits to FAO Schwartz.

It sounds like I missed out.

-Kevin

Living the dream.

  • Member since
    December 2006
  • 67 posts
Posted by billslake on Thursday, February 16, 2023 5:09 PM

Family Fun in Appleton, WI.  Opened in about 1955, closed in the early 60s.  Four/fifths of the store was toys, the other fifth was a fairly complete hobby shop.

  • Member since
    March 2002
  • From: Seattle, Washington
  • 29 posts
Posted by acgilbert on Friday, February 17, 2023 1:59 AM

The Milwaukee Road Warrior

There was a hobby shop somewhere on the north side of Milwaukee that I went to as a kid.  It was not Walthers.  I want to say it was something like Gorman's or Garman's.  First place I remember going to.

 There was a Gorman Hobby Shop at 8216 W. National Ave. in West Allis, as listed in MR's hobby shop directory Jan. 1962 issue.  That's not north Milwaukee but maybe they had moved when you were there.

  • Member since
    March 2019
  • From: South Lake Tahoe California
  • 188 posts
Posted by MetrolinkFan on Friday, February 17, 2023 12:26 PM

Allied Model Train in Los Angeles Ca,Before they closed mant years back. It looked like Los Angeles Union Station I got to vist the store and bought some Ho stuff.Got me 2 SP SD9"s and a few buildings.Sad it closed up.

  • Member since
    May 2008
  • From: Miles City, Montana
  • 2,274 posts
Posted by FRRYKid on Saturday, February 18, 2023 2:44 AM

My first hobby shop started out in a person's house in the rural area. I can't remember the name of it as this was 25 years ago at least. The shop later moved into town and then moved to a different location in town. It later ended up closing as I recall due to the death of the owner. His ex and her then husband had it for a bit but it didn't last long after that.

However that wasn't the first place I bought train equipment. That honor belonged to our local Ben Franklin store. IMS the owner's name was Grant Wicks and he was a modeler himself. There was a small train section in the back of the store. I got all my pieces from there at the time. I still have an MDC/Roundhouse bulkhead flatcar that I purchased from there all those years ago. (It has been repainted and relettered however to get the lettering a bit closer to prototype.)

My best hobby shop experience probably has to be Whistle Stop Hobbies in Portland, OR. We were visiting my brother who lived in Portland at the time and my Dad was nice enough to take me to the shop. (Long after the above mentioned spots were gone.) I only directly found one thing I was looking for (an Atlas Passenger shelter) however the shop was able to get me some part numbers that I needed for some trucks I needed for a passenger car. (Brought it with me for showing purposes. Another modeler happened to come while Dad was waiting at the counter. He thought that the car was Dad's. Dad corrected him and said it was mine as I was shopping at the time.)

"The only stupid question is the unasked question."
Brain waves can power an electric train. RealFact #832 from Snapple.
  • Member since
    August 2022
  • From: New England (Cape Cod)
  • 128 posts
Posted by DonRicardo on Saturday, February 18, 2023 8:27 AM

My current hobby shop is Centerline Hobbies on Cape Cod, near the Hyannis Mall. Excellent in service and stock!

 

  • Member since
    November 2019
  • 402 posts
Posted by The Milwaukee Road Warrior on Saturday, February 18, 2023 8:43 AM

acgilbert
 

 

 
The Milwaukee Road Warrior

There was a hobby shop somewhere on the north side of Milwaukee that I went to as a kid.  It was not Walthers.  I want to say it was something like Gorman's or Garman's.  First place I remember going to.

 There was a Gorman Hobby Shop at 8216 W. National Ave. in West Allis, as listed in MR's hobby shop directory Jan. 1962 issue.  That's not north Milwaukee but maybe they had moved when you were there.

 

 

 

That's GOT to be it.  I don't know why I remembered it being on the north side, but I was only 7 or 8 and, apparently, didn't have my bearings yet.  I remember it was a neat place.  I got all of my Athearn blue box power, MRC Tech II, track, etc there.

Andy

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Milwaukee native modeling the Milwaukee Road in 1950's Milwaukee.

https://www.flickr.com/photos/196857529@N03/

  • Member since
    August 2019
  • 198 posts
Posted by Rambo2 on Monday, February 20, 2023 9:41 AM

Georges trains in toronto for me 

  • Member since
    August 2022
  • 115 posts
Posted by Vintagesteamer on Monday, February 20, 2023 12:26 PM

My earliest memories of going to a hobby shop with my father was Forest Park Hobby here in Kokomo.  On special occasions he would take me to Casey Jones trains in Indianapolis or Harmon's Trains in Arcadia(where I eventually became his shop mechanic in my teens).  I found Hawkins Rail in Lafayette in my teens when I joined the local HO scale club.  Jack was quite a fellow and a good friend.  Many other shops in Indy thru the years such as Watts Train Shop for my LGB G scale needs, Big Four Hobbies, Train Central and so forth.  Most are long closed up, but those fond memories remain.   I also bought AHM/Rivarossi items at the local Ben Franklin five and dime store.  I still have my USRA 0-6-0 in well worn condition.  Mike

  • Member since
    August 2009
  • 4 posts
Posted by ghostrydr on Monday, February 20, 2023 1:20 PM

My first train store was Hobbies for Men in Beacon, NY., as I grew up just five minutes down the street. Their original store was really small, but I spent many a weeks' allowance there as a 13 year old. Hobbies For Men eventually relocated into a large store on main street which was previously a Woolworths. I don't remember them lasting long after the move to the large store front, only a couple years.    

  • Member since
    September 2003
  • 10,582 posts
Posted by mlehman on Monday, February 20, 2023 5:11 PM

My first shop may have been all trains, because that's all I remember although it's possible they had other items. It was Bob's Hobby Shop at 212 N. Walnut in Bloomington, IN. I had been into model rockets in Texas, but had a lot of trouble tracking them down in bushier Indiana after the USAF sent dad to get his MBA at IU. At least when your trains crashed, the parts were found in a rather limited area.Whistling

I started with some hand-me-down Lionel inherited from within the family. Took it all to Bob's and he gave me something like $25. Seems small, but was a lot of cash as a 14 yo. I switched to HO starting with that money. One of my first kits was an old Varney flat. I still have the decrepit carbody somewhere, but the box complete with day-glo Close Out price of 98 cents is right here on the desk holding some stuff. I also bought a Mantua 4-6-0 kit that I built but it never was one of my better runners.

Not sure when Bob's closed, but think it was gone be the 1980s IIRC.

Like others, I share some fond memories of Hawkins in Lafayette, too. I started visiting Jack's in the late 80s. Bought my first brass there, a nicely weathered Westside C-25 that is one of my best runners after a motor conversion. Jack also had a pretty good selection of HOn3 for Indiana as I got deeper into that. While it was always MSRP, Jack's deep inventory meant that as prices went up, his stayed the same, so some things eventually became bargains, as well as being in stock when everyone else was sold out.

Mike Lehman

Urbana, IL

  • Member since
    March 2008
  • From: O'Fallon, MO
  • 96 posts
Posted by kbaker329 on Tuesday, February 21, 2023 1:53 PM

The first real hobby shop I ever visited was Hammer's Hobbies in Decatur, IL.  I left with an Athearn NS GP38-2 and a Walther's EJ&E coil car.  Still have both!  They later moved to Springfield, IL and then closed.  

Central Missouri didn't have a lot of train shops but there was a guy operating out of his basement that I bought several Athearn kits from.

Then, on a Colorado vacation, I was able to go to Caboose Hobbies.  What a place!  I was able to visit a few more times when traveling to Colorado for business, but sadly it's no more.  I was able to visit lots of hobby shops over the years but like Caboose Hobbies, most of them are gone now.

HO scale modeling N&W and Union Pacific, somewhere in Missouri between 1940 & 1990!
  • Member since
    August 2006
  • From: Nashville, TN area
  • 711 posts
Posted by hardcoalcase on Tuesday, February 21, 2023 10:41 PM

I also had the luck to make business trips to the Denver area, which always included a visit to Caboose Hobbies. A favorite feature was the small layout under plexiglas, where, upon closer examination, one might notice that a group of chimps escaped from a zoo truck and were creating havoc throughout the city scene.  I could have spent hours just looking through the wall display of brass detail parts.

(sigh)

 

Jim

  • Member since
    June 2002
  • 569 posts
Posted by drgwcs on Wednesday, February 22, 2023 12:26 AM

Vintagesteamer

My earliest memories of going to a hobby shop with my father was Forest Park Hobby here in Kokomo.  On special occasions he would take me to Casey Jones trains in Indianapolis or Harmon's Trains in Arcadia(where I eventually became his shop mechanic in my teens).  I found Hawkins Rail in Lafayette in my teens when I joined the local HO scale club.  Jack was quite a fellow and a good friend.  Many other shops in Indy thru the years such as Watts Train Shop for my LGB G scale needs, Big Four Hobbies, Train Central and so forth.  Most are long closed up, but those fond memories remain.   I also bought AHM/Rivarossi items at the local Ben Franklin five and dime store.  I still have my USRA 0-6-0 in well worn condition.  Mike

 

That brings back a lot of memories when I lived in Indiana. There were tons of different shops in the 90s and 2000s in Indianapolis that are gone. Big Four was a great shop. Tom Metzgers was also great. There were a few smaller ones too. Big Boy hobbies once had a bunch of Train stuff but gradually it whittled down. There were a couple that I can not remember the names on. There was a small one in a plaza by Washington Square and another in Greenwood that opened up and closed a couple of times but was still on the train show circuit. There was even a mini train shop in an antique mall Sanford and sons. Way before that there was a Great Train Store in union Station and later Circle Center.

I think it is just down to train central and the Hobbytowns now isn't it? The north side hobbytown used to have a great selection but it had shrunk considerably when it moved and I was in the area about 3 years ago. Train Central used to be Varey Trains and was further over on Washington almost out of town then they moved to the stone building then on Shadeland. (Casey Jones trains wasn't related was it seems to me I heard one time it was) 

  • Member since
    March 2021
  • 259 posts
Posted by Tin Can II on Wednesday, February 22, 2023 9:06 AM

I can remember visiting Caboose for the first time in the 80's and thinking that I had died and gone to heaven.  I bought mass quantities of detail parts and hard to find items just because they had them in stock.  My last visit was about a year before the original owner retired.  Not quite as much stock, but still a fruitful trip for me.

  • Member since
    June 2002
  • 569 posts
Posted by drgwcs on Wednesday, February 22, 2023 10:50 AM

Only went to Caboose Hobbies once on a whirlwind trip through Colorado. I wished I had planned on spending more money but was a college student at the time and had a lot more trip to go. 

  • Member since
    September 2003
  • From: Southeast Texas
  • 5,444 posts
Posted by mobilman44 on Wednesday, February 22, 2023 5:37 PM

Ahh, one never forgets their first - hobby shop!

Mine was Bell's Hobbies, located across from Lane Technical High School on Belmont Avenue in Chicago.  I believe my first visit was in 1957, and my interest was the Lionel train section.  As I recall, the store was split in half with the left side being trains, and the right side being other models and such.  I bought a Lionel #64xx boxcar - a Baltimore & Ohio.  

I was in 8th grade that first visit, and started high school at Lane Tech in Feb. 1958.  I made a few visits to Bells while in high school, but didn't really have the time or money to spend.

Bells, like so many others, is long gone.  But I'll always remember the first few visits when I looked in awe at all the trains they had on display.

ENJOY  !

 

Mobilman44

 

Living in southeast Texas, formerly modeling the "postwar" Santa Fe and Illinois Central 

  • Member since
    October 2003
  • From: Northern California
  • 162 posts
Posted by softail86mark on Thursday, February 23, 2023 12:45 AM

Steve's Hobby Shop, Pelton Center, San Leandro, California, 1960

WP Lives

  • Member since
    January 2017
  • From: Southern Florida Gulf Coast
  • 18,255 posts
Posted by SeeYou190 on Thursday, February 23, 2023 7:49 AM

drgwcs
Only went to Caboose Hobbies once on a whirlwind trip through Colorado.

Caboose Hobbies and Allied Trains are two places I wish I could have visited in their glory days.

-Kevin

Living the dream.

  • Member since
    February 2004
  • From: Eastern Montana
  • 63 posts
Posted by MTsteamfan on Tuesday, March 21, 2023 8:53 PM

I was also a big fan of the original Caboose Hobbies in Denver.  We live about 550 miles from there but anytime we'd be in Denver I demanded that we go to Caboose.  The store closed, moved to a different location with a new owner and reopened as just "Caboose" and it looked great, but it didn't catch on and is now gone, sad to say.  Well I spent what I could every time I was there, at least!

  • Member since
    June 2020
  • 133 posts
Posted by Bayway Terminal on Saturday, March 25, 2023 12:48 PM

In the 1960's / 70's / 80's up until the mid 90's I went to Fishkins Dept. store in my home town of Perth Amboy NJ, it had everthing for the hobbist, from camera's and film developing, hunting & fishing equipmnet including live bait, sheet music & LP records, Schwinn & Raliegh bycycles, and best of all a large selection of model car kits , die cast+slot cars, Lionel/Marx/Tyco trains. At Christmas time the huge store front window had continuous run of Lionel trains.

It closed for good some years back and is now a Laundry Mat.

In the early 1990's I started purchasing at The Model Railroad Shop in Piscataway NJ, it originally opened in 1932 and amazingly has never stopped operating, its one of the few remaining full service RR stores in the Garden State. In-store face to face customer service / the old fashioned way,  be prepared to spend a lots time there if you decide visit ths small store, they actually write down your pre-order in a book with your name, and call you when it eventually arrives at the store, original wood strip floor and cast metal ceilng tiles, truly a unique shopping experience in today's fast paced world. Bayway Terminal NJ

 

  • Member since
    August 2013
  • 65 posts
Posted by GP025 on Sunday, March 26, 2023 8:19 PM

   My 1st hobby shop was in Decatur, IL. Must have been in late '72. I still remember the wood floors. 

  My 2nd hobby shop was in Decatur as well, but farther out of town in a building I also got my haircut, (I was maybe 10 yrs old). This one was "cooler" though, 100% trains, had a "huge" layout, ok, only a 4x8, but big to me! I got scolded a few times for spending my allowance in secret after sneaking down as dad was getting his haircut.

  • Member since
    November 2015
  • 55 posts
Posted by JimL on Monday, March 27, 2023 10:40 AM

Bayway Terminal

In the early 1990's I started purchasing at The Model Railroad Shop in Piscataway NJ, it originally opened in 1932 and amazingly has never stopped operating, its one of the few remaining full service RR stores in the Garden State. In-store face to face customer service / the old fashioned way,  be prepared to spend a lots time there if you decide visit ths small store, they actually write down your pre-order in a book with your name, and call you when it eventually arrives at the store, original wood strip floor and cast metal ceilng tiles, truly a unique shopping experience in today's fast paced world. Bayway Terminal NJ 

Also my first, and still only, shop for HO trains.

I started going there in the '60s ... on many Saturdays after I finished my bicycle paper route, my father would take me. Very old school shop, jammed with everything you need, run by really nice people. Specializing in new and old NJ railroads, plus the rest of the "Anthracite Roads." 

Sadly, one of the owners, Jack de Rosset, recently passed away. Super nice man.

  • Member since
    September 2003
  • 21,594 posts
Posted by Overmod on Thursday, March 30, 2023 12:08 PM

I'm still wistful that I never had a hobby-shop experience like the one at Frank's.

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=56S9hM2PBW0

Subscriber & Member Login

Login, or register today to interact in our online community, comment on articles, receive our newsletter, manage your account online and more!

Users Online

There are no community member online

Search the Community

ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
Model Railroader Newsletter See all
Sign up for our FREE e-newsletter and get model railroad news in your inbox!