the view through the windshield car blog

Toy Trains (2013-21)
To read about full-sized trains and locomotives, go here.

Covid Train Mania: Last spring, the managers at Märklin, the 162-year-old maker of model trains in Germany, were surprised by something unexpected in the sales reports. By November, Märklin's monthly orders were up 70% over the previous year.

"Along with baking and jigsaw puzzles earlier in the pandemic, model trains are among the passions being rediscovered while people are cooped up indoors. Several companies that make trains are reporting jumps in sales. For many people, the chance to create a separate, better world in the living room - with stunning mountains, tiny chugging locomotives and communities of inch-high people where no one needs a mask - is hard to resist." Märklin, which filed for bankruptcy protection over a decade ago, is now for the first time in years hiring new apprentices to learn the precise work of making super-detailed tiny trains. The company employs about 1,170 full-time employees in its two locations in Göppingen and Gyor, Hungary. Märklin is headquartered in the Swabian town of Göppingen, in Germany's southwest.

Märklin trains come in three scales, with HO-gauge models the most popular. A high-end Gauge 1 scale locomotive, made up of several thousand individual parts, can cost up to $4,200 new (and much more if the train becomes a collector's item), although lower-cost locomotives, composed of about 300 parts, sell for about one-tenth of the price. Märklin also makes LGB garden trains, which are larger and designed to be set up outdoors.

I remember seeing Märklin's unique three-rail HO trains in hobby shops as a 12 year-old. The German locos and cars looked very exotic to my never-left-the-U.S. eyes. The trains were quite expensive, even in the mid-1950s. Märklin's catalogs were exquisite and colorful. Even though I never bought anything - Märklin trains were waaaay beyond my limited income from cutting neighbor's lawns, I studied the catalogs endlessly.

As for me, I put up my model train layout this year, although we had few visitors because of the virus. We took it down a couple of weeks ago and moved it back into storage without incident. (posted 3/24/21, permalink)

The Pause That Refreshes: One of my 2020 Christmas gifts was a 1:48th scale late 1950s-era red and white Coke machine for my O-gauge train layout. It stands about 1.625 inches high.

It is well-detailed and made in China for American Heritage Models - a house brand of Diecast Direct of Kentucky. I placed it on the passenger platform on the middle level of the three-level layout, next to a phone booth. (posted 1/15/21, permalink)

Reflections At Twenty Years: It has been just over 20 years since I built my three-level model train layout. Over the years, I have made a few improvements but the basic structure is the same as it was in 2000.

As night falls, I enjoy watching the trains and trolleys run around on my layout. I sit in a comfy chair with the lights turned down a bit and let my mind wander. I find that looking at various items on the layout unleashes a flood of pleasant memories. Poet Marinela Reka wrote, "Memories are like antiques; the older they are the more valuable they became."

The Lionel Hiawatha - it runs on the lower level - reminds me of the three-level layout my dad built for me in 1947. It too had an original Lionel Hiawatha running on the lowest level. At age 4, I was too young to appreciate all of the effort that my dad put into it. He worked a regular job - 45 to 50 hours per week - with the Pennsylvania Railroad and produced this three-level layout in his spare time without using power tools of any kind. Every piece of wood was hand-sawn, every hole was hand-drilled and all burlap was hand-tacked. Watered-down plaster was applied by brush to create the snowy ground.

That Christmas layout was built in the basement of our small Northeast Philadelphia row home and, because it was too big to carry up the basement stairs, was taken out the back door and around the block to the front of our house. It barely fit through the doorway, even after the storm door and front door had been removed. Thanks, Dad.

When I was building my three-level layout, I spent time sitting on the floor cross-legged trying to view the layout the way my 3 year-old grandson would.

It caused me to add a lot of detailing and some operating accessories to the lower level to catch his eye and provoke his interest. Every time a train goes by on the lower level, crossing lights flash, bells ring and a gateman jumps out of his yellow shack to wave his red lantern. Press a button and the flag waves atop the pole located in the park near the train station.

I still remember the joy and wonder on his face when he got his first glimpse of the finished project.

Also on the lower-level of the layout is a Bowser O-gauge model of a Brill double-ended trolley. I detailed it with PTC markings, a Route #11 signboard, period advertising placards and figures at the front and rear of the cab to add realism. I also added internal illumination so the window silhouettes could be better seen in low light. As I watch it make its loop, it reminds me of the many times I rode in those old wood-sided trolleys as a young kid - especially the Route 3 cars, which ran along Frankford Avenue under the El. Most of Philadelphia's wood-sided trolleys were gone by the late 1950s.

A crystal Christmas tree can be found near the front of the lower level; it sparkles in the reflected light from street lamps and other nearby lights on the layout. The tree was given to me in 2007 or so by a very good friend who lives in Japan. Sadly, she now has dementia and we can no longer reminisce about the good times and people we knew 60 years ago. But, whenever I see the tree, I think of Liz.

On the lower level, the Frankford Junction switch tower has correct Pennsylvania Railroad signage and is painted in the Pennsy color scheme. My dad worked out of Frankford Junction as a freight conductor for many years.

Most of the lower-level is late 1930s-themed but, in the back, is something from the fifties - the Mayfair Diner with some hot rods and customs parked in front. The diner on my layout has an animated neon sign with a 'buzzy' letter 'E'. The real Mayfair Diner is on Frankford Avenue in Northeast Philadelphia; it opened in 1932 and is still in operation. I've eaten at that diner numerous times over the years - with my parents, my high-school friends, co-workers from Uniroyal and my wife. More memories to savor.

On the 1950s-themed middle-level of the layout, the Pennsylvania Railroad Aerotrain is often running. I have fond memories of riding on the Pennsy Aerotrain as a twelve-year old. My dad and I rode that train in the summer of 1956, departing North Philadelphia Station a little after 9:00 am and returning from a Pittsburgh round trip a little after 10:00 pm on the same day - on the same train. The train itself was very futuristic-looking at the time. It made everything else on the railroad look old fashioned - especially the turn-of-the-century station at North Philly.

At some point during the season, I swap out the Aerotrain for my PRR GG-1 set. These amazing electric locomotives shook the ground when they passed at speed along the four-track PRR Northeast Corridor - I clearly remember feeling the ground move and the large wind gusts as they passed by when I was a kid fascinated by trains - but glided smoothly and almost silently into stations. The big G's reliability kept them in regular service until the early 1980s when age, rust, frame cracks and replacement part difficulties made it more cost-effective to replace them with modern, but duller-looking electric locomotives. I rode the GG-1-pulled clockers from Philly to NYC and back with my parents on several occasions.

Another Philadelphia trolley car travels a loop through the city on the middle level. This particular trolley is a St. Louis Car Company-built PCC trolley car introduced to Philadelphia in 1938. Philadelphians called them 'streamliners'. In the Frankford section of Philadelphia, old-fashioned, wood-sided Route 3 cars ran on the same track as the modern Route 5 streamliners. I remember my mom teaching me - at age 3 or so - how to tell the difference between the approaching 3 and 5 cars while we waited for a trolley along Frankford Avenue. Growing up, public transit was a big part of my life.

Also on the middle level, an EMD Pennsy yard diesel - my dad ran yard diesels often in his job - pulling two tank cars and a PRR caboose. One tanker is a custom one-off model of a Rohm & Haas tank car - I worked for R&H for almost 12 years and my dad sometimes dropped freight cars at their Bridesburg plant in Philadelphia. In the same area, he often serviced Barrett Chemical. Behind the R&H car is a single dome tank car, silver with 'Barrett Division' & 'Allied Chemical' markings. This freight train takes a sharp downgrade to go below street level and slingshots back up on a scratch-built viaduct/trestle painted white/gray concrete. Watching that train consist operate evokes more memories of my dad. He worked on the railroad - Pennsylvania, Penn Central, Conrail - for 42 years and passed away shortly after his retirement.

Several of my dad's siblings, his father and other relatives, including a couple of my cousins, worked on the railroad. My godfather and uncle, Tom Sherlock, let me drive a Baldwin diesel yard switcher when I was 12 years-old. It was an unforgettable experience. I truly came from a railroad family.

On the upper mountain level, an HO-scale Brill Birney-type trolley with trailer and PTC lettering runs in an oval and tunnels through the mountain. The buildings on this segment are HO scale and are from the days when I built HO Christmas layouts for my kids. I still remember some of those layouts. On a side piece if track is an A.C. Gilbert Co. HO scale Reading caboose from 1951. It was part of two HO sets that my dad purchased to replace my Lionel trains. The original bulb in the caboose still lights up although it sometimes flickers, as though my dad is winking at me.

Running the layout also reminds me of the times my friends and I got together and built O-gauge layouts together. Or the basement HO layouts I built for my brother when he was in grade school and I was in college.

Watching the trains with my son-in-law

This whimsical but realistic train layout brings back very many fond recollections for me. Noboru Nakajima, a renowned collector of toys - his vehicle collection alone exceeded 50,000 models, said it poetically, "Old toys have their times' hearts, which seem to talk to me."

My toy trains elicit so many reminiscences for me and, as I get older, it's important to keep old memories alive in my times' heart. (posted 12/29/20, permalink)

Big News In The Model Train Biz: MTH Electric Trains president Mike Wolf has announced his retirement at age 60 - and the closure of his business effective June 1, 2021.

To his customers, he wrote, "I want to thank you for the support and encouragement you have shown my company over our 40-year journey. From humble beginnings and a lot of hard work, we were able to build one of the world's largest model train manufacturers - one unquestionably buoyed by your unwavering support.

In particular, I am proud that MTH has released more models than any train manufacturer in the history of our hobby. The variety, quality, and infusion of technology throughout our offerings allowed MTH Electric Trains to help bring enjoyment to all who share our wonderful hobby."

Wolf added, "With thousands of tools and molds and a wealth of intellectual property, a new model railroading company may arise from my former company as I entertain various options and buyers. One scenario is a new company organized and owned by members of my current staff. Their decades of experience, work ethic, and creative talent will ensure success regardless of who owns the assets while providing a welcome bridge between the past 40 years and the future."

O-gauge Pennsylvania Railroad T-1 locomotive, manufactured by MTH, on my layout

Most of the O-gauge locomotives I run on my model train layout were made by MTH. I also have trolleys, rolling stock and accessories made by the firm. MTH is a privately-held company based in Columbia, MD. Formerly known as Mike's Train House, it is an American model railroading designer, importer, and manufacturer. MTH's products are reliable, well-made and realistic-looking. In the 1990s, Mike Wolf brought innovation and a deluge of new products to the hobby, shaming lazy competitor Lionel into upping their game.

An article in Inc. magazine revealed Mike Wolf's humble beginnings. "Wolf started his own business as a teenager. With his mentor's permission, he sold Williams's trains and parts via mail order from his bedroom, taking phone orders from the West Coast late at night, processing credit-card transactions, and maintaining a customer database on an early Apple. He called the company Mike's Train House - later renaming it MTH Electric Trains as he moved to more spacious office and warehouse quarters in Columbia, Md. His catalog was crude. He slept each night surrounded by boxes of inventory. And he arranged an unusual pickup system with the UPS man in order to keep the shipments moving while he attended classes at a nearby community college. He parked an unlocked Ford Falcon in front of his house as his mailbox. A red rag on the antenna signaled a pickup. There were plenty. It wasn't long before Wolf became Williams' largest distributor."

MTH suffered greatly in the 2000 decade. Lionel stole the company's designs and blueprints. MTH sued and eventually won but the lawsuit was costly. MTH suffered a 50% sales drop between 2000 and 2004.

Then the Great Recession hit; it decimated the hobby and caused a number of retailers, distributors and manufacturers to go out of business. K-Line declared bankruptcy as did Märklin of Germany. There was a great deal of consolidation - Industrial Rail was bought by Atlas; Williams Trains was acquired by Bachmann - owned by Kader Industries, headquarted iin Hong Kong.

Even as the recession faded and the economy recovered, the toy and model market continued to decline. Interest in toy trains had dwindled in the 1970s as well but picked up again when many baby boomers began collecting electric train sets again as deep-pocketed, free-spending adults during the 1980s and '90s. "A lot of our business is baby-boom men basically rekindling their memories. That could be a problem, as far as those guys going away," said Andy Edelman, vice president for marketing at MTH Electric Trains, back in 2004.

Older hobbyists are now either downsizing their collections or not adding to them. Now that pre-boomers and boomers are getting older, they are buying fewer trains. Or have already purchased everything they want. (I haven't bought any train stuff in over a decade.) Additionally, the rise of video games and related electronic pursuits has negatively affected the model train business. Kids and young adults are getting into trains at waaaaay too slow a pace to replace hobbyists who are getting out.

Another factor is China. These days almost no model trains are made in the U.S. Gone are the 1950s heydays when toy train giant Lionel made its trains in a large Irvington, NJ factory. Lionel moved its production to Mexico in the 1970s but had lots of quality problems. They then moved manufacturing to Asia. MTH and Lionel initially had trains made in Korea but moved to China in the 2000s to reduce costs.

Kader Industries is now one of the world's largest manufacturers of toy and model railroad products. They own Bachmann, as well as Williams Trains along with other brands. The firm took over its main competitor, Sanda Kan, and now manufactures trains for Hornby, Lionel, Atlas, Life-Like, Brawa, Märklin and about 50 other model train companies. Kader also produces toys for other major corporations, such as Disney, Hasbro and Mattel. The company produces over 1.3 million train sets annually for the U.S. market alone - in different scales - primarily O and HO.

Most of Kader's manufacturing facilities are located in southern China; there is a large operation in Dongguan. The company's manufacturing plants have a combined floor area of over 2.85 million square feet. Kader employs approximately 18,000 personnel in Hong Kong and China and has over 500 plastic and diecast injection, rotocasting and blow-molding machines to produce components. The firm's mold shop is staffed by over 500 skilled technicians.

In recent years, China has raised prices on its hobby products - sometimes dramatically. In Model Auto Review, a model car manufacturer wrote about the problems with producing diecast models in China: "China is emerging as a world power and, like most growing economies, its cost structure is rising. China has now ruled that workers must get an annual salary increase of 15% and this is adding to the cost of product. The Chinese government has ruled that major industries such as mobile phones, computers, and iPads get priority for land space and other less-clean industries such as diecasting must move (to a lesser) location. This all adds up to increases in price of product and delays in delivery."

The same is true for model trains. In 2002, I purchased an Industrial Rail O-gauge reversing trolley car for $30. The Atlas-branded version now sells for $95 and up. Such price increases are not unusual and increasing prices reduce buyer interest in the hobby.

I suspect that MTH is shutting down because they couldn't find a buyer. I'm not surprised. The market is going away, profits are far lower than 25-30 years ago, supply chain problems are increasing, long-term product supply is uncertain, and the future of the hobby looks grim. Who would want to purchase such a business when there are far more-profitable, high-growth opportunities elsewhere?

Farewell MTH … and thanks to Mike Wolf for jump-starting a stagnant industry. The hobby may be dying now but - for a time - he gave it a new lease on life. (posted 7/7/20, permalink)

Please Remain In Your Seats: Recently, I swapped out two of the train sets on my O-gauge model train layout.

On the lower level, I replaced the Pennsylvania Railroad T-1 steam locomotive and passenger consist with the PRR 2-8-8-2 Mallet pulling a long freight consist, including but not limited to Entemann's vat car, Tastykake boxcar, Bonomo's Turkish Taffy boxcar, Bakelite Plastics bulk hopper car, Gulf Oil tank car and Sunoco Tank Car.

On the middle level, I replaced the Pennsy GG1 electric locomotive and silver Congressional passenger set with a Consolidation 2-8-0 steam locomotive pulling a set of heavyweight-style PRR Tuscan passenger cars.

When I purchased these MTH-made coaches, I detailed the open observation car with silver paint on the railing, gold finials, gold-trimmed rear lanterns and installed a drumhead made from a metal PRR lapel pin. I also installed figures in the coach seats of all coach cars and on the observation platform.

Unfortunately, some of the seated passengers are prepainted figures made from a rubbery plastic. I glued them to the seats using a dollop of Amazing Goop on their bottoms but that, apparently, wasn't enough to secure them. Over the years, some have come loose and are upside down or laying on the floor. I disassembled all the cars and this time used a lot more Goop so that their backs and legs are also glued to the seat surfaces. I also gave them more time to dry before replacing the coach roof and used a hot air gun to accelerated the curing of the glue.

Hopefully, this time they'll stay seated. (posted 1/26/18, permalink)

Trouble In Toyland: Hornby Hobbies is a UK-based toy and model conglomerate. The original company was founded by Frank Hornby in 1901 and focused on toy trains. Today, the firm owns a number of model trains and railroad accessory brands (Hornby, Lima, Jouef, Arnold, Rivarossi, Lyddie End Scaledale), model and toy vehicles (Corgi, Scalextric, Pocher), as well as model aircraft and accessories (Airfix, Corgi, Humbrol).

In 2015, Hornby began a series of declining financial results. The major reason behind the decline, Hornby declared, was two-fold: the decline in the number of collectable customers (due to old age or death), and a lack of interest in modeling as a hobby in light of internet activities. After the stock price dropped by more than 50% in a year, Hornby declared that it planned to cut more than half of the toys it made, after discovering that it generated 90% of its profits from only 50% of its range. I'm shocked that it took Hornby management so many years to figure this out but I wouldn't be surprised if - based on the venerable 80/20 rule - that 80% of their profits came from 20% of their offerings. This means that Hornby Hobbies would have to raise all prices by more than 25% just to break-even.

Maz Wooley of Model Auto Review noted that the company recently reorganized with new management. In the last 6 months, revenue fell from $29.2 million to $22.7 million year-over-year - a drop of over 22%. Furthermore, the company's losses now total over 20% of net sales - a very alarming figure.

Lyndon Davies, owner of Oxford Diecast, is Hornby's new Chief Executive Officer and plans to revitalize the company by revitalzing "the European sales, which have been falling over time, by spending more time identifying what the customer wants." The company also plans a stock sale, proceeds of which will be used for product development and for a partial acquisition of Oxford Diecast.

I wish these folks the best of luck, but the collapsing market for traditional hobby and collectible items shows no sign of abating. (posted 12/14/17, permalink)

Haulin' Gas: Gulf Oil was established in Pittsburgh around the turn of the 20th Century and was the source for much of the Mellon family fortune. Gulf built its first Philadelphia refinery in 1905 at Girard Point in South Philly and was a well-known gasoline brand in the area. Grades were subregular Gulftane, Good Gulf regular, Gulf No-Nox Ethyl premium and later, Gulf Super Unleaded.

This O-gauge single-dome Gulf Oil Tank car, which I run occasionally on my Philly-themed model train layout, was made by Industrial Rail. I purchased it ... (more >>>)

Aging Hobby: According to a Wall Street Journal article, the "average age of the National Model Railroad Association's 19,000 or so members is 64, up alarmingly from 39 in the mid-1970s."

"The Western Pennsylvania Model Railroad Museum, near Pittsburgh, promotes the hobby by offering a 20-hour Model Railroading 101 course each winter for $60."

Toy and model train enthusiasts are getting older and kids are getting into trains at far too slow a pace to replace the number getting out. Additionally, the rise of social media, video games and related electronic pursuits has negatively affected the model train business. (posted 2/24/17, permalink)

Tank You: Lionel Electric Trains has offered Sunoco tank cars since the 1930s. On the three-level train layout built by my dad in 1947, the middle level had a steam loco pulling a freight consist. One of the freight cars was a post-war, silver double-dome Sunoco tank car.

This three-dome plastic one, which I run occasionally on my present model train layout, was first introduced in 1953. I picked mine up at an area train swap meet in 2002 for $15. It is marked "built by Lionel."

Once known as Sun Oil Co., the Philadelphia-based refiner was best known for its Sunoco 'custom blending pumps', an innovation that, beginning in 1958, allowed customers of Sunoco service stations to choose from several octane grades through a single gas pump. More information about Sunoco can be found in my 'Car Musings' section here. (posted 2/20/17, permalink)

New Railroading Fan: My daughter got a new dog recently. Like Lucy, her late canine predecessor, Sadie is interested in looking at the trains run on my O-gauge model train layout.

I'm busy explaining the difference between tank cars, boxcars and coal hoppers to her. (posted 2/14/17, permalink)

Final Boarding Call: Caboose Hobbies in Denver, reputedly the largest model-train store in the world with 18,600 square-feet of space, shut its doors for good on Sept. 11th.

The owners said they planned to retire. Caboose was founded in 1938. (posted 9/14/16, permalink)

Rail Closure: Allied Model Trains, one of the Los Angeles area's oldest and largest model railroad hobby shops, closed in July 2015. Allied originally opened in 1946 and was last located in Culver City, CA.

My good friend Ray Lukas and I visited Allied during our Great California Adventure. It was an impressive place with lots of merchandise and interesting displays.

Unfortunately, Allied couldn't make a profit in these changing times. A declining hobby market combined with a shift to internet sales presented challenges that Allied couldn't overcome. It's a story which, sadly, is all too common these days. (posted 10/27/15, permalink)

Trolley Talk: The Philadelphia PTC "talking" trolley for my O-gauge model train layout has been repaired and arrived last week.

Everything now seems to work. It makes all the proper trolley sounds, with a Philadelphia-accented voice calling out stops, urging passengers to "please move to the rear" and reminding them to "take all newspapers and personal belongings with you." The faux motorman also exhorts exiting passengers to "Have a nice day!", which never happened during the many years I rode public transport in the so-called City of Brotherly Love.

There are also the sounds of air-operated doors opening, bell ringing, brakes being applied and released, coins and tokens falling into the fare receptacle, etc. The little trolley is programmed to stop and start at regular intervals and the stops can be customized to fit specific locations on one's train layout.

The trolley had stopped working earlier this year; shorting every time I turned on the power. This MTH-made trolley car is an obsolete model and is no longer made. So, I sent it off to the The Train Shack, an Authorized MTH Repair Center in Burbank, California.

The cost of repair exceeded the original sales price but I'm happy to have it in good working order again. I plan to have it running on my Philly-themed model train layout at Christmas this year. (posted 6/25/15, permalink)

Farewell: Weaver Models, makers of O-scale trains and Scalecoat model railroad paint, will be closing its doors at the end of June 2015.

I own a Weaver covered bulk hopper car, painted red and white, marked 'Bakelite Plastics'. It is a limited-edition, custom-run model made for Petersen Supply Co. of Portland, OR.

Bakelite is a thermosetting phenolic plastic, made - until recently - by Union Carbide. (It is now produced by Momentive Specialty Chemicals of Ohio.) Bakelite has been designated a National Historic Chemical Landmark by the American Chemical Society in recognition of its significance as the world's first synthetic plastic. It was developed by Leo Baekeland in 1907. Bakelite is still used for wire insulation, brake pads and related automotive components as well as other electrical-related applications.

Weaver Models, located in Northumberland, Pennsylvania, was founded in 1965. The firm made most of its products in the U.S. The current owner is retiring and was unable to find a buyer for the business.

The model train market has changed and, sadly, is in decline. O-gauge enthusiasts are getting older and either downsizing their collections or not adding to them. Kids and young adults are getting into trains at too slow a pace to replace hobbyists who are getting out. Additionally, the rise of video games and related electronic pursuits has negatively affected the model train business. (posted 6/17/15, permalink)

Christmas Trains - 2014: Due to my current health situation (cancer surgery plus six months of chemotherapy), I lacked the strength/stamina to put up the usual train layout this year. Instead, I put up three loops of track on the living room floor by the Christmas tree.

Everything is now working: the big outer loop is for my Lionel Hiawatha streamlined passenger train, the middle loop is for a Pennsylvania Railroad diesel freight set and the small inner loop is for a trolley car.

I did a lot of bending, kneeling and stretching to assemble the track, hook up the power transformers and assemble the trains on the tracks. And, boy, was I sore for the next couple of days.

My daughter's dog, Lucy, has always been fascinated by the trains:

I hope to have the regular train layout up next Christmas. (posted 12/15/14, permalink)

Lionel Connection: Singer Frankie Valli wrote, "My dad, Anthony (Castelluccio) ... had been a barber, but by the 1940s he was working for Lionel Trains. He started as an assembly-line worker in their plant in Hillside, NJ, but he soon became responsible for designing model-train displays in store windows. He was a creative guy."

Who knew? (posted 6/26/14, permalink)

End Of The Line: After nearly 80 years in business, Aristo-Craft Trains will cease operations by the end of 2013. The G-scale and O-gauge model railroad manufacturer is based in Irvington, N.J.

"Since 1935, we have provided service and innovation to the hobby industry," said the Polk family, owners of Aristo-Craft. "In this latest downturn, we cut back staff to the minimum required to survive. Then the government battle over the debt ceiling drove the consumer market down even further."

Aristo-Craft had been growing steadily until 2008. Like many hobby manufacturers, Aristo-Craft fell on hard times when the Great Recession hit. The company managed to stay afloat but fell into "debt that was unsustainable." The higher cost and space requirements of larger-scale trains had also depressed Aristo-Craft's market share, according to the company.

Here's the other problem: toy train enthusiasts are getting older and kids are getting into trains at too slow a pace to replace the number getting out. Additionally, the rise of video games and related electronic pursuits has negatively affected the model train business.

Interest in toy trains dwindled in the 1970s but picked up again when many baby boomers began collecting electric train sets again as deep-pocketed, free-spending adults during the 1980s and '90s. "A lot of our business is baby-boom men basically rekindling their memories. That could be a problem, as far as those guys going away," said Andy Edelman, vice president for marketing at MTH Electric Trains, maker of Standard Gauge, O-gauge and HO-scale trains.

Now that pre-boomers and boomers are getting older and downsizing, they are buying fewer trains. Or have already purchased everything they want. (posted 10/21/13, permalink)

Scale Disparity: Looking at a recent sale flyer from a train shop, I was shocked by the price spread between two HO scale buildings.

Must be the licensing fees or something. (posted 7/10/13, permalink)

Just Not The Same: McCormick-Stillman Railroad Park in Scottsdale, AZ has changed much since we last visited in 1991.

The old and very impressive model train layouts were apparently torn down and new ones are under construction in a fancy new building. Unfortunately, neither the O-gauge, HO-scale nor N-scale layouts have been completed and, when we visited, only the O-gauge layout was partly operational while still under construction:

There used to be several charming little steam locomotives of various scales pulling trains which folks could ride on. A blue diesel loco has now replaced steam. (posted 2/18/13, permalink)

Tasty Christmas: My daughter gave me a wonderful Christmas gift: an O-gauge Tastykake boxcar offered by the Atlantic Division of the Train Collectors Association.

Lionel trains

Only 100 were produced; the car was manufactured by Lionel and decorated by Weaver Models. The Tasty boxcar has die-cast, fully-sprung trucks and operating couplers.

toy trains

Here it is on my O-gauge train layout as it passes the Tasty Baking Co. Hunting Park Plant. (posted 1/16/13, permalink)

More toy train photos and stories are posted here.

Other Pages Of Interest

copyright 2013-21 - Joseph M. Sherlock - All applicable rights reserved


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