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Houston Tinplate Operators Society - Lionel, Trains, Layouts: Newsletter

Newsletter: May 1997

In this issue:

Of Trains, Economics, Mental Health and Albert Einstein

By Aimee Atkinson

When my husband and I first started exploring this hobby, at a Great American Train Show not TOO many years ago, the price tags led to fainting spells and periodic heart failure. We looked at each other in disbelief. "They want $50 for this boxcar??? It's just a plastic toy, for Pete's sake!!!" were the kinds of things you could overhear us exclaiming to each other. We couldn't picture ourselves spending this kind of money, not on toys!

Over the next few years a funny thing happened. The shock wore off. "Look! This boxcar was only $65! Greenburg lists it for $80 in this condition because of the color variation. What a steal!" We became quite blase. $50 now seemed like $5, $200 like $20! The 'Albert Einstein Effect' was at work it's all relative! Our spending habits were changed, rearranged, re-prioritized. A new savings account was opened dedicated to our new obsession, trains became our decorating item of choice around the house, I ordered checks with pictures of trains on them. We were happy, carefree, deep under the spell of those beautiful little machines. It didn't feel nuts it felt good!!

Soon, All Other Purchases (AOL is a catch-all phrase for All non-train related monetary exchanges) were viewed by my husband in terms of their train related value. "Look at the price of that (water heater, paint job, winter coat, steak dinner)! Why, that's a new (engine, piece of rolling stock, Gargraves switch, MTH order)", he'd say. It seems his brain is now permanently wired with this economic philosophy. Fortunately, it hasn't kept us from buying the "AOLs" we really need. It's like being in a foreign country (you know Trainland!) and having to do currency exchanges in your head.

Speaking of Trainland (ahhh! Trainland!), my husband goes there quite often. Usually while reading Classic Toy Trains or the latest buy sheet from TCA or LCCA. He drifts away, gets this dreamy look on his face and I know he's thinking about his next purchase or a change to his layout. I am now used to repeating myself. I can't blame him, you know. I go to Trainland myself, now and then. Like, take this issue of CTT (Classic Toy Trains) wow, look at that layout. Hey! he's got that building I've been looking for at that price... I oh, I'm sorry did you say something?

Constructing a Kid-proof Train Layout

by Jim Herron

The layout is 4' x 6', constructed of ¾" particle board for soundproofing. The particle board was attached to three 2 x 4's as cross beams for strength. A 4' x 6' piece of ¼" cork and an indoor/outdoor carpet were attached to the particle board, and wheels attached to the 2 x 4's for easy disposition under the bed when not in use. We went to J.R.'s Hobby Shop for the track, deciding on "O" gauge because of the clearance of engines and passenger cars on the 022 switches. New track was purchased, including 3 4' straight sections (less clickety clack), 2 straight half sections, 10 curves, three switches and a #260 red bumper. The resulting layout design was an outer oval, an inside loop/passing track, and a spur off the inside loop. Fiber pins were installed for non-derailing at the switches, and all the tracks were screwed down. Power for the layout is supplied by a 125 watt Lionel LW transformer. The track was wired with an illuminated green lockon, with a separate switch for power to the spur, switch wired…and we were ready to go to the next step.

For the "modest landscaping", Moondog roadbed was ordered. On the inner loop are a Noma station, Plasticville post office, fire house and church, an ice cream stand and #394 red beacon. On the other side of the street are located a Plasticville gas station, bank and police station. 3 crossing gates and Lionel #410 Bill Boards fill the area. Now ready to roll, running trains led by an MTH Railking Amtrak Dash8.

All this took about 12 hours to complete at a cost of $600, including the rolling stock and engine. It looks nice and "runs hands off forever, to me the sign of a good toy train layout".

Product News

By Walt Sklenar

Those (few?) of us who haven't blown their 1997 train budgets on Lionel and Mike's Train House items may be interested in K-Line's 1997 offerings. Their 1997 Toy Fair Catalog is out, in a format different from previous catalogs (both their own and competitors). New engines featured are: F7 A-B-A, each powered with 2 motors, lettered for the Rio Grande or Pennsylvania RR (O scale); ALCo FA-2 Twin "A" units (both powered) and dummy "B" unit with horn, in NY Central lightning stripe paint. Passenger cars include: THE HEAVYWEIGHTS Pennsy Broadway Limited 6-Car set and six THE STREAMLINERS cars for the NY Central. New CLASSIC ROLLING STOCK includes all metal die cast scale hoppers (B & O and UP) and die cast Gunderson Husky Stack DTTX cars in 4 roadnames. Complete train sets features are: Rock Island "Route of the Rockets", with an MP-15 diesel; Lehigh Valley Freight set, also with an MP-15; and a B & O Classic Freight Set, powered by an F-7 A-B combination (4 motors). This last set should be tempting to serious collectors.

Upcoming Show News

By Walt Sklenar

The Father's Day Train Show at Memorial City Mall, scheduled for June 15-16, has been postponed to July 12-13. HTOS has received confirmation for display of the portable layout at The Great American Train Show (GATS) August 8-9 at the Astroarena. HTOS will also hold at least 4 workshops during the 2 days. If you have ideas regarding workshop topics, contact Mark Whetzel or Tom Lyttle. Also of note regarding the GATS show, 5 local HO clubs - Northwest Crossing, HO Fellowship, Katy Model RR Club, All Points North and Bay Area Fellowship - will pool their layouts into a single 190' X 80' layout. Word is that it will take 30 minutes for a train to complete the entire loop.

On the Tube

By Walt Sklenar

Houston Public Television Channel 8 (KUHT) will air a series titled America's Scenic Railway Journeys on Saturdays at 7 P.M., beginning May 10. Dates and locations featured in these 1 hour broadcasts are:

  • May 10 - The Adirondack, NYC to Montreal
  • May 17 - Alaska RR, Anchorage to Fairbanks
  • May 24 - Alaska RR, Anchorage to Seward
  • May 31, The Copper Canyon (Mexico).

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