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

Newsletter: June 1997

In this issue:

Reasons to Join HTOS

By Jim Herron

Look at a copy of the HTOS membership form and you will see several excellent reasons to join. There are, however, additional less publicized benefits that members can enjoy:

  1. See first hand virtually every piece of new Lionel rolling stock and accessories, as well as some of the largest (i.e. most expensive) diesels and steamers manufactured by Lionel and MTH. This benefit is provided primarily by Tom Lyttle, and is a better alternative than reading a review in CTT or OGR!
  2. Learn first hand how to rapidly modify a layout under construction, even if you have spent months (or longer) planning and building your train world. This is actually an offshoot to benefit #1 - such modifications are almost always the result of purchasing a locomotive that only works on 072 curves. Again, thanks Tom!
  3. Learn how to hide those big ticket or multiple item purchases from your spouse. Since the club has two operational layouts and storage space, it is perfectly logical to bring those purchases there instead of home. This benefit is related to both #1 and #2. Keep it up, Tom!
  4. Learn subtle ways of getting out of those not-so-fun chores around the house. When your better half asks about cutting the lawn, painting the den or cleaning the bathroom, you can always say: "They need me at the club!" Rumor is that Tom can also take credit for this benefit.
  5. Learn about recycling and hand-me-downs. It is easy to justify spending $150 for that 6464 boxcar issued in 1956 when you point out that you are saving the environment by recycling the plastic and that hand-me-downs are common sense for kid's clothing.

Permanent Layout Update

By Mike Schneider

Since the birth of the Big Boy, modifications on the three main line have been made. We are now working on smoothing out the rough spots, especially along the three line crossover. The control panel has been started. Things may look a little messy and confused right now, but keep in mind there will be much testing going on until most of the features of the display can be implemented and tested.

Don Trial and I should have the base coat paint finished by the time you read this. With Tom Lyttle's help on the automation and a little luck, we may have seven trains on auto by June 10. I already have the tracks on the 2 outer loops pre-wired and insulated. The only thing left is construction of the relay modules and installation.

GATS Member Sale Information

By Jim Herron

As mentioned during our last business meeting and through general discussion among members, Jim Herron has volunteered to allow club possessions to be displayed and sold on his table during the Great American Train Show (GATS) August 9-10 at the Astroarena. The profits would go into the general fund and hopefully be used to offset some of the construction expense of the permanent layout.

Members need to be reminded that any items not claimed during our last clean up will be subject to sale. These items will be stored in the back room in the corner immediately left of the entry door.

Jim and anyone else who wants to help will start identifying and pricing the merchandise soon.

On the Circuit - April 1997 York PA Show

By Jim Herron

I joined the Train Collectors Association (T.C.A.) last year for one main reason: To be able to go to the York Train Meet held each April and October in York, PA. This, train collectors agree, is the grand daddy of them all.

This April, business and pleasure finally converged. I drove to York from New York City, about a 3 hour drive (Texas speed). I arrived there about noon on Wednesday afternoon, pulled into the Holiday Inn at Arsenal Drive and checked in. I then proceeded to walk not to my room, but through the parking lot filled with tents, tables, trailers and tailgaters loaded with trains, parts, books, paper and accessories. It was comparable to being a gold miner all your life and only finding flakes, dust and small nuggets, then hitting the "mother lode" fifty years later. It took me 2 ½ hours to get out of the parking lot and to my room. But that was only the beginning. It was still early, sunny, 69.

My luck brought me to meet a fellow T.C.A. member from Houston who took me to the Holiday Inn "at the Mall." That parking lot was three times as big as the one at my hotel and also had n inside auditorium full of trains. After Greenberg and GATS shows, I was amazed at the quality, quantity and rarity of trains and accessories I saw there.

Our next stop was the Valencia Ball Room in downtown York, a converted 1930's movie theater. Sponsored by N.J. Rails, they had wall to wall tables, trains and parts of excellent quality. Next up was the Best Western Motel parking lot. I found a great parts dealer and put together a NY Central jade green GG1 2332 from scratch, shell and all. By now it was 7:00 p.m. and I had already blown my budget and had to re-group. I still had two more days here and was running out of room.

Thursday things started hopping at 8:00 a.m. It was threatening rain, so everybody wanted a head start. More people and vendors had arrived and the quality was getting better. I found out through the two days of scouting that there were some wonderful buys in the parking lots! Everyone closed at 3:30 p.m., so they could go to the York fairgrounds to set up for the meet Friday and Saturday. I met J.R. (Hobby Depot fame) for dinner and got the layout of the fairgrounds so I knew where to go.

Friday morning finally arrived. IT opened at 9:00 a.m. and closed at 8:00 p.m., eleven hours of heaven. Since I had pre-purchased a meet ticket I avoided a long (1 hour?) wait in line. (I stopped at UPS on the way to mail all the purchases made so far.) There were nine halls in the fairgrounds and a racecourse with grandstands in use. The halls were divided by color: blue was the main halls, purple and yellow were mainly parts. The rest of the halls had dealers, vendors and private sellers of railroad paraphernalia. The blue hall was packed at 8:15, so I ventured to the hall farthest away - yellow - and was in parts heaven. There were things here, like Plasticville parts, that we never see in Texas. There wasn't anything on my list that I did not pick up. (Oh, yes! Do have a wish list, including description, parts numbers, etc. to save time).

As the day progressed, I think I made three trips to the parking lot to dump stuff! Bring lots of money and checks. About 1:00 p.m., I ran out of cash, but a quick inquiry led me to the ATM machines.

I covered a lot of ground traveling from building to building - a space that covers about 160 acres. The weather did not cooperate. It was 39 and windy. (Another point - wear comfortable walking shoes.) In my travels, I purchased an oil well; #54 Ballast Tamper ($90); a Plasticville town; stations 156, 157 and 257; a green Noma station, without guts, for $5. The fun, though, was walking through all the halls meeting people and seeing a lot of familiar faces from the Lone Star Division T.C.A. The only way one can describe York is like being in a school of sharks when someone throws chum overboard!

I now understand why train enthusiasts enjoy going to York every six months: Electricity in the air and the quality and quantity of trains. It would take another trip for me to get the most efficiency out of the visit. I lasted ten hours on Friday but had to go home Saturday (I don't know if I could have afforded Saturday), loaded with great buys and memories.

HTOS Northwest Connection - Luther is Leaving to Seattle

By Walt Skelnar

Luther Franklin E-mailed a note to HTOS in mid-April to update us on his where abouts. He expected to close on a house at the end of April, describing it as "ugly but surrounded by big trees on the south side of Squak Mountain", with "a humongous rec/family area in the basement for a layout". He still has not located an O-gauge train club in the Seattle area - plenty of HO and N. He hopes to get some interest stirred in his new home town, where they have just finished restoring a turn of the century station. His new address is:

Luther Franklin -- E-Mail:

Tornado Damage at Austin Steam Train Association

By Walt Skelnar

The outbreak of killer tornadoes north of Austin on May 27 also claimed as its victim equipment of the Austin Steam Train Association. Aerial videotape broadcast on The Weather Channel showed the tender of their 2-10-2 steamer flipped over and some distance (50'?) from the steam engine. It was unclear from the brief footage whether the engine and any other equipment sustained damage. Location looked to be at the Y at Cedar Park, where the train is turned around and equipment temporarily stored. It is unknown at this time if any crew members sustained injury.

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