Newsletter: November 1997
In this issue:
The Twentieth Century Limited by Jim Herron
When I was young, I was lucky enough to travel to Chicago and back
with my father on the New York Central crack passenger train called the
"20th Century Limited." It took the all-water route, flat with
beautiful scenery, taking under 20 hours to reach Chicago from New York
City. The trip took place in the early part of the 1950's and I still
remember it vividly. There were beautiful upholstered cars, a dining
car, pullman sleepers and big gray diesels pulling the train out of
Grand Central Station in New York. Going through the Hell Gates and
seeing all the hustle and bustle of passengers, the trainman and
conductors walking to the train on a red carpet was the thrill of a
lifetime for a little boy who loved trains.
The history of the 20th Century Limited goes back to the late
1890's when the New York Central and the Pennsylvania railroads tried
to best each other on the New York-Chicago run. The Pennsylvania
Railroad train was called the "Broadway Limited" - running across
Pennsylvania through the Alleghenies, Horseshoe Curve, Altoona,
Pittsburgh and on to Chicago. The two trains met in the last fifteen
miles of track and raced into Union Station (if they were on time!).
Each claimed the best service, on-time records, price and luxury.
The competition between the Century and Broadway Limiteds became
the most celebrated rivalry in the history of American railroading.
They kept pace with each others in matters of service, speed and
luxury. Competition between the two was keen, but not cut throat.
Both considered their crack trains a source of pride, prestige and
Over the years, both the speed and amenities of the 20th Century
were constantly improved. The first Century consisted of three
sleepers, a diner and a library-buffet car. Later versions included
cars with drawing rooms. The train became so popular that it was run
in several sections, with the wooden cars being replaced by all steel
between 1910 and 1912. By the mid-'20's the train was being called a
"national institution." In the 1920's the Atlantics were replaced by
the Hudsons which hauled the 20th Century until they were replaced by
diesels in the 1950's. In 1938 the Dreyfuss Streamlined Hudson hauled
The 20th Century Limited was a great service and the inspiration
for songs, plays, movies and radio shows. Unfortunately, due to
automobiles, highways and airplanes, the service slowly went down hill
after World War II. In 1957 day coaches were added to the 20th Century
Limited, forever tarnishing the famous train's glamorous image. It ran
until 1967 when it was finally terminated.
National Model Railroad Month by Walt Sklenar
November is National Model Railroad Month, and the San Jacinto
Model Railroad Club is sponsoring a 1997 November Layout Tour in the
Houston area. The 50 layouts featured in this tour include those
operated by railroad clubs and belonging to private individuals. The
HTOS club layout is one of three O gauge (the other two are privately
owned), and will be viewed during our regular show hours each Saturday
during the month. This will mean a busy month for operating the
portable layout-your help is certainly needed to handle operating the
layout and answering questions from the public. Of the 50 layouts in
the Houston area, most are HO. For more info, contact Jim Lofland @
713-246-3150 or Norman Beveridge @ 281-997-7836.
News from Chesterfield via York by Jim Herron
One item of significance coming out of the York Train Show was
from Lionel, and centered around Trainmaster for everyone. Lionel, LLC,
announced its intent to make its TrainMaster Command Control System
technology available, free of charge, to all manufacturers of O gauge
trains. This would allow participating manufacturers the opportunity to
offer its customers the option of upgrading their operating system to
full TrainMaster Command Control. Locomotive conversion would be
accomplished by plugging in a signal receiver into a connector in the
engine. This receiver would be available from Lionel Authorized Dealers
on or about June 1, 1998 for no more than $95.
Lionel also announced that it will issue a 1998 "Toy Fair" catalog
in January. It will contain 72 pages of locos, rolling stock and
accessories in the Classic Line. "There are brand new engines, brand
new accessories, and brand new technology." Says Sr. VP Judy Hoffman.
Lionel will introduce several new locos in a variety of road names.
Mike Schneider Visits the New Madison Hardware by Mike Schneider
Imagine a lonely warehouse in a run-down section of Detroit,
Michigan. Imagine inside, 20,000 square feet of 10 foot high racks
loaded with mostly Lionel trains and accessory parts.
Wake up!! You're at Madison
Hardware! Well, it's actually the location of the
contents that once was the original Madison Hardware in New York
My dream began while I was planning a recent vacation, realizing
that Detroit was on the way to a family retreat in the Upper
Peninsula of Michigan. I decided that a stop to a real shrine in
American model railroading history was in order. I learned from our
very own Jim Herron ("road warrior
supreme") that the contents of the original MH were now
stored in a warehouse just south of downtown Detroit. What a bonus!!
Visions of post-war relics started dancing in my head.
I immediately called the number Jim had given me and was greeted by
a crusty old voice. "He-ll-o Ma-dis-son Harrd-ware."
Shaking, I inquired about a tour of the facility. The voice shot
back, "We take visitors by appointment only! We prefer mail
order if you want to buy. And if you're looking for pristine 6464s,
they were gone a long time ago." Man!! I felt like I had jumped in
front of a Big Boy! Undaunted, I squeaked, "If I made an
appointment, may I make a purchase?" The silence was deafening. Then
the reply, "Sure". The date was immediately set.
As Cheryl and I approached Detroit, the visions started appearing
again. Upon arriving at the lonely warehouse in a run down part of
Detroit, we entered the front door and were greeted by an elderly
gentleman. "Follow me to the freight elevator." On the way up (to toy
train heaven?), he informed us about the 10 loaded semis it took to
complete the move from New York. My heart started to race. Upon opening
the gate, we were led to an area that held three operating displays and
told to stay in the room and look around. The area was roughly three
times that of our club space. The displays were flanked by large bins
containing mostly rolling stock from the post-war and MPC periods.
Large bins loaded with post-war cabooses, aluminum passenger cars and
tank cars. Around the corner racks of MPC boxed sets.
Now I'm getting dizzy!!
In the center of the room, next to the largest of the operating
layouts, were islands holding items for sale with prices attached. My
eyes immediately honed in on a post-war Northern Pacific GP-9 in
excellent to like-new condition. Upon further inspection it appeared to
be a repaint. But I don't care - I'm an operator first!! Ugh-oh! Here
comes our guide back. "We can give you the tour now, but first, there
are some rules." Great! Here I am, a big kid in the mecca of candy
stores and now we have rules? "There are areas where you can look, but
if an area is roped off, don't go beyond the rope. Cheryl pinched me,
"Honey! Did you hear him?" All I could do was nod while thinking... if
there were ten truck loads, maybe I could get to five.
(To be continued in December newsletter)
Product News by Walt Sklenar
Mike's Train House (MTH) Electric Trains has released their 72
page 1998 Volume 1 catalog. Typical to their recent catalogs is a
variety of RailKing and Premier Lines engines, rolling stock and
accessories, as well as their "Tinplate Traditions". Highlights of the
RailKing motorized line include a New York Transit 4-Car Subway Set,
SD-90 MAC in two roadnames, 4-6-4 Hiawatha Hudson and the Union Pacific
Big Boy steamer. All RailKing engines can have ProtoSounds optionally
installed The newest RailKing operating accessory is the Speedee Car
Wash, and includes an Ertl '49 Coupe. The car is "watered down", glides
into the rotating rollers, then leaves the bay to be "handbuffed".
Another interesting accessory is the fully decorated and painted
Sinclair Oil Refinery. The semi-scale RailKing rolling stock is headed
up by and an operating rotary snow plow in two roadnames (Pennsy and D
& RG), MTH flat w/ Ertl '64 Mustangs and the Sinclair flat w/ Ertl '55
Cameo wreckers. Passenger Car Sets available are three 4-car O-27
Streamlined Sets, five 4-Car Madison Sets and five Streamlined
In the Premier Line, the most talked about (most expensive, small
dealer allotment) items have to be the Union Pacific DD40AX Centennial
diesel and the Southern Pacific AC-6 Cabforward steam engine.
Measuring 24" and 31 1/2", respectively, these beauties operate on 072
track and come with a number of features. A Dash-9 Boxed Set, lettered
for the BNSF, is also featured. The set includes four Husky Stack Cars
painted to match the Dash-9 (orange and green 'pumpkin' livery). New
designs in the Premier Line rolling stock includes a Coil Car, 4-Bay
Hopper, and Wood Chip Hopper. Officially unveiled is the Z-4000 400
The Tinplate Traditions feature the classic #9E and 263-E Loco and
Tender, each in two paint schemes (including the Blue Comet in the
latter). These engines are available in either the 'traditional' (AC
motor/E-unit/whistle) or 'contemporary' (DC
motor/ProtoSound/ProtoSmoke) configurations. The Stephen Girard and 613
4-Car Passenger Set compliments these locos.
This is a sampling of the catalog. For a complete look, visit a
Eastwood Automobilia's latest catalog contains several items which
should appeal to O gaugers and especially Lionel fans. These include
the Lionel Freightliner Tractor Trailer (1:54 scale, measures 14 3/4"
long), Lionel County Streets and Sanitation Set (1:43 scale
streetsweeper, pickup and figure included), VW Beetle Convertible and a
'36 Coke Ford Pickup Truck.