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

Newsletter: December 1997

In this issue:

Mike Schneider visits the New Madison Hardware (Part 2)

by Mike Schneider

Around the corner from the display room we went, following our tour guide. The view was like opening a vault and entering into what many believe as Lionel's greatest era - the post war times of 1945 to 1969. Cheryl and I were introduced to an unassuming, elderly gentleman named Ed.

"Ed will take you from here. Do you need any parts?"

"Just a few items." was my reply (failing to mention the three pages of parts tucked under my arm).

"Where did you get your parts numbers?" asked Ed.

"A Greenberg repair manual." I replied.

He looked at me dead in the eye and said, "Good! That's what we use here. What's your first number?"

From that moment forward Ed and I became big buddies. And did Ed know his numbers!! Stored in his brain were not only the revised numbers from the Greenberg manual, but also the original parts numbers. He did everything from memory - not once did he need to look anything up. Many of the parts I purchased were original pre-revised parts. After we finished pulling parts, Ed showed us the remainder of the warehouse. Since he was now our best friend, he let us go pretty much where we wanted. I will say this - Madison Hardware is the premier place in the USA for finding original Lionel parts. A word of caution though. If you do not know exactly what you are looking for, you'll be in trouble.

After our shopping spree, we went back to the display room to tally our parts order. While Ed was working on the parts, I took a couple of NY Central stock cars off the shelf to purchase. Good to very good condition @ $22 each. My eyes kept going back to the unpriced Northern Pacific GP-9. Cheryl said, "I bet it's expensive."

Now I went into sales mode. "Don't worry, honey. We're under budget." Cheryl came back quick with "How do you know, darling? You don't even have a total on the parts yet!"

OOPS! She almost got me. It's amazing how the creativity comes alive when your back is against the wall. "Now Cheryl, I've seen these Northern Pacifics at the train shows from $250 to $350, depending on condition. Even though this is restored and repainted, it looks brand new and is an excellent runner. Let's at least ask what the price is." So off to Ed and the calculator we went. He greeted us with:

"Your parts come to $280.75. Is there anything else?"

Cheryl poked me, "There goes your budget."

Undaunted I whispered, "And this GP-9?"

After Ed ran three sets of numbers, he looked at me and said, "You know this is a restored/repaint, don't you?"

I said, "Yes. Does that make a difference in the price?"

My best friend responded, "You bet it does. $167.00 - is that OK?"

I turned to Cheryl and started humming the theme song to 'Rocky'. Ed said to go into the back office and pay for our items and see him on the way out.

As we turned away, Cheryl asked me, "By the way, what was the budget?"

I was so excited I blurted out, "Who cares - we're on vacation!!" On the trip to the back office, I noticed a door that said 'MANAGER' was ajar. What was inside the room was the viewing highlight of our trip.

(To be continued in January 1998 newsletter).


by Jim Herron

When looking over layouts at train shows or in Classic Toy Train or "O"Gauge Magazines, did you ever notice there is always a piece of Plasticville somewhere on the train board? On the dozens of videos I've watched with my son Andrew, invariably there are pieces or whole villages of Plasticville. I've seen Plasticville banks, fire houses, motels, ice cream stands, churches, cathedrals, gas stations, police stations, post offices, supermarkets, hardware stores, drug stores, men's shops, town halls, schools, hospitals and, if you can find them, fruit stands, greenhouses, turnpikes, airport administration buildings and hangers next to runways. There must be phone booths next to Union Station, but I just haven't found them yet!

Why so much Plasticville? I asked myself that question when I was assembling my layout. I decided I used it because I liked it. (Unfortunately, land on my layout is scare, so I don't have room for the house under construction or the garage or Plasticville car.) It gives off an aura of the 1950's. While the pieces are not to scale, they do wear well. They usually retain their color and are almost kid proof, especially if you have a little one who loves to play with barns and barnyard animals. They are easy to put together - they have to be because there were never any instructions on or in the box. They are also a good investment. I have had a few pieces for about 40 years and would see about a 400% return if I sold them. So, what's not to love?

Some of us remember when almost all pieces of Plasticville ranged in price from $ .99 to $3.99. Now it costs a mortgage payment on a Cape Cod Plasticville house to buy anything! Any piece that is mint, in the box without glue, teeth imprints and crayon marks costs a small fortune. I've found Mr. Lionel, Mr. Loco, Mr. Noma and Mr. GGI. Now I'm looking for Mr. Plasticville so I can buy his collection and retire to Plasticville heaven.

The history of Plasticville goes back about 50 years and it is making a resurgence with a new product line coming out in October. In acquiring all of my Plasticville villages, towns and TV stations, I found someone in Pennsylvania who has written a catalog for prospective collectors, buyers and runners. It is called "Plasticville, An Illustrated Price Guide." It seems to be a good price guide and is quite accurate, listing all the variations and colors. It is available at train shows. If you can't find it, call Bill ("Mr. Plasticville") Nole at (717) 343-2236.

So, when you're working on your layout, save a place for the pond or tower. I've left room for the bridge, in case I ever want to jump.

Product Reviews

by Jim Herron

Thomas the Tank Engine, along with the passenger cars Annie and Clarabelle (you may remember the latter name from the famous Howdy Doody show clown of the same name) have arrived just in time for Christmas from Lionel. Items in the set are sold separately. All can be purchased for under $150. It is quite sparse - no lights, sound or operating couplers - but it should be well-received by the kid market. The colors and accurate and it seems to run very well, albeit a bit slow (probably to prevent derailments).

The latest book to grace the shelves is a historical, colorful, 128-age hard-covered book on the real railroads Lionel copied, called the "Lionel Inspiration", by William J. Brennan. It's priced at $50 and has some wonderful photographs and catalogues along with the history behind it all. It is a good read. Enjoy!

MTH RailKing Flat Cars w/ Trailer - the two new offerings have trailers in the Norfolk Southern "Triple Crown Service" and NY Central "Pacemaker Freight Service" paint schemes. Graphics on the trailers and flat cars are crisp, and the cars ride well on die-cast trucks. These will make a nice addition to your intermodal consist.

It looks like one of the best values out there is the K-Line Collector's Club. I had Andrew join last year and for a $45 membership, he received an M-15 Kennecott Copper Company (KCC) Diesel. Not a bad deal! In addition, they have come up with some really interesting, varied and well-built products for KCC members. These include the Timken Tank Cars (Two-pack) made of an all metal base and frame, Kennecott Copper Company Ore Car 4-pack sets (2) and the Pennsy FA-2 A-B-A "Fleet of Modernism" Alco Diesel Engine Set. For those joining or renewing in 1998, one of the KCC items is a Kennecott Work Caboose with rotating searchlight. So, join up!

Product News

by Jim Herron

Those of us looking forward to having the Mike's Train House Sinclair Service Station under the Christmas tree are probably in for a disappointment. Offered in the MTH 1997 Volume 1 Catalog and originally due out in October, a prototype of this operating accessory was conspicuously absent at the MTH booth in York (TCA meet) in mid-October. It is also not on the list of (numerous) items that dealers should expect to be delivered between now and the first of the year. One rumor has this accessory not being out until March. As one local retailer put it, "The more MTH grows, the more they become like Lionel!"

WEB News

by Walt Sklenar

Congratulations to HTOS for becoming the first local model train club in the U.S. to be listed in the Clubs for collectors and operators section of Classic Toy Train's Web Site. In their December issue CTT requested information from train clubs nationwide regarding location, operating hours, meetings, membership dues, and copies of recent newsletters. This info was forwarded to CTT, and within a week word was received that HTOS had made the limelight. Our (newly expanded) Web Site location is also listed (although not a direct link).


by Jim Herron

For those of us lucky enough to have been exposed to the joys of toy trains at some point in our lives, the Christmas Season often holds special meaning and memories that last a lifetime. Many of us have fond childhood memories - going with Dad or Mom to the local department or hardware store to see the latest Lionel offerings, wishing and hoping to get anything from Lionel's latest catalog, the excitement of finding that first train underneath the Christmas tree, the endless hours of running the 5:15 around the Christmas tree or on that 4 x 8 sheet of plywood. As grown ups, we can enjoy this great hobby with friends and family (a little more willing to share the controls?). We can experience our children's excitement as they unwrap their own train treasures and understand those feelings our parents felt many years back.

The toy train hobby is, in its essence, one of tradition and traditional values. You might be hard pressed to find a better way to build friendships and family ties year round than by spending more time together at the controls, planning a new layout, or building that farm scene.

Here's wishing the HTOS family and friends all the joys that go with the Holiday Season, may all your engines run like the day they were new, and may this Holiday Season leave us with memories and traditions that last a lifetime.

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