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

Newsletter: January 1998

In this issue:

Mike Schneider Visits Madison Hardware (Part 3)

By Mike Schneider

As Cheryl and I entered the manager's office, we were greeted with the greatest of surprises and the most memorable of moments. Just like a Fourth of July fireworks display, this visit to Madison Hardware was about to end with quite a grand finale. Our eyes were immediately drawn to the pristine Hell Gate Bridge perched atop an old time room steam radiator. On the shelf above were an operating circus car, horse car and a small switcher that almost looked prototype. Next to the Hell Gate was a tinplate Hiawatha.

Cheryl said, "Honey, turn around. That's sure a funny color for a train."

You guessed it - a Girl's Train minus the MKT boxcar. This room is getting very serious. On another wall sat a 1930's Hudson and just above that was a General with tender pulling an orange Western Pacific 6464 with a large silver feather. I'd had enough!

"Cheryl, where's the camera?" She was way ahead of me. Click. Click. Click. Memories of Madison Hardware were stored for us and others to enjoy.

If you are planning a trip anywhere close to Detroit, put Madison Hardware on your definite list of things to do. A call in advance for an appointment will help. If you are looking for parts, have your Greenberg or original Lionel parts manual numbers ready. If you need parts but can't personally visit Madison Hardware, you can fax a short list. The time of year will dictate the lead time. As we were told, lists of five items or less are filled first. A long list becomes a low priority.

There's not enough room here to tell you much more about our trip to Madison Hardware. Like a very funny movie, there will be things we missed the first time that we'll pick up the second time. That second time will be this summer as we head to the next family retreat in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.

Anyone care to join us?

Product News - Jan 1998

By Walt Skelnar

Anticipation is mounting regarding the Lionel catalog scheduled to be released in January. Word has leaked out regarding several engines and operating accessories. Motive power will include a BNSF Dash-9 diesel in the green and orange "pumpkin' livery (a kissing cousin to the MTH version?), a scale Union Pacific Veranda turbine with oil tender (can you say 072 track?), and a newly designed FT diesel incorporating Lionel's new 'Odyssey' AC motor. Two operating accessories mentioned are an Engine Repair Shop and a Fueling Station. The latter will deliver coal and smoke fluid to your locos, and there will be talking voices and a figure that comes out to assist in the fueling.


By Jim Herron

There is a romantic image that steam railroading evokes. It took a great deal of skill and knowledge to operate the big, beautiful steam engines. A visit to Steamtown USA lets you experience a part of American railroading-the era of steam locomotives-that hasn't existed for nearly half a century. Steamtown National Historic site was established in October 1986 to further understanding and appreciation for the role that steam railroading played in development of the United States.

Steamtown occupies about 40 acres of the old Scranton, Pennsylvania Lackawanna railroad yard. It includes a museum, roundhouse, a huge 90 foot diameter turntable from 1902, a station and a technology museum. It opened in 1995 and is a runaway hit.

There are passenger excursions from Steamtown three times a day in a black 2-8-4 Canadian National Mikado steam engine with Lackawanna passenger cars from the early 1920's. It's about a one hour ride and it is worth it just to hear the steam whistle, bells, chugging of the engine and the smoke exit from its tall stack.

When I arrived, I thought I'd breeze through the place in less than an hour, take some pictures and be on my way. Instead, I wound up staying for more than three hours and could have easily spent a full day. The best part of Steamtown is walking around the yard and museum, seeing the collection of locomotives they have so far acquired. The prize is the AlCo Union Pacific 4012 "Big Boy" - the largest locomotive ever built. It still runs occasionally! There are Reading and Nickel Plate locomotives, switchers, a yard switcher, C.P. , Jersey Central and Lackawanna steam engines spread out in the 48 bays of the roundhouse. They also have part of the roundhouse devoted to repairs, rebuilding and daily maintenance.

The technology section of the roundhouse has to be another highlight of the trip. Videos and graphic drawings detail the systems and operation of a steam locomotive with a real locomotive cut-away right next to the exhibit. There are also videos of maintenance, stations, explanation of signals, whistles, bells and track laying and ballasting. Kids can spend hours trying all the bells and whistle quizzes, and explore a real caboose or watch the steam engines pulling in and out of the roundhouse, which at one time had 48 operating stalls for locomotives, via a turntable. There is also a movie theater located in another part of the roundhouse along with a history museum that highlights the people and the history of steam railroading in the U. S.

The oil storage shed has been turned into a bookstore with the original barrels and racks still attached to the ceilings.

Down the block from the roundhouse is the original Lackawanna railroad station that now has been turned into a Ramada Inn hotel. They have done a first class job of it. You feel like you just stepped back to the turn of the century, just looking around the old converted station that is now the hotel lobby.

All of these buildings had been idly sitting for more than 25 years. A local group got together, and with help with the government, established Steamtown in 1986 to show this part of American history. It took nine years to restore, opening in the Spring of 1995. According to attendance figures, it has been a huge success. It is opened to the public year around, except holidays. According to the National Park Service (which operates Steamtown), they are still in the process of acquiring equipment in the next few years.

I would have to rate Steamtown a don't miss for the railroad enthusiast. It should be called the Smithsonian of Steam Trains!

Election of Officers

By Walt Skelnar

HTOS officers for 1998 will be elected at the January 13th business meeting. Those members with dues paid up for 1998 can be nominated for office and vote in the election. The following nominations were made at the HTOS Christmas party December 21st:

  • PRESIDENT: Robert Rea, Aimee Atkinson
  • VICE-PRESIDENT: Will Esken
  • SECRETARY: Walt Sklenar
  • TREASURER: Russell Sullivan

Additional nominations will be accepted prior to the voting on the 13th. Please note that the January business meeting has been moved back 1 week. The evening of January 6th will be spent setting up the portable layout at the mall after the GATS show.

Product Reviews

By Walt Skelnar

MTH RailKing Dash-8 in Santa Fe blue and yellow paint scheme hit the market (and the HTOS portable layout) just before Christmas. This is the second production run of this 0-27 version, and some may argue that this paint scheme looks better than the previously released 'warbonnet' livery. Regardless, the engine runs superbly on die cast trucks and is capable of pulling a long freight. One interesting modification regards the headlights: in the current model, headlights are located above the cab windows, whereas in the previous model headlights were located in the nose.

Realistic Track Plans for O Gauge Trains - this new 80 page Kalmbach publication could be what you are looking for to help design your own train empire. The book begins with some basics of track design and a brief intro to CAD (computer-aided design) and command control. The 16 track plans which follow this introduction are modeled after real railroads (including several "Fallen Flag" lines), as well as engine and intermodal terminals. Complete track and accessory lists are given for each layout. Another nice feature is a partial listing of rolling stock and locomotives available for the railroad being featured. A good buy at $16.95!

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