New from TM – June, 2011

June 7, 2011

It’s hot outside and we’re hot inside. Working on nine new titles for the fall. Our crews will be in Manhattan, New Jersey, Long Island, Atlanta, Southwest Michigan, and California. We’ll have more new titles this fall than any other fall in our 36-year history. 36 years! Has it really been that long? Time flies when you’re havin’ fun.

Watch for new World Class Hi-Rail Layouts, Lionel Nation, Part 7, two John Deere titles, a truck DVD, a new Christmas DVD, and a new I Love Toy Trains – Roar of the Rails. We have new hi-def cameras and 3-D may be next! Keep tuned.
A record-breaking nine new titles are simmering on the TM stove.

A Quick Excerpt for the Fans…

September 10, 2010

In the 1991 edition of our Lionel 1900-1969 guide, we included an article on the purchase of the iconic Madison Hardware by Dick Kughn. In our new 2011 Guide,we tell the rest of the Madison Hardware story.
An excerpt:

John La Lima became friendly with Lou. “I loved his stories. One was about Frank Sinatra. When Sinatra was in town, he would call Lou and tell him he wanted to buy some trains. Usually it would be on a Saturday. Lou would close the door to the public and wait. Sinatra would come in and hand Lou $10,000 in cash. Then Lou let him go wherever he wanted, even to the storage areas upstairs – places were no customer was ever allowed. Sinatra would point to this and that and his guys would carry it out. Sometimes the stuff would total more than $10,000, sometimes less. Lou didn’t care. It was Frank Sinatra.”

Lou was the business brains and Carl was the man-about-town who loved Manhattan’s nightlife. They opened the store as partners but Carl quickly grew bored with trains and Lou bought him out. Carl wanted to pursue a career in show business. He came up with a tap dance routine where he told jokes and wore funny hats. In those early vaudeville days he palled around with Jack Benny, Bob Hope, and Jimmy Durante. There’s a picture of Carl with Babe Ruth and one with Mayor Jimmy Walker. Carl was a fine jazz drummer and formed his own band, the Carl Shaw Orchestra (he changed his name after entering show business).

Carl, who also played a fine game of polo, was a handsome guy with a full head of wavy gray hair. He loved the ladies and the ladies loved him. He was still playing competitive polo at 94 years old. There was a bar in Ft. Lauderdale for ladies only. It was not a topless bar but some ladies went topless to get an all-over tan. Carl volunteered to be the bartender at no salary. The girls let him because, at 94, they figured he was harmless. Not sure they figured correctly. Remember, he was still playing polo.

Lou was a shrewd businessman and elegant dresser. His usual work attire was a crewneck or cardigan sweater, shirt with top button buttoned, snappy tie, pressed slacks, and loafers, always perfectly polished. When having lunch with friends or customers, he always picked up the tab, but not without some comment like, “Hey, I didn’t want to buy the joint. Just rent it for the day.” In his early 80s, he still had an iron-grip of a handshake and loved to shake hands with unsuspecting younger guys. He’d grip their hand, squeeze hard, and say, “Not bad for an old guy, huh.” Lou also carried a licensed gun which he liked to occasionally show off. Lou and Carl were quintessential New York guys, smart and aggressive. Both had a wry sense of humor and they loved to play little tricks on their unsuspecting visitors.

Tell Us About You

August 25, 2010

As part of a new campaign, we would like to know what you parents are talking about? What are some of the toys your kids can’t get enough of? What are some DVDs they’ve loved lately (probably ours, but it’s okay to list a competitor too, wink!) Please share with us and we look forward to chatting with you!

August Update on All Things TM!

August 10, 2010

July was an exciting month for us. John Deere Earth Mover Action was recommended on the NBC Today Show as the best DVD for boys ages 2-5. We also released John Deere Action 2, a great new action-packed ag video for kids. Our next release for children, Fun on the Farm, is our first pre-school title and includes animated segments. Tom McComas and Michael Childress are in the final stages of production of Fun on the Farm and this DVD will be available in mid-September just in time for the holidays.

Tom and Michael are also working on a documentary about legendary custom car builder, Chip Foose and the John Deere 4020 tractor he customized for the John Deere Big Buck Sales Event promotional giveaway. The 4020 ‘hot rod’ has spent the summer touring Deere dealers throughout the US and will be raffled off in September. For a sneak preview of the Foose 4020 tractor featured in our newest family DVD, check out Chip’s website or John Deere’s website.

August is here, and we have good news for our Lionel customers. We listened, we commiserated, we said perhaps someday… Yes, someday arrived, and we are writing a new 2011 Prewar/Postwar Lionel Price & Rarity Guide available in October. Plus Tom McComas and Joe Stachler are currently working on two new shows scheduled for release in October: Lionel Nation 5, and A Lionel Christmas Part 2.

The 2011 TM catalog is also in final production. Robin Coe, our graphic designer, is figuring how to add all the new products and get everything to the printer because we want the catalog to mail October 1st. Remember we are a small company and rely on email blitzes to keep our customers up-to-date, so if you want to know what is in production and take advantage of great specials, send us an email with your address to

Please use our blog for your questions, concerns, suggestions, and reviews. We are listening. Back to work now because those autumn leaves and September deadlines are only a few short summery weeks away.

“John Deere Earthmover Action” on the Today Show

July 6, 2010

TM Books & Video was showcased as a top DVD for little boys by Parenting Magazine on the Today Show… John Deere Earth Mover Action begins at 2:55 into the clip…

Link to TM Books & Video on the Today Show!

August 25, 2009

John Deere Break Dancers

A stop-action video featuring JOhn Deere Articulated Action Heros from Ertl. This clip will be in our newest John Deere video for kids. Look for it soon on our website or your local John Deere dealer.

John Deere Country, Part 3, How John Deere Makes Tractors out NOW! Watch the preview and leave a comment!

August 4, 2009

April 2009 York Meet Report — By Charlie Dogg

April 30, 2009

The three-day train meet held semi-annually in York, Pennsylvania is the biggest train meet in the country. Every April when the blossoms are blooming and every October when the leaves are doing their thing spectacular, the train guys gather at the Pennsylvania State Fairgrounds. Eight huge buildings named after colors – the Blue Hall, the White Hall, the Orange Hall, etc. – all filled with tables covered with trains – new trains, old trains, big trains, small trains.

They come from all over – from states close by like New Jersey and Maryland to far away like California and Oregon – lured by a common affection for a toy – and the possibility of finding a rare gem for cheap or turning trains into cash. Boxes are unpacked. Trains put on tables. Eyes watch.

A big guy in a T-shirt and jeans is talking to another guy who is standing behind a table filled with trains. They nod. The big guy pulls out a thick roll of hundreds and counts out 75. Hands it over. He puts a six-piece train set wrapped in old newspapers in a box and walks away to another hall. He puts the set on his table, takes out a Sharpie and writes “13,500” on a 3X5 card. Within minutes he accepts $12,000 from a well-dressed man from Maine. That’s York.

Attendance at the April 09 meet was average – 14,000 registered member plus 1000 or so guests – about the same as last October. What recession? Nothing stops train guys. “The trend for the last 3 years has been down,” said one seller from New Jersey. “On a scale of 1-10, three shows ago was a 6, last October was a 4 and this show is a 2.”

They call it a buyer’s market. Items over $50 were tough to move. If you marked items 10% below book (prices listed in price guides) and were willing to accept another 10%-off, you sold out. If you stuck to book or above, you went home with a full van. A 7-car E8 Texas Special set sold for $1350. Excellent buy as dealers were selling for $1500. Three green 2400-series cars sold for $950 (book $1200) and a 701 from 1916 went for $550 (book $700). A rare Lionel O gauge un-cataloged, boxed set from 1912, stamped Quaker Oats, sold for $2000 less than the asking price of $10,000.

Collecting trains is down and layout building is up. Newbies want to build layouts, not stare at trains on shelves. Lots of trees and ground cover being sold at the Scenics Express space. The guy selling miniature neon signs was also busy. Lionel’s new display drew big crowds and every one of their tent shows, demonstrating the new Vision Line of locomotives, was packed. Who buys a $2500 toy train in this economy? The husband of a lady who buys a Hermes Birkin handbag for $37,500. I bet if they had a Birkin at York, it would go for $22,500.

Can’t wait ‘till October.

A Bridge is Born

April 28, 2009

tm-logo-2009-smThere’s something magic and irresistible about a train going over a bridge. The toy train makers knew this so they made lots of bridges – girder, trestle, truss, arch-under, lift bridges, Bascule bridges, and – the most impressive bridge ever built for a toy train – the Hell Gate bridge. The Hell Gate was built by Lionel in the 1920s and was modeled after the famous rail bridge that spans the East River in New York.

Of all the different types of bridges, suspension bridges are among the most beautiful. The tall towers and the sweeping, curved lines of the cables make for a majestic vista – a perfect setting for a train. But there has never been a rail suspension bridge for toy trains. Until now.

TM Books & Video, who has been producing books and videos for the you train hobby for 35 years, is offering a new line of custom built bridges, designed with a toy train layout in mind. “I love bridges,” says TM producer Tom McComas. “I love to film trains going over and through bridges, but I got tired of seeing the same old bridges. I wanted something new.”

McComas started looking for new bridges. Couldn’t find anything so he contacted R. J. Walpole, a cabinet maker, who just installed a new bookcase in Tom’s office. “He did a magnificent job,” says McComas. “The bookcase is a work-of-art.” So McComas sketched a suspension bridge and asked RJ if he could make it. “Sure,” said RJ.

RJ made a fine model of a suspension bridge.
“Can you make more,” asked McComas.
“Sure,” said RJ, again.
And so the Custom Bridge Division of TM Books & Video was born.

“It was the same back in 1974 when we published our first book,” said McComas. “My focus group consisted of me asking myself one question – would I buy the book? My answer was yes so we published. Well, I’d sure buy this bridge.”

One style is currently available. It comes a 40-inch span with two towers ($395) and a 56-inch span with three towers ($495). Built by hand from scratch, the bridge reflects a skilled cabinet maker’s eye for detail, fit, and perspective. Different finishes and custom sizes are available.

“The bridge is gorgeous,” says McComas, expansively.

For more information call 800-982-2822, or visit TM’s website.

Help us mess up! We need ideas for some new bloopers! Also, tell us your favorite ones, thus far…

April 21, 2009