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

New “John Deere Country, Part 2, Stories About the Folks Who Love John Deere” Press Release

April 20, 2009

Stories of the Land Told by Folks Who Love John Deere

Where Have All The Cabooses Gone?

April 17, 2009

Where Have All The Cabooses Gone Music Video

The release of the new music video from the popular children series, I Love Toy Trains. Revised for you ,new songs, footage, same great family entertainment!

Digitally re-mastered “I Love Toy Trains, Parts 1, 2, 3!” Tell us if you have seen our videos and what you love about them!

April 15, 2009

I Love Toy Trains, Parts 1, 2, 3