It has been a long time since I updated this part of my site. A lot of water under the bridge and sadness in my life, but life moves on. I will be updating some photos and adding some video of things to my site, and perhaps use YouTube to host some of my longer clips so they can come through in high definition for all browsers.
Please notice that my "welcome page" and "main page" don't always have the same links, so best to check both pages. Also, the newest link about the Lionel Burlington 44 Ton Center Cab Diesel is only on the "welcome page." Another thing, about punctuation -- to simplify things as I hand code these pages, I don't always put 2 spaces after a period, so I hope this doesn't make things harder to read. If so, please let me know.
I have been on the fence about a few things lately. I don't know if I will continue to write any new articles for the magazines regarding the trains since it is so easy to be jerked around in the process. I still want to promote the hobby because it is one of the last wholesome hobbies a family can do together, but it isn't possible for most people to do it all year long. But I want to make it very clear that you don't need a lot of money to participate in this hobby. One train set is all it takes plus a little creativity and imagination, not big bucks. Yes some layouts are a function of money, but many represent just hard work, with careful planning and spending, where a lifetime of modest purchases are all on one table! But in today's economy, space for a layout is perhaps the most costly part of the hobby, not the items themselves. With property taxes, insurance, fuel costs for heating, air conditioning, etc., homes are smaller or will be getting smaller. If you have a large basement or attic space, chances are you are using it for regular living space. So smaller layouts or just-for-Christmas set-ups are all we may be able to afford in both time and money. And that is just fine. Nothing beats the experience of unpacking those cherished Christmas trains and things, and setting them up, even in the most simple and modest way! For me, getting the old Burlington running was a great experience, and I didn't need to run it on a big layout either. Just around the kitchen table was thrilling and very gratifying. Don't think you need a big layout, or even a permanent set-up. Simple temporary set-ups are wonderful!!!
Be careful on the train forums because you can get bad advice and some good people don't bother to challenge the bad information anymore. I have seen good people leave the forums, including myself, because the truth is just not always popular or welcome. But use them if you are a beginner, just carefully weigh what you are told. They are a good source of factual information about parts, products, and common problems after you work through the prejudice. But here is an example of some advice that can be most harmful. Some hobbyists still advocate the use of abrasives, like sandpaper, to clean track, or metal brushes or metal knives to clean wheels. What a mistake! You never want to make tiny scratches in metal rails or wheels. Always use the mildest approach, and in this case, rubbing alcohol or plastic knives to remove dirt and oil film. Yet some will defend their terrible practices to the death. So, just always err on the side of caution until you get up to speed on the hobby and hobby products. The same is true with much of the electrical advice on the forums. Some circuits that are simple are just fantastic, and some are idiotic. Always go with simplicity, but take the time to experiment, but remember that it is an experiment so take the proper precautions! Best to get some good books first, then go on the forums and ask questions. But even the books have errors, omissions, and bad advice, so beware, be careful, but try it anyway!
Many of my photos are not current, but they will show the progression of things or things that are no longer on the layout. Remember the hobby, like life, is a journey. I want to encourage people to make their own animation projects and keep an eye out for what is available by manufactures like Lemax, Department 56, Mr. Christmas, Lionel, and MTH. If HO scale is too small, go with On30 (roughly O scale on HO scale tracks). The Lionel-type O27 is robust and nostalgic, and a good choice for under the tree. I recently had a lot of fun with my guests running my Lionel Snoopy handcar around the dinner table while serving Christmas goodies and hot chocolate. Everyone took turns dumping a load of Christmas bells from a dump car -- makes a nice ringing sound, too! I used regular O27 tubular track in an oval of 8 curved, 3 straight, and one remote/uncoupling track, with smaller desert plates around the outside of the oval, larger serving plates in the center. You don't even need a layout to make a happy Christmas memory!!! I am sure my guests will never forget it! Good food and trains -- If God made anything better, he kept it for Himself!
A recent auction on eBay with both a Lionel Snoopy & Woodstock handcar and a Charlie Brown & Lucy handcar points out one huge problem with both these handcars and many rendering of cartoon or storybook characters. A good portion of these renderings are not well done at all. As much as I love the Peanuts characters, Charlie Brown on the Lionel handcar looks demented and only bears a slight resemblance to the way he is depicted in the comic strip. This is unfortunately a common problem when Charlie Brown is done in 3 dimensions. Another issue is the relative scale or proportions of the one handcar's characters as compared to the other. They don't look good together for a number of reasons, but the main issue is the distorted proportions of Charlie Brown's and Lucy's head sizes. Just too big for their bodies! It is often up to the hobbyists to locate figures that look correct with other figures, so don't expect to find them easily, except for what is typically offered by Forever Fun. On several occasions I have had guests in my home ask about where they could buy a Snoopy handcar, not understanding that the handcar was last manufactured in about 1991. If Lionel doesn't reissue the Snoopy handcar soon, some other company will jump on the chance to ride Charlie Brown's coat-tails (or Snoopy's tail) and steal this golden opportunity to sell a Snoopy handcar set with the Charlie Brown Christmas theme and introduce Lionel trains with its nostalgic tubular track into the homes of many potential new hobbyists. The Forever Fun mini clip-on figures are a good match with the original Snoopy handcar, but even those offerings could have slight improvements. With the Lionel handcar, Snoopy's muzzle needs the characteristic bulbous snout (a mistake probably done by the mold makers so the snout would pull out from the one-piece front-half tooling), and with the Forever Fun's Charlie Brown 3.5 inch tall figure, his mouth is placed just a little too low on his face. Charlie Brown is a simple fix by just creating a new painting mask for his face, but Snoopy should be re-sculpted and done with a PVC head, either solid like the many of the "Applause" products, or hollow like Forever Fun does the mini clip-on figures. Snoopy's body could remain the same. And collectors of Lionel products won't be mislead by a newer version of the handcar being confused with the original.
And Lionel should never forget the impact and recognition factor of their tubular 3 rail track. It is an icon of the toy train tradition and Lionel trains, a very powerful symbol of their brand and its enduring quality. Just getting a small oval of this track in front of the public sparks the fond memories of Lionel toy trains for everyone who sees it! Tubular track is a very powerful visual marketing tool and one to which no other company today can lay claim. Hey Lionel --- don't ever forget it!!!!!!!!!!!!!!