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rec.models.railroad FAQ-TINPLATE, Part 4 of 4

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Archive-name: model-railroad-faq/tinplate/part4
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Last-modified: 01-05-02

See reader questions & answers on this topic! - Help others by sharing your knowledge

Part 4 of 4, The Hobby

This is a listing of frequently asked questions and general information
concerning the collection, operation and repair of collectable model
railroad equipment. For more info on this FAQ see part 1. Additions and
corrections are always welcome. E-mail to:
(Christopher D. Coleman)
TCA #88-26999
LRRC #0032070

This FAQ contains the following topics:

Part 1, Information


Part 2, Equipment

   * CARS
   * TRACK

Part 3, Maintenance

   * TOOLS

Part 4, The Hobby

   * MEETS


How should I build my layout?

     A person's layout is very much an expression of his collecting
     interests. Layout styles vary from the traditional "flatland" green
     painted board to weathered near exact scale empires. What will be
     presented here are general tips for layout design and construction.
     Scale detailing can be found in the scale FAQ.

     Some builders plan exact layout designs using templates or computer
     software before proceeding with any layout construction. A listing of
     such programs can be found at I've
     found most more adapted toward scale layouts than sectional tinplate.
     Moondog Express (see Mikes Trains and Hobbies in Parts) sells
     real-size cardboard track templates, so you can layout a track pattern
     without using track. Three rail track templates can be had from:

     CTT, Inc
     109 Medallion Center
     Dallas, TX 75214
     Phone: 214-373-9469

     Other programs and templates can be found using the OTHER SOURCES
     section. Others, including myself, feel this removes some of the
     originality and just go at a pile of lumber and track with a general
     idea in mind. By laying the track unconnected in location, one gets a
     better feel for how the layout will turn out.


     Benchwork is any superstructure that supports trains or accessories.
     1/2" to 3/4" plywood is recommended for surfaces. Particle board will
     sag out of place over time and waferboard/strandboard is weaker and
     difficult to work with. To support the plywood, a framework must be
     constructed. The size of the beams used varies with the length they
     must support and the strength needed. Remember on larger layouts
     climbing onto the board may be necessary from time to time, so it must
     support your weight. For a layout 4'X8' or larger, 2"X4" beams are
     recommended, though 1"X4"s can also be used. They should be arranged
     similarly to floor joists, with the long dimension vertical. Connect
     beams of appropriate lengths in rectangles the size of your plywood,
     then run support across the intervening space parallel to the shorter
     side of the rectangle, spaced about 16" to 24" apart. Remember it is
     more important for the top faces of the beams to be aligned so
     assembly is best done upside down on a flat surface, and be sure to
     get straight beams from your lumber supplier. You may now attach legs,
     which should be bolted, NOT screwed or nailed. The number depends
     again on strength need and layout size. Braces are recommended,
     running diagonally from the leg to the benchwork. The frame can now be
     flipped and plywood attached.

     This is a generic beginners layout and infinite variations can be made
     to its design. As for height, commonly used figures are 2', 2'6", 3'
     and 4'. I use 3' since it is low enough for medium size children to
     see and high enough to make their grabbing trains difficult. I also
     use multiple level trains at 4'6" and 6'. REMEMBER the plywood will
     add a fraction of an inch to the height, so account for this in leg


     All too many tinplate operators think it is necessary to run two wires
     from the transformer to each item on a layout. A better idea is to run
     feeders the length of the layout and connect leads from them to each
     accessory. Color coding helps immensely in tracing faulty wires and
     shorts. The system I've developed is shown below:

          insulated    +-----------------------------------+-------------+
             rail______|________________                   | #45 gateman |
                 _______________________ TRACK             |             |
                 _________|_____________      +------------|             |
                      |   |                   |            +-------------+
                      |   |LEADS              |
                      |   |                   |
           COLOR      |   |       FEEDERS     |      SUPPLY    LOAD
           black------*---|--*----------------|------ground or common
           black------*---|--|----------------|------ground or common
                      |   |  |                |
                      |   |  |                |
           red--------|---*--|----------------|------ZW A -- loop 1 upgrades
           orange-----|------|----------------*------ZW B -- signals
           yellow-----|------|-----------------------ZW C -- accessories
           green------|------|-----------------------ZW D -- loop 1 downgrades
           blue-----*-|------|-----------------------B    -- lights
           violet---|-|------|-----------------------KW A -- loop 2
           red------|-|------|-----------------------KW B -- loop 3
           orange---|-|------|-----------------------T    -- loop 4
                    | |      |
           +---------------+ |  +-------------+
           |   #394 Beacon | +--| Lumber mill |-+
           +---------------+    +-------------+ |
                                           thru controller
                                           to accessory lug

     I run these feeders the length of the layout, in sections connected by
     buss bars (screw terminal strips), and supply leads can be spiced in
     at the buss connections about every 4'. In this arrangement it is
     important to separate the ground feeder from the others by a foot or
     so, to avoid shorts. I strongly recommend the use of copper over
     aluminum wires, as where powerful postwar transformers can fry
     aluminum without tripping the circuit breaker. I also recommend 14 to
     16 gauge wire for the feeders and 18 to 20 for leads. Two ground
     feeders are recommended since they are the return path for all


     Always screw your track down! Many locomotives have gone from mint to
     good condition with a few too many derailments on loose track
     sections. I recommend slotted, pan head, sheet metal screws (yes, even
     if you're going into wood). #4 size for O-27 and #6 size for O.
     Tinplate track is designed with flexibility of layout design in mind.
     A pair of lineman's pliers, or better yet track pliers (get these from
     parts suppliers), are indispensable when assembling track. Also keep a
     supply of spare steel and fiber pins on hand. Cutting custom length
     track sections is often necessary in more complex layouts. To do this
     clamp the rails, not ties, between two blocks of wood. This will
     prevent bending the rails during cutting. Cut along the wood, from the
     top of the rails to the bottom for a straight clean cut. Reaming out
     the inside of tubular rails is often necessary before inserting a pin.
     Use dull wire cutters or needle nose piers to squeeze the track around
     the pin at the base of the railhead. Many track pins also have a rut
     in either end so that the railhead sides can be pressed in and prevent

Is cork roadbed any good for Tinplate?

     I used it on a small Super-O layout and there was no noticeable
     reduction in noise. This is because well secured tinplate track
     transfers vibrations right through the mounting screws into the
     benchwork. It does, however, give that prototypically high mainline
     look. If the track was attached to the cork rather than the plywood
     beneath it, the desired sound dampening would occur. This would be
     easier on a vinyl or Homasite roadbed into which track screws will
     hold better than in cork. The use of roadbed is largely a personal

How steep can I make a grade?

     Grade is rise over run. For example if a real railroad climbs two feet
     in 100 feet of track it is on a 2/100 or 2% grade. Lionel graduated
     trestle sets rise about 0.5" each track section, 8.75" for O-27,
     making it 5.7% grade. This would be a torturous grade for a real
     railroad, whose normal heavy grade is 2.5 to 3%. For most beginner
     train sets this is steep, but manageable. No steeper is recommended.
     Also remember a curve in an ascending trestle makes the grade about
     twice as hard for the engine, depending on the tightness of the curve.
     Curves also introduce the problem of cars being pulled off the track
     to the inside due to the tension between the engine and the rest of
     the train. To alleviate this somewhat, cars should be ordered by
     descending weight. Furthermore if your track is in less than ideal
     condition, a curve on a grade will be the prime spot for a derailment
     on your layout, due to the unusual stresses placed on the track
     joining pins by car wheels.

     If you want to run trains longer than about 10 cars you're going to
     have to make your own trestle with an easier grade. You can make your
     trestle out of whatever you like so long as you firmly attach it to
     the track and preferably also to the benchwork. The smoothest
     operation will be attained if you make the grade taper up from zero at
     the bottom and back to zero at the top with the normal grade in the
     middle. This eliminates the wack of the wheels at stressed joints at
     the top and bottom as well as pilot (cowcatchers) catching the center
     rail at the bottom and longer locomotives rocking over the peak at the
     top. At minimum there should be support at each rail joint. For curves
     there should be support in the middle of the section also, to prevent
     your prize locomotive from bending it over enough to topple. The best
     support is 1/4" to 1/2" plywood strips under all the track. I use 4"
     wide strips supported about every 9" by a short section of 2X4. This
     can be hidden with paper mache', plaster, simulated stone, or whatever
     scenicing process you prefer. I also grade 1/4" rise on each track
     section or 2.9%, steep but not too bad.

     If you're really ambitious you can build a prototypical one from balsa
     wood. Use 1/4" square stock laying one under each rail parallel to the
     rail. Use shorter sections perpendicular under the first about every
     2" to 4". Cut 1/4" dowel rods to length and run four of them from the
     support to the ground as pilings. This is of course a basic design.

My loco stalls at the far end of my loop of track.

     Dirty track is the first culprit. To remove light dust, oil and
     grease, most track cleaning solutions are adequate with a clean cloth,
     either those provided by train makers or other products like "Rail
     Zip". Wet the cloth and rub the track as if you were polishing it. As
     the cloth becomes soiled, refold it and proceed. When you no longer
     soil the cloth the track is clean. For more serious dirt use an
     eraser. Ordinary erasers work, but a slightly abrasive one is best. A
     commercially available one is called "Bright Boy" which seems to work
     well, like those included in track cleaning kits. If surface rust has
     set in use fine or very fine sandpaper. NEVER EVER use steel wool or
     ANYTHING else that will leave metal bits on the track. Locomotive
     motors will suck them in and destroy themselves! If rust has reached
     the state of pitting don't bother. It is not worth your time to fix
     severely rusted track. Remember when using any abrasive to clean your
     track, new track is nickel plated and is often smooth enough to remove
     dirt without abrasives. Once you remove that coating with an abrasive,
     your track is exposed to oxidation and will need cleaned much more
     often and will be more likely to collect dirt.

     If this fails, the easiest solution is to add more power connections
     to your track. This is only a band-aid solution, though, since more
     than bad connections may be present. Nine of ten times a corroded
     track pin is the cause. You should clean all your track pins before
     assembling your layout. Pull them and clean the end in the track
     section too if necessary. Clean them the same way you clean the track.
     If your track section is corroded on the inside of the tube, throw it
     in the recycling bin, it's not worth the trouble.

     If you need track down a faulty track section, first disconnect all
     power leads and remove all trains from the track. Here a light or
     continuity tester is helpful, but a multimeter is best. Disconnect one
     track connection and test the continuity of the center rail around the
     loop. The outer rails are almost never a problem since they have a
     double conductor, but if you rule out everything else, you might check
     them too. A resistance less than 5 Ohms is pretty good, more and you
     should trace the problem. Also check the continuity between the center
     and outer rails. It should be infinite resistance (no current). If
     current flows you have a bad center rail insulator.

     To track down a bad connection, test the continuity between each track
     connection. Any reading over around 10 Ohms means trouble. One or the
     other sections around the joint will need replaced. The easiest way to
     find a center rail insulator short is to connect a transformer WITH A
     CIRCUIT BREAKER and crank it up to around 3/4 power. Listen to the
     track and you can usually hear the sparks in the bad insulator and it
     will get hot too, so be careful. Alternatively you may be able to
     track it down with the meter. Track Cleaner #1415
     Track Brite #1440
     Life-Like Industries
     Phone: 1-800-638-1470

How can I operate my signals without those pesky pressure plates?

     There are a variety of electronic gadgets for this purpose. For these
     see the companies in MODIFICATIONS. The most popular method is to use
     an insulated track section. These are made by carefully prying out one
     outer rail and inserting insulators in each crosstie like those in the
     center rail. These are easily made from a piece of index card covered
     by a layer of electrical tape. Firmly press the rail back in place
     with the insulators underneath. Be careful not to puncture them.
     Insert an insulating fiber pin in either end of the rail, and connect
     a lockon to that side of the track. Use the connection to the outside
     "common" rail as a lead for the common on the accessory. Connect the
     center rail to your variable transformer supply and the other
     accessory lead to your transformer accessory supply. This method will
     obviously not be able to trigger the green and red lights of a block
     signal properly, but it will work on gatemen, crossing gate,
     semaphores and other on/off signals.

     The more technological approach to the problem is the use of
     electronic sensors to monitor train position. These may use infrared
     or signal based detection method. Some are meant for DC use only.

     Trigger Max
     Genco Industries
     PO Box 350
     2920 Avenue R
     Brooklyn, NY 11229
     Phone: 718-769-7430

I'd like some basic scenery. What can I do?

     There are two basic methods for scenery support and two for the
     scenery itself. Support is itself usually supported by 2X2"s or 1X2"s.
     The support is a gridwork that will support the scenery while it dries
     and also after it is dried. The first method is to cut scrap cardboard
     into long strips and glue or staple them into a gridwork over the
     support supports. The second is to use chicken wire or window screen
     stapled to the support supports. I use screen because I was able to
     secure a large amount from a hardware store that does screen repair,
     because it is easier to shape than cardboard, does not allow the
     scenery to sag between grid segments and it is non-flammable. When
     you're shaping your support keep some nature photos handy to help you
     choose prototypical contours.

     On the support you need to add an actual surface. Be sure to wear work
     clothes, for this is always a messy job. You will need material and a
     bonder to do this. I use newspaper as a material, but paper towels are
     also commonly used. There are many choices for bonders. The most
     common is plaster, which is quite strong and easily contoured with
     dental type tools when dry, but it is also heavy and brittle. I use
     cheap wallpaper paste. When dry it is stiff, but not as strong as
     plaster, though it is easily cut with scissors or a razor blade for
     changes, and will be more forgiving to your trains should they crash
     into it. There are also a number of commercial bonders on the market
     which combine the strength of plaster with the lightness of paste. You
     may wish to experiment with a number of combinations before you begin
     on your layout.

     Once you have your supplies, mix a modest amount of bonder in a tray
     wide enough to drag the entire width of your material through it. A
     consistency halfway between water and pudding is good. Choose the
     width of your material by what is most convenient for you. The rougher
     the terrain, the more difficult it will be to get large pieces to
     conform to it. Drag the material through the bonder so to cover the
     entire side, then run your hand down it, removing the excess. If you
     wish a rough terrain you may gently crumple then uncrumple the
     material, but this will make seams much more difficult to hide. Lay
     the material over the support. It is best to work toward the viewers
     point so to make seams less apparent, but it is usually necessary to
     work from top to bottom of any significant slopes, to keep your work
     from sliding down the sides. As you proceed, get some bonder on your
     fingers and rub it over the seams so they will be de-emphasized when
     dry. I recommend covering everything with at least one layer,
     including plywood, to give a uniform surface over the layout. Once the
     first layer is dry, apply at least one more on the supported areas.
     You can add additional layers, depending on the strength you desire.

     When your last layer is dry, seal everything with a base layer of
     paint, usually a brown or grey whichever will comprise most of your
     layouts surface. From here many steps become optional depending on the
     level of realism you desire. You will next want to paint level areas
     with a soil brown (or slopes with a stone grey, depending on your base
     coat). Where brown meets grey, wet your brush then remove most of it
     using the paint can lip. Now gently dab (or drybrush) around that
     border giving a smooth transition between the two. Furthermore you may
     wish to drybrush some varying shades of brown and grey to give the
     effect of striations and erosion. If you don't want to mess with
     artificial grass you can also drybrush on green instead. Water is
     easily simulated with a coat of deep blue covered with a coat of satin

     This is the point where you will want to lay track. Next you will need
     to gather supplies for the detailing, and what follows are only
     suggestions. For rock, crushed driveway stone for boulders, crushed
     clay kitty litter for rocks, sifted (through window screen) kitty
     litter for ballast and white sand for crushed stone. Ballast, coal,
     grass (ground foam) and a variety of other detailing materials are
     available from commercial sources. Lichen is a type of moss which
     looks remarkably like miniature bushes. Commercially prepared lichen
     is available, or you can prepare your own using the following steps:

       1. Gather large amounts of lichen and pick out all sticks, rocks,
          grass, rabbit pellets and etc.
       2. You need to do the work outside, you will need a camp stove and a
          five gallon pot.
       3. The basic preserving solution is 3 gallons of water and 1 gallon
          of commercial grade glycerin (check yellow pages for the cheapest
          you can find).
       4. Buy several packets of rit dye to match different shades of
       5. Dissolve 1 1/2 packets in the solution and heat to just below
       6. Stuff as much lichen in the solution as possible and when
          solution begins to simmer let simmer for an additional 5 min.
       7. When cool enough use rubber gloves to reach in and pull the
          lichen out. Squeeze the solution out back in the pot.
       8. Let the lichen cool then repeat for a fresh batch.

     Trees are also commercially available from many sources. You can also
     make your own by cutting bottle brushes to a conical shape, unraveling
     one end of twisted wire and inserting lichen, or by drying and
     painting weeds that have a good "tree" shape. You will need to drill
     holes in plywood sections to install trees. A tiny dab of white glue
     is sufficient to keep it in place. Commercial trees with bases are
     best attached using rubber cement, so they can be moved later without
     destroying the landscape underneath. In areas without plywood
     underneath, I usually punch a small hole in the surface, hold a block
     of styrafoam (cut from a piece of packing material) behind it and
     pressing the tree trunk into the foam. It might be necessary to put a
     bit of white glue on the foam to hold it in position.

     Other landscape material, like ground foam or sand, is best secured by
     spraying the area with 'wet water' (water with a dab of detergent)
     from a spray bottle. Apply the material then spray it with a roughly
     4:1 mix of water/white glue to fix it in place. All this sort of
     material should be secured to prevent it getting into train moving

What if I don't have the time to build a layout?

     No problem, there are a number of firms which specialize in custom
     building tinplate layouts and others who produce "production line"
     layouts. I will not list them here, but they advertize heavily in the
     tinplate train press. Be aware, though, you will be paying for someone
     else's labor in addition to parts.


Can I doublehead tinplate locomotives?

     Yes, as long as you use similar locomotives. What I mean by this is
     some locos use can motors, some use "universal" motors in addition to
     various gearing ratios. To test two locos for compatibility set them
     on the track, uncoupled and unloaded and run them in the same
     direction. If the separation between them rapidly increases or
     decreases their natural speeds are too far apart and they will fight
     each other if coupled together. You MUST lock out your sequencers when
     you doublehead since a momentary power loss may sequence one loco and
     not another (unless you have electronic ones which suppress this
     problem). Mid-train helpers are also possible but placing requires
     skill and practice. Rear helpers are not recommended.

How many cars can my locomotive pull?

     This depends greatly on what type of trucks your stock has. Newer
     (1971 and up) cars usually have needle point bearings in low friction
     plastic which allows them to roll very easily. Older cars have no
     bearings at all and take 2-5 times more force to roll and are heavier.
     These are estimates of pulling capacity based on drive train:

   * Dual DC can motors, spur gear: 8 old, or 20 new
   * Single universal motor, spur gears: 15 old, or 35 new
   * Single universal motor, worm gears: 22 old, or 45 new
   * Dual universal motor, worm gears: 35 old, 60 new

     Magnetraction and rubber traction tires can, of course, increase the
     pulling capability of an engine. Magnetraction is superior in gripping
     and also grips with all powered wheels without insulating them from
     the track as tires do. Magnetraction is, however, far more difficult
     to replace if it fails.

How can I make my locomotive smoke?

     The first smoke mechanism Lionel used in 1945 simply allowed a smoke
     pellet to rest in the headlight bulb with a special dimple in it. This
     didn't work very well and was quickly replaced with a resistance coil.
     Either heat source caused the pill to slowly melt and vaporize.
     Unfortunately Lionel pellets are no longer made, as where they were
     patented by the engineer who created them for Lionel. Production of
     the pellets likely ended in 1969 and many bottles can still be
     purchased, but they are becoming less common and are going for high
     prices. K-line made their K-151 pellets in the 1980's which, though it
     did not smell like the Lionel pellet, it worked resonably well. K-line
     has not made pills since the early 1990's. To alleviate the patent
     fees, Lionel converted to a petroleum based liquid smoke in the
     1960's. Since smoke units designed for liquid have an absorbent
     material built into it, the pellet and liquid should only be used in
     their respective style units. Flyer and Marx used only liquid smoke
     units. Smoke liquids currently available can be used interchangeably
     in liquid smoke units. Additionally some new liquids are designed to
     give off specific scents such as the smell of original Lionel smoke

     Original Lionel smoke pellets have become collectable in their own
     right, so if you have them, use them sparingly and fill in the gaps
     with other brands. You might also use a few drops of liquid smoke in
     your bottle of pellets occasionally to keep them from disintegrating.
     This will also extend their life inside the smoke unit. Using a pipe
     cleaner to brush the white residue inside your smokestack back into
     your generator will extend the effectiveness of the pellets you use.

     It has also been suggested that scented lamp or Seethe oil may be
     used. Other home-remedy smoke includes asprin and candle wax. I have
     not tried any of these.

     Absorbent material can be added to old pellet smoke units in the form
     of a small tuft of fiberglass insulation. Again, I have not tried this
     and cannot attest to the reliability, efficiency or safety. Also once
     material is added, it will no longer function properly with pellets.

     Personally, I have a small stash of both Lionel and K-line pellets
     which I enhance with some fluid. Fluid will work in an unmodified
     pellet unit, but could fowl it. I only used fluid in a pellet unit in
     addition to the pellet (not in place of it) or when the unit is at
     operating temperature.

     Liquid smoke is available from:

     Smoke #1417
     Life-Like Industries
     Phone: 1-800-638-1470

     "Roscoe Smoke Fluid"
     address unknown

     Bart's Pneumatics Corp.
     1952 Landis Valley Rd.
     Lancaster, PA 17601
     Phone: 717-392-1568

     "Live Steam"
     Available from Mikes Trains and Hobbies
     Address in PARTS section

     "Lehigh Valley Train Service"
     address unknown
     Emmaus, PA


How can I display my trains?

     The most obvious method is to screw track to shelving. Trains can also
     be placed right on the shelving but this provides less protection
     against earthquakes, pets, children, etc. One ingenious solution is
     called Rail Rax. They are solid aluminum shelves with mounting holes
     and molded extrusions the width of your track gauge. They are
     available in HO/S, O, and O/I/Standard from:

     Rail Rax
     786 Seely Avenue
     Aromas, CA 95004-9510
     Phone: 800-830-2843
     Phone: 408-726-3706

     Glenn Snyder Display Systems
     260 Buffalo St
     Buffalo, NY 14203
     Phone: 877-852-4676
     Fax: 716-852-4677

     Chocolatetown Trains
     PO Box 137
     Hershey, PA 17033

     Another clever solution is to use beadboard, a common material in the
     walls of older buildings that can still be purchased. The grooves
     between beads are about right for O and S gauge stock. There are
     special brackets available for rack shelving which has staggered tiers
     for holding three rows of train display boards all visibly. Available

     For Toys Company
     Warren Knauer
     18050 Judicial Way N
     Lakeville, MN 55044
     Phone: 612-898-2843

     Yet another alternative is to use wood shelving with routed or sawed
     slots to accommodate wheel flanges. A pre-made shelving of this kind
     is available from:

     Trackside Marketing
     PO Box 137
     Fairview, PA 16415
     Phone: 814-833-8562

     Remember when choosing a location for your trains that moisture is the
     enemy of trains. This is especially important if your trains are in a
     basement. A good dehumidifier will save your trains in even a slightly
     damp basement. Similarly if you choose an attic you must be cautious
     about heat. Many of the earlier plastics used in train manufacture are
     especially susceptible to warpage and melting in heat. A/C or
     ventilation is a must.


How do I know what to buy?

     Buy what you like! If you don't like it don't buy it. What not to do
     is buy every train you see. Give it a bit of thought first. Why do you
     want to collect trains in the first place? Is it to operate or
     display? Are you fond of a particular scale, manufacturer, time period
     or style?

How much is it worth?

     You can follow the grading standards in GRADING STANDARDS AND OTHER
     JARGON and look up a price in a guide, but that is only an
     approximation. In order to find a price you will also need to know
     catalog numbers from the items, presence or absence of boxes and set
     boxes, date of manufacture (if known) and color and truck variations.
     Look at the MEETS section for details on this.

When was it made?

     Determining when a given piece was manufactured is a field of study in
     its own right. The easiest way for the amature is to buy a guide to
     your brand and era of trains. Looking up the number on the piece will
     usually give you a value and a range of production dates. The more
     in-depth guides will give information on variations in the products
     design, such as color, construction, and errors, which will allow you
     to pin down your item's date. Pick up a Greenberg or TM price guide.
     They cost about $10-20.

Is is in original condition?

     This matters to some more than others, but is accepted as wrong to
     repaint or replace with reproductions major sections of an item and
     try to pass it off as original. Groups like the TCA take this very
     seriously and have expelled members for it.

     Reproduction parts are quite a controversy. They are needed where
     original parts can no longer be found, but can be misrepresented.
     Volumes have been written on what parts have been cloned and how to
     tell, but I will give some general guidelines.
       1. Lionel molded parts usually say "Lionel Corporation, New York,
          NY" or similar. Watch for parts with this missing.
       2. Reproductions usually have more apparent "parting lines" where
          the two pieces of the die meet.
       3. The parts most often broken or lost are those most often cloned.
          Automobiles, helicopters, submarines, missiles, and other plastic
          loads are good examples.
       4. Bad copies are often warped or show color variation.
       5. If you are at all suspicious, don't accuse. Ask someone more
          experienced for their opinion, especially train group officers.


How can I inventory my collection?

     The simplest way other than just writing it down is to use a price
     guide/checklist from the places listed in OTHER SOURCES. On the
     computer many use a database program such as Access or Paradox that
     can be set up in any way you wish. This has the advantage of being
     very flexible and you can make other files for your catalogues or
     slide collections with the same program. The disadvantage is if you
     want current values you will have to enter them by hand. There are
     several pre-made inventory programs. Check with the suppliers in OTHER
     SOURCES. Also there is:

     Frank K. Kistner
     11062 Delta Circle
     Boca Raton, FL 33428
     Phone: 561-482-2857

     3200 Washington Street
     Boston, MA 02130

     If you have FileMaker Pro, try dropping a note to SofTrack
     []. They have a Model RR inventory template for FM Pro
     on the Mac or Windows, $60

     Train Tracker
     REEF Development Co., Inc.
     144 Iler Drive
     Middleton, NJ 07748
     Phone: 908-706-1500
     Toll Free: 800-589-REEF URL:

     Scottsville Business Systems
     PO Box 3
     Scottsville NY, 14546

     Additional price disks: $19.95. (PreWar, PostWar, Modern Era)
     TM Books & Video
     New Buffalo, MI 49117
     Toll Free: 800-892-2822

     The Train Collector's Workbook
     The Ashland Group
     16 Kings Row
     Ashland, MA 01721
     Phone: 508-881-6315

     Model Railroad Assets
     Northstar Software
     620-19th Street
     Suite 123
     Niagra Falls, NY 14301-2226

     Railbase Professional
     Albion Software

Is there a good method for identifying trains to be recorded in a catalog?

     This depends on the make. Usually the best way to catalog them is
     first by "make", then by "catalog number". This usually appears on the
     item, but not always, and sometimes even the wrong one appears. The
     best way to make sure you have the correct number is to buy a
     "checklist and price guide" from either Greenberg Books or TM for each
     make. They list all the numbers produced with a brief description of
     each. For the larger makers like Marx, Lionel, and Flyer the lists are
     separated into major periods of manufacture, such as Pre WWII, post
     WWII, Post 1970, etc. The hierarchy of my train database is:

          Catalog Number
          Date Purchased

     In some cases it can be a bit of an art but is usually straight
     forward. Early trains (1910's and before) and "economy" trains are the
     hardest to classify as where they often have no markings.

MEETS (or shows)

How should I approach attending a collectors train meet?

     There are two types of meets, Open and Closed. Open meets are open to
     the public such as Greenberg's Train and Doll Shows and Great American
     Train Shows. Closed meets are open only to group members and guests,
     such as the TCA York PA Meet. It is often recommended that you attend
     at least one meet with no money and just get the feel of the meet. I
     walk through a meet once before buying to get a feel for that meets
     prices and selection, and then make successive rounds getting the
     emerging deals each time. Another tip is always hang around until
     closing time when many sellers would rather make a deal than haul
     stuff home. In any case you should try to have an experienced
     collector with you for your first few meets. There are sharks at every
     meet who just want your hard earned dollars in their pockets. It is
     also a good idea to carry a price guide with you. Don't use it as a
     bible, but as a guide, and don't hover over an item with the price
     guide open, you might tip off the seller as to how interested you are
     in the item.

     Another tip is that some sellers are very testy about people handling
     their items until sold, so restrain that urge to examine every piece
     at a meet and watch for dealer's "NO TOUCH" signs. Also keep a close
     eye on guests and children, as they are the most frquent violators.
     They may 'buy' you a piece you can not afford.

     Prices are usually higher at open meets since the clientele is less
     experienced. Prices are mostly a factor of how badly the seller wants
     to dump the item and how badly he wants to turn a profit. Prices are
     usually higher than book value and can be negotiated down to around
     book value. NEVER buy a piece at a meet without trying to bargain it
     down and don't be afraid to walk away and try later, the dealer might
     become more desperate to sell. It is also a good idea to carry a
     pocket price guide with you, but don't swear by its accuracy.

     For more information see:

     Greenberg Shows
     7566 Main Street
     Sykesville, MD 21784

     Great American Train Show Limited
     PO Box 1745
     Lombard, IL 60148
     Phone: 708-834-0652

     Meets versus Shops? Meets have better selection (by a long shot) and
     prices (by about 20%) but shops have a friendly face and service after
     the sale which is best for new items, plus there is less difference in
     the price of new items (about 5%). I do not recommend mail on used
     items orders since you get the worst of the two above, plus you don't
     really know what your getting until it arrives (postage charges too).
     If you are buying from a reputable seller, buying used items mail
     order can be more attractive. For new items mail order can be a good
     alternative. Know your mail order house, though. Ask for
     recommendations. Some sell old stock at deeply discounted prices.

     Online auction houses, most notably ebay, are an increasingly popular
     means of buying and selling trains. Use caution here just as you would
     buying mail order. Be sure to check the sellers feedback rating for
     any negatives and find out what the problem is. Pictures don't lie, so
     auctions with them are a definite plus. Also be sure to specify good
     packing. Many good items have been destroyed by UPS due to
     insufficient packaging.

     Lionel in 1992 instituted a new policy that no current production year
     items may be sold at meets or advertized mail-order. This is an
     attempt to prevent undercutting of their dealers and to ensure service
     after the sale. As a result, dealers, many of whom do both shops and
     meets, will just sell their year-old stock at the meet.


What groups related to the collecting aspect are there?

     The following is an incomplete list of major tinplate groups:

     TCA Train Collectors Association
     PO Box 248
     Strasburg, PA
     Phone: 717-687-8623
     Fax: 717-687-0742
     -Largest and oldest (1954) collector's group which establishes many
     accepted standards. $25.00 per year national fees. Several divisions
     and many chapters which may have their own fees. Includes Train
     Collectors Quarterly magazine, one of which being the National
     membership directory, and National Headquarters News quarterly
     newsletter. Chapter, Division and a National member meets with
     admission from 5$ to 15$.

     TTOS Toy Train Operating Society
     25 W Walnut Street
     Suite 308
     Pasadena, CA 91103
     Phone: 818-578-0673
     Fax: 818-578-0750
     $22.00 per year, no enrollment fee
     7,000 members, sponsor meets including two large CA meets shared with
     the TCA, Cal-Stewart and San Jose.

     LOTS Lionel Operating Train Society
     6376 West Fork Road
     Cincinnati, OH 45247-5704
     Phone: (513) 598-8240
     For operators of Lionel trains of all vintages.
     Annual Dues: $26.00; Initiation Fee: $6.00
     Bi-Monthly Publication (2,4,6,8,10,12): SWITCHER national and local
     public meets.

     LCCA Lionel Collectors Club of America
     P.O. Box 479
     LaSalle, IL 61301
     For collectors of Lionel trains of all vintages.
     Annual Dues: $30.00; Initiation Fee: $10.00
     founded 1970
     Bi-Monthly Publication (1,3,5,7,9,11): "The Interchange Track"
     contains buy-sell-trade advertisements.
     Bi-Monthly Publication (2,4,6,8,10,12): "The Lion Roars" contains
     technical and product articles.

     LRRC Lionel Railroader Club
     PO Box 748
     New Baltimore, MI 48047-0748
     -Current membership is $20.00 per year, includes a slick paper
     quarterly newsletter, membership button, and current year catalogs. It
     is part of Lionel and is directed more toward kids, but it gives a
     great deal of insight into Lionel productions and offers special cars,
     locos, and premiums for sale.

     AFCC American Flyer Collectors Club
     P.O. Box 13269
     Pittsburgh, PA 15243
     Frank C Hare, Editor
     -Annual Dues $12.50 Payable in Jan, four issues a year, a member list
     and updates are provided. Topics covered are ALL of AF items O-Gauge,
     S-Gauge, Standard Gauge. The Whistling Billboard is a FREE advertising
     section for members, 75 words or less. The Baggage Room section is for

     K-Line Collectors Club
     PO Box 2831
     Chappel Hill, NC 27515
     -Annual Dues $30 plus $5 startup fee, exclusive production items

     Marx Trains Collector's Club
     PO Box 111
     Bakerstown, PA 15007
     -Annual Dues $39, Quarterly newsletter, membership includes club car.


Where can I get more information?

     A good well stocked hobby shop can answer many questions, if they
     really want your business. For reference material check the following:


     Classic Toy Trains
     -8 Issues per year, collectable trains and Hi-Rail Tinplate , $36.95
     per year, $4.95 cover price, best for tinplate.
     Kalmbach Publishing Co
     21027 Crossroads Circle
     PO Box 1612
     Waukesha, WI 53187-1612
     Toll Free: 800-533-6644
     Fax: 414-796-0126

     Model Railroader
     -Monthly, mostly smaller scale with some tinplate, $39.95 per year,
     $4.95 cover price.
     Kalmbach Publishing Co
     21027 Crossroads Circle
     PO Box 1612
     Waukesha, WI 53187-1612
     Toll Free: 800-533-6644
     Fax: 414-796-0126

     O Gauge Railroading
     -Bimonthly, half and half scale and tinplate O, $22.00 per year.
     65 South Broad Street
     P.O. Box 239
     Nazareth, PA 18064-0239
     Phone: 610-759-0406 (8:30 - 4:30 EST M-F)
     Fax: 610-759-0223

     Garden Railways
     -G, bimonthly, $24.95 per year, $4.95 cover price.
     Kalmbach Publishing Co
     21027 Crossroads Circle
     PO Box 1612
     Waukesha, WI 53187-1612
     Toll Free: 800-533-6644
     Fax: 414-796-0126

     Outdoor Railroader
     -G, bimonthly, $22.00 per year
     Westlake Publishing
     1574 Kerryglen Street
     Westlake Village, CA 91361

     The Train Yard
     -G, bimonthly, $22.00 per year
     23015 Del Largo Hills Drive
     Laguna, CA 92653

     S Gaugian
     -Bi-Monthly, $32.00 Yearly ($39.00 outside US)
     Heimburger House Publishing Company
     7236 West Madison Street
     Forest Park, IL 60130
     Phone: 708-366-1973


     Books are available on most every imaginable subject in tinplate
     trains. Videos are also available. Some chronicle famous layouts and
     manufacturers while others are how-to such as train repair.


     Bruce Greenberg founded Greenberg's Publishing in the 1970s and for
     several years acted in a consulting capacity after he sold the company
     to Kalmbach Publishing. From its beginning Greenberg's has had the
     best selection of tinplate books. Especially recommended are their
     "Guide to _______ "(fill in the blank) comprehensive Product listing
     in Volume I and other information in successive volumes, if available.
     Good stuff. Call and ask for a catalog.

     Greenberg Books
     Kalmbach Publishing Company
     PO Box 1612
     Waukesha, WI 53187-1612
     Toll Free: 800-533-6644
     Fax: 414-796-0126


     TM Books was also founded in the 1970s, by James Tuohy and Tom
     McComas, and started with documenting prewar Lionel. Their books are
     usually more expensive and focus more on history than product
     descriptions. They also focus more on videos.

     TM Books and Videos
     PO Box 279
     New Buffalo, MI 49711
     Toll Free: 800-892-2822
     Fax: 219-879-7909


     TCA (see address above)
     "Standard of the World, Lionel Trains" Second Edition Excellent
     listing of Prewar Lionel trains, contains color chips for original
     paint colors.

     "All Aboard; the history of Joshua Lionel Cowen and his Toy Train
     Good and enlightening chronology of Lionel during Cowen's lifetime.
     Workman Publishing Company
     708 Broadway
     New York, NY 10003

End of the Tinplate Train FAQ, Part 4 of 4
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