Toy trains have been part of Christmas for me as long as I can remember. When I was a child there were two: a Lionel “O” Gauge train set that my parents bought for me, and a Lionel “Standard” Gauge set that originally belonged to my mother’s late brother, who died before my mother was born. Both created a sort of magic for me, but that “Standard” Gauge set with its large metal pieces, bright colors, and toy-like appearance… well that was special. The engine especially had seen some hard times over the years, what with cracking and warping cast iron parts, but it still worked.
That “Standard” gauge set remains so special to me that when I discovered a company in Ohio that makes Lionel reproduction parts, I set about buy the bits and pieces necessary to make the engine whole again. It’s been a long process. I initially ordered parts a couple weeks before Christmas 2004. Because the Christmas season is the busiest time of the year for that company, some parts did arrive until late January 2005. I was able to install what parts I could while I was visiting my parents last Christmas, but some repairs had to wait until this visit. Finally assembling all the ordered bits and pieces showed that a few additional small parts are required. They must be ordered and will be added next year.
Along with the family folklore of the “Standard” gauge set from my uncle, there are also many stories regarding the set that my Grandfather’s older brother got for his first born son. It was a bigger, fancier Lionel set from the late 20’s, complete with train station, buildings, lamp posts, and all sorts of interesting period antique accessories. Foolishly, the train for this set was given away sometime in the 1940’s or 1950’s. The accessories remained though, and were combined with an “O” gauge Lionel set sometime in the intervening years. I’ve never actually seen the set except as glimpsed in a few family photos, but those made it look pretty impressive.
Last night, my Mom and I were talking about my restoration efforts for her brother’s train and we got to talking about that other set belonging to her cousin. My Mom sort of wondered aloud “I wonder if Cousin P. still wants any of those accessories from his train set… maybe I should ask him if he would be interested in keeping them in the family and combine them with my brother’s train.” That immediately made me drool a little, let me tell you. It multiplied that childhood train magic by a factor of ten right on the spot.
As luck would have it, we had dinner with Cousin P.’s daughter, her husband, and kids tonight. After finishing the meal, my Mom asked about Cousin P.’s train set. It was broken up and sold a few years ago… evidently with considerable interest from collectors around the country. *sigh* Oh well, another bit of childhood magic that could have been slipped away.
Time to start collecting on e-Bay I guess. Such is the nature of trains, boys, and Christmas.