LIONEL TRAIN...where the pedal meets the metal and the boy meets the man

In 1959 I asked Santa for a toy train and I got one. We had just moved from our house outside D.C. and were spending Christmas in Harrisburg with my grandparents before driving across country on our way to Hawaii. There under the tree Christmas day was my train. An HO with two Plasticville buildings. I LOVED it! Over the years I'd put the train up each Christmas under the tree. As years went by the layout became more and more elaborate with more and more buildings and lots of snow. It was my idealized white Christmas. 

I still have the train in all of its original boxes along with the little green bottle of whatever it is to put in the engine to make it puff smoke as it goes around the track. I haven't put it up in a very long time and I miss it. I think of the little box of people I used to place in the same position each year. The rest of the year they were stuck in a little plastic box, but for a few weeks they were out and about in my wonderland beneath the tree. It took me days to put the whole thing up, but only a few hours to break it down.  

The ad below sort of ticks me off. Trains were always marketed as a toy for boys. The only time they marketed them for girls they made them...and I get ill thinking about it...Pepto-Bismol pink. What were they thinking? I imagine if you can get a mint pink train (hmmmm...note to self, possible odd candy to manufacture) in the original box it costs quite a pretty penny. Sorry, don't want one. I love my original with the black metal engine. Yeah, I miss it, but...

A few years ago my best friend, knowing my love for toy trains, gave me a DVD for Christmas entitled "Toy Trains & Christmas: Parts 1, 2, 3". I savored every moment of it. If you like toy trains or know someone who does I'd bet they'd love this video. I watched it over a series of nights with the glow of my Christmas tree in the room. Made me long for my train even more, but it's a good substitute. I've put a link to the video in the left column at the top of the Amazon listings.

Lionel train ad_December 1954_tatteredandlost
Click on image to see it larger. (SOURCE: National Geographic December 1954)

Yup, a boy toy. Little girls weren't supposed to have any interest. I guess I just didn't fit the restrictive mold. But I will say that the train brought my father and me closer each Christmas. For years it was a tradition that we'd head out some evening to the hobby store to buy a new building to add to the village. Some of the buildings were Plasticville that I'd put together each year. Other, more elaborate buildings, were kits that my dad would meticulously put together. Good times. Good times.


  1. We never had a train set nor an Erector set either. My grandfather, the Border Patrolman, had a co-worker who did have an HO setup that was pretty elaborate however, and our tradition (until he got moved to Maine) was to go over and look at the 'Christmas Lights' each year. I don't know why it was the only time we got to see it, but it was. This fellow had an engineer's hat and bib overalls on, and he'd deliver us candy on a flat car. Kind of broke the spell to pull candy off the train, but we enjoyed it none-the-less. Imagination is a wonderful thing, isn't it?

  2. I always envied people who can have their layout permanently set up. I dreamed of having a room where I could build a little town. Always fancied owning an HO old West train and building a little wooden town with a dusty main street. However, I wasn't going to don the hat and overalls. That would have been mocking my grandfather who wore that to work each day. Wonder if the fellow put the layout up once he moved to Maine.

  3. My sister had a train set, I was more interested in the buildings and figures, I found the whole 'round and round' thing a bit boring.

  4. Ah yes, but there was always reverse and ummmm...trying to get it stop just right in the station. If you didn't nail it I'd just tell everyone to stay off the tracks the train will be right back and zip around it would go again. Plus I had one man I used to send to work each day on the train. Mind it wasn't a passenger train so he had to ride right where the cattle had previously been riding.

  5. Nice memories! My half-brother (who was the same age as my mother!) worked as an engineer on the C&O railroad and he had a Lionel train set up in his basement. It was fantastic and took up half the room! I loved going down there with him and he would let me wear his cap while he ran the trains. Our dad passed away when I was ten and Marvin was like a second father to me.

    When we lived near Pittsburgh ten years ago, there was a model railroad society and they always set up this fantastic display during the holidays! There's also a railroad museum in Altoona, PA. I miss Pennsylvania!

  6. Ahhh, you and me both. I've been longing to be in Pennsylvania. So far away but always in my heart.

    I'll mentally check that Altoona museum if I ever get back there again. My grandfather was an engineer on the Pennyslvania Railroad.

  7. Anonymous1/13/2010

    I recently came accross your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I dont know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.



  8. Claudia, You said exactly what needed to be said. There's no rhyme or reason in this place so feel free to say anything or nothing. And feel free to sign-up as a follower so you know when something new is up. I don't always get to do it on a daily basis. And sometimes I'm just switching back and forth between this and my photography blog. So welcome aboard!

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