My daughters, Raven and Darien, my son Jesse, and I were all greatly anticipating the April 2016 York Train Meet. We had not attended in some time and we were ready. We were ready to see old friends, old trains, and make some new memories.
When our badges arrived in the mail, our excitement grew. "What can I do to better prepare for this?" I asked myself. The shows I went to in the past, I always kind of walked around willy nilly. When the show was over I would always say: "Oh, I should have looked for this" or "I should have looked for that." "I should have bought this" or "I wish I bought that." The last thing you want to have after the York meet is over, is regrets. The ultimate satisfaction of a great find should be the end result. You want to sit back in your favorite chair, relax after all that walking (a.k.a. exercising) you just did, and be happy that you found exactly what you were looking for. To better my chances of having this happen for me, I decided to get organized. I devised a simple plan: I made a list.
I jotted down about ten items: A Lionel #52 Fire Car, (because it's awesome and its beautiful red tone stands out against virtually any backdrop). A Lionel #76 Warning Bell Shack (I have a few variations of the gateman and wanted to add this to the fleet). Also, really shooting for the stars; I wanted to see if I could find a somewhat affordable, but in decent shape, Lionel Flying Yankee (because the Yank is just too cool!) I will not name every item I was looking for, but let’s just say, I had a great list. I typed it all out, printed pictures off of Google and everything!
The wait was over; we got to York just minutes after opening and marched right into the Red Hall. I had the list in my hand and was determined to stay true to it. At this point, we actually had the list memorized, so it just kind of served as a reminder that this time, there was rhyme and reason.
My son Jesse started pointing out items left and right.
"Hey Dad, isn't this one on the list?" he would say excitedly, pointing to a vintage Lionel turbine. "Dad, here's another one from the list!" now motioning to an American Flyer #770 Baggage Crusher. I would call out; "Good job my boy! Daddy loves you!" I then checked the prices and moved on. I know this must be a bit confusing for my children. Why would Dad go on and on about this list and have us study it so that we could be on the lookout, if he is not going to buy any of the items?
I don't have a sack of cash over my shoulder, so I have to be selective. Narrow it down. Wait til the end, calculate and then make a decision. Chances are I would only end up with one, maybe two if I was lucky, items on my special list. We moved from hall to hall, we found just about everything on that list, but so far, purchased none of it. Then it happened. I saw something, something that would quite possibly tempt me to stray from the list. Not good.
I have a soft spot for gatemen accessories of all variations, and I have a small collection. I also have the Marx version. What I had found was a gateman I had never seen before. It was made by the Colber Company in East Orange, NJ. The fact that New Jersey is my home state, made the item more appealing to me. I gave the woman $35 dollars for the little guy and his original box, and walked away, somewhat disappointed in myself. I deviated from the plan, I impulsively spent money that should have gone towards a #758 Sam The Semaphore Man. It was shameful.
"That's it!" I said, proclaiming "I will stray from the list no more! As we moved on, we saw the 10 or so items from my wish list over and over. The American Flyer Cattle Corral kept haunting me, and I almost bought one too, but ultimately, never did. My daughter Darien picked up a nice Varney HO train set from 1948, a switcher and several coal hoppers. Beautiful! I was happy for her, but at the same time, a little jealous. The set had a great look, very life like. Well at least my daughter and I live in the same house, and I'll play with her trains whenever I darn well please!
The first day of York was coming to a close, and we were finishing up in the Silver Hall. I was still carrying around that gateman.
Before we left to go dine at Smokey Bones, I spotted something that just blew me away. Something that should have been on my list, but was not. I say that because a few years earlier, I had an interest in owning one, but could never find one, so I just gave up. The item in question was a Hoge 900 Streamliner from the 1930's. Some serious pre war in my opinion, and I have a lot of opinions. Ask my wife. I had only ever seen this train at the National Toy Train Museum and once in an issue of Classic Toy Trains Magazine. Ever hear the term 'The Wow Factor'? This train had it. Gorgeous, chrome plated, and very sleek. It sat on the table right next to the Flying Yankee. Yes, the Flying Yankee from my neglected list. As much as I love the Yankee, my eyes kept shifting to the Hoge. I was about to do it again, abandoning my list and harpoon my original plan.
I checked my wallet; the price on the Hoge was just out of my reach, if I remember right, I may have been shy $45. I walked away from the table without the Hoge. At the very least, I had my gateman, which at this point, I wasn't even sure I really liked.
That night, I put my new accessory on my layout and watched the little blue guy pop in and out of his shack. I was none too amused. The more I looked at this thing, the more it reminded me of a Charlie Brown cartoon. Nothing against the Colber Company, I was just tasting some bitter 'Buyer's Remorse', or maybe it was indigestion from Smokey Bones.
My kids and I would not return to York the next day, we planned to attend again on Saturday. All day Friday, I obsessed over that vintage Hoge. Sadly, my toy train allotment was rigid. What I had left in my wallet was it.
By the time Saturday came, I could not find my list anywhere, and I really didn't care. I had good intentions when I made the list, but I simply have no self discipline for such things. I was now free from the list, no longer chained to it. No longer being lead by it. Something else was leading me now, leading me back to the Silver Hall. Back to the chrome!
Even though I knew I could not purchase it, I needed to see the Hoge one more time, though I felt in my heart of hearts, it would be gone by now.
I said the Hoge was in the Silver Hall in retrospect. At the time, I could not remember where I saw it. Hoges were not on every table, as a matter of fact, I only saw one at the show. My children and I walked around and around, looking for this thing. My daughter Darien finally said: "Wasn't the train you were looking for at the guy's table who sells slot cars? The table with the glass cases?" Standing there exhausted, I thought about it for a second- "That's right." I replied. "Well, that's in the other aisle", said Darien. "Show me", was my response.
Darien then took me to the table. I have to be honest, I almost forgot myself and went against the arrows on the floor, but then realized, safety first.
As we came upon the table, I was pleased to see that the Hoge was still there. The price was clearly marked with a notation: "Or Best Offer." The man running the table was John Gomez. I got to talking to him. He’s a super nice guy. I said to him, "I would like to make you an offer on the Hoge. I'm just going to throw it out there and if you decline, I totally understand." With a smile he said: "Ok". Then in an obviously nervous, self conscious manner, (I wear anxiety like a Christmas sweater) I offered the man exactly what was in my wallet, an amount$45 dollars shy of his asking price. There was a silent pause. I waited for him to lower the boom on me."I'll do it", he said gladly, and began to disassemble my new found happiness. He carefully wrapped it, and I, with a genuine feeling of satisfaction, paid the man.
It is now close to five months since the Spring meet, and not a day goes by that I do not go into my train room, look at my Hoge, and remember what a great and generous deal that John gave me. I not only got a great vintage train, but I've got a new friendship as well. This is one of the many great things about the York Train Meet, things may not have been going my way with the whole list fiasco, but they turned on a dime. There will always be great stories to come out of York and I hope you enjoyed this one. Now, I must retire to my train room and take the Hoge for a spin. I'm still not sure what to make of that gateman, but there he is.
To see the inner workings of a Hoge 900, as well as seeing it in action, enjoy:
Editor's Note: This is not just a story of a wonderful train, it's a family story. And, we're proud to note that Jesse and Darien are members of the TCA Kids Club, numbers KC 7472 and KC 7473 respectively. Way to go, you're our future!