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Visiting Al Cox in Seattle
By Mark Boyd, Editor, Train Collectors Quarterly
Al Cox is one of the largest toy train collectors, now 85 years
young, he holds court in his living room sitting in his picture
window overlooking the sound when visitors come, before leading
a tour through the catacombs of toy trains in his basement, built
and designed especially for his trains. Here is the story about
one of his very unique one of a kind pieces, manufactured by
the Lionel Corporation.
Lionel made the "Brute" locomotive in 1927, a Buddy
L sized locomotive with three Build-a-loco motors, but no third
rail pickup as it was designed for a 3 1/2 inch gauge two rail
track system, similar in size to Buddy L push trains. The loco
is so heavy, it was deemed impractical for production by Lionel
as no child could ever easily pick it up. It looks like a giant
381 Standard Gauge loco. Originally it was painted green like
the green State Set, but Bill Vagell cadmium plated the locomotive
many years later to keep it from further deterioration.
The "Brute" was on display for many years in the
factory showroom in New York City. Irving Shull of Lionel sold
the locomotive to Don LaSpaluto (TCA President 1966-67) who
then brought it to the TCA Yardley Convention in 1960 where Bill
Vagell purchased it. Bill offered it to Al Cox sometime
later for $2000 boasting that at the time, Al would own the most
expensive toy train in history. Al hesitated, saying, “He did
not want to be the “pigeon” who got stuck with that reputation,” so
instead, it was sold the next day to John Snyder in Des Moines
along with a Flyer O gauge set thrown in to sweeten the deal.
Al eventually was able to purchase it years later.
Al also owns the 1950 Lionel prototype for the 213 Lift Bridge.
He bought it from Joe Ranker whom he shared a table with in the
Red Hall at York. He waited at the table until 9 pm for Joe's
return at closing. The bridge had sat there all day and no one
bought it. Jim Sattler came by and teased, “How can you just
sit there with that bridge still on the table?” When Joe came
back at 9 pm, they returned to the motel and Al was still thinking
about that bridge. Al worked on Joe all night trying to finesse
a deal. Finally, Al offered to trade his Princess Elizabeth and
Joe replied he had been waiting all night for that offer.
Now, Al is offering the “Brute” along with the 213 Lift Bridge
for one million dollars, a king's ransom for two one of a kind