By Mark Boyd
In 1961 as an 11-year-old boy, we lived in Oakland California
and I spent most of my paper route money on trains, which was
about $20 a month. Back then it was mostly scenery and building
supplies to keep my two 4X6 table top plywood frames filled with
027 track, an old prewar 224 Lionel locomotive and a No. 60 trolley,
with an 1862 General set, and a pair of 1122 switches.
I thought my layout was an empire, but every week I rode my bike
3 and one half miles to Lee's Train Service on Piedmont Avenue
in Oakland. Little did I know that Lee's was one of the oldest
Lionel Service Stations on the west coast. All I knew was that
they were a real train store! They didn't stock only for the holidays
like most retailers I had experienced. They had trains all year
round, old and new.
Customers brought their old trains in to the store for repair
or to cash them in as their families got older, which created
a great place to see trains that were no longer available from
Lionel. The owners of the store were Dave and Peggy White and
they constantly complained about the quality and depth of production
that Lionel was producing in the 1960’s that made the older
trains seem so much more desirable.
One Saturday during October I rode over to Lee's Trains on my
bike (about a 45 minute ride) and when I walked in I stopped short.
I saw the biggest locomotive I had ever witnessed. It was a beautiful
blue and yellow 2331 Virginian with chrome railings. It was longer
than any other locomotive I had ever seen.
I really wanted it, but the $50 price tag discouraged this 11-year-old
boy who only earned about $20 a month. I rode back home taking
more than an hour and a half to ride the long trip as I day-dreamed
of what it would be like to own such a monstrous locomotive. Little
did I know that it would never negotiate my 027 curves. Nevertheless,
it would have looked great just sitting there.
I told my parents about it and anxiously waited until the following
Saturday to ride back to Lee's to see the locomotive again. By
the time Wednesday came, I was just too anxious and so I took
an afternoon trip after school over to the store with the plan
of spending only a few minutes so that I could get back home by
dark. As I walked in the door, I noticed the locomotive was gone.
I inquired and Peggy told me that it had been sold. Boy, was I
disappointed. It was an even longer ride back home and it was
dark by the time I arrived.
I told my parents about the disappointment and they consoled
me as best they could. I only hoped that now that I had seen a
2331 that I would be on the lookout for another. Even at the young
age of 11 years old I aspired to be a collector. I had no clue
that there was such a thing as the "TCA" in 1961. I
heard my parents speak of "collectors" but they sounded
like scoundrels to a young boy's ears (like the “tax collector”).
I didn't care; I wanted to be one if it meant I could have the
trains I wanted. I would be an "honest" collector!
This definition of a collector was derived more from known antique
dealers of that day who paid as little as possible for valuable
items, more than it was from any known train collectors of that
time. Little did I know that being a train collector could be
an honorable thing.
Two months later while opening my Christmas presents I was surprised
to find that my father had phoned the train store that very first
day to set the Virginian 2331 aside and they had made installment
payments to purchase the locomotive over the next few weeks. $50
in 1961 was a substantial amount of money for a family of 4 with
one income to pay for a discretionary item like a toy train locomotive.
That same Christmas they supplied me with several dozen pieces
of Super O track which allowed me to replace my 027 track and
I was able to operate my 2331! I also got a ZW transformer!
Years later, my father told me that it really bothered him to
pay more money in 1961 for a toy locomotive that had sold for
$42.50 just six years earlier. He couldn't figure out why a used
toy would cost more money after it was used and played with some
six years after it was sold as "new". He thought he
was getting ripped off at the time. He now realizes the investment
he made both financially and in the future aspirations of his
son paid off.
Mark Boyd’s Super-O gauge
Mark C. Boyd
Secretary, Norcal TCA