I’d like to share a story that I experienced that was unexpected. Everyone knows about the thrill of the hunt looking for O gauge trains. But what about after you’ve given up searching? I’m sure most of you have experienced this, but the way the stars aligned one day, it was just amazing to me.
A few weeks ago my wife Lynley and I went to a train show out here in Southern California. Nothing special there except they are few and far between out here and I come from the Philadelphia area where we had oodles of them within an easy distance. It was run by The Great Train Show about an hour and a half drive from our home. We had attended one last year and didn’t see much modern O gauge as it was mostly an HO & N Scale show but it’s always fun to be around trains and see layouts no matter what gauge it is. So for this trip we just went for something to do and see the layouts. In fact, we left later than we planned to get there since we didn’t expect to see anything I’d want to buy.
As we walked around looking at tables before we viewed the layouts I came across a table with some post war and MPC era rolling stock. I almost just walked on by, but for some reason my Spidersense was tingling. My gaze took me to some old K-Line cars of Napa Valley Winery cars that I already had…. and then I saw it!!! A car I had given up looking for for ten years!!
The back story of this car is that about 21 years ago, when my wife and I were first dating, we attended her brother’s wedding. It was going to be my first time meeting her family since most of them are spread around the country. While killing time between family activities we found a train store in Napa called The Red Caboose (If my memory serves me well). They had all of the K-Line Napa Winery cars. Back then I thought these stores had trains made regionally, so thinking I’d never see them again I bought them all, except for one. It was a Sattui Winery Tank car. The reason I didn’t buy it was because all the other cars cost $40 but the tank car was priced at $150!!! And it had plastic trucks and couplers. I was told it was rare explaining the higher price. I actually considered getting it to complete the set, but I just couldn’t justify the upcharge. I figured I’d see it at the York Meet later on. No such luck!!
So after arriving home from the wedding trip I went to Nicholas Smith Trains for my usual visit. Talking to Chris Gans, I tell him my story about the Napa cars. He informs me “Oh yeah, he bought them from me. They’re $15 each.” But he didn’t have any Sattui tank cars. I learned a valuable lesson that day. And after several years of searching I never found it and I gave up looking, as I had begun to focus on scale sized O gauge.
Back to the train show, there it was, laying on the table cradled in its box amongst the other Napa cars!! I skipped over to where my wife was a few tables away and said excitedly “GUESS WHAT I FOUND!!" She says go get it, quick! I picked up the box like it was a brick of gold, still not believing I was holding it in my hands. The price on the box: $20. It didn’t even cross my mind to negotiate.
As I gleefully walked around to the other side of the rectangle shaped booth to buy it, it happened again!! Sitting there all stacked up nicely was a five car set of K-Line 21” Amtrak Surfliner passenger cars!! Another item I had given up on!! And on the same booth too!! What the heck is going on here??!! The price was high but I negotiated a more manageable price. I had a set of these in my hands several years ago at York but let them go since at the time I had no connection with Surfliners when there were so many other fish to fry. But now in Southern California I see them a lot!! Two items I had given up on for years on the same tables.
Now thoroughly surprised and satisfied when I never expected to find anything at this show, we leisurely walked around to see the layouts before heading for lunch. We walked by a table that had some various freight cars. The gentleman manning the table, a Vietnam vet, had some nice items but we spent way more than we expected. While browsing he lowered his price on a few items. We thanked him for his service to our country, but he didn’t accept credit cards as he was selling some of his private collection. He asked us to think about it while he went to the bathroom. So we went to look at the layouts when we saw the gentleman walking back to his table. He stops us and says, “You know what? I know you’re not going to beat me for the cost. Pick what you want and you can send me a check later, whenever you can. I’ll give you my address.” He just didn’t want to haul all his trains back home. Shocked at his generosity and trust, I picked out a few items, including all 12 of the loose 1990 era K-Line Ore Cars, a couple of Atlas O Ballentine Beer reefers and a K-Line die cast Nasa Front Runner with ISO tanks. We gave him $50 cash goodwill money and promptly mailed him a check for the balance the next day.
What an amazing day and train show!! Finding not one but two elusive train items and experiencing the generosity and trust of a fellow train guy all in the same afternoon. Never give up on finding a train treasure.