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Most of my childhood friends (say 7 to 12 years old) had trains. Mostly Lionel. One with his father Gilbert American Flyer. Late 50's-early 60's time frame.

I remember climbing on 4x8 tables with them building layouts (mostly just track), Combining trains and track for one day floor layouts with them, having a tug of war between my friend's Erie Lackawanna Trainmaster and my 2338 Milwaukee Road GP7 (and never understanding why I always lost) and watching another friend's father's Gilbert Flyer "adult" layout in awe.

As much as we all enjoyed playing with trains, as far as I know, I'm the only one who stuck with the hobby. I have a lot of train friends, but all met as adults. Your thoughts?

Last edited by Lionelski
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All my buddies had trains, all in HO. Like seven guys. We all had 4x8 layouts we dabbled in. But one, Bobby J. Is still into trains, HO. He is a scratch builder and does a fantastic job. I on the other hand moved to Lionel because of the heft and sounds and of course the history. We live fairly close to each other and are still friends. Keep in mind this all started when we met in 3rd grade. Now I’m 62, and he is 63. Good topic.

John, interesting topic. When I was growing up all my friends had trains. It was a divided camp. You were either Lionel or American Flyer. I guess what ever your parents or Santa gave you! I had Lionel. I seem to be the only one from the neighborhood that kept up the hobby. I have had some of my old friends visit and after seeing my modest layout wish they were back in the hobby. I have encouraged them to get back into the Worlds Greatest Hobby.


In the early 1970s my parents were renting the second floor of a carriage house that was part of a larger estate in a wealthy area.  I recall several of my friends and/or their dad's had trains.  One friend's father had a lot of postwar Lionel, I remember the Seaboard switcher's color scheme in particular, but not much else.  Another friend, who lived in a c. 10,000 SF Georgian-style mansion, had a huge O gauge train table in the basement.  It must have been at least 8 x 20 or larger, as their basement was huge and there was a lot of room for the layout.  They also had a doepke (?) outdoor track set up on their lawn, with the hand crank cars.  I always thought that was neat!  Lost touch with all of them, after my parents moved.

After my parents moved, I recall the next door neighbor's mother having Flyer S gauge (which is what we had growing up) and us setting up the trains in their basement to run for a few days. 

After high school in the mid 1980s, when in the US Navy, I met a friend who was from upstate NY and he and his father were into Lionel Postwar.  Lost touch with him after finishing that particular school and going to sea.


@ConrailFan posted:

Reminds me of this line from the Polar Express "At one time most of my friends could hear the bell. But as the years passed, it fell silent for all of them." " Though I have grown old the bell still rings for me. As it does for all who truly believe." How true it is. . .

ConrailFan, you hit the nail on the head.. "The bell still rings for me". Gets kinda faint on the bad days, but I am lucky to find friends like ya'll

Necrail, yup, ours went back in storage when the tree came down.

Brad, like you I did not have friends with trains. Even the one we had was but an oval that Grandpa bought at the Monkey Wards, and my dad and uncle ran it till we came around.

For Me and my brothers, I had grand children first. My cousin and I shared memories of her American Flyer, and with grandchildren, I am sharing what I have so that they can build memories. Christopher Robin said to Pooh Bear, "We didn't know we were making memories, we just knew we were having fun."  And now, as I get more proficient with fixing, I share with my brothers so they can run them under the tree with their youngsters... planting a seed, re-connecting with Cousins, and 'Having Fun".

JOHN, another great topic. Thanks for sharing, Nice to bump into you again after all these years, kindred spirits

Essentially none. I was born in 1948; got my layout in 1955. We were "solid working class" or "middle class" (whatever that meant; meaningless now), as were many others in the neighborhood, so trains could have been bought, but trains were not a "thing" with most people I knew. I had a nice permanent Lionel 027 layout with 2 spurs and a passing siding (only 1 loco, though....). I never put a train around a tree.

But - one guy up the street did have a bit of interest; he had a Kusan "2-rail tinplate" Alco set, then later a Marx 666 set from Sears. Ran it on my Lionel layout a few times. I liked it. But, his interest waned and never came back.

A couple of other guys had AF sets, both PA sets of some sort. One was blue and silver. Neither guy had much interest in trains.

Another guy across the street was literally using his "old" Lionel 2035 as a doorstop (ever picked up one of those?). We were around 13; 1961 or so. I asked if he wanted it, and he said no. So, after we asked his mother, it was mine, and it went into a drawer for years. I actually fixed it up (not to be confused with "restored") when I was in my 40's, complete with a NOS tender from Madison Hardware, still in New York.

That was it. There must have been more, as you saw trains and layouts in stores, especially at Xmas, of course. We had at least one Lionel (AF too?) Service Station (an appliance dealer). But so far as my life was concerned, I was pretty much alone with my hobby. Trains were not broadly a big interest among the kids/adolescents I knew.

I had HO trains on two different layouts, from the time I was 8 years old till I got out of HS and my parents moved. My dad had Lionel Tinplate that we ran at Christmas. I had an uncle and cousin that were into trains , he had Flyer.

My best buddy was not as into trains as I was but be liked them enough to hang out and watch me run them. We both loved Aurora HO race cars though and had several floor tracks over the years. We would race each other and always fight over who got the outside lane. We'd try and have right and left turns so it would even out. If you could win from the inside lane you were king for the day! When the AFX cars came out we were in heaven. We used to tweak them to see how fast they would go.

Yea- the bell still rings for me. My buddy? don't know- we've lost touch over the years.


Last edited by RSJB18

Myself, and 3 of my friends had trains. One had American Flyer, one had "O" Lionel, and one had "O27" Lionel. I also had O27 Lionel. The one with O27 still has his trains, but has not set any up in years. He lives about 5 hours from here, and we talk about our trains quite often. We have been friends for 66 years.


Interesting topic.  From 1947 to 1959 I lived in northeast Philly in a slightly below middle income neighborhood.  I wasn't very far from the Pennsy Racetrack heading into 30th Street station.  This was the height of the baby boom era and you would have expected there to be loads of kids with electric trains but there were none-none.  We were the only family with electric trains.   We were not that well off but my dad still managed to have a set of trains around the tree every year until he passed in 1953.  We moved to Martinsburg , West Virginia in May of 1959 and the exact scenario repeated itself.  Nobody had trains except for my Grandfather.  I was quite fortunate to grow up around train lovers and I still have my Dad's and Grandad's trains to this day and they still run very well.

I ran trains with only one childhood friend, from 1st through 6th grade. He lived at the end of the block, and we both had Lionel layouts. We used to take our engines and run them on the other guy's layout as foreign power. I had diesels, and he had a steam engine, although I don't remember which one. Then we moved, and I lost track of him. That was about 1961 or so.

A couple years ago, he came to mind, so I searched his name. The only thing that came up was his obituary. He had died several years prior.

My father had American Flyer "O" gauge as a kid. He and my uncle bought me my first Lionel set (2035 freight) in 1950 when I was three.  This set was added to every year until I left for college in 1964. Just about every kid my age had Lionel trains during those years. I'm still in regular contact with my ole' train buddy John.  We met in 1959, and are both now working on our "final" layouts.


Growing up it was my brother and I with a layout in the basement. No one else I knew had trains.

Now I find maybe one person at different companies who has a layout. I’m in IT so everybody just works long hours.

In my new neighborhood there are quite a few guys interested in my layout. One has a 4x8 for his grandson. So there is hope yet.

I was a fan of American Flyer S gauge and got a neat set for Christmas once I turned five.  When we moved to a large rent-controlled apartment in '52 two other families in the building had American Flyer!  It was a 100% Flyer building.  We'd bring our stuff to each other's apartments and play trains.  It was great!

When I hit fifth grade a new kid moved into the 'hood and we instantly hit it off.  The first Christmas he was there his dad gave him and his kid brother Lionel sets.  We liked to debate, okay argue, the merits of each brand.  It's been almost seventy years and we still do, although I admit that the small setup in my garage is Lionel.  Always did prefer their action accessories, but Flyer had two rail track and the trains had much better proportions.


Growing up in the late-50's, my two older twin cousins had a large permanent Lionel layout in their basement.  My bother and I each had our own smaller basement layouts that went up the day after Thanksgiving and stayed up until sometime in January.  A friend of my brothers also had a large Lionel layout in his basement.  He was always getting new locomotives, rolling stock, and accessories.  We were jealous.

I met my closest train friend at work.  We had known each other for years and one day I was in his office and noticed a piece of Super O track sitting on his desk.  When I shared some pictures of around-the-tree layouts I had set up he started talking about his trains and we've been BFFs since then.


I grew up in Centerville, Ohio (72-77) and then Northbrook, Illinois (78-84).  In Centerville, I had two friends that had HO sets along with me.  These were permanent layouts.  We had Atlas, Athearn  and Tyco..  In Northbrook, I had one friend that had a permanent layout. Atlas and Athearn were the manufacturers.  

Cool thread.


Born in 1951, I had a ZW running Lionel trains around the Christmas tree for as long as I can remember,  but none of my friends had trains.

However, relatives on my father's side, and on my mother's side,  of my family had Lionel trains.  I had 2 cousins, Jimmy and Billy, who were 5 and 10 years older than me that had beautiful basement layouts.

My father built me a very nice basement layout with trestles on a 4 by 8 foot plywood board on saw horses when I was 10 years old, but my cousin's layouts were at least twice as big and much more interesting.

Cousin Jimmy's layout was built by my Uncle Mario (a bachelor). That layout even had ramps upon which the trains would leave the plywood boards, run around the furnace and go to other places in the basement, and then return back to the plywood boards triumphantly. When I suggested to my father that we built ramps so the trains could leave the plywood board, he wouldn't have it, telling me "that's crazy." (He thought his brother Mario was crazy).

Guess what I did when I had my own house and kids as an adult?





Uncle Mario lives on in me! LOL, Arnold


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I grew up in the mid 70s running my much older brothers awesome Post War FMs and F3s and lots of other great PW engines and accessories. He went off to college and then to the Military and I got to play with his trains. I was the only one in our upper middle class neighborhood with trains at that time. He took them with him when he got older and married. By then I was chasing girls. After I got married and settled in I managed to purchase most of the same stuff he has and I played with. Still playing with them as well as the modern stuff..

None of my close friends had trains. There was one kid I played hockey with who talked about his father's train collection. He took us down the basement where there was a huge layout that used up all the available floor space. The walls were filled from floor to ceiling with trains on display shelves. All O gauge Lionel I believe.  This would have been early 70s. I didn't even know people collected trains like that I just thought they ran them on the floor or up on saw horses like we did. I had told this kid about the Standard Gage trains we had.

I found out later from the kid that his father was furious that he had allowed us down the basement. I guess he was afraid we touched something. He let it be known in no uncertain terms that we were not welcome back there, but he would buy the Standard Gage trains from me. Needless to say I still have them but I always wonder what became of all that train equipment.

My cousins had an HO layout that they set up on a ping pong table in the would switch over to HO Slot cars at other times. Another set of cousins also had HO trains set up next to the basement bar...don't remember much about it except ALL of it was purchased from the local Two Guys Department store. There was the giraffe car where they ducked their heads to clear the bar and a "cop and robber"  type car where they would pop up and down from the roof hatches as the train ran around.

Last edited by G-Man24

I had two buddies in St. Louis that had trains in the 1950s, me Marx, one Lionel and other American Flyer.  Our layout were on the living room floor for about 2 weeks during the Christmas holidays.  My family moved to the county and I lost touch as we moved three more times through high school.  My brother and I lost interest in trains about age 8 and 10 and moved on to model building, U control planes and boats with radio control that had tubes!

I got interest in trains 1970 s when married, with two children, and built a portable layout, in Jamaica, that moved 7 times and to 6 states.  This is the same layout I have now and have written about in long topic on OGR.

Several years ago I located one of my buddies from the 1950s and contacted him, he replied and followed up but he dropped the communication.  We never got to writing about trains but I found out he was an engineer with McDonald Douglas in St. Louis where his father had been a machinist when were were kids.  My father had been an engineer for 43 years with Alcoa  and I was an engineer for Alcoa for 20 years.  We both sort of followed our fathers.


Last edited by Choo Choo Charlie

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