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I got my original Lionel set in 1958.....the New Haven F3 freight set. I was 5 yrs old.

I know it was purchased at Macy's in White Plains. The remnant of the Macy's tag can be seen on my original ZW box.

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I barely remember the Macy's train display. However, as I got older our "go to" train store was Honig's Parkway, an appliance/variety store on White Plains Rd near the Allerton Ave El station. I would always look forward to our annual trip there. Boxes of Lionel and American Flyer sets where displayed in piles taller than me. The glass counter had various sets, operating cars and accessories displayed. Every year when I went there, it was like going to York for the 1st time.

They had a repair shop there and the red tap on my ZW box came from the repair shop there.

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They always had great deals on "close-outs"......around 1962 I purchased the 415 Diesel Fueling Station there for $4....a pretty good deal....since it hadn't been in the catalog for a while.

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After the 70s and college/med school were over, the trains came out while I was doing my Internal Medicine residency at University of Maryland in Baltimore. Antique Train & Toy World on Falls Rd became my local "train shop". I have a lot of memories of that store. There, I met Bud Ritter, a legendary Eastern Division train collector, who was always full of great stories. I learned about and joined TCA.  I bought my 1st operating milk car and my 1st steam engine.........and, I started going to York in April 83.

With the cold weather returned and the smells of the holidays in the air, please share your memories....

Peter

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Hey Peter........you offer a most excellent topic!  My best Holiday train experience was mom and dad taking the three of us to nearby Chicago, Ill to visit Carson Pirie Scott & Co., Marshall Fields...maybe Sears(?), and other stores that had large Lionel and probably A Flyer layouts. Of course there was/is a layout at the Museum of Science and Industry.  My wonderful cousins gave up their Lionel trains to us kids when we were about 7 or 8 years old. Never seen trains come out of Schlitz and Old Style beer boxes before.....!!!  I only remember a Baby Ruth boxcar with brown doors....and a Loco having 1666 on its side. Oh yes....we had three gigantic gatemen.....my brother and I glued rifles in his hand...mom wasn't pleased!

Having been born, raised, and still on Long Island, I remember going to Trainland in Lynbrook with my Dad when they opened. They are still one of three LHS's in the area. Shout out to Nassau Hobby and Willis Hobby, all within a 10-20 minute car ride. Guess I'm either spoiled or lucky.

More than the train stores, we used to go see all the local club's open houses each year. That was always a big day.

All the local department stores had displays- Macys, A&S, Gimbles, Alexanders, and all the windows in New York city.

Flipping through the Sears Wish Book each year and wondering what new trains and toys Santa was going to bring are fond memories.

Bob

We had a seasonal store in Woodbridge, NJ, called Arcadia Gardens. Every fall they cleared out the pool and garden merchandise and brought in the Christmas goods. We would go there to buy tree ornaments and other Holiday stuff.

They always had a Lionel layout along with American Flyer. Between that visit and Christmas day a new boxcar would somehow show up under the tree. It would join the family layout that came from Montgomery Wards a few years earlier.

My favorite was (and still is) the 3665 Minuteman firing missile car. We would set it to shoot at the lowest hanging ornaments. Of course, ornaments in those days were made of glass. Mom was not amused.

I grew up in the mid 60’s. Times were a lot different.  I was pretty independent for a 12 year old kid. Saturday morning, I would catch the bus on the corner going to downtown Reading, PA. Once I got off at Penn Street, I had until 2PM to be back home to deliver the evening newspaper. I always had a few dollars in my pocket to spend from my paper route.

I would walk up Penn to Pomeroys and take the elevator to the top floor, “Toy Land”. I would check out all the trains and toys and then head up Penn to the Toy Store above 7th Street (the Railroad tracks). Back down Penn to 6th and Haines Hobby Shop. I was always good for at least 1 hour in the store or until they gently kicked me out unless I bought a N scale Atlas boxcar or another freight car. Haines alway had a big layout in the window.

Back up to Penn and lunch at the Woolworth’s lunch counter. A fountain Coke, potato chips, a pickle and a hot dog.

Then I would walk a few blocks down to 4th Street and a few blocks off Penn. On the corner was Zocco’s Hobby Shop. A great store, run by a just as great a man who somehow took a liking to me due to my frequent visits. I usually bought another Atlas freight car and if I bought  (2], John always gave me a free one.

The bus stop was right outside his door and I climbed on board for the trip back home to Shillington. Before I knew it, the papers arrived and off I was on my route.

With the family at Christmas. My Pop worked for the Reading Lines. We would all catch the train at the Outer Station and head east to Philly. My Dad always had free tickets and as we would get closer to Philly, I remember the Conductor telling “all the deadheads” to get up to “let the paying passengers sit”. Philly was a whirlwind of activity. Horn and Hardart Automat for lunch then all the big stores to look at trains and toys. Back home on the train sleeping all the way!

I miss those good old days.

Donald

In Baltimore back in the 50's, I had Belnord Hardware 2 blocks away, Taubman's Hardware on both Monument St. and Eastern Ave., French's On Broadway, and went to Woolworth's and Kresge's for Plasticville and other stuff. Later in the early 60's came Two Guy's department store chain, and ALL of these stores above had HUGE day after Christmas discounts that became next year's presents.

*sigh*

Where's a time machine when you need one?

Remember back of the toy dept. N Shepherd Sears Houston TX.  Had 3R layout, and had trains all over.  Then went to the corner to the left of the door as you entered the train department.  Had lots of Lionel and Marx/Allstate.  Layout was mixed of L and M stuff.  Had a great smell when they used Pepe LePew, Marx fluid. Parents got my Marx set there.

Now the store is completely closed.  Too bad Sears did not come up with putting the Wishbook on the internet...

Wards has a seasonal toy store at Nortline Mall.  They seemed to have a 666 Marx engine set with two sidings, uncoupling tracks, a a Plasticville type station platform.

On my first Amtrak trip to Chicago I found a train store next to St Peter's inside the Loop Catholic Church.  Found a crane car/boom tender I wanted.  Did not get it.  Next year I did get it.  They packaged it well.  Rode CHI to Houston via New Orleans.

Sears:  Set 1963, Chicago 1975, 1976.

Peter

just starting to construct a permanent layout. first time back in hobby since the early 60s. I remember the store on Allerton Avenue just couldn’t remember the name. When I saw your post it was like a light bulb went off!  That’s where my original set came from. Great story and memories.

Christmas  time in nyc was also fun. Macy’s and Gimbels toy departments

In Westchester now and Tom’s Trains has a great layout.  wonderful local store

ken

@artyoung posted:

In Baltimore back in the 50's, I had Belnord Hardware 2 blocks away, Taubman's Hardware on both Monument St. and Eastern Ave., French's On Broadway, and went to Woolworth's and Kresge's for Plasticville and other stuff. Later in the early 60's came Two Guy's department store chain, and ALL of these stores above had HUGE day after Christmas discounts that became next year's presents.

*sigh*

Where's a time machine when you need one?

We had it all living in Baltimore and surrounding areas during the 50’s. Thanks for the memories.

I told this story here before.

When I was young, my parents would take me to the downtown Main street Sears store right near the Falls. (You could hear the roar of the water outside).

They had a toy department with trains set up for Christmas. I remember seeing the Lionel F series Santa Fe units in red and silver streaking around the layout. I would always get in trouble for watching it too long. I would even sneak off to return to see it. I didn't seem to care about getting left behind!

My parents always said we "didn't have money like that to spend on toys".

Last edited by Engineer-Joe

I was fortunate to grow up in Scranton, PA. About 1960, at Christmas there were big layouts in Penn Furniture, The Globe Store, and The Scranton Dry Goods. A couple of blocks away was the original Scranton Hobby Center in the 300 block of Adams Avenue with a smaller layout. Across the street American Auto had a large train department. Kresge, Woolworth's and Sears also had trains. I had to get my dad to take me since there were too many train stops for my mom.

Near my parents house in Green Ridge was Avery Hardware that had trains. A litter further away was Bill's Sporting Goods- Further "Up the Line" (meaning the D&H Mainline) was Eynon Drug, a forerunner of the Big Box stores with a big train department.

I never realized how lucky I was!

Lad Nagurney

Well, the nostalgia floodgates have opened. My go-to train store in Cleveland in the 1950s was always Jaye and Jaye in East Cleveland. My dad took me there before Christmas every year and occasionally after. My parents bought me my first Lionel set there in ‘55 featuring a 665 Steam loco and freight cars.

I went in subsequent years to pick up accessories or add on cars, etc., using my “Christmas money” given by kind aunts.

I bought a 225 C&O FA diesel in 1960 after Christmas, too, so those two engines were my motive power.

I loved “Pappy Jaye’s” shop with its nifty operating layout in the back room and piles of O gauge merchandise on the shelves.  I never had enough money to spend, of course  

A great highlight of my childhood holidays!  

Growing up I remember my parents dragging me to Sears in New Brunswick to get my photo taken with Santa. I also recall the big toy department with a huge Lionel display layout running. Then there was Woolco and Two guys, which was always stocked with Lionel, AHM, and Bachmann Plasticville.

My go-to was Meyers on Route 18 in East Brunswick which was stocked with Lionel and K-line. My first train set came from Meyers - a Tyco 'Spirit of 76' HO set. I literally ran the wheels off that set. Meyers exchanged the locomotive and my dad picked up a new Bachmann F3 Santa Fe loco, as the Lionel HO locos he had wouldn't run anymore to pull the Lionel HO passenger cars he had.

Last edited by DaveP

I was born in Los Angeles and we lived there tell I was nine. My Pop would buy my trains at Colonel Bob's on Pico Blvd. That's were I first saw a layout with Gargraves Track. There was almost always a prewar 0-6-0 on the layout. I thought that was the most beautiful and detailed engine I ever saw. I got my 2026 set in 1948 but alway got things to go with it at Christmas. I got a KW transformer or crossing gates or switches through those years. We went to Colonel Bob's other times also, wish I had pictures of the place. Don

Great stories, everyone......as I grew up, I knew about Madison Hardware on 23rd St from passing it in a car and from their ads in Model Railroader....I did get to visit there in December, 1983. I purchased a 6572 REA reefer that day.

Some years ago I bought an early PostWar collection from a colleague's Dad. This was a sticker on the 1954 catalog cover:

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Never heard of it and obviously, never been there.....but I'll bet some of you PostWar "Jersey Boys" may have heard of it.....

Peter

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Last edited by Putnam Division

I don't have any, being born in 2002, hobby shops are dead here, and I never got the chance to go to one until 2011. My only memories of train displays are vivid memories of Lionel's set up in my local Walmart and at a J.C Penny's, and many Winter showings of the MOV model railroad club in Parkersburg WV Closest shop to me right now is WV Hobbies and Crafts, however I recently met a man opening a small shop in a town about 25 miles from where I live. I got my first Lionel in July of 2010, right as my parents were divorcing, my grandfather bought it at a church sale, 230 C&O alco, marx steamer (no tender), some space cars and a caboose. That little blue engine started my collecting, and 10 years later is still the pride of the fleet, defiantly not the rarest, or biggest, or strongest, but still the pride of the fleet.

What GREAT origin stories from everyone!  Here's mine:

When I was a kid (1970s) my dad put up his collection (mish-mash) of O and S and Plasticville in the basement two different years around Christmas and I was totally enthralled.  But he was always very busy between work and house maintenance and those two years were really the end of it.  One of his colleagues at work had a husband who was deaf and mute and he built a PHENOMENAL HO layout every year and we would visit it around Christmas time.

Fast forward to 2002 and I was MISERABLE at my job and needed a release.  I got the old trains from my parents attic and started a layout in my basement in the evenings.  Within the first year I discovered the new technology of MTH trains at Al's Coventry Trains in Pottstown, PA (RIP, Al Moyer).  It was love at second sight.  I slowly rebuilt the entire layout (and added on) over the next few years, using this cool new stuff.  I also learned about our wonderful train shows around here (mostly Allentown ATMA)!

After a few years, my life got busier (started a business) and trains only ran a few times a year.  We sold the business this year, and so I am now happily "semi-retired" and am devoting some time to the trains.  This time it's the Menard's buildings and, sadly, MTH close out auctions that are filling my shelves and emptying my wallet!  Since my real estate is "land locked," a lot of what I'm doing is enhancing scenery.

Here's a quick "before and after" of a scene I just finished today.

Before:

After:

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Last edited by Brad Trout

Although I and my older brother had Lionel train sets as kids, we never really visited any store layouts. Our sets came from a toy store called Thrift Town on Nostrand Avenue (between Ave. L and Ave. M) in Brooklyn. They didn’t have a display, just boxes behind glass. My mother knew one of the owners, so she always got a good deal!!!. I do remember my Dad taking my brother and I to the Lionel showroom on 26th Street around Christmas (unfortunately, the showroom was long gone In 1978 when I started 34 years of working a block away ). I‘ll never forget the giant steam engine face as you entered the showroom.

A few years later, we started going to Madison Hardware on 23rd Street. Now, anyone who ever visited Madison will remember that it was a crowded zoo on a good day... around the holidays, the zoo was on steroids!!! It seemed that everyone and their uncle suddenly realized that they needed to get a new train (or get an old treasure repaired) to run at Christmas. Definitely tried to avoid Madison between Thanksgiving and New Year!!! And the closest they came to a layout was the operating skating pond in the window.

During my younger years (the 60’s - early 70’s) we always made a Christmas visit to FAO Swartz on Fifth Ave. in Manhattan. They did have a small layout, but no Lionel... they carried something I had never heard of at the time - LGB Trains. Big and very colorful compared to Lionel at the time, but too European!!! The major department stores in downtown Brooklyn were Abraham & Strauss and Martin’s... A&S had Santaland in the Toy department, but I don’t remember any trains.

One of the next places I frequented was Trainworld. They first opened in a relatively small storefront on Ave. M and East 16th Street in Brooklyn, right next to the Ave. M station on the Brighton Line subway (at that point, elevated). I lived a couple of blocks away and took the train to/from that station going to college and later to work for many years, so dropping in when I got off the train on the way home was a frequent necessity. Again, they didn’t have a layout, but they did have three walls of shelves which went from around counter height up to the high ceilings, and all were filled with trains, new and used. The memory still makes me drool . Got a lot of MPC from Trainworld. And like Madison Hardware, not a place you wanted to find yourself around Christmas unless you had a lot of patience!!!

When I moved to Northeast PA in the mid 90’s, I found Grzyboski’s (which is a fairly short drive away) and various internet dealers, mostly from this forum... again, no layouts (Grzyboski’s new store does have a small layout, but it’s rarely running when I drop in).

But the lack of Christmas layouts never dampened my love of trains

I believe it was my fourth Christmas in 1992 that my Dad decided I needed a Lionel train. He had Lionels as a kid in the late 50s/early 60s, dabbled with HO scale in the early/mid 1980s. I remember the table my Dad built in our basement to set the train on, which for some reason I think was built before the train was even opened on Christmas. What I opened that morning was a Lionel 6-1602 Nickel Plate Special set. I still have the set today, and it is still in very good shape even after taking a nose-dive off the layout early on.

A year or two later, I asked "Santa" for a passenger train, so I received a Lionel 6-11739 Santa Fe Super Chief set. We added onto that set with an additional A unit with horn, another coach, and full-length dome during subsequent Christmases. My Dad and my Grandpa (his father in law) and I connected over the O gauge trains, and we started attending shows and the TCA meets at York together, and would do so for the next 20 or so years. My Dad and Grandpa both put together their own layouts and collections, while I fell in love with HO scale trains at around age 6. I still pursue HO scale railroading, and it remains my modeling focus. My general railroad interest eventually eclipsed even their own as I got older, and began to collect all kinds of railroadiana, became a dyed-in-the-wool railfan, and also turned to railroading as a career when I was 20 years old (12 years and counting on the real railroad).

For this Christmas, I wanted to have a train under the tree for my girlfriend and myself. I decided to buy a Lionel 6-11749 Western Maryland service station set and some extra 4-bay hopper cars to go with. I remember seeing this train in the 1990s as a kid and really finding it attractive. I always wondered why we never owned an example, as we lived in central Maryland and were also CSX/Chessie/B&O/C&O/WM fans. But the set arrived about a month ago, and I couldn't be happier. It's caused me to look at some other O gauge trains I remember seeing in the catalogues during the 1990s, and how I would dream about owning them.

Now even more packages have arrived, and it's really looking like a Lionel Christmas over here...

As a kid, I first got close to a Lionel layout at Buffum's Department Store, in Long Beach, California.  We made a pilgrimage there every Christmas during the late 1940s and early 1950s.  One of the salesmen wrote down the name and address of a man named Thompkins (Thompson?) who lived in Long Beach, had an operating layout, and repaired Lionel trains.  He had the layout open to visitors every Sunday afternoon.

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