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There were many notable TCA legends, not the least of which was the late Lou Redman, one of the founding members as Charter Member 3. Two legendary shop owners were the late Bill Vagell and Chester Holley. Vagell was formerly a professional magician known as the "Mystic Craig", who later had a famous store called the Treasure House in Garfield, NJ. He was one of the first to manufacture prewar parts for Ives and Lionel tinplate. He also published two hardback volumes he called "encyclopedias" of collecting which among other things had many pages with photos of selected notable collectors of the day with a portion of their acquisitions. There were also ads for repro parts and wiring diagrams for select items. One of the other famous people in one photo was the late Chester Holley, who famously once had a must-visit shop in Tampa, FL. He was a very affable gentleman by all accounts and had an enviable collection to boot. Another TCA legend was Oscar winner animator and Disney employee/confidante, Ward Kimball. Ward was an immensely talented man, and was famous for his 1:1 narrow gauge Grizzly Flats Railroad, as well as an awesome operating collection of rare vintage trains from the prewar period. He was also a musician in a Dixieland Band called the Firehouse Five Plus Two, which frequently performed at the original Disneyland. There are many TCA legends and these are a few of my special favorites!

Last edited by Tinplate Art
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I met Chester The Most Holley in 1962.  My best friend (the late Robert Taff, RIP 4-22-2006) and I became close personal friends with the Holley family.  When Chester and wife Margo attended a meet at York during the summer of 1963, he hired Robert and me to run the shop!  Their daughter, Diane, brought us freshly made sandwiches and tall glasses of cold iced tea at noon while we listened to Paul Harvey's interesting newscast.*  The hours of operation were from 10 AM til 6 PM, Monday-Saturday. 

Noted O scale builder, Bill Lenoir, was a frequent customer, always needing parts for his latest scratchbuilt project in his North Tampa shop, home of Lenoir Locomotive Works.

Not to forget, Chester and Margo founded the TCA's Southern Division.  You can still meet Chester, as he was featured in OGR Run 119, 120, and 121.  If you visit the TCA SD web site there's also a detailed history about Chester and Margo and how the SD came to be.

73

Joseph Toth Jr.

* "Hello, this is Paul Harvey.  Stand by for NEWS!"

 

Last edited by Trinity River Bottoms Boomer

When I first joined the TCA in Nashville, TN in 1974, my application was processed through the Southern Division. One of my sponsors was Sherman Leonard, a well known Nashville collector famous throughout TCA for his hospitable open-houses the Friday night before the meets. Sherman had a splendid collection and a great T-Rail layout in a converted house trailer. I was active in TCA from 1974-1984 and then voluntarily dropped out until 1991 when I rejoined but declined to get my original number. I have been a member for a total of 39 years excluding my self imposed 7 year hiatus (1984-1991).

Last edited by Tinplate Art

I want to give a shout out to Steve Bales....Steve was a former Lionel employee in the early 50s and a career railroad man with the New York Central, Southern Pacific and Union Pacific railroads...Steve was one of the best modelers in the world and built the finest o gauge buildings I have ever seen. I am very blessed to own most of them and I marvel every time I look at them and think how very talented he was.....Rest in peace Steve.

I don't remember if Bill Lenoir was a TCA member or not?  He did belong to an informal Tampa Bay area group known as The Boomers.  (No, my moniker didn't originate with them).  When I took my annual vacation from Deutsche Bahn I was always invited to join Chester, Bill and Ken Halverson (all lived in Tampa) when they met with the other guys on Fridays.  They rotated meetings in one of the other Boomer's homes each week.  Two lived across the bay in St. Petersburg.  The wife's worked the S&D Dept. (Snacks and Drinks Dept.). 

Bill wasn't married but always received help from Boomer Ken Halverson when his turn came up.  Though Ken wasn't married either, he was a good organizer for the S&D's at his place and, as mentioned, when it was Bill's turn too.  In the beginning the Boomers would each work on kits they were building, however, as years went on it became more of an operating session.  Chester was the exception.  Since he didn't have a layout, it was simply a Round Table Bull Session.  Only non-alcoholic beverages were served!

Sadly, the Boomers are no more.  To my knowledge, all have taken up residence in the Roundhouse in the Sky, that's just beyond the Big Rock Candy Mountains.

 

 

 

Last edited by Trinity River Bottoms Boomer
@Dwayne B posted:

I want to give a shout out to Steve Bales....Steve was a former Lionel employee in the early 50s and a career railroad man with the New York Central, Southern Pacific and Union Pacific railroads...Steve was one of the best modelers in the world and built the finest o gauge buildings I have ever seen. I am very blessed to own most of them and I marvel every time I look at them and think how very talented he was.....Rest in peace Steve.

Thanks for this, Dwayne. I remember an OGR mag article on him (the 90s?) Please take some pix of his buildings and show them - he was a very talented builder! 

Bill Vagell's two slender green hardback "encyclopedias" each contained a photo album of the most prominant collectors of their day posing by a portion of their respective collections. Two other names that come to mind are Carmen Webster, late proprietor of Model Railroad Equipment Corp. on West 45th St., NYC and also a collector. John Marron was also a major collector and TCA member.

Last edited by Tinplate Art

My first foray into collecting toy trains occurred when I was a kid growing up in the Los Angeles area.

Back in those days (late 1970s through mid 1980s) there were three LA area clubs. TCA had their meeting at Bateman Hall in Lynwood, TTOS had their meetings in Arcadia and a small, regional club called MTA (Model Train Association) had their meetings in Bellflower ( I think?). Basically everyone went to all the meetings.

Each of these meeting occurred on a different Friday night of each month. There were table sales that started around 6pm, followed by a business meeting which was followed by an auction. Sometimes these auctions would go until midnight or later. During these years, there were so many trains coming straight from houses that there was seemingly unlimited amount of items to be sold and these weekly meetings were the only source to buy and sell items.

The TCA names I remember were Allen Drucker (owner of Allied Model Trains), Don  Ladenburger, Ron Wade, Chuck Stone, Colonel Bragg (one of the first to do mail order with toy trains with his ads in Model Railroader), John Parker, John Daniels (JAD Lines), Lyle Cain, Ralph Pauly ( I believe he was one of the first people to make reproduction toy trains parts and may have been the founder of Model Engineering Works?), Jerry Rokos,  Lee Harris, Pete DeBeers, some guy named Stearns who always had operating layouts or a test track and sold the raffle tickets, the Spellmire family, Ed White (who was one of the fewer people to sell "new" trains which were MPC at the time) , Bill Harris, John King (who, along with Allen Drucker, was usually one of the auctioneers at these weekly events) etc etc. I am sure there were others that I will remember soon. I wonder how many of these folks are still around?

Ward Kimball was not particularly active at this point, but I did get to go to his house/museum/Grizzly Flats railroad as I was also an early car collector and Ward was a member of one of the old car clubs. I also vaguely remember the train shop at Knott's Berry Farm that was loaded with early toy  trains. I also remember going to one TCA National Meet at Disneyland and, of course, a few Cal Stewart meets in Pasadena.

It is interesting to consider that back in these days, the "new" Lionel MPC trains were the "latest and the greatest" while most postwar trains were still well under 30 years old. 90% of us back then just wanted pre-WWII tinplate and standard gauge was king!

Great memories from the past....

Last edited by GZ

I had the pleasure of knowing Don Speidel, who was an early member.  I believe his TCA number was 5-94 (the first couple of years they did not include the first digit of the year, so he was the 94th member and joined in 1955).  He was a young man in his late 20s when he joined the TCA and I believe he was the TCA president in or around 1970.  

He was a real train engineer for the NYC and told me one of his jobs was running the old T-electric type engines down to the scrapyard, when the NYC scrapped them.  He told stories about meeting some of the west coast TCA members and riding in one of the member's private rail cars out to the west coast.  

He was quite a character and was very knowledgeable about Prewar American Flyer.  He and the late Lou Redman made a video for the TCA, discussing early prewar Flyer.  I believe the video was sold at a TCA convention in Pittsburgh in the late 90s? or early 2000s.  

Some of his stories would horrify collectors today.  I recall how he told me that he and friends would go out buying trains in the 50s and 60s and when they got home they would burn the original boxes in their backyards, as they did not want to store the boxes.  

My favorite story of his, was that Don liked to tell the tale of his birth.  He was born in September 1929, just before the stock market crashed, bringing on the Great Depression.  He said that his father liked to refer to him to friends as "his own little depression" due to his birth being so close to the stock market crash.

I last saw Don at October York in 2015.  Sadly, Don had a stroke in early 2016 and passed away a year or two later.   

NWL

Last edited by Nation Wide Lines

Another high profile TCA member and past president was the late train magazine and book publisher, Hal Carstens. Hal was a major presence in the various hobby trade associations and his Railroad Model Craftsman and Toy Trains were well received periodicals in our hobby. Hal was also a prolific collector and two of his best selling publications documented many of the early prewar manufacturers: Toy Trains of Yesteryear and The Trains of Lionel's Standard Gauge Era. His influence in promoting all gauges and manufacturers cannot be overstated. To learn more about Hal and his amazing career, I highly recommend his book, 150 Years of Model Trains, released originally by Carstens Publications.

Last edited by Tinplate Art

Toy Trains was a fine magazine that covered tinplate to a "T"!  The other model magazine, RMC, in my opinion always topped "That Other" model RR magazine.  If wishes were peanuts, I'd be a goober patch, and White River would revive Toy Trains!  They do a real good job covering the classic HO market with HO Collector.  Like many Senior Citizen model railroaders, I switched from tinplate (O27) to HO in my teen years, however, Lionel Lines remained in my heart. 

My late best friend (RIP Robert, 4-22-2006) stored his O gauge in favor of HO, ironically making the change about the same time I did (1960).  I didn't meet Robert until my stepdad moved us from TX back to FL, the second time in 1961.  When I joined the USATC in August 64, I predented my HO to Robert with all my blessings. 

I collected some HO after returning from duty in Germany in the lates 60s, only to discover O scale again when I purchased my first copy of O Gauge Railroading off the magazine rack at Hall's Hobby House in Dallas.  I well remember when OGR featured Atlas when they entered the O scale market in the 70s with their two rail program.  I have a hunch a lot of HO modelers (former 3-rail O gaugers) made the conversion back to O, albeit with Atlas, instead of rediscovering the Lionel and Marx trains they had played with in their pre-teen days.

 

 

Last edited by Trinity River Bottoms Boomer

Any chance that Redman/Speidel video exists in the TCA Library?

I would think the TCA Library would have a copy, as it was my understanding that the TCA was marketing the video for the Pittsburgh TCA convention that occurred, likely in 2003?

The video is titled

"American Flyer The Early Years"

Copyright 2003 Dr. Zella Fraley

I received my copy from a friend's estate and I don't recall how it was originally marketed.  

Of course, one of the most famous TCA members was the late Richard Kughn, whose purchase of Lionel and his subsequent revitalization of the company helped the venerable toy train maker to survive. Being a collector himself, Mr. Kughn had a genuine passion for the brand and its storied history. His tenure of ownership left an indelible impression on the company and the hobby in general!

Last edited by Tinplate Art

In my opinion Richard Kughn saved Lionel. He had the foresight to produce Lionel with colors that had not been used before along with bring back some post war stock and passenger cars with updated locomotives. Sherman Leonard in Nashville sold the MPC trains and I was able to purchase most all of the top of the line products. He also introduced me to T Rail track which is what I have on most of my layout. It is a fun hobby and the older we get we remember those early years and the many friendships formed over our mutual interests. Have Fun!

And then there is another TCA and tinplate legend: Mike Wolf. Mike and his team energized our hobby in modern times and created a much needed competition to Lionel with his line of scale O gauge steam engines. His love of, and support of, prewar standard gauge reproductions continued throughout his company's forty-year career. He once famously partnered with Richard Kughn to produce the Lionel Classics line. MTH was the most prolific producer of reproduction standard gauge tinplate enabling many of us operators to own new and shiny locos, rolling stock, sets and accessories at a reasonable cost versus the price of same-condition originals. THANK YOU, Mike Wolf!

Last edited by Tinplate Art

I would think the TCA Library would have a copy, as it was my understanding that the TCA was marketing the video for the Pittsburgh TCA convention that occurred, likely in 2003?

The video is titled

"American Flyer The Early Years"

Copyright 2003 Dr. Zella Fraley

I received my copy from a friend's estate and I don't recall how it was originally marketed.  

The TCA 50th Anniversary Convention was held in Pittsburgh in 2004.

-Dave

More on the "West Coast Legends":

Back in the late '60s and through the late '70s, Hank Schmidt ("Schmidy") ran a train shop in Santa Clara, CA,  that was open "after 5p.m." and weekends.  While he was never a National officer in the TCA but he certainly guided the TTOS and the TCA in the Bay Area through those years and was a stalwart collector.  Certainly a legendary California TCA member in his time and place.

I "kinda" disagree with GZ's memory on Ward Kimball.  My memory is that Ward was very active throughout the '70s and '80s and throughout the '90s nationally and in SoCal.  In fact, he was the TCA president in 1974-1975.  I was able to visit his 1:1 trains and FANTASTIC toy train collection a couple of times in San Gabriel...certainly nothing like I had seen before or have seen since.

Ward Kimball was an iconic figure on several levels: Oscar winning Disney animator, 1:1 train restorer and operator, premier vintage toy train collector, Dixieland band musician and Disney confidante re: live steam trains in several gauges. Nothing less than a creative artist and genius who often produced cover photos for the TCA Quarterly, and even consulted on the toy train placement in the film, Mary Poppins!

Ward Kimball was an iconic figure on several levels: Oscar winning Disney animator, 1:1 train restorer and operator, premier vintage toy train collector, Dixieland band musician and Disney confidante re: live steam trains in several gauges. Nothing less than a creative artist and genius who often produced cover photos for the TCA Quarterly, and even consulted on the toy train placement in the film, Mary Poppins!

You forgot to mention that he designed the iconic character of Jiminy Cricket for the Pinocchio movie.

I believe he did a lot of artwork for the TTOS publication as well.  One of my favorite creations of his was titled "American Flyer Gothic", which was featured on a pin given out to attendees of the 2006 Cal-Stewart show in Pasadena (the very first Cal-Stewart show I attended).

NWL

You forgot to mention that he designed the iconic character of Jiminy Cricket for the Pinocchio movie.

I believe he did a lot of artwork for the TTOS publication as well.  One of my favorite creations of his was titled "American Flyer Gothic", which was featured on a pin given out to attendees of the 2006 Cal-Stewart show in Pasadena (the very first Cal-Stewart show I attended).

NWL

His TTOS Bulletin covers were very whimsical.

Steve

Although I never met Ward Kimball, my understanding is that he was incredibly nice.  One of my TCA friends, who has now passed away, related to me that he called Ward when he and his wife were planning to visit southern California (I assume in the 1990s) and asked if he could stop and visit.  My friend told me that Ward invited them over and they had a wonderful visit with him.  

I know that I always enjoy visiting TCA members, if possible, when traveling and have had several members visit me over the years.  It is always interesting to see other members and learn about their trains.

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