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I couldn't resist starting this thread this weekend.

Although I suspect there will be fewer posts here than on Trains with Dad now running strong, I expect we will also get a few posts here.

In my case, my mother bought a lot more trains for me than my dad during the 1950s and early 1960s, although both of my parents loved Lionel trains. That is because in my family, my mom did almost all the shopping.

My mom particularly loved this Animated News Stand:


and the 1954 Greenball Express freight set led by this 2065 Hudson steam engine:


What appealed to her was cuteness (can't get much cuter than the dog circling the hydrant on the Animated News Stand) and play value (my mother believed that a freight train headed by a whistling, smoking steamer had more play value than passenger trains led by diesel).

Later, I will share some more of my mom's favorite Lionel trains and accessories, but in the meantime, show us what trains are among your mom's favorites.



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Last edited by Arnold D. Cribari
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Interesting topic, Arnold! Although my dad bought my first Lionel trains when I was first born, and built a layout, it was my mom who usually took me shopping in my youth and early teens. There were two stores in Hoboken that sold trains, Strauss Stores, which sold automotive and bicycles, and another appliance repair shop. One car I especially remember getting with my mom was a DL&W red and gray work caboose. I think the last thing she bought me was this S scale fire truck, while she was living with us about ten years ago, and before she went into an elderly care facility.



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You started a thread on the very thought I had regarding my response to a thread on trains with dads.  We have several women on this forum who enjoy this hobby as well as threads from mom's looking for information to help share the hobby with their children.  That certainly should be celebrated this weekend of all weekends.

For my situation, my mom has always been a passive observer.  She supports my dad and me in our interest, but never had any active involvement.  I am certain I have missed out in that sense.

Good topic. Dad died in 1995. I visited Mom very often and when I did, I would bring trains and set them up in the living room. She liked that very much, because it made her feel special. This went on until 2017, when she went into a home. She passed last year and today is her birthday. She would have been 93. Mark

My mom bought me several trains, some of them HO, alas (though I still have them)!  She really enjoyed having trains around the tree at Christmas.  So, when I left for grad school, I built a board with a loop and a spur and a bridge over a painted river.  Then, I bought a Marx set, a duplicate of my first train.  Over the next couple years, I bought a car or two to go along with it.  Every year, she put it up under the living tree.

After I had moved back to the homestead to help take care of my parents, Mom spent too much time in nursing car facilities.  One Christmas that she could not come home, we took a simple loop of track and her train along with Christmas dinner to visit.  She was very happy to get to see her train run even though she wasn't home.

She has been gone over 15 years now (can that be possible?), but trains still go under the tree each year, and her train is carefully preserved and tended, waiting to see what sort of children my son has.

Great thread. I think a lot of our common experience with trains in our youth, our Mom's were key in seeing that we had the annual Christmas addition to our dream collection. I know it was true in my case.  I have great memories of Christmas shopping trips to downtown Washing ton DC. Most of the big department stores carried trains.  Long gone but not forgotten: Lansburghs, Hechts, Corrs Hobby shop and Downtown Lock and Electric. I can still savor the usual lunch stop at Murphy's 5 and 10cents on 7th street and a knockwurst and fries!

When my Mother was growing up in the 1930's she wasn't interested in dolls and such, she preferred cars and trucks and trains and digging in the dirt.  For Christmas one year all she wanted was a toy train. Santa obliged and brought her a Marx Commodore Vanderbilt freight set. She had hoped for electric but money was tight during the depression so a windup had to do. Judging from the amount of playwear I think my mom must have enjoyed it a lot.

When I was little and my older brother and sister were at school my mom would set up the track on the floor and let me play with the train. Several years ago on my 50th birthday my mother gave me her train. She died a few years ago and I still get misty eyed when I watch this little train go dinging down the track.

I'm also very fortunate to have my Mother's big old Wyandotte ambulance...




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10 old layout 2Around 2000 or 01 When I just got back into trains,once the platform was done,this is my initial setup, I brought my mom over to my house to show her my new layout{she was getting pretty old and had a hard time making it up to the attic and she ended up dying a year later}but any way I had MTH railking and i ran them around the tracks and show her how they talked,and did the freight yard sounds,and the passenger station sounds, She was sitting to my right,she turns to me and puts her hand on my shoulder and says "Joey,I,m really proud of you"


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Last edited by Transman

While my mom is a big fan of my trains, I don't recall her buying any for me over the years. At least not O Gauge, but back in the late 1960s, she did give me a Atlas N Gauge set for Christmas one year.

My first Lionel train set came years earlier, from my great aunt who felt that boys should have a train to play with. Not having children of her own, she bought the set for me and my brothers. Still have it.

My mother isn't as supporting of the hobby as many of your guys, though she's not exactly all there either. My grandma, though, has been more of a mother to me, and is extremely supportive of my hobby. If it wasn't for her supporting my grandfather in his decision to purchase first engine, a 230 C&O alco, I wouldn't have my fleet. 230s been on the fleet for 11 years now, she's still the queen of the fleet.

My mom was incredibly supportive of my train endeavors. From Brio to Lionel to HO. Three houses in a row with 3 families all with kids about the same age. She carefully inventoried our Brio to make sure nobody lost any trains or track in the shuffle between houses. When she started a craft shop much later, and I had moved on to HO, she realized that her supplier also sold 'lectric trains (Atlas.) She'd let me make my Christmas list out of their catalog, instead of the trusty Sears Wish Book.

Arnold, once again you have created another home run thread!  I've really enjoyed the heartwarming stories, pics, and video  shared by everyone who's contributed.  Our mothers were/are central to our train hobby when we were young kids and certainly remain so today, for it they are no longer with us they are forever etched in our hearts.  

For many of us trains are synonymous with Christmastime.  Although my love of trains began with real trains first,  and were not associated with Christmas, my love of toy trains came shortly after and is strongly  associated with Christmas because my Mom was the "Spirit of Christmas" in our household.  So much so that a few years ago, I converted an Lionel building to a Christmas shop in her honor.  My mother's name was Mary so I created the Mary Christmas Shop with a billboard that reads " Have a Mary Merry Christmas!"

I received a Lionel freight train set with a 2065 locomotive ( Arnold I believe the was also your first Lionel loco too. ) from Santa in 1957.  I had just turned 4 years old.  The set was laid out around the Christmas tree that first Christmas and my Mom created the Christmas village of which the 027 Lionel set encircled.  The following Christmas my father made a 4x8 ft. table, and the set was enlarged with extra track and switches.  My Mom made the tunnel out chicken wire and grocery bags.  Then she painted it.  She loved the creative process of doing this.  She continued to make tunnels for the layout over the next several years.  During those years she also had fun creating the layout village.  Actually we had fun creating the layout village because she would always ask "what do you think if we put a house here and a church there etc."  She loved the whimsy look, and would apply snow making the layout a winter wonderland.  I'm still drawn to the look that "whimsy" creates even to this day because of Mom.

Although my present layout does not incorporate "whimsy" I do have some small momentos from my first layouts with Mom worked into the scenery .... a plastic water well, grade crossing gate, and outhouse.  I have the Lionel Newsstand, which she really liked, but it no longer works and is not scale anyway.... so it wouldn't fit into the scenerio of my layout.  One operating accessory I have on my present layout,  from my early layout years with Mom ( and Dad ... he did all the carpentry & electrical work in those early years ) is the Lionel aircraft beacon which I received from Santa at age 5 or 6.  Presently, every time I run my trains, seeing these items bring back those wonderful memories of those early years.   I more than likely inherited my love of creating scenery from my Mom.  Thanks Mom!!

From the first under the tree circular layout.  Back then there were two doors and of course Buford was not doing his business then. IMG_5657

Crossing gate from first under the tree layout. IMG_5856

Mary's Christmas Shoppe from my under the tree layout 2018.  Billboard not shown.  Plenty of "whimsy'! IMG_8637

Another camera angle of Mary Christmas Shoppe from 2018 under tree layout. IMG_8635


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My mother, Margaret Schubert Harrison, grew up in a railroad family. Her father, my maternal grandfather, William (Bill) Schubert, worked for 42 years on the Pennsylvania Railroad out of Baltimore, Maryland and retired, as a freight conductor, in 1953, two years after I was born. My mother had a love of trains from as early as she could remember. Her father, on his days off, would take her to his work place and show her trains and other equipment. He took here on train rides, as he eventually did for me, to Washington DC, Philadelphia and New York. As the dependent of a railroad employee, my mother got from her father, free passes to ride the railroad. She would take herself and younger sister, my aunt Peggy, to New York for shopping trips to Macy's or a show at the Radio City Music Hall. During the summers when she was off from school, my grandfather would get free passes for my mother to take cross country vacations on her own. She saw much of the United States on these sojourns. When I was younger, my mother would share with me and my younger brother, her black and white photo albums showing shots of Yellowstone Park, the Grand Canyon and Hollywood, California among many other places.

My mother also liked taking me and my brother Roger on train rides during the summer months to both New York City and Washington, DC. As a result, in addition to my love of trains, I also developed a life-long affinity for the city of New York. The New York World's Fair in the early 1960's was a a good reason to take train rides. The Pennsylvania Railroad in its declining years of existence offered very greatly discounted fairs on a special excursion train from Washington to New York for the Worlds Fair via the Long Island Railroad from Penn Station to Flushing, LI. On the way back, to Penn Station, NY, my mother would walk with us for a short while and take us to dinner at a Horn and Hardart Automat. By the time I was about thirteen years old, from watching carefully walking with mother and taking the initiative to study maps of the city in my spare time (I love maps!), my mother became confident that I could find my way around Manhattan. I now know mid-town Manhattan as if it were my front street.

After the closing of the World's Fair, the Pennsylvania Railroad, desperate to keep passenger service alive, offered one day per week, Ladies Day ultra discounted round-trip fares to New York where the lady's fare was $10.00 and children under 16 years of age rode for $5.00. Several times a summer, my mother would give me and my brother money for train fare plus enough spending money for the day to visit New York and see the sights on our own. For me, the train ride and sights along the Northeast corridor trip were as much fun as the city of New York, itself.

As my favorite baseball player Yogi Berra used to say, "It ain't over 'til it's over!", I now rewind to the Christmas of 1954 when Santa Claus left me my first Lionel train set. It was a 736 Berkshire steam locomotive, freight cars and a caboose on a loop of track on the floor around the Christmas tree. It was the perfect present for a young railroad junky who, thanks to my grandfather Schubert, thought steam locomotives were the GREATEST THING ON EARTH!!!!! Over the years, Lionel trains were as much a part of our Christmas holidays as the decorations and the tree.

Each Christmas, the trains layout grew from a tree encircling loop to a 64 square feet, "L" shaped basement "Christmas garden" (as it was called by Baltimoreans) on the basement floor which had a second train set for my brother and was powered by a ZW transformer. My mother loved the train layout and enjoyed seeing Roger and I playing with it. During the year, when the trains were in storage for the non-Christmas season, my mother would take my brother and me on occasional Saturday shopping trips to the Broadway Market in Eastern Baltimore city to buy fresh meats from the butchers' stalls. These trips also included a stop at a local store on Fleet Street called "Funk's Variety", a junky place that sold a hodgepodge of things including Lionel trains and other things like Plasticville buildings. Roger and I would each select a building or a box of figures to add to the Christmas layout.

One year, after Roger and I took over the design and assembly of the the train layout for the holidays, I decided that I wanted  to, using the Lionel trestle set, have the elevated section of the track to look like it was passing through a track that was cut into the side of a mountain with a backdrop of mountain peaks along the wall behind it using Life-Like mountain paper. That weekend, my mother took Roger and me to the market and Funk's afterward where we bought enough mountain paper for the project. My mother was good with crafts. She read the instructions on the Mountain Paper wrapper that said the paper could be molded in shapes if it was wet.and would hold the shape when dry. She then proceeded to wet the paper in the basement stationary tubs, shape the paper into mountain peaks, put it on the long work bench to dry, climb into the layout and install it the way I wanted it. It turned out beautifully! Though my mother did not live to see our train layout that my son and I built and enjoy, she and my father did live to see there only grandson, Christopher for most of the first year of his life.

Now Chris' mother, my dear wife Terry, carries on the maternal support of our train hobby. Over the years, Terry suggested and hosted our yearly, 2-day Holiday train layout open house for invited friends and family. She really enjoys hearing many of our friends relate stories of when they were growing up with, now, memories of there parents assembling "Train gardens" for them at Christmas. Some of Terry's gifts to Chris and me for Christmas or birthdays included buildings and accessories for the trains. Terry was also a GREAT help when we would assemble our holiday train layout for our pop-up train store at Richardson Farms in White Marsh Maryland!  Our current layout is partially dismantled for cleaning and remodeling of the layout. Terry suggested that this year, to spend time together on Mother's Day, that the three of us take some time and work on the layout together.

Randy, what you shared regarding your mom sure struck a chord with me.

Like you and your mom, I took trains with my mom to visit the World's Fair in NY, to go shopping in NY City (including seeing the gorgeous train layouts at Macy's), and on our shopping excursions, we often stopped at the Horn & Hardart Automat.

What fun it was to go to the Automat, drop a few quarters in the slot and open the little glass door to get the delicious beef pot pie. Never had a better beef pot pie in my life than what they had at the Automat.

And, like your mom, mine was into steam engines, freight cars (particularly operating cars) and Plasticville (the church, barn, split level house and Cape Cod house).

Like you, I got my 1st train set in 1954.

We are so blessed to have such fond memories.


Randy, what you shared regarding your mom sure struck a chord with me.

Like you and your mom, I took trains with my mom to visit the World's Fair in NY, to go shopping in NY City (including seeing the gorgeous train layouts at Macy's), and on our shopping excursions, we often stopped at the Horn & Hardart Automat.

What fun it was to go to the Automat, drop a few quarters in the slot and open the little glass door to get the delicious beef pot pie. Never had a better beef pot pie in my life than what they had at the Automat.

And, like your mom, mine was into steam engines, freight cars (particularly operating cars) and Plasticville (the church, barn, split level house and Cape Cod house).

Like you, I got my 1st train set in 1954.

We are so blessed to have such fond memories.


@Arnold D. Cribari


Thank you for your reply sharing your memories. Your topics are GREAT! They stimulate the recall of good memories from our pasts.

My mother, like her father, was a lover of the railroad and rail travel. Over my childhood years, she took my brother and I on many trips to Manhattan.  We saw many of the sights such as the top of the Empire State Building, St. Patrick's Cathedral, Mamma Leone's restaurant on West 48th , the observation deck on the RCA building, Macy's, Gimble's and shows at Radio City Music Hall.

Trips to the World's Fair were also fabulous with one minor down side. I saw the great Pennsylvania Station, that I remembered as a younger child when traveling with my grandfather, being demolished. It was heart breaking knowing that such an architectural masterpiece would be lost forever. I take comfort in the fact that I did see it with my grandfather who, as a former PRR employee, took my to parts of it not normally seen by the normal rail passenger. I was very lucky in that respect. I know that I also should enroll in Railroad Junkies Anonymous, but, I don't particularly want to be cured of my addiction!

If the TCA York meet is live this year, I would like to meet you in person. Though we grew up (?) in different cities, we seem to have a lot in common.

I have to admit reading these stories did bring up a lot of emotions (and nicely enough, good ones, tinged with a bit of sadness, though my mom died many years ago, in the mid 90's). My mom loved trains, though I don't think she herself had trains growing up in the 1930's (her brother did, I am sure, I know from visiting my aunt after he passed away that they had pre war trains; they were fortunate, my grandfather worked for the controller of Union Carbide (or whatever it was called back then), so they were comfortable).

I have told the story here, that the trains I have started with a christmas gift for my dad the first year they were married, she found out he never had trains and felt that was horrible, so her first gift to him was a pretty good size collection of trains (my uncle that year bought the same thing for his son, then all of 9 months old, my mom told him to duplicate the order). In any event, I have at least some of those trains still, and my mom always loved the trains we had set up at home. I like to think my mom's spirit is in my wife in some ways, she is the one that encourages me to bring trains back to life (I have a very hard time spending money on myself)..unfortunately our son was a black sheep, he never really was into trains, music was his thing (my wife and I couldn't hold a tune or play an instrument to save our souls...).

Thanks all for sharing, Arnold for starting this (and now that Covid at least is being made to beat something of a retreat, may we get to meet in person someday soon, maybe at the next White Plains show). I really needed a lift today, this helped

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