Your parents' first train?

The recent "Your first train set" thread produced a lot of interesting stories.  I'd like to add to that with a discussion of your parents' first train set.  How many still have their fathers' or mothers' first trains?

I just realized that I don't have any pictures of my mother's set (I'll work on that), but here's a shot of Dad's Lionel 252 and its accompanying passenger cars.  They required a good bit of restoration work to get them going after they came into my care, but they're fully functional today:



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Original Post

Yup - no such thing in his life. He was born in 1906, working-class at best. Good life, but "electric trains" were just something rich kids had.

My mother told me many years ago that when my father came home in Dec 1955 (I was 7) with my 027 2055 Hudson set and began building my layout (yes) for Christmas morning, he said to her "I've waited 40 years for this".

So - my first train set was also my father's first train set. I imagine that this was not uncommon for the times. 

I have my Dad's 1946 Lionel 2020 turbine and few cars. Not sure if it's a set or not. Also not sure if it is his first set, but he'd been about 5 in '46. Seems kinda young to be playing with a train like this. A 5 year old probably couldn't lift the engine!  lol



When they were passing out brains, I thought they said trains and I asked for a slow one.

Like others, my parents and grandparents were working class people.  Trains were about as far away from reality as going to the moon, back then.  

I should add, however, that my Aunt's, by marriage, brother passed away in the '80s and she gave me what little she was able to get from her sister.  One item was a scale two rail Pennsy K4.  At the time I had no way to run it nor the inclination to build a two rail O scale layout.  So I sold it to gain funs for my Lionel empire.

Dan Padova


"In the course of my life I have had to eat my words, and I must confess it was a wholesome diet"..........Winston Churchill


Grampstrains posted:

My father grew up in the Depression.  A train set was only wishful thinking for him.  

My dad had the same experience.

It's really a shame because, after driving me to train shows, train dealers, etc. when I was still a teenager, he began to catch the train bug.  He liked the 9700 and 9400 boxcars being produced by MPC at that point and bought some of the ones that he liked for me.  As a child of the Depression, he was pretty good at scouring newsletters, comparing prices ― including shipping ― and getting what he wanted from all the big 1970s vendors (Charles Ro, Train99, TrainWorld, etc., etc.).

One of his first projects involved buying a Lionel 6362 trucks car at a train show we attended together.  The 6362 came with no trucks, but he had a good time looking on tables and buying used parts trucks which he polished up in order to finish off the car.  It was his first mini-restoration project and it was a pleasure to seem him "get it".  I treasure that 6362 and I think of it as his "first train" because it's the first one that was all his -- his purchase, his project, his finished result.

My dad died not too long after that at a relatively young age and, besides missing him, I regret that he didn't have more time to truly expand into the hobby and enjoy it. He had the eye and the patience to polish things up.  He would have been a good one.

Steven J. Serenska

My father didn't have trains, being a Depression kid. However, one of his childhood friends had a lot of Standard Gauge trains, which impressed my father greatly. That young man was in the 8th Air Force during the war, and went down with his B-17 during a raid. My father never learned what became of the young man's trains.








My Dad's train:


I found this one on e-bay for a good price, so I bought it after he passed away. I still have Dad's original set, though not in as good condition. We added handrails to the engine, and tried to get the scout couplers to work with regular Lionel couplers, unfortunately by grinding them. 


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My Dad born in 1908 also went through the Depression.  His first train was the one Santa brought me Christmas 1947.  A Lionel 2025 with three madison passengers cars.IMG_0040

So actually this was Our first train together.  Thus having it still makes it so much more special.


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Dad, born in 1908, received his first Lionel set, 366W...1835 engine with whistle tender, three two-tone blue series 300 passenger 1934, I believe.  He was 26.  His parents both worked in the laundry business.  Yeah, it was a tough time for the country and lots of folks.  They're all gone, of course, but I still marvel at the legacy they...those generations...left behind.  It's not really taught anymore in school......especially the taking personal/family responsibility for making the difference in ones life when times were that tough.  And that's too bad.

Still have the set.  Shakes the table/floor when it rumbles around the standard gauge oval.  Lovely to look at when at rest on the shelf.

When I was a kid, in about 1941 or '42, my Dad's younger brother, who's son, my cousin had passed away at the age of 8, finally brought all of his trains over to my Dad's to give them to me when I was about six..  I had already had two Marx litho tin sets that I played with and loved, dearly.  Included in this stash of trains was an old metal body of an S-1 type NYC engine.  No frame was there but somehow, I knew that the motor which was also included in the box, belonged to that engine.  I tried to make a frame using Erector set parts, bent to attach to the body and the motor but it never worked right and certainly didn't run well either.   Eventually it was thrown out.

Many years later, I visited a train show, shortly after moving to Ohio and I found that same cab and motor, but with a broken frame.  There were also two passenger cars which I recognized as belonging to that old locomotive, so I bought the train, broken frame or not.  By then I realized what it was:  It was the train that my Dad and his two brothers had when they were kids.  The engine is from 1916 or '17 and has the motor plate reading "The Lionel Manufacturing Company".  In 1918 they changed the name to The Lionel Corporation.

I may not have that same train that my Dad and his brothers played with, but I have a duplicate, and that's good enough for me.  Incidentally, I was able to locate a good solid frame and installed it in my engine.  After 100 years, or so, it still runs like a champ!

Paul Fischer

My dad had an American Flyer 21100 steam set that he supposedly only ran one Christmas around 1958 and then lost interest in trains. The engine and one piece of track survived in my grandma's woodshed until she gave it to me when I was "grown up enough" in 1984. Then it was a display piece of mine until 2016 when I stumbled upon a website of an American Flyer repair business. I sent it in and turns out all it needed was to be cleaned, lubed and a new head light installed. Here it is among a temporary set up back in 2016 with O scale and n scale loops.

Johnny Winkler

Like many previous posters, my parents grew up in the depression, so they never had trains of their own. I actually got my interest in trains from my mother. Her favorite engine was always the GG-1, but she never got one (and I don't think my father ever caught on how she wanted one). I received one of the MPC Tuscan versions for Christmas in the 70's, I think. After I got my first full time job, I wandered down to Madison Hardware and bought her a NOS 2360. Almost 40 years on, I still have the engine.


Techno-Peasant of the First Order

Provisionary Member - Brotherhood of the Crappy Basement Layout


My Dad's first train was also my default first train set. I am a bit younger than many on here so my dads could have been yours.

He had a circa 1953 Marx double FT Santa Fe #21 3/16 freight set.

I am sure they got it at Sears. My Grandfather worked there. We still have it stored away in the box with all the packing. He grew up in a farm house beside the Pennsy Popes Creek Secondary near Waldorf MD. When I visited as a child the line was PC then Conrail. Often there was run through Chessie or WMD Circus painted power. 

Member New York Society of Model Engineers


Maybe this post won't get me shouted down by experts.

My dad grew up in a working class family in the '40s—his Dad worked for Bell Aircraft. My late grandfather saw the light that was A.C. Gilbert, and my dad's first set was a dealer set consisting of a Silver Bullet loco & tender, a 605 AFL flatcar w/logs, 640 Wabash hopper, 642 Seaboard Air Line boxcar, and a 638 AFL unlighted caboose. His second set was a 5306T Silver Bullet passenger set (IIRC, loco, tender, & cars only), and third was the 1955 5570H Silver Rocket passenger set. He added a 916 D&H gondola w/canisters, the 779 Oil Drum Loader, lots of Plasticville sets, and other accessories. (My grandfather machined extra oil drums at his work, doubling my dad's drums. The reproductions are indistinguishable from the originals.)

His trains ran around the tree annually from the beginning of Advent through Christmas, and we always dreamed of a permanent layout. A couple of years later, with the help of my brother-in-law and his wood shop, we made it a reality, and have since greatly expanded his rolling stock. It's pretty amazing that these toys have been used—mostly by children—for more than 60 years and are still going strong.



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My parents did not play with trains as kids. Or should I say, did not like trains. Mom's Grandmother got hit by Detroit trolley and died, and so Gramps didn't have a holiday train around, and she chose dolls; so go figure .

   I didn't find out why till my twenties though.  I found Grandma's childhood Marx CV buried in a dirt floor of a family carriage/buggy house and she explained how it got there and wasn't on a shelf. Great Gramps dropped it off for her on her first married Christmas, she was hiding it to spare Gramps any pain and the door was chained, but not so tight she couldn't slip it in and let it fall flat.

   So, with no buggy anymore, it had sat right there since the 40-50s till I unearthed it in the 80s, washed the mud off, oiled it, and have ran it evey since....except for an impulsive trade to position myself to land a GG-1; but I bought it back within months. Thank God; because it made me sick after. The GG-1 itch got scratched though...and that brings us to my Dad's dad. Gramps was responsible for developing that itch. Every PW version of the GG-1 was here, and one unopened in a shipper, with his name on it...and it should be a Black Jack, just like the one I ran (once I earned the right). Already a collector for a decade, he was on the first night's shipping list for the GG-1s  .

  Great Gramps used to joke that Gramps had only married Grandma to get his hands on his tinplate when he died. He turned to Kusan, Auburn, AMT,KMT,Kris for the bang for a buck after tinplate value skyrocketed; selling most to buy new, pocketing some loot, and keeping key pieces.

  So, this brings us back to Dad as a boy, trying to play with his train whoo hoo! .... with both his Dad and Grandfather watching and dictating every action .. They were both in the height of a rivet counting phase and feeding off each other. Train orders and scales speeds are ok at times, but can bore the imagination right out of a kid too 

  They didn't even realize they were using him as a RR monkey . Dad said he played along, but never enjoyed playing with trains much because of their "rules", but always liked watching it during the piece and quite of a holiday eve, so set one up for us EVERY year. I was hooked immediately  

  As Grandkids got born, both Gramps & G.Gramps shifted out of scale and into pure Post War. Trains became about the fun again, like their tin days. And soon, everyone in the family was in on Lionel trains to some extent.

  I had Dads GOOD Scout set for years.  It was bought long before his birth, as was mine too. Detroit had two massive storms a year or so apart during the late 70s. "the Green storm" and "the Brown storm". It died with tons of what I now know were other priceless goodies (I think Gramps was "Automotive" buyer of the largest L.S.A-space race X set on record. It was picked up by a pal working near Lionel, then relayed to Great Gramps at Fords, then relayed to Gramps at US Steel, then relayed to VFW, then given to me.. for being awsome ...No adress because it was not delivered. It was phoned in here, and picked up at shipping in the a.m.., the ph# is either here or at the car plant, and it was running later that day). 

  Anyhow..Rust had bloomed in that Scout's box, after the first year it flooded, and it was damp for too many days the second year. The had the motor had grown fuzzy, and frozen solid in a few days.  The tender was toast too. We didnt have a way to pull Scout couplers after that. Many other cars died then too, so we traded Dads Scout stuff to Gramps in the 70's for better stock with lobster claws, a new pad rocket, 2 new red white and blue missiles, a handful of white mini-rockets, new logs, new helicopter, submarine parts, plastiville, smoke pellets, and a 1033.

  A number of years ago, my Mom got a Polar Express for herself as a reminder of her now grown kids playing together with trains under the tree....In fact, I hadnt thought about it before, but she got a Berk before I built a layout, lol.   

  I also had a Second Uncle by marriage, that collected Marx tin toys of all types. They baby sat me in Vermillion Ohio as a kid. I recall that was the first Sparking Mercury and CP I saw, and thought it was the greatest train set ever! (give me a sparking toy and you wouldn't hear from me again till the flint was gone ); I asked often, but he never ran them again. He seemed to delight in showing a toy or two, then putting it away; never to be seen again despite polite requests. That room was filled and off limits. You couldn't even wait at the door. He would seat you in a huge leather chair and put them on the table in front of you. In years I only saw a portion of the collection; a few wind-ups at a time, run two or three times each, then put and disapointing both.   He was an odd one to want to own any toys at all imo; all smiles when you asked, but not a speck of humor left in the man after the toy's springs wound down.

"Still trying to not shoot my eye out"


"Nursing insomnia one railcar at a time"

My aroma therapy? Smoke Pellets.


Here is my Dad's first train, a Lionel City of Denver that was his Christmas present in approx. 1938.  It has a lot of miles on it but still runs like new. When my layout is done, this train will most definitely see some run-time. 




Image result for train collectors association emblem

  TCA 90-30847

  NJ HiRailers Associate Member


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