Collecting model trains

I think we all start collecting model trains when start this hobby.

But Brad has taken it to another level as you’ll see:

“My brother is an avid collector of pre-war toy trains, and has a large layout at his home.

Brad lives in Topeka, Kansas. He owns a three story house where he has some layouts going as well as rooms filled with his collection.

I think his wife suggested that he should find another location for his trains or else!

His layout has been featured in a toy train collectors magazine, and recently the local television station featured his “train house “.

He loves to use his extensive collection of rare parts and his vast knowledge of antique trains to repair peoples childhood trains that they find in attics, so they and their grandchildren can enjoy them.

Here are a few pictures, the knowledgeable will recognize that each room (and I am not showing all of them) contains an era or type of toy train.

He showed me a few of his favorites that were very old, rare, and still in their boxes, but I just couldn’t get pictures of everything!


collecting model trains

collecting model trains

collecting model trains

model train collection

model train collection

model train collection

A big thanks to Greg for sharing.

The thing about collecting model trains is I suspect it’s rather infectious, which is why we all have our own ‘mini’ collections.

A lot of us can’t bear to get rid of some locos, carriages and track because of the memories they hold.

I’ve lost count of the posts that use fifty year old engines that are still going strong.

Whenever I see such beautiful old train nostalgia, I always think of Hugh’s post:

“Hi Alastair, Enjoy looking at your site.

I like prewar 0 gauge tin plate mainly. So I built this layout for my Great Northern Railway trains. It is based on the 1956 Marx Rocky Mountain Express set and modified to represent the Glacier National Park area.

Most everything is from 1939 into the WWII era when tin toys stopped being produced. All the buildings are card board or wood.

The trains are custom painted Marx plus a set of wooden kit passenger cars that look like the trains GNR operated circa 1939. It is on a 71” x 40” coffee table.

We live in a Victorian house built in 1890 near Glacier Park. So I built a small table top layout that is like the ones Lionel sold in the 1920s and 30s. It is part of the living room furniture.

I some times run Ives, Hornby and Bing tin plate on it. The blue train is a Dorfan 53 with a Lionel motor, an AF mail car and 2 607 type Lionel coaches.

Some of the buildings are tin copies of German ones. I made them smaller to better fit the overall 0-27 scale.

This is one small loop and works good for clock work trains, too. It started out fairly simple and grew.

Hugh, Montana.”

Vintage O scale

O scale tin model railroad

vintage O scale model railroad

O scale vintage lionel model railroad

O scale collectors lionel model railroad

O scale collectors lionel model railroad

Hope it’s been pleasant trip down memory lane (I adore the poster pic).

Please do leave a comment below if you have a loco you can’t bear to part with.

Back to normal tomorrow!

Keep ’em coming.

And if Hugh has you hankering to dig out your old locos, the Beginner’s Guide is here.



PS Latest ebay cheat sheet is here.

model train answers

46 Responses to Collecting model trains

  1. Greg Marples says:

    I wanted to clarify that the large layout that has O and Standard gauges together and has all the cars an locomotives displayed on the surrounding walls is at Brad’s home, the unfinished layout, two more nice ones that weren’t included here, and the rooms full of trains are at a separate old house he has just for trains. Brad has devoted himself to learning from the old timers in the hobby, often preserving their collections of parts, tools, manuals, and of course trains, along with their knowledge and expertise that would otherwise have been lost. It is fascinating to listen to him talking about toy trains from the past, his love of them is.infectious.

    Greg Marples

  2. Stephen Hill says:

    That is remarkable ! What an amazing task, hats off indeed . One question … who does the dusting ? Truly an inspiration to younger generations to follow . Am glad to see all those trains restored and beautified . Trains rock .

  3. This IS the BEST display and collection I have ever seen!!! Thanks for sharing!!!!!

  4. Rob McCrain says:

    Wow, my mother’s nightmare. 😉

  5. Bob in Michigan says:

    Amazing collection! Perhaps my Lionel stuff is in his collection…sigh!

  6. John says:

    Now that’s what I call a collection!

  7. Old Ben says:

    just wowwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwww

  8. Richard Boles says:


  9. Erick says:

    Looks great.!!!!! I hope mine turns out that good.

  10. Allen says:

    I love the vintage O and Standard trains and accessories. This amazing collection really brings back a ton of childhood memories. Thank you for sharing it.

  11. Jim M says:

    Wow what a collection the best I have ever seen it’s like a small museum

  12. Ron Mischke says:

    Awesome collection, the rooms remind me of James N. collection of Marx trains in Leavenworth, Kansas.

  13. ROGER TURNER says:

    Obviously, a labor of love and dedication. Love it when a hobbyist ” goes all in ”
    What a fantastic collection.

    Roger in Kansas

  14. Wow! What a wonderful collection. Seeing everything brings back many great memories of time gone by. Thank you.

  15. Great trains, accompanying structures !! Hope there are younger enthusiasts coming along to keep this gems alive. One question: isn’t it proper storage of engines to store them on their sides to prevent weight off wheels and gears ?

  16. Franny says:

    Wow what a collection, both my brothers and I loved the trains and so did my Dad.Thank you for sharing!

  17. Greg Marples says:

    You may have noticed the lack of dust, Brad is the cleanest person I know, not sure how he does it! They even had a cat for many years. His workshop is dusty from all the grinding and polishing, I suppose. He works on the rusty ones for people, not just pristine collectibles. As for storing them on their sides, you would have to ask him, but I know he runs his trains, and has just about every wheel, gear or other part in stock. You didn’t see those pictures as stacks of trays and bins aren’t pretty to look at. He has presses and original testing stations and a “catalog” of sleeved and bound together technical manuals that must be near seven feet long. You could put it all on an IPad now, but it was a master train repairman’s bible until he passed it on to Brad.

  18. jacin mueller says:

    Pure beauty , like the Ward ad , may have to try that track plan , Thx

  19. My goodness what a wonderful collection! My collection of models and toys of all gauges pales in comparison to this. I do run HO gauge and have nearly 70 grain hopper cars, however.
    Greetings from Milwaukee!

  20. Dewey Reinhard says:

    Fantastic collection, brings back memories of my first Lionel train set.

  21. W. Irwin says:

    If mine, would be sleeping on layout table in the middle. Man, what a collection!

  22. Bob says:

    But the question remains, does he like trains?

  23. Mark T. Pianka says:

    Just outstanding to see O scale, Great collection Just awesome!! Join OGR Forum think you will enjoy, share that on our Forum God Speed All Remember are Fallen This weekend God Speed!

  24. Len Padalino says:

    Great collection. I’m still working on mine.

  25. David Schaffner says:

    I’m a little lost for words after all the kind comments of this fabulous collection of priceless gems..
    I collected Lionel fifty years ago and had a considerable amount of what you see in his collection including some pre-war stuff…
    Love the oil derricks and an array of different trains that I had never saw before.
    When I got married and started having kids, I had to work two jobs, so, there went the trains…I remember selling them for a paltry sum compared to what they would have been worth today………………….Happy mode railroading!

  26. Gary M from Long Island says:

    WOW…..what a collection

  27. Tony Weisbecker says:

    Looks like a multi-million dollar train set to me . A fine ,fine collection .

  28. Marklin ed. says:

    you never have enough model trains!!!

  29. Vincent Sama says:

    $15.99. How times have changed. You can’t even get one decent turnout for that price anymore.

  30. Jim Robinson says:

    Amazing! I’ve paid entrance fees to train museums that can’t hold a candle to this display.

  31. Dave Karper says:

    Brad, I hope you have someone in the insurance business who knows and understands the true value of your collection. I also hope you are insured, With the size of your collection, it would take along time, but , if you don’t, you should do a complete inventory in the event the unspeakable would happen.

  32. Chris Sylvester says:

    Wow !!!!! That is an amazing collection!!!! I’m jealous but thank you for sharing the pics of your collection!

  33. Terry Brelsford says:

    Back in 1963 I was 5 years old. My Uncle Frank was very well off as he worked high up with one of the railroads in central Ohio.
    He loved his toy trains. Anytime something new came out from Lionel he had it much to the dismay and disgust of his wife. She felt playing with toy trains was much below his position in society. My Uncle had a big victorian house with a full basement. The basement was full of trains. Everything moved, lit up or made noise. Sometimes all three. It was quite intoxicating to a five year old. He had no children of his own (his wife thought it below her status in society to bear children. No wonder my uncle played with trains).
    Frank decided that all his trains would be mine and put them in his will as such. Dad thought it was great and started getting my grandparents old house fixed up.
    A heart attack took my Uncle Frank unexpectedly.
    His wife seized up on the opportunity to get rid of “those damned trains” once and for all. She had a bunch of workmen come in and clean out the basement and dispose of it’s contents in the trash bins. She intended to sell the house as soon as possible.
    It came time to read my uncle’s will. His wife knew of his wishes for me to have the trains but said nothing to anyone about what she thought it was her duty to do.
    When the lawyer found out that she had disposed of the trains he threatened to sue her.
    She used my uncle’s money and influence to wiggle out of trouble.
    When I found out that she had thrown out those trains I was crushed. The next time I saw her at a different funeral I kicked her in the shin with those hard leather soles that she required stitches.
    I never knew if any of those trains got salvaged or survived. I had to play in my grandparents old house for many years before dad retired and we sold out and moved.

  34. David Schaffner says:

    Awesome collection of Lionel. Never seen so many trains & accessories before. Jealous in Ohio.
    ‘A Train Ride in a make- believe panorama of model Railroading..’
    Do you remember when you were little when that special time of the year came around..
    The tree was up, all shiny with tinsel and flickering lights of all colors, with ornaments of all sizes, maybe one that reminded you of a time long ago, or red ones, blue ones and green ones with bands of silver or gold wrapped delicately around the oval shaped glass that shined when the light came from another color making most wonderful colors like a kaleidoscope shining from globe to globe.
    Or maybe Christmas reminded you of something you wanted to be, like a cowboy, or a pirate riding the high seas, or maybe a construction worker or maybe even a service truck driver, or like a train engineer or maybe you just like trains when you grew up.

    Some may say playing with tiny trains is for kids, well, maybe it is, but, model railroading is something totally different. There are literally thousands who are model railroad enthusiastic fans all over the world. In fact, it is very big in foreign countries, like the UK.
    To be a true mode railroader just think of all you can do. To be true to your craft, you do everything in scale, down to the tiniest object. Just imagine creating your own little world, one with mountains, meadows, ridges, mesa’s, towns, streams, maybe a small farm with livestock feeding in the fields or a train station with people waiting. Your imagination is endless. But the best part is the trains.
    I built my first layout fifty years ago and it was all Lionel. When I got married and started having kids, we’ll, it went to another model railroader.
    To be a model railroader it takes up a lot of your time and a lot of money, especially if you are really into it. A steam locomotive with DCC sound with all the toots, whistle, horn, the clatter the rails make, the engine sounds and naturally smoke from the chimney, can cost upwards to a $600.00- $800.00 or more if you want the big one, a Big Boy 4-8-8-4, the masterpiece of models. Unfortunately,
    in real life several examples remain in museums around the country but sit silently as a visual echo to the thunder that once made them revered throughout the landscape that they dominated. they were created to pull a 3600 ton locomotive up long steep grades pulling thirty freight cars or more.
    The fun part comes into planning, creating your little world of trains…
    You have to lay out your track and figure how many trains you want to run, and don’t do it in a hurry.
    Do you want to have a tunnel?, maybe coming out of a mountain you created, one that is as realistic as you creative ability can offer. It may have a rocky slope with grass, dirt, debris, clumps of brush, small spruce trees and at the top cluttered with aspens, pine trees with a small mesa on one side.
    You may have a small town with a few service buildings and a couple of houses that the townsfolk live in.
    You may have track coming around a bend with a steam loco pulling fifteen, twenty freight cars and a couple of cabooses, and somewhere in between a cut-off for a storage area for train cars you aren’t using, or another cut-off for another set of tracks for another train, maybe a twin engine diesel
    pulling fifteen oil tankers. A rocky ridge is interesting for picture taking as your locomotive runs down through it. There is no end how much you can do, just be patient, plan, create, never hurry and have fun doing all your past time enjoying your running trains as they past a meadow with cattle feeding, or a small stream running next to a rocky slope, moving on towards your mountain and when the automatic sounds kick in, relish the moment as the whistle blows, the horn warns that you are coming and the awesome sound the train makes as it moves across the track with that roaring horn as
    it passes a small train shed. You may have a trestle or a mining town, you can go as far as your imagination takes you. Make it fun.

    My layout is in limbo right now, with other consideration more in priority.
    I have the foundation ready, Lanscaping material’s, tools for creating, train engines, freight cars a plenty, cabooses, transformers, electrical wiring and just about everything I need. Just waiting for me to get my hands wet with spackling paste and hours of patience and designing… Author David Schaffner..
    Can’t wait to get started.

  35. Don says:

    I still have my, train set my dad gave me when I was six years old. It is a treasure to me, but now sits in a box under my bed. what is sown above brings back so many memories of a bygone era. the layout above it awesome

  36. TJK says:

    Has your wife tossed you out yet. I hope not……what a great collection.

  37. Scott from Florida says:

    Thank you for allowing so much tin plate into the mix these past few days – thank you Alistair!

  38. George Zaky says:

    Never saw anything like this. I think for most people it is hard to get rid of things because of memories attached but this is a collection for the books. To have another house for trains would be the answer to my prayers but it just came to me that that’s where I would always be and I cant afford a divorce. HMMM what a conundrum.
    You better keep that wife of yours-aint none better.
    Big Al
    Eye openers today- almost spit out my coffee. LOL

  39. Terry Patti says:

    Amazing, absolutely amazing and so well done!

  40. jeff w says:

    It has already been said but I must say it, WOWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWW!!!!!!!!! That is super cool!

  41. Ken Nelson says:

    IMHO, that is hoarding. There are many folks out there that wished they had a piece or two. Be a Mensch and start to sell!

  42. Steve Ruple says:

    Greg, your brother, Brad has the most AWESOME collection of Lionel trains that I have ever seen. I really envy him, I wish I had 1/2 the collection he has, I’m so impressed, just WOW !!!!!!!!!
    Hugh, you have a nice prewar 0 gauge layout also.

  43. robert dale tiemann says:

    wow. what a museum, both of them.

  44. Dave M says:

    Love to see the vintage Lionel collections! Maybe someday I’ll get busy and build some shelves for mine!

  45. William Orton says:

    I would say Brad is a whole lot more than a collector. The persistence to gather trains and equipment over a lifetime and assemble a fantastic and detailed layout is beyond words.

    Bill in NC

  46. Ken Moller says:

    I hope that Brad has a strong plan for preservation of his collection, once he can no longer take care of it. Also that he has given thought to how he might pass on his vast knowledge, accumulated over so many years.

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