Buying Toy Trains – Shopping Hazards

Buying, Purchasing, Requisitioning and/or Shopping For Toy Trains or Model Railroad Train Equipment can be a real negative experience!   In some cases less then gratifying.    Do I dare  say,  Humiliating?

Whether it’s the Holiday Season or every-other day of the year.   You’ll find toy trains popping out in the oddest of places.   Internet, those buy and sell lists, infamous auction websites.      Anywhere and everywhere besides your brick and mortar LHS.     You can get caught up in it if you so desire or wisely ignore the temptation.

You’ve all heard…well….as a wise man once said, “Let The Buyer Beware.”   I think he was talking to me.   This buyer needs some smart pills.    The last time I asked a Doctor if he had any  he said, “We’d all benefit from such.”

What was that?   My heckler is at it again.    Rabbit pellets?    A kid brought some rabbit pellets to school.    Sounds familiar.    He was touting how much smarter everyone would be if they bought and took one of his smart pills.    Let’s see Rabbit Pellets and he was selling them as “Smart Pills.”    Did I hear you right?    You bought three for a nickel.     You ate one and said, “Hey this tastes like rabbit $#!+.”    And!    The seller responded, “See you are getting smarter already”    Ha Ha Haw, that’s good.    No,  I haven’t forgotten that experience.  You were my best customer!  Grin.

It’s time to  kick this pig and get it rolling down the tracks.

Electronics and in particular used electronics.   It’s never a good idea to purchase used electronics unless you know the owner, you’ve used the equipment and you do know it will work to your satisfaction. 

The Seller and Purchaser Relationship:

When it comes to being the purchaser and you are purchasing from the purchase-e  uhh…err seller.     Things can go wrong!   What happened?  What did I do?  I heard you ask?   Ok, that was me asking myself.   Is there an echo in here?

Rick’s Story Time:     No not again!

Yes, Again!    I Did IT Again!

Repeat, Peat and Repeat it again!    It dawned on me just the other day that I had gone and done it again.    My sucker light was on and I allowed myself to be taken….not once but twice.   Not that this hasn’t happened before…. it has.  NO,  I couldn’t of?    I went and did it again! Why did I do that?   I kept hearing myself, asking  self?  Admonishing self, “You did it again!.”    Continuing by  reprimanding…..Self.     All the while kicking Self in the @$$=wallet.

I went to one of those infamous auction sites to see if anyone was selling a N Scale, Kato set of Great Northern passenger cars.     I was looking for a Diner.   I proceeded….  without looking  closely  at the pictures provided  and failing to read the detailed descriptions put forth by the seller.  I’ll bet, you can finish the story.   Who knew?.   Since, I’m telling the story allow me to finish it.   There might be some therapy in doing so.

I boldly stepped up clicked on the “Buy It Now,” and before I could think….. “I want it,”… I ordered them.    Gosh, they can take your money faster then I can write this.   Fast, super fast!   Wow! Gone!  Later, about four days.  Upon their arrival I found the top of the diner had something resembling porcupine quills and dried glue puddled all over the top of it.    What the heck?        Uh, oh this has been in the hands of an inexperienced modeler/hobbyist.     It was a WT… not so happy a  moment.

About to complain to the owner, I went back and re-read the description and found to my dismay the seller was as straight forward and honest as the day is long.    Although, at this point over priced.    Now what do I do?     It’s my own fault!    I did what any good customer would do.    I wrote him and thanked him for being honest.     Grumbling in my beard… all the while!

Time to evaluate, fix-ability of the diner.   A quick assessment, carefull exam…ending with the damage can be fixed.    The porcupine quills brushed off with ease.    I should be able to repair the roof with some light sand paper.    I mean the kind  automobile painters use on the finish coat of paint.       A fresh coat of paint and we should be good to go.     I hate playing  Mr. Fix It!

That wasn’t good enough.    Let’s do it again!  Why not have some more fun.     What fun is it… if we can’t repeat the FUN we just had?     You did hear the sarcasm?

I went to order some rail joiners.     My layout is in need of some serious restoration and yes I DO need them.     I found what I wanted along with the number of packets required.   I ordered them    And…paid way to much for them.  Well, it wasn’t as bad as it might sound  but it’s the principle of the thing.  After having ordered them, I went to two of my favorite mail order houses and found the packets……. for minus – .20 to -.30 sense (sp intended) cheaper!   Common Sense cheaper!   AND I’d of saved on shipping as well.  Aiiyiiyii!     I did it again!

End of story time but not this saga!

So, shopping for toy trains and model railroad equipment hasn’t been the best experience for me.  How about you?  I can’t be alone.    There hast to be others out there.    Do we need a buyers Club?   Don’t look at me I’m not going to set one up.   I don’t need the hassle.

Then something else popped into my head.       We can fix a lot of things in this life but we can’t fix stupid.     That wasn’t very complimentary ….but true.

Note to Self:    Research, research and research some more!   Check favorite hobby houses first!!!!!

When will I ever learn? When?

Don’t get in a hurry unless you want to.      

So, why am I writing this humbling, embarrassing, demoralizing, self degrading article?    Do I really believe someone else can benefit from my bad experience?  Can we learn from each others mistakes?    I can only hope so.

There’s more to tell and apparently I’m not the only one.

I visited a club layout recently and was dumbfounded when I found them operating with Old and even Older Stuff.    These are guys who could probably afford the finer things in life and they were running older, nostalgic, toy train stuff.   Did someone say junk?   No not quite but next door to it.  They were,  happy as a lark!   I didn’t dare burst their bubble.

It was fun to watch the older stuff running around.    However, those tight radius curves are still as troublesome today as they were on my first layout, as a teenager.      Not so  much fun, to watch the old problems jump up and slap them in the face.      Horn Hook couplers (aka X2F), for HO trains and Rapido for the N Scale trains.     What?   What?    What?   What are they thinking?    I said nothing but shook my head in dismay.

I thought we left that behind years ago.     Well, I did….. but that doesn’t mean everyone else has.  All of this started me thinking.    Yes, thinking can be dangerous.


Advice is good but not always welcomed….RIGHT?

What kind of advice would I and others benefit from?    Let’s start with when and where possible.

Visit a brick and mortar LHS.   Something grabs your eye or jumps up at you begging you to take it home.    May I suggest:

  • Take it out of the box and fondle it. 
  • Check it over from stem to stern.    Uhh,.,,err, from coupler to vent pipe.  
  • Test track it.   
  • Do be sure you know  the “Return Policy”.

Okay!    You are like me and a brick and mortar LHS is down some  rather challenging roads.    Never mind the traffic.    AND, your car is getting older every day and less reliable.    So you are left with,   Shopping the Internet.

  • Read all the written details.
  • Study the pictures provided.
  • Compare, as in comparative shopping.   
  • Never use a website as your one stop and shop.
  • Auction sites can and will suck the money right out of your wallet.
  • Ask yourself is it really worth that price? 
  • Do know the return policy.
  • Caution:   If the seller says “No Returns.”    Time to reconsider the purchase you are about to make.
With today’s computers and websites there’s no reason why you or anyone else should ever be taken by a sub-standard seller.

The exception being me…who knows better.    Did I laugh?

If there is a lesson to be learned here?   I’m sure, you can discern it for yourself.

Shopping can be humiliating!    You can end up with someone Else’s problem.    Someone Else’s headache.     Someone Else’s OOP’S!

Do be aware.    “Let the buyer beware”.   There are “Gold Diggers,” in every auction website, garaged internet mail order houses and yes, even at the train shows and swap meets.    Over priced items that look tempting.

On the auction sites:   I hate to say it but many of the sellers have shill’s that will push the price up (automatic bidding) in hopes you will eventually top them.    The outcome?   Bet you can guess!   The  seller gets the price he wants.

If at first you feel it is overpriced it probably is.    The only time you want to lay out the big bucks is when you… “Can’t live without it”.  May I add, You are willing to live with yours or  someone Else’s problems or oop’s.

New In The Box or Never Opened, “Sealed.”:    If you believe that well your Sucker Light might be on and you might be naive!  Naive as believing hell can freeze over.   Hell must have frozen over at least once ok maybe twice.    Check out who just won the Pen-nit, you know for baseball.

Buying older stuff is never-ever new in the box.   One contradicts the other.    If it’s trains there’s a good chance someone has  pulled it out, to get a closer look.   That does not new… make it.  That went away the minute the box was opened for the first time as in let the air out.   Not going to happen.

If it’s a locomotive there’s a good chance someone has taken it out of the box to test track it.   Or it’s been run on a LHS Layout and/or a Club Layout .  Don’t believe everything you hear and very little of what you see.

**Enter any sale or purchase you make at your own risk.**

The most important thing is your  happiness.    If you are happy with what you’ve purchased then run it and enjoy it.      If you want something better then seek it out.   On the other hand if you want something you figure you can fix..then go for it.    After all of  this advice given do remember this  is a, “Self Discovery Mission.”    You will learn what you need to know as you continue this journey.

We (you and I) have been aptly warned.

Oh, and I’ll do it again.      My Sucker Light will be on but I WON’T SEE IT………..THE SELLER WILL!    

Let’s keep that our secret.    Sigh!  To late.



Christmas Isn’t Christmas Without A Toy Train

Christmas Isn’t Christmas Without A Toy Train.

It used to be that a Christmas Tree in the front room wasn’t complete without a Toy Train running around the base of the tree.   Not sure what’s running around the base of most Christmas Trees.

Christmas will be here sooner then you think.    The time has come to get out the trains and build a Christmas Layout to go under and  around the Christmas Tree.

Here is what the  Sun City Railroad Club did last year.   You can rest assured they will  be up and at it,   doing the same thing this  year.

Sun City Railroad Club 2015

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year from the Sun City Railroad Club 2015
Sun City -Apple Valley – a Del Webb community.     Thanks for Watching, Steve Roll.

For this years Christmas Presentation, I will be posting information  regarding time, dates and hours they will be open.   Also, instructions on how to access this years showing.

The Sun City Railroad Club is also known as the Sun City, Apple Valley Railroad Club or for short The SCAVRR Club.         They will be operating in the Sun City Club House,   a gated community of Apple Valley, California.

Expect to see and hear more about this group of model railroaders and toy train enthusiast.   As for me,   I’m impressed.

Stay tuned, there’s more to come.

Edited add on:    I haven’t heard from Steve Roll.     What I understand is “It’s Invitation Only,”     Something to do with security and being in a gated community.      So, enjoy the video.    That’s as close to the real deal as I’m going to get you.

Merry Christmas!


The SCAVRR Toy Train Modular Layout-Deja Vu

The SCAVRR, The Sun City Apple Valley Railroad Club.

Deja Vu, it was like revisiting my old training layouts.   Get it?

Located in Sun City, Apple Valley, California.  I found this model railroad club,  along with the hobbyist that make up the club and those who operate it.   It was intriguing to say the least.

It would be the first time the majority of BVMR’s, The Bear Valley Model Railroaders met with the Sun City Group.    At the invitation of one of our BVMR members Russ G., who has been meeting with them.   He  suggested we leave the hill to check them out.   Then a chance meeting with Steve Roll, and an invitation from him to stop by.    We were off and running.    Cabin fever can cause you to do strange things.

Here is an introduction to the SCAVRR Club.

I sat here thinking how should I title this.    I don’t want to insult anyone but I wanted to capture the essence of what I saw.    I came up with the following:

  • Found – Toy Train Layout
  • Is This Your Daddies Classic Trains?
  • Old Toy Stuff Still Delights-Old Toy Train Enthusiasts
  • Old Farts Playing with Old Trains
  • Junk Still Exists.   Ok, that wasn’t very nice.
  • HO – Eighteen and Twenty-two Radius Curves Still Abound.
  • N – Scale the nine and three quarter inch curves can still be found.
  • Join in – If You Have It, Bring It & Run It!
  • Deja Vu, is what I finally settled on.

You can pick one of the above or make up your own tittle.     It’s what ever impresses you.    So exercise your right to choose.

Should the opportunity come your way  to visit the  SCAVRR.   I might add it’s pretty much by invitation.   They operate behind closed and locked gates.

We (The BVMR’s)  had loads of fun on our first ever  visit.   The SCAVRR Club layout was a visit to my past.  And, this is where the  Deja Vu, comes in.   Deja Vu all over again.       A reminder of the challenges from the layouts, I struggled with as a teen.   Watching newbies make the same mistakes I made…way back when.   We all have to learn and start some where.    Hard to admit, it was good to revisit a time from my past.

I honestly thought we model railroaders and toy train enthusiast had moved beyond operating as we did almost 40 years ago.    Nope, somethings, still prevail.     Hard to believe but there it was.

While some things change, nothing changes at all.

The SCAVRR’s Club Layout is a Modular set-up, built after N-Trak’s spec’s.    It is a round-y-round and it hails a double track main of HO track on the lower level.   A small run through yard.   A run around N Scale double track  loop, all elevated above the HO.   It to has a run through yard.   In addition:   Two home layouts as part of the built in to the curves.  Tow sport small N Scale loopity-loops on topside.   A forced perspective which turned out to be a very interesting combination.     Easy on the eye.

I found:  HO 18″ and 22″ Radius curves dominating the club layout      Rick, another Rick operating an older Athearn FP 45 with Amtracks Pointless Arrow, pulling older Athearn Shorties, Bachmann Full Length Domes, Amfleet Cars and an assortment of passenger cars.   On his Athearn motor I found a trouble maker.     Body mounted,  “Horn Hook Couplers,”   (aka  “X2F).”  Just like the original ones.     It was pulling a baggage car behind it which  sported “Truck Mounted” horn hook couplers.   Consequently the body mounted coupler kept pulling  the truck mounted coupler off the track, every time it went around a curve.    It is the same problem,  I had with the same equipment as a teenager.   Just as frustrating now as it was back then.    Deja Vu!

I was most impressed with  the camaraderie between the guys and gals present.   Well, one gal in the reception area.    We visited with them  told old war stories, lied – a lot, bantered about,  ji-dded and teased each other.   Had a few laughs and gave out lot’s of unwanted advice.     To our surprise we got invited back.

It was the first time the BVMR’s and the SCAVRR’s had gotten together.     The one thing that tied us all together, the common denominator – Our love for the hobby and all those trains.

I bumped into  guys who have home layouts sporting:    Classic Trains, O Scale, American Flyer, Todays 3-Rail O Scale and of course HO and/or N Scale.

The purpose?    Is that what you asked?    My favorite heckler.    I didn’t know he was still sleeping it off on my couch.     To have fun, get out of the house and rub elbows with guys and gals who share the same enthusiasm.

Deja vu!   A virtual blast to the past.   I couldn’t believe it and I found myself smiling at every discovery on their layout.

Oh, by the way to Steve R.  the Rick and Richards, and the rest of the guys thanks for the fun and the invite back.    You’ll be seeing us…again!  I think?  I never meant that as a threat, I said with a   grin!

Sorry, I didn’t have one of my camera’s along so there’s no pictures.  Film at eleven!    Just as soon as Steve R. can  get back to me with a profile  of the club I will be able to share some pictures.   And that never happened so your stuck with my word pictures.

Ok you guys in Sun City here’s wishing you “Loads of fun”!


A Toy Train or Model Railroad Editorial

A word from the editor and author of   A fire side chat of sorts.    An editorial.     It sounds odd to put it that way.    Me an editor.   I wonder what my English teacher would say?  Never mind!

I’ve put the finishing touches on what I had hoped would be  the last post, which represents 165 posts here on   Then I bumped into something that was begging to be added to     AND it won’t be the last one,  as I will more then likely bump into something else new to present here.   As long as the heart is still ticking and the brain works…well I think you get my drift.

We celebrated our second anniversary.    Over 5,000 visitors for the year.    Some are repeats coming back to see what’s new.    Not all of the posts here are about toy trains or model railroads.    I squeeze out a few on my political feelings.    That could be a mistake but I needed to say something.

Regarding the political issues facing all of us:  I have  no idea what side of the fence you are on and I can only hope you see things the way I do or at least share the same concerns.    If allowed to continue:  What is about to happen to America, will destroy everything our fore fathers stood for.  Pointing specifically at The Globalist Agenda and Socialism.    I do hope we can see our way past all of this and keep America Strong and Independent.

As for trains wig wags;   Here goes.    I even bumped out a few editorials directed  toward the editors and authors of our model railroad wig wags.   Like I’m going to tell them a thing or two?     I don’t think so… but I put it out there anyways.    You can read the editorials or not.   That’s up to you.

It’s time for a change and a return to the old values that have built our hobby into what it is today.     To also look at the variety of expressions when it comes to either playing with trains or operating realistically and everything in between.

Editorial Update 3-9-2017:    Since I put out the open letter to the model railroad wig wags…  I’ve seen some serious changes and am applauding such.   You never know who is lurking about on

This blog has been a work in progress since I started it two years ago.   It’s all about toy trains and model railroads.  Providing some of the best presenters and professionals in the hobby.    Not that I always agree with everything they do but in doing so I provide you with a number of ways and means to get the job done.     No question, there is a difference in how each hobbyist  or modelers builds and operates his or her trains.

Did I ever quote an old idiom that says:  ” Variety is the spice of life?”

Toy Trains or Model Railroads.     Don’t tell anyone but Model Railroading is just a step up from Toy Trains.    Many in the hobby think they are running like the 1:1 foot scale but they aren’t.  But they think they are…Grin!     Having no idea how the real railroads actually operate.        The terminology they use is a dead give away.   Let that be our not so secret.

I find myself reading what I wrote and thinking what the…well… was I thinking,  what did I mean by that and  why did I write it that way?     Then I will go and edit my written thoughts and really screw it up.    Oop’s I didn’t reconnect my thought or I left a word in that changes the meaning and/ or the coma,  isn’t in the right place.    Then I have to go back to something elementary as in what application do I use Was or Were?    Aiiyiiyii!    This white man’s English leaves something to be desired.

I look at how I organized things and or how the website builders organized things and cringe.   Do the title’s tell you enough to find the answers to your questions?    Is there to much of a lead in?    Am I too long winded?    Gosh, I’m repeating everything… at least twice.

One thing working for me and my readers is there is a lot of information here that is use-full, sometimes entertaining but as a good friend said “Informative.”     Not that he ever learned anything by reading what’s here but at least he’s read most of the posts.    My unofficial critic.   A shout out of thanks to  Greg M.

Speaking of which I need to go pick him up and head for CJ’s where most of the local BVMR’s hang out.     Time to suck down some tea and soda’s.    In town, feel free to stop by CJ’s  and visit.   There’s usually one or two of us there between 2 and 4 p.m., Monday through Friday.   Regarding weekends and holidays they are usually to busy what with the winter weekenders, ski and snow boarders that visit Big Bear Country.

DO……Take what you want from here and leave the rest behind.   This is a mission of self discovery and only you can decide how you want to  construct and build your train layout.

Enjoy the poojibies (sp intended)  out of the hobby and may you find hours of satisfaction from operating your trains.   Did I say somewhere else?     Any way you want!

This blog is a work in progress so do come back to see what’s been added or changed.

Read one post a day “To keep the toy train doctor or model railroad specialist…AWAY!”    Did I say that?

As always have fun…   however you interpret that to be.

No, nope, not at all,  not everything is fun but when the project is finished the rewards are outstanding.