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May 14, 2008

GUEST BLOGGER: Neil Blumberg - Lionel Nation DVD Review

The OGaugeWatch/TM Books & Video Lionel Nation DVD giveaway is over so if you didn't win be sure to pick up your copy.  The following guest blogger post from Neil Blumberg is a review of the Lionel Nation DVD.

Tom McComas was kind enough to send a review copy of their latest toy train video to me, the first part of a new series entitled "Lionel Nation." It's a DVD that runs about 65 minutes including the credits (which are worth watching) but not including some very entertaining and informative outtakes from their other videos.  Tom McComas and his colleagues, most recently including Joe Stachler, have played a seminal role in reviving and nurturing the toy train hobby these last three decades or so. In the 1970s and 1980s initially by publishing unique and definitive collector's guides,  and in recent years issuing videotapes,  and now DVDs of ever growing beauty and sophistication.

Continue reading "GUEST BLOGGER: Neil Blumberg - Lionel Nation DVD Review" »

March 24, 2008

Lionel Big Boy Review By Erol Gurcan & Eliot Scher

The following appeared in the February '08 edition of The Lion Roars, the magazine of the Lionel Collectors Club of America and was reprinted here with permission from the authors.

Viewpoint I
by Erol Gurcan

During the last two years, my reviews in TLR have concentrated on less expensive locomotives and train sets. In my view, the two major commercial O-gauge magazines often ignore this segment of the market; they choose instead to concentrate on more expensive trains, as some car magazines focus on exotic, expensive, and powerful automobiles. However, not everyone can afford a $1,000-or more O-scale locomotive and/or has a large layout equipped with O72 minimum radius curves necessary to run it.

Click on the link below to read on

Continue reading "Lionel Big Boy Review By Erol Gurcan & Eliot Scher" »

December 28, 2007

REVIEW: Lionel's Harry Potter Hogwarts Express by Erol Gurcan

Lionel’s Harry Potter Hogwarts Express Train Set has been one of the most anticipated O-gauge train sets this year.  Moreover, the fact that it is on the cover of Lionel’s current catalog establishes its significance to the company’s success.  The set arrived at hobby and retail stores last month, just in
time for the holiday season.

Click on the link below to read on

Continue reading "REVIEW: Lionel's Harry Potter Hogwarts Express by Erol Gurcan" »

November 22, 2007

REVIEW: Using Evan Designs' Model Builder Software

Mbsphoto0 Everyone knows it’s the small details that make a model train layout more interesting.  Whether your layout is 4’x 6’ or 16’ x 30’, the addition of a few simple buildings to a scene can add extra detail to bring a layout to life.  O Gauge buildings and structures aren’t cheap so a well-developed town can set you back some serious dollars.  Because of limited budgets, many have come up with ingenious methods to fabricate buildings from scratch but these techniques can be cumbersome and time consuming.  The folks at Evan Designs realized this and created a software product called Model Builder Software to simplify the construction of model buildings from scratch using card stock and printed images.  I had a chance to use this software and here are my thoughts. 

Be sure to read how to enter a chance to win a copy of Model Builder Software at the end of the review.

Click on the link below to read on

Continue reading "REVIEW: Using Evan Designs' Model Builder Software" »

November 01, 2007

Review: Two New Conventional Lionel Locomotives by Erol Gurcan

Below is a review of a couple of conventional Lionel locomotives, the Baby Trainmaster and the Junior Mikado, that first appeared in the October '07 issue of the LCCA magazine "The Lion Roars."  Articles like this is one of the many benefits in being a member of the LCCA.  Enjoy.  Erol

I have reviewed two new, inexpensive conventional locomotives – one diesel and one steam.

I. The Baby Trainmaster

In its 2007 Volume 1 Catalog (page 85), Lionel® introduced an all-new locomotive, the Fairbanks Morse H16-44 in New York Central décor, commonly known as the Baby Trainmaster (6-18385). The loco arrived in stores in June 2007. It is also shown in the current 2007 Volume 2 Catalog (page 95).

Click on the link below to read on

Continue reading "Review: Two New Conventional Lionel Locomotives by Erol Gurcan" »

October 05, 2007

REVIEW: The Black Diamond Railway DVD

Bdrw In September of '06 I posted about a cool website,, featuring photos and videos of the Black Diamond Railway.  The Black Diamond Railway is the creation of Rich Battista and was featured as the cover story of the October/November 2006 issue (Run 217) of O Gauge Railroading magazine.  The quality of the site and the photos and videos it contained was very impressive so it was no surprise when Mr. Battista announced he was going to make a DVD featuring The Black Diamond Railway.

Back on 9/26/07, I received a tip from an OGaugeWatch reader that the new DVD was available for purchase.  I've had the opportunity to watch the DVD and here are my thoughts.

Click on the link below to read on

Continue reading "REVIEW: The Black Diamond Railway DVD" »

July 05, 2007

All About Toy Trains For Kids - A Review by Erol Gurcan

Allabouttrains TM Books and Video® released its “All about Trains for Kids” DVD in March. This DVD was delayed in the pipeline several times because the company focused on cowboy and tractor videos during last couple of years, except for the Lionel® FasTrackTM video released last fall. “TM had great success with its John Deere tractor videos, but they took longer to produce than we anticipated,” company founder and President Tom McComas said. “We wanted to get back to our roots with the train videos.” This new DVD picks up where TM’s “I Love Toy Trains” series left off.

Click on the link below to read on

Continue reading "All About Toy Trains For Kids - A Review by Erol Gurcan" »

April 12, 2007

Review: MTH's GS-4 and Matching Passenger Cars

GS4 Southern Pacific's "Daylight" passenger trains awash with vermilion red and bright orange stripes separated by silver pinstripes are arguably the most beautifully decorated streamlined passenger trains to every ride the rails.  SP's famous Coast Daylight winding along California's coastline between Los Angeles and San Francisco must have been some sight.  Among rail fans, the most popular Daylights were those pulled by the Lima Locomotive Works 4-8-4 class GS-4 Northern locomotives decked out in the Daylight paint scheme.  SP had 28 GS-4's on their roster.

Today, O Gauge models of the SP GS-4 dressed in the Daylight paint scheme are very popular among enthusiasts.  So much so that both Lionel and MTH offered the locomotive in very recent catalogs.  Lionel is also releasing a K-Line by Lionel version as well.  MTH cataloged a version of the GS-4 in the MTH 2006 Volume 2 O Gauge catalog as part of the RailKing Imperial product line.  The Imperial line is marketed by MTH as a step above the RailKing line because Imperial locomotives include added details that would usually be found on MTH's more expensive Premier products.   

Click on the link below to read on

Continue reading "Review: MTH's GS-4 and Matching Passenger Cars" »

November 06, 2006

Lionel's Polar Express and Add On Cars - A Review by Erol Gurcan

For Christmas 2005, Santa Claus brought my two daughters, Kristine and Danielle, a Lionel® Polar Express™ train set (6-31960). My wife Laura’s position is — I used this train as a pretext to buy myself a Christmas gift. On the day after Christmas, I also purchased the baggage (625135) and diner (6-25134), the add-on cars for the set; for them, of course. That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it!

Holiday History

Lionel’s Polar Express train set first graced the cover of its 2004 Volume 1 Catalog and listed for $250. It also appeared in the 2004 volume 2 Catalog. The train continued in both 2005 Catalogs, but the price jumped to $280. The two add-on cars also appeared for the first time in 2005, listing at $55 each. Still popular two years later, this set and the add-on cars remain in both 2006 Catalogs, as well as being featured in a separate Christmas Catalog released by Lionel in April, 2006. However, the price of the set has increased to $290, and the add-on cars are now sold at $60 each. The good news is the set can be purchased for about $220 if you shop around or check the ads in the model train magazines.

Click on the link below to read on

Continue reading "Lionel's Polar Express and Add On Cars - A Review by Erol Gurcan" »

August 27, 2006

Traveling By Rail Podcasts

Colorado_railsNot much happening in the world of O Gauge right now so I couldn't resist a post about a rail travel company using podcasting to assist rail travelers.   Podcasts are nothing new but I like the way Vacations By Rail is using them to drum up potential customers.  If you're thinking about planning a rail  vacation then you will want to give a listen to the Rail Insider Series podcasts by Vacations By Rail.  Vacations By Rail is producing the podcasts to provide listeners with helpful tips for planning a rail vacation.  Each episode includes a link to supplemental materials (route maps, schedules, sample itineraries, etc) for download that are referenced during the podcast.  Episode 1 is available now and covers a transcontinental trip on Amtrak.  Listening to the episode and having never traveled cross country by rail, I found it to have some very useful information.  I didn't realize it takes 4 days and 3 nights to travel cross country on Amtrak.  Definitely worth a listen if you are thinking about traveling cross country by rail for the first time.

Maybe someday Classic Toy Trains, O Gauge Railroading, Model Train News or some other model railroading magazine will realize that podcasts are a great way to supplement their publications.  Wouldn't it be great if you could download the latest podcast from your favorite model railroading magazine on to your iPod and listen to it on your daily walk or run or on the way to work? 

July 20, 2006

RR In A Box

I like innovative products that have the potential of attracting new people into the model railroading hobby.  Back in April at the spring '06 York, PA Train Collector's Association show I came upon such a product called RR In A Box.  I ran into the RR In A Box crew again at the NMRA National Train show in Philadelphia where I got the chance to check out their product more closely and snap some photos.  Click on the link below to read on.

Continue reading "RR In A Box" »

July 13, 2006 Web Site Upgraded

On July 12, 2006, Kalmbach Publishing released a new version of is the web portal for the collection of real and model train related magazines Kalmbach publishes including Classic Toy Trains, their magazine dedicated to O Gauge trains. Besides a major upgrade to the look and feel of the site, which looks magnificent, there is new magazine subscriber only content.  Fans of the Trains magazine news wire who are not Trains magazine subscribers will be disappointed to learn that the news wire is now only available to subscribers.  Visit's subscriber benefits page to learn more about the magazine subscriber only benefits.  There are also some other notable changes.   Click on the link below to read the rest of this post.

Continue reading " Web Site Upgraded" »

June 05, 2006

The National Toy Train Museum

Tca_museum I snapped a few photos while visiting the National Toy Train Museum during the museum's open house the day before the York '06 spring meet.  You can view the photos here.  For those of you who live near or will be traveling to the Pennsylvania Dutch Country you need to add the Train Collector Association's National Toy Train Museum to your list of places to visit.  The museum houses a wonderful collection of model trains dating back to the beginning of the hobby.  The layouts are fantastic too.  For more information visit the National Toy Train Museum's website.

April 01, 2006


If your a rail fan I highly recommend that you add to your favorites list.  The site hosts pictures taken by rail photographers from around the world and has a "photo of the week" that is always fantastic.  I just discoverd the site recently and enjoy browsing it regularly. 

March 28, 2006

May Issue of Classic Toy Trains Hits Newstands on April 4th

Subsribers have already started receiving the May 2006 issue of Classic Toy Trains and it will be available at newstands on 4/4.  This issue has a review of the Ready Made Toys RDC Budd car (as does the latest O Gauge Railroading Magazine) and a great plan for a small 5'x9' layout.  There are also two featured layouts, some nice photos of Lionel's Acela and an article on Lionel's post war boxcars.  You can check out a preview of the table of contents and some additional "online extras" that supplement the May issue here.

March 19, 2006

Fort Washington Great Train Expo

The Great Train Expo is being held at the  Fort Washington, Pa convention center this weekend.  I arrived around 12:30 pm yesterday and parking was scarce due to a crafters show being held in the same complex.  I thought the crowd was a bit lighter than a similar show held in Edison, NJ a few weeks ago.  This show also seemed to have more non-train related toy vendors and not as many folks buying.  I saw two  vendors selling Lionel's Acela set for $1,795 and another two were selling William's semi scale GG1's for $150.  I could have gotten one of the William's GG1's last week for $140 dollars at the TCA meet in Northeast Philadelphia. 

There were a number of modular layouts with N, HO, S, O and G scales represented.  The most impressive was the layout by the Philadelphia N-Trak group.  The Independent Hi Railers O Gauge layout was also very nice. 

Overall, the show was not as good as the Great Train Expo held in Edison a few weeks ago, there were less O Gauge vendors and no real bargains.  If your looking to just browse and maybe take in the crafters convention next door then the show will be worth the trip.  Admission price to the train show only was $7.00 and kids under 12 are free.

If you plan to attend the show today (click here for directions) the parking lots fill up fast.  The best place to park is in the Honeywell parking lot which is three quarters of the way around the other side of the convention center just before the parking lot exit.  From this lot the train show, which is held in the "B" hall, is just a short walk around the front of the Honeywell building.

I snapped a few photographs of the modular layouts which can be viewed here.

March 09, 2006

REVIEW: Ready Made Toys "Buddy"

Yesterday I received an email from a Classic Toy Trains forum member, “birds”, asking me to elaborate on a post I made on the forum in response to a request for opinions about the Ready Made Toys RDC Budd cars. I’ve been meaning to write a detailed review of these trains for some time but never got around to it. The email from “birds” motivated me to write the following:

I have two Pennsylvania - Reading Seashore Lines RMT RDC Budd cars, one with about 30 minutes of run time and another with about 10 minutes. I purchased the second car about 2 months after I bought the first. Now that I have 2 of them I always run them in pairs and

Continue reading "REVIEW: Ready Made Toys "Buddy"" »

March 06, 2006

Great Trains Expo Show - Edison, NJ

I attended the Great Trains Expo Show in Edison, NJ on Sunday.  It was a good size show with plenty of O-Gauge vendors.  The show started at 10:00 am but I arrived at around 11:30 am  with my 2 year son in tow.  The price of admission was $7 for adults.  By the time we left around 2:00 pm the show was packed.  Judging by the number of bags being carried by attendees, a lot of people were buying but it didn't seem like there were many bargains to be had.

The modular displays were best part of the show.  The Raritan River Hi-Railers layout was the most impressive as was the amount of equipment they were running on it.  Their roundhouse module was jammed with Pennsy Railroad equipment. The New Jersey Southern N-Trak N scale module was also very nice.  I snapped a couple of photos of both modules using my cell phone camera (I left the house without my digital camera!).

Raritan River Hi Railers Layout:

Roundhouse modules


GG1 on a siding


A scene from the N-Trak Layout:


The next Great Trains Expo Show in the Edison, NJ expo center is scheduled to be held on August 12-13, 2006.  See the Great Train Expo web site for details.

February 06, 2006

Lionel Acela More Impressive in Person

Today I stopped by one of my favorite train shops on the way home from work hoping to get a look at the new Lionel Acela set.  Sure enough, there was the Acela in the display case in all of it's O Gauge glory.  The pictures I've seen posted on the web are impressive but seeing the Acela for myself left me saying WOW! as I stared at it for a while.  It is much longer than I expected and the detail is incredible, right down to the perfectly positioned tiny "Danger High Voltage" sign on the base of the pantographs.  The Acela as a static display was extraordinary so I'm sure it's even more impressive when it's operating.  Unfortunately the shop wasn't running it and probably never will (they don't have much of a working layout - which boggles my mind but that a subject for another post).  This shop was selling the Acela set for $1,699 which is a good price compared to what it's been selling for on eBay recently.  It's a hefty price tag but seems to be well worth it if you have the $$ and layout to run it on.


Classic Toy Trains magazine has a nice review of LED lamps from Scott's Odds-n-Ends in the March 2006 issue.  The LEDs come in three styles, focused, inverted and four-LED.  The bulbs can be used to replace incandescent bulbs on your O Gauge layout and according to the article are much brighter, give off virtually no heat and will last a very long time.  They are available in clear, red, or green with either a standard sized screw or bayonet base.  The red and green bulbs appear clear until they are activated. Prices start at $4.95. 

Visit Scott's Odds-n-Ends LED web page

View a discussion on the use of LEDs on Classic Toy Trains forum

January 22, 2006

Classic Toy Trains - March '06 Issue

The Classic Toy Trains March '06 issue hit my mailbox yesterday.  There's a nice story entitled "Fun on a 4 by 8-foot layout" that was interesting, but a track plan was not included with the story.  There is a guide to Lionel's postwar boxes and a story on Lionel's prewar gift sets that were also interesting.

See the table of contents for Classic Toy Trains March '06 issue

Be sure to check out the video links of products that were reviewed in the 3/06 issue.  The links are at the bottom of the contents page.

January 18, 2006

2006 Lionel Catalog Highlights

Here are some of the highlights I found interesting in the new 2006 Lionel catalog. 


  • New Thomas theme items.  Lionel is expanding the wildly popular (at least in my household) Thomas the tank engine line with a new James engine and a Sodor Freight expansion pack that contains 4 cars including a caboose and a flat car with Harold the helicopter.  These new additions join Percy the tank engine, who was introduced in the 2005 Catalog, Volume 2.


  • A new Christmas themed set, the North Pole Central Christmas Train, is released.  The components of the set, locomotive, musical boxcar, animated gondola and caboose are the same as 2005's Holiday Tradition set but have a North Pole central paint scheme.  Lionel also added 2 new North Pole Central themed holiday expansion packs, a passenger and a freight pack.

Continue reading "2006 Lionel Catalog Highlights" »

January 05, 2006

Lionel BB1 Review

There is a nice review of Lionel's new BB1 switch engines by Bob Bubeck on the OGR forum.  Bob includes a link to pictures of the BB1 at the end of his post.

Read the entire review on the OGR forum.

December 26, 2005

February Issue of Classic Toy Trains

The February issue of CTT is out and it has a fantastic spread on a 100% Marx layout.  There is also an enjoyable spread on a layout that models Alaska.   The article on the history of the State of Maine boxcar models was interesting and gave me the urge to add one to my collection. 

Check out the table of contents.

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