Holiday Memories

by Joseph Stachler

We all have at least one memory of toy trains and the Holiday season. My own happened when I was 5 years old and was given a Lionel Santa Fe Alco passenger set for Christmas by my grandparents. I never knew that model trains had horns and when I turned the locomotive upside-down to look it over, I was startled to hear the loud beep from inside.

We thought it would be interesting to hear what train memories the leaders of today's O gauge manufacturers have from the Holidays. We asked the president of each company for their story, and below are the responses we've received. We hope you enjoy them and have a happy and safe Holiday Season.

"My toy train memories are numerous and happy and include my own childhood and that of my children, but oddly my fondest memory is my first job at age 15 in a hobby shop.   I was so excited to have gotten a “real” job during my freshman year in high school, and by Thanksgiving of that year I had progressed form sweeping floors and cleaning showcases to selling trains.   I was convinced there could be no better job in the whole world!  Christmas approached and our little shop got busier and busier.  Customers wanted to know, 'what’s the best train for under my Christmas tree?'  It was 1952 and the answer was always Lionel."

"That was one of my most enjoyable Christmases and I can still recall walking home Christmas Eve.  I was tired from the long days and nights at the store, but filled with great satisfaction that my first work experience was so productive and I had been so involved with exposing so many new consumers to the hobby of model railroading."

"I don’t sweep floors anymore, but I still have the best job in the world!"

Richard Maddox
President, Lionel LLC


"The first time that I saw the 1949 Christmas movie "Holiday Affair" was Christmas 1973, the year Debby and I got married. This memorable movie stars Robert Mitchum, Janet Leigh and the Lionel Red Rocket Express. Unlike other trains that appeared in movies over the years, The Red Rocket Express is actually a central character. It makes multiple appearances, is shown in detail and causes other characters to act-out their parts. It doesn't matter that this train is not Marx, it still can have a memorable effect on enthusiasts of any scale or brand. I highly recommend this film for any train enthusiast."

"The train has an impact on little Timmy that many of us can relate to, back when we first received, or just wanted that special train."

"Lessons in family values, a love affair and Harry Morgan as the Christmas Day judge all make this a delightful story. The impact on me, is reinforced yearly as we watch the film. The great department store layout that is featured has helped inspire our annual layouts. The warmth and values expressed, have inspired our annual get-togethers. It may sound corny, but if trains can likewise inspire better values in us, train collecting is far more than a hobby."

Happy Holidays,
Jim Flynn
President, Marx Trains


"When I was a young lad, age 6, there was a branch line railroad a short distance from my home.  Sitting on the living room floor, playing with my toys, I would jump up upon hearing the distant whistle of the steam engine.  I yelled to my mother 'The train is coming, the train is coming!'  Neither my mother nor my siblings heard the whistle - but I did!"

"I would run out the back door, up the alley and across the field to the old railroad shanty alongside the spur track.  My wait was never long, for in the distance above the trees I could see the white plumes of smoke.  Into view came the first boxcars followed by the caboose and finally the giant steel monster breathing fire and smoke."

"It was a saddle tank switcher sans tender.  After pushing the caboose into the siding and upon uncoupling, it would proceed to pull the two boxcars up the steep grade to the lumberyard and bakery that it served.  As soon as the train was out of sight, I would scamper into the caboose investigating its inners, oblivious to the "art" calendars hanging on the wall."

"Up into the cupola I would sit and fantasize of highballing down the main line at a break neck speed of at least 20-mph!  (remember, I was only 6 years old)  A few times I was chased but that didn't keep me away - it was worth it!  This went on for several years until they retired the old steam engine, as sadly trucks replaced the need for railroad service."

"Time went on and for my 12th birthday I was given an old paper side "HO" boxcar kit with a length of track, which sparked my fascination for model railroading.  Fortunately, I was able to find a career that revolves around this wonderful hobby and the unique group that hears the whistle before anyone else!"

  ~For We May Grow Old, But We Never Grow Up~

Joe Hayter
President, Weaver Models


"I especially remember Christmas of 1957. This was not the first year I had received Lionel as a gift; that was in 1955. But in 1957 I asked Santa for what was probably the most asked-for Lionel item, the beautiful twin-motored Santa Fe F-3."

"I remember going to our local Lionel dealer (which was also a hardware/auto parts store) and spending much time studying this beauty. I kept asking my father if he thought Santa could bring me engine and he kept telling me 'I don't know, it is pretty expensive.' By that time I was vowing to be good for eternity and promising to ensure world peace."

"When Christmas morning finally came, I came tearing out of my bedroom and started immediately ripping the wrapping off my gifts. One box was very heavy. I thought, 'That must be it!' Nope, it's only an erector set. A couple of board games, a set of Colorforms."

"Let's see, there are three boxes left. I carefully started taking the wrapping paper off the first box and sure enough there was an orange and blue box underneath. And it said Santa Fe on the end. But it also said "B" unit. I thought, 'What's a B unit?' I carefully opened the box. WOW! My own Santa Fe and it is different than the one at the store. This one has a picture of an Indian on it! I picked up the second box. Now this one was heavier than the first one. Sure enough, there was the familiar red nose of the Santa Fe 'A' unit. I was in heaven. Seeing one in the store was one thing but holding your own in your hands is a totally different feeling! Now, the third box. It was small compared to the F-3 boxes, but suspiciously heavy. I unwrapped it. Another orange and blue box! Opening this one was a complete surprise for here was a Lionel train I had not even seen before. A Rio Grande engine with a snowplow!"

"Santa brought me 2 engines!! I was very lucky. All of my Christmases gave me fond memories. But 1957 was special. And it became even more special as I got older and learned about the history of the various Lionel products. Thanks Santa! Thanks Dad!!"

Jim Weaver
Vice President, Atlas O LLC