Train collecting and the fascination behind it
What is the fascination people have with toy train collecting? When I was a little girl, my grandparents had this room off their garage that was always locked. When you were allowed to go in, you entered into a whole new world: a miniature world filled with Lionel trains, small towns and people. The whole set up was from the imagination of my grandfather and uncle who had begun the little train town (that grew to be massive) when my uncle was a little boy. It took on a life of its own and grew from there.
What is it about collecting toy trains that people love? We all need to have an outlet in life, a hobby that allows us to be creative and takes us away to another place. Especially now, in a world where we are confined to our homes and have to find ways to amuse ourselves. Collecting has become more popular than ever now thus, allowing the antique and vintage industry to take on a new life.
If you visit any antique store, you are bound to find Lionel trains somewhere in that space and a collector is who is looking for them. There are many manufacturers out there who created toy trains but perhaps the most famous and most coveted is the Lionel train. Inventor Joshua Lionel Cowen wasn’t the first to manufacture toy trains but his talents as an engineer and salesman soon put Lionel ahead of its competitors.
Cowen designed his first train, the Electric Express, not as a toy, but as an eye-catching display for toy stores. During Lionel’s early days, Americans were captivated by the railroads and awed by electricity, still a rarity in many homes. Lionel’s first trains were powered by wet-cell batteries, soon replaced by the 110-volt electric transformer. By 1906, with the introduction of preassembled track and a selection of engines and cars, the Lionel we know today was already taking shape. The rest, as they say, is history.
If you’re serious about collecting trains there is an organization you may want to consider joining is Lionel Collectors.
Today we hunt, scour, and search for antique and vintage toy trains, tracks, displays, and accessories for our ever-growing collection. My Grandfather and Uncle were on to something all those years ago. My Grandfather is no longer with us but my Uncle and his son, my cousin, have kept the obsession going and thriving all these years later. They transformed one small town with a train going around it into an entire toy train world with multiple train tracks, villages, and accessories.
The fascination with toy trains hasn’t slowed down in all these years. In fact, its popularity just continues to grow. We collect for nostalgia, to have a creative outlet, and for the sheer hunt of objects that are hard to find. Collecting trains is no exception. The best place to find these trains is antique stores, flea markets, and by contacting the Train Collectors Association to meet like-minded people with the same passion as you.