Train collectors keep hobby on track
A love of trains large and small continues to draw Houston-area residents of all ages to the Lone Star Division's Gulf Coast Chapter of the Train Collectors Association a local chapter with more than 200 members chartered in 1967.
Sometimes that love lasts a lifetime.
Clear Lake resident and chapter member Mike Lewis, 57, said he's been collecting model trains since he was 4, and his enthusiasm hasn't waned.
Every Christmas we had trains running around the tree or in our bedroom," said Lewis, adding the chapter is open to collectors of all ages.
I still have and operate the Lionel trains that I had in my childhood."
A U.S. operations manager for DPC Industries, Lewis' collection includes O-gauge Lionel trains from the pre-war (1900-1942) and post-war (1945-1969) era, as well as includes several hundred pieces dating from the 1920s to the 1980s.
I am very fond of the steam engines, as I like the action of the driving rods," he said.
This is a fascination that goes back to my early experience with toy trains."
Lewis said he's been on the hunt for a Lionel 700E a rare, true-to-scale steam engine sold in the late 1930s to add to his collection.
Joshua Lionel Cowen first made electric trains in 1900," Lewis said. He was the founder of the Lionel Electric Train Company.
The company is still in business today and is making some of the best trains and accessories they have ever made."
Chapter president Carl Olson, 72, said his interest in model trains also began in early childhood when Santa brought him his first Lionel O gauge passenger train.
He still has it in its original box as well as collection of about 1,000 pieces of prewar, postwar and modern trains.
He said playing and working with model trains when he was young helped him understand the nature of electricity and chemistry, as well as aspects of carpentry and painting.
Because of this, when I entered science classes in high school, I already had an understanding of much of what was being taught," said Olson, who retired after 30 years with Shell Oil Co.
On June 12, the local chapter held an open house at the St. Paul's Episcopal Church parish hall, 7843 Park Place Blvd., that included train layouts, refreshments, door prizes and a train raffle, and provided an opportunity to buy, sell and trade trains.
The next event, which is free and open to the public, is scheduled for 2 to 3 p.m. July 21 at the Hitchcock Public Library, 8005 Barry Avenue, Hitchcock.
It's part of their upcoming summer program Catch the Reading Express," Olson said.
We will be bringing our Kids Layout' to the event, which is a hands-on-one for the children to operate."
Library director Joyce Kleimann said the train-themed event is a good way to get kids on the right track with their summer reading.
Children are always fascinated with trains, so we contacted the model train group and asked if they would do a presentation for us and present the model trains to the kids," she said.
It will be educational and fun for the kids, and might even get the parents interested in the hobby of model railroading."
The library will have a selection of train-related books for children available for check out, including A Train for Tommy, The Little Engine That Could, A Pop-Up Book of Trains, Engine, Little Puff and Engine Number Nine, she said.
Such outreach efforts are held on a regular basis since a major goal of the association is to introduce newcomers to model trains, Olson said.
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