By Tony Cook
When does something in your life go from being current everyday over to nostalgic memory? When does a song become an “oldie,” and when does an older automobile become “vintage”? I can pinpoint when my interest in older model trains was sparked and when I began to see those items in a different light.
In the mid-1990s, I was in a hobby shop in the St. Louis area and spotted a boxed example of a 1970s-made TYCO Chattanooga GP20 diesel model and with it was that manufacturer’s 1980 product catalog. I hadn’t seen either item in many years. Remember, this is just before eBay and the internet were up to speed, so a swap meet would be one of the few locations to spot something of this variety, as well as this small secondhand collection of items sitting on a back shelf. Not sure what really got my attention, but packaging, decoration of the GP20, and a few minutes paging through the product catalog made my purchasing decision for me that day.
At the time, those items were maybe a dozen years old… not necessarily vintage collector’s items by any definition. I found myself paging through the catalog a number of times not long after purchasing it and remembering not only TYCO’s once wide variety of model trains, but started to think about others from my youth.
The next few swap meets had me looking for other items, and I started thinking about various older models that I’d never actually owned or examined. My interest continued to grow on this subject, and by the late 1990s, I was on eBay and regularly attending any and all swap meets that I discovered. One area where the internet seems to excel in is providing a home for people’s hobbies and interests and documenting the past with images and text. I’d been searching, back before “Googling” something meant anything to anyone, for a source for TYCO and other older model trains. Certainly, somebody has posted a listing of items or images or reproduced old catalogs online.
When I didn’t locate a solid reference, I began building my own. The original TYCO website I did was very basic with tiny images, but it was great to see these items finally being documented. Surprisingly, I started receiving feedback from visitors to my pages. Questions about other product lines led to the launch of AHM, Revell, and other reference websites (still going strong as the HO Scale Trains Resource).
As this column is so aptly titled, we all likely find ourselves “going in circles,” whether it’s restoring an old car, buying songs on iTunes from the year we graduated high school, or collecting a favorite TV show on DVD that we enjoyed as a kid. Just like that model train chasing its tail and returning to where it began, it is fun to venture back to the past and relive, appreciate, and enjoy many things… Including vintage HO model trains.
Did you have a moment similar to mine? Do recall when collecting HO model trains began a prime interest in the hobby. For some, they never left and still proudly possess those vintage releases. Others, like me, discovered the fun of researching and collecting the hobby’s vast history.