The Rail Philatelist April 1998 Newsletter
Number 9 April 1, 1998
Volume 2 . Number 9 April 1, 1998
Dear Fellow Rail Philatelist:
NO FOOLIN': Over 40% of you responded to my survey - that's a fantastic response. Thank you! Sorry this mailing is so late - the triple whammy of my Eastern show trip (I got back from Buffalo late on the 7th), Easter and tax time put me quite a bit behind even though I worked on the S and T lists while on the road - just never enough time to squeeze everything in - "best laid plans......"
SURVEY RESULTS PART II: Unlike me, most of you collect other countries and/or topics as well as train stamps. Thus, I guess, I can never be your full-service stamp dealer. Never-the-less, I promise to do the best I can for you on the track I'm on! Your hobby purchases each month run from ZERO to a few hundred dollars, $25-$50 being the norm. The best answer, I thought, was "It depends on what I'm offered". How true! That's why I am striving to include as much material as possible in my price lists each month, hoping to offer something that meets a need for each of you. Let me know what you are looking for - actually, one respondent almost did. He wrote: "There are many inexpensive stamps in the ATA Handbook that are never available - not on your lists nor on others. A lot of your regulars must be missing these items. How about a regular effort to find sources?" He didn't give any specific examples so I don't know if I've come up with any on the enclosed lists but I can assure you that I am always working hard to find new and elusive material and develop reliable sources but it ain't easy! I did just buy out all the remaining train stamp inventory of Westminster Stamp Galleries, Foxboro, MA plus a couple private collections among several recent purchases, but even there I got only one or two of most items. I really enjoy the challenge of the hunt - there just may be a treasure trove of train stamps out there someplace waiting for me! (Hope springs eternal!)
SCANNERS: I took my Christmas gift and splurged - I bought TWO scanners - one for my computer and one for my car! It will take considerable time and effort before I become proficient with either but I'm working on it. I used the car scanner (a Radio Shack PRO-26) to monitor the Union Pacific transmissions as I traveled to the Ogden, UT train show and back - I didn't hear much of real importance - of course I didn't understand some of what I heard either. I plan to use the other scanner (a UMAX 600S) to increase the number of pictures on my web page. I'll also be able to e-mail you a photo of specific items in stock, but PLEASE don't ask for photos of common 15c stamps. Since only about 30% of you indicated that you have a computer, I guess this new e-mail photo service will be of limited value to most of you, but I look forward to helping as many of you as I can. I expect the scanner to be particularly useful for covers and other paper memorabilia.
STAMP OF THE MONTH: The Sydney Harbor Bridge (Scott #130 among others) qualifies as a train stamp because it carried tracks of the New South Wales Railway. But I've chosen it this month because of the following anecdote by Martin J. Frankevicz on page 72 of the March 1998 SCOTT STAMP MONTHLY: "On March 19, 1932, the Sydney Harbor Bridge was to be officially opened to traffic by Jack Lang, the premier of New South Wales. Holding the scissors and
about to cut the ribbon, Lang was shocked to see a uniformed man brandishing a sword ride up on a horse. The man, a Captain de Groat, then earned himself a mention in the annals of jabberwockian occurrences. As his vorpal blade went snicker-snack to cut the ribbon, de Groat announced to the crowd, 'I, an officer of the Commonwealth, in the name of common decency, declare this bridge open!' This strange act also earned de Groat an immediate trip to police headquarters as the ribbon was being retied so the nonplused premier could carry on, albeit anti-climactically, with the ceremonies." Who says there is no excitement in stamps?
RAIL THOUGHT OF THE MONTH: "LOCOMOTIVE - a plausible reason for a plea of insanity" Wiley's Dictionary in Johnny Hart's comic strip B.C. Aren't all us train collectors just a little crazy?
MARCH TRAVEL: I had a great day train watching on the drive to Ogden - 45 trains between Cheyenne and Green River plus a few more as I ate dinner at the Embers Restaurant across the street from the Union Pacific (UP) engine servicing facilities in Green River. There are a lot of things I don't understand about railroading - you see some curious things. As I stood on the foot bridge over the Green River yard I watched a UP-Conrail coal train head west. Why would they have to bring eastern coal so far? Five minutes later I watched an eastbound UP coal train go by, but the last 10 cars were empty! Why haul coal both directions? Can anybody enlighten me? (Probably, different grades of coal - low sulfur or whatever.) I'm used to seeing loaded coal trains going south thru Colorado Springs and empties heading north - not loaded trains both ways! As if the UP didn't have enough problems already, the Midwest snow storm March 7-9, had all the east-bound trains stopped on my return from Ogden and only a few west-bounds were seen. There were at least 8 trains waiting west of Cheyenne at the I-80 - I-25 junction when I went by at 1 PM on the 9th. But UP isn't the only one with problems. A reliable source told me that the Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF) is also having major integration problems but the focus on UP has enabled them to keep it quiet so far. His view was that in the long run the UP will come out stronger than BNSF! Says he can't understand how his BNSF stock can keep going up with all the problems they have. On my way to the Rock Island, IL show, I spent a productive 5 hours in Council Bluffs, IA going through Armin Crowe's P-Z inventory and talking about the stamp business. Armin was one of the original topical stamp dealers dba AKSARBEN TOPICALS until he sold his complete inventory to a British dealer a couple years ago. Now he works seven days a week doing used worldwide approvals and loves every minute of it - says he doesn't miss the shows or the high overhead and travel that went with them (I listened carefully!). After the show, I spent a couple delightful days working up the new stamps in my van while watching trains - first in Galesburg, IL where the old Burlington crosses the old Santa Fe on an overpass at 90 degrees even though both are ostensibly east-west routes - now that they are the same railroad there is still a lot of variety with Amtrak, UP, Conrail, Canadian National and Grand Trunk trains having trackage rights; then in Rochelle, IL where the UP and BNSF cross at grade - there are always a couple railfans there - in fact it looks like the railroads and/or the city are building a large pavilion at the east end of the junction to accommodate all the train watchers. Unfortunately, the UP was having dispatcher computer problems the morning of the 24th (according to my scanner!) so most of their trains were held up west of the junction - 6 BNSF trains came flying thru but only 4 UP - less than half the usual number. Even so, there were still five railfan cars there when I left just after noon. I hope the traffic picked up for them.
COLLECTORS AND AGE: Last month I mentioned that train stamp collecting was an old man's hobby. At the Hostler's Railroad Festival banquet in Ogden, UT, Charlie Getz, a columnist for the Narrow Gauge Gazette gave an entertaining talk about the characteristics of model railroaders. He said that the hobby is roaring but we all think it is dying ( sound familiar?). He pointed out that the average age of model railroaders is 67 and that a recent survey of all hobbies ( I think by the Hobbies Industry Association) showed average ages from 62-68. Charlie went on to say that we shouldn't really be surprised by this since that's the age range when we finally have both the time and the financial resources to fully participate in our hobbies. Maybe things aren't so bad after all.
APRIL 25 LIVINGSTON TRAIN SHOW LIVINGSTON DEPOT CENTER LIVINGSTON,MT APRIL 26 HELENA RAILROAD SHOW HELENA CIVIC CENTER HELENA, MT MAY 2-3 GREAT AMERICAN TRAIN SHOW CONVENTION CENTER TULSA,OK
APRIL 25 LIVINGSTON TRAIN SHOW LIVINGSTON DEPOT CENTER LIVINGSTON,MT
APRIL 26 HELENA RAILROAD SHOW HELENA CIVIC CENTER HELENA, MT
MAY 2-3 GREAT AMERICAN TRAIN SHOW CONVENTION CENTER TULSA,OK