The Rail Philatelist December 1997 Newsletter

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Volume 2 ………………………………………………………………………. Number 5 December 1, 1997


Dear Fellow Rail Philatelist:

WORLD RAILWAY INFO NEEDED: Jerry Mosser writes that he is "Interested in forming a collection of steam locos. One from each country that had/has a rail system. Need to research miles of track per country. Need info/guide to info." I checked through my 1500+ rail book library and came up with only one book that seems to have that type of information all in one volume. Atlas of the World's Railways by Brian Hollingsworth. Published in 1980 by Everett House, 1133 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10036, ISBN# 0-89696-043-9. Anyone out there have some other suggestions that I can pass on to Jerry? Do any of you include such info in your collection write-ups? What reference sources do you find most useful? At least one noted topical judge has stated that the difference between a collection and an accumulation is in the information provided in the write-up. By that standard I have an accumulation, not a collection! How about you?

COLLECTING: Most of us seem to go for quantity rather than quality when we first start our collections. We try to acquire as many different items as possible with our limited resources rather than concentrating on the scarce or unusual. Unfortunately, the cheaper common items remain cheap and common while prices for the scarce and unusual items continue to soar beyond our limited means. Here is another bit of wisdom gained from my October visit to the "Oracle". He passed on the advise that was given to him by an old time dealer: "When you have limited funds, buy the good stuff first, you may never see it again. The others you will probably be able to get later". This advise was proffered when our young "Oracle" expressed dismay that the dealer had missed 3 other lots in an auction because he had used all the allotted funds buying one lot. Our older and wiser "Oracle" now says the dealer was absolutely correct because he later acquired all the items missed in the auction but has never seen another of the item he thought he overpaid for!

MORE OCTOBER TRAVEL: One of the side benefits of the Akron show was a relaxing Friday evening in a great train environment with Norm and Florence Wright, who drove down from Rochester, NY. We had our train stamp discussions and a great dinner in The Depot Diner of the Quaker Square Hilton ($10.99 for an all-you-care-to-eat prime rib buffet!). The surroundings included original Broadway Limited passenger cars, railway memorabilia decor and O scale model dioramas from an old dismantled layout. The hotel rooms are all circular, having been cut from the original oat storage silos of the historic Quaker Oats factory which was built in 1863 - an interesting place! I ate there but the rooms were beyond my budget since I come from the Tom Bodett school for motel rooms,i.e. "All rooms look alike when you are asleep." But eating is another story!

NOVEMBER TRAVEL OBSERVATIONS: (1) The Union Pacific RR looked more like the old Southern Pacific on November 13. Not because of all the dirty black SP units mixed in among the UP's Armour Yellow, but because most of the 36 trains I saw between Cheyenne and Ogden were standing still or moving slowly - not the double track raceway I'm used to seeing. The press reports of gridlock on the UP evidently aren't exaggerated - and UP's promise to be back up to speed by early November appears to still be off track! (I'm happy to report that trains seemed to be moving on my Nov. 25 return.) (2) Something different! At the Puyallup, WA Great American Train Show a modular train layout made entirely out of LEGO was the show highlight! Built by the Pacific Northwest Lego Train Club, the layout has 160 feet of track, several trains including Thomas the Tank Engine, Amtrak and an SP 4-4-4 Daylight, lots of LEGO buildings including a working turntable and roundhouse, four bridges and two mountains. LEGO toys have fascinated me since my three sons played with them years ago, but a complete train layout never occurred to me. (3) An ex-Great Northern fluted side passenger car serves as a one hour "Photo Express" at I-5, Exit 39, Kelso, WA. (4) The UP had a huge work crew replacing ties and ballast on the former SP coast line just north of Santa Barbara, CA Nov.18 so there wasn't any freight moving on that line either! (5) Ray Allen gave me an unexpected garden railway tour when I returned the stamp tongs he left behind - a spectacular 22' wooden trestle, numerous scratch-built bridges & several tunnel portals.

ECONOMICS: Is a good economy bad for hobbies? Except for Pacific 97, my show sales have been mediocre at best this year (Thank God (and you all) for good mail sales!). Other dealers have expressed similar sentiments to me - a model train dealer next to me in Akron said both his show and his store sales were about half of last year's. Steve Shoe, former Executive Director of the Model Railroad Industry Association, and now publisher/editor of THE COLORADO TIMETABLE wrote in the Sept-Oct. issue that four Colorado hobby shops have gone out of business since the previous bimonthly issue. He goes on to say:

"When the economy in the country is good both the theater business and the model train business get hurt. People have more money to buy cars (yes, car sales are up across the country) and houses (and house sales are up 3.5 percent). Modelers purchase the really big items that the family wants, take trips (ed: Guilty!) and splurge on that new boat, cabin in the mountains, etc. The hobby takes a dip every time the economy gets good. However, when the economy is poor as it was a few years ago the model railroad industry sales increase dramatically."

I hadn't thought of it in those terms before. My thought was that when things are going well, people are so busy and happy they don't have time or the need for their hobbies. But when things aren't going well, people need their hobbies to relieve the stress or provide an escape. Are hobbies like religion, something we turn to in hard times but tend to take for granted during the good times? Or is the hobby sales slowdown a leading indicator for a coming slowdown in the rest of the economy?

ECONOMICS II: You probably noticed that my "H" list last time was short on Hong Kong and the prices were higher than previously. There is still a lot of speculation in the Asian stamp markets, especially Hong Kong and Macao. I'm not sure that the recent turmoil in the Asian stock markets will dampen the speculation - it may well increase it as people search for value in hard goods and "things" rather than currency. Or are stamps really a form of currency and thus a vehicle for currency speculation? It will be interesting to see how this all plays out.

RAIL THOUGHT OF THE MONTH: Here is a poem of unknown origin sent to me by my brother-in-law several years ago in a Christmas gift (anyone know the author?):

I am not allowed to run the train, The whistle I can't blow --

I am not allowed to say how far the railroad cars can go --

I am not allowed to shoot off steam nor even clang the bell--

But let it jump the goddamn track, Then see who catches hell!

Monthly Stamp

STAMP OF THE MONTH: This Monaco Christmas stamp (Scott #1128) issued November 8,1978 was "politically correct" before the term was even invented. Note that the young lady has a train among the many gifts under her tree although she appears to be more thrilled with the red shoes!

May your Holiday Season be filled with Joy!


Al's signatureAL PETERSON



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