The Rail Philatelist February 2000 Newsletter
Volume 5 Number 1 …………… PRICE $1.00 (10 ISSUES FOR $8.00)……………. February 1, 2000Dear Fellow Rail Philatelist:
Thanks to all of you for your tremendous response to these monthly newsletters and pricelists. 1999 was by far my best mail order sales year as I have slowly transformed my business from show sales to mail order/web sales (now 75%, vs 25% five years ago). Thanks also to my growing "Subscriber" list, those of you who for whatever reason can't order at present but want to continue to receive the newsletter and lists. Notes like Don Galt's "I enjoy your writing too much to give it up! Please see check for 10 issues more" make my day. At one time, I had "lifetime" supplies, I thought, of some train stamps but many of these are now in short supply. It is becoming more and more difficult to find new items for these lists but I greatly enjoy the hunt. As I cut back on the show travel, I plan to fill your orders more promptly. That is my primary New Year resolution although I'm off to a slow start because of Anaheim and the van. Keep those orders coming!
THE STAMP HOBBY..: As a hobby, stamp collecting is and should be fun. That was the final, but not most salient, point Michael Laurence, Editor/publisher of LINN'S STAMP NEWS , made in his keynote address during the Tiffany dinner at the APS STAMPSHOW 99 in Cleveland last August. He has graciously consented to my serializing his other ten points in this volume. He starts by stating "Stamp collecting is a great hobby for all ages and all classes. There are so many benefits, and some of them are so obvious, that we may never have thought about them". So please take time to consider point one, then get your children, grand children or neighbor's children started!
"1. The stamp hobby is educational. We all know that stamp collectors are brighter than other people. This may be because stamps appeal more to brighter people. But I also think that exposure to stamps, especially at an early age, expands the mind. Stamps help children learn subjects that nowadays are difficult to teach in school: history, geography and math. Working with stamps also helps kids develop fine motor skills."
BEST OF THE BEST: Like me, you are probably tired of all the "end of the Century", "end of the Millennium", etc. hype and particularly all the retrospectives and "Best of" lists. Well, here are a couple "Best of"s you may have missed:
Best Train Trip in the World: Flam-Myrdal, Norway. (According to Eurrail Guide). I'd never heard of it so Jon Digraines, a Norwegian customer, sent me this information: "Well, - "the Best Train Trip in the World" - I don't know.... but at least a very famous railroad in Norway and abroad. The Flam Railway, opened 1940, is a part of the Norwegian State Railway system and a branch line of the Bergen Railway. It runs between two small villages in western Norway; Myrdal and Flam. Myrdal, situated 2845 feet above sea level and between two tunnels, is a branch station at the Bergen Railway. Flam, the terminal station, is only 6 feet above sea level. The distance is only 12 miles, so this makes the line one of the world's steepest non-rack-operated railways. 80 per cent of the line has a gradient steeper than 1:35, and over 40 per cent has a 1:18 gradient. Nearly 4 miles has curves with a radius less than 600 feet. The minimum curve radius is 427 feet. At the top the line is descending in long helical tunnels. There are 21 tunnels totaling 3.5 miles. In addition, large parts suffer from avalanches and rockfalls. The scenery is of course spectacular. In the tourist season, stops are made at waterfalls so that passengers can take photos. There are 3 stamps issued with connection to this line: Norway #333 and Guinea #1482f & 1483f. The two Guinea stamps are both made from photos of the Flam Railway, but the scenery on the stamps are changed. There are also 3 special postmarks from the line." Jon has photos of these items and many other Norwegian train items on his web page
Best U.S. Train Trip: Alaska Railway - Anchorage to Fairbanks. (According to America's Best Online). This one was on my "TO DO" list already!
Best Train Station: Oriente Station, Lisbon. (According to Travel & Leisure Critics Choice). (Portugal #1415?) Nyugati Station, Budapest. (According to Wallpaper Magazine(?)). (Hungary #1510)
If you have experienced any of these, let us know your story. If you have other choices, tell us about them as well.
BEST TRAIN STAMP?: While we are at it, what is the Best Train Stamp? I realize that it may be difficult to pick just one so pick your top five, either as singles or sets. Send me a postcard or e-mail with your votes. I'll publish a list of the top ten next month. Don't delay - get your choices in today!
NEW ISSUES: After spending most of the Martin Luther King holiday working up the new issues in this month's ARRIVAL TRACK, I realized that my "dream" is turning into a nightmare where new issues are concerned. While one part of me says "The more the merrier" regarding train stamps, an increasingly bigger part of me is screaming "ENOUGH ALREADY"! As a dealer I have to pay for and commit ahead of time to a certain quantity of new issues from all entities to insure I get sufficient quantities of the ones everyone wants. My new issue bills have been running a few thousand dollars each month for the past several months and look what we are getting? I doubt that any of the train new issues in the past year would make my top thousand, let alone the top ten! (Well, maybe the US "All Aboard" set). The most egregious new issues this month are actually in the "A" List. Walt Disney's Railroad Story was honored by Angola with a set of four miniature sheets and four souvenir sheets, the latter with backgrounds from the book's dust jacket but in altered colors. Not only is the set unnecessarily large but the price is exorbitant! ($37.50 perf, $75.00 imperf). The two Ghana souvenir sheets in the ARRIVAL TRACK are nice train pictures but what do they have in common with each other besides electric locomotives and how do they1 relate to the other four stamps and two miniature sheets of six previously listed from the set? The four stamps and two miniature sheets from Nicaragua are also well done but what do the Canadian Golden Spike Ceremony and Queen Victoria souvenir sheets have in common with diesel locomotives? The Maldives IBRA and PHILEXFRANCE 99 issues are the 12th and 13th respectively in a couple of uninspiringly designed omnibus sets issued for stamp shows that didn't have railways as their theme as far as I know. Did these countries also issue birds, cats, dogs, ships, airplanes, etc. for the shows? I certainly hope not! Maybe it is time for the American Topical Association to issue a position paper on these excessive issues which are hurting the hobby. I wouldn't propose a boycott because those never seem to work. I've considered giving up the new issue part of the business. That wouldn't hurt sales that much but it would greatly inconvenience those customers who, like me, suffer from the completeness fetish. I find myself on the horns of a dilemma. Anyone out there have a solution? Things promise to get worse before they get better I'm afraid. An article by Denise McCarty in the January 24, 2000 LINN'S STAMP NEWS reports that 14,597 stamps were issued in 1998, an increase of 1,191 from the previous year and 50% more than 10 years ago (even the US contributed 187!). Donald Sundman, President of Mystic Stamp Company, says in his "Philately for the 21st Century" essay in the January 2000 SCOTT STAMP MONTHLY "All countries see new stamps as a profit center and will keep the printing presses going full blast. They will sell fewer of any one stamp issue and compensate for it by producing more issues at higher face values." That's a scary thought since most new issues are already priced too high. No wonder so many new issue customers gave up at years end!
JANUARY TRAVEL: I got a late start on my Anaheim, CA trip January 4 since I first went to Canon City to spend a couple hours with my webmaster working on the latest updates. That went well but it went downhill from there. Once I got headed south on I-25 again, the transmission seemed to be acting up in the high winds and I didn't seem to have any acceleration. Just past Walsenburg, CO, the transmission temperature light came on as it had the last trip. Only 100 miles into a 3000 mile trip, I decided discretion was the better part of valor and turned around at the next exit. The light soon went off and the car ran fine most of the way home. Only saw three coal trains the whole trip! I stopped at a U-HAUL Rental to see about getting their smallest truck. The woman at the counter didn't want to even consider giving me a truck for a week but finally talked with a manager who okayed it but I balked when the price would be $29.95 a day plus 59c a mile and an $80 per day deposit even though the price painted in BIG letters on the side of the truck said "$19.95 per Day". I went home to try elsewhere. I had rented a cargo van from Enterprise in Washington, DC when the old Previa's clutch went out so I tried them. The first location had no vans available and the location that did wouldn't let me drive it beyond a neighboring state so I couldn't take it to California. Then I called Budget - they were closed but the young lady reserved a cargo van to be picked up at 8 AM when they opened. There was no way I was going to break even at the Anaheim show w1ith an extra $1000 overhead for the van rental but I had told several good customers I would be there plus a dealer was supposed to bring me a bunch of old magazines, so I felt obligated to make the trip. My primary motivation for signing up for the show in the first place was because it is the same location as the World Stamp Expo 2000 in July. I wanted to check out the venue and also the surrounding area for affordable hotels for my family for the ten day run. I plan to have my wife and two of my sons and 1čtheir wives helping me (between trips to Disneyland, Knotts Berry Farm, etc.) - so come meet them all. (Youngest son William and his wife Karyn are expecting our first grandchild about that time so they won't be able to make the trip from Nova Scotia).The Budget Ford Econoline van handled and rode well, it even had cruise control! The only problems were a dirty windshield, no washer fluid and a full ashtray! Train watching was pretty good too. Only two trains between home and Raton Pass but I heard a defect detector report that it was operating as I climbed the pass. That alerted me that AMTRAK may be due shortly. When I got to Raton, NM, there was a grain train waiting to climb the hill so I pulled into the Pizza Hut for lunch. I was rewarded, not only with a tasty lunch, but with a view of AMTRAK #3, THE SOUTHWEST CHIEF, crossing the Main St. overpass - 4 Genesis locos, a baggage car, 8 Superliners, 9 Express Boxcars, and 5 Roadrailers. By the time I finished lunch and gassed up the van, #3 had a 30 minute lead. I heard a couple defect detectors "No defects, 102 axles" and heard the female engineer talking with the dispatcher. As I approached Las Vegas, NM, I heard her report "Clearing west switch, Vegas" so they were only about five minutes ahead of me at that point but I evidently passed them in the hills west of Vegas where the tracks aren't visible from the road. I had heard the dispatcher tell a track worker that AMTRAK #4, the eastbound CHIEF, wouldn't be leaving Albuquerque until after 3 PM so I had hopes of seeing it but no such luck. They must have been using only one track between Albuquerque and Grants because only one of the seven trains I saw was moving in that stretch while all five were moving between Grants and Gallup. On the two TOFCs that passed while I ate my Famous Star Combo at Carls Jr. in Gallup, nine of the ten locos were Heritage, the other a War Bonnet. Saw the lights of eleven more trains between Gallup and Flagstaff, AZ, three EB waiting to get through Winslow. Saw about a dozen more from my Flagstaff motel room as I checked my e-mail, did finances and typed this, including AMTRAK #3 minus two of the Roadrailers, probably dropped off in Albuquerque. Or maybe the Phoenix "kick track" at Winona, just East of Flagstaff. The "kick track" is actually two sidings where Chicago - LA (and vice versa?) HOTSHOTS "kick-off" or set out stackpacks and TOFCs bound for Phoenix. Later, a Winslow to Phoenix train picks them up and delivers them to their destination. Why don't they just drop them in the Winslow yard? Evidently someone thinks this is more efficient. The "kick track" has been occupied most of the times I've passed this way so there must be a lot of high priority traffic to Phoenix. Watched three trains Tuesday morning from my motel room while getting ready for the day, then nothing until Williams where I pulled off to check out the Grand Canyon Railroad. The passengers were just gathering to watch a gunfight on the station platform when I walked up. I used the time to walk through the small museum and the large gift shop. The museum has a couple great stock certificates, a good dining car china collection and several other interesting displays. My favorite is the terrain model showing the 1961 main line rerouting which left Williams and Ashfork (of Albuquerque & Ashfork RPO fame) no longer on the main line - now they are just on the secondary line to Phoenix. I was disappointed in the gift shop because it had only a small selection of train books and memorabilia but it did have a huge selection of Grand Canyon and Arizona souvenirs. 2-8-0 steam loco #20 was sitting on a siding at the station but in the winter they use ALCO FA #6773 to pull two1920's vintage Harriman coaches, a streamlined "Cafe Car", dome car "Kokopelli" and observation car "Chief". I was allowed to step onto the observation car platform to look into the opulently furnished car - overstuffed chairs and all the accouterments of "Luxury Parlor Car" service ($119.95 plus tax and Park fee for the eight hour round trip). I waved as the train departed on time at 10 AM, then headed west. Saw three trains near Seligman (one doing some switching in the small yard there), then nothing until 1Kingman where two stackpacks passed while I refueled and two TOFCs rolled by while I ate lunch at Carls Jr. Then a dozen more trains on the way to Needles and nine more between there and Ludlow along old Route 66. The last one was just two "blonde" geeps running light EB in the middle of no-where, probably going to switch some of the hoppers on two sidings further up the line or maybe to the small chemical plant at Amboy. Only two more trains near Barstow. I took the East Main Street Exit off I-40 in Barstow for the first time since it looked like it might follow the tracks better than my usual route. It did but there weren't any trains to see. However I did see a large McDonalds using three old passenger cars as the eating area. All three switcher pairs were sitting idle at the eastend yard office but I noticed a string of cars coming over the hump from the west end and rolling into the classification tracks - something new everytime! There were no trains waiting in the Barstow yard and nothing the whole way into Victorville. Only two sets of helpers (a BNSF and a UP) instead of the usual four pairs were in the small Victorville yard and the new station is not yet completed although a long covered passenger platform and large parking area seemed ready for a big group of passengers from somewhere. Maybe they are going to start commuter service or expect the proposed Las Vegas AMTRAK service to bring lots of business. I did see seven trains at my Cajon Summit perch in the hour before it got too dark. Friday morning I watched ten trains while eating my "Deluxe Big Breakfast" at the Phelan McDonald's part way down the pass. One was the Roadrailer I'd seen on the previous trip but I still couldn't make out the logos from across I-15 - I think there is an advertising message here - Make the logo big enough to read or don't waste your money! The most interesting train came down the hill just as I was leaving so I followed it down the pass. I had heard earlier on the scanner an engineer call "UP6087 lead unit is dead, out of fuel". An incredulous dispatcher called back "Out of fuel? Where are you? Do you have enough dynamics for braking?" The engineer reported a number for his dynamics, said he had enough, was between Highland and Canon and would get moving again as soon as he could reset the lead locomotive from its "out of fuel" stop mode. The dispatcher then called two trains and had them squeeze in tight into a siding so #6087 could slide by. She seemed to be rolling fine as I paced her down the hill. My vehicle problems had prevented me from attending the ORCOEXPO Dealers Bourse in Anaheim on Thursday as planned but I did get to the main show on Friday. There were about 100 collectors waiting to get in when the show finally opened. I didn't find any treasures during my five hours there but I did manage to spend all the funds I had available, mostly on covers. I wanted to hear Ed Rosen, founder of the National Stamp Dealers Assn., talk on "So you want to be a stamp dealer" but I was the only one who showed up for it. We talked for a few minutes about the business and then I went back to the hunt. The Anaheim Convention Center was a good facility but I'm glad I was able to unload and set up Friday evening. Saturday morning most of the route around the loading areas was blocked by high school bands participating in some type of "Grand Opening" parade. The show itself turned out pretty well but not good enough to cover the rental van and all the other expenses. However, I did get to check out the area and I bought six large boxes of magazines and books that I couldn't have carried home in my Previa. I spent Monday in Scottsdale, AZ at Molnar's Stamp and Coin going thru the A-C boxes. Joe had had a "Millennium Madness" sale for his customers in the past week and was pleased with the results. I had a pretty good day too picking up odds and ends. Just before the 6 PM closing time, a postcard dealer friend of Joe's stopped in to chat. When he learned I had 8000 postcards in my van, he prevailed on Joe to stay open later so he could look at some of them. To make a long story short, I sold him a couple thousand real photo train postcards, the remainder of a large group I've been carrying for about a year. He was happy and the sale made the trip financially worthwhile. Somehow, the good Lord keeps bailing me out! (But I probably shouldn't keep pushing my luck!) I celebrated with my usual roast beef dinner at Cracker Barrel but resisted the temptation for dessert! Got to my Flagstaff motel room in time to see THE SOUTHWEST CHIEF and a couple stack packs roll by just after 10 PM. Saw the EB CHIEF a little after 7 AM the next morning but gave him too much of a head start while having breakfast. Didn't see him again but heard him getting clearances as I drove thru Albuquerque. Of the 13 trains I did see between Flagstaff and Albuquerque, four were empty WB Intermodal trains so we still must be importing a lot more than we're exporting. I noticed two EB Intermodals with two diesels on the point, a long string of stackpacks, then two more diesels and a string of TOFCs. BNSF must be experimenting with distributed power on its Intermodals as well as on the coal trains. Back home in Colorado, the Toyota dealer who couldn't find anything wrong with my Previa's transmission in December now concludes that I need a new $5000 transmission after only 100 additional miles of driving. More on this next time!
VATICAN RR REVISITED: Arthur Dyson (of Stanley Gibbons RAILWAYS ON STAMPS Catalog fame) writes "Your page on the Vatican Railway was interesting but I think a little out of date. I enclose a photocopy of a 1992 darkish blue Aerogramme (too dark to reproduce here unfortunately) with imprinted stamp (and pictorial cancel) which depicts the Vatican Railway Station building on its conversion to the Vatican City Philatelic and Numismatic Museum. I presume the Pope travels by car and plane these days but I have no idea whether the tracks have been completely lifted." Thanks, Arthur, for bringing us up to date! Anyone have an extra one of those Aerogrammes?
STAMP OF THE MONTH: Although many "purists" exclude stamps such as Dominica #1058 from their collections, I have selected it with a two-fold purpose:(1) to make you aware of the numerous "Disney" stamps showing trains, this one from a set of eight plus two souvenir sheets honoring Mickey Mouse's 60th anniversary in 1987. Now that Disney stamps are no longer being promoted in the US, they seem to be gaining popularity. (2) Also, I want to encourage you to make your plans now to visit Disneyland July 7-16 and also come see me at WORLD STAMP EXPO 2000! It will be a great stamp show and well worth the trip.
RAIL THOUGHT OF THE MONTH: "If you have it, a train helped bring it". My version (some might say perversion) of a Teamsters slogan.
RAIL FACTS AND FEATS: The first regular steam passenger service was inaugurated over a one mile section of the 61/4 mile Canterbury & Whitstable Railway in Kent, England May 3, 1830 pulled by the steam locomotive INVICTA. (Ed:I don't think INVICTA is on a stamp yet.)
May all your signals be green,
COME SEE ME AND MY INVENTORY AT ONE OF THESE SHOWS THIS MONTH:
FEB 26-27 GREAT AMERICAN TRAIN SHOW NATIONAL WESTERN COMPLEX DENVER,CO
MAR 4-6 HOSTLER'S RAILROAD SHOW UNION STATION OGDEN,UT
SORRY, NO NEW ISSUES THIS MONTH. THAT
MEANS THERE WILL BE A BUNCH NEXT MONTH!
WE ARE MAKING CHANGES TO OUR SERVER THIS MONTH SOME OF YOUR LINKS TO OUR PAGES MAY NEED TO BE SET UP AGAIN.
News & Notes Back Issues
| Oct. 1996 | Nov. 1996 | Dec. 1996 |
| Jan. 1997 | Feb. 1997 | Mar. 1997 | Apr. 1997 | May 1997 | June 1997 |
| July 1997 | Aug. 1997 | Sept. 1997 | Oct. 1997 | Nov. 1997 | Dec. 1997 |
| Jan. 1998 | Feb. 1998 | Mar. 1998 | Apr. 1998 | May 1998 | June 1998 |
| July 1998 | Aug. 1998 | Sept. 1998 | Oct. 1998 | Nov. 1998 | Dec. 1998 |
| Jan. 1999 | Feb. 1999 | Mar. 1999 | Apr. 1999 | May 1999 | June 1999 |
| July 1999 | Aug. 1999 | Sept. 1999 | Oct. 1999 | Nov. 1999 | Dec. 1999 |
| Jan. 2000 |