The Rail Philatelist May 1999 Newsletter
Volume 4 PRICE $1.00 (10 ISSUES FOR $8.00) . Number 2 May 1, 1999Dear Fellow Rail Philatelist:
Sorry for the delay in getting this out to you. The London trip was fantastic but I bought so much good stuff I wanted to get all the C-D stuff worked up to include in these lists and that took much longer than it should have because of some other complications. You will find much new material scattered throughout this and future lists but you'll notice three major additions to this months lists: I purchased a huge accumulation of Chinese revenues that take some experience (and time, but its fun) identifying, a large holding of Danish Railway Parcel Stamps in complete sheets of 25 that I am breaking up and an unusual assortment of Davaar Island "Leaders of the World" items. Hope you find some things of interest for your collections. Hope it was worth the wait. Now to the trip report.
LONDON TRAINS 99: The trip to London for the TRAINS 99 Stamp Show went off pretty much without a hitch and was a cultural, social, ferroequinological (that's "Iron Horse" or real trains), philatelic and, in the long run (if not the short term), financial success! Let me discuss each in reverse order:
FINANCIAL: The CBS "60 Minutes" commentator Andy Rooney was in London at the same time I was and had a column in our local paper titled "How can the British afford to live in London?". Among other observations, he noted what Bill Weinberger (my guide on this trip) and I had observed: things in London cost in pounds what they do in dollars in the US. Thus, at a $1.62 exchange rate it costs 62% more for just about everything there. We stayed in a quaint B&B, the Edward Lear (of limerick and "Owl and Pussycat" fame), with shared facilities down the hall on the cheap at over $70 per night but were close to everything and had great breakfasts (although I learned why the British drink tea - the coffee was terrible!) Stamp prices in Britain are even higher than the living costs. On our day of arrival, there was the regularly monthly Strand stamp bourse about a mile from our hotel so we walked over after settling in and washing up. I got my eyes watered: covers that I regularly see selling for a couple dollars were priced at 10 pounds or more, stacks of common non-descript postcards like you find here for 25c or so were offered at about $2.00 each. After covering the 30 dealer bourse twice, I finally found a couple dealers with a few items of interest at prices I thought reasonable. I told Bill on the double-decker bus ride back to the hotel that I was really apprehensive about the big show since I didn't think I would be able to find anything I could afford to buy! I was right but that didn't stop me from spending all my cash including trips to an ATM machine for the first time in my life and maxing out a couple credit cards! If British prices are high (and they are - the Stanley Gibbons Catalog prices are about 4 times Scott prices, the dealer who priced the new SG railways catalog (see below) makes no apology for setting his prices even higher than SG!), the Dutch dealer's prices were even higher (and no discounts) and the French dealers were highest of all. But when you see things you haven't seen before, you take a deep breath, and reach for the wallet because you may never see it again. I had way too many experiences like that. I also did find several "bargains" as you'll see in this and future lists.
PHILATELIC: The British know how to put on a stamp show! While this show was sponsored primarily by Stanley Gibbons and the British GPO, neither hogged the main entrance to the show as our USPS does at major shows, both had large areas away from the entrance. Other dealers occupied the front STANDS (aptly named because there were no chairs - shades of the APS-USPS controversy!). The main bourse hall contained all the major dealer stands plus a seating area in back where a large screen TV played train videos throughout the show. There was a large children's stamp area under a tent at the back of the hall and a Thomas the Tank Engine ride outside for those interested. The Isle of Man PO had a second stand decorated as an early train station waiting room. I created a few special covers at the IOM stand - another first for me. One stand was devoted to a railway museum with all kinds of memorabilia available. As expected, however, most of the dealers had little on no railway material available (another example of the 80/20 rule). In addition to the exhibits, the other hall contained several operating model railroads, the societies and other stands manned by dealers selling model railroad supplies, railroad books (only bought a couple because of weight considerations), cinderellas (see below) and other paper memorabilia. The exhibits were uniformly excellent. First time I ever looked at the exhibits during my first day at a show - I'll give a rundown another time. At the Railway Philatelic Group (RPG) stand I was able to make contact with several members I've corresponded with over the years and review the literature on display. Speaking of philatelic literature, here are 3 of note:
1. STANLEY GIBBONS COLLECT RAILWAYS ON STAMPS 3rd ED. An excellent expansion and update by Arthur Dyson despite the limitations SG put on him. The SG numbers cause us US collectors some problems without a concordance but the numerous photos (all single stamps and one from each set) and comprehensive subject cross-index make it well worth having. I broke my small suitcase bringing 20 of them back. I still have a few left at $32.00 postage paid so get your orders in if you want one.
2. Neill Oakley's GREAT BRITAIN & IRELAND RAILWAY LETTER STAMPS 1957-1998 An excellent update of his earlier work and an essential tool if you enjoy these items as I do. I had the pleasure of talking with Neill about his exhibit (more later) and his catalog and got him to sign a couple copies. I also made arrangements with another RPG member to receive new issue shipments for these items. I will be placing an order for several back issues I've missed also so if there are items you have missed, let me know and I'll add them to my order. If you need the catalog, I'll try to get you one from the RPG. It costs $16 plus shipping.
3. TRAINS INCLUDING RAILWAYS AND RAILWAY STATIONS POSTER STAMPS: 38 pages compiled by Charles Kiddle from his TRAINS 99 mail sale as an introduction to collecting poster stamps (cinderellas) having images of trains, railways and railway stations. The color photographs (almost 500) alone are worth the price of $35 + $4 p/h in the US and Canada. US readers will find the valuations high (the two Wells Fargo labels I had on special last month @$12.00 are listed @$32.00) but prices are indeed rising for this scarce material. (There were over 200 photos of items I have never seen in my 20+ years of searching)! To obtain a copy or more information, contact Dr. Arthur H. Groten, The Printer's Stone, P.O. Box 30, Fishkill, NY 12524: Telephone:914-471-4179:Fax:914-471-3829: E-mail:email@example.com or visit the website at www.imagenost.com. Outside the US and Canada, contact the author directly at World Poster Stamps, P.O. Box 13, Alton, Hants, UK GU34 4DW: Telephone:01256 862 701; Fax:01256 862 194: E-mail:firstname.lastname@example.org.
Bill and I went our separate ways during the show but we compared "finds" on the way back to the hotel and spent almost every waking minute outside the show talking train stamps. He is a fountain of knowledge and great to travel with. I probably would not have made the trip on my own so I'm certainly grateful for his company even though he did lose me at the first opportunity!
REAL TRAINS: London is a railfan's dream. After meeting Bill Weinberger at Gatwick Airport, we caught the Gatwick Express (about $30 roundtrip) to Victoria Station, a wonderful historic building we didn't take time to explore. There we bought a day pass ($6.50) on the London Underground. When we got on the subway I knew we wanted to transfer at Green Park and saw a flashing sign which said "Seven Sisters 3 min., Something else 7 min." which I assumed were the next stops and times - WRONG! I also assumed there would be a voice announcement of the station stops - WRONG AGAIN ! The car was full and the crowd pushed Bill to one end and me to the other. At the first stop I didn't hear an announcement or see any signs so I stayed seated. At the next stop I saw a station sign "Oxford Circle" and looked up at the overhead line map to see that it was past Green Park just as the train started again and thought "Bill and I missed our stop". At the next stop I got up to tell Bill to get off but he was nowhere to be found - he had got off at the first stop! On my own in a strange city without knowing for sure where I was going - was the hotel the Edward Earl as I had put on my customs form? That didn't sound quite right - all I knew for sure was that it was near the Marble Arch to Hyde Park. Armed with my Underground map from the British Airways In-flight Magazine, I went across the station to the Southbound tracks and caught the next train back to Green Park, looking for Bill at each stop as I did so, hoping to find him on a platform or in the lobby but no such luck (He assumed I was a big boy and would find my way!). At Green Park I transferred from the Victoria Line to the Jubilee Line, at Bond Street I transferred to the Central Line for Marble Arch. There I left the Underground to find a telephone book but none of the phones had any. I asked a subway policeman at the station exit if he knew where the hotel was or where I could find a telephone book - Thank God they speak English!. He said no but check around the corner at the Cumberland Hotel (over $200 per night!). About 30 telephones but no books in the Cumberland phone room, so I went to the service desk. There I asked the young man if he knew where the Edward Lear was. He didn't so his supervisor suggested he check the book. After a few minutes of frantic searching he still couldn't find it. When the supervisor came back, he said "I think it is just around the corner. I'm going that way. Why don't I show you." He led me a couple blocks down the street and around the corner and pointed out the sign about a half block down. I was happy to give him the few pounds I had in change in my pocket! Bill was just explaining to the desk clerk how he had lost me when I walked in, only a few minutes after he got there. London has an excellent subway system - we rode most of the lines during our five days there. I think our longest wait for a train was 5 minutes on Sunday evening. Most of the equipment was clean and modern but the Northern Line was showing its age. The only London souvenir I bought was a cloth map of the Underground - looked for a book but didn't find one but I will. On the way to Gatwick Monday morning there were 16 trains coming into Victoria Station during the first 5 minutes of my departure and a total of 50 altogether during the 30 minute trip - now that's train watching!
SOCIAL: In addition to meeting many new people at the stamp show, there are a few other social events worth noting. Bill's guidebook and our hotel hostess both said that the all-you-can eat buffet at the "Original Cutlery" in the Cumberland Hotel was a good value so we ate there the first night (it was close and we were tired from the long over-night flight and running around all day). The meal was worth the price. Thursday night we went for Chinese in SOHO but it was only so-so. Friday night we went to a downtown pub with Arthur Dyson and Hans Ericksson, author of the Railway Postal Stationery catalogs that came out some years ago. We had a great evening talking train stamps, my "Lamb and Apricot" pie was interesting and, although it is probably only the second beer I've had in 5 years, the "Old Speckled Hen" Arthur recommended tasted good. Sunday evening we visited a Cinderella dealer's 4th floor flat in Northeast London where Bill has gone for years. While I bought a few things, the most interesting part of the evening was watching a fox walk along the railroad tracks during dinner - there weren't any trains. The highlight of the trip was Saturday evening when we had dinner with friends of Bill's. We took a short cab ride in the rain from the end of the Jubilee Line to an exquisite English cottage that the owners have restored and expanded from a pub built in the late 1700's and mid-1800's. The home itself is tastefully decorated with antiques and beautiful artwork and the garden was a pleasure to behold - immaculately groomed. Dinner was a culinary delight - rack of lamb (my favorite!) with stuffing and "Gratinde Pommes de Terra a la Dauphenoiuse" (scalloped potatoes - another favorite) along with vegetables, Australian wines and home grown apple-berry "pie" (more like our cobbler) - all of it simply delicious! (I'd been told the English can't cook! WRONG!) Our hosts were delightful people to talk with so the evening was gone before I knew it - we just made the last train. Among other things I learned is that British railfans are called "Anaracks" because of the hooded rain parkas they commonly wear - certainly better than our "foamers"!
CULTURAL: There wasn't any "culture shock" being in London (only sticker shock!). The signs were all readable and conversations were understandable for the most part so I felt very comfortable there. We covered both ends of the social spectrum in our evenings out. We had another interesting experience on our way to the show on Sunday. A group of rowdy guys got on the subway drinking beer (9:30 AM - one spilled his all over) and speaking a barely intelligible dialect, probably Cockney. From what I could pick up they were going to a football (soccer) match at Wembly so I was surprised when they got off at the stop before ours at Wembly. At our stop we were met by a large crowd in blue, many with faces painted, all cheering and waving flags heading for the stadium. Evidently the opposing sides use different entrances to keep them apart before the match since they have so much trouble during and after matches. They had all kinds of police around the area where none had been on previous days including a large mounted patrol. One dealer indicated that the "blue" had a particularly bad reputation so I was glad Bill and I left the show early before the soccer crowd got out. Since I had to leave early Monday morning before breakfast, I stopped at McDonalds on my way to the Underground station. The "Big Breakfast" was pretty much the same but with an English muffin (what else!) instead of the bland biscuits they serve here. And of course I had tea, not coffee!
ARTRAIN: The "ARTRAIN" was parked next to the Ogden Union Station last month as I mentioned - 4 old converted passenger cars and an extended-vision caboose decorated with logos from the sponsoring railroads plus Union Pacific business car #104 "North Platte" with a FRED (Flashing Rear End Device made by Pulse Electronics). Cars I & II were Baltimore & Ohio (B&O) Pullman cars built in 1924 & 1930. Car III is a former UP 44 seat streamlined passenger coach built in 1950 and later used in commuter service around Detroit, MI. Car IV was built in 1950 as a baggage car for the Santa Fe and later used as a prop car for the Ice Capades - it now serves as the gift shop and art studio where a young lady was making a small cup on a potter's wheel. The caboose is a former Detroit, Toledo and Ironton (DT & I) built in 1975 and serves as living quarters for the seven artists who travel with the train. The train was started in 1971 and tours about 10 months each year from its Ann Arbor, MI base. The train's tour is sponsored primarily by Chrysler Corporation although the names and logos of numerous other sponsors adorn the car sides. I'm not the artsy type (my wife has that talent), but the displays seemed more geared to the school kids than to adults. Still, I'm glad I had the chance to see it even if I did like it better from the outside than the inside! Incidentally, commemorative covers were issued for the original Michigan "ARTRAIN" by the Port Huron - Sarnia Stamp Club: one shows a "Children's Cartoon Train" (my #72-07-27), the other a "Modern Day Diesel Locomotive" (my #72-07-27A). They are both available @ $3.00 each.
TRAVEL MEALS: Joe Corry also wrote: "Cracker Barrel should give you some coupons for free meals. On the other hand, your doctor would probably be aghast at your choices for healthy eating establishments when you are on the road." Actually, Cracker Barrel does - I have a "SPECIAL NEIGHBOR" card earned from over 50 visits in less than a year - I get points for every dollar spent and periodically receive a $10.00 coupon for future purchases. Theron Smith also e-mailed concerning my road eating habits "When I consider the restaurant cooking that you subject yourself to while on the road, I feel constrained to comment about probable sodium overdose that such chow engenders". Thanks to all for your concern. I, too, am concerned since for the first time both my weight and my cholesterol were above 200 at my last checkup. Have to get off the road and back on a regular exercise program. Fortunately, I have no travel planned this month.
RAIL THOUGHT OF THE MONTH: "If you like trains, it never gets out of your system." (How true!) Video photographer/dealer Russell Gaal, 58, as quoted at a Great American Train Show by the Jan. 24, 1999 Santa Barbara News-Press in an article by staff writer Tom Schultz cleverly headlined "Kids, parents find train show a real toot". Thanks to Theron Smith for sending me the article since I had canceled out of the show to catch up on new issues and other pressing matters.
May all your signals be green,