The Rail Philatelist November 1998 Newsletter
Volume 3 . Number 6 November 1, 1998Dear Fellow Rail Philatelist:
I have had the attached PHILATELIST'S PSALM pinned up in my stamp room for a few years. I think I got it from a California dealer at a show but I can't remember who or when nor do I know who created this parody of PSALM 23. Does anyone out there?
CUSTOMER SURVEY II: Aside from poor show sales, there are at least three areas of my business that are causing me concern: (1) New and increasing bank charges on checks and deposits - banks are now charging most of us for each check we write and for each deposit we make - this gets expensive for small checks; (2) The cost of filling small orders - the fixed costs such as sales slip; envelopes; packaging; postage and even the time to pull and package small orders is almost the same as for large orders but the returns are much less even with the present $1.00 p&h fee on orders under $25.00; and (3) Dealing with "Sold Outs" - none of us like them, but I can't stock large quantities of every item because I can't find them in most cases and probably couldn't afford to carry 100 of everything in inventory anyway. I think that some minor changes to my discount and refund policies might ameliorate these problems somewhat but I thought another survey to get YOUR input was in order before I make any changes. Help me better understand how these issues affect YOU by completing the attached survey. After all, I am trying to serve your best interests as well as mine. Thank you in advance for your help and continued support!
AUTOMATIC E-MAIL: A new feature has been added to my web pages whereby you can elect to receive an automatic e-mail anytime a specific page or pages is updated. This may be bad since now you don't have to check the pages regularly to see what is new but anytime something is new, you can receive e-mail notification. Since I don't get things updated on as regular a schedule as I should, this should keep you from wasting valuable on-line time checking my pages. But feel free to visit anyway - I'm sure there are still some things there you haven't explored.
I ASKED, YOU ANSWERED: (1) Several eagle-eyed readers sent in lists of TYPOs - Thomas Hill was the first. Thanks to all and keep looking. I'm sure there are more out there! (2) Rich Ober writes "My son and I subscribe to the 'LEGENDARY TRAINS'. They are divided into 16 categories: 1) Technical Data, 2) World's First Railway Systems, 3) British System, 4) Italian System, 5) French System, 6) German System, 7) Swiss & Alpine, 8) Other European, 9) International Luxury Trains, 10) North America, 11) Distant Lands, 12) Outstanding Records and Systems, 13) Light Rail, Metros, Subways, 14) Tourism and Culture, 16) Toy Trains and Model Railroading plus we received a video on trains as seen on the History channel. We enjoy receiving the cards, the pictures and facts about trains. As to the cards having accurate info - that I can't verify but they are neat." It is also neat that he and his son can share the hobby! Another customer reported starting the series but quit because of the high future costs of the 30+ "sets" to come (it will total about $300!).. (3) Grace Varney affirmed my votes for VALENTINO'S and also suggested a couple other places I should go (restaurants of course! (She IS a lady afterall!)). (4) A respondent to my web page survey (similar to the one sent out in January) says "I want to know information about other collectors." I responded that most stamp collectors don't give out a lot of information. I would be happy for you to prove me wrong by deluging me with information to share.
WEB AUCTIONS: One of my good customers e-mailed me " I've been selling the remnants of my US collection (sold 99% of it on a local bid board a couple of years ago) through an Internet auction site, and appreciate even more how much work it is to be a dealer! And how odd people can be - demanding, unreasonable, downright rude - when buying stamps. No bad checks yet, but more attitude than I care for. On the other hand, there are also a lot of great people, who seem to enjoy the hobby, and love to share their knowledge and experience, and have no agenda or ego about it." I've got some customer "classics" of my own but I'll save that for another time. In general, I have found "Topical" collectors to be much more tolerant and pleasant to deal with than those who specialize in "US" stamps. What have your experiences been with any of the web auctions (or collectors and/or dealers for that matter)? Lot's of people (both dealers and customers) have recommended that I try ebay.com (not the auction used in the quote above) with a couple items but I haven't as yet. I did take one look and found over 1300 "train" related items (none of the first 50 were philatelic) but didn't have time to explore all the entries. Let me hear your experiences.
OCTOBER TRAVEL: You don't often see a train on Raton Pass so when I saw Amtrak #3, The Southwest Chief westbound near the summit on my way to Orlando, FL on the 21st, I pulled off at the first opportunity and ate my ham salad sandwich early as I waited for it to come down the other side: 2 Genesis Locos, 2 older FP-40s, a private dining car, a baggage car, 9 Superliners and 11 express cars on the rear - Amtrak is starting to haul more freight than passengers! I made a sentimental visit to the Atlanta & St. Andrews Bay RR in Panama City, FL on the 23rd. Back in 1971 before I was assigned to Son Tra Air Base, Vietnam (better known as "Monkey Mountain") on the Da Nang peninsula, I spent a couple months in training at Tyndall AFB getting my eyeballs synchronized to the 13 second sweep of a radar scope (the Air Force didn't know what to do with a physicist in Vietnam so they made me a Senior Controller Radar Intercept Officer for 12 months in RVN before they sent me for my PHD). Each day after training, I rushed home, packed my wife and 3 young sons into the car and headed for the Bay Line yard to catch the makeup and departure of the evening run to Dothan, AL - a few times we were late and drove almost to Dothan to catch it and get the loco numbers and number of cars. I kept a log of my observations including the building of a new caboose, all of which I hope to use with my Seneca Short Line paper mill model railroad someday. I really treasured those trips - it is a great railroad for modeling. On this visit I almost ran into a 26 car steel coil train coming thru town pulled by GP-38 #509 and then into the yard from the south. #511 was working the yard. #504, 506, 500, 507, & 508 were on the service track next to the large 3 bay engine shop where a couple other locos resided, but it was too dark in there to see the numbers. These were the same green & yellow locomotives that I had watched 27 years ago. The surroundings have seen a lot of commercial development but the railroad hasn't changed much except the yard was now full of boxcars and tank cars but no strings of pulpwood bulkhead flatcars (in fact, the old bulkhead flats were now the steel coil cars!) The visit brought back lots of memories, most good but some I'd just as soon not have - akin to my visit to "The Wall" in Washington, DC a few years ago. Although the Orlando train show was another to cross off my list, I did spend a fruitful 7 hours Monday going through the entire stamp inventory of Michael Roger's Winter Park Stamp Shop. I didn't find anything spectacular since one of the employees collects train stamps but I did add over $1,000 worth to my inventory for future lists. On my way North, I pulled off I-4 at Sanford, FL to check out the AMTRAK "Auto Train" complex - there wasn't any activity but there were several Superliner and Auto Train cars in the yard and shop area along with an FP40 loco. On the 27th I spent a pleasant 100 minutes at the North Carolina Transportation Museum, formerly the Southern Railway's historic Spencer Shops. The recently restored 37 stall roundhouse display area is well worth the visit - it contains a good mix of well preserved steam & diesel locos and rolling stock as well as many very well done static displays (and admission is FREE!). While I was there, everyone was scurrying around setting up tables, cleaning windows on a couple passenger coaches and getting a loco steamed up for a fund raising event that evening to restore the huge "Backshop" building - I hope they raised a bundle! The Virginia Museum of Transportation in Roanoke is also well worth a visit even with the $5.00 admission. They have a good selection of locomotives and rolling stock in their cramped outdoor yard and some excellent static displays in their converted Freight House which is currently undergoing some renovations. But I really love Roanoke for the train watching - from my favorite vantage point on the hill above the Norfolk Southern engine servicing tracks I watched the crew and locomotive changes on some thru trains, arrivals and departures in the west yard, GP-9 #1365 and slugs #9733 & 9722 sorting cars over the hump, and a host of seemingly random locomotive movements throughout the area. I could also see the Diesel Shop turntable (Yes, they still use a turntable for diesels!) and the wreck train with a large Industrial Brownhoist crane and boom tender car, 3 converted passenger cars and 5 flat cars with track sections and other necessities piled high. The car repair shop also has a small turntable! All the 100+ locos were NS black & white - they also have a grey coal car series labeled "TOP GON"! While there was non-stop activity, there weren't as many thru trains as I expected, no long coal trains for example - maybe the coal trains use the old Virginian main line one ridge further south along the Roanoke River. I was able to sit on a fence there above the yard for about 6 hours before I was politely asked to leave. The 28th was a great day for train watching in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia! On Thurs. the 29th I checked the rail yards briefly but spent most of the day working on the "K" & "L" lists attached - have to work sometime!
SHOWS: The "Great American Train Shows" haven't been so far this year. Nashville, one of my "Top10 for the Millennium", was less than half of last year! Sales have been poor for the most part and not just for me. The Lionel dealer next to me in Nashville has been doing shows for 20 years - he said this is as bad as he has seen it - he is seriously considering giving up shows entirely and selling items on ebay. I don't think it is just the economy - I think there has been a proliferation of shows - not just the major promoters like GATS & Greenberg but also lots of local club shows and regional promoters. I think the major markets are being saturated with too many buying opportunities - that has people passing up some shows and/or spending less at the shows they do go to because there is always another one next week! (This applies to stamp shows as well as train shows). I guess it is good that I could only find a dozen shows to sign up for next year - most other dealers are also cutting back. Thankfully, the mail order is still doing well - keep those orders coming!
MY "NEW" PREVIA: Now that I've put over 20,000 miles on my "new" Toyota Previa I have pretty much adjusted to its peculiarities except I still occasionally reach for the gear shift at stop lights. The automatic transmission is certainly handy in traffic jams but at a high price since the gas mileage on this van is about 20% worse than my old one - I'm sure glad that gasoline prices are staying low! Speaking of that, there is over a 60% difference between gas prices in Georgia and Nevada - 83c vs $1.35 self serve (10 - 20c higher if you don't watch where you stop!). Hard to believe transportation and taxes can account for that much difference. The poorer gas mileage has caused me to alter my fueling stops - I can no longer make it back to Colorado Springs from Hayes, KS on a tank of gas. The air bag in the steering wheel caused them to move the horn buttons to positions where I frequently hit them accidentally - I had some construction workers waving at me in Georgia after I hit the horn by accident.
STAMP OF THE MONTH: This month's selection is U.S. Scott #2265 Railroad Mail Car in the transportation coil series. Artist D. K. Stone of Chapel Hill, NC used Southern Railway RPO car #49 from the Spencer Shops Museum as his model for the design. Stop to see the real thing if you get the chance. It is open so you can examine the mail bags, cubby holes where mail was sorted, etc.
RAIL THOUGHT OF THE MONTH: "Will there be any freight trains in heaven?" from the song Hobo's Meditation by Jimmie Rodgers, The Singing Brakeman, (U.S.#1755, Antigua #1831, also overprinted "Barbuda Mail" as Barbuda #1493). Good question - I sure hope the answer is "Yes".
OCT 24-25 GREAT AMERICAN TRAIN SHOW CENTRAL FLORIDA FAIR ORLANDO,FL OCT31-NOV1 GREAT AMERICAN TRAIN SHOW TENNESSEE STATE FAIRGROUNDS NASHVILLE,TN
OCT 24-25 GREAT AMERICAN TRAIN SHOW CENTRAL FLORIDA FAIR ORLANDO,FL
OCT31-NOV1 GREAT AMERICAN TRAIN SHOW TENNESSEE STATE FAIRGROUNDS NASHVILLE,TN