The Rail Philatelist November Newsletter
Volume 4 …………… PRICE $1.00 (10 ISSUES FOR $8.00)………………. Number 8 November 1, 1999Dear Fellow Rail Philatelist:
railphilatelist.com: Please note and BOOKMARK my new webpage URL (Uniform Resource Locator) - www.railphilatelist.com. The old one will still work for a few months while my webmaster and I transition everything to the new server. In the mean time there are links from the new address back to the old pages (and vice versa). For the time being, everything will be pretty much the same but eventually I hope to add new features and better performance since the new service offers more storage and other improvements. It will take us awhile to familiarize ourselves with the new language and procedures, so bear with us if you encounter some problems. If you do, please let me know so I can get them corrected. Thanks in advance for your help in making this transition as smooth as possible. And don't worry that in becoming railphilatelist.com that I'll follow the path of amazon.com and those other ".com"s with stocks in the stratosphere. I plan to keep plodding along as my own one man band just as I have in the past, improving gradually as the opportunities present themselves. I am open to your suggestions too.
MORE "ALL ABOARD": Norm Wright left the Cleveland APS show early to get home to Rochester for a railroad event on Sunday. Among all the festivities, the Postal Service was selling some extra "All Aboard" stuff. All of it is marked Copyright USPS and carries images of the five "All Aboard" trains on the back side of the packaging. It is indicated that it was designed by "Designers' Collection" (an American Greetings company) for the U.S.P.S. Here are the item numbers, prices and contents for each:
98400054-$1.59 - 8 self-adhesive mailing labels with one of the five stamps reproduced
98400057-$3.99 - 20 envelopes (with reproductions of one of the five stamps on the back flap).
98430072-$3.99 - "Computer Stationery" - 20 sheets (same reproductions as on the envelopes).
98460054-$5.95 - Packet of 21 "Jumbo Stamp Image Postcards" including one each of the five "All Aboard" singles, one each of the stamps in the 1994 29c booklet (#BK216), one each of the stamps in the 1987 22c booklet (#BK153), and l each of #922, #947, #993, "Celebrate the Century" #3184d (boy with Lionel Train) & #3184k (20th Century Limited - "Streamline Design". The 21st card a "bonus," is a view of the "Celebrate the Century Train." All cards require first class postage, and the cover of the package "reverses" to become a mailer.
98400048-$3.49 - An oversized cushioned envelope with all five images and cancels on the front.
Note that all the stamp images are enlarged or reduced and have lines through the 33 so they won't be confused with the actual stamps. I wasn't able to find these at any of the post offices or stamp shows during my September and October travels but Norm and Florence were kind enough to send me a set from their postique in Rochester, NY. Anyone else seen them yet?
ARBITRAGE: After my London trip, I mentioned the great disparity in prices on some items and mentioned that arbitrage was depleting stocks of some sought after train stamps here in the US in favor of the higher prices in Europe. Several of you wrote to express your views, some saying you knew dealers who arbitraged, others expressing support for my pricing. Peter Hewitt of Australia summed up the situation succinctly: "You're in a difficult position because on the one hand you need to service your clientele (and they have developed certain expectations of you) and on the other you could probably make more money (at least on some items) by dealing wholesale to the UK. For whatever my opinion is worth, I feel your "local" market is where you are at, and that the Scott catalogue as their bible largely drives them. This means that you may find it difficult at fairs, etc. to command Stanley Gibbons prices." He goes on to say "I must say that the Australian market also sees SG (and the UK scene) as being overpriced and unsustainable here. A general rule of thumb employed by Australian dealers with whom I transact is to convert SG prices to Australian dollars on a one-for-one basis." That's about the same ratio as Bill Weinberger and I came up with in comparing London prices to US dollars. So I will stay with my long time policy of selling stamps at a reasonable mark-up over the prices I have to pay to acquire them and not worry about the higher prices they command overseas.
Y2K PROBLEM: For stamp dealers, the biggest Y2K problems may not be computer related. I've heard comments from several customers who are considering terminating their collections at the new year, particularly some of those who are getting fed up with the plethora of new issues pouring out from the stamp issuing entities including the USPS! They will continue to fill in their collections with items issued thru 1999 but shun anything issued in 2000 and later. I can certainly empathize with them and agree that 2000 sounds like a good round number to truncate at - but so was 1900 (or 1950). On the other hand, I've heard others suggesting that 2000 will be a perfect opportunity to start fresh in an entirely new collecting area. This is only a hobby after all and you should pursue it in the manner that gives you the greatest pleasure and relaxation. What are you thinking? As for me, "Once a train nut, always a train nut" so I plan to keep on the same track and welcome aboard all those who wish to join me. Alllll Aboooard!
SEPTEMBER-OCTOBER TRAVEL: Back to the Lincoln, NE trip. Sunday morning before church, I spent some time tooling around the BNSF Diesel Service facility. Not as big as the UP's North Platte facility (only 5 service bays compared to 11, and about 50 locomotives in the vicinity compared to 150) but still interesting. Among the locos was a green,white and yellow striped MP-15 switcher from the MCP (Missouri(?) Corn Products). In Lincoln and on the way to Grand island, I saw several "Push-me-pull-you coal trains" (My apologies to Dr. Doolittle!) with ONE locomotive on the front and ONE on the rear facing rearward. Maybe they don't have to ever turn the train! I stayed Sunday night in Grand Island, NE and spent time both that evening and Monday morning watching trains at the new BNSF overpass crossing the UP main line downtown. The most interesting observation was that during both time periods the BNSF sent as many trains down its single track main as the UP did on its double tracks! (About 3 per hour each as I recall). On a UP stackpack I noticed several containers painted just like the ALLIED moving vans - are they using them for coast to coast moves or just for overseas moves? Lots of trains between Grand island and North Platte but nothing out of the ordinary. On my Pennsylvania show trip, there was a huge UP track gang with about 30 pieces of equipment working at Wild Horse, CO on the old Kansas Pacific line. Most of the work train cars were parked in the Kit Carson, CO siding but the green TOFC flat cars that transport the track equipment were stored in Cheyenne Wells. I also noticed that it looks like they are going to build new passing tracks just west of Mc Alistar and Oakley, KS - they have the land graded at both locations and a switch and lots of ties stacked at Mc Alistar. With all the track work there weren't any trains moving - they probably move them thru at night. I was also surprised to find a new track in my usual parking spot at Santa Fe Junction in Kansas City. They are adding a second track from the old BN yard thru the junction to SF Argentine yard. One switch is in place and a few pieces of track but they haven't started the crossing of the UPs double tracks. My daughter-in-law prepared a delicious home-cooked meal while I was there doing the Greensburg, PA show. I joked that even with a double free show I couldn't break even there ( It was my 10th GATS so my tables were free and staying with family made the room and board free.) So I may not go back to do another show there but I will return for the food and hospitality! Thanks Binky. Spent Monday at the Galitzen Tunnels, Horseshoe Curve, and Altoona watching trains. Norfolk Southern has certainly taken over already - there were as many black and white NS locos as blue and white Conrails. Also spent some time in Subway Stamp Shop buying a couple hundred pounds of supplies (saved the shipping charges). I swallowed hard and paid $8.50 to enter the Altoona Railroaders Memorial Museum which now occupys 3 floors of the old master mechanics building. The displays were professionally done but it wasn't worth the price. Saw quite a few trains from my usual perch near the Museum, then went exploring for the first time around the Juniata Shops and Rose Yard. The main yard was nearly empty but there is a huge 16 track storage yard to the northeast that was crammed full of cars, mostly coal hoppers and a string of 16 Conrail cabese awaiting the scrappers torch. Watched a switcher flat switch a string of cars in another smaller yard to the northwest. Saw a BNSF "Heritage " loco in the Juniata shops area - they have contracts from both GM and GE to build some of the modern locos. Then on to State College where I spent Tuesday and half of Wednesday going through APS circuit books. Among my $1000 worth of purchases were a couple of mineature sheets not previously listed in the ATA handbook (one from Ethiopia and one from South Africa) so I e-mailed the info to Norm Wright. Wednesday afternoon I made my first ever visit to the legendary Enola Yard near Harrisburg. It was impressive but not nearly as big as I had imagined. The UP's North Platte yard probably has me spoiled. I spent almost 40 hours at the Oracle's, studying Chinese overprints, Netherlands Parcels and a host of other railway philatelic marvels as well as admiring his numerous new acquistions and buying some of his duplicates - it was an intense but satisfying visit as usual. Then it was on to Ft. Washington (Philadelphia), PA for the worst train show I have ever done. I felt like the Maytag repairman on Saturday - there was seldom anyone in my booth. Since there was no need to get to the train show early Sunday, I went to a stamp and coin show in the Holiday Inn nearby and spent an hour buying a few postcards and covers - didn't find anyone with any train stamps of interest. A couple of mail order customers showed up to keep me company for awhile Sunday afternoon but sales were less than half of the previous weekend's. If I didn't break even in Greensburg, I really lost my shirt in Philadelphia paying for the booth and hotels. I was really surprised that the show was so bad considering the NMRA convention there a few years ago was very good. It was the fifth bad show in a row for some of the dealers - one large dealer (they take 10 booths per show), Santa Claus Trains, is giving up the show circuit entirely by the end of the year. She was selling everything at 50% off and it still wasn't moving. Maybe the economy isn't as good as the stock market is leading us to believe? Consumer confidence seems to have disappeared in the last month or so. On the long ride home, there didn't seem to be any progress on the construction at Santa Fe Junction, Oakley or McAlistar but the work train flatcars were moved to Westkan, KS and some of the work equipment had progressed to just east of Kit Carson. Since I don't have plans to go that way for several months, It will probably all be completed by the next time I report. I'm not doing any traveling in November - need some time to catch up on things.
RAIL THOUGHT OF THE MONTH: "That westbound Santa Fe don't stop here anymore" from the song Every Things Changed by "Lonestar". That, unfortunately, is a sentiment many former railroad towns can relate to.
RAIL FACTS AND FEATS: Richard Trevithick (1771-1833) built his first steam locomotive for the 3-ft-gauge iron plateway at Coalbrookdale, Shropshire, England in 1803 but there is no evidence that it ran. The first known to have run was his second locomotive, which drew wagons with men riding on them in a demonstration run at Penydarren, Wales on Feb. 22, 1804 but it broke the plate rails.
STAMP OF THE MONTH: Egypt #168-71 are a classic set of train stamps you expect to find in every good collection. Issued in 1933 for the International Railroad Congress in Heliopolis, they provide excellent steam locomotive drawings.
May all your signals be green,
SEP 11-2 APEX 99 STAMPSHOW BUCKINGHAM SQUARE MALL AURORA, CO
SEP 17-9 FILATELIC FIESTA CONVENTION CENTER SANTA CLARA, CA
SEP 25-6 GREAT AMERICAN TRAIN SHOW NEBRASKA FAIR GROUNDS LINCOLN, NE