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Old toy trains valued as collectors' items.

The sparks flew as they rattled and clanged over the ties and along the metal rails. Sometimes it seemed as though they made as much noise as the real trains, but then, that's what they were supposed to do.

Those were electric trains produced from the early 1900s and continuing to the present day. But the ones made totally from metals had a pride of ownership by. those lucky enough to own one of the big' metal monsters manufactured by numerous companies. Eventually three companies dominated the making of model trains--Ives, American Flyer and Lionel.

By-1910, Lionel was producing large electric-type engines using the square-cab design and having four or six wheels. They came in sets with dump or ballast cars. Gradually through the next decade there were other electric engines with eight wheels, which pulled rolling stock, 4 to 6 inches wide and sometimes more than a foot long. They also made a few passenger cars to go along with the engines. The body was attached to the floor of the car by screws, which enabled the car bottoms to be dropped out for interior lighting, which first became available in 1911.

By 1921, Ives Railway Lines was manufacturing big electric trains using the "Ives Toys Make Happy Boys" ad. Ives made beautiful sets, including the President Washington and Ives Railway Circus; both of which are difficult to find and valued by collectors. But in 1928, Ives fell on hard times and the company filed for bankruptcy.

American Flyer Co. introduced what they called wide gauge electric trains in 1925. The trains had lithographed passenger and freight sets in bright colors, with orange box cars, red gondolas, and an ivory and tan caboose. Some beautiful passenger sets were added, including the Flying Colonel, the President Special and the Mayflower. A line of steam engines, with unique Vanderbilt-style tenders, was added in 1929. Some of them have brass piping on the sides and complete valve gears.

The Depression of the 1930s was not kind to the standard gauge sets of American Flyer. Like Ives just a few years before, American Flyer quit building the large train sets in 1936. This makes them sought-after collectible items since very few of them are available, in contrast to Lionel, which produced the large sets and accessories from 1910 to 1939.

Two other companies entered the scene briefly at this time. The Boucher Co. made larger trains from 1923 through 1934. Its trains included a magnificent, blue 4-6-2 engine with large passenger cars bearing the names of Washington, New York, Chicago and San Francisco. It is one of the rarest of all toy train sets.

Another brief survivor was Dorfan, which produced large electric trains from 1926 through 1934. The largest engine was a 12-wheel steam engine, which came with ball-bearings and was capable of hauling trains up a grade of 25 percent. Since Dorfan did not manufacture a large variety of rolling stock its items are difficult to find.

The 1920s and '30s was termed the Classic Period by Lionel. It was during those years that Lionel introduced its largest and most expensive line of steam engines. This included the famous Blue Comet set, the largest steam engine ever made by the company. There also were four trailing, plush passenger cars with interior lights, 12-wheel trucks, individual seating and brass steps. It is a prized collectors' item today.

Among the Lionel freight sets the large crane car, with a boom more than a foot long, brought delight to many children, as did the large red caboose of the American Flyer with its brass trimmings and interior lighting.

Some of the items can still be found at train and toy collectors' meetings.
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Author:Dickson, Charles
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Mar 2, 2003
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