Operator of the Month: September 2010
When Kent told me about the kinds of trains he collects and operates, I thought he was exaggerating a bit. When I got to his house and walked in the train room, I was pleasantly surprised to find that he really did own six 700E’s among other high quality and desirable Lionel trains from the Prewar, Postwar, and Modern eras. “I told my wife that when I die and people come by to try and purchase the trains, to tell them that I only collected the best stuff.” muses Kent. In addition to the 700E’s, he runs 763’s, 225’s, 226’s, 701’s, 726’s, 773’s, scale and semi-scale cars, the latest scale size Lionel and MTH locomotives, and many others. He says his collection is not about bragging rights, he just enjoys having the best trains that were produced.
Kent began collecting trains while he was in high school during the 80s. As a kid he had a Marx 1829 Santa Fe Hudson passenger set that had belonged to his dad. He had a 4 x 8 foot train layout like many kids, but unlike most of them he never lost interest in trains. During his teens, he and his good friend Mark Gaffner would go hunting for Postwar Lionel trains. Mark was quite the enterprising individual and when he had $1000 to spend on trains, Kent had maybe $100-200 to spend. Mark was in search of mint in the box trains while Kent was not so picky. The trains got pushed to the back burner for a few years during Kent’s early 20s when he became interested in restoring classic cars but this was a short term deviation since he had limited funds and limited storage space for cars. Kent says “Trains can be stored in closets, under the bed, and any other place you can stick them. With cars, once the garage and driveway are full, you have to stop.”
Kent has been active in TTOS since the early 80s and he can remember bugging Ken Flory and others back in the day about certain trains he was looking for. Even today he bugs Ken for T-Rail track and 700E’s. Kent spent the 80s and 90s collecting trains and just storing them. He concentrated mostly on Postwar Lionel during this period and amassed a fairly complete collection. He moved into his current house around 1998 after getting married. It was also around the late 90s that he got very interested in Prewar Lionel. Specifically he was interested in the scale and semi-scale trains as well as the big articulated streamliners like the M-10000. Kent had a small interest in Prewar when he was younger but it hadn’t flourished yet. In fact he bought his first 700E in college and he didn’t even know what it was at the time. He called Mark and asked “I don’t recognize this engine, it says 700E on it.” It was a basket case at the time and Kent spent several years restoring it and he still has it to this day.
Another thing that happened when Kent got the new house: he had room for a train layout! He began constructing it around 2003. He literally jumped in with both feet and just started building lots of table until the room was filled. The result was a large surface about 25 x 30 feet with lots of room for track. Kent decided to use Atlas track since he would be able to run his Prewar scale stuff. He initially wanted to have five loops of track but was only able to fit three along with sidings, reverse loops, and a turntable and roundhouse. A few years ago he started adding a couple of upper loops but stopped early on. He is considering redoing most of the layout to allow for better operation and display of his trains and also to correct some of the mistakes made during the first go around. Kent says he rushed into construction and track laying too hastily since he was driven by excitement to finally have a layout. One of the neatest features of the layout is a working catenary system on two lines and he actually runs his Postwar GG1’s from overhead power. Even though it is not complete, the maze of track and switches sure is neat to look at along with all the vintage and modern locomotives parked on sidings and in the roundhouse. His wife, Karen, has been very supportive of his addiction to trains, citing how she even had to put up with GG1’s on the dresser in the bedroom! At least he now has a room for them.