Thursday, May 31, 2012

Larami Corp. Tin-Litho F-80 Shooting Star

You may have noticed the blog's new look. I've been mulling over the blog's design this past few weeks. Understand that I'm not one to keep a 'look' forever and likes to shake things up every so often. The old Dynamic View template that was used for Toys & Stuff hides the icons to features like favorite links which aren't readily apparent until you did a 'mouse over'. So the search is on for a sutiable replacement template - we'll go with this one right now though there may be another change if I'm not satisfied with this. Let me know if you like the change.

Today Toys & Stuff has another nifty '50s tin-litho aircraft from Japan. I know the packaging says 'A-11 Supersonic Jet' but the real A-11 (or A-12) didn't fly until 1962 and was the predecessor to the SR-71 Blackbird!! The 'A-11' ruse was most probably just a slick marketing gimmick to beat any copyright raps. To me, with its straight wings and single seat cockpit it looks rather like a caricature of the F-80 Shooting Star.  The reason I say it's probably the F-80 is because the next major jet to be developed was the F-84 Thunderstreak which was also straight winged but its air intake was in the nose. The air intakes on our toy are clearly on either side of the fuselage. After the F-84 came the F-86 Sabrejet - a swept wing design.

It's not too often that I've been able to acquire both the plane and it's original packaging. This time the 'packaging' is a heavy, ltho'd card onto which the plane rests within slots. And look at the price printed at the top right - 'Only 98¢'! Oh man, I wish these were only 98 cents today :-) There are no makers marks on the plane, other than 'Made in Japan', but the card is printed with the name 'Larami Corp' so I'm guessing that the Larami Corp was the distributor. The wings are integral with the fuselage and the friction motor is attached directly to the underside. The plane measures  9" (22.9cm) L x  9 1/4" (23.5cm)  wingspan. Enjoy!

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Shawano & Twin River Valley Railroad Pt 2

A sketch of the proposed logo

Layout Planning

Having sat on both sides of the miniature railroad fence: scale model vs. toy, I can now appreciate what both have to offer. Part of the fun of scale model railroading is taking the time to develop a story or theme for the layout. Many modelers, like myself, go for planning a layout based on a totally fictitious 'history' while others like to replicate a prototype railroad. Here's how I view the two differing approaches: Scale modeling is the equivalent of sitting down in a comfy chair and slowly sipping a fine glass of wine. Playing with toy trains is kinda like gulping down a coke. Both are fun in their own way, just different.

In 1983, while living in the NCO barracks at Zweibrücken AB, I began to build a small 20” (50.8cm) x 5’(1.52m) HOn3 switching layout.  The layout base, a few buildings, and some track work were all that was ever completed. Project railroads which appeared in Model Railroader magazine were the inspiration for the layout which was finally built. Reading John Olson’s series “Building A Model Railroad With Personality” got me to thinking about a larger layout, but it was Malcolm Furlow’s “Building The San Juan Central” that pushed me over the edge. After getting married in late 1983 and moving into a modest apartment the switching layout got canned as the urge to build something a little more substantial took hold.

Before building the layout a skeleton background story of the S&TRV was developed incorporating places and names that meant something to me. Then a map was drawn of the fictitious area the railroad was to serve.

The layout would be callled the 'Shawano and Twin River Valley Railroad'. Shawano (SHAW-no) is a town in northern Wisconsin where my parents had a summer place for many years. The Twin River Valley part just sounded neat so I stuck with it. The fictional locale was never really certain, but as my interest in narrow gauge deepened it looked as if Colorado would be the setting.  Writing a fake 'history' was a nice way to pass the time and helped in giving a sense of purpose to the layout.  The following is the fictitious raison d'être for my layout (you can skip it if you want, but this was the kind of stuff the hobby press expounded upon a lot back in the day):


"The Shawano and Twin River Valley Railroad

The Shawano and Twin River Valley (S&TRW) exists as a standard gauge line and a 3’ narrow gauge line serving the towns and industries of the Twin River Valley, located in the beautiful Wisconsin heartland.  The Twin River Valley’s first European settlers were German, who settled on the western shores of Lake Smiley (so called because of its distinctive shape).  The settlement grew around a trading outpost founded in 1847.  They chose the Indian name Shawano (SHAW-no), for their settlement because it meant “beautiful land”  - and that it was!  Later arrivals were to find the Valley fertile and easy to farm.

The railroad had its beginnings with the founding of the Twin River Valley Lumber Company in 1870.  Vast regions of timber were to be found in the hills west of Lake Smiley.  The town of Shawano had, by 1888, become a prosperous town of nearly 1,000 hearty souls.  As the town grew so did the need for lumber.  Farmers settling in the Twin River Valley fed that need ever more.  In 1888 the owners of the Twin River Lumber Co., in answer to the growing need for lumber, decided to lay tracks in 3’ gauge into the hills to work the stands of forest.  And thus the Twin River Valley Lumber Co. Railroad was the first railroad in the valley.
By 1892 the town fathers of Shawano had woken up to the realities of the situation and decided the valley required a railroad to serve its ever growing needs.  By now the valley had seen not only the growth of the town of Selters (at the confluence of the Wolf and Little Wolf Rivers and the terminus of the Twin River Valley Lumber Co. RR) but the growth in tourist trade to the town of Maxsain by the shores of Wind Lake.  Tourists flocked to the lake lured by its promises of healing thermal baths, idyllic scenery, and good hunting.  And so, in May 1892 the city council let the voters decide.  In overwhelming concurrence they voted to let the railroad in.  Bonds were on sale almost immediately – having been printed in advance by a farsighted member of the city council.

The first rails of the standard gauge Shawano Shortline Railroad were laid in 1892.  The town of Selters was reached in March of ’93; work on the line having been hampered by a particularly harsh winter and a dry spell in funds.  The railroad grew in fits and spurts over the next few years reaching only as far as Middlebrook by 1896.  In 1898 that changed with the discovery of zinc deposits on the south face of Lookout Mountain.  A geology teacher, one Morris Adlekopf by name had been camping on the eastern slopes of Lookout Mountain when his horse ran off spooked by a grass snake.  Old Morris went looking for hiss less than trusty steed and found himself on the natural cutout on the south face of the mountain.  While there he noticed some promising rocks (not just anyone can spot a promising rock – Old Morris was good!).  After gathering some samples and taking them to the assayer in Milwaukee, his hunch had proven correct.  There was zinc in Lookout Mountain.  Morris quit his teaching job, returned to the mountain and laid his claim on The Lost Horse Mine.

The Shawano Shortline RR board of Trustees, wanting to get in on a good thing, began pronto to scarf-up some money and lay tracks for Lookout Mountain.  The steepest grades of the railroad are on the approaches to the mine.  By 1899 the mining town of Victorville had sprung up along the south slope.

Up to now the railroad had been going ever westward, with a southward bend at Middlebrook to reach Lookout Mountain.  In 1900 the railroad closed the loop and continued the line from Victorville east to Canona and finally back into Shawano.  That same year the Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul RR pressed its way into Shawano from the south.  Now the Shawano Shortline RR had an interchange and a ready way to ship the products of the Valley to the outside world.

1905 was an interesting year for the Shawano Shortline.  The chairman of the Board, one Rudolph Pressluft III, who had made a bundle in the stockyard business down Chicago-way, had decided to ‘retire’ to Wisconsin.  Retiring for him meant buying out a quaint little railroad in the tourist region of Shawano. You guessed it – the Shawano Shortline.  He then set his sights on the Twin River Valley Lumber Co.  However, Grover Broadleaf, primary shareholder of the lumber company was not about to sell out.  But Randy Pressluft the Third wasn’t about to quit.  With rhetoric to talk the fur jacket off of an Eskimo in winter, he convinced the board of directors of the lumber company that they were losing money operating their own railroad.  Why, if the railroad were owned by someone else, they needn’t worry about maintenance costs, payrolls, strikes and all the other headaches that go along with owning a railroad.  After all, he maintained, it would be a lot easier for them to rent the use of the railroad.  Before you could take a slug of Jack Daniels, belch and say ‘’scuse me" – the Twin River Valley Lumber Company had been divested of its narrow gauge.  It was incorporated into the Shawano Shortline and the name changed to the Shawano and Twin River Valley Railroad
In 1908 Grover Broadleaf passed on and Randolph Pressluft III managed to buy out the lumber company.  His dream of acquiring the Lost Horse Mining Co. and becoming the undisputed financial King of the Valley never materialized as Randy P. No. 3 passed away in 1910 of a heart attack while trying to convince Morris Adlekopf to sell out.

The next 15 years saw a decline in business.  The lumber in the region was becoming more sparse.  The Lost Horse mine was nearing the end of its productivity as the vein was being worked out.  The tourist trade was lured away by other slightly less crowded areas.  The only industry left to support was the farming trade, and with the advent of better roads and motor vehicles much of that trade was being lost as well."


After giving the railroad a purpose, layout planning was the next phase. There were some very specific goals in mind.  It had to have a:

- mine
- logging operation
- sawmill
- depot
- town
- farm
- mountains
- river valley
- wooden trestle
- lots of switching possibility
- and be photogenic
- and all in narrow gauge. 

Not much huh? The drawings below show the initial plan with appended notes and a cleaned up version of the plan.

A full size paper template of the layout was made but it convinced me that even though this design was small it would still be too big for the apartment.

This planning phase was actually quite enjoyable and let me stretch some creative muscles. This is something I would recommend for anyone building a layout - scale model or otherwise. Stay tuned for our next installment as we look at the Idea File and finally hit upon a useable track plan. My Wife & Me Enjoy's it :) So Everybody Enjoy :)

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Marx 1953 Catalog - pgs 1 - 9

Today on Toys & Stuff  for our next Marx catalog from 1953 we have a guest contributor, Rich Henderson who is one of the regular's over at the MarxTrains Yahoo discussion group. Through close comparison you'll notice the first 9 pages are the same as the 1952 catalog presented earlier on Toys & Stuff. From page 10 onwards though there are some differences. Today however is essentially a repeat of what you've already seen in the 1952 catalog.  Many Thanx for the scans Rich! Enjoy!

Monday, May 28, 2012

Marx Repo Untouchables Streetfront

Last week I promised a little Untouchables surprise and here it is - this is a handmade reproduction of the Marx Untouchables streetfront!! I got this little gem quite a few years ago and it has been on my train layout, the Marxville and Plateau (MaP) since 2010. It wasn't purchased from the original maker and although I'm not sure who made it I have my suspicions, but without being certain it wouldn't be right to throw around names. Just look at the details. Everything from the original is there, only hand painted. It would have been a trick (for me at least) to bend the metal just right and have the dimensions match up to the original. The repo building measures 20" (50.8cm) L x 4" (10.2cm) D x 5 1/4" (13.3cm) H just like the originaal. The holes punched out for the various plastic accessory parts were pretty accurate. I had some minor problems fitting a couple of the repo plastic parts but a little carving and filing and they all fit well enough. Speaking of which, the streetfront came without any of the plastic pieces and I ended up buying two sets of repo plastic parts, one in gray and one in tan. Also, the roof wasn't soldered on, just glued on and it had to be re-glued when I received it. This is so neat I would classify this as more folk art than toy. What do you think? Although this will be the last Untouchables tin piece scheduled for Marx Monday keep watching for more Untouchables toys here on Toys & Stuff. On that note let's get on with the pics. Enjoy!

This beauty now resides on The MaP

The inside is only roughly painted

Sunday, May 27, 2012

1995 Hallmark Batmobile

In my quest to collect every single Batmobile ever made - JUST KIDDING :-) (good grief, I wouldn't know where to put them all!) - I came across this terrific 1/43 scale Batmobile released in 1995 by Hallmark, maker of fine Christmas ornaments. The little eyelet where the ornament hook would fit into is plainly visible nestled between Batman and Robin. This version looks like the Superfriends Batmobile and is the same light blue color. While the wheels are static, being molded directly into the body, the figures of Batman and Robin are a terrific addition as they are missing in most Batmobile's on the market. I like how the two are sculpted - Batman intent on his driving and a curly haired Robin with arm on door and leaning forward as if the two are in hot pursuit of the Joker! If the hook is too distracting for you, take a needle nose plier and gently start twisting it out. I've done this with other ornaments and it works great. Enjoy!