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I was raised in a small town in Northwest Iowa and we did not have any "real" hobby shops. When I was looking for my first Lionel train, the only place in town that sold Lionel was the local Coast To Coast store. For those of you that may not know, Coast To Coast was a franchise hardware store that sold everything especially in smaller towns. We ordered my first train set in 1950 out of the Lionel catalog. They carried a few accessories, track, and an add on car or two. Just enough for a young train fan to dream and wish for.

A few years later, we switched to American Flyer and then finally to HO. I would buy the Walthers catalog and would wear it out dreaming about what I wanted. One day I talked my Mom into taking the Greyhound Bus from our small town to Sioux City, IA to a real hobby shop. It was called Patchcraft and was in a garage in the northern suburbs. It had everything! I was in heaven! My Mom loved to look for new crochet books, but didn't drive so we made a day of it. Most thrilling train day of my life up to that point.

What are your early train stories?

Art
 

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Harter's Hobby Shop in Belleville, Illinois. Ron Beyer bought it from Karl Harter in the late 50's and Ron closed up shop in 2016 after over 70 years of business.

I can't begin to recollect the many train layout pieces and model rockets I bought from that store. It was one of three Mom- n -Pop hobby shops in Belleville at the time, and the best customer service, friendly advice, and help for newbies out of the three.

 

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1952 - Keesler AFB, Biloxi MS. I was twelve years old then and spent almost every day there doing all types of hobbies.
 

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Byrd's Hobby Shop in Kenmore, NY. It close enough to ride my bicycle to. Later when I got into HO we also moved to a fairly rural area. Walthers became my main source. Those were the days when you filled out an order form, mailed it in, and waited for what seemed like months for your order to arrive.

Pete
 

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The first and only one I use, I used to go there when I was a little kid with my Dad.

A little info on them, more on their site in the about us.

The Model Railroad Shop was established by Howell Day and has been in continuous business since January 2, 1933. We believe that we are one of the oldest, if not the oldest, continuously operated model train specialty shop in the United States. We were one of the first 6 advertisers in Vol. 1 Num. 1 issue of Model Railroader Magazine in 1934. Of the 6, only William K. Walthers Inc. and The Model Railroad Shop survive to this day.

https://themodelrailroadshop.com/about-us/store-history/
 

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i never had a chance to buy at my local shop .... she won the lottery and moved away, lol
 

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Bob's Hobby Shop in Watervliet, MI. I bought most of my track, accessories, rolling stock and conventional engines there.
 

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Mike’s Trainland - Suffolk, VA

Mike was tied in with Mr Lancaster (Coleman’s Nursery) whose collection was left to the City of Portsmouth and much is on display today. The nursery was run by Mike’s Dad Floyd and Aubrey Morgan and was famous in the local area for its absolutely magnificent Christmas display.

No Christmas was complete without a visit to Coleman’s.

All now gone and a rapidly fading memory in a conglomeration of condos, houses, and better living. Unfortunately, not only is it not better, it isn’t even close.
 

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I was lucky.......had 5 hobby shops that stocked trains when I was growing up.....only really one left now.....
 

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"Sid's Playtime" on Hillside Ave. New Hyde Park, NY, circa 1955.
I was maybe 10 but still remember buying an HO, perhaps NYC wood and cardboard passenger car kit at Sid's. And I think it was without trucks/couplers.. which I believe I never completed doing..kids...!
My first club visit was The Nassau MRRC. also on Hillside Ave. in Williston Park. They used a ton of cinnamon on their hills for color. Soon as you stepped in, the whole room smelled like cinnamon. All way to today, when I smell cinnamon I go right back the club !! I believe it was not glued down; just sprinkled all over !! When I visit a club today it always feels like something is missing......! 😉
 

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Highway Hobby House, Route 17 N. Ramsey, NJ - housed in a grand wood Chalet from earlier times. My dad would take me there an occasional Sat. afternoon. They weren't big, if at, all on trains. But they had gas powered plane parts for my Cox airplane; new props after errant landings. And slot carts. Three 8-lane tracks. You'd buy time on the track and use your own car & controller. Race whomever was there. Fun times.
 

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MEMORIES

My Father bought our first Lionels from Montgomery Wards, Katz Drug Store & Gorman Dept. Store all in Kansas City, Kansas. All the stores have been long gone for many, many years. Out in the county there was a guy that had a small shop in his basement but he closed up about 55-60 years ago. I never knew his name.
 

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65 years ago, a small town hobby shop, can't even remember the name of the hobby shop. But they had most of the stuff for trains, model cars from AMT, model ships from Revel, and just about anything else a youngster would want.

Bill
 

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Discussion Starter #18
Really interesting responses, no two alike. It sounds like many of us got involved in this hobby without a strong, local hobby shop.

I moved to my first larger city at age 25, and the first thing I did was find and visit the hobby shops in the area. But then I had a new problem, I didn't have any free time to pursue my hobby. But in spite of the many obstacles that life throws in your way, like going to school, getting married, not having any money or time, I have been a life long model railroader and wouldn't have it any other way.

The comments about ordering from the Walther's catalog sure hit home. I would race home and check the mail every day to see if my order had arrived and it seemed to take forever. But that was the only option at that period in my life.

Art
 

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As a kid growing up I cannot remember my parents ever taking me to a hobby shop. My Christmas train was a one and done kind of thing. Once married and trying to revive my old set I discovered Hills Hobbies in Park Ridge, just loved that place. Subsequently thereafter I was told about the DuPage train show. The rest is history as they say!
 

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Ulrich’s Camera and Gift Shop. Run by an nasty old couple. Some trains, a lot of Roco mini tanks.

Actually, for trains, it was the Woolworths around Christmas Time.

Both in Hamburg, NY

There were other shops later on, all but one, are gone now.

Tom
 
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