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The official e-newsletter of Big Indoor Trains<sup><small>TM</small></sup> and Big Christmas Trains<sup><small>TM</small></sup>.  A reader's Pre-War Lionel 253.  To see a bigger photo, click on this photo and keep scrolling down. Visit Big Indoor Trains<sup><small>TM</small></sup> primer pageOn30 Display Trains
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Written by Paul D. Race for Big Indoor TrainsTM and Big Christmas TrainsTM

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Trains-N-TownsTM, the Official Newsletter of,, and

This newsletter is for people who like O scale, O gauge, S scale, and Christmas trains, including people who combine On30 or O gauge trains with collectible villages. It is produced in conjunction with the Big Indoor TrainsTM, Big Christmas TrainsTM, and HalloweenTrains.comTM web sites.
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In this Issue

I used to be "put out" when folks started talking about Christmas activities before Halloween. But now that I provide so many Christmas resources for so many different audiences, I realize that if you wait until Halloween - or worse yet, Thanksgiving - to start planning Christmas crafts and activities, you're never going to catch up.

A lot of train clubs that decorate for Christmas may have ghosts and goblins on their railroads when you get this newsletter, but they've got the elves and reindeer waiting in the wings. And actually, connecting trains with Christmas makes sense, since so many of us got our first train sets on Christmas, and our first "railroad" went around the Christmas tree.

If you've ever wondered why America's love of trains often gets a boost as the holiday season approaches, check out the article "What Do Trains Have to do With Christmas?"

This month I'm busy getting my outdoor railroad ready for the holiday season. I started having "open railroads" in conjunction with the Dayton Train Show, when a bunch of folks were showing off their indoor railroads. I was the only garden railroader in the area foolhardy enough to schedule an open railroad in November. I still am.

At least it motivates me to level the ROW, clean up and touch up my buildings, and weed and rake and weed and rake at time when most garden railroaders are putting everything away.

If you have an indoor railroad, but you like making it look special for Christmas, we haven't left you out. We have literally dozens of resources to help you set up a Christmas-themed railroad, far too many to list here, although we link to some of the index pages further down in the newsletter.

Looking ahead, we're still keeping an eye on the availability of various kinds of "big indoor trains" between now and Christmas. Yes it can sound like a "broken record" when I tell readers not to wait until mid-December to track down and order the train or accessory they want. But starting about Thanksgiving, I got slammed last year with e-mails asking me where they could find some set or piece that was widely available just a few weeks earlier. And due to the volume of e-mails I get each holiday season, I didn't even get back to most of them until January, which wasn't much help either.

Halloween Redux - In case you missed our last issue and still want some Halloween vibe, the following link will take you to the Halloween part of last month's newsletter:

Topics discussed in this update include:

Click to go to the Primer page. Big Indoor Trains Building Project Ideas and Resources - If you want to have more buildings for your railroad or your Christmas railroad this year, we have far too many ideas for easy, inexpensive structures to post here. If you go to the following link and scroll down to the "Building Project Ideas" header, you'll get some idea of what we mean.

In addition we have many resources for helping you design your own buildings. These include:

Building Front Photos

This feature offers high-resolution photographs of classic buildings and building fronts that you can print off and use to provide backgrounds on indoor railroads, especially shelf railroads. These classic buildings will add depth, period, and personality to your communities. O scale (1:48) and S scale (1:64) versions are included. Please click on the following link to see these resources:

click to go to Building Textures pageBuilding Textures - This section includes downloadable "brick paper," flagstone patterns, and other commercial quality graphics you can resize and print to use for buildings and backgrounds. Folks with collectible villages can use the brick and stone pages for streets. Please click on the link below to see these resources.

Click to go to article"Tribute to Tinplate" Articles - Here's a popular series of projects that pay "Tribute to Tinplate," based on the tinplated-steel trains and towns of a century ago. Free downloadable commercial-grade graphics and instructions will help you inexpensively add an authentic vintage look to any indoor railroad. Most projects have multiple pre-scaled plans and graphics, plus scalable graphics for the smaller scales, so you can easily add a vintage look to ANY railroad or holiday village, no matter what size your trains and towns are.

Many of the projects on the Tribute to Tinplate page include Halloween and Christmas versions, so you can change your tinplate-inspired railroad with the holidays. To go to the Tribute to Tinplate page, please click on the following link:

click to go to Building Textures pageTinplate Textures - This section includes brick, shingle, siding, door and window patterns inspired by the tinplate buildings that Lionel and other companies made to go with their toy trains a century ago. You can easily design any building to look like it belongs with your classic train. The Tinplate Textures page also includes building textures in Christmas and Halloween colors for seasonal fun. To go to the Tinplate Textures page, please click the following link:

Click to go to articleChristmas Train Day, 2015

Get a jump start on your holiday vibe! Our eighth annual Christmas-themed open railroad on our own New Boston and Donnels Creek is scheduled for November 14 this year (2015) (near Springfield, Ohio). We have a movie-style popcorn popper, outdoor movies after dark, several garden trains running, four or five trains for the kids to run, including Thomas and James, about 30 miniature trees covered with lights, Christmas music playing, and more. Plus there will be two big Large Scale indoor railroads in the region, and, come December, a VERY nice outdoor railroad on display in northern Kentucky, Christmas lights, Christmas trains, and all.

Click on the following link to see the page of information we have so far:

Big Train Availability for October, 2015

At the risk of sounding redundant, this is a reminder that:
  • The economy is improving enough for people to start buying trains again,
  • Several manufacturers underordered last year and are still trying to catch up, and
  • If you want a specific train under or around the tree this year, you shouldn't wait too long.

I'm already taking down train descriptions and photos that I just posted in our buyer's guides a few weeks ago, as well as getting disappointed e-mails from folks who waited too long to order some specific product. Once again, I hate seeing folks disappointed, and I hate having to tell them all the same thing (they should have ordered earlier). So these postings are "pre-emptive," so to speak.

On the bright side, some of the trains that disappeared from shelves altogether last year are trickling back into the stores.

Here's a quick recap of where "Big Train" markets stand as of October, 2015:

See Large Scale trains that are kid-friendly.Large Scale Trains for Kids - Last year, several of the trains we have posted disappeared very fast. Fortunately, the suppliers have reordered, and some delightful trains are available as of this posting. There are several trains that work as well under the tree or on the bedroom floor as they work outside.

To see Large Scale trains that are designed to be kid-friendly, click the following link:

Click to jump to the Lionel PageO Gauge Trains in Railroad Names - Last year, Lionel has issued a number of new trains and has reissued several existing sets with a different locomotive or different cars. They also completed the transition of replacing the 4-4-2 that was in most of their starter sets a few years ago with an 0-8-0. The truth is that the rest of the locomotive looks about the same, but if you already have the 4-4-2 version of a set and would like a little variety, this is a good time to jump in.

The bad news is that most of the Lionel sets are in relatively short supply. I'm not saying you won't get ANY Lionel train if you wait too long, but you might not get the one you want. Lionel typically has another containerload of trains showing up about this time each year, so some may become available that we haven't featured yet. If you click on the Amazon link for a Lionel train and it is low or out of stock, be sure to scroll down and see the "Customers Who Viewed This Item Also Viewed" section, in case new trains have been added.

My favorite new Lionel train is the "Albert Hall' set, with the Great Western Railway (UK) locomotive that Lionel "borrowed" for the Hogwarts Express painted in its original green color.

To see the Lionel trains that are painted for PRR, NYC, UP, GWR, and other "real-world" railroads, click the following link:

Click to go to this pageO Gauge Trains in Christmas Colors - This year, Lionel has more trains decorated for Christmas than they have ever offered at one time. Again, some of the units are already in short supply. And I expect others, like the Peanuts-themed train, to sell out quickly.

My favorite new Lionel Christmas-colored train is one that uses the British Hall locomotive and coaches that Lionel originally created to represent the Hogwart's Express. The whole train is red and is called a "Victorian Christmas Train." Like the "Albert Hall" train set above, it is selling fast, and price-gougers are already lining up to take advantage of folks who wait too long to buy it at a reasonable price.

Click the following link to see Lionel's Christmas-Themed O gauge offering:

Click to go to this page.On30 Trains in Christmas Colors - Hawthorne Trains used to order specially painted On30 train sets from Bachmann to sell in "collections." They featured art from folks like Thomas Kinkade and Al Agnew, as well as cultural icons like Coca Cola and "Rudolf the Red-Nosed Reindeer." Several of these classic collections are still available new, although I don't think any new Bachmann-built On30 sets have been ordered since 2009. The newer sets are cheaper HO trains with almost toylike details. So once the On30 sets sell out, they are gone forever. And yes, I expect to get a lot of disappointed e-mails, based on experiences with other Hawthorne Village trains that have disappeared over the years.

These come one piece at a time, except in some cases you can order a "super saver set" in which the first three "issues" come in the first shipment, and after that, the subsequent pieces come one at a time. To see which collections are still available, click the following link:

Click to jump to this page.On30 Trains in Railroad Names - These were are almost non-existant last year. A few seem to be showing up - perhaps Bachmann has ordered another batch, or one of the distributors came across some he wanted to move. Again, if you click on any Amazon link, be sure to check the "Customers Who Viewed This Item Also Viewed" section of the page to see if anything's been added since I last visited the page. On30 is a great size for running with holiday villages, and it's a fun scale to model in regardless. Click the link below and scroll down to see the links for those products.

Click to go to this pageLarge Scale Trains in Christmas Colors - These are perfect for big displays in bank lobbies, etc. And they are "jaw-dropping" around the tree. A couple of the most popular Bachmann Christmas-themed Large Scale sets are available. But the best (and probably most fleeting) news is that as of this writing, two LGB Christmas sets are available. I expect them to go VERY FAST. A Bachmann "Lil Big Hauler" Kids train decorated for Christmas might be the best solution for folks who want a real train around the tree, but whose kids still have "pokey fingers." I expect them to go fast, too, just not as fast as the LGBs. The Piko Christmas set that is available this year has a very nice paint job as well, and seems reasonably solid.

To see the Large Scale trains that are decorated for Christmas, click the following link:

Click to go to this pageLarge Scale Trains in Railroad Names - Bachmann "Big Hauler" train sets are still available, although they have obviously cut back on ordering new sets, and their most popular current set seems to have sold out since June of this year. Starter sets from Piko and LGB are available, although I expect the LGB set to go very fast.

To see our best currently-available recommendations, click the following link:

Click to go to this pageHawthorne Village HO Sports Trains - These are the only HO trains I advertise or recommend anywhere, since I target S and larger scales as a rule. But this is a unique product many of my readers have enjoyed. The Hawthorne Village Sports Trains were originally comissioned by Collectibles Today from Bachmann, the world's largest model railroad manufacturer. Equipped with world-class graphics and excellent quality control, they have been favorites as long as they have been made. That said, there have been NCAA and NBA sets that have completely sold out over the years. Since then, Collectibles Today's owner Bradford Exchange was forced to reorganize by the recession. Collectibles Today is no more, and these trains are being sold as Bradford Exchange products. That's not a problem, since they're the same trains. What is a problem is that the NFL and MLB trains are also selling out, and it is doubtful if Bradford Exchange will comission Bachmann to produce another set. (Since the shakeup, most new trains that Bradford Exchange has ordered are made by another manufacturer and are much more toylike.) In other words, if you've wanted to start collecting one of these sets and you've been putting it off, you should check now to see if your favorite team is still available. Several teams are not.

To see the sports trains that were available the last time I went through the list, please, click the following link:

Click to go our Mountains and Hills forum page.Big Indoor Trains Forum Activities

We are still getting cool photos of vintage trains, as well as scans of vintage ads for trains. We also post Q&As from readers in the various categories, so you never know when you'll come across the answer to a question you haven't got around to asking yet.

Our signup is a manual process, the only way we can consistently keep creeps and spammers from joining. So there will be a delay between the time you register and when I get your login information to you.

When you DO get signed up, whenever you log in, you'll be able to tell when new pictures or questions have been posted, because the little icons for each discussion change color.

This month another fellow named Paul is working on a tunnel for one end of his Lionel O gauge railroad.

Click to visit to the Mountains and Hills page of our forum..

To sign up for the forum please click the following link: (We'll get back to you eventually).

Keep in Touch

Each month, we get more interest in this newsletter, in the site, and in the trains and towns we discuss. We welcome your questions as indicators of what we should be working on next (also, we always try to answer reader questions quickly). In addition, if you have any photos, tips, or articles you'd like to share with your fellow hobbyists, please let us know. All of the hobbies we report on grow best when we all learn together.

In the meantime, please accept our very best wishes for a great autumn and holiday season!

Paul Race

To view the Trains-N-TownsTM newsletter for September, 2014, click on the following link:

To read more, or to look at recommended Indoor or Garden Railroading products, you may click on the index pages below.

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On30 and O Gauge trains to go with indoor display villages and railroads

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