model train set on track

A Decade of e-Train

e*Train Issue: Apr 2012   |   Posted in:

March 2002 to Spring 2012

Through its publications and activities, TCA has been focused on using the best methods to keep its members informed and to promote the wonderful hobby of train collecting. This is nowhere more evident than in e-Train, whose first edition hit the world wide web in March 2002.

It looked something like the above. The stories, some of them updated, are still available online. See the full array of issues here.  In the decade of its operation, some things have changed in our hobby while others haven’t. Below we present  the observations of some of those who have been supporting it since its inception.

TCA Operations Manager John Luppino:

Recently, e*Train began its eleventh year of publication.  This is a signal achievement for an on line publication that does not deal in celebrity gossip or news. 

Robert “Bob’ Mintz has been the editor since Day One.  Again, this is quite an achievement as almost every other on line publication has seen editors come and go.  Whether it be a website, an online magazine or a Blog, finding content that has quality and interest is the universal challenge. 

TCA Operations Manager John Luppino:

Many times Bob has shouldered the entire burden of creating and editing entire issues of e*Train.  He has managed to keep a dream alive and we applaud him for it. 

And, we recognize the hard work of many authors, as well as the pioneering technical work of Angelo Lautazi, e-Train’s first webmaster, who devised the technical underpinnings that have allowed this publication to be carried by others, expanded far beyond what was originally expected.

The e*Train is and remains a key part of the Internet presence of TCA.

HOW e*Train got its’ name:

Bob Mintz, whose engraved epitaph shall be “Mintz in Box” wrote:
>First off, we need a name for this electronic magazine. A simple >process, but something clever would work. I know that we have an >ample supply of talent on this list, so let’s see some results.

How about: “The E-Train”.
It’s properly electronic and all networky sounding, and, it’s Jazzy! Take the E-Train! (Not to mention the appeal to New Yorkers who have ridden the E train).

Regular features could be:
E-lectronics – news, practices and products from the emerging world of toy train tech.
E-Gauge – new products in all the gauges and scales.
The Virtual Back Shop – articles on repair and maintenance.
Mainline Online – News and articles about 1:1 prototypes.
Interactive Paint Shop – a web based Flash-like page that lets users test paint schemes and custom logos on engines and rolling stock from a library of shapes.
E-Mail Car – Reader’s questions and comments selected for publishing.
Route Map – Another interactive page using Map-Quest style zoom-in USA maps to find train related points of interest around the country.
E-Tales – Yarns, tales, myths, and folklore from the glory days of
railroading to the glory days of toy train trading and everything in between. Selected reader stories.
Trainline – An archive of helpful FAQ’s on common procedures that may be needed as a reference by newbies and veterans alike, such as phasing transformers, isolating blocks, or re-stringing a boom car. Included could be manufacturers original instructions with modern day annotations from user experience.

How’s that for a few ideas?

Chris Zizzo
(November 21, 2001)

First Announcement

It appears that Bob LeBras first announced the opening of E-Train on March 9, 2002 in this TTML post:

Greetings Fellow Train Folk –

As we rapidly approach both Spring, and that wonderful event simply known as “York,” the anticipation of renewal builds in each of us; it is the circadian rhythm of time. It is time to enjoy the great outdoors, time to share fellowship with train collectors, and time to think about the future.

I’d like to share a new website with you called “e-Train: The Online Magazine of the Train Collectors Association”. Presented and published by the TCA Internet Committee, it is a rapidly developing online resource with articles and photos submitted by TCA members. Everyone is invited to visit and contribute to e-Train: [later shifted to]

Dr. Joseph Lechner (TTML Moderator)

E-Train, the official online magazine of the Train Collectors Association, is ten years old today.

The title E-Train was a play on words, with the “E” suggesting “electronic” while also alluding to a New York City subway line that runs from lower Manhattan eastward to Jamaica in the borough of Queens.

The table of contents for March 2002 included Clem’s York Primer, a review of Fundimensions “coupon cars” by William Meyer, an explanation of railroad signal lantern colors by Robert S. Butler, a study of National Toy Train Museum commemorative boxcars by Gordon Wilson, and a blog by Bob LeBras about his 0 gauge Gallitzin Western Railway.

The latter article stirred some memories for me, because Bob had signed my TCA membership application just a few months earlier. Sometime in mid 2001, Bob had announced via TTML a contest to help him name his layout, and he selected my “Gallitzin Western” suggestion as the winning entry. I still have the Lionel “Route 66” flatcar that he sent as a thank-you.

As Bob explained in his March 2002 story, Demetrius Augustine Gallitzin was the Dutch-born son of a Russian prince. He sailed to the New World in 1795, attended to Sulpician Seminary and became a catholic priest. In 1799 he asked the Bishop of Baltimore to assign him to the Pennsylvania frontier. For the next four decades, this “Missionary of the Alleghenies” served his parish until his death in 1840. At the western Pennsylvania town that is named for him, Pennsylvania Railroad bored a tunnel beneath the summit of the Alleghenies. That tunnel, and a parallel one built in 1905, are still used by Norfolk Southern today.

Frank Samaritano and E-Train editor Bob Mintz posted a detailed article on the first thirty years of Lionel’s annual Toy Fair commemorative cars (usually 6464-style boxcars, but sometimes wood-sided reefers). Bob has continued to update his definitive listings of 6464 boxcars, mint / window display cars, and other Lionel rolling stock from then until now.

E-Train was a monthly publication from its inception through the end of 2003. Since then, it has averaged between 3 and 4 issues per year. All 48 issues are still available online.

Congratulations to Bob Mintz on this significant milestone, and thanks for performing a labor of love on behalf of toy train enthusiasts everywhere.

I look forward to many more E-Trains in the years to come.

Bob Mintz:

Looking back at the first and subsequent issues, the thing that most saddens me is that a number of authors that have written for me that have passed into that Big Terminal in the Sky.

Gone is NYC Toy Fair and the accompanying commemorative boxcars for the toy train manufacturers, as well as the phony identification necessary to get me and my friends into this “To The Trade Only” event. My being able to falsify, in the pre-911 world, W-2 forms, employee identification, etc., lead to a lifelong friendship with the likes of “The Italian Stallions”: Frank Samaritano, Michael J. Rotolo and John Cifichiello, as well as fulfill the childhood desire to attend Toy Fair for one of my Hampton timeshare roommates, Howard Singer.

In reviewing the first Clem’s Primer, at one time I had to park by the strip mall behind the Holidome for the Bandit Meets, which went on from Monday thru Thursday, and were guarded by security on each end. Occasionally we bribed a Keystone Kop (after all, it takes place in the Keystone State) and parked on the lawn. Now I literally pull up and park in the parking lot, which is basically barebones, when it was packed to the gills 10 years ago. I actually enjoyed the Yellow and Gold Halls, they had a certain charm that is missing in the Orange Hall, sort of the way I like wooden roller coasts such as Coney Island’s Cyclone as compared to the metal versions of today.

I was originally doing a monthly magazine, but ran out of gas after the first year or so. I was also commuting into Wall Street from the East End of Long Island daily, and had many commuter/railfan trips to write about. Now I live in a retirement community in south Florida.

On the other hand, I started a trend of using old train related posters as the backdrop for the covers. Although books have been published on several topics such as mint cars and we had Greenberg Publishing do full features on all Modern issues, e*Train has had the unique distinction of being able to ride with the tide as it were.

In other words, in this age of instant communication and gratification, we are able to publish up the moment information on York for nstance, as well as update past articles with the latest products. There is very small, if any, window, between the time something occurs and when it goes live. That to me is the greatest thing that we can do given the present technology.

e-Train the Early Years.
By Angelo Lautazi
TCA# 93-37260

My involvement with e-Train began with a phone call from Gordon Wilson back in October or November of 2002.  Gordon was the TCA Internet chairman and he told me about the e-Train project that was headed by Bob Mintz.  It was to be a TCA internet magazine (e-zine in the vernacular) publishing stories and information on the hobby of toy trains.  He went on to tell me that the person who had set up the web site was unable to continue as webmaster and they were in dire need of someone to step in and help get the e-Train published.  Since I was a fellow member in the Desert Division, Gordon knew I had recently built the web site for the Desert Division and was maintaining it as the webmaster.   He asked if I would work with Bob to get the e-Train out on the web.   I agreed to take a look and see what I could do, reminding Gordon that I was fairly new to this web stuff.  

I am familiar with computers and software but web publishing and managing web sites at that point in time was something that I had learned quite recently. So when I agreed to help Gordon and Bob, I was just hoping that I wasn’t getting in over my head.  The e-Train web site was already created and it was quite complex as compared to what I was used to.   I worked with Bob by communicating through email and we developed our routine.  Each issue would consist of 10 to 15 articles and would be accompanied by a cover page which was usually a Lionel catalog or magazine page from way back when.

Oh, did I mention that there were also photos to go with the articles.  In fact, some articles had over 50 photos attached.  Some of Bob’s comprehensive articles on every 6464 boxcar or Mint cars might have had even more photos.  In addition to writing these extensive articles, Bob took every photograph that was included.  Each photo had to have a thumbnail created, get optimized for the web and then inserted into the article.  One article could take me over an hour to complete.   I tried to be creative with the cover art by embedding the e-Train logo into the Lionel page.  I always wanted to give a different look and not bore our readers with the same thing every month.

In the early years the e-Train was a monthly publication and continued as such for almost two years. In the fall of 2004 we decided that we would publish quarterly as the monthly issues were getting too much for Bob and I. Bob always tried to solicit articles from members and many did respond but the bulk of each issue was Bob’s writing and photography.  That was a lot of work and I was always amazed at how Bob found the time to get it all done.   I continued working with Bob for two more years and in the Fall of 2006 after 26 issues; I resigned as webmaster so someone in National could take over.

 The e-Train concept was not only to publish timely articles on the train hobby but also to build an archive of information that would be available to the TCA membership.  I think it has succeeded quite well.  You can open up the E-Train and you can still go back and read the first issue of March 2002.  The articles archive has continually grown and can be a very useful reference to the toy train hobbyist. Congratulations e-Train and its editor Bob Mintz on its 10 year anniversary.