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Early Toy Trains: a Book Review

e*Train Issue: Jun 2016   |   Posted in:

By Jan Athey, TCA Librarian                          Summer 2016

Joe A. Swisher’s new volume, Early Toy Trains, derives from a fortuitous purchase he made in 1993 of an unusual Voltamp collection.  Through this purchase Mr. Swisher was introduced to Dr. Franklin O. Loveland of Gettysburg, PA, who mentored him and led him to a special appreciation for the early American manufacturers; Carlisle & Finch, Voltamp, Knapp and Howard.

Knowing little about early toy trains, Joe met with Frank who assisted him in writing a July 1996 article in the Quarterly about this unique collection which was later purchased by the National Toy Train Museum. Many years later, in November of 2013, Mr. Swisher was astonished to learn of Frank Loveland’s death when he discovered an ad in the National Headquarters News publicizing the sale of Dr. Loveland’s train collection at Bertoia’s Auction House in Vineland, NJ.  He immediately ordered a catalog. 

Joe Swisher’s visit to view Frank Loveland’s collection at Bertoia’s as well as the Bertoia auction catalog serve as the basis for this book.  With the permission of photographer, Mike Bertoia, Mr. Swisher was able to reproduce with great clarity and detail the high-quality photographs presented in the auction catalog which cover these four early manufacturers as well as some European accessories.

Early Toy Trains takes a unique approach to presenting information on these companies.  Each chapter is devoted to a different manufacturer, offering illustrations from old black and white company catalogs, including original retail prices.  Following early illustrations are the Bertoia photographs of Frank Loveland’s trains and accessories including auction prices realized, thus inviting comparisons.

Early Toy Trains does not claim to be a comprehensive study of early American toy train manufacturers and minimal analysis is provided.  However, its author achieves a worthwhile purpose in documenting a world-class collection while, at the same time, offering tribute to Dr. Franklin O. Loveland, scholar and connoisseur of early 2-inch gauge toy trains.

This book is offered for sale for $35 plus postage by calling the gift shop at the National Toy Train Museum at (717)-687-8624 or from the author by sending a remittance of $38.00 to:

Joe A. Swisher
613 Northgate Rd.
Aberdeen, MD  21001