model train set on track

Farmers Supply Train Layout Photographs

e*Train Issue: Jan 2019   |   Posted in:

Ca. 1949 showing the popularity and draw of toy trains!

By John Krill, TCA#76-9310  Winter 2019

In Lancaster, Pennsylvania, a favorite place to go to see toy trains in the mid-twentieth century was the Farmers Supply Company.  A series of twenty-two photographs of these layouts are now housed at the Train Collectors Association’s National Toy Train Library (NTTL), Strasburg, PA. The photographs span the years 1946 to 1955.  The history of the train layouts and photographs was gathered by myself, a former National Toy Train Library Committee member, and the article through an interview with Farmer Supply founder Lloyd Groff.

In 1992, representing the Library, I met with Groff who kindly lent his collection of Farmers Supply train layout photographs. These were re-photographed with the originals returned to Groff. The duplicate photographs are now housed in the NTTL.

1946,  Felsinger and his children

Lloyd Groff and John E. McGrann started the Farmers Supply Company in 1934 at 137 East King Street. At that point in time they primarily sold field and garden seed and chicks. Later, they sold toys on the second floor. Beginning in 1940, Groff developed a competitive marketing ploy to attract customers from the Watt & Shand Department Store which was located a block and a half away. Watt & Shand had Santa Claus visit. Farmers Supply countered this with a Christmas toy train layout. A large room on the second floor was cleared out for work on the layout.

Ca. 1952, The layouts became more complex with time.

Each year, a new layout was made showcasing the latest in toy train products. This work often began in September.  John Felsinger was responsible for most – if not all – of the layouts during their over twenty-year history. Included in one of the photographs is John Felsinger with his children.

Ca. 1955  The layouts got bigger with time paralleling the growth of Plasticville!

The last layout was set up about 1963, the year that Farmers Supply moved to a new location on East Fulton Street.

Contact the NTTL librarian, Lori Nyce, to see the photographs. Thumb–nail images are available on the TCA website’s online catalogue for the library. The quick link to the photograph collection is:  The easiest way to locate them is using the photographs’ accession number P1992.71* or the collection’s title “Farmers Supply.” Contact information for the Library is:  Phone: 717 687-8623 x 108,
Email: [email protected]