by Gordon Wilson
For quite a number of years the Train Collectors Association has been offering for separate sale, Commemorative pieces for the express purpose of raising funds for the TCA Museum. There have been freight cars, powered units, passenger cars, and specialty cars for happenings such as ground breakings, mortgage burnings, anniversaries, and most recently for the Grand Reopening of the Museum. In virtually every instance these cars have been well advertised and nearly everyone who wanted one has been able to obtain one. Rarely has there ever been a “sellout” of the Museum Car or engine offering. The “rarely” did happen in 1995 and 1996. It caused quite a “flap” and angered many members. The reason for this “rare” event was built into the job description of TCA’s Executive Director.
To avoid any possibilities of someone in the National Business Office playing favorites or doing some “inside trading” of toy trains, a major criteria in the job description of TCA’s Executive Director was that the person could not be a member of TCA and the less known about toy trains, the better. The person hired was a well-versed businessman, but hardly what anyone would call a serious train collector. It was this desired “ignorance” of the product which would result in the Museum’s “rare” offering.
By 1994 Lionel was once again offering their Post-War “hit,” the 6464 Box Cars. Two of them, the # 19267 New York Central Pacemaker and the # 19268 Missouri Pacific Merchandise Car (part of the 6464 3rd Edition), had a significant manufacturer’s overrun. For whatever reason, Lionel had produced 300 more of each car than they were able to sell. As they had done previously, Lionel contacted TCA Headquarters and offered these 600 extras for a very favorable price. In the past when this had been done, the excess cars had been redecorated, usually by Pleasant Valley Process. Such redecoration would leave no hint of the car’s original number, road name, or decorated scheme. That would not be the case, however, this time!
Being in the job for just over three years, the Executive Director, Anthony D’Allesandro, had done a product analysis of sales at the Museum. What he found was that anything which contained the words “The National Toy Train Museum” took an average of 18 months before it was a full sellout. Seeing an opportunity to expand TCA’s treasury in a year and a half, he agreed to purchase Lionel’s excess Pacemaker and Mo Pac Box Cars. They were then over-stamped with “The National Toy Train Museum.” His knowledge about the Lionel 6464 series was slim to none; and so, figuring that the sooner they were put on sale the sooner money spent would be recouped, he developed a promotion package. It would prove to be very successful.
A full-page ad appeared in the January 1995 National Headquarters News billing the 6464-125 NYC Pacemaker Box Car (# 52063) as a special issue of 300 cars for the National Toy Train Museum. The first wave of this publication was sent out to all who had paid the extra fee for first class delivery. By overstamping “The National Toy Train Museum” on the sides of these cars, the Executive Director had inadvertently created a fairly “rare” variation of a common Lionel Car. To his amazement, all of the cars were sold within a week. So much for the usual 18-month “average” of selling museum specialty items! One can only imagine the grief which was to come his way when the regular 3rd Class Postage National Headquarters News issues arrived in the mailboxes of the rest of TCA’s members. To say “the kitchen got hot” would be an understatement! Much to his chagrin, he learned quite quickly about the collectibility of Lionel 6464 Box Cars. He had a similar advertising program scheduled for the Missouri Pacific Merchandise Car (# 52064), but after this “faux pas,” that campaign was put on the back burner.
During the October 1995 teleconference Board Meeting, the disposition of the Mo Pac cars was given over to the authority of the full TCA Board of Directors. Many plans were discussed, including their destruction (they, too, had already been overstamped with the words “The National Toy Train Museum”). Another proposal was to give each of the 20 Divisions an equal number to be used for raffle prizes and fundraisers. The ultimate plan for their distribution was to create a lottery. Each interested TCA member could submit his/her name ONCE if he/she desired a car. A second entry would result in total disqualification from receiving any. The criteria and lottery rules were published in the May 1996, issue of the National Headquarters News. All car orders were prepaid ($39.95 plus $5 shipping and handling) and sent to TCA’s audit firm, Walz, Deihm, Geisenberger, Bucklen, & Tennis. Three hundred envelopes were selected at random by that firm, and the winners were notified.
So, there you have it! This is the whole story about the how’s and why’s of the only two Museum Cars which can truly be called rare! The cause was done blissfully and in accordance with the history of National Toy Train Museum sales items. This one time TCA’s usual desire to be totally fair and above board with the item totally backfired, which all goes to prove that some days, no matter what, good ol’ Murphy will show up, regardless of how astute you may think you’ve been.