By Neil Blumberg
The latest video from Tom McComas and Joe Stachler and colleagues is directed at kids, and the kid in all of us toy train enthusiasts. As Bob Bubeck mentioned in a recent review, there are a lot of trains crashing, knocking over walls, etc. echoing the activities orchestrated by many boys in the 1950s and 1960s, and before. But there is plenty of just plain unadulterated, high dose three rail whimsy including trains with animals, trains with dinosaurs, and just plain trains, trains, trains.
Did I mention accessories? Almost every major Lionel accessory is demonstrated functioning, or should I say, malfunctioning? Some of the narration and acting comes from McComas’s young son Jeff, who demonstrates that his polished narration in other videos was not always due to his uncanny ability of “hitting it” on the first take. It’s all done with the usual good humor and lack of pretense that characterizes the McComas-Stachler collaborations.
Background music is by Jim Coffey, who I would liken to a cross between Mr. Rogers and Pete Seeger (singing style here, not necessarily politics).
There is, as always, one song that pulls a little at the heart strings, evoking memory of days gone by and the role of toy trains in the imagination and childhood reveries of many now middle aged men. Coffey is well on his way to being the unofficial minstrel of modern three rail “traindom”. His song “One More Train” might well become the unofficial anthem of toy train lovers everywhere and everywhere. I’ve never met Coffey, but I would not be surprised to find him to be a younger version of the late Ward Kimball, whose love of trains and sense of play so enriched the hobby for decades.
All in all, 40 minutes of great fun. Certainly this program will prove irresistible to any kid between 2 and 12, and perhaps over, say, 35. I seem to recall one poster on the OGRR Board mentioning he cannot he get his kids to stop watching it. Those who cannot abide toy train mayhem, even staged, or who pride themselves in rivet counting, may be the only folks for whom this tape is not recommended. And even those folks may watch the tape when accompanied by a kid (rated CG—Child Guidance recommended)
Be forewarned that the title OH NO! is repeated numerous times throughout the video in a voice resembling that of the Cookie Monster. Like the Lionel Railsounds ™ horn and whistle, each repetition is slightly different in tone and articulation. This is particularly amusing to the smaller viewers and, at least in my case, not objectionable to the decidedly larger viewers.
Indeed, it is in keeping with the childlike sense of play, wonder and mischief that joyfully permeates the video. And do pay attention for the various cameramen listed on the clapboards of each take. They pay homage to many familiar names from toy train history. How many do you recognize? The prize for the correct answer is in multiple viewings of this good-natured, action filled tribute video. It pays tribute to the mischievous child and playful leprechaun in all of us as we enjoy three rail trains.
TM Books & Video
$12.95, 40 minutes.