model train set on track

Old Memories

e*Train Issue: Jan 2017   |   Posted in:

Knight and Wall Hardware, Tampa, Florida
With acknowledgement to

By Richard Vagner 76-9325                                            Winter 2017

Today I went out and got the mail and among the items that were left in the mailbox was the September issue of the National Headquarters News. I took it to my recliner and looked through it to see what I would find. The “In Memory Of” was on two pages and I didn’t find a single name where I knew the person. In fact, going through reading the authors’ names on any of articles it seemed that there also weren’t any names I recognized. As I went back and began to read some articles a name came out of a page I knew well: Lou Redman “Mr TCA.”  I originally met Lou at Chester Holly’s shop in Tampa Florida, while I was still in high school. But I am getting ahead of myself.  Let me explain.

I was introduced to trains early in my life.  My first Lionel trains were mostly large Standard Gauge which had belonged to people who got drafted and their mothers felt sorry for all the kids who didn’t get any toys that Christmas.  My family lived in a neighborhood in Tampa where families had bought expensive toys for their children before the War. We had a two story garage with a window out front which allowed us to bomb these Standard gauge German trains with paving bricks falling onto the trains we placed on the sidewalk below the window. After we sufficiently damaged the tough things we got for Christmas the remains were placed in the second story attic to get them out of sight.

(One day shortly before the Korean War started — June, 1950 — I was cleaning out the attic and found all those bent up trophies and took a box to Chester’s. He was shocked at what we had done but did tradeall the remains for parts.)   

Years later in 1945, six Lionel train sets were delivered to Tampa and my father, who spent the War in the merchant marine, came home before Christmas and took me to Knight and Wall Hardware, which as best I remember might have actually been an authorized Lionel Dealer. Chester worked there, before he opened his train shop, and dad bought me one of those train sets. In the years that followed, by various means I got the other five sets by trading the front wheel from my bicycle, a 22 caliber single shot rifle, a king Snake, and I don’t recall what consideration it took to get the final ones but I think it was cash money.

I can’t recall what my first impression of Knight & Wall Hardware was, but I believe my parents bought some of our furniture from that large store in the late 1930s. If you look at the picture above, it shows the store with 1920’s automobiles parked on the street, on a major corner in town. The street car from where I lived in North Tampa reached this corner. From there it was about a mile, or maybe less, to the Clyde Mallory Dock where my father’s ship docked on the semi-weekly run from Boston to Galveston. For me the 5 cent fare to town and then getting a transfer to get back to my home was an adventure. I could get my transfer and get off on this corner and go visit the repair area in the store where train track and the likes were sold.  There were always a few locals who showed up on Saturdays, sometimes to get their trains repaired, buy track, or conduct some train related business. We also had family friends who worked for Seaboard Railroad and another who was an engineer for Atlantic Coast Line Railroad. The tracks they ran on were in town (Tampa) and went North out past the part of town where we lived. I was of course fascinated by the fact there were smaller trains that ran on the track in the repair area with the same road names. 

In 1954 when Chester asked if I wanted to go with him to a barn near Philadelphia, I thought about it.  But having a ’48 Mercury convertible and many girls in Tampa who needed to ride in it, the choice seemed obvious. Over the next 20 some years I saw Lou a few times, usually at something train related. However Pennsylvania seemed to be a world away and I never joined TCA.  This was despite many suggestions including some by Lou and Chester and others who have departed the hobby now.

Then in 1975 a fellow employee at Walt Disney (World) named Ward Kimball, who did animation on things like Snow White, showed up on my island (Treasure Island) where I worked as the supervisor.  He was the art director for Disney (and my boss) and he told me that there was going to be a train meet at a mall near where I lived. It turned out to be the TCA Orlando Convention at the Sheraton Towers.  Not being able to get into that train meet was a shock, which was rectified by Chester Holley and Lou Redman who signed something so I became a member.  I was able to buy a mess of trains that day. 

After that I went to many train meets and helped to write the first Greenberg’s Lionel Book.  I had already written an article for TCQ about Lionel Gondolas and how I was able to date them.

From there on, yearly trips to the Breakers in West Palm Beach allowed me to collect different Lionel Gondolas and sometimes a catalog or the relevant Christmas card until I had enough to write an article for TCQ. I think the article came out in 1983 about dating Lionel Trains. My function when going to the Breakers was to unload all the boxes the train collectors brought with them and carry them inside, being a strapping 160 pound high school student.  Everyone was willing to help me get my datable gondolas.

Lou and I wrote a two part article for Classic Toy Trains which was published in the Winter 1989 CCT with the Part 2 in the Spring of the following year, for which we got paid $1200. I still have some of the material we used to write that article. He came to Chicago and brought all his small four wheel Lionel freight cars. We put mine and his down on the living room floor side by side sorted by dates and did our research for the article. After the article was printed and we had determined we had every one that existed between the two collections I sold him my collection so he had the complete collection and the best condition.

Anyway, thanks for sharing your dad. I remember a few Christmases at the Redman house with a wind-up train across the floor and having to step across the track.

Rinaldi Printing, beside Knight and Wall, 1926