model train set on track

Re-Reading Lou Hertz and Some Amazing Predictions

e*Train Issue: Oct 2011   |   Posted in: ,

Twin motor toy locomotives, and the camera cell phone in 1914!

By Paul Stimmler TCA 76-9186–Library and Historical Committee

I believe it can be said with confidence that the late Louis Hertz (1922-1997) was a wonderful and engrossing writer.  He was clearly among the best if not the best of our hobby.  Hertz claimed that he learned to read by examining the descriptions in Ives toy train catalogs and then having his parents read those out loud to him.  His research and writing interest was encouraged at an early age by his grandmother and parents, he told us.  TCA Past President Jim Burke often comments in Train Collectors Quarterly about the value of re- reading his classics, including “Collecting Model Trains”.  A few days ago while relaxing on the beach at the New Jersey coast, I was observing my adult children photographing their children with the camera feature of their wireless telephones or cell phones.  And so amazing to me, then transmitting those images wireless to the other grandparent’s laptops.

Well, it just so happens that in chapter 14 on pages 235 and 236 of Hertz’s  Riding the Tinplate Rails first published by Model Craftsman’s Ramsey Press in 1944, he comments about how twin-motored real locomotives were first referenced in the early 1920s in the Tom Swift series of children’s adventure books.  And Hertz suspects that the author Vernon Appleton must have been reading some contemporary Lionel catalogs of the early 1920s when he wrote that.  Because company president and founder Joshua Lionel Cowen was then actively pursuing just that line of thought and marketing with his twin- motored  #42 locomotives.

But more to the point and leading up to that, Hertz comments on page 235 of the same book about how predictive that Swift series was in a book first written in 1914: “Tom Swift and His Photo Telephone”.  The author of that series, often referred to as the Jules Verne of children’s books, amazingly forecasted some 90 years earlier the photo cellphone, something we take for granted today and which I observed on the beach.

Finally Hertz on page 42, with his customary wry humor, surely captured some of the passion and spirit of the tinplate toy train collector with this paragraph:

“ ‘It’s for the boy’ was the favorite excuse (still used) and perhaps after saying this over and over again a man got to believe it was really true.

The boy might be a few weeks old or thirty years, but the excuse was still good.”

We usually have a few used duplicate copies of Hertz’s books for sale at your Toy Train Reference Library in Strasburg at any given time.  As I compose this article we have eight duplicates available all with the original dust jackets in presentable shape and ranging in price from just $20 to $50, the latter of which is autographed by Hertz.

Contact Librarian Jan Athey soon and treat yourself  to some wonderful vacation or fireside reading about our interesting hobby.