model train set on track

What Do We Collectors Own?

e*Train Issue: Apr 2019   |   Posted in:

Union Line Reefer, attributed to Art J. Weinman

By Bill McKay, TCA# 68-2075, aka “Old Mac”                   Spring 2019

I’ve long been convinced that we own nothing in our own collections.  Not a rare Ives or recent plastic caboose.  We are caretakers and our importance is in the care we take of each treasure and the concern we give when we pass each on to a new caretaker.

#62 Passenger Car by AJW

When our years add up to four score and more, then perhaps our housing must shrink (downsize), there is often a concern that some of our train treasures might not be fully appreciated, and perhaps even rejected by other collectors.  A 1901 Ives set from Ward Kimball and an uncatalogued, boxed 1936 Lit Brothers set are safely popular.  But then consider that plastic four-wheel bobber caboose made from two broken eight wheel Lionel shells on a tin prewar four wheel frame.  The realistic spray-painted finish smoothly hides all evidence of the modifications, but still…!  Then there is the 248 Lionel set with the trolley paint job.

Union Line Boxcar, attributed to AJW

If we back up, early into those four score years, Santa always left a Christmas Tree every December on a West Chester farm.  Next to the tree, he left some green boards that held a “sceniced” 5×10 layout with my red 248 pulling mixed freight swirling in ozone as it ran along with my uncle’s two 250’s (one green, the other orange).  That 248 left such a lasting impression on my young mind that in 1968, with a TCA membership in hand, I scoured local meets to gather any variation of the 248 and it’s 3260/3261 Ives cousins.

In the midst of this spree, a most unusual and grungy modification surfaced.  The 248 was cream, its roof was orange, the trim and hand-lettered “AJW 32″ in crimson, and modifications were abundant.  There were four 629 passenger cars with similar colors and hand-numbered 5, 6, 7, and 8.  Included with this set were two trolley shells, a beautiful 11 1/4” yellow and green “Union Lines 203,” and a well-scratched maroon Lionel 7 1/2″ 600 series passenger shell numbered 62 with no roof.

Union Line Interurban Trolley by AJW

Having devoured my Dad’s historic Model Craftsman magazines and badgered Sarge Knoeklein for missing issues, it was easy to identify “AJW” as Arthur J. Weinman, a tinplate pioneer, modifier, and good friend of Louis Hertz.  Art was an avid tinplater who provided information and articles for the Hertz books and magazines.  The 248 and its cars got some serious elbow grease and wax, emerging rather proudly to provide years of fun and enjoyment, running well. 

AJW Restoration Car#5  
AJW Restoration Car#6 
AJW Restoration Car#7  
AJW Restoration Car#8
AJW Restoration Engine #32 

When it became necessary to locate a new caretaker, the natural candidate was Clem Clement, TCA #64-987, a historian of homemade and modified toy trains.  So, there’s no need to worry, our treasures are safe.  Let some dismiss the more arcane as homely, even ugly, or useless.  There will always be an historian, a fancier, or curiosity seeker who will admire and care for them long after we are forgotten.  Above are photos of Art (AJ) Weinman’s work, including two Union Lines freight cars that also appear to have been painted by Art.