Game Seven (or Five, maybe)

So here we are at the deciding moment. After review, the officials determined that Revell’s jazzy photos were just able to out-do Aurora’s weird TV ad, and so the series is now tied, 2-2.

This game. Game seven (really five) will decide which 1968 German toy train imported by a plastic model kit maker will reign supreme forever. This is it. My loyal readers will be happy to learn that this series of blog entries will end today, with the declaration of a winner, the hoisting of The Cup, and so on.

Revell has tied up the series with superior marketing and a very strange little engine that could…

I think I can! I think I can!

…but Aurora smashed Revell in the track department and managed to score a victory in the car department as well.

So what is to be the deciding category? Current events? The swimsuit competition?

No, my friends. It all depends upon THE TRANSFORMER. Yes, a Tesla that turns into a robot… erm, I mean that controller thing that came with each trainset, will determine the ultimate victor. It will finally be determine, on the eve of my dotage, whether I was truly ripped off at the age of twelve and should have received a dazzling Revell trainset with live elves from the Black Forest (as portrayed on their promotional literature) or whether my folks made the right decision, spending hard-earned money on the best, if not the prettiest, toy train and thereby doing their fiduciary duty.

Will a lifetime of bitter regret be justified– or will I accept, finally, that I am Cartman and go back to being a fat, spoiled, unpleasant narcissist…

…or not.

Let’s find out.

Let’s look at the Aurora Postage Stamp controller/throttle/transformer whatever.

Ennui, thy name is Beige.

Yes this is fifty years old. Stop asking.

It’s not much to look at, but functional.

Now the Revell joint.

Get down with your fine self!

Done up in the colors of my adopted railroad, the deplorable Penn Central. Who doesn’t like black and cyan?

The basic design favors Revell. The “throttle” design looks good and feels good. The Aurora item has a “knob” that you turn like the temperature setting on a hotplate. Yeah…

Now to tear into these badboys and find out what they are about. I admit that I opened them up when I was first experimenting with them, but I didn’t take pictures. I recalled that the Revell set seemed “better” to me in some way… but I wasn’t quite able to put it into words. So I took the covers off of both of them to take another look.

Here’s the Aurora item.

Clean. Smooth. Beautiful. Seven point six two. Full metal jacket.

When you take the Aurora controller apart, you have to remove four screws, and pull apart the control dial. It’s in three parts.

Here’s the Revell innards.

Oh my. Don’t look…

To open up the Revell controller, you just “unbend” a tang and pull open your thang. The wires that are wrapped around the rheostate seem to have been installed by a chimp. When I handle the Revell controller (gently!) I can feel stuff rattling around in there. It’s loose. The revell item was obviously built for speed– speed in assembly at the factory.


I’m inclined to want to tell how the Revell controller just “feels better” and how it’s all subjective, but that would be a lie. The Revell controller is cheaper, simpler, and, to be technical, crappier. it works, and after fifty years I’ll give it a salute for German technology, but it’s just not as well-made.

I could make up some nonsense about how simple and easy beats complex and prone-to-fail (like Soviet tanks) but we all know that complex and not-prone-to-fail blows up Soviet tanks like clay pigeons.

I have to face up to my prejudice and meet reality down on the corner in half and hour.

Aurora imported the superior trainset from Trix in Germany. Revell imported inferior trainsets from Arnold in Germany, and covered them in bitchin’ packaging, and I fell in love with it because of all the good feelings I already had about Revell. Aurora was the creator of bad things. They still smell funny to me. But objectively, Aurora wins this in the same way that Anaheim stole The Cup from Calgary. We all know who won that, right?

Anyway, my pro-Revell bigotry will not just go away. I know, now, that I was Eric Cartman by any objective standard, but I also know that a mob of protestors stormed the arena and declared Revell the winner, lousy track, metal loco, skeezy transformer and shaky cars and all.

Welcome the magical forest of tiny trains, my friend. Wave at the conductor and let memory flow into life.

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