Ghost of Christmas Past

As I mentioned in a previous post I fell in love, briefly, with n-scale model railroading during the autumn of 1968. That was a year that resembled 2020 in more ways than one. Many people were seriously freaked-out, as we used to say. But the BIG news, to me, was the appearance of a new and exciting hobby that had the endorsement of the one-and-only Revell, Inc. of Venice, California.

Revell MIcro Trains!

Jewel-like. Precise. Suitable only for Royalty. Not you, peasant.

I dug their elitist ad campaign precisely BECAUSE it was elitist. And Revell had an art department (or an ad agency?) that was second-to-none during the late sixties. Something about the way that the image and the message were intertwined in my mind really affected me. My obsession with Revell trains was similar to Gene Shepherd’s need for a Red Ryder BB gun.

The Revell art department has seduced me with images like these…

…from the trainset packaging, which showed up in magazines like Boys Life (I don’t think they advertised in Scale Modeler–but they may have).

As I said before, I clearly ordered a REVELL trainset for Christmas and you can imagine my Eric Cartman-esque reaction when this showed up under the tree:

Aurora. Slowly I turned…

I wasn’t kidding about how this episode hurt my relationship with my parents. I mean, that was on shaky ground anyway, but the great train robbery didn’t help. For years afterward, they would ask about “that little train” like they were inquiring about my kids.

Seriously. “How’s the weather?” Good. “How’s the little train?” ?

It’s good, Mom and Dad. It’s still practically brand new after fifty years. I’m perfectly normal too. Thanks.

So when I saw a Revell trainset on eBay for fifty bucks plus shipping, I had to do it.

So much was promised…

Now, it’s time for the showdown.

I know, now, that Aurora and Revell had zip to do with these trains. Two German firms, Trix and Arnold (neither name could sell beer to Cubs fans in America) made these trains. The two Ami plastic kit makers just imported them and stole the glory, packaging them up in very special ways and providing the brain-warping marketing that led certain kids down a twisted path to where we are now.

The showdown in question will be the final face-off between the Revell and Aurora trainsets, or, rather, the Trix and Arnold trainsets, as presented by Revell and Aurora in 1968, as the world burned down around our ears and certain spoiled young fellows in the American hinterland frowned at the bookcase packaging and pined for the groovy, mescaline-induced photographic essays of Revell’s brilliant art director (whomever that was).

So after all these years, I’ll compare the two toy trains side-by-side and try to determine, once-and-for-all, if I was, in fact, some kind of Eric Cartman or just a grossly misunderstood genius.

You’ll decide.

Stay tuned…

1 Reply to “Ghost of Christmas Past”

  1. Very much appreciate your riffs on marketing, we’re all so vulnerable to the overlords of mind warping. Just look at the cars that have faces like Star Troopers, scary.

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