The Locomotives (Not the Band!)

With Revell down 2-nil this is a “must win.” Unfortunately, it’s a pretty tough one, considering the shellacking they received in the last meeting, where Revell/Arnold’s lousy track cost them not only a point, but a great bucket-loads of goodwill from my personal stash.

The thing is… I have thousands of tons of goodwill when it comes to Revell USA and so it’s not even close to being a problem.

Let the contest continue– for the title of “best antique n-gauge toy train from 1968.”


Here’s the amazing thing that came with the Aurora Postage Stamp Bookshelf Railway that I found lurking under the Christmas tree in 1968.

But Daddy, the horn was broken…

After I glued a new horn on. As you can see, it looks quite good. You can read all about it at this excellent site. One of the things I have learned after adopting this new and (to me) bizarre hobby is how few models Trix actuall made before they bailed out. Actually, Arnold didn’t make that many either. Apparently, the whole enterprise was just way ahead of its time. Another ten years had to pass (until the eighties?) before Japanese and Chinese models would flood the market. Until then, pickings were lean.

The same model in Penn Central colors (different shell).

What I knew about trains when I was twelve was this: the Super Chief was pulled by a flashy locomotive and it was the “Hollywood” train and until the arrival of the “jet set” it was how Clark Gable got from New York to Los Angeles.

And that loco did NOT pull any old funky freight trains into Barstow. Nope. The Super Chief would never have dirtied it’s undercarriage (or whatever) with freight cars. So Imagine how I felt when the trainset I received showed the Super Chief lugging some goofy freight cars through the desert. I rejected this out of hand.

I now know I was full of sh*t.

The old Atchison Topeka and the Santa Fe.

Anyway, after fifty years, it still runs. I can say that for it.

Now we come to the Revell/Arnold entrant. When I bought the old Revell trainset, it came with another flavor of streamlined loco that, to my twelve-year-old eye, would have also looked wrong. I knew what freight trains looked like. They looked like THIS. Not like this:

This is what I see when I look at the Revell train. I stole this picture from eBay.
This is what it really looks like.

So, I suppose it’s fair that both Revell and Aurora portrayed these old passenger train queens in their later years, hauling freight. It keeps the contest fair… more or less.

I “spruced up” the old Revell/Arnold loco by adding some windows (made with Testors window maker) and touched up the paint. The yellowed decal really bugged me, though, so I eventually got out the brush and repainted that as well.

Not bad…

Now, you may have noticed that the old Arnold loco looks a bit, um, “primitive.” That’s because it has (wait for it)……



You can read about it at the usual place.

I know what you’re thinking. When I pulled the poor thing out of the box, it did not look good. It did not run at all. It needed a cleaning, and some lubrication, and some paint, and some love. I added these ingredients and prayed to the hockey gods that Revell would win just one point so I could hold my head high and not be, in the end, any more Eric Cartman than I already am.

Then I assembled the loco with the trucks on backwards and watched it stagger around the track like a drunken sailor, and I thought “Hey, it’s not so bad! Just a little wobbly, eh!” like a Leafs fan.

(Have I mentioned that I have a STRONG pro-Revell prejudice and this whole thing has been rather painful?)

Then I put the trucks on the right way around and the gods answered my prayers. It’s much better than the old Minitrix F7. Much. Both make noise but the Arnold FA-1 sounds like a cat growling, whereas the Minitrix loco still sounds like somebody is pouring dried peas in a coffee can. The Minitrix leaps and jumps from zero to sixty in .1 seconds but the Arnold metal-body lumbers up to speed and chugs down to a crawl without too much trouble. It’s amazing. It’s not nearly as good as the weirdly superior Minitrix U-boat that was made just a few years later, but it’s better than the Minitrix Super Chief/freight hauler, that’s for sure.

One more thing. For some reason, Arnold made their locomotives run in the OPPOSITE direction from the Minitrix trains. That’s right. Mein Herr, the “Western” Germans learned capitalism good and proper, they did. So I have to remember to flip the “direction” switch when I swap the locos out. Sheesh. (I imagine, though, that if you had two parallel tracks you could run two trains in two different directions using the Arnold loco on one and the Minitrix on the the other–and that would be pretty cool for 1968).

So let’s declare the winner of this contest. After twelve overtimes, Revell stuffed the biscuit in the basket after mobbing the goalie and causing everyone in the arena to faint from the collective foot odor.

Score this one for Revell– and speaking of diecast metal be sure to check out Marty’s Matchbox Makeovers on Youtube.

(In our next episode, we’ll compare the transformer/controllers. If Revell manages to pull out a win, we’ll have to go into sudden death overtime which may feature my sudden death. Should be interesting.)

1 Reply to “The Locomotives (Not the Band!)”

  1. Toy trains are in our DNA. Fond memories of amazing Lionel layouts in Christmas season department stores.
    My dad bought us American Flyer. He felt they were more realistic, with only 2 rails and better looking cars. I loved the illuminated Pullman. I played in the dark, also had an airport beacon, and loco with chemical smoke.
    So now the only hobby shop in Madison has loads of train stuff, which I believe is their main revenue generator. Lots of N gauge.
    Ok now back to the old WMs bros. Wedell 44 that I am “restoring” , 30 years later, but still a great kit.

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