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Hello! from Dr. Tinker
Dr. Tinker's thoughts about the state of the art of trains
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The business was born out of the frustration that resulted from not being able to find the parts needed to do the repair work. Dave applies 50+ years of experience to repairing primarily old Lionel trains. He offers back issues ofThe Coupler, a publication on how to fix trains and commentary on "O" Gauge trains in general.
Sixteen-year-old David Laughridge won the West Palm Beach, Florida YMCA electric train contest in the fall of 1949 and received this handsome trophy as well as the title "Casey Jones of the YMCA." David beat out 32 other contestants with a stripped down Lionel 671 turbine. Little did David know that his love of tinkering and toy trains would lead to a fulfilling career in the toy train field!
In January of 1967, David, then Director of Design for the Lionel Toy Corporation, appeared on the syndicated "Wendy Barry Show" to promote the new Lionel line.
David Laughridge's work has been everyone else's play. It was Laughridge who developed the name and proprietary concept for the world-famous Nerf ball.
Everybody enjoys his or her own hobby privately, and if buying and selling
trains if your idea of having fun, go for it, because in the long run the real
value of any hobby is how much you enjoy it...
Repairing trains is really a healthy way to spend one's time, and that goes
for youngsters as well as for older chaps. Service work keeps you sharp and on
your toes. It's truly good medicine. If you haven't tried it, give it a chance.
The next time you are at a train show, pick up an old junker and jump right in.
You just might find a whole new world of enjoyable entertainment for yourself,
your children, your grandchildren, your dad. Who knows where it will lead? I am
happy to help, if I can.
In the early '80s, we had a local hobby shop here in New England called the "Village Tinker". I did Lionel repairs for them and the owners had a habit of calling me the "Doctor". My repair shop in Lexington, MA, was making a small reputation for itself and the phone was ringing all the time with questions from would-be repair people. This reputation was enhanced because many understood that Dr. Tinker was an ex-Lionel Corp. designer, hence the name stuck.
David wrote a column for O Gauge Railroading for ten years, under the name "Dr. Tinker".
I decided to get seriously involved with parts around 1980 because I was so frustrated at not being able to find the parts I needed to make repairs. I have been repairing Lionels most of my life, starting at age 7, working after school part-time for a fellow who ran a Lionel Service Station in Charlotte, NC. When we moved to Florida, I continued to be involved with Lionel parts, repairs and train setup for Mr. Cowen's friends in Palm Beach. I also worked part-time for Schroeder's Toy Shop in West Palm Beach. Later, when I landed the job at Lionel in Hillside, NJ, as manager of design and new product development, I continued to help people get their trains running even though I had no shop of my own.
For a while, parts were not available from Lionel out of New Jersey, around
the early '70s. The more involved I got with repair work, the more demand I
experienced for information and parts from fellow train people, so I decided to
share my experiences with others by writing about the repair work. Also, because
it is necessary to have a ready supply of parts on hand in order to do effective
repair work, I pursued the parts procurement in a more ambitious way. Instead of
buying one or two items at a time, I found myself buying in large quantities and
passing the savings on to others. This has developed into a small mail-order
parts business, and of course my wife and I go to many train meets with our
parts for those who cannot find or visualize the parts they need in any other
way except by seeing them first-hand.
I have enjoyed model trains all my life, and that includes many aspects, beginning with the first No. 1666E that my parents gave me as a child. That was one smooth-running little engine, probably the finest inexpensive engine they ever built. I measure all trains by that one because it was so well engineered and produced.
When we made our escape to Florida in the late '40s, I got involved with HO scale, and to this day the layout may still be standing because I used concrete and wire mesh for the landscaping. Back then we used Tru-Scale roadbed, with brass spikes and rails. My best cars were the "Silver Streak" units.
Later in life I returned to the larger scale because it was more practical for me, but mostly because it held more good memories from the past. The O gauge size represents fewer frustrations, in a sense, to me and I believe that many modelers feel the same way as I do about this. That is why we seem to enjoy keeping those old trains running, even though we all want to have a few shiny new ones, too.
Here's hoping the manufacturers understand that the old trains are just as important as the new ones and not just from a collecting viewpoint. There's a lot more to model railroading than just going out and buying some new numbers.
This points up an interesting facet of the model railroading hobby that is apparently being overlooked to some extent by the O gauge train manufacturers. Much of the action in 3-rail these days is coming from the older set. These folks will buy new trains but they also want to be at liberty to fix up their old trains. Having the parts available to do this repair work is essential to the pursuit of the hobby, both for the operator as well as for the pure collector.
These people think of fixing up old trains in much the same way as they used to feel when going into a hobby shop to buy a model airplane kit. They would be perfectly happy spending many hours getting lost in the intricacies of kit assembly, reading directions, cutting or punching out the parts and then gluing the structure together. This is basically the same kind of thing, except that with a model airplane, often all you could do when the job was finished was look at your handy work. With a rebuilt Lionel, you stand a good chance of recouping your investment, should you decide to sell it. Most likely, you'll get most or all of your money back.
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It has long been my contention that there is a lot more Lionel stuff out there than anyone ever dreamed. Undiscovered treasures, family heirlooms, and the like, continue to foster a healthy hunting mentality for those who are permanently bitten by the train bug. This is one of the few hobbies that allows one to pay the way, so to speak, if done carefully. Even rusty old trains provide a source of enjoyment. Restoring old trains just for the satisfaction of doing it provides hours of happy involvement for many of us. Providing these replacement parts is a business within the hobby, in much the same way that after market auto parts suppliers can be found in abundance to assist those who enjoy restoring old autos.
We buy old trains as well as sell them, although that is not the main thrust of our little enterprise. We do not try to compete with the train shops that must pay rent, maintain large inventories of new merchandise and pay a support staff as well. Rather, we try to support the train stores by providing a ready supply of replacement parts for their customers. Buying old dismantled train sets is one of the best sources that I have found for old train parts. Keep Dr. Tinker's in mind if you have an orphan loco that you have no use for. It may be worth something to someone.
A fellow wrote me and he made a good point that seems timely and worth passing on. He says his complaint about most operators is the fact that few take the time to properly lubricate their trains. I sure do agree with that comment. The other point that he made, which few people think about, is the practice of overloading the transformers. This causes most transformers to croak before their time. If your transformer gets warm or hot or smells of fried resin, you are working it too hard. Try splitting the demand that you impose on your unit by getting another transformer to relieve the burden. Get one or two old RW's or Z's to operate your accessories to lighten the load on your operational trains. These transformers can usually be picked up at shows at reasonable prices.
Dr. Tinker's Email!!!! Please send a hello and your repair question to firstname.lastname@example.org
By phone at 781-862-5798, 9 - 5 weekdays
or write to him at:
Dr. Tinker's Antique Toy Trains
Parts & Service
P.O. Box 242
Lexington, MA 02420-0003
If you need a street address to mail to:
Dr. Tinker's Antique Toy Trains
Parts & Service
1 Belfry Terrace
Lexington, MA 02421- 4909
We accept personal checks or money orders. Sorry, no credit cards or COD's. Minimum $30.00 order, paid in advance include an additional $9.00 for shipping & handling, (total $39.00). Make checks payable to David Laughridge. If you do not know how much an item is, send a deposit for the estimated amount. Overpayments will be refunded with your order. If you want an order to be insured, send extra estimated funds. Parts listed are new, used, reconditioned, and reproduction, depending on availability at the time of the request. Parts that have been rerun at the factory are generally considered the same as new, original parts, if appropriate. Some items are reconditioned, such as smoke units, armatures, and E-units. If this is objectionable to you, please indicate. Quantities are limited on some items, especially new original old stock. If reproduction is acceptable, please advise. All sales are final. Parts cannot be returned for credit, except by prior agreement, in which case a restocking fee will be charged for all returned merchandise.
Please note: that while we try to have our data base as accurate as possible on the site, we are not responsible for typos. All price and part disputes are at Dr. Tinker's discretion.
Send Self-Addressed Stamped Envelope for inquiries, please. Order by engine, car or accessory Lionel part number when possible.
Massachusetts dealers with tax numbers should send tax exempt form or a photocopy of your Sales Tax and Use Registration certificate for our files.
Correctness and accuracy are of prime concern to us. Dr. Tinker (Dave Laughridge) is a former Lionel Product Manager from the late 60s period and has been designing toys, repairing trains, and writing about his work most of his life. This is a full time business, not a part time hobby. We also use the parts that we sell to repair our own customers trains, so you can be assured that what we ship is the best quality available.
Copyright 2002 - 2009 Dr. Tinker. Send comments and questions on this website to: email@example.com