​​​Lakes and Pines Division - Train Collectors Association

Why I joined the TCA and Lakes and Pines

Back in the summer of 2000 I purchased my first house and had coincidently discovered eBay as well.  Since I had been the custodian of my father’s train collection since 1993 I decided that the 16’ by 20’ crawl space would be an ideal location for a layout despite the 3-foot ceiling.  Like so many before me, I dove headfirst back into the hobby that was a huge part of my childhood.  With little thought I began to purchase many trains both old and new on eBay and through retail establishments.  Most of the trains had little or no collectable value and some were so high-tech that my kids couldn’t run them. I immediately built an 8’by 16’ layout that seemed to change each week as I whirled from one idea to the next.  As time went on and the knowledge gap of being out of the hobby for 20 years got caught up to speed, I realized that I needed to reign in my spending and put some constraints around what I wanted out of this great hobby.

Living in Coon Rapids Minnesota, I had easy access to a phenomenal train store that has since closed its doors.  III Rail Trains, owned and operated by George Fleury, was an incredible place to purchase trains and talk with others involved in the hobby.  III Rail had a large operating layout, huge inventories, and was a goldmine for anyone interested in 3 rail O-gauge trains.  After many conversations with George it became apparent to him that my interest lied with Postwar Lionel trains rather than the new trains that lined his shelves.  For years he told me that if I were interested in joining the TCA, he and a fellow co-worker would sponsor my application. He insisted that if I was going to focus on Postwar Lionel trains, the TCA was the best place to start.  I listened to George on numerous occasions and one day while looking at the pile of mismatched junk I had accumulated, it became apparent that I needed help.

I returned for a visit with George at III Rail with a national application I had downloaded from the web to get my membership rolling.  While talking with George he introduced me to Mike Donahue who at the time was President of Lakes a Pines and just happened to be at the counter purchasing some trains.  Mike agreed to be the 2nd sponsor on my National Application and I was off and running.  I attended my first Lakes & Pines meet as a guest in early 2005 and had submitted my membership application before I left that day.

 What I discovered that day at my very first meet was an incredible group of people.  Many of the same people I had been seeing at local trains shows for the prior 5 years were present and they were members!  As I worked the tables I was amazed at how friendly everyone was and soon realized that this was a place where someone coming back to the hobby or just starting out needed to be.

As I continued to come to the monthly meets I met more and more people and purchased more and more trains.  After a few meets I realized that my purchasing habits were following a certain pattern.  It didn’t take long to realize that as much as I like running toy trains, I liked buying postwar Lionel trains and accessories even more.  Another collector was born in Murzyn Hall and the closets have been filling up ever since!

Over the past several years I have learned a lot about the L&P membership base.  I have learned that there are published authors among our ranks, people who buy and sell trains for a living among us, people who have spent almost as much money traveling across the country to acquire their collection than on the actual trains in their collection, people who collect only certain years of certain brands and will pay “Crazy” money to get them.  I have met people who fell in love with their very first toy train and have spent their lives researching, collecting and informing the train community about their finds. I have met people who are content with buying what they like rather than what the collector handbook says they should be buying.  I have met people that display their trains so the public can enjoy them.   I have met people that have every single version of a particular train regardless of the manufacturer.   I have met people that are content watching their trains go around a single oval loop.  I have met people with such complicated layouts that they have developed instruction manuals to get keep them rolling. I have met people that have devoted years of their life to start up a new club to further the hobby.  I have met people that have rubbed elbows with the biggest names in train collecting. 

 I have met many wonderful people who will not hesitate to share their knowledge and love of toy trains with anyone who asks.  What better way to enjoy toy trains than be surrounded by like individuals?

If these people sound like people you would like to meet, we would love to meet you!

Please check out the membership tab on this website if you are interested in joining.

Mike Speltz