Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Atlantic City: Vineland's Trains 'N Things keeps things nostalgic for model train collectors

Pressof Atlantic City: Vineland's Trains 'N Things keeps things nostalgic for model train collectors
By BRIAN IANIERI Staff Writer pressofAtlanticCity.com | 0 comments

There is much nostalgia in model trains.

Grandfathers who grew up running Lionel trains later bought them for their children, who bought them for their children, said Irene Burrell, 65, who owns Trains ’N Things with her husband, Ralph, also 65.

The business sells new and used trains of all sizes, including O-gauge, G-gauge and HO scale.

Ralph Burrell started with trains as a hobby at 9 years old.

“It was a big Christmas thing. Back then, everybody had trains,” he said. “Now everybody gets a (Nintendo) Wii.”

Still there are plenty of people who collect trains, display them and motor them through model layouts of towns, farms and even New York City.

Trains ’N Things was started in 1993 after Ralph Burrell found a need for the business.

“The problem was there was not a fully stocked train store in the area,” he said.

The model business has changed significantly over the past two decades for multiple reasons.

Model train companies began producing many more varieties of trains, as well as replicas of older trains, he said.

This meant that businesses like the Burrells’ needed to stock more inventory in order to carry more products that their customers would want. This has created more demands on storage, as well as the time of the business owners themselves, he said.

“All different types of people collect different types,” he said. “What one person thinks is ugly, another thinks is beautiful, and that’s hard when you’re building your inventory.”

The business is surrounded by model trains and train cars of all varieties and ages. Some are remarkably detailed, like the G-gauge freight train that circles the center of the shop. The yellow Union Pacific train includes audio — the deliberately scratchy sound of an engineer talking to a dispatcher over the radio.

Among the oldest model trains in the shop is a 1920 Lionel that sells for $425.

There are others designed to appeal for specific collectors — Harley-Davidson, Coca-Cola, Miller High Life, Coors Light and 7-Up.

One of the more in-demand items over the past few years has been the Polar Express, due to the computer animated movie of the same name.

In the region, East Coast trains are among the more popular sellers. These include the Pennsylvania-Reading Seashore Lines, the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad and New York Central.

Union Pacific is also popular because the railroad franchise still runs.

Irene Burrell said she expects new Lionel trains featuring New Jersey Transit to be popular in the area this year because of the local angle.

Not surprisingly, the model train business is busiest in the winter, when hobbyists, train enthusiasts and amateurs seek out the trains for their own spreads and Christmas-time displays, large and small. The store, which keeps limited summertime hours, is open 7 days a week when the holidays approach.

Most of Trains ’N Things customers are walk-ins, although the business ships trains all over the country and in Canada.

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