Saturday, November 10, 2012

His hobby has all the bells and whistles

From UT San Diego: His hobby has all the bells and whistles 

Bob Shultz lays next to a train set display in the backyard of his home in Cardiff on Monday, November 5 ,2012.(Photo by Sandy Huffaker)
Bob Shultz lays next to a train set display in the backyard of his home in Cardiff on Monday, November 5 ,2012.(Photo by Sandy Huffaker) 
Three years ago, Cardiff resident Bob Shultz went on a hunt for an old toy train for his newborn grandson.
He wanted something fun and not nearly as valuable as the only train he owned — a 1950s-era, high-end Lionel that his father bought him as a boy. So he placed a classified advertisement asking people to dig through their closets and garages looking for dusty old trains they didn’t want any more.
“Buying trains,” his ad announcement declared, and people were eager to sell.
Soon the 67-year-old retired real estate agent had dozens, then hundreds. Three years later, he has a “real massive collection” — about 1,000.
He’s become a train seller, exchanger and donor. He’s now active in a regional toy train club and spends every Friday volunteering with a crew of train enthusiasts who are building an outdoor train layout in an Escondido backyard.
Shultz has stuffed his garage, his shed and his office with trains. He’s created a train repair workshop where tiny drawers stuffed with miniature train horns, bells and fuses beg to be opened. He’s built a circus train layout in his small backyard for his grandson, Rollins Fisher of La Mesa, and the neighborhood kids to enjoy.
And he has already inspired at least one boy to become a train addict.
Alexander Melemed, a 5-year-old from Carlsbad, received his first free train from Shultz months ago. Now, he owns 10 to 15, his dad reports, and the family spends weekends visiting the San Diego Model Railroad Museum and the train display at Vista’s Antique Gas & Steam Engine Museum.
“He’s going to be like Bob — he has them displayed everywhere,” dad Jeff Melemed said, adding that when he takes his son to the Vista museum, he has to stay for hours.
Shultz specializes in the large pre-World War 11 metal toy trains, but he also accepts the plastic versions from the 1940s to the late 1960s. He loves the toy trains because they make sounds, flash their lights and even have slots where real steam pours out.
He used to collect seashells, but “they don’t move, they don’t talk, they don’t buzz,” he said.
Call him a moderately addicted train guy, said Bob Wall, one of the leaders in San Diego’s All Gauge Toy Train Association. The association, which puts on an annual display during the county fair in Del Mar, meets from 2 to 8 p.m. every second Tuesday at Torrey Pines Christian Church, 8320 La Jolla Scenic Drive.
Wall, a University City resident who’s been collecting trains for 35 years, just returned from a three-day train convention where he met a guy who had 10,000 trains in his home. He himself admits to owning “somewhere between” 1,000 and 10,000.

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