Toy Trains and Victorian Christmases Past

Did you ever receive a toy train for Christmas?

  • Yes

    Votes: 16 53.3%
  • No

    Votes: 8 26.7%
  • No, but I wanted one.

    Votes: 3 10.0%
  • Still do. I love trains!

    Votes: 3 10.0%

  • Total voters
    30
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#1
fe7929c8996e9906277e7d104b163ab5--christmas-train-father-christmas.jpg

Long before the famed Polar Express, Victorian era children loved trains. Little boys were especially eager to play with pint-size versions of this new technology. 19th-century toymakers obliged, cranking out model trains in wood, cast iron and tin. By the first half of the 20th century, millions of little boys dreamed of waking up on Christmas morning to find a model train tooting around the tree.

Thanks to their colorful names, varying configurations and then-cutting-edge technology, early steam locomotives captured the imaginations of children. Manufacturers of toys such as Charles M. Crandall and Rufus Bliss quickly capitalized on this interest by creating wooden locomotives, passenger cars and gondolas that children could pull around the house. These “draggers,” as they were called, featured colorful lithographed designs that were glued to their wooden bodies. Their proportions were cartoonish and exaggerated rather than made precisely to scale. By the Civil War, these "draggers" were also being made from sheets of stamped tin-plated iron or steel. They were literally folded into the shapes of locomotives or train cars before being secured at the joints and painted. Whether they were made of wood or tin, these toy trains spurred young imaginations and provided children with hours of joy. Just imagine what a ruckus these little Victororians must have raised throughout their homes!

train.jpg

In the second half of the 19th century, wooden model trains such as the ones in the top two rows featured lithographed designs. Tin trains, at right and at bottom, were produced concurrently with wooden ones. Image by the Train Collectors Association, courtesy of Gerry Souter

Source: Toy Train Museum

Hope @Jimklag likes this thread! I'm dedicating it to @Southern Unionist, my lovable railfan.
 
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#4
This one's a little on the big side, but maybe we can all chip in and buy it. :wink:

Victorian Christmas Train

The boys in our family had train sets, and one was always around the base of our Christmas tree.
That video is lovely!! I have to admit I like trains, especially train excursions. I'm also a big fan of Amtrak.
 

LoriAnn

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#5
That video is lovely!! I have to admit I like trains, especially train excursions. I'm also a big fan of Amtrak.
I like them too. I'm not into them the way serious train fans are, but I'll always go for a ride if one is offered. I would love to take a train trip somewhere.

We live one block away from train tracks, and I've come to enjoy the sound of them as they rumble through (they shake our bed and our walls). Even the horn. It bothers the neighbors, but it never bothers me.
 
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#6
As you might expect, @Southern Unionist has taken me on several train excursions over the years. They have always been fun and the scenery has been exceptional. I'm not a train expert in spite of my hubby's best efforts, but I know enough to chat folks up when we're onboard. Our last Amtrak trip was to Alexandria, VA. We were going to the National Cherry Blossom Festival. It was comfy and quiet and I had no limit on baggage! We were even served dinner with white table linens and china. You would love traveling this way @LoriAnn! Check it out. I bet Tom would love it too.
 
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#9
Thanks @Eleanor Rose for the interesting Christmas Train engines and cars. I was never a train fan. I rode on them several times when I was young. We still had passenger service at the time in Central Illinois. The name of the train was the Green Diamond. I can't remember when the service stopped. The train was my parents generation, WWII and earlier. They travelled everywhere by bus and train. I guess they still have the bus. I liked the Christmas Train video. Thanks for posting.
 
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#11
I had no idea electric model trains date back as far as 1835, but according to Gerry Souter,

The earliest electric train was made by Thomas Davenport. It was a simple gondola car containing a hand-wound electric motor running on a circle of track tethered to several wet-plate batteries in the center. Edward Beggs, offered a trolley-type steam loco with a pole touching an overhead wire that was hooked up to batteries. And a company called Carlisle & Finch bettered that idea by using liquid chromite batteries attached by wires directly to the track. Carlisle & Finch offered a train that ran on household current,but the power for the electrified tracks had to be spliced from the same direct-current wires that ran an electric light bulb.”

Souter goes on to explain that batteries were an essential part of 19th- and early 20th-century electric trains because so few homes at the time had electricity.

train2.jpg

In 1897, Carlisle & Finch offered customers a number of battery-powered electric railways, including this little four-wheel trolley on a circular track. Image courtesy Gerry Souter for Motorbooks/Quarto

Are you impressed yet @Jimklag?
 

christian soldier

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#12
Eleanor. I still have my Lionel train set from when I was a very small boy. Father would put the train underneath the Christmas tree every year and I always got to be the engineer being that I was the only boy on my mother's side of the family. I love anything Victorian but especially the Christmas Holiday. Thanks for staring this thread. I think you may have another winning thread here. I certainly would nominate it for an award. David.
 

donna

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#14
Have had many train sets over the years. I gave most of them to my son as he has 3 sons and they all enjoy trains.

My parents and I rode passenger trains many times when I was young. I always remember the dining cars. The food was delicious and the tables were all set with linens and fine tableware.

My father loved trains. He and my Mom took many a train trip. I guess one they enjoyed most was train from Chicago to California.
 

Jimklag

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#15

Long before the famed Polar Express, Victorian era children loved trains. Little boys were especially eager to play with pint-size versions of this new technology. 19th-century toymakers obliged, cranking out model trains in wood, cast iron and tin. By the first half of the 20th century, millions of little boys dreamed of waking up on Christmas morning to find a model train tooting around the tree.

Thanks to their colorful names, varying configurations and then-cutting-edge technology, early steam locomotives captured the imaginations of children. Manufacturers of toys such as Charles M. Crandall and Rufus Bliss quickly capitalized on this interest by creating wooden locomotives, passenger cars and gondolas that children could pull around the house. These “draggers,” as they were called, featured colorful lithographed designs that were glued to their wooden bodies. Their proportions were cartoonish and exaggerated rather than made precisely to scale. By the Civil War, these "draggers" were also being made from sheets of stamped tin-plated iron or steel. They were literally folded into the shapes of locomotives or train cars before being secured at the joints and painted. Whether they were made of wood or tin, these toy trains spurred young imaginations and provided children with hours of joy. Just imagine what a ruckus these little Victororians must have raised throughout their homes!

View attachment 168953
In the second half of the 19th century, wooden model trains such as the ones in the top two rows featured lithographed designs. Tin trains, at right and at bottom, were produced concurrently with wooden ones. Image by the Train Collectors Association, courtesy of Gerry Souter

Source: Toy Train Museum

Hope @Jimklag likes this thread! I'm dedicating it to @Southern Unionist, my lovable railfan.
Jim Klag loves your thread.
 

Jimklag

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#16
I had no idea electric model trains date back as far as 1835, but according to Gerry Souter,

The earliest electric train was made by Thomas Davenport. It was a simple gondola car containing a hand-wound electric motor running on a circle of track tethered to several wet-plate batteries in the center. Edward Beggs, offered a trolley-type steam loco with a pole touching an overhead wire that was hooked up to batteries. And a company called Carlisle & Finch bettered that idea by using liquid chromite batteries attached by wires directly to the track. Carlisle & Finch offered a train that ran on household current,but the power for the electrified tracks had to be spliced from the same direct-current wires that ran an electric light bulb.”

Souter goes on to explain that batteries were an essential part of 19th- and early 20th-century electric trains because so few homes at the time had electricity.

View attachment 168964
In 1897, Carlisle & Finch offered customers a number of battery-powered electric railways, including this little four-wheel trolley on a circular track. Image courtesy Gerry Souter for Motorbooks/Quarto

Are you impressed yet @Jimklag?
Very - as ever.
 

captaindrew

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#17
This one's a little on the big side, but maybe we can all chip in and buy it. :wink:

Victorian Christmas Train

The boys in our family had train sets, and one was always around the base of our Christmas tree.
I visited this railroad when I was in New England in the Fall. In fact I posted some pictures of it in the camp fire chat in my thread something for the railfans. It was before the railroad forum got going. I'm going to try and get back there when I'm up there for Christmas and I'll definitely post some pics if I do. It's a cool operation.
 

Waterloo50

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#18

Waterloo50

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#19
A simple HO scale (or larger) train on a circular track around the base of a Christmas tree is perfect for Christmas morning.

I miss my childhood train sets !
Go buy one, everyone uses DCC now, they even have sound cards and smoke, I think you'd be pleasantly surprised and maybe even re-live some childhood memories.
 

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