The Straco Express rounds the bend.
I'm not only interested in collecting certain things, but also in the mechanics of collecting. Most of my posts are about a specific  hobby -- toy trains -- but I use the topic as a way to move from the specific to the general.

What does "rare" really mean? Are things labeled as collectable really so? What elements go into determining the actual worth of an item? I ruminate about these topics and more in my collecting posts.

The Principles of Collecting
 -- This little series outlines what I think are the five basic tenants of collecting. Do they agree with yours?

Lessons from York
  -- My father and I attend the semi-annual toy train meet hosted by the Eastern Division of the TCA (Train Collectors Association), held in York, PA. It's such a large event, it's easy to spot general trends in collecting. Most of these posts aren't so much about the specific hobby of toy train collecting, but rather the concept of collecting in general.

The Straco Express Layout
-- This is an ongoing series. It all started when I purchased an early 1960's cheap Japanese train set on a whim. The series chronicles my attempt to find out more about this little set, and the connection between the Bandai, Cragstan, and F.J. Strauss companies. It also includes my multi-part posts on creating a simple layout for these trains. Working with extremely cheap materials presents challenges not normally encountered by scale modelers!

The Tender Trap
-- I understand that most people don't know (or care to know) anything about model or toy trains. But still. If you're going to sell them, at least made an attempt to set it with the tender facing the right direction. It's not hard, but people make this very common error all the time -- on purpose.

The O-Gauge Zen Garden
-- That's what I call my tinplate layout. If you create a scale model train layout, then a lot of decisions about the modeling of it are dictated by the real world. Is that boxcar weathered realistically? Would a hillside have that type of vegetation in the climate of the area being modeled? (and yes, those questions are asked).

But since I'm just providing a place for toy-like trains to run, I get to decide everything. I can choose to place realistic structures or ones that are tinplate (toy trains and toy train accessories named after the metal they were made of). So just like a Zen garden, the design is my own, and it only has to satisfy my own aesthetic.

Which is what makes it relaxing and fun. My professional life is full of detail-oriented work with dire consequences for inaccuracy. So in my hobby, I get to escape from the demands of the real world and instead create something that's as close -- or as far away -- from reality as I choose it to be.

The Japanese Litho Train Set Project
-- As I did research for the Straco Express layout, I realized that there was virtually no information about this field of toy trains. So, in an informal way, I decided to collect material that would help me make sense of the Japanese toy train era from 1948-1965. Who were the manufacturers? What sets did they produce? What variations were there within a set offering? It will probably take quite a while before I have any solid answers -- but in this case, the fun is in the research, not necessarily the final results.