24 of the 1938-39 catalog from the German toy-train manufacturer
Märklin-with its dramatic illustrations of the "O"
gauge Pacific locomotive-may be all but lost to history, but for
16 years it provided ample terrain for the boyhood fantasies of
Michael A. Cann, AB'49, AM'53. When Cann's family emigrated to
the U.S. during the waning days of the Weimar Republic, his toy
trains (and dreams of that Märklin Pacific) became the seeds
of a hobby that has endured for 70 years.
No. 201 of the 30,000-strong U.S. Train Collectors Association,
Cann acquired the locomotive of his dreams in 1957-well, almost.
He spent years rehabilitating the engine, which had arrived in
his mailbox at graduate school hobbled by rust, "white metal
disease," and the general disrepair from repeated tossings
into a toy chest. It is the most cherished of the 250 locomotives
and 2,500 cars that line floor-to-ceiling shelves in his home.
Cann says the trains interest him not only because of "my
positive childhood associations," but also because they illustrate
an applied history: "in the way different manufacturers have
gone about converting the image of the real train into an attractive
and workable toy."
Cann lays tracks, Jim North, AM'67, depletes tubes of Testor's
plastic airplane glue for his assembly (literally) of 205 WWII
combat aircraft in 1/72 scale. Among the models he's seeking are
a Curtiss-Wright C-46, the American cargo plane that flew the
"Hump" in India-Burma, and a Nakajima G8N, a Japanese
four-engine heavy bomber. The plane that launched his lifetime
hobby was one North built during his high-school years: a Douglas
Dauntless, the U.S. Navy dive-bomber credited with winning the
Battle of Midway in June 1942.
grinding gears of yesteryear and tiny working parts also enchant
John D. Beam, MBA'72, who has collected cast-iron mechanical banks
since age 7, when his father gave him a bank from his own boyhood.
Place a penny in the right hand of the Tammany bank (ca. 1870),
and the cast-iron fat man deposits the coin in his coat pocket,
nodding his thanks. Beam has 30 banks in all-several of them from
the estate of fellow collector Walter P. Chrysler-and has started
his 10-year-old son John on a collection with recent models from
Hammacher Schlemmer. But no latter-day model can compare to the
antiques, says Beam. "The old ones from the late 1800s work
just as if they're brand new."