Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Gift Certificates

Afraid your family or friends will get you the wrong thing for Christmas? Suggest a gift certificate from The Big Little Railroad Shop. Then you can come in and get exactly what you want. This is especially good for special order items.

Here's another idea for gift certificates. Get multiple people to each give you one, then come in and use them together to get something a little more expensive.

Of course if you are a gift giver, as opposed to a gift receiver, and you are not sure exactly what to buy your modeler, then a gift certificate would be perfect.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Railroad Graffiti

The following is an editorial from the December 2006 issue of Railpace magazine. Note that we carry Railpace and many other fine magazines covering railroads and modeling. Also, we do not encourage nor condone graffiti like some other retailer apparently does.

Graffiti Trains

Railfans and rail photographers are becoming increasingly concerned about the growing graffiti menace that has coated nearly every American freight car, and even some locomotives, during the past decade. Kilroy Was Here white chalk markings, and Herbie scrawls on freight cars go back a century or more, but these are marginalia compared with the massive “murals” we now find covering car numbers, AAR markings and FRA reflective tape.

The latest outrage is the Enamelized Graffiti Diecast Train Collection line of toys sold by Wal-Mart, which contains a 1:137 scale (slightly larger than N scale) freight car covered with graffiti, selling for the Always Low Price of $2.97. But the real shocker is the trading card that comes with each car, glorifying the “artist” who has trespassed on railroad property for the express purpose of defacing private property. But wait— it gets worse. Each package contains a web address— www.graffsupply.com --where you can “learn more about graffiti and it’s [sic] artists,” purchase books and videos with step-by-step instructions on
“tagging” railcars, and order graffiti supplies. Did you know an “artist” can spend $55 on this site for a spray nozzle to perfect his technique? The line of Graffiti Trains is brought to you by Maisto, a Hong Kong importer based in Fontana, California. Their press release proclaims: “Graffiti keeps becoming more and more mass and diluted. To be able to use authentic graffiti and tell the stories of the artists in this train collection is a step foreword [sic] in broadening the culture.” “Deep in most inner cities, there is an artist with a collection of spray cans and a vision of getting up on trains that go across the country,” says Ralph Benitez, the influential Art Director who has launched Playerz, Pro-Rodz, and G-Rides lines of die-cast collectibles for Maisto. “This collection pays tribute to those artists that did.”

Trucking companies, container lines, and package delivery companies don’t put up with this urban pathology. It is shameful that the railroad industry has virtually surrendered to the graffiti assault— and that Wal-Mart is promoting it. One rail industry wag stated “at least someone is painting our cars, so they don’t rust!” Many of these graffiti creations involve hours of tedious work, often done by “tagger teams” -- so much for “homeland security” in our nation’s rail yards.

We wonder why the fine people at Union Pacific haven’t jumped on graffiti artists for licensing fees, as they so eagerly have done with legitimate model railroad manufactures. And why the Model Railroad Industry Association (MRIA) hasn’t encouraged Wal-Mart (and other large retailers) to carry a line of inexpensive (non-graffiti) trains, to introduce more Americans to The World’s Greatest Hobby.

Perhaps it will take rail enthusiasts and photographers to turn up the heat where railroads and model makers won’t. You can start by sending an e-mail with your views to Wal-Mart’s ethics department at ethics@walmart.com. And perhaps to your area railroad too, asking them why they tolerate trespassing and destruction of private property. The answers you get may be revealing.

-- Tom Nemeth --

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Appeals Court Verdict on MTH vs. Lionel case

This has to do with the MTH suit against Lionel for "stealing MTH trade secrets."
Following are 2 statements on this verdict; first the MTH statement, then the Lionel statement.

MTH Statement
6th Circuit Denies Lionel’s Request For Judgment In Its Favor, But Remands Case For New Trial
December 14, 2006 – The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit today entered its decision in Lionel’s appeal of M.T.H.’s judgment against Lionel for willful misappropriation of M.T.H.’s trade secrets. The Sixth Circuit affirmed the trial court’s decision denying Lionel’s motion for judgment as a matter of law in favor of Lionel, but it reversed the trial court’s decision denying Lionel’s motion for a new trial and remanded the case for a retrial.

Significantly, the Sixth Circuit rejected Lionel’s argument that M.T.H. failed to specifically identify the trade secrets at issue, finding “the design drawings here are properly considered trade secrets even though they contain a mixture of secret information (e.g., dimensions, tolerances, and data-reference points) and non-secret information.” The Sixth Circuit also approved the trial court’s decision to admit forty-five exhibits that were English translations of documents generated during the South Korean investigation and judicial proceedings into the misappropriation of M.T.H.’s trade secrets.

“Obviously, we are very disappointed with the Court of Appeals’ decision to remand this case for a new trial, but the decision in no way vindicates Lionel for its actions” said M.T.H. founder and President Mike Wolf. “This has already been a long ordeal for everyone here at M.T.H., but the decision to remand the case for a new trial will not deter us from our relentless pursuit of justice. We have faith in the U.S. jury system. The jury got it right the first time, and we have no reason to believe it will not get it right a second time.”

Wolf added, “We are particularly disappointed the appeals court did not seem to consider the trial evidence concerning Lionel’s destruction of key documents, which led the trial judge to instruct the jury that it could infer from the failure of any party to produce a document that the document would be unfavorable to that party. We believe the jury verdict was influenced more by evidence of document destruction than by M.T.H.’s expert witness testimony.”

According to Wolf, the issue of document destruction will not go away during a retrial. He said the retrial could get “very interesting” because during Lionel’s bankruptcy case, Lionel sued its former chief engineer, Bob Grubba – one of Lionel’s star witnesses in the first trial – for working with a then current Lionel employee to obtain and use Lionel’s trade secrets for the benefit of another company, K-Line, for whom Grubba was working at the time. Lionel also accused Grubba of trying to cover his tracks by destroying key evidence of the scheme. MTH presented evidence of the same pattern of misappropriation and destruction of documents in its case against Lionel. “It is ironic that in the seven years since M.T.H. first filed its lawsuit against Lionel, M.T.H. has not received any compensation for its damages, while during that same period of time Lionel has taken control of and put out of business a 30-year old North Carolina competitor, without a trial, based on the very same claims of conduct by Lionel against Grubba and K-Line as M.T.H. claimed and proved against Lionel during a jury trial,” said Wolf.

Wolf did not rule out an out-of-court settlement of this long-running dispute, stating M.T.H. has always been willing to negotiate in good faith to resolve legal disputes, pointing to M.T.H.’s recent settlement of the lawsuit filed against it by Union Pacific, which benefited the entire model railroading industry. “Unfortunately, Lionel has refused thus far to acknowledge responsibility for any of its actions, leaving us no choice but to vigorously pursue our claim through the legal system. Maybe that mindset will change under Lionel’s current management.”

The Sixth Circuit’s decision does not have any impact on the trial court’s judgment entered against Lionel’s co-defendants Korea Brass Co., Ltd. and Yoo Chan Yang, collection of which M.T.H. is pursuing on several fronts.

Lionel Statement

From Jerry Calabrese, CEO of Lionel L. L. C.
At a time like this, I could say any number of things. Obviously, we feel relieved and happy. Even more important, we’re grateful that the US Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals clearly saw the real issues of law and evidence and supported our position that a significant injustice had been done by the earlier decision in favor of MTH. Rather than try to add my own poor remarks on matters of law, I prefer to let the wording of the court’s decision, handed down this morning, speak for itself.

From a personal standpoint, even though the past two years of living under the cloud of this lawsuit has been difficult, it has also been pretty uplifting. The steady and inspirational support of our fans and dealers has been a constant reminder of the love and respect that is invested in Lionel. As the people in charge of this great company, it’s also served as a constant reminder that our first and foremost responsibility is to live up to the Lionel brand and what it means to generations of Americans. Please be assured that we will.

Finally, thank all of you for your good wishes throughout this very difficult time.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Coupon Savings

See December 7th posting for 10% Coupon Savings.

MTH negotiates Union Pacific licensing deal for model railroad industry

This news is already a month old, but not everyone is aware.

November 8, 2006

MTH negotiates Union Pacific licensing deal for industry

Mike Wolf, president and owner of MTH Electric Trains, has negotiated a new royalty-free licensing deal with the Union Pacific Railroad (UP) that covers to all model railroad manufacturers and their products in all scales.

"It was the right thing to do," Wolf said in an exclusive interview with Kalmbach Publishing Co., publisher of Model Retailer. Wolf said the deal, reached November 2, 2006, allows the royalty-free manufacture of UP-related model railroad products in perpetuity. "It's the best thing for the long-term health of the hobby," Wolf said.

Bob Turner, Senior Vice President Corporate Relations for UP, said, "Mike Wolf is to be commended for his commitment to the model railroad industry. His energy and passion helped us find a solution that will better reflect the positive relationship that Union Pacific and the model train industry have enjoyed for many years."

Union Pacific had sued MTH in 2005, stating MTH continued to produce Union Pacific-branded trains in violation of the railroad's 2002 licensing program. That program demanded a 3% royalty on all model railroad products bearing Union Pacific and merged-road logos or a 1/2% payment based on total sales of model railroad products. The program also required manufacturers to reveal to Union Pacific their business strategies for Union Pacific models, including marketing budgets, manufacturing details, distribution channels, and sales goals.

Rather than give in, MTH chose to defend itself on principle. "It was wrong. They [Union Pacific] had supported us in our manufacturing efforts, and we spent $5 million in tooling just for their trains, like the Big Boy, Challenger, and turbines," Wolf said.

The new agreement covers all model railroad manufacturers, including MTH rivals Lionel and Broadway Limited. Companies making model trains will need to contact UP to learn specifics and to be covered under the new program, Wolf said. Under the terms of the agreement, manufacturers must continue to use professional materials and maintain high standards when creating Union Pacific-branded trains.

The agreement covers not only historic road names, such as the Southern Pacific and Chicago North Western, but all future Union Pacific logos and slogans.

Wolf said that sales of MTH locomotives and cars in Union Pacific colors had dropped noticeably as negative publicity toward the licensing program grew. He now foresees sales of Union Pacific branded model trains returning to their pre-licensing levels.

- Neil Besougloff, Editor, Classic Toy Trains magazine

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

A cover-up in Manville...

(Train sightings on 12/02/06)

of one of the identifying landmarks found along the Lehigh Line in Manville (NJ). It is the water tower with the word "Manville" painted on the top. It is currently being repainted and was wrapped in plastic. I say "...was wrapped..." because after Friday night's gusty winds, it is now partially wrapped. When NS 11J passed by, workers were busy on the scaffolding reattaching the plastic sheets. As for the trains that passed by my location, by time sequence, they were:

NS 21M @ 8:15-Power was NS 2749, NS 2751 and PRR 8316 (C40-8W, ex-CR 6056).
NS 24Z(?) @ 9:05-NS 9691 and BNSF 4845 was in charge of the eastbound intermodal.
NS 11J @ 9:25-UP 4932 and NS 7615 would finally be on the move once again. Around 7:15, 11J would hold near the waterworks due to problems with NS 7615. The power would be reversed using the Roycefield Runner making UP 4932 the leader for the remainder of the trip.
CSX Q300 @ 10:15-with CSX 8118 and CSX 8860 would depart Manville yard with thirty loads and twenty-seven empties.
NS 202 @ 10:25 came east with NS 3536 and NS 3552. NS 24V @ 10:35 would follow short after with NS 2671 and NS 9632 for power.
NS 213(?) @ 10:45-after 24V passed, NS 7107, NS 3529 and NS 6617 would continue its westward journey.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Coupon Savings

Print the following coupon and bring it into the store for 10% savings.
Good only on items with a white price tag. Limit one item per purchase. In stock items only. Expires 12/31/06.

To print: right click on coupon, select Print Picture from drop down menu, then print.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Holiday Greetings by NS and CSX

Received the following via email from a Conrail fan.

Different. I like the animated nighttime train-in-the-snow graphic at the very end of the NS effort. And yes, those are snowflakes that begin falling all around the train, though my aging eyes at FIRST thought they were little white dollar signs showering the right-of-way (you can make them 'drift' left or right by moving your cursor backand forth across the center of the frame -- only TheThoroughbred of Transportation puts YOU in control ofthe weather!).


My 'wish' was for NS to use more Conrail Blue in their greetings and, well, this may be the ONLY time you will ever see the head of Topper the Horse appear in a Conrail BLUE NS logo! You aren't likely to ever see the throttle of an NS mixed-freight train being set at 100 mph again, either. And, finally, is that REALLY a Southern Railway unit, running long hood-forward, on the wrapping paper at the very beginning?

The CSX 'holliday greeting' on their home page is here:


Note the occasional large, passing snowflake made up of two different 'scales' of locomotive silhouettes. There does not appear to be a number board/headlight overhangin front of the cab: must be a former WM chop-nosed Geep! The dark blue in the CSX nighttime scene is obviously of C&O/B&O derivation, but the "OUR VISION" header is, to my eyes, lettered in Conrail Blue...

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Starting off Friday with some orange juice...

(Train sightings on 11/24/06)

was a good way to start this morning of railfanning the Lehigh Line near Manville.
In sequence by time, the trains observed were as follows:

CSX K650 @ 7:45-CSX 8725 (SD60I, ex-CR 5583) and NYC 7496 (C40-8, ex-CR 6040). Just an observation as I thought it was unusual to see this ex-CR unit as the second unit. Most of my juice train sightings have featured newer power.

CSX Q418 @ 9:20-not sure of this train's symbol that had for power CSX 8747 (SD60I, ex-CR 5635), CSX 4705 (SD70MAC), CSX 324 (AC44CW) and CSX 5341 (ES44DC).

NS 18N @ 9:35-compared with previous autorack trains, this one was a short one. Power for this train was NS 9149 (C40-9W) and BNSF 4976 (C44-9W).

NS 212 @ 10:05-featured a quartet of "old timers". A trio of B32-8's, NS 3536, NS 3563 and NS 3552, along with GP60 7112. Slotted in on this train were some CSX intermodal cars, something I hadn't seen previously.

NS 18G @ 10:30-had NS 9395 (C40-9W), NS 9265 (C40-9W) and two SD45-2s, NS 1700 and NS 1702, for the power consist.

CSX Q300 @ 10:45-finished its work at Manville yard and headed east with 2,300 tons and 1,800 feet of freight. Power would be CSX 7683 (C40-8W), CSX 5964, CSX 4403 (GP40-2, ex-CR 3286) and CSX 1562 (GP15-1, ex-CR 1678).

After Thanksgiving's feast, I might consider this a feast, with no concern about all those calories, for the eyes. Hope that your day after Thanksgiving is just as good!