JW: I was born and raised in Detroit, Michigan at the beginning of the Great Depression, but I have lived in Sarasota, Florida since 1950. Soon after moving to Sarasota, then President Eisenhower felt he had to activate the submarine reserve unit that I was in. Off I went to Korea for two wonderful years in a WW II submarine. After I was discharged I finished college and then went to graduate school and then to law school. I have practiced law in Sarasota since 1960.
Tinplate Times: Do you have any other hobbies besides toy trains?
JW: My other hobbies and interests are collecting antique toys and antique cars (I just sold 20 of them and I got out of the car hobby for now!) I also enjoy golf, fishing and scuba diving. I am very fortunate to live right on the water. I have my boat right outside the door.
Tinplate Times: When did you start into the toy train hobby?
JW: My beginnings with toy trains began in the 1930s. My father collected toy trains. Lionel was still making standard gauge at that time. He collected primarily old IVES, Boucher, Voltamp, C&F, and foreign trains. He sold his collection in the mid-1940s. A lot of it went to Dr. Glenn Harrison of Illinois. He too has since died.
Tinplate Times: So you had trains as a young boy?
JW: My first recollection of toy trains was when I was about 5 or 6, and on my birthday my dad set up a large standard gauge layout on the living room floor. I can sill see those 500 series freights being pulled by a 384 loco.
Tinplate Times: What do you enjoy collecting the most?
JW: My main interests are prewar standard gauge including Lionel, American Flyer, IVES, Boucher, Dorfan, and unusual items such as the JAD Hiawatha, Leland-Detroit, and the like. I have a complete collection of Lionel 00, which will have it’s own loop running after I make some trestles.
Tinplate Times: Tell us about your layout.
JW: I have a layout 54’ long by 13’ wide, with two loops each of both 0 gauge and standard gauge. I put doorbell buttons on the side of the layout so the grand kids can push the buttons and make bells ring, gates operate, and whistles blow.
Tinplate Times: What’s your most prized toy train?
JW: My most prized possession is a cast iron, wind-up Secor loco in the original box and lid with key. It’s the one pictured in Hertz’s book Collecting Model Trains on page 342. I located this item while attending law school in, of all places, a barbershop, where the barber used to let little kids play with it on the tile floor.
Tinplate Times: What train or set did you once own that you wish you had kept?
JW: I sold off a very large collection back 26 years ago to raise money for a real estate project, and soon after I began collecting all over again. The set I wish I had kept is an IVES Circus Train.
Tinplate Times: Are you still acquiring trains?
JW: Yes, I still add to my collection via EBAY and TCA meets.
Tinplate Times: When did you join the TCA?
JW: I joined the TCA in 1965, while my brother joined in 1960. He also enjoys collection and has a nice collection of foreign items. He lives In Tampa, FL.
Tinplate Times: What is the great attraction of tinplate toy trains for you?
JW: The trains are a part of my growing up and reminders of better times here in the United States. A lot has happened and the trains are a reminder of a time that was, when kids and adults alike had a closer bond, impossible today with electronic gadgets, TV, and so many other distractions. My dad and I played on the weekends with trains, and kids in the neighborhood would come over after school. It was fun!
Tinplate Times: What do you see for the future of tinplate toy trains and collecting?
JW: I feel that collecting shall go on, and people will always be interested in the fellowship of groups like the TCA, TTOS, and other organizations, again, like the NMRA, etc. I would like to think that we are just custodians for future generations.
Tinplate Times: Thanks for your comments, Jack.
JW: Thanks. I really appreciate your efforts.
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