"I am holding the IVES President Washington because you have to hold something in a picture. The cars have bullet holes in them giving deep meaning to the "played with" phrase. I have tried to collect every years' version of the IVES Standard gauge freight cars 1921-28. The real reason I focused on freights is that Sandy didn't like passenger cars and I could sneak freights home easier!"
Tinplate Times: Clem, tell us about yourself and your background.
Clem Clement: After graduation from George School, I attended Stevens Institute of Technology with a major in metallurgy. I worked briefly for North American Aviation as a research metallurgist on the B-70 aircraft and then joined the Air Force. My career in the Air Force took me over the world and included doing hurricane hunting, weather checks for 10 nuclear bomb detonations over Christmas Island, two tours in Vietnam, and a stint with the Secretary of Defense's Office at the Pentagon. After the military, I worked a while for RCA and another 7 years with a non-profit Communications association. My wife Sandy and I have 5 children and 5 grandchildren. I'm retired now, however, I consult on proposal preparation from time to time. I split my time now between the family, antique cars, and collecting trains.
Tinplate Times: Besides tinplate toy trains, you collect antique cars. Tell us about your car collection.
Clem Clement: I have a 1928 Model A Ford phaeton in pieces, a 1929 Packard 633 seven passenger touring, a 1930 Model A Ford Cabriolet, a 1931 La France Republic truck, a 1939 Ford Truck and a 1964 1/2 Mustang convertible.
"The yellow car is my 1930 Model A Ford Cabriolet: "Old Smokey."
We are getting ready to work on it after a big lunch. Eat first, then fix the car.
We were on a 12 car tour to Ohio."
"Sandy and me in our 1929 Packard "Grey Lady," enjoying the ride.
The wooden spoke wheels are original."
Tinplate Times: Tell us about your toy train affiliations.
Clem Clement: I started with trains in 1941. I'm a member of the TCA since 1964. In fact, I was just elected President of the TCA's Eastern Division. I'm also a member of the IVES society.
Tinplate Times: Which toy train books have you co-authored or acted as a consultant on?
Clem Clement: I was assistant editor on the Greenberg IVES Standard gauge book (Vol. I), contributor on the Lionel Standard and O gauges books, IVES O gauge, and several price guides as well.
Tinplate Times: What was your first toy train set?
Clem Clement: It is a Lionel set #859B. I still have it. (0 gauge: 227 locomotive; 2227B tender; 2812X gondola; 2758 automobile car; 2757X caboose - Ed.)
Tinplate Times: Do you have a layout now?
Clem Clement: Yes. Some of the boards and piers are the same ones I used in 1951.
"The chromed MTH 381E and four 400 series cars are a set specially made for a late collector. It draws the most excitement from newcomers to the room. The layout is 27' X 47' in a dog bone shape leaving the center of the train toom open for yaking and I like to yak. Trains seem to foster friendly chat and this room and the trains in it echo with good times. I built the Stromberg B-17 while in the hospital at age 11. The nurses weren't real happy with the sanding dust."
Tinplate Times: Have you always had a layout as an adult?
Clem Clement: No. Not during my military career. The current layout was built in our train room over the garage in 1995. You have to have something over the antique car garage!
Tinplate Times: What tinplate do you enjoy collecting the most?
Clem Clement: IVES
Tinplate Times: What trains or sets do you enjoy operating the most?
Clem Clement: The layout is multi-gauge with seven loops. I enjoy operating standard gauge the most.
Tinplate Times: If you could keep only one toy train from your collection what would it be?
Clem Clement: The #8 set my Daddy got me in 1948.
Tinplate Times: What tinplate train or set that you don't own would you like to have the most?
Clem Clement: The National Limited or other transition IVES sets or pieces.
Tinplate Times: Are you still adding to your collection?
Clem Clement: Yes
Tinplate Times: Where do you find interesting new trains?
Clem Clement: Everywhere. York is my primary source now, but occasionally trains walk in the door. I have taken an interest in homemade standard gauge trains. I find that the quality varies from early "beer can" to masterpieces of workmanship. I like trains built during the depression era or during W.W.II You can see by the parts used and the subject modeled, that the builder, perhaps retired "uncle Harry," modeled the trains that went by their house or that were missing or broken from their set. For instance, I have several coal tenders made from the leftovers of an IVES or Lionel pot metal tender that crumbled.
"One day I sez to myself, I wonder how many versions of Shell tank cars there are? Why did I do that dumbness? I have coralled over 470 - all different and I'm still finding them. My favorites include one with a factory hand made ladder, another with a gear for the cap, and one made from a rooty-toot."
Tinplate Times: Do you attend toy train shows?
Clem Clement: Yes
Tinplate Times: Do you buy and sell on EBAY?
Clem Clement: No
Tinplate Times: What is it about tinplate toy trains that appeals to you the most?
Clem Clement: The people I meet. Yes, while there is a great deal of charm in the old trains, it is the people you come across in this hobby that make the stories and memories that last. For example. I once attended a formal dinner in a castle in Switzerland with a Count. We enjoyed a seven course dinner and we had 52 servers for the 104 of us. We dined like kings of old. It was something to behold. Afterwards I listened to the Count talk in 3 different languages about trains. On another occasion I arrived at a new military base where I didn't know anyone. I went outside the gate to a train meet that following Sunday and came away with several life long friends. This aspect of the hobby can't be beat. You can walk up a driveway to meet "a three line entry" from the newspaper and stay for four hours talking trains and life. That is something. To repair a train for a youngster you don't even know and watch the glow in their eyes when the train comes to life, that sort of joy can't be bought.
Tinplate Times: What do you think will be the future of tinplate collecting and operating?
Clem Clement: The future is very bright. There is a significant increase in numbers of those who run the old trains. I do see some shelf pieces coming down and back on the track. The trend to build more layouts is so exciting. With new track and better switches being offered by the industry, it is much easier to run trains again. With all the books Bruce Greenberg and others prepared, the general knowledge of train types and rareness is easily obtainable. The really rare stuff will remain so and move from collection to collection as collectors mature. The infinitesimal variations that we all once knew about, may fade some in the average mind, i.e., when did IVES start using sliding doors in their passengers cars or what year the 186 observation car had only one chair on the observation platform. There will always be a certain charm about trains and their desirability will continue. The new reproduction tinplate will find its rightful place in collectors' hearts. With many members restoring trains, I am still surprised at all the trains that show up in the lesser conditions. I do think this will decrease as repainting continues.
Tinplate Times: Do you think tinplate collecting and operating will still be around 50 or 100 years from now?
Clem Clement: Sure! We see today kids buying steamers who have never seen a real one. Why is that? The magic of trains, I believe.
Tinplate Times: Thank you, Clem. Do you have any final comments?
Clem Clement: Isn't this a grand hobby!
"I found this very rusty 29 day coach sticking out of a trash can on my block way back in 1947 or so. I put the snatcho on it and raced home leaping the fence. Sadly, I showed it to my mother and father who forbad me from returning to the trash can in daylight. It was the worst stand-off we ever had face-to-face in our yard. Four hours later, after dark, I was allowed to return to the trash can: it was empty! For years I dreamed of what else might have been on the can. Mother and I repainted the rusty 29 with the available paint we had. Re-do it? NEVER! I've already restored it."
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