Wednesday, August 29, 2012

My Brother's and Father's Old Electric Trains

Who seeing such a title to a posting isn't hoping that these "old electric trains" are still available and planning to offer me "beaucoups of cash" for them? Please don't tell me - the trains are sold!

There were 2 sets of 3 boxes each. One set of boxes contained the carefully glued and very detailed plastic houses, a train station, a hotel, a gas station with separate little gas pump islands, and even an oil refinery! These were sold by Kibri, a company in West Germany, in boxes for hobbyists to put together themselves. My Dad went into a second or third childhood with the Kibri trains soon after he retired. Dad had been a dentist, so he was good at working on tiny parts with his hands. He had done a beautiful job putting together the little houses. I guess he had some trains and tracks and had built one of those model train cities that hobbyists build. I don't remember seeing it, only that I knew it was a passion of his for a while. We had ended up with the three boxes of completed buildings. I remember that sometime early in the 15 years we have lived in our current house, I was going to try to sell off the train stuff, but my younger daughter had asked that I keep the little houses for her. I left them in boxes in the attic, and my daughter never touched them. She grew up anyway, but with not even the slightest sentiment or interest in the little buildings.

The other set of boxes were in the garage lo all these 15 years! They contained what was left of what I considered to be my older brother's electric trains. I believe I was told (today) that these were 27-gauge trains, whereas the Kibri items were a mixture of 0 and some other small gauge. These electric trains were hefty, made of metal and plastic, with metal tracks that fitted together via a metal hole on one side and post on the other of each piece of track. I always liked how snugly they fit together! My memories of these trains from childhood are from 3 eras; one when my father and brother had mysterious male bonding over them, when I was very small and just occasionally got a glimpse of the big table in the basement where the trains were set up. This was probably when my Dad had bought the trains...for my brother, of course. Later, my brother did set up and run the trains by himself sometimes, and I sometimes played with the set up trains. Later still, I proudly figured out how to set up and run the trains by myself. I don't remember much about that part; I think the joy faded a little after meeting the challenge, because the best part of the trains was really my brother's involvement. My small Steiff stuffed animals could sit in or on one of the cars, or we would just pretend that there were people doing things in the train world. At the system's height, there were 2 "transformers" to drive the trains: the original one, about the size of a telephone of the '50s and '60s and then a new one what was more squared and that I think my brother might have bought as he matured into taking over the trains. Sometimes 2 trains would run at the same time, and we would use the track switching button to divert a train to an inner loop, just at the last minute before the trains would crash. We did not purposely crash the trains, at least I don't remember us doing that. I remember the chugging sound of the trains, the whistle that blew when you pressed a button, and which I sold in the batch today, and the smoke pellets made of a soft rubbery material, that smelled like nothing else. If I ever smell that smell again, I will know just what it is!

Among my brother's trains was a box of tracks, a bunch of little switches and wires, a hand-operated plastic pair of intersection gates, 2 engine/tender sets, one slightly bigger than the other, a sort of crane car, my favorite box car with a little man in it and little rectangular metal boxes. When the box car stopped on top of a certain switch, the door would open and the little man would come out, pushing a little metal box out of the train car door. I never got enough of watching this!  I sold the car today, complete with little man and 2 of the boxes. I guess there were originally 4 or maybe 6 boxes. There was also a set of 4 cars completing a once-considered-sleek aluminum passenger train. There were plastic strips running along the "windows" of the cars with black silhouettes of people on them. When the trains were in their prime, these cars were lit up from the inside, so you could see the people! There were some cars I never did find very interesting, such as one carrying what were supposed to be logs that didn't do anything. There were I kept only one car: a green rectangular car that just holds things. I have put my sticky note pads in it and it is sitting on my desk.

This summer we had been focusing on the attic. So, I had given my (now grown up) daughter an ultimatum that she either take ownership the three boxes of Kibri buildings or allow me to find a new home for them. They were in my office to get rid of. Years ago, I had clipped a tiny classified ad from someone looking for model trains to buy, and I had talked with the guy briefly. I found the ad last week, but the phone number was no longer in service. I took some photos and put them on Craigslist for what I thought was a low price for the batch. A man answered the ad and told me that he deals in model trains. He was interested in the buildings, and when I mentioned that I had some other trains to sell, he suggested I get them all out for him to look at. So I got the trains out of the garage and dusted them off. Actually, they were well-packed and not very dusty. I phoned my brother to give him one more chance to claim the trains, since it had been quite a few years since we had discussed the old items that I had collected from among our parents' things but which had really belonged to him. He said he had been thinking lately of his old erector set and might like to see that again but that he had no interest in the trains.

In preparation for someone coming to the house to look at all the train stuff, I spent some time looking at Ebay completed sales as well as model train prices on some hobbyist websites. I wrote up an inventory and noted the prices it looked like things were worth. On a dealer's website, I saw that dealers tended to pay about half the value for trains. I was prepared and had a top figure of the worth as compiled from the Internet and a bottom figure of what I hoped to ask for the batch. I was pleased with myself for spending the time I felt was necessary to do due diligence on these items that would not come round again.

The baby-boomer couple arrived to look at the trains, and the man in charge told me in no uncertain terms that prices are down compared to any other time. He said his sales at the local annual model train show last year were less than half those of the year before. We had a nice chat about all things trains. He showed me that the Kibri buildings were from 2 separate sizes of sets - the doors to the buildings were clearly of two different sizes, some being about 3/4 of an inch tall and some about an inch. I can't help wondering whether my Dad knew about this. My guess is that he just liked the hotel and the train station and didn't care that they were created for differently scaled setups.

When the dealer offered me about a third of my lower-prepared price, essentially about a sixth of what I had calculated as total worth, my greed was deflated. I wasn't too surprised, and I felt that he was being honest about prices. He suggested that although the sales prices listed on Ebay might not even be legitimate (you bid up my train and I'll mark it sold but not really sell it to you and then list it again under another name), I could probably get better prices if I were to go through the hoops of listing on Ebay. He even suggested I wait and contact him again later. I had mixed feelings during the negotiations. It was difficult for me, very stressful. Reasons to sell: I wanted to be rid of the trains, I liked the couple that wanted to buy them, and I knew I'd be stressed about having to list these trains on Ebay, especially since I didn't even have the capability to test the equipment to see whether it worked. I knew that selling an item in working order and cleaned up would bring a higher price, but I was afraid to use any solvent to clean the trains and I knew I couldn't make any claims as to their useability. Reasons to keep were at first just to see how well I could do on Ebay. The decision was evident to me when I began to fret about the possibility of these nice folks leaving me with all these boxes of stuff to repack and try to sell again later.

I sold the trains to the guy for a little more than he originally offered. Then I was seized with the familiar and terrible anxiety of seller's remorse. Maybe I should have kept one of those very cool detailed old engines, made of 1950s materials, that are never to be made again! I could look at it to bring back the memories. Put it on a shelf, as if there will ever be an extra shelf in my home. Maybe sell it for beaucoups of cash at some later date. I had panic thoughts of offering the guy some money to buy back one of the engines. I really do prefer itemized sales; the package deal tends to have a life of its own. It was highly possible that this dealer really was offering to buy mostly those engines and would renege on the whole deal if the engines weren't included. I didn't want any of the train stuff badly enough to risk being stuck with all of it! I let him pack up the trains.

The anxiety is passing, and my mind is slowly letting go of the trains. I feel a little raw, with a little sense of loss hanging on, as I have often felt when experiencing this kind of remorse. I wish the feeling hadn't happened. My daughters are very sure I won't miss the trains. They are very sure they will never have any remorse that they didn't keep the trains and sell them "to become billionaires" when they reach the age I am now.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Shredding Old Memories

Am I shredding old memories or just reclaiming a cubic foot of space in the closet? I am shredding a whole file box full of old Discover and bank statements, from the 90s and early 200s. The whole credit card number is still on the individual receipts in this batch of papers - I wonder when they stopped listing the whole number? Right after the beginnings of identity theft! All those purchases! Lots of carbon copies of checks. Just saw a listing for Southern Rubber, where we bought tire inner tubes to use as tubes for our swimming pool. How many times I patched those things! Loved using them in the pool.

There were checks to one daughter's middle school cafeteria and checks to one daughter's intermediate school. Long-ago stuff. One of the payments we regularly made in the 80s was to AOL Games. "You've Got Mail!" Checks to Geno and Kristi for euphonium and oboe lessons, checks to Food World and Bruno's in Birmingham, and checks from my editing job. All reminding me of times past, happy mostly!

The shredder only takes care of about 3 inches of papers before I have to empty it. So I have all these plastic bags full of shreds of paper. What if I poured them all into the big recycling bin? How long would neighbors be picking shreds off their lawns? Well, I did decide to recycle the shreds. I put them into boxes. I have lots of boxes in the garage and attic...all part of my too much stuff. The boxes can help deal with the stuff!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

What if I Took a Hiatus and Nobody Noticed?

The title says it all! I didn't even officially get sidetracked. I just didn't accomplish anything for a while, and when I did, I didn't blog about it.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Downsizing - Helping Friends Move

Visiting a couple of friends who moved to a new house in December and are working on getting their old house ready for the market showed me some of the problems that I have in common with them. They have a full complement of household items and personal belongings in the old house, even though they have moved and are living fully comfortably in their new house. My friend has clothes from forever, and most of them are way too big for her. She has lost weight, mostly through illness. We are hoping she will become stronger but not gain back much of the weight. She has clothes from when she worked in the 1970s and clothes for gardening (meaning sloppy disposable clothes, and many clothing items that still have price tags on them. Seeing the price tags reminded me of my mother's stuffed closet with many brand-new clothes with price tags still on. When we first started working on the clothes, my friend said, "I have a bag for storage and a bag to take to the new house." I said, "How about a bag for giving away?" She did agree, and many clothes went into that bag!

I saw my friend's pattern of acquisition as somewhat similar to mine. Getting things because they are on sale, keeping gifts received from friends, and keeping little things that are somewhat useless but difficult to throw away, because they are...nice.

I helped pack the photos from a hall closet that had boxes and folders and bags full of photos. Well, not as many photos as I have in my photo closet, but plenty. We packed all the photos in boxes and placed them by the door. My friend considers them precious and wants to be sure to hand carry them to the new house, rather than having any helpers move them or putting them in one of their 2 storage lockers. I agree that the photos are precious. My friend's husband said, "We'll never look at these photos!" Then, a while later, when we were done for the day, another friend was taking photographs of all of us. My friend's husband said, "Let's take more photos we'll never look at!"

I helped pack about 10 boxes of books. I am good at packing books! I was pleased to find myself so good at it. The books are my friend's husband's hobby. He loves to buy books and has thousands. He hopes to enjoy them during his retirement in a few years. Everybody was talking about how particular he is about the books. Someone told me to avoid packing the books, because he would probably be critical about anything I did that might damage any books. But he and I got along fine about my packing. He felt that I was packing the books in the same ways he tends to pack them. We are book collectors, who have packed many a book. We don't mind spending the time to find just the right book for the right spot in the box. I am not purposely building my collection of books now, but I am still buying books that I think will be useful to me.

I was glad to help my friends, but I did feel a little guilty about working on someone else's stuff instead of my own unfinished business!

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Distraction - Downloading Music

The Pirate Bay, Bit Torrent Junkie...there are more, but I have used only these 2. It's just so easy, once you learn how to do it, to download music that you remember from forever. Music that you wouldn't buy but you remember. So you think of it, and you look it up on these sharing websites, and then you download it. Then you check your files and add it to playlists. And there you are listening to music and not doing much else, just like you did many years ago before you got so busy...

Value judgments on this: Music is good for the soul. Music can be either a distraction or a concentration aid. But, I guess when you download some old song or some new song, listening to it takes a lot of your attention, especially if you are singing or working at memorizing the words to the song.

Do I have time for music? Should I be doing something else? Hmm... Train is my new favorite group!

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Downsizing - House Selling - The Realtor Makes the Sale

Although I have had a house on the market for 6 months, I often forget about the tremendous downsizing coup it will be when it sells. In some ways, selling the house seems almost a passive activity. I don't feel like I'm doing anything toward downsizing every day, but really every day I have been working on selling the house; well many days I have had to do something about it.

At first there was choosing the realtor. I set up interviews with (1) a friend who had recently taken classes and become a Realtor, (2) a Realtor at the location that had helped me find tenants when I used the house as a rental house, and (3) a well-established Realtor. The well-established Realtor cancelled our appointment, telling me she really didn't think it worth her time to prepare a presentation for me if I were interviewing others and might not choose her. I think she really didn't need the business of the small house I was selling, as she is quite successful and probably has bigger fish to fry. I chose my friend. The reason was that ever since she started the classes, she has been very excited about realty work. She had a good reference from another friend whose daughter she had helped find the perfect home to buy recently. I hoped her interest in her new job would compensate for any lack of experience she might have.

My friend the Realtor "executed" our contract today! Presumably all will go according to plan, and the closing will be later this month! It has been a lot of fun working with a friend on this, and she has proven to me that she is pretty wonderful! She handled all my ups and downs, and there were a lot of them, as the house went through an extended "money pit" stage before we were able to sell it. I grumbled all through the fixing and "disclosures" and then the inspection. By the time the inspection rolled around, the house was all fixed up. But the inspector found "deficiencies" in every aspect of the house anyway, and I was newly annoyed. My Realtor listened and let me vent and then we went onward to the next step.

One of my favorite parts of this is that I feel I can strongly recommend my friend's services to others. I like being pleased and then helping those who do a good job!

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Distraction - The Sale Starts in 2 Days

I seem to spend an inordinate amount of time returning things to stores. I keep the ready-to-return things on a small table, the top of a short shelving unit, along with my purse. The table is so nice and neat when there is nothing to return; then it has just my purse and maybe something I plan to take with me the next time I go somewhere. When there are things to return, the tabletop gets crowded and demands attention and feels to my eye much like a todo list.

Today I did something I wasn't proud of, leading to a pair of pants being on the table. I thought about not doing it, but I did it anyway, mostly just because I could. Two days ago, I received a sale flyer in the mail for one of the stores I like, Kohl's. I received a coupon for 20% off of everything plus another coupon for $10 off. I went to Kohl's that day, as I was out on errands in the vicinity, and I knew of some undergarments that I had been planning to buy as soon as they went on sale. After finding the undergarments, I took a brief trip to my favorite department and oh dear, I found a pair of jeans that fit! When jeans fit, buy them! Words of wisdom! I think I'll put them in my "Things I Learned Today" column. At the checkout counter, the cashier pointed out that the sale had not started yet. The mailing had the dates of the sale on it, but I had just grabbed it and gone to the store without noticing. The sale would start in 2 days. I put back the undergarments, figuring I would come back and get them on sale. The jeans, however, fit so well that I decided to buy them at their full price rather than risk coming back to find them gone.

Today the sale started. I was on errands again, so I stopped at Kohl's. I got my underclothes, and do you know what I did? I found another pair of those jeans! Actually, I found 2 pair, one the same as what I had bought and one in another color. They fit that well! I bought everything with the sale coupons. I plan to take the new jeans back with the receipt from when I bought them at the higher price.

I don't really condone this. But, I rationalize it by figuring that I wouldn't have bought the second pair of jeans if I wasn't going to save the money on the first pair, so Kohl's wins anyway. The lady in front of me today saved $100 by buying $300 worth of clothes. I saved $90 by buying $70 worth of stuff. Kohl's always wins! I know that, but it's fun to play.