Toy Train Reference Library
A very special library, it is open to all visitors, and houses a unique collection of information on the history and characteristics of toy trains in the United States and elsewhere. We are a research, not a lending, library. As such, we safeguard a cultural and commercial heritage of toy trains, and the industry that produced them.
Administered by a professional librarian aided by dedicated volunteers, the library's collection of over 500,000 items includes:
- 1500 research books, plus instruction books, repair guides, and parts lists
- Historical material on many of the toy train makers
- Greenberg Guides and Auction Lists (for self-determination of value, no appraisals)
- Toy train periodical collections
- 20,000 trade catalogs and advertising of manufacturers and retailers, many long gone
- Postcards ranging from the 1850s to the present
- Children's Corner books and toys (See our Kids web section.)
In addition, the library houses the archives of the Train Collectors Association, with material dating to its founding in 1954.
Researchers are encouraged to call ahead, and to note the open hours information at the left. Books and materials are not lent out.
Advertising and Toy Trains
The Library now has hundreds of toy train advertisements dating back to the late 19th Century. These ads appeared in magazines such as Youth's Companion, Child Life, Popular Mechanics, Ladies Home Journal and many other magazines and Sunday comics. Included are ads by Lionel, Ives, American Flyer as well as lesser known manufacturers such as Dayton Dinky, Delker and Dorfan. They are a terrific resource for researchers in toy train history.
Over the years toy trains were used by companies in special promotional offers to sell their products. In 1948 Kellogg's printed streamliner train cutouts on the bottom of its variety pack cereal boxes. In 1954, local super markets promoted a coloring contest. Kids who entered the competition could win a Lionel train set or an American Flyer Erector set. For five proof of purchase seals and $14.95 Tropicana Orange Juice Company would send an HO scale Tropicana Express train set to a lucky boy or girl.
Oral History Program
Our Oral History Project captures the recollections of TCA members about the hobby and experiences in the organization. It has resulted in hundreds of hours of conversation, including many fascinating stories.
More than 50 interviews have been recorded and transcribed. Members can visit the library to listen to the interviews or order a transcript by mail.
Did You Know?
Did you know that A.C. Gilbert, owner of the American Flyer Company, was an Olympian athlete in the sport of Pole Vault?
Did you know that during World War II Lionel switched from producing toy trains to producing nautical instruments such as compasses and binnacles for the US Navy?
Did you know that Frank Sinatra, Ronald Reagan and Johnny Cash were all train collectors and operators?
The Library recently added 300 children's books to its collection, some dating back to the 1940s. We welcome kids and their parents to stop in and browse through these books or sit down and read a story together from the kids' bookshelf.