MTH Electric Trains dispatches Memories onto
a Saturday fall afternoon in Pittsburgh and a twelve year old boy and his
father are picking up the Sunday morning donuts and other odds and ends.
Walking down Brookline Blvd. they pass a familiar building with an
aroma that is hard to beat. Going
inside they pickup a package wrapped in white butchers paper.
The young boy slips his fingers inside to sneak a small taste of
the contents. Chipped Ham,
Pittsburgh’s favorite lunchmeat!
how I remember Isaly’s, the local deli chain, and now MTH is making it
easier for all of us to remember this and other Pittsburgh classics!
What a great time to be involved in O gauge railroading if you are
in or from Pittsburgh! Over
the past year or so we have been offered a series of cars that represent
some of the local tastes and landmarks of Western Pennsylvania!
MTH Electric Trains of Columbia Maryland has been producing some
great boxcars, tankers, engines and buildings that all have Pittsburgh
flavor. From the Pittsburgh
Brewing series to the Montour Railroad, folks have been buying these
beautifully decorated cars as fast as they come out.
Iron City Cars appeared first.
The series started with the Pittsburgh Brewing Series offered
directly from the brewery. There
was little advertising done but quickly word spread and it was off
to the races. The
brewery series has grown currently to 6 cars that included offerings
from MTH dealers. Isaly’s,
Eat N Park, and Kennywood Amusement Park Cars soon
followed. Just announced and now available to order are a
Marsh Wheeling Cigar Car and Westview Amusement Park Car.
They just keep coming!
I recently had the opportunity to ask Rich Foster, MTH’s Sales VP
about the very successful Pittsburgh series cars.
He was kind enough to spend some time giving us some
specifics and a look into the Pittsburgh series as well as the new
the dealer program started here in Pittsburgh.
Rich has been a very pivotal player in researching and
working with the Pittsburgh companies and landmarks represented in
the series. His work
has paid off in what is undoubtedly a very successful product.
VP of Sales
A local series of cars for any region would be quite an
interesting prospect, but one of the most asked questions that seems to
always come up is: why Pittsburgh? What
was it about Pittsburgh that you thought it that this project would work?
RF “There are several reasons why we felt the
Pittsburgh area may be successful. First, it is simply a good
train area, with lots of railroading, railroading history, and an
abundance of train enthusiasts. It seems that virtually
everyone you meet from the western Pennsylvania area had an uncle or
parent or grandparent that worked for a railroad. That gives
those customers from the area a different perspective on railroads
and they seem to enjoy model trains even more than most.
Pittsburgh seems to have a lot of small town feel in a fairly big
town so there seems to be more "hometown" feeling from the
locals as well as those who have moved away. With this
hometown feel comes a nostalgic feeling for the businesses in that
area, like Isaly's or Kennywood Park and folks like to see some of
that captured on their layout.”
Kennywood Park Cars, including the park exclusive and rare Arrow
Radio has had Mike on the Air several times over the last few years and
MTH will have several shows this holiday season as well.
Did the shows with KDKA help get the ball rolling on the Pittsburgh
The KDKA Box Car available through
the Pittsburgh Co-Op dealers.*
“KDKA has been a big part of the success of many of the
local products MTH has offered. One of the KDKA on-air
personalities, Rob Pratte, is a big model railroad fan and a fan of
MTH. Rob contacted us about doing an interview with Mike Wolf
on model trains and how our business has grown over the years.
We have done some shows and some advertising with Rob on KDKA and
his enthusiasm with the hobby really shows through to his audience.
It has helped get some very good exposure for the hobby and for MTH.
I can't really say it lead to the Pittsburgh series, because many
factors sort of fell into place, but it had a good deal of influence
on it, since getting many of these products exposed to the market is
There are many Pittsburgh cars being offered with many different
Pittsburgh businesses represented. From
the Pittsburgh Brewery to our local amusement park and Pittsburgh icon,
Kennywood Park, who has been open for over 100 seasons, MTH has captured a
real local flavor of the region. This
must have been quite a task especially since not many people outside our
hobby associate with O gauge trains. What was the reaction of the local
businesses and did MTH expect such great response?
“Many of the local
businesses we have dealt with for this series have been great to work
with. Often they don't know much about our industry and market, but
trains seem to be a "feel good" type of word and most were
willing to let us try it and see how it went. We did not have any
grand plans with the series, and I don't believe they felt that the
reaction would be a strong as it has been. It is a win-win-win
situation - for the brands featured on the cars, for MTH to partner with
many of these great brands, and for the customer to be able to pick up a
great looking car that is tied to his hometown area.”
And were there any businesses that were hard to convince to go
along with the project?
“At times, yes.
We've had a few that haven't been as receptive as we would have liked, but
I'll keep working to show them that it is something the market is
interested in and can be good for them as well.”
The Pittsburgh Brewing series was the first of the bunch. This so far has included 3 offerings directly from the
brewery with a fourth on the way and 4 from the MTH dealers
including “The American Beer” refer.
I asked Rich whether we would see an engine to pull these
“We are very appreciative of Pittsburgh Brewing and
hope to continue with more PBC items in the future. I won't
say what items yet, but an engine may be interesting along with some
other ideas we have.” (MTH has offered a brewery building
in their 2002 volume 2 catalog without any Pittsburgh Brewing logos.
I am sure these would do nicely with a bit of kit bashing.)
American Beer Refer
MTH has put out just the tip of the stack of Pittsburgh cars that
could be made. I’ve heard
from folks at shows and from the OGR Forum about other great Pittsburgh
area landmarks and businesses that they would love to see. Obviously all
ideas couldn’t be produced but what is the best way for an idea to be
always interested in hearing from the customer. The best way to
probably get an idea to me is to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
We do get many good ideas from folks in the area and often several of them
are thinking the same way. I have a file with a bunch of notes that
I have made, either from ideas I may have had or that come from the
customer and retailers in the area. It is tough to do them all too
quickly but we will be getting to many of them over time. If anyone
has any thoughts, let me know. It is tough to answer all of the
emails, but I certainly try to make sure I see all of them.”
Although Pittsburgh has a great history in railroading and the
material could almost be never ending from the region, a lot of train
enthusiasts are wondering how to get their hometown a series of cars.
MTH recently announced what could be a start of another regional
series with the Palisades Park car. I
asked Rich how other cities could get their own series started and once
again it all seems to come down to the suggestions of the consumers.
“Well, if we can come up with the right idea, we would
be happy to look into other areas. That is where the
customer's ideas definitely help. I had briefly given some
thought to Palisades Park some time ago, but a customer I have known
for years kept mentioning it to me and with some research, the car
kind of came about. Obviously, Palisades Park has that
nostalgic, good-time appeal and should be a popular car for those
that spent some of their youth there or just heard the Freddy Cannon
song. One note I'd like to make, I don't know the histories
behind many of the customer's hometowns like they do. Whether
it is Pittsburgh or anywhere else. The customer's ideas on
this are often the start of something good.”
Palisades Park Car now being offered. The start of a new
Along with the Pittsburgh series of cars MTH, along with some of
the local Pittsburgh retailers have initiated an innovative program to get
O gauge railroading more exposure. Trying
to bring new people into our hobby is getting harder with the computer age
upon us. Rich explained to me
the concept behind the Pittsburgh Trains program.
“We are trying
to team up with the retailers in the Pittsburgh area to advertise
model trains and try to get more exposure for our hobby. We feel
that together, we have a stronger voice and can reach more folks in
that area with the message that trains are a great hobby. Today more
than ever, we feel people are looking for activities to do with
their kids/grandkids. Many people don't even know trains exist and
we would like them to think about getting into the hobby, having
fun, and building strong family ties and memories. Too many times
these days kids are starring at an electronic game screen and that
may be OK, but it isn't really something the family is doing
together. People will never regret the time they spend with their
family and we hope that by teaming up, our message has a better
chance of being heard in a very noisy marketplace.”
Note: To learn more
about this program and the retailers involved visit www.pittsburghtrains.com.
The website is full of information from dealers involved, maps to
participating dealers as well a complete list of regional cars that are
MTH has obviously once again taken the lead in a very unique
program and is making trains reflect a more local flavor.
Not only does this attract new hobbyist but keeps the veterans
supplied with creative rolling stock that holds a nostalgic place in our
hearts. I tried to get Rich to spill the beans on some upcoming cars, he
held his ground but did say this.
can't give any specific hints, but as I said earlier, we have many more
good ideas and you will probably some popular items announced in the near
future. Some of the future offerings will be continuations of a current
series and some will be brand new. As many of the folks have seen, we have
primarily offered rolling stock, but we have begun offering some other
items and we will be delivering some local buildings and a Montour RR
diesel soon. I would like to continue to encourage the ideas and thoughts
from not only Pittsburgh, but other areas as well.”
of the future products that we know about including the Isaly's
Building and Eat N' Park Car.
Like Rich said, Pittsburgh has always had a high train enthusiast
population and from the looks of the train shows and the continuing effort
to offer local flavor, including Isaly's and their Chipped Ham, I can’t see that changing for many years to come.
It is easy to surmise…
"I Remember Isaly's" Car
is truly a great time to be an O gauge railroader in Pittsburgh!
MTH Electric Trains
has issued special two special cars that will help raise money for
the families of firefighters lost in the 9-11 attacks on New York
City. A portion of the proceeds from each car sold will be
donated to the Rescue 2 Family Fund or the North Jersey Media
Disaster Relief fund and the Bravest Fund. The special Rescue 2
and Ground Zero Spirit Boxcars will be available in November 2002
and may be ordered on line at www.mth-railking.com
or through your local MTH Authorized Retailer. Add some
local American flair to your layout and help a worthy cause!
|*Images used with permission from MTH Electric