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Lionel Trains – The Interactive Hobby

by Matt Liamini (04/25/08).
Some of his most prized trains
My dad and his Lionel Collection

The stairs that enter the basement of my childhood home lead to a world frozen in time. Aside from some freshly washed laundry, much of the basement remains exactly as my grandfather left it upon his passing in 1988. Although I never had the chance to really get to talk to him, I now feel I know him based on the legacy he left behind. My grandfather, Joe Kleefus, left the legacy of an avid collector and historical buff. One of his all-time favorite passions was collecting Lionel trains, and what a collection it was. Boasting over twenty diesel and electric locomotives, dozens of box cars and stock cars, and enough rail to warrant Amtrak’s envy, Joe’s Lionel collection is truly enormous. My father, Don, currently maintains the compilation, ensuring that the valuables remain in excellent condition and in their original packaging. I remember the days, although few and far between, where my dad would actually take some of the items out of their boxes to show me. Although hardly an expert, my young, untrained eyes displayed toys that instantly made my beloved plastic G.I. Joes inferior. The trains and accessories date from the early 1950s to the mid 1960s. The trains themselves have been set up in the past, but have not been run since the 1970s and remain in excellent condition. While all the cars and accessories have significant value, the most prized of possessions are the locomotives. Each element of the sprawling set has at least moderate value, while some of the most precious locomotives have significant worth. The single most valuable car is the high-gloss orange 2341 Jersey Central diesel locomotive. This individual item is valued anywhere from $2,000-$2,500. Don is unlikely to make any decisions on the collection’s future anytime soon. He envisions setting up most of the collection upon his retirement in a steady and organized matter, maintaining its’ excellent condition. But as with most collectibles, this anthology has one value to an appraiser, and another more personal value to the collector, and Don does not envision selling the memories in the immediate future. I look forward to returning to my former home in the future with that same moment in time still etched in a new and ever-changing world.

One Response to “Lionel Trains – The Interactive Hobby”

  1. Janice Kuster Reynolds says:

    Hello Matt: I was so excited when I found this article on your Grandfather. My Mom, Dorothy Kuster Glorieux, was Eva Kleefus’ childhood friend. In high school, all the girlfriends started a card club and they took turns being the hostess once a month at each others house. I came with my Mom to the Kleefus’ house to visit with Joet. I would love to go on and on but you have my e-mail address if your Mom (Joet) or yourself would like to contact me. I sure would love to hear from you. Hope we can talk soon. Janice Kuster Reynolds

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