The Train Room offers toys of the past

January 17, 1997


Staff Writer

Charles Mozingo knows his Lionel trains. In fact, he knows Lionel, period. Since 1988, he and his wife Connie have collected thousands of Lionel trains and other Lionel merchandise, from chemistry sets to compasses.

"It got to be a little bit of a treasure hunt," he said.

The two travel to a few auctions a year in different parts of the country to fill holes in their collection. The Mozingos collected so many pieces that they started displaying them in vacant bays at their Sunoco station in Sharpsburg. About three months ago, they moved the display and opened a model train store called The Train Room about a block from the Hagerstown Roundhouse Museum on South Burhans Boulevard.

"We just sort of outgrew that place," he said.

The Train Room is split into two parts - a train store and a museum. The museum, which has about 3,000 pieces of trains and other memorabilia, costs $2.50 for adults and is free for children under 12. Mozingo spent about four months building a two-level, four-track display for the center of the museum.


Mozingo said prices for Lionel memorabilia have risen dramatically over the years because baby boomers and others are nostalgic for the toys of their past and now can afford to pay high sums for them.

Mozingo said some items in his collection, such as a Mickey Mouse hand car, cost $1 in the 1930s when they were built, and now fetch up to $4,000 in mint condition from collectors. Accessories such as railroad signs that sold for $9.95 in 1929 can bring $1,200 a box.

Mozingo, 53, said he first fell in love with model trains as a kid. "Trains were the big thing under the Christmas tree," he said.

His interest was sparked again in 1988 when his wife bought a train at an auction.

"It got to be almost an obsession at one time," he said. The collection had taken over the couple's basement, he said.

Much of Mozingo's Lionel collection doesn't have anything to do with trains. He's collected model planes, a geiger counter, baseball mitts, records, an electric fan and hundreds of other items that Lionel and its subsidiaries manufactured over the years.

"Right now, we probably have one of the more extensive Lionel collections in the East," he said.

Mozingo said he plans to build an addition to the museum in the future to accommodate the thousands of pieces that don't fit in the shop.

He also plans to spend more time designing train displays. Mozingo said he designed several layouts for people over the holidays and hopes to expand that part of the business this summer.

"We'd like to do something in the way of tourism to help the community," he said. Mozingo said the location for his shop, with the Hagerstown Roundhouse Museum and railroad tracks nearby, was a natural.

"With the roundhouse down there, I think we'll both help each other," he said. Mozingo said he hopes the proposed new rail hub also brings in more interest.

Mozingo sells Lionel trains including the Classic and Heritage lines, with prices ranging from about a few hundred dollars for a diesel locomotive to $1,295 for a deluxe engine with tender.

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