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Model citizens bid on man's collection of trains at auction

April 20, 2006|by DON AINES

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - "I don't know beans about trains," Agnes Jurgens said Wednesday, but people who know plenty about model trains flocked to the Gateway Gallery Auction to bid on her late husband's massive collection.

Seventy-three registered bidders, some from as far as Texas and Florida, showed up for the nearly 3 1/2-hour auction, paying in some cases hundreds of dollars for a single model locomotive, said Kay Kohler, co-owner of the auction house. The top price paid was $850 for a Lionel 2355 Diesel AA Engine Western Pacific from the 1950s, she said.

"Give me a $40 bill, $45, $50," auctioneer John Kohler Jr. called out as bidders signaled their intentions with a nod or a wave of a numbered card. Cardboard boxes filled with engines, boxcars, flat cars and cabooses began to fill up next to the chairs of the more serious collectors and dealers.

There were about 260 lots consisting of thousands of pieces auctioned, along with some unlisted items that were circulated among the bidders. One person paid $20 for some empty Lionel boxes.

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"Boxes are a big thing," said Eugene Klee of Chambersburg, himself a former Lionel Service Station operator. "If you have an engine and the box for it is in good shape, you can get a little extra for it," said Klee, who spent $600 at the auction.

As a man who has been fixing, collecting and running trains for half a century, Klee said the boxes are not that important to him.

"You can't run the boxes," he said.

Harry Jurgens, who died in September at the age of 79, began his collection in the 1960s and held a Lionel Service Station license in Geneva, N.Y., before the family moved to Chambersburg, according to the auction brochure. His passion for trains was not restricted to models, as Jurgens also helped restore two cabooses that are parked at Norlo Park in Guilford Township, his wife said.

"It was a hard day when the trains left," Agnes Jurgens said Wednesday. Her husband's train layout sits in their basement, a reminder of the hobby that brought him so much pleasure for so many years.

Duke Martin of Fairfield, Pa., remembered when Chessie System trains passed by his home, and he picked up some engines with that line's logo, along with a few other pieces.

"I just love to play with trains," Martin said. "I've had them ever since I was a kid."

Collector Gary Mozingo of Hagerstown found and bought what he was looking for, a Lionel set from the early 1930s pictured on the front page of Monday's Morning Herald in a story previewing the auction. His father, Charles, owns The Train Room in Hagerstown, he said.

By the end of the auction, the model train aficionados had paid out more than $24,000, Agnes Jurgens said.

"I hope people get a lot of pleasure out of them because he sure did enjoy his trains," she said. "Trains need to be run to be enjoyed."

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