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Greetings From Asbury Park, NJ
Home of the biggest-ever chunk of Lionel memorabilia!
by Joe Mania
(originally printed in "TTP&M Extra:
Perspectives on the Printed & The Prized" Issue No 11
Fall/Winter 2002. [this is the newsletter of the Toy Train Paper
& Memorabilia Group of the TCA])
found on home layouts from coast to coast, the Lionel City Station
appeared in the company’s catalogs from 1931 through 1949.
Photo 1 shows one of these stations, a No. 115, installed on a
typical toy train layout from around 1940. Since it is a moderately
large and impressive station, it frequently became the centerpiece
of many toy rail systems. Possibly the most famous parcel of real
estate that one of these stations occupied was on the Lionel Showroom
Layout which opened in 1949. It reigned over the imposing multi-track
passenger station/subway station scene that dominated the south
side of the layout, the first side you saw upon entering the room.
I worked in a local train store in New Jersey starting in 1975.
The owner had always referred to the Lionel No. 115 Station as
the Asbury Park Station. According to him, it was a dead ringer.
I had to see this for myself! Imagine a life-size Lionel accessory!
The No. 113, which is the same station as the No. 115 except for
the color and exclusion of the Train Stopping Device, was introduced
in 1931. Two other prewar variations, the 112 and 117, variously
omitted lights or train control. Often referred to as having been
modeled after Grand Central Terminal in New York City, it's a
far cry from the latter's grandeur. Photo 2 shows Grand Central
around 1914. The arched windows
look similar, but the roofline doesn’t agree. Also, the
scale is considerably off, even by Lionel's standards.
After some pestering, I got my father to take me to see the real
Asbury Park Station. Sure enough, it looked very much like the
No.115! The buff-colored stone exterior, red trim and windows,
the distinctive shape of the roof, and the arched windows were
a close match, although there were three big windows across the
front as opposed to one on the Lionel model. Photo 3 shows the
station soon after it was opened in 1922. Note the semi-circular
plots with the flagpole to the left; both are very much like the
landscaped plots and terraces offered by Lionel at the time.
Park was a station stop on the New York and Long Branch Railroad,
jointly owned and operated by the Central Railroad of New Jersey
and the Pennsylvania Railroad. This was the line that serviced
the Jersey Shore. Part of the NY&LB RR was the route of the
Blue Comet as it headed towards Atlantic City.
Knowing that the Cowens vacationed along the Jersey Shore (they
had a summer home in Deal, just north of Asbury Park), could this
building have been the prototype for the No. 115 Station? Did
Josh suggest to his staff that this structure would make a good
model? We know that many other structures not far removed from
the Lionel factory served as the inspiration for products. The
similarities are striking, yet if it was the prototype, then some
liberties were taken with the design. Sadly, this majestic structure
fell to the wrecking ball in 1987, but thanks to Lionel's models,
its grand design survives, gracing hundreds, if not thousands,
of toy train layouts.