A Special Day in May

Mother’s Day is the perfect time to pause and contemplate the positive impact women have had on model railroading. Chronologically, our journey in trains often begins when the family purchases our first train set at Christmas. From that point forward, however, it was usually mom who would sacrifice her own needs and space within a home for a growing railroad empire. Prior to the 1970s, trains were considered a masculine endeavor, and with only one major exception, train manufacturers stayed focused on that traditional market. Lionel moved beyond that in the mid-1950s with a pastel-colored train set called “Lady Lionel.” Ladies of all ages stepped forward and protested the pastel colors, demonstrating their fidelity to prototype (they wanted trains that looked real), and accordingly, the set was a disastrous flop but later found great fame and fortune in the collector’s circuit. Despite the traditions and restrictions that persisted half a century ago, women often assisted men and boys with planning a layout and building impressive scenic landscapes and highly detailed structures. Today, an impressive number of women find great satisfaction in pursuing model railroading and continue to make broader contributions to the hobby we enjoy. Those who do not actively participate continue to provide much support and understanding for other family members who are active model railroaders.

Some class-one railroads once paid tribute to the influence of women and christened name trains in their honor. Some were fictional, some specific, but the great galaxy of famous US name-trains once included: Nellie Bly (PRR-PRSL), Ann Rutledge (Alton-B&O), Phoebe Snow (Lackawanna), Pocahontas (N&W), Dixie Flagler (C&EI-FEC), Nancy Hanks (C of G), and Kate Shelley 400 (C&NW). In truth, many railroads often employed women as service engineers to improve and refine the travel experience. Few women in the back office employed in such tasks years ago were ever credited. The B&O proved to be the exception and, disdaining any form of chauvinism, gave credit to a number of women who made material contributions to their train service and corporate image including Margaret Talbot Stevens (PR), Olive Dennis (Service Engineer), and Margaret Virginia Tanner (PR). Dennis is best remembered for developing the personal touch once associated with all B&O trains, the famous blue china in B&O dining cars, and finally the design of the post-war Cincinnatian streamliner.

All of this underscores the fact that model railroading is to be enjoyed and perfected by all! MTS wants to assure women, men, girls, and boys that our service to you will remain in sharp focus, and we actively solicit your input along the way. We are committed to making an impressive array of locomotives, rolling stock, structures, and scenic details available for your consideration, competitively priced, at all times. We thank you for your patronage and look forward to serving you!

Frank Wrabel