They ain't what they used to be. Used to be, the Christmas season kickoff was the arrival in the mail of the Sears Roebuck Christmas Catalog. Full color illustrations. Full of toys, clothes, tools, Christmas decorations and fruitcakes. As kids we used to go thru it page by page. When we wrote letters to Santa Claus, my father demanded Sears Roebuck stock numbers. Well, Sears dropped out of the catalog business 20 years ago.
Today the Walthers catalog (model trains) arrived. It's the Christmas issue, we have a picture of Santa in his shop, painting a train model. Inside we have lots of train sets. Train sets are strictly gift-for-kid items, the grownup hobbyists buy stuff car by car and locomotive by locomotive. About half the train sets are steam engines, the other half diesel. Times are changing. Used to be, every kid knew that a decent road steam engine had pilot wheels and trailing wheels. Steamers with just drivers were humble yard switchers, never seen on the mainline.
That's gone now. Half the steam sets had just all all-drivers switch engine. Probably 21st century parents and kids don't know the difference. And the prices. A G gauge (really big) set with just two passenger cars $500. O- gauge (Lionel) $300 a set. HO gauge $129 a set.