Refurbishing an Old Toy Train

When it comes to old toys and trains there tends to be those that like the toy to remain in its original finish (regardless of how chipped up and worn it may be) and those that prefer the piece to be refinished to look new (like it looked when it was bought new)

I understand wanting to keep an item original but I have a few pieces that would look a whole lot better if they were repainted.  What keeps me from refurbishing these pieces is what I paid for the piece in question.  I bought these pieces as an original and as such paid a good price for them.  If I bought them as being a scratched up, unappealing toy train with the intention of refinishing them I would not have paid so much and repainting would not affect the value.

Still others have a different perspective in that they are taking pieces that are beyond being scratched up and unappealing and turning them into beautiful pieces.  If these restorers did not do this, there is a good chance that the pieces that they work on would soon disappear, either through continued aging or someone ignorant of the significance would toss it out thinking it was a rusty old train.

There are people in the hobby that restore old trains as their business and the cost of a professional restoration can exceed the cost of the original piece.  There are others that restore pieces for themselves.  They do this because they want the piece to survive and want others to appreciate the beauty that the toy once had.

I will likely stay on the side of the fence that does not restore toy trains for the simple reason that I enjoy the patina that an old toy has, a refinished piece looks too new to me, a personal preference.  This post is to pay ode to those that make old trains look beautiful again.

In my travels, I have met one gentleman in California that restores many old pieces, turning them from hard-to-look-at into wonderful pieces that look fantastic and will survive another 100 years! His name is Sergio and he from time to time sends me pictures of his work, sometimes even before and after pictures so one can get full appreciation of the dramatic change.

His latest project was an Edobaud train that he bought from France.  Personally, I felt it would be a great candidate for a restore (picture at the top of this post), which is exactly what he did!  He went one step further and refinished it in a non-prototypical color but it looks great!


He has also done the same with some Voltamp items:





2 thoughts on “Refurbishing an Old Toy Train

  1. Richard Sappelli

    I could never really understand why the TCA as a whole looks down on any old toy train that was repainted or restored. Special ID tags had to be placed on a repainted or restored piece. And yet repainting most often improved the look of the old vintage item. Take for example the antique automobile collectors who find an old wrecked auto and bring it back to it’s original condition. Who would not want a beautifully restored 1923 automobile to show off and drive around. Would you want to show off a nasty bucket of rust and bent metal?? Strange how one hobby goes one way and another hobby goes the other and yet old toy train collectors also collect old real automobiles. One man’s fancy I guess.

    1. David

      There seems to be a different approach in the UK. Apparently it is commonplace and an accepted practice to repaint and “re-line” tinplate locomotives, but not cast iron ones. I was told that this is commonplace as a lot of the trains were live steam and as such the paint would peel off. Refinishing the loco was the only option if you wanted it to look presentable.

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