The Original Whistle Stop History Part II
Brian Joins a Growing Business …
Summer 1976 was a landmark period for The Original Whistle Stop. The Hakkinen’s had retired. Fred and Wayne had scraped together their resources and bought the store … clock and all.
It was clear from the beginning that the new owners had high aspirations for the business. The lighting store next to The Original Whistle Stop was closing. Fred and Wayne jumped at the opportunity to expand their store.
About this time, either out of desperation, inexperience in hiring, or just shear blind luck, Fred and Wayne hired…
Brian Brooks !
Brian worked after high school and on weekends, usually taking the bus from Glendora to Pasadena. The ride was a small inconvenience if it meant being around all those trains! Plus, the pay was great ($2.75 an hour) and he really got along with at least one of his bosses — Fred wasn’t so bad either.
Fred fired Brian only a few times in those first couple of years. It was always Wayne who hired Brian back. Thanks Wayne!
The entire 1500 square feet of space at The Original Whistle Stop was absolutely crammed with every kind of model train available. The Hakkinen’s had compressed a lot of store in a relatively small space. The center island had a storage loft and one of those pull-down attic ladders. The brass trains were in the glass cases along the east wall. The service counter extended along the west wall where Ed’s NCR cash register – state of the art when he bought it – clunked and clanked with every sale.
All you had to do was ask for any kind of detail part, Fred, Wayne, maybe Lindsay or even Diesel Dave would go digging in the drawer and usually come up with just the ticket. An operating HO layout occupied the front eight feet or so in the west window. The layout had one of the first operating PFM sound systems.
After months of sawdust and fresh paint, The Original Whistle Stop doubled in size. Fred’s dad built most of the cabinetry. He liked to wait for a peaceful, quite interlude during the day … and then DROP the heaviest, loudest board or hunk of metal he could find. He kept everyone on their toes!
Among the other “groundbreaking” features of the new store, was a wall of railroad books displayed with their colorful dust jackets faced out. Sales took off. Instead of drawers full of hidden detail parts, a sliding wall, three layers deep, was built to house parts on pegboard. The kind of hands-on “ self-service” is perhaps taken for granted these days, but it was remarkable at the time.
Now twice as large, the business was also expanding its reach. Ed had always offered brass models. Importers like Pacific Fast Mail, Gem, Balboa, Westside, Hallmark, ALCO and others had filled The Original Whistle Stop shelves for years. During the late 1970’s the “Korean Invasion” began. Greater details were provided on a vastly expanding array of prototypes.
Fred and Wayne made sure The Original Whistle Stop was at the forefront of stocking and displaying these costly models. It paid off, as customers began seeking the store’s expertise from far and wide. A true international clientele was developing.
Never content to settle for the status quo, Fred and Wayne became increasingly involved with an “alphabet soup” of trade organizations. Participation in groups like HIA, NRA, MRIA, NRSHA, NMRA and others took Fred on the road frequently.
The name and influence of The Original Whistle Stop was growing far beyond that of a typical local hobby shop.
Never Wasting Time … Professional as Always.
Fred doing what he does best !
The Original Whistle Stop also set its sights on support of the local model railroad community, including the Pasadena Model Railroad Club, The highland Pacific Model Railroad Club in San Gabriel, and the Slim Gauge Guild in Pasadena. The store even went so far as to house the displaced Slim Gauge Guild for roughly a year while the club searched for a new location.
Fred and Wayne sponsored several trips on the Sierra Railroad in Jamestown, California. The events of one Triple-Header went a long way toward establishing Fred as an active participant in the railroad industry and preservation community … and banning him from several taverns in the area! We’ll save that’s a story for another time.
As the industry grew, so did The Original Whistle Stop. In 1978, Fred and Wayne began exploring the potential of a second location. Sacramento, California was the site ultimately chosen. How this came about and the fundamental change it meant to the partnership will be the subject of Part III.
Thanks for being on Board! Best Wishes, Fred and Brian.