The Original Whistle Stop History Part III
The Original Whistle Stop – Store Front
Photo by: Jim Hediger – Model Railroad Magazine
By the end of 1976 it was clear Fred couldn’t easily get rid of Brian. The store had doubled its size. Brian was sort of getting the hang of things. There was an energy crisis across the country, which proved to be quite beneficial to hobby businesses. People stayed home, they had to have their hobby!
Fred and Wayne were antsy to grow! After an exhaustive search of possible locations for a second Whistle Stop, Sacramento, California was determined to be the optimum city. After a few trips to scope out locations, Fred and Wayne discovered a recently vacant storefront in a shopping center. Coincidentally this location had previously been a model train store. Whistle Stop North was born.
And so They Came, They Watched, They Celebrated!
It was actually Fred’s 40th Birthday – (but frankly any reason would do)
Several months and more sawdust and drywall screws later, the store was open, and immediately doing well. Fred and Wayne alternated managing the northern operation. Both Fred and Wayne soon grew tired of the bi-weekly commute. By early 1982 they agreed that Wayne would take over the Sacramento operation, leaving Pasadena in the hands of Fred.
As you can see Fred is hard at work – dedicating all his energy and his time to the “pursuit of making The Original Whistle Stop – Pasadena – a successful business.”
Fortuitously, Brian had recently graduated from Cal State Fullerton and though still working part time at the store in Pasadena, he was about to set off on a career in Journalism. With Wayne’s departure to run Whistle Stop Sacramento, Fred needed a partner to help run the dynamic Pasadena operation. Fred made an offer, which Brian couldn’t refuse, and the rest, as they say, is history.
In 1983 Fred Hill and Brian Brooks became partners in The Original Whistle Stop, Inc. Brian felt this was far better than having to actually work for a living (little did he know!).
Brian Brooks, Richard Simon and Kevin Schindler on the Denver Narrow Gauge Chama trip early 1980’s.
There was a lot going on in the model railroad industry during those years. Whistle Stop was right at ground zero. Fred and Wayne had purchased a long-time casting company called Kemtron and ran it out of Sacramento for several years. The line was eventually sold to Precision Scale Co. Many of the old Kemtron parts still are part of the PSC line.
Fred and Wayne also created the Original Whistle Stop Kit Co. that produced several craftsman style kits of rolling stock in HO and O scale. Whistle Stop Publications was formed in 1981. Its first project was a second printing of Richard K. Wright’s monumental book The Daylight Train 98/99. Between 1984 and 1988 Brian coordinated the publication of Santa Fe and Southern Pacific Steam Calendars, the likes of which have never been equaled in greatness (Hmmm, who writes this stuff?)
Fred developed an association with Dr. David Allen who was importing HO scale brass passenger cars under The Coach Yard label. The two became partners in that business, and in the years since have imported over 10 thousand models. Just last year The Coach Yard introduced its 25th anniversary model (Sorry this model of The UP/CNW “Columbine” heavyweight solarium lounge is – like nearly every Coach Yard project – SOLD OUT).
The Original Whistle Stop itself imported several HO brass models during these years, including Pacific Electric Cars, PE and Southern Pacific cabooses. There were a number of special run items produced exclusively for Original Whistle Stop: an SS Ltd. 1920’s Gas Station kit, Athearn “ Overnight” boxcars, Athearn’s SP Olympic SD40-2, and a host of other models.
While all this activity was going on, the northern and southern arms of Original Whistle Stop were growing in different directions. In 1981 Whistle Stop Sacramento became independent. Its new name, Whistle Stop Hobbies, was an indication of its expanding hobby format. Fred and Brian had no intent of diluting the model train-only focus of Original Whistle Stop Pasadena.
In Part Four of our history, find out how we survived moving the operation across town to its current site, and how we have stayed at the epicenter of a growing, changing industry. We hope you’ll stay on board!
Fred and Brian
View History Part 4