Tinplate Times: Don, when did you start collecting toy trains?
Don Brace: My train operating and collecting began as a child at the age of three months. For Christmas my dad purchased a Lionel 224E and 225E freight sets for me or at least that was the story. As more Christmas and birthdays passed more trains were added. In the early fifties Santa brought a 2343, a 2321, and a 646 set.
Tinplate Times: Tell us about your background, Don.
Don Brace: After high school I joined the Air Force where I spent five years teaching electronics. Upon getting discharged I worked for IBM as a field engineer in New Orleans for twelve years and then transferred to the Boulder plant to work on tape drives. After several transfers I finished my thirty year career in Rochester MN. Soon after retiring from IBM my wife said that if I were to continue to buy more trains I would need another job. Now I work for Pemstar, a contract electronic manufacturing company, and I attend York twice a year.
Tinplate Times: Where do you live? Are you married? Do you have children?
Don Brace: At the present time I live in Rochester, MN with my wife. We have children (10) living in Florida, California, Nevada and in Minnesota. Three of the kids live in Rochester. Some of the children and grand kids (16) love the trains and others could care less. We have a modest house with a large two-story garage.
Tinplate Times: Besides tinplate toy trains, do you have any other favorite hobbies or interests?
Don Brace: I also collect 50's cars. The cars are downstairs and the trains are upstairs. Also upstairs are kept most of the Juke boxes, pinball machines, records and the radio control planes.
Tinplate Times: When did you start collecting toy trains in earnest?
Don Brace: In 1968 I got serious about collecting postwar. I began going to flea markets and advertising in the local papers. In 1971 I joined the TCA. A few years later I joined the TTOS. I am a charter member of LCCA. In the mid seventies my dad got me interested in standard gauge. The first set I bought was a Lionel Mohave 8 with three passenger cars. That's how I caught the standard gauge bug. I love old toys, the play aspect and the many colors.
Tinplate Times: So that's when you began to concentrate on tinplate?
Don Brace: Well, by 1986 my interest in postwar had faded and I sold the postwar to buy standard gauge. I have never looked back.
Tinplate Times: Have you always had a layout?
Don Brace: From the time I was a child I have always had a layout. My first was 4' X 10' in a shed on the back of the garage.
Tinplate TImes: What about your current pike?
Don Brace: Currently I have a 30' X 40' train room with a 28' X 30' layout. The basic layout was built 14 years ago. It has undergone three major expansions. There are two mainlines and a freight yard with a round house at each end. I run both steam and electric engines with passenger or freight cars. When I have visitors we run what ever they prefer. If it is on the shelf we take it down and run it.
Tinplate Times: Are you active with a local train club?
Don Brace: The past two years a fellow TCA member and friend and I have put up a modular layout at the Olmsted County Historical Society located here in Rochester.
This is an interactive display 12' X 17'. There are door bell buttons located around the module so all kids young and old can run the trains and operate the accessories. At the last display visitors were invited to bring their trains to run. Many people bring trains and are very happy to find out there are other people in town with the same interest that they have.
Tinplate Times: Don, thanks for agreeing to chat with Tinplate Times!