Auction of Legendary Lionel Train Collection Signals End of an Era

Oct 14, 2010, 05:20 ET from Sattler Estate

HONOLULU, Oct. 14 /PRNewswire/ -- The jaw-dropping Lionel Train collection from the middle of the Pacific Ocean is being auctioned to the public this month.

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Honolulu attorney Jim Sattler died in 2009, ending his forty-year quest to obtain one of everything the Lionel Corporation ever made. His wish was that his famed collection be distributed to his fellow collectors, and to those who remember and love electric trains. His achievement stands alone in modern history, and marks a turning point for American popular culture.

Lionel Trains were at the heart of American 20th century culture. From film to television to the popular imagination, Lionel trains under the Christmas tree were literally more American than apple pie. But times have changed. Today's coveted Christmas gift is an XBox or iPad, and the generation that grew up with Lionel trains is fading from the scene.

For Jim Sattler, born in 1940, Lionel trains were a link from his boyhood to his role as father -- and an outlet for his prodigious collecting skills. The first train in the collection was a gift for his newborn son, and his custom-designed train room -- earthquake-proof, hurricane-proof, dehumidified -- was bored directly into the lava rock beneath his family's Honolulu home. By the time he passed away, his trains covered the walls of the vault-like room, and included the most complete assemblage of Lionel anyone had ever achieved.

Extremely rare, seldom-glimpsed 1901-era primitives, gorgeous enamel and nickel-plated passenger sets from the 1930s, classic silver diesels from Lionel's 1950s heyday -- all found their way into Sattler's collection, accessible on an invitation-only basis to enthusiasts like Frank Sinatra during their Hawaiian vacations. But the collectors are aging, and the mystique of electric trains is becoming a story told by grandparents and misunderstood by grandchildren.

The end of the Sattler Collection marks the end of an era: not just for this surprising cache of collectibles housed in the unlikeliest of places, but for simpler things and simpler times now passing into museums and cultural memory. The times and the character of the man at its heart conspired to create something truly unique, and few would argue that a collection like this will ever emerge again.

More information is at

SOURCE Sattler Estate