The concept of Train City began before it existed. In 1976 an enterprising man who loved collecting coins named Charles Siegel started a business. He became a professional numismatist. He was young and had everything ahead to look forward to. He did enjoy a short success in his coin business.
But in 1979 and 1980 when gold and silver jumped so high due to the run by the Hunt Brothers, although a booming market, the end was near. What goes up must come down. After the collapse of the gold and silver market, things became very difficult.
But the new father didn't give up. He put a sign up on the busy corner that his coin shop was located on in Erie, PA that read 'I Buy Electric Trains'. Little did he know that this would be his salvation in business.
“I remember the lady that brought several boxes of trains in my store one day. I scratched my head and thought to myself, now what?”
So I offered her $35.00 on a hunch and I was in the train business!”
Little did he know that this transaction was the start of millions and millions of dollars worth of trains going through his hands as both a buyer and seller.
Siegel had previously produced a monthly coin list that had been sent to hundreds of people across the country on a regular basis. He incorporated this idea into trains and in 1983 issued the first fully computerized monthly train list. Of course this was well before the internet took off but at the same time Siegel had acquired a huge interest in computers. He had purchased his first computer in 1980 and enjoyed learning about them almost as much as his customers liked playing with their trains.
But that is not all that brought him success over the years of buying and selling trains. He stood by his work and once he started to advertise nationally to buy trains his theme was honesty and reliability.
Of course since he had gone into the train business Siegel had attended countless train meets including many local or regional and of course York, the biggest of them all.
His business and knowledge in trains had grown enormously over the years as had his reputation.
It isn't clear exactly when but in the late 1990's Siegel started to dabble on the internet which was very new at that time. It didn't take him long after learning some html code he decided to start his own train web site and of course called it traincity.com.
This web site was mainly to market trains. More or less it was simply a text list that showed people all over the country what he had in stock. Surprisingly people liked the concept and this new medium boosted Siegel's train sales quite a bit.
But only a couple of years later he started using ebay to sell trains. And he liked it. Eventually he stopped going to train shows completely because he realized that the potential was huge on the Internet.
And then shortly afterward in early 2000's choochooauctions.com was born. Although there were many problems at first, driven he overcame them until is electric train site easily surpassed traincity.com to his surprise.
“Yea I was baffled at how successful the web site became. People seemed to like purchasing auctions better than straight out sales. I didn't understand it at the time but we decided to go with it full speed ahead. I think it was a good move!”
After years of running a successful business with a physical store that people could come and see his inventory, everything was about to change.
“Well, Charlie my son had gone to Space Camp when he was in 5th grade. Ginger wanted me to accompany him for the week, so I reluctantly went. But wow did I like it down there. I did some business down in South Florida after dropping Charlie off but returned to the Cocoa Beach area and stayed there for 5 days. I think I actually cried when I picked up Charlie and left”
That wouldn't be the end of the Florida story for Train City. Actually it was only the beginning.
In 2005 John Siegel joined Train City.
“Wow did that throw me. I had been kidding with him when I asked if he wanted to come work for me after he graduated from college. All of a sudden one day he walked into my office and accepted my offer. I was baffled, didn't know how it would work but so glad it happened!”
In 2008 Train City became Train City, Inc. but it was only a short time that the business would be in Erie, PA any longer under either name.
“We had bought a condo in Cape Canaveral a few years before. I loved going down there. The most annoying thing to me was when the condo was rented out, I was there and had to stay at a hotel. I didn't really realize it but Ginger knew this all too well. We both loved Erie. We had many friends. But I hate the weather in that town.
One day Ginger surprised the heck out of me when she asked me if I wanted to move down to Florida. I was completely baffled. But yes of course I did!
This was a very emotional time for us as a family. We had so much going on in Erie and all of a sudden were going to move away. A very tough time for Ginger and myself. Although sort of exciting at the same time.”
On August 13th, 2008, John and Charles began their move which had been well planned and executed.
“I remember that day well. Actually the day before John and his cousin Joe had packed the truck but they hadn't done a good job as things shifted when I moved the truck. I almost lost it but we were able to straighten everything out. Ginger left golf knowing I was really upset. But it wasn't just that. I was leaving the city I had grown up in. I had a lot of emotion that day. It's funny when you up and leave with everything, you just can't explain it until you do it yourself.”
Train City was closed for business for a very short time to get to their new location and set up. This is where Train City, Inc. became a 100% internet company catering only to their on-line customers.”
“I really miss the store. It was really fun meeting new people and serving them in selling trains or doing repair. This was so different in Florida. Everything changed. But I absolutely love it down here!”
In 2015 John Siegel became a full partner of the business.
“Yea, John deserves it. He has worked hard at learning the business. I'm so glad he decided to come down here with us. He was sort of shocked when I told him we were moving and gave him the offer to come down with us. I am very happy that Train City will continue on after I'm gone. I absolutely love this business, the people we buy from and sell to. John loves it too. He will do a good job.”
And in a nutshell that is why Train City, Inc. exists. Now in business for 37 exciting years in this year 2017.