The Model Railroad Shop was established by Howell Day and has been in continuous business since January 2, 1933. We believe that we are one of the oldest, if not the oldest, continuously operated model train specialty shop in the United States. We were one of the first 6 advertisers in Vol. 1 Num. 1 issue of Model Railroader Magazine in 1934. Of the 6, only William K. Walthers Inc. and The Model Railroad Shop survive to this day.
In the early days, Howell produced his own line of kits under the names of H. Owen and Shop-Craft. The store was primarily a mail order business for a number of years as the hobby was in its infancy. In 1948, Howell sold the store to Leonard Lippman who hired Fred Deibert to run the business for him. After selling the business, Howell purchased Red Ball Models and produced a line of HO kits and imported numerous brass locomotive models under this name. After retiring, he generously donated a great deal of material to the Toy Train Museum and the NMRA.
Fred took control of the business in 1950 and remained its owner until 1981 when the present owners purchased the store. A long-time customer since 1936, Fred proved to be an ideal owner. His knowledge of railroading, both prototype and model, was extensive and he was always willing to share this with his customers. Many of today’s customers were inspired by Fred’s talent and enthusiasm for the hobby. In his home, he operated the HO scale Raritan and South Shore Railroad. This was a large point-to-point switching operation patterned after his beloved Raritan River Railroad. He was a true pioneer in prototypical operation using forms identical to those used by the real railroads. Another of his hobbies was printing and he issued annual passes and information cards for the Raritan and South Shore similar to the listings found in the equipment registers. These he would pass out to customers and many of them still maintain full collections of them. In 1982, Fred authored a book titled Rails Up the Raritan which is a history of the Raritan River Railroad. Unfortunately, Fred passed away in 1997 and is greatly missed by all of his customer/friends.
The current owners, Rick Dunbar and Jack de Rosset, are proud to be carrying on the rich traditions of The Model Railroad Shop. One of their employee/friends, Fred Bladon, has worked in the shop since the 1940s and can recall most of the store’s history. One of the nicest things about owning a business such as this is that customers become your friends. We are deeply indebted to each and everyone of you, our customers, who have supported us throughout the years. Without you, there would be no Model Railroad Shop.