All About Postage Stamp Trains
This aspect of Postage Stamp Train sets remains the most nebulous and chaotic. It's taken me quite a long time to piece together some semblance of an understanding of this era, and I've still got a ways to go. Flat box sets are more difficult to obtain intact, likely because they're so big and cumbersome and prone to simply falling apart. Also, since it would seem Aurora never issued any catalogs or ran any print ads after 1969, there's no hard documentation to help hang some flesh on the bones.
As far as I've been able to determine, there were three flat box styles, all quite different. They're presented in chronological order—as best as I've been able to determine it.
We begin with the box that appears in the 1969 catalog. I call it the "Canadian box" only because, as far as I can tell, they were released only in Canada. Although there may have been others, to date I've uncovered just one Canadian set in a flat box.
I'm not entirely certain why this became their exception; one possibility may be that, since Canada required a different power pack that was physically quite different from the one used in the United States, different packaging was required, and they elected to take the most economical approach to its design. Of course, this is pure speculation, and we'll probably never know the real reasons for Aurora's decisions.
The big, bulky, uninspired-looking box is the most ubiquitous—and conspicuous—of the flat boxes, which I believe was introduced in 1970 or thereabouts, when the Postage Stamp Line ostensibly came under the control of distributor C.J. Bubla, Inc. The lid has two large openings that show everything except the power pack. The catalog numbers and set contents both still correspond to 1968/69-era sets. In addition to the same Styrofoam trays used in the original bookshelf boxes, these sets contain a 1968 color service manual and, optionally, a black metal power pack. Box size: 12" X 24" X 2-1/2"
We then encounter a strange detour in the road, when four "PST Special Sets" were released. In order to create these non-standard sets, yellow-and-black boxes were fitted with large yellow vacu-formed nests to hold the locomotive and rolling stock in individual packages, as well as the track and power pack. See the 1970 Trix print ad for another perspective of this style of packaging.
Because there's no clear plastic behind the box lid windows, and the set contents are not wrapped in cellophane, as the Styrofoam trays were, these sets shipped with cardboard sheets under the lids, and track was bundled with rubber bands. Also, some of these sets had F9-A diesels packed in clear plastic boxes with foam rubber as a "nest" and no inserts.
American 4-4-0 Box
Finally we come to the American 4-4-0 box, which made its debut in 1973. It would appear that control of the Postage Stamp Line may have been returned to Aurora (by then renamed Aurora Products Corporation), but this part of the company's history is vague and chaotic, as it was facing imminent doom. Regardless, they would be the last products ever made to bear the name Postage Stamp Trains.
Colorful and clean-looking, these eye-catching boxes were marked with catalog numbers and set names, both of which still corresponded to 1968/69-era sets. The lid had two windows: a small one for the locomotive, and a larger one for the rolling stock. In addition to the same Styrofoam trays used in the original bookshelf boxes, these sets contained either a 1968 color service manual or a black-and-white service manual, and one of three flavors of power pack: black metal, gold plastic or blue plastic (I believe all of these sets included packs). Box size: 12" X 20-1/2" X 2-1/2"
As a personal aside, I find it just a little irksome that Aurora chose to use—for a second time—an illustration of a locomotive that wouldn't be available in N Scale for years to come.
Why were the Styrofoam trays still in use six years later? One possible reason might be that Aurora initially ordered significantly more product from Trix than they were able to sell, and had an enormous stockpile of pre-packed sets. Indeed, sealed trays are sometimes sold separately online, suggesting that the never-used surplus set trays somehow made it onto the market after Aurora's demise.
However, once again, this is for me the least-understood aspect of Postage Stamp Trains. Any feedback from those with more knowledge of the flat box sets—particularly the Canadian variety—would be greatly appreciated.
Return to: Train Sets
Postage Stamp Trains is a Trademark of the Aurora Plastics Corporation.