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Pass Collecting

Model Railroad Pass Collecting
Prototype Railroad Passes
Prototype railroads used to issue passes to employees to travel on their trains on company business and also for their own purposes. Railroad officials would often exchange passes with officials of other railroads so they could travel farther afield than their own lines.
 Prototype Pass Display, North Conway, N. H.
Prototype Canadian Pacific Railway Pass from 1883    
This custom was picked up by model railroaders, who made passes for their own model empires. I assume original passes for model railroads were used as actual invitations to others to visit their layouts. This developed into a sub-hobby within model railroading, with modelers exchanging and collecting passes from all over the world.

I don't remember the circumstances, but I received my first pass from David Chandler of Richibucto, N. B. on 18 July 1958 when I was fourteen years old. Soon after I had my first passes printed for my Arrow Lines Railroad by a local firm, and began my collection. Model Trains magazine, which is now out of business, used to have a listing of modelers wishing to exchange passes and this is where I started too. Most of my passes over the years came from listings in Model Trains, and later Railroad Model Craftsman where I had my offer listed several times over the years.
The second series of Arrow Lines passes were printed by a U. S. firm specializing in hobby materials. Around this time I was investigating the purchase of a small hand operated printing press on which I could make my own passes and other railroad stationery. When I sold off my entire 027 gauge Arrow Lines Railroad to convert to HO scale, I joined finances with two local friends to purchase the printing press outfit. We used the press to print various items for others in the evenings and after school, and soon made enough to recoup our initial investment of $25.00 each. I printed my first passes for my new HO scale Fundy Northern Railroad, along with letterheads and envelopes. The FNR logo was copied and hand-drawn from the Canadian National maple leaf design, and an engraving was ordered so I could use the logo on my passes and stationery. After high school, the printing business took a back seat to other interests of our group, and I bought the shares of the printing equipment from the two other fellows.

I moved to Saint John in 1967, and eventually brought the printing equipment from my parents' home in Moncton, N. B. I used it occasionally for personal stationery, mostly associated with my new hobby of photography. The original printing outfits' limited range of type (4 styles) was augmented by a larger font of type we had bought from a firm in Moncton. I answered an ad in the local paper and purchased a much larger printing outfit in the early 1970's that included about 25 additional styles of type in their own specialized cabinets, two other similar presses, and a host of other useful items. This new equipment allowed for fancier stationery.
When I got back into model railroading in the early 1980's, I printed some passes before I even had many models. These passes carried the slogan "The Imagination Railroad" because there wasn't actually a railroad. I started exchanging passes again at that time, and continue to do so today.



 First passes printed for the Fundy Northern

Pass collecting does not appear to be as popular as it once was, as I've only received a few passes when my pass has been listed in the NMRA Bulletin. With the popularity of the computers and the Internet, the latest versions of model railroad passes are "e-passes" that modelers exchange by e-mail or from their web sites. I still have quite a few of my recent printed passes on hand, so I haven't personally moved into this realm yet. Since the actual act of printing passes is very labor intensive, I probably will not use the hand-operated press to make any in the future. The computer and printer will no doubt be used to make any future ones.

Since I started exchanging passes in 1958, I have collected around one thousand model railroad passes from 39 of the U.S. states, 6 of the Canadian provinces, and 13 other countries around the world. These include Switzerland, Australia, Germany, Brazil, Argentina, Japan, England, Cuba, New Zealand, France, India, Mexico and Belgium. Everyone who has been in the hobby for a while becomes aware of the late great modeler John Allen from California. I didn't realize that I had one of John's passes (#776) until I got back into the hobby in the 1980's. Apparently it was just another pass at the time. His passes were produced photographically, actually being small photos of a hand-drawn design. Most of the passes in my collection were printed commercially, but some were made by hand, with a typewriter, and even on a blueprint machine. Pass collecting has been an interesting and educational part of the hobby model railroading for me.



 My Kelsey Printing Press.    It will print an area 3 by 5 inches on any size paper.

The second series of FNR Passes                     The third series
This pass was made for the planned narrow gauge Renforth & Bayshore Railroad that never got built. It won First Place in the Pass Contest at the 1986 NMRA National Convention in Boston.
  The later passes.    All passes shown also have conditions printed on the back.


This pass won Second Place at the 2004 NMRA Convention in Seattle, WA.  It is my current printed pass.
PLEASE NOTE: The mailing address shown on these passes IS NO LONGER VALID.    I am now using my home street address.
   E-PASSES! The Fundy Northern now has e-passes available.  These are digital images sent by e-mail to recipients.   If you have an e-pass to exchange, please send it to the the address below, and we'll send ours along to you.
 7 May 2011