The shiny black Hudson locomotive circling endlessly in Ed
Dougherty's toy-train museum is as solid as a 10-year-old's
heartbeat. Sparks sputter from under the wheels, smoke trails
from the stack, and when the engine clatters past the Lionel
newsstand, lanterns light up, a newsy moves forward, a paperboy
spins around with his extras and a Dalmatian jitterbugs with a
fireplug. Dougherty watches this buzzing activity with the
ingenuousness of a boy cruising 50. "My golf career won't last
forever," he says wistfully. "But my love of trains will."
The 48-year-old Dougherty has been chugging bravely along the
PGA Tour's tracks since 1975, toting up more than $1 million in
prize money. Last year he had three top-20 finishes and was tied
for the lead in the Honda Open after the second round; he stayed
on the leader board until flying off the rails in the fourth
round. After being sidelined with a shoulder injury early this
year, he earned the lone victory of his career, in the Deposit
Guaranty Golf Classic in July. Dougherty recognizes what an
anomaly that performance was. "Sundays are like train wrecks for
me," he says. "I come into the 18th hole spewing oil. Not
leaking, spewing! If not for Sundays I'd be buying a lot more
As it is, Dougherty owns nearly every choochoo made by Lionel
from 1946 to '69. His collection is housed in a converted garage
behind his mother's house in Linwood, Pa. (He designed the
two-story structure between rounds at the '87 New Orleans Open.)
Downstairs he keeps Western civilization's most complete
assemblage of postwar Lionel poster art and advertising
displays. Upstairs, shelves that reach nearly to the ceiling are
stacked with hundreds of trains--polished mementos of decades of
Christmases and survivors of thousands of high-speed derailments.
"Lionel is probably the most popular train today," says
Dougherty. "It's got to be the most widely collected." He
pronounces Lionel "Lie-NELL," which is how most collectors say
the name of the company Joshua Lionel Cohen started at the turn
of the century. "All I've got is Lie-NELL," Dougherty states.
"It's the only...." He stops abruptly, having lost his train of
December 11, 1995
Dougherty got into training while still in utero. His pregnant
mom bought him a freight set with a log-dump car, a coal loader
and a searchlight caboose. He still has it, as well as the Red
Texas Special diesel passenger set Santa brought him when he was
seven. A premature Gomez Addams, young Ed would run the freight
engine west and the diesel east on the same track. "I staged
fantastic crashes," Dougherty recalls. "I stopped when I
realized Santa wasn't leaving me trains anymore."
Dougherty began collecting in earnest in the mid-1970s. He was
so earnest that he painted WANTED: LIONEL TRAINS on the bottom
of his golf bag and kept it like that for six years. He now
routinely skips Wednesday pro-ams to poke around hobby shops and
add to his collection. During the 1978 Greater Milwaukee Open he
bought out an entire train store. Sometimes Dougherty collects
and golfs simultaneously. At an event in '92 he made a deal with
a spectator on the 3rd tee.
The haggling for Dougherty's prized 1957 rolling-stock Ferris
wheel display took considerably longer. He spotted it years ago
in a Northampton, Mass., train store, but the owner, Chip
Childs, wouldn't sell it. "The only way you're going to get it,"
Childs told Dougherty, "is to come in first at a tournament."
Dougherty called Childs the day after losing a sudden-death
playoff at the 1990 Greater Milwaukee Open. "Hey, Chip," he
said. "When am I going to get that Ferris wheel display?"
"What do you mean?" said Childs. "I said win."
"No, you said come in first," Dougherty said triumphantly.
"Which I did."
Dougherty hurt his shoulder in February while lifting one of his
60 vintage pinball machines. "During the recuperation," he says,
"hunting down old train displays has been the one thing that's
kept me sane." That and knowing that in 1998 he'll be eligible
for the Senior tour. "It'll be like going from the National
League to the American League," Dougherty says excitedly. "There
will be whole new towns I've never been to, and whole new golf
courses I've never played on."
Not to mention whole new train shops he has never haggled in.