All Aboard! Train Town Chugs into Rock Hill
The new shop sells antique trains and other beloved toys from Baby Boomer era.
Train Town in Rock Hill is a family business that buys and sells antique and modern electric trains and other collectible toys. The business is run by brothers Bob and John Tschopp, their sister Mary Burns and her husband Terry.
The store opened in June. John Tschopp said the store is a natural extension of his family’s train-collecting hobby. He and his brother have collected trains since they were teenagers.
“Father said you can’t keep everything,” joked John. He said that if he were allowed by his wife to collect everything he wanted, he’d need a barn to house all of it. The store acts as their outlet to share the family’s love of trains with other collectors and the next generation of model engineers.
His sister Mary is the store’s only full-time employee. Bob, John and Terry all have regular day jobs, though John hopes the store will be well established in 10 years or so when he retires and can devote more time to the shop.
“My regular job is stressful,” John said. He still enjoys his time spent at the train store, which he considers more of a hobby than moonlighting, because his customers are always in a good mood when they’re looking for trains.
Train Town carries electric trains in common gauges including G, Standard, O, S and HO. HO engines, the most popular size, are about six inches long, or 1/87th the size of a real train. John said that train sets start at $75 dollars and can go up to thousands of dollars.
“A $75 dollar used set is good for beginners," John said. "It gets you into the hobby and lets you test the waters.” He suggested that people new to trains, or who want to buy one for their children, start small to see how they like it first. He said that so many of today’s kids are hooked on video games that they may not find electric trains as fun as past generations.
Not all children have lost interest in model trains.
“Some kids are in walking distance of the store, and they’re here all the time,” John said. He also noted that lately he’s seen more women and little girls bitten by the train bug.
The store doesn’t have a big track display, but they do have a test track set up for customers to try out trains before they buy. All trains in the shop are guaranteed to run, no matter their age.
“A lot of trains are indestructible,” John said. However, if your Lionel or American Flyer needs a trip to the model train yard, Train Town can repair most cars and engines in house.
Besides electric trains, the store also carries a small section of collectible toys. They trade and sell antique cap guns, first-generation “Redline” Hot Wheels from the 1960s and metal trucks from the 1920s to 1950s. These toys are no longer meant for children, but are much sought after by the grown-ups who used to play with them.
“We have a Tonto cap gun set from the 1950s,” John said. Cap guns range from $5 to $100.
John said the best part of his shop is getting to meet other train collectors and swapping stories. He’ll often find someone who’s still sets up their grandfather’s train under their Christmas tree every year.