The slogan on the side of James Cox Jr.’s 1966 Lionel train set box reads “A lifetime investment in happiness.”
For Cox, that slogan seems to ring true. It not only has brought years of joy to the Springfield resident, but it also is a reminder of the love of family.
Cox said his father, James Cox Sr., while working at Vandever Tire for $1.90 an hour in 1966, managed to scrape up the $19.95 to buy the train from Pearl Brothers in Joplin for his 2-year-old son for Christmas.
Adjusted for inflation, Cox believes that is relative to someone earning minimum wage today spending about $180 on their child for Christmas.
“My parents weren’t afraid to sacrifice to love on their kids,” Cox said.
Both Cox and his decades-old train made the trek Saturday to visit the Joplin hardware store and its owner, Harold Berger. Cox said he has been meaning for several years to bring the train to Berger to see, and when a friend shared with him the news that the store was closing, he decided it was time.
Berger said the store, which will close at the end of the month, hasn’t carried toys in years. He said at that time, outlets required stores to buy in bulk and prepay, making the inventory a risky proposition.
“We got out of the toy business probably 25 years ago — maybe more than that,” Berger said.
Cox said he usually only brings the train out each Christmas. He is missing its signs and would like to buy another set just for the signs.
The engine for the train includes a working smokestack, powered by a small light bulb.
“It stinks the whole house up,” he said, laughing.
Cox also pointed out the train’s “real gripper” drive.
“That means there’s one wheel with a rubber band on it,” he said.