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Voltamp Trains

History

Voltamp logo Voltamp was an early American manufacturer of toy trains based in Baltimore, Maryland. Founded by Manes A. Fuld (1863-1929), the son of a Baltimore stove dealer, in the 1890's. Voltamp holds an important place in the evolution of the toy train hobby for its 1907 release of the first electric toy train that operated on ordinary household alternating current. This was a significant advancement for toy train operation because earlier electric trains had used battery power. For the first time, the toy train world had wall current powered electric trains, instead of spring powered/clockwork, battery powered, and fire-powered steam.

Voltamp Early 1900's 2 inch gauge United Electric Trolley and Trailer The Voltamp Electric Manufacturing Co., organized to manufacture electric motors, toys, and novelties, was an outgrowth of the Chloride of Silver Dry Cell Battery Co., of Baltimore City, MD. It all started when Fuld, who owned the company, brought out a model Locomotive that he had made for his son Edwin in 1897. Fuld's friends who had seen the set thought the model was so good looking and so novel that they encouraged him to go into production.

A Voltamp #2130 2 inch gauge Steeple Cab Electric Tunnel Engine in B&O livery circa 1910-12 Voltamp released its first toy train product in 1903 and the result was a complete sellout. Its first locomotive sold for $10. Because they were expensive and people were wary of electrical power, Voltamp trains never sold nationally as well as they did in Baltimore. Voltamp did not even release a catalog showing their own trains until 1908. These trains were known for their surprising detail. The 1908 catalog introduced freight and smaller #2103-2107 flat-end passenger cars and the early versions of the #2100 and #2200 locomotives. Also shown were the 4 and 8 wheel trolleys. These power units were fitted with DC single field wound motors. Voltamp's trains utilized the same 2 inch gauge metal track as Carlisle & Finch, the inventor of the electric toy train. The Voltamp line included mostly B & O steamers, electrics and passenger cars that ran on the 2 rail track. A Voltamp #2210 NYC Suburban in 2 inch gauge Voltamp trains and trolleys preserved the local color of the B. & O. Railroad and the Old United Railway Cars of Baltimore. Unlike the brass and nickel Trolleys and cars of Carlisle & Finch, all Voltamp equipment was painted. Trucks were cast iron, the wheels were brass. Other distinguishing features about Voltamp Trains were the real springs and brass bearings on the trucks of the earlier models. About 1914 the Sprung Trucks were changed to solid truck frames with cast-in simulated springs. The very early models had dummy headlights, however by 1907 all Locomotives and almost every Trolley had working headlights.

A Voltamp 0-4-0 #2200 Steam loco and tender in 2 inch gauge In 1910 Voltamp expanded the line to include the #2222 4-6-0 loco and also introduced the #2105-2107 larger passenger cars. The general characteristic of Voltamp trains, when compared with other 2" trains made by Carlisle & Finch and Howard trains, is that it is heavier and more expensive equipment. Also this was the only company that identified its product with the word "Voltamp" in gold leaf on the cars and cast into the drive wheels and frames on their steam type locos. Unlike Carlisle & Finch, who made their Locomotive frames out of wood (with the exception of the early #45 which was built around a brass frame) Voltamp locomotive frames were of heavy cast iron construction. Passenger and freight cars did use wooden bases. A Voltamp 4-4-0 #2100 Steam loco in B & O livery Another distinctive feature of Voltamp trains was the "automatic coupler." The cars would couple automatically when pushed together. Uncoupling had to be done manually. C. & F. had an unusual system for coupling which consisted of a curved metal band at each end of the car. A small "U" hook dropped over the bands was the actual coupler, the curved bands acting more or less as bumpers. Voltamp made a large assortment of locomotives ranging from the small 0-4-0 #2130 Tunnel Engine to their largest 4-6-2 #2500 Locomotive which was 31 inches long with its tender, and weighed 11 pounds. They also made a #2115 Interurban that was 18" long and had a wood base and sheet metal body.

Voltamp 2 inch gauge #2500 4-6-2 Locomotive with Pennsylvania Tender Early catalogs touted that "There is no trouble department with Voltamp Railways", and boasted as to why two rail systems were superior to three rail model train systems. Having a two rail system enabled use of a relay for reversing the direction of the train. The trains weren't really toys that children could run. They had to be set up by the parents. Electricity was still considered to be dangerous in the early 20th centrury. By 1913 the Voltamp catalogue was 130 pages long, and included trolleys, trains accessories and hardware. Voltamp made 2 rail track mounted to wood bases. The radius of the complete oval was 78½ inches. Switch tracks were also made. They even offered French Victorian style lighted electric lamp post accessories in the catalogue.

Voltamp 2 inch gauge #2222 4-6-0 engine painted in black with gold highlights and lettering cast iron frame with integral motor and cab reverse unit #2102 tender in black with transfer gold graphics, sprung arch trucks made 1907-1910 A unique item produced by Voltamp starting in 1915 was a set of 2" gauge Interurban cars made specially for Vale Fitzpatrick. Fitzpatrick had met socially with Manes Fuld around 1915 and somewhow through their friendship convinced Fuld to design and manufacture the rare Voltamp W.B. & A. Interurban cars. Fitzpatrick had requested that the Voltamp factory paint the Interurbans with orange bodies, dark green roofs and letter them with his children's names. The first 2 cars came off of the manufacturing line in August 1915 and were the 'Edwin Jr.' power car and the 'Robert Vale' trailer car. The power car was actually a Voltamp coach fitted with 2 trolley poles, and the trailer was a Voltamp combination baggage car. The cars were also numbered with the dates of birth of the 1st and 2nd born sons of Fitzpatrick - #1915 for the power unit and #1912 for the trailer. Later in September 1920, 2 more cars were created for the set. A #1920 'Buddy' power car named for the 3rd son, and the #1919 'Peggy' trailer named for Fitzpatrick's daughter. Each of these cars were also numbered to represent the namesake's birth years. The cars included interior lighting and seating. These one of a kind trains remained in the Fitzpatrick family through 1994 when they were acquired by TCA member Larry House.

Voltamp Factory Specials
Voltamp 2 inch gauge Factory Special #1915 Edwin Jr. Interurban and #1912 Robert Vale Interurban trailer Voltamp 2 inch gauge Factory Special #1920 Buddy Interurban and #1919 Peggy Interurban trailer
A Voltamp rare Mary 30 inch long Observation car in 2 inch gauge A Voltamp rare #3142 30 inch long Adeledna passenger coach in 2 inch gauge

Another famous Voltamp factory special item was the 30 inch long 2" gauge passenger cars circa 1914-18. These were thought to of been constructed to exhibit at the 1915 Panama-Pacific Exposition held in San Francisco. There are two known examples of this car, the pullman type and the observation car with platform. Manes Fuld had several children, and he wanted to name his trains after them. Adeledna is a combination of his children Adel and Edna's names. Evidently this name was used on several versions of Voltamp passenger cars and on the later version of the #2115 Interurban. The matching 30 inch observation car was given the name Mary.

A Voltamp #2115 Interurban Trolley in 2 inch gauge A full set of Voltamp trains with a B&O freight engine and cars sold for $155 in 1923, which was equivalent to the cost of a used car during that era. Although Voltamp outlasted Carlisle & Finch, its primary competitor, both companies were eclipsed in the marketplace by the Ives Manufacturing Company and Lionel Corporation, and Voltamp exited the market in 1923, selling its trademark, files, inventory, tooling and line to Horace Boucher, who manufactured model boats at the time. Boucher modified the Voltamp line from 2" 2 rail to 2 1/8" 3 rail in order to be compatible with Lionel's Standard Gauge line. Fuld retained his North Paca Street electrical business and continued to operate under the Chloride of Silver Dry Cell Company of Baltimore name, which sold batteries, tools, doorbells, light bulbs and electrically powered medical devices. But its trains are what gave Voltamp its lasting name.

A Voltamp #2120 Trolley and #2122 Trolley trailer in 2 inch gauge In 2006 Pride Lines Ltd., of Lindenhurst, NY 11757, filed a U.S. federal trademark registration for Voltamp. The federal status of that trademark filing had been indicated as abandoned-failure to respond or late response at that time. Shortly thereafter, Pride Lines Ltd. manufactured and sold a reproduction of the Voltamp #2115 Interurban for 3-rail Standard gauge track. Pride Lines later went on to make and sell additional reproductions of the Voltamp 4 wheel freight cars and the #2130 Steeple Cab electirc for Standard gauge, 3-rail track operation.

Voltamp #2114 stock car with livestock in 2 inch gauge Voltamp trains are highly sought after by collectors and antique toy dealers today because they were always produced in fairly small numbers. In October of 1997, three Voltamp engines and nine cars, manufactured around 1915, sold quickly at an auction in Baltimore, MD for $44,550. In November 2006, a Voltamp train set sold for $7,280 at an auction in Vineland, NJ. In 2008, a pair of Voltamp Interurban Trolleys made in 1914 was offered for $75,000. The late Ward Kimball's Voltamp #2115 Interurban brought $35,000 at auction. On November 12, 2012 a 1907 Voltamp #2100 B&O 4-4-0 locomotive and 8 wheel tender sold for $10,367.87 on eBay. An original Voltamp passenger train set consisting of a #2220 0-4-0 locomotive with early headlight and very rare Pennsylvania 4-wheel tender, along with The New York and Washington #2219 coach and #2218 combine car sold at auction for $26,550 in 2016. Only four or five of these eight wheeled passenger car sets are known to exist.

Manes Fuld held a University of Maryland degree in pharmacology, and was a man of varied interests. He started out as a Shakespearean actor, then opened a drug store in Bolton Hill, MD at Park Avenue and McMechen Street. He lived in the Marlborough Apartments, also the home of the famous art-collecting Cone sisters. He was also a notable member of Baltimore's Jewish community. The Chloride of Silver Dry Cell Co. was originally formed in New York in 1879, and incorporated in New York State in 1887. Eventually the firm moved to Baltimore sometime during Voltamp #2105 day coach in red with green roof, gold transfer graphics, complete bench seat interior 1914-1918 the late 1880's or early 1890's. On February 6, 1906 Fuld applied for a US patent on electric motor improvements that he invented. These improvements included a removable brush configuration that made it easier to replace worn motor brushes in small electric motors and a stud/arm configuration with a notch and eye in the arm that provided a more efficient way to engage the motor brush from the end plate. This patent, #US837213A was awarded on November 27, 1906. On June 23, 1919 Manes E. Fuld filed for another patent on a dry cell battery that he designed. US patent #1439956 was awarded on December 26, 1922 for this invention. Fuld also held 3 patents awarded in 1899 for and induction coil, a dry cell battery and an electric cell packing case.


Voltamp 2 inch gauge #2100 passenger set painted tin American steam outline 4-4-0 electric Steam Outline Locomotive, with wood and cast iron #2102 B&O 4 wheel truck tender and 3 painted tin passenger cars #2141 Marion Combine, #2107 Elizabeth Pullman and #2140 Virginia Observation Car
Voltamp #2142 2 inch gauge Observation car with interior seating 1919-1923 Voltamp #2104 2 inch gauge Passenger Coach Voltamp #2103 2 inch gauge Royal Blue Limited Combine Car Voltamp 2 inch gauge B & O Steeple Cab and coach #2130 painted tin electric engine with wood floor and finely detailed cast iron frame with a #2219 painted tin passenger car with wood seats
Voltamp 2 inch gauge #2108 PRR box car Voltamp 2 inch gauge #2109 PRR flat car Voltamp 2 inch gauge #2115 PRR dump car Voltamp 2 inch gauge #2112 PRR coal hopper car 1919-23 Voltamp 2 inch gauge #2114 PRR stock car 1919-23
Voltamp 2 inch gauge #2112 B&O coal hopper car Voltamp 2 inch gauge #2113 B&O tank car Voltamp 2 inch gauge #2111 B&O gondola Voltamp 2 inch gauge #2109 B&O flat car 1919-1923 Voltamp 2 inch gauge #2108 B&O Box car

Voltamp 2 inch gauge #2110 B&O Red Caboose with black roof Voltamp 2 inch gauge #2126 gondola Voltamp 2 inch gauge #2127 dump car Voltamp 2 inch gauge #2128 stake bed flat car Voltamp 2 inch gauge #2129 caboose

Voltamp #2220 0-4-0 Locomotive, 4-wheel Pennsylvania Tender, #2218 Combine and #2219 Pullman A Voltamp transformer

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