Welcome to About Us at Jeff Lemke Trains, Inc.
My wife and I founded Jeff Lemke Trains, Inc. in 2017. That came on the heels of my working 13 years for a Class 1 Railroad as a locomotive servicing engineer, freight conductor, and yard foreman. It might appear that I switched from working on big trains to little trains. In reality, I've been working with model trains since about 1972. By 1975 I was hooked on model trains. In fact, I was so hooked that it got me to photographing and researching railroads in the Duluth-Superior area (MN/WI).
To better share a few of my early rail-fanning moments, I prepared a short PDF document that you might consider to be a fun read. It's got pictures, and talks about my very first trip to Duluth, Minnesota and Superior, Wisconsin where I discovered railroading at the Head of the Great Lakes—The Twin Ports.
Here's that PDF: How Our Railroad Collection Started
Those early research trips fueled my rising interest in making my model trains look more like the real thing. I wanted more realistic coloring and lettering. Weathering too, so the locomotives, rolling stock and structures looked as real as possible. Throughout the 1980s and 1990s much of my spare time was devoted to gathering more information to help create brass models of my favorite prototypes. Those were mostly Great Northern, Northern Pacific, Burlington Northern and Missabe Road projects.
Working with the Brass Importers as a Consultant
I began working with several importers and soon enough my plans and photos were being used by builders in Korea. There were many projects completed that would be enjoyed throughout North America by so many others, besides me. I always enjoyed that aspect of model design and model making—knowing that many other fans wanted the same models too.
Some of my favorite design and research projects that culminated in brass models include:
- Great Northern X2950 Sand Cars and 2-Bay Open Hopper Cars by Ajin Precision and Overland Models ( that was my first project ).
- Great Northern 1083-1084 Twin Cities and Twin Ports Buffet-Parlor-Observation Cars used on the Badger-Gopher Trains by F.M. Models and Oriental Ltd.
- Great Northern Class C-1 0-8-0 by F.M. Models and Challenger Imports.
- Great Northern Snow Dozers X7300-X7302 by Ajin Precision and Overland Models.
- Great Northern Heater Cars 11-18 by Ajin Precision and Overland Models.
- DM&IR M-3 and M-4 Yellowstone 2-8-8-4s by Samhongsa and Precision Scale Co. (the orange box versions in HO and O scales).
- Great Northern Iron Range Caboose X-176 by Ajin Precision and Overland Models.
- Great Northern Taconite Service Bay Window Cabooses X-184/X-185 by Woo Yang and Oriental Ltd. ( also Model Express and Sunset Models )
- Great Northern 1945 and 1949 Steel Cabooses by Ajin Precision and Overland Models.
- Great Northern Bros X-1500 Sno-Flyer by Ajin Precision and Overland Models.
- DM&IR Extended Vision Steel Cabooses by Ajin Precision and Overland Models.
- GE U25C and U28C Diesel Locomotives by Ajin Precision and Overland Models.
One of the best things about this hobby is getting to work with and learn from other knowledgeable people. That's especially true within the model train design and manufacturing sectors. It's also fun how one kind of project usually leads us to another kind of project that dove-tails right into the first. Before you know it you have 3-4 projects each with 3-4 more sub-projects within them. If you're a model designer, collector, layout builder, or operator then you know exactly what I mean. Each of us seems to have a favorite railroad, or era, or railroad location that we enjoy collecting and chatting about—if not bragging about. It's all part of the hobby and I suppose I've been right there in the mix with my demonstrated interest in Great Northern, Northern Pacific, Burlington Northern, and the Missabe Road too.
Working with Overland Models
In 1986 I went to work for a fellow by the name of Tom Marsh. At that time Tom was founder and president of Overland Models in Muncie, IN. My title at the company was Research Specialist. I sure did a lot of that. But I was also a brass model train repairman. My first project, my first week on the job, was repairing 40 brass Erie Tugboats that were damaged in transit between Korea and the USA. It was a matter of them not being packed correctly at the factory to the pilot houses all sustained bent and broken part damage.
That first work-week taught me that 250 WATTS of resistance soldering power is not enough. My tools were quickly upgraded. Great soldering results require having the "proper wattage in the cottage". So it was that "Ah Ha!" moment for me when I realized that if I was struggling to make these soldering repairs, then most other people would have a really difficult time of it too.
As a result, it's been my ongoing effort to help prevent shipping damage to brass models any time I see them needing to be shipped—or when advising others on same. I know how it feels to receive a crunched one in the mail. I also know that my customers want to receive them in tip-top condition; period.
Teaching Professional Custom Painting to Factory Workers in Korea
The most thrilling project I ever worked on was undoubtedly traveling to Korea to set up a factory painting facility. It was all hands on work too. None of that sitting across a desk from each other. They didn't speak much english. I sure didn't speak Korean. But we used our pocket translation books and got through it all just fine.
My first painting student in Korea was one of the production managers at the factory. You might be familiar with him. Mr. Se Ho Jang, who today owns and operates BOO-RIM Models. Mr. Jang and I spent many hours together painting brass models at the factory. I'll never forget the first time he tried airbrushing the cab interior of an HO scale brass steamer. It was a Rock Island P-42 4-6-2. The cab was soldered on. I handed him the airbrush, he picked up the model and made a few squirts of paint in through a cab side window, and in less than a minute he made a complete mess of things. Paint dripping out the cab.
Later that day at lunch, we agreed it would be a good idea to change all future production of steam locomotive models to have removable cabs. It took many months to accomplish but that positive change did happen. Anyone who has ever painted a brass steamer knows the cab should come off. And when it doesn't, making a mess of things is always a very real possibility. Here's a link to my image of that exact scene: See it here now.
Building Brass Model Trains in Korea
In case you'd like to learn more about brass model train production and see it all too, on Flickr.com I have an album of 100+ images showing how brass model trains were made at the absolute peak of production in Korea. There are enough images and reading material out here to keep you busy for an hour or two. It's the real deal. Here's the direct link: Building Brass Model Trains—Jeff Lemke's story about people collaborating to create remarkable products in South Korea
Why Jeff Lemke Trains, Inc.?
My wife Carol is the person who picked out the name for our company. While trying to figure out what to call ourselves, Carol said, "Just use your name, everyone knows you, and that will be familiar to most of the train fans and companies that you do business with." How right she was.
This is the About Us page, but enough about me!
Bottom line around here is this...
- If you call us and we're in, we pick up the phone.
- If you need to leave a message, we call you back.
- If you email us, you get a reply.
- If we can do it, we'll do our best.
- If we can't do it, we'll give you an option or two to consider.
- If you ship it to us we'll let you know it arrived.
- If you want it back you get it back.
- If you buy it today, we'll ship it to you tomorrow.
- If it's damaged on arrival, then you probably bought it from somebody else ;) — better double check that return address label !!!
If you like what you see here today—please tell a friend or two about us.
Thanks again for visiting our site.