By: Kimberly Clay Copyright 2009

I had the pleasure recently of visiting The Rail Fence in Frankfort, KY, and to meet one of its owners, Jim Fitzpatrick (Jim and Shirley Fitzpatrick own the store together).

I visited the shop several years ago and purchased a set of six of the Foxfire books. I discovered them on Jim and Shirley’s shelves and later through a bit of research, found their literary and cultural heritage significance.

What attracted me to the Foxfire books was the fact that someone, it seemed, had heard the stories my deceased father used to tell us when we were young about how life was when he was growing up, and had taken all of them down to print and paper. I had no idea at the time my father shared his stories, of their true significance and worth as first-hand accounts of the culture and heritage of Appalachia, and today I highly treasure that collection. But, I digress.

If you’ve never been there, The Rail Fence is what I would describe as “a man’s antiques shop”. This isn’t to suggest that women are not welcome, would in any way be uncomfortable or wouldn’t enjoy a visit there. On the contrary, this little shop has more than a few interesting items.

What I mean by describing the store as a man’s antiques shop, is to say that I believe men would find it especially interesting. While there is glassware and pottery, some furniture and yes, books, there are also tools and knives and buttons (not the fasten-your-clothing kind, but the lapel kind) and old photographs – as well as a number of other things. And then there are the trains.

Jim has apparently been collecting trains for some 40 years. But he was quick to correct me when I called the collection in his store “a collection”. He said “…This is not a collection. The collection is at home. Everything in here is for sale…”

Okay, so “Wow” what a huge ‘non-collection’ of trains Jim has!

During our conversation about the trains, Jim started ticking off names like Lionel, American Flyer (and I thought those were just little red wagons!), Marx and others. And while those are all manufacture names that collectors will recognize, Jim said the model type that train hobbyists really prize are those that are hand-crafted – brass trains. Brass trains? Who knew?!

The difference in collecting brass trains versus some of the others? Many model trains are die-cast, created from a mold. But with brass trains, all of the intricate and delicate details of a train’s design are painstakingly hand crafted. It’s hard to explain unless you see one, but the craftsmanship of such a model is truly a work of art.

Jim’s knowledge and expertise regarding the trains in his shop is quite vast, and evidence of a seller that collectors would find to be a valuable and beneficial resource.

If you are in the Frankfort area, The Rail Fence is worth a visit. You’ll find a quiet and pleasant atmosphere for antiques shopping, especially if you like discovering antique finds that aren’t the “run of the mill”. And, if you’re a model train hobbyist/enthusiast/collector, whether you’re in the neighborhood or not, this is a shop you’ll want to check out as a resource for adding model trains to your collection.

The Rail Fence
(502) 875-5040
415 West Broadway
Frankfort, KY 40601

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