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> of the effects features seem to be inaccessible throught the timeline.
Hard to tell from your post but you seem to be having trouble with the text animators. There are many pages in the help system that describe them. Do you know how the selectors work? The text animation system is incredibly powerful but it introduced a completely new paradigm to a AE's already supercomplex interface.
These particular presets have keyframes, so it should not be a problem to adjust their timing. All they use is a single text animator that controls all 3 properties. If you need to separate the properties, simply duplicate it, then remove the properties you don't need.
Thanks for the pointers. You were both exactly right and after playing with stuff for a while I got to where I want to be. The characters raining in and out are nice effects and CS3 is pretty nice too!