The most anticipated catalog in the hobby is finally available. Lionel released their Classic Trains Volume 1 catalog on February 13 across the country and at Toy Fair in New York City. The catalog is 111 pages and includes products aimed at every facet of the 3-rail model railroading market.
We talked with toy train expert Dave Garrigues to get his impressions of the new line. Overall Dave is pleased with much of it.
"I really like the Baltimore & Ohio EM-1," he said. "I'm hoping to get that one." The EM-1 is a 2-8-8-4 articulated steamer. It is black with gold lettering. Another articulated steamer, the Norfolk & Western Class A, is also offered. The EM-1 is listed at $1499.95, and the Class A is listed at $1399.95.
Another interesting hi-end product is the 100th Anniversary gold-plated 700E Hudson. It is reminiscent of the piece that MTH announced in their Premier catalog late last year. The Lionel version has the decorative number of 1900 and has Lionel Lines markings instead of New York Central. The locomotive comes with a wood display case and cover.
The boiler, steps, cow-catcher and tender is 24 karat gold plated. The steam chest, valve gear support, side rods, trailing truck and tender trucks are platinum plated. Lionel will leave the piping black so they stand out. Dave Garrigues is unsure of what to think of this piece.
"I assume the platinum plating will look more like the trucks on the special Lionel "Train of the Century" F-3s. If they look like what's in the catalog, that will be horrible."
There are some hold-overs from the last catalog, including Alco C-420s and the E6 Atlantic. Among these, Dave particularly likes the Atlantic. "I've got one and it is a great locomotive."
Dave is intrigued by the new series of Irvington cars. They're painted silver with red roofs and silver trucks. "Lionel was going to make those to go with the Santa Fe F-3s back in 1948. Instead, four years later they developed more prototypical streamlined cars to create the Super Chief."
In case you're wondering why we call them "Irvington cars" instead of "Madison cars," it is a matter of historic accuracy championed by collectors like Dave.
"In 1941, Lionel developed great looking models of the Pullman coaches. The names on these cars were Manhattan and Irvington. In Postwar production the name Madison didn't appear until 1947. So what do you call the cars made before 1947? The reason people have taken to calling them Madison cars today is because that's what Williams Reproductions called their versions of those cars and that name has stuck, unfortunately. When someone talks to me about 'Madison cars' they immediately expose their ignorance of Lionel history."
Incidentally, many Prewar O gauge collectors favor calling these cars "Manhattan cars" since the "Irvington" versions are so rare for Prewar.
The new Irvington cars are part of a new series Lionel has launched called the Archive Collection. These are pieces found in the Lionel archives that were never made. Other items in the series are a 463 Nuclear Reactor (a picture of the original mock-up appears in Lionel: A Collector's Guide & History Volume V: The Archives by Tom McComas and James Tuohy) and a blue version of the 68 Executive Inspection Car. Hopefully this means Lionel will soon produce the Rotating Hopper Unloader, another accessory in the archives.
There are a lot of new starter sets offered, including the Centennial Starter Set. This set has a great-looking box car with the official Centennial logo on it. Lionel is only producing 2000 of them, which means they are intentionally making a collector's item out of a starter set. Other sets feature nice-looking diesels like an SP RS-3 and a Frisco GP-7.
"The starter sets are pretty good," adds Dave. "One thing I don't understand is they have an Army set with virtually no play-value except for a couple of jeeps on a flatcar."
A neat twist on an old item is the Lionel Village Trolley set. In the seats are former owners, presidents, chairmen and officers of The Lionel Corporation. In order are seated Joshua Lionel Cowen, young Lawrence Cowen, Roy Cohn, Gen. John Maderis, Tom Pagano, Mark Harris, and finally Ronald Saypol.
The Postwar Celebration Series for this catalog features a Congressional Set and a set of Southern F3s.
Lionel continues to re-issue classic Postwar accessories. This catalog features more than ever offered at one time. There's the rare version of the 397 Coal Loader with 70 Yard Lamp and yellow motor cover, the 456 Coal Ramp, the 364 Conveyor Lumber Loader, the 362 Barrel Loader, a package of three #71 Yard Lights and the popular 264 Operating Fork-lift Platform. The companion cars for these accessories are each sold separately.
One item that has a few people astonished is an aluminum version of the Rico Station. The siding and roof shingles will be embossed and the decorative enhancements are made of pewter. This item is listed at $400.00.
"I don't know who would pay $400.00 for a Rico Station, no matter what it's made of," said Dave. "A guy can buy the model kit for between $20 and $30, put it together, paint it and it will look really nice. There's no classic Lionel feel to this piece. It's not like they designed it. They bought the dies from Pola of West Germany back in the mid-70s."
The look of the catalog itself gets a mixed review. One really nice touch is at the top corner of the pages there is a different copy head-line from Lionel's past catalogs. They're really fun to browse through. The layout places the trains in the center of the pages and so they're very easy to see.
The one problem has to do with some of the color. Some pictures look like color pictures, such as the starter sets on pages 4 through 11. These look pretty good. Others look like pictures of undecorated models with colors and graphics digitally applied to them. These depictions simply do not look up to par. Examples of these pictures are the Alco C-420 locomotives on page 37, the Southern Pacific F-3s on pages 52 and 53, and the Maersk unit-train on pages 48 and 49. This effect was done in the last catalog as well. The catalog producers must stick with color photography of decorated models. Maybe at the time of publishing the last catalog decorated models of the Alco C-420s were not available, but they're using the same pictures in this catalog for that model, and they definitely have decorated examples of them by now.
The catalog also has some items in it that raises questions. What is the story of the T-1 Duplex locomotive on page 73? It is a great looking model but it is not mentioned. It's just being used to pull a new set of heavyweight cars. Will Lionel soon be producing this piece or are they selling cars to go with competitors locomotives? Why is the 362 Barrel Loader $50.00 more than the 364 Conveyor Lumber Loader? The 362 has a lot of plastic on it while the 364 is made almost entirely of stamped steel. The 362 will use a Vibrotor motor while the 364 will have a DC motor. Does a Vibrotor motor really cost that much more?
Other than that there is a lot of neat-looking products Lionel will be making. With all of the product being offered in this new catalog, we believe just about everyone who looks through it will want at least one or two things advertised. Get yourself a copy and see which items you want.