The original version of this motorized unit has always been a difficult item for collectors to find. It is a delicate piece and many are found today with cracks in the shell. Lionel's successful Postwar Celebration Series re-issued this car early this year. Like the original, it is certainly a whimsical toy train item--it's wider than the Hudson.
The new 68 is made exactly like the original. The only difference we noticed is a brass collar protecting the shell from the mounting screw and of course the "Postwar" nameplate. The piece even has a mechanical 2-position E-unit. We can't remember the last time Lionel produced that particular component. All of the inner-workings are parts just like the originals, including two 2-pin base lamps.
This car was very successful, and it is no surprise that Lionel will be producing a similar version. The newest Lionel catalog shows the next one will be light blue. Apparently, a prototype was found in the archives in this color. We have a picture of a dark blue prototype (which looks better) in an older 1901-1969 price guide.
We've heard that many of the cars were delivered to dealers with cracks in the shells. We carefully inspected two different models and found nothing wrong with them at all.
Operation is fairly smooth (with a characteristic raspy motor noise) and if you want to change directions, we recommend using the throttle of the transformer instead of a direction control. An abrupt change in direction wouldn't be good for the nylon drive gear. When you handle the piece, pick it up by the big tire wheels. Picking it up by the car body causes stress on the mounting points, and you wouldn't want any cracks to form.
This is a really important locomotive for all you New York Central fans out there. The P-2's ran from Grande Central Terminal 32.8 miles to Harmon, New York where they were cut from the train and Hudsons took over the job to Renseleer then onto Buffalo and finally Chicago. Built by General Electric, they were originally built for the Cleveland Union Terminal and were delivered in 1914. The pantographs probably look small to those used to the larger ones found on GG-1s. These P-2 pantographs are small because they went through tunnels, and clearance was limited.
It is interesting to see MTH's Premier model of the P-2. This scale model brings a fresh representation of the prototype since there have really only been tinplate models in the hobby. Heavyweight Pullmans look great behind the two-tone gray lightning stripe scheme. The locomotive is approximately 21 inches long and runs on O-72 track. As this is a Premier item it comes with the standard ProtoSounds, ProtoCouplers, and figures. The body is made of ABS plastic and the two platforms are made of heavy die-cast and ride firmly on the tracks and switches.
We have included a recording of the sounds for you to download and sample:
Click here for ProtoSounds sample of the P-2 Station Announcement. 165 kb
Click here for ProtoSounds sample of the P-2 Whistle, bell and locomotive. 358 kb
There's something about tinplate items that makes them pieces of art. Perhaps it's the lack of realism due to the limitations of the material. This lack of realism adds a certain endearing quality to the formed metal models and gives them a unique character that realistic models do not have. Tinplate was once the standard means for making toys. Lithography was used to help add realistic images to a piece. When more sophisticated techniques for creating models came along using die-cast and plastic, tinplate naturally disappeared from mainstream toys.
But tinplate certainly hasn't disappeared entirely. Many train manufacturers such as Marx, MTH and Lionel continue to create tinplate items. Brand new tinplate trains are quite a sight. Although these new items don't have the history that original Lionel, Ives, Marx or American Flyer have, they are in pristine condition and look a lot better than pieces with dents, scratches and rust. They're also less expensive.
Lionel recently released a tinplate model of the old Lionel Corporation factory in Irvington, NJ. It's a very sturdy model (due to wider gauge metal than the Backshop has) produced in blue, orange and cream in colors. The brick detail is lithographed in a dark magenta. The windows are orange-painted stamped inserts. The cream-painted base has sidewalk detail pressed in. Inside all four rooms are lithographed factory workers. It is illuminated from lights in the center. By far the best feature of the factory is the large tinplate name (to be installed by the operator) on the roof. "Lionel Electric Trains" is prominently displayed in blue and orange in the style of Lionel's Prewar logo. On the whole, it has a classic toy train look to it.
The factory is listed at $400.00, which is pretty hefty for a piece that doesn't have any operating features. And there is a sort of irony in a model of a legendary American factory made in China. But one thing is certain, it will look fabulous on any layout--Prewar, Postwar or Modern era.