By Joseph Stachler
Since 1980 Lionel has re-issued a lot of old favorites. The majority of postwar accessories have been re-produced. However, there are still a few that haven't been re-issued that should be. There are also some that never should be. For example, the 375 Turntable. It should stay buried forever.
I am sure Lionel loves to hear all the advice it gets from its fans - "You should make this, You should make that." Just in case they are running short, here's some more. These ideas are based on collectability of the original, production feasibility, and what I would like.
350 Engine Transfer
The original 350 is as
collectible as it is reliable. It slowly transfers a locomotive from one line to
another parallel line. No transfer table is complete without a 350-75 extension.
The only negative about the original 350 is that it is too short. It can't
accommodate F-3 AAs or large steamer/tender combos. Re-issuing this accessory
would provide a perfect opportunity to rectify that problem--make the platforms
longer. It is not that complex. The 350 is two stamped steel platforms, a motor
and a building. So if not all the original tooling is available, it shouldn't be
prohibitive to create the new tooling needed.
The original 350 Transfer Table currently sells for almost $500 in Like New condition.
HO Banjo Signal
Although this was produced in 1962 as an HO accessory, it is too big. It is, however, perfectly sized for O scale, and works just like the over-sized 140. The HO banjo signal would be perfect as a Lionel scale MainLine signal. This piece would be welcomed by hi-railers who can't find the original or don't want to pay a ridiculous price. Recently, a mint 0140 sold for $250.00 and supposedly that was a low figure. I have heard from a number of sources that Lionel still has it's HO tooling. If that's true, half the battle of producing the 0140 is won right there.
Several manufacturers produce the basic platform design, but nothing comes close to the original 156. Phenolic plastic technology is still available (used on the re-issued Lionel Irvington Cars) and so is die-cast metal. The 156 is a perfect toy train structure with its bright green painted base and vermillion painted roof. The silver posts, brass finials and tinplate billboards complete the attractive piece. The billboards would be best if they had the original advertisements lithographed on them. Forget "Trains are Fun!" or "Linex Gasoline". People will buy reproductions of the original signs anyway if the new ones are different. What 90% of operators want to do is install a long line of these like they did on the 1949 Lionel showroom layout. That is a striking scene. Originals sell for around $150 in Like New condition.
This the most dependable Lionel operating accessory ever made and makes a lot more sense in a railroad setting than, say, the rotary beacon (which belongs at an airport). The old, reliable vibrotor is the key to the sturdy 264's steady performance. Stan Roy, who has all the Lionel operating accessories installed on his layout agrees. “No question,” says Stan, “the 264 is the best operating accessory I have. I would say works 95% of the time. The others are lucky if they work 50% of the time.”
This is the best O gauge trestle bridge Lionel ever made. It is stamped steel painted silver, has a red beacon on top and more detail than the more common 316 and 317 trestle bridges, which were made later. Thanks to the re-issue of the Bascule Bridge, several key parts that were used on the 315 are now available: the cross-truss wires on the top, the upper cross supports and, most importantly, the light assembly. Word is out on how difficult 315s are to find. A rusty 315 recently sold on e-Bay for $120.00. Come to think of it, I have never seen a 315 at a show. They must be hard-to-find.
703 Semi-scale Hudson
Lionel listed a 703 Hudson in the 1946 catalog, but it was never made. The 703 was to be like a 763E but with a light-bulb type smoke unit installed. This unit, numbered 703-10, was manufactured and used in the Berkshires produced in 1946. The 703 prototype pictured in the 1946 catalog was a scale Hudson with the smoke unit installed.
The closest Lionel has come to
the 703 was the 785 gray semi-scale Hudson in 1987. If Lionel does do a 703 (or
if MTH does a 703), it should be black, have the 226-type tender, and spoked
drivers with metal rims. Obviously, a new 703 would have the current smoke
units, not the bulb-type like the original. A “Lionel Lines” tender (like
the original) would be a nice touch.
This wouldn't cut into the value of the Century Club's 773 Hudson, which has "New York Central" markings. Also, the trucks on the tender should have the same sides as the Irvington cars have. My feeling is that a re-issues should always be as close as possible to the original (or in this case, like the original was planned to be produced).