New Product Spotlight – H24-66 Train Masters

21 04 2014

When Fairbanks Morse debuted the Train Master in 1953, its massive size, weight and power were unlike anything else the railroads had ever seen – at least in a diesel. As rare as they were immense, the Train Master left a big impression wherever it was seen.

Prototype Background


6-81207 Canadian Pacific 8900 (8903 also available)

Locomotive builders’ order books were filled in the early 1950s. Alco set the new standard at the end of the last decade with their RS series and EMD couldn’t seem to build GP7s and GP9s fast enough. The typical diesel of the day was a four-axle road switcher, weighing in at about 120 tons and producing around 1500 horsepower. By themselves or in multiple unit consists, they could handle any freight or passenger job the railroads had.


6-81209 New Jersey Central 2401 (2406 also available)

FM’s Train Master dwarfed its competition. The 66 foot, six axle, 194 ton monster produced 2400 horsepower and a continuous tractive effort of 82,500 pounds. Like its smaller competitors however, the locomotive was capable of handling a multitude of tasks. A pair of Train Masters could do the work of three GP9s on a heavy coal drag in the eastern mountains. Yet the locomotive still had acceleration rapid enough to suit them well in commuter service on the Southern Pacific.


6-81217 Norfolk & Western 157 (#164 also available)

A locomotive with these capabilities should have been an overwhelming sales success. Only 127 were made in the four year production, with 20 locomotives on the Canadian Pacific being the biggest roster of any road.

Several reasons have been given for the model’s failure to catch on. The unique FM opposed-piston diesel engine is an easy scapegoat. Although the engines had a proven track record in the marine industry, and while some railroads got long and productive careers out of their own, the engine was a maintenance headache. Its design made it more challenging to access and repair in the smaller locomotive shops and unlike an EMD GP9 that shared many parts with earlier models, the FMs needed their own inventory.


6-81211 Reading 801 (#804 also available)

The locomotives were too big for many lines and were harder on the track than lighter diesels. In many ways, the Train Master was simply a locomotive ahead of its time. Within another decade, the idea of higher horsepower, six axle locomotives would catch on with railroads everywhere.

While most Train Masters were retired in the 1960s, Southern Pacific maintained their fleet for commuter service out of Los Angeles into the 1970s. Today only one survives – Canadian Pacific #8905 at the Canadian Railway Museum in St. Constant. This locomotive was built by FM’s Canadian division, the Canadian Locomotive Works.

Lionel’s Model

The Train Master has enjoyed a much longer history in Lionel’s sales books. Our latest release brings the model up to date with today’s LEGACY control and other great features, including:


6-81215 Southern 6300 (#6303 also available)

    • LEGACY Control System – able to run on LEGACY, TMCC or Conventional control layouts
    • Odyssey II Speed Control with On / Off switch
    • LEGACYRailSounds including
      • CrewTalk and TowerCom dialog
      • 6 Official railroad speeds
      • 8 Diesel RPM levels
      • Quilling Horn
      • Bell (single hit and continuous)
      • Sequence Control
      • Current speed and fuel dialog
      • Refueling sounds
    • Dual maintenance-free motors
    • Traction Control

6-81213 Southern Pacific 4803 (#4809 also available)

  • Refined Conventional Control mode with lower starting speeds
  • Front and Rear ElectroCouplers
  • Fan-driven smoke with adjustable output
  • IR Transmitter
  • Directional lighting
  • Marker Lights
  • Lighted cab interior with crew
  • Many separately applied metal detail parts including positionable drop steps on the pilots.
  • Metal frame, pilots, trucks and fuel tank
  • Minimum Curve – O31

The Train Master will be available in two road numbers for Canadian Pacific, Central of New Jersey, Norfolk and Western, Reading, Southern (TNO&P) and Southern Pacific. Suggested retail price for the locomotives is $549.99. See your dealer to place your order today!



Freight Car Friday – Ballast Cars

18 04 2014

Spring is finally here and with it comes the start of another busy maintenance season on the tracks and rights of way around the country. A proper roadbed is critical for keeping the tracks in proper alignment through all of those “April Showers.” Ballast provides a support for the ties and rail and also helps drain water away from the track. Keeping the ballast clean and replenished, requires a variety of specialized rail cars and equipment.

Ballast Hoppers

converted trucks

This ballast hopper was converted from a PS-2 covered hopper.

Railroads purchase their ballast from quarries in large lots. Online customers are preferred whenever possible of course, and railroads can be very particular about whose stone is used. Even today’s large carriers often purchase ballast from only a handful of suppliers. Often you could tell the owner of the railroad by the color of the ballast such as the Chicago and North Western’s “Pink Lady” stone.

Granite is the rock of choice, but to minimize expense railroads will often blend multiple grades of rock. Yards and sidings typically get a lower grade than the mainline and would see a higher concentration of limestone. In the steam era, cinders were frequently recycled for use in spurs.

UP ballast car

Union Pacific paints its company cars in a distinctive green, including this newer ballast hopper.

The hoppers which transport the ballast are typically no larger than 70 ton capacity cars. While it is not uncommon to see standard hoppers pressed into this service, most ballast cars are designed with different hopper door arrangements which disperse the stone along the sides and parallel with the rails as opposed to dumping piles in the middle of the gauge.

Herzog car

Herzog leases ballast cars like this to many railroads. The doors are pneumatically operated and the train features an extra set of air lines between the cars.

Ever thrifty with company cars, many railroads convert older hopper, gondola and even covered hoppers for use as ballast cars in addition to new purchases. Adding to the fun for modelers, equipment like this often passes down through owners or mergers and is usually at the bottom of the priority list for repainting. When work equipment is painted, different color schemes are often used to call immediate attention to its restricted use.

6-26847 dump car

Lionel and American Flyer side dump cars are perfect for work train duty.

In addition to hoppers, side dump cars are also used. These are normally reserved for right of way projects like fills and embankments. The side dump cars can carry rock, dirt and rip-rap in larger sizes than can be practically handled through hopper doors. And they can drop their load along the side of the rails almost anywhere.

Ballast cars may run as a dedicated train, or mixed in with a regular consist.

Work Equipment

ballast cleaner

A Union Pacific ballast cleaner is hard at work on the busy Nebraska mainline.

The cars used to haul the stone to the work site might be pretty straight forward, but the equipment used to finish the job is anything but ordinary. Once maintained by picks, shovels and sweat, today’s rights of way are groomed by specialized machines large and small – and sweat. While the labor force of a typical “section gang” can rebuild scores of miles of track today, the work is no less demanding and dangerous.

ballast regulator

A ballast regulator kicks up a cloud of dust as it sweeps stones off of the top of the ties. Meanwhile traffic keeps rolling on the neighboring track. Operations are fun to watch, but you would be well advised to keep a safe distance.

Typically ballast work is performed around other maintenance projects, including replacing ties, broken spikes or rail clips and other hardware as part of a comprehensive annual maintenance program.

If the ballast needs to be cleaned, this is done before dropping new stone.  “Cleaning” the ballast involves removing dirt, weeds, and any other impurities including spilled lading from the passing trains. All of these can clog the drainage field, leading to larger and more expensive problems if not kept in check. Ballast cleaners are enormous machines which continuously scoop up the stone, filter it through screens and redeposit the ballast on the track while discharging the waste to the side of the roadbed or into hoppers for removal.

work train

A similar ballast regulator to the one seen above is on its way to the next job along with dozens of other machines aboard a special work train.

After cleaning or after replenishing the roadbed with new ballast, the stones must be tamped around and under the ties to maintain a proper and consistent track profile. The alignment of the rails must be checked again and finally, the new stones must be groomed to a proper profile. These jobs are handled by smaller equipment, usually operated by one or two workers each.

ballast regulator

Lionel has offered models of ballast regulators in the past – an easy way to bring this operation to your layout.

Much of this smaller equipment is usually transported to the work area on board flatcars. In some cases, the workers travel with the train and can stay in bunk cars overnight. Most railroads today however have taken to paying for lodging in a local hotel and busing workers to the job site.

Ballast work is just one of many routine chores on the rails, but it can be an interesting addition to your model railroad. Whether you go with an animated track gang accessory or our more modern ballast regulator, such a scene is sure to draw attention on any layout.

New Product Spotlight – LEGACY Berkshires

14 04 2014

The Berkshire is one of the most popular locomotives we’ve ever produced, and our 2014 scale Berkshire release will be the best yet. Returning in popular roadnames and with great new features, these locomotives are sure to continue that tradition.

NKP 765

This release of Nickel Plate #765 will include two smokebox front options and a signed certificate by her operating crew.

The 2-8-4 design originated on the Boston and Albany in 1925. With an enlarged boiler and firebox, the locomotives could easily outperform Mikados of comparable length. Much as the Hudson had done for the New York Central’s passenger traffic, the Berkshire would be the “Super Power” answer for freight service.

As the design progressed, the locomotives became even more efficient – and elegant. The best known Berks were built for the family of railroads owned by the Van Sweringen brothers. These included the Erie, Chesapeake and Ohio, Pere Marquette, and the New York Chicago & St. Louis (Nickel Plate.) Pooling engineering resources, the combined staffs of these lines formed the “Mechanical Advisory Committee” which developed locomotive designs which could be shared among the routes.

The origins of this modern Berkshire family began on the Erie.

The origins of this modern Berkshire family began on the Erie.

The first Advisory Committee Berks went to the Erie. With 70″ drivers the locomotives were perfect for fast freight service. This design led to the T-1 2-10-4 for the C&O. Lessons learned here were in turn applied to subsequent orders for Berkshires on the Nickel Plate, Pere Marquette and lastly the C&O. Similar locomotives were also built for the Wheeling and Lake Erie and Richmond Fredericksburg and Potomac.


Pere Marquette is represented by two locomotives in this run, #1225 and #1227.

The locomotives performed remarkably well through the end of steam on each road. Primarily a fast freight engine, the postcard image of these Berks usually has them on the point of a long train of reefers or priority merchandise cars. Many of the younger engines had less than 20 years in before diesels forced their early retirement. Nineteen Berks survive today (12 from the C&O), two in operating condition (Nickel Plate 765 and Pere Marquette 1225.)

The Berkshire has been a staple of the Lionel line as well for more than half a century. Our upcoming release will capture the size, details and drama of these legends in scale form. We’ve included a few special extras on some of these special locomotives as well.

The locomotive will be available in the following road names and numbers:

  • 6-11452  C&O #2687
  • 6-11453  Erie #3401
  • 6-11454  Nickel Plate #765
  • 6-11455  Pere Marquette #1225
  • 6-11456  Pere Marquette #1227
  • 6-11461  Pilot Model (unpainted)

All of the new Berkshires include the following features:

    • LEGACY Control System equipped – able to run in LEGACY Control mode, in TrainMaster Command Control mode, or in Conventional mode with a standard transformer
    • Odyssey II Speed Control with On/Off switch
    • LEGACY RailSounds system featuring: – CrewTalk dialog and TowerCom announcements, each with different scenarios depending on whether the locomotive is in motion or stopped – Six official railroad speeds with Crewtalk dialog – DynaChuff synchronized with 32 levels of intensity as the locomotive gains speed – LEGACY “Real-Time Quilling Whistle” control with instant response for realistic signature ‘quilling’ and correctly timed warning signals – Single hit or continuous mechanical bell sounds – Sequence Control plays the sound effects of an entire trip, including warning sounds and announcements, based on the movement and speed of the locomotive – Current speed and fuel dialog, refueling sound effects
  • Whistle Steam effect
  • Powerful maintenance-free motor with momentum flywheel
  • Wireless Tether connection between locomotive and tender
  • ElectroCoupler on rear of tender
  • Directional lighting including operating headlight and back-up light on rear of tender
  • Illuminated classification lights on the front of locomotive
  • Traction tires
  • Fan-driven smoke unit
  • Adjustable smoke output
  • Interior illumination in cab
  • Die-cast metal locomotive body, pilot, and frame
  • Die-cast metal tender body and trucks
  • High level of separately applied metal details
  • Separately applied builder’s plates
  • Authentically detailed cab interior
  • Glowing ashpan and firebox in cab
  • Cab glass windows
  • Engineer and fireman figures
  • O-54 Minimum curve

For Nickel Plate 765′s re-release, we’ve added two nice touches to celebrate her long career in excursion service. The Nickel Plate locomotives were equipped with Mars lights during part of their service career, and 765 has carried this on excursions in the past. So you can have it both ways, we’re including an extra smokebox front with a Mars light detail. This can be substituted for the single headlight smokebox front installed. The working Mars Light is in the boiler. Also included with the 765, a certificate signed by the steam crew at the Ft Wayne Historical Society.

All of the Berkshires are being built to order quantities. MSRP for the Gold Polar Express is $1449.99. Don’t miss your chance to own this amazing locomotive! See your dealer to place an order today!

Freight Car Friday – Pressurized Covered Hoppers

11 04 2014

Covered hoppers can be used for a great variety of loads. Some of these loads can be a little stubborn when it’s time to be unloaded. Pressure differential, or more commonly referred to as simply “pressurized” covered hoppers are one of the more common modifications to facilitate unloading these commodities.

PD 3000

BCAX 10241, a NACC PD-3000 model, is on the smaller scale for pressurized covered hoppers. These can be found hauling cement, lime, talk, caustic soda and similar materials.

Pressurized covered hoppers come in all shapes and sizes. Like other conventional cars, their size and capacity is tailored to the density of the load. This maximizes payload while staying within the weight limits of the trucks. The size and number of roof hatches, angle of the slope sheets and sides of the car and size of the discharge outlets can also vary according to the specific needs of the shipper. And of course there are the different looks offered by competing car builders as well.

The one easy spotting feature for a pressurized covered hopper is the extra piping around the hopper bays used to pressurize the car and remove the contents.

DMIX 5100

DMIX 5100 is a larger, 5100 cu ft. capacity car. These commonly haul everything from flour to fly ash.

These cars are not pressurized for the entire trip. At the receiver’s siding, the cars are attached to a stationary air supply. Air flows into the car, often through outlets beneath the load, pressurizing to about 15 psi.

As the air passes through the lading, it loosens and dries the load, like the Airslide cars discussed in an earlier blog. The added pressure inside the carbody then helps push the contents out through the discharge pipes at the bottom of the hoppers and into storage silos or even waiting trucks.


The ACF Pressuraide car was the pressurized version of their popular Centerflow design. Most of the company’s leased cars could be easily identified by the blue “wings.” This car is leased to Interstate Brands.

Because the load can be pumped out through outlets on the sides of the hopper bays, no pit or conveyer system is needed. Unloading facilities can be minimal. Even an empty siding or team track can be used if the load is transferred into a truck for delivery to an offline customer. (These are easy “industries” to add to your model railroad when you’re short on space.)

Besides these offline customers, pressurized covered hoppers can be seen serving a lot of industries. Smaller cars (around 3000 cu ft. capacity) are most commonly associated with cement but there are other similar mineral loads as well. Mid range cars (4600-5100 cu ft.) haul flour, corn starch, kaolin and fly ash. The largest pressurized cars are around 5600 cu ft capacity and typically haul certain types of plastics – most commonly PVC and polystyrene – as well as cars lined for food-grade service or unlined for mineral service.

New Product Spotlight – American Flyer ES44AC

7 04 2014

6-42581 BNSF 6423 (#6438 also available)

We introduced the new American Flyer ES44AC last year as part of the Norfolk Southern Heritage Series. This year we’re bringing more paint schemes from many of this modern standard’s other operators.

Since its introduction in 2003, General Electric’s ES44AC has become a common sight on railroads all across North America. While AC traction motor-equipped locomotives are generally preferred for slower, heavy freights like coal trains, you will see these locomotives on almost any type of train. And with railroads frequently interchanging the locomotives along with the rest of the train today, it is not at all uncommon to find “foreign power” on your local line.


6-42582 Canadian Pacific 8744 (#8730 also available)

This year’s lineup of American Flyer ES44ACs will include some great names from coast to coast: BNSF, Canadian Pacific, CSX, Kansas City Southern, and Union Pacific. Powered locomotives for each roadname will be offered with two different numbers. For the KCS locomotives, one number will wear the Southern Belle scheme, the other a “what if” version of their gray paint scheme.

The American Flyer ES44AC is packed with features.


6-42584 CSX 924 (#937 also available)

  • LEGACY Control System – able to run on LEGACY, TMCC or Conventional power. The models are also DCC enabled.
  • AF Speed Control with on/off switch for maintaining an even speed through curves and grades
  • LEGACYRailSounds featuring
    • CrewTalk and TowerCom announcements with varying scenarios based on the train’s motion
    • Eight diesel RPM levels
    • LEGACY Quilling Horn
    • Single hit or continuous mechanical bell
    • Independent volume control
  • Two maintenance-free motors
  • Front and RearElectroCouplers


    6-42586 KCS 4692 (#4696 also available in gray paint)

  • Mounting holes and support plate for scale couplers (sold separately)
  • Pivoting Pilot allows for operation on tight curves with better appearance
  • Operating headlight, ditch lights, illuminated number boards and detailed cab interior
  • Traction Tires
  • Metal Frame
  • Fan-driven smoke unit
  • Die-cast metal trucks, pilots and fuel tank
  • Separately applied metal details
  • Cab window glass
  • Engineer and conductor figures

6-42589 Union Pacific 7494 (#7523 also available)

All locomotives will negotiate S-36 curves. All come with American Flyer wheels but can be switched to scale wheels which will be available separately through Lionel Customer Service.

ES44AC locomotives retail for $529.99. If you are looking for colorful modern power for your American Flyer layout, it doesn’t get any better than this.

Freight Car Friday – Spine Cars

4 04 2014

Articulated “spine cars” are a common sight on North American mainlines today as they carry trailers and containers in priority intermodal trains. While their use has exploded in recent decades, the history of this “bare bones” car goes back much further.

skeleton car

The skeleton log car was more efficient in mountain operations.

The earliest spine cars weren’t used to haul trailers or containers. In fact, they were about as far from the high-speed freight intermodal market as you could get! Used by logging companies as early as the late Nineteenth Century, the basic spine car offered a vehicle with a minimum light weight and easy unloading of large logs.

Simple to build, these cars were not much more than trucks and a center frame or “spine.” Cross beams over the truck helped support the log loads. Stacked and chained down at the logging camp, once the logs arrived at the mill unloading was a simple matter of unbuckling the chains and tipping or pushing the logs off and into the mill pond.

front runner

The Front Runner took minimal design to the limits – or maybe just a bit too far beyond them. One example was literally plucked from the scrap line for preservation at the Museum of Transportation in St Louis.

Eliminating the cost, weight and maintenance of a flatcar deck made sense in this service. It would be many decades however before the idea found a practical use in common carrier rail lines.

The first uses of spine cars in intermodal service began in the late 1960s with projects like the Clejan car on the New Haven and Southern Pacific and the better-known Flexi-Van cars on the New York Central and several other railroads. Like the logging spine cars, the basic premise behind these designs was to reduce the weight and cost, and inefficiencies of the flatcars currently used in Trailer on Flatcar service.


A 5-unit spine car loaded with 53′ domestic containers is a contemporary staple. This car can also carry trailers.

These pioneering spine cars were similar in length to the longer flatcars then in service for hauling trailers, 75 feet. Of course you couldn’t load these cars the same way you’d load a conventional flatcar, and therein lay the real drawback to the designs. The FlexiVan car used a turntable on the spine to pivot the container load so that no special cranes were needed. But this had its own set of problems from extra maintenance and complexity on the cars to a need for empty chassis at each terminal. For the efficiencies of the cars to be realized, railroads would also have to redesign the terminals and purchase new equipment to load and unload the spines.

As intermodal trains continued to evolve into longer-haul services from fewer dedicated hubs in the 1970s, the climate improved for alternatives to the flatcar and conventional “circus style” loading. In the 1980s, the first new spine car to have a major impact was the “Front Runner” – a single unit car whose construction took minimization to the extreme. The central spine had two platforms attached at one end to support the trailer’s wheels. It rode on two axles with only 28″ wheels to lower the total height. The cars were light – too light – and were prone to derailments, especially when running empty and mixed in with heavier, traditional equipment.

trash spine

Although normally thought of for traditional intermodal containers and trailers, specialized spine cars can be found in waste container service as well.

The advantages of this reduced design were apparent however and railroads, car builders and Trailer Train all partnered to bring new designs to the rails. By the end of the 1980s, the five-unit articulated spine car emerged as the new standard. Articulation allowed use of conventional trucks while further reducing weight and coupler slack in a train. While some early spine cars were trailer only or container only, dual-capacity cars soon emerged for greater flexibility and fleet utilization.

Since then, the overall form of these cars has changed little. The most consistent change was an ever-increasing length of the individual cars to accommodate longer trailers. Today both three and five-unit cars are common. Together with the double-stack container well cars, these platforms form the “backbone” of the North American intermodal fleet.

New Product Spotlight – Lionel Junction Starter Sets

31 03 2014

Looking for an affordable way to get a child started with electric trains? Look no further than Lionel’s four new Lionel Junction starter sets! Featuring the LionChief Remote control and sounds, we’ve designed these fun sets to stir the imagination and invite interactive play.

Little Steam

6-81286 Lionel Junction “Little Steam” Set

From dinosaur adventures to pet rescues, kids will love developing their own worlds and stories around these trains. These sets are designed for easy assembly and operation so your young engineers can get right to the fun. And while you get everything you need to get started, these sets are designed to grow as your children look for new adventures.

LionChief Remote


The LionChief Remote is easy to use and filled with fun features.

All four of these sets feature the LionChief Remote control system. There is no complicated wiring – just plug the wall pack into the track and your home outlet. The hand-held remote control includes speed and direction in one knob with three buttons for the whistle, bell and fun sounds customized to each train.

Each set, like all of our other LionChief Remote sets, has its own radio frequency. This means you can run multiple trains on the same track without any extra wiring! You can also run your set engines on other layouts that use conventional or command control – making these the perfect starter set for families with existing layouts as well. All these engines need is 18 volts of AC or DC power and their remote control.

Easy Assembly


6-81031 Lionel Junction Dinosaur Diesel Set

A circle of FasTrack is provided to get you started. This track snaps together quickly and easily and will stay locked together. Safe for operation on a platform or on the floor – even carpet – you don’t need a large dedicated space for the train. When you’re finished, simply pull the sections apart until next time. FasTrack can be put together and taken apart hundreds of times without failure.

Additional straights, curves, switches, crossings and accessory tracks are all available separately to expand your set.

With the track together, just plug in the power supply and you’re ready to go! The cars of these sets are equipped with two-wheel trucks and fixed couplers so they’ll be easy for small hands to put on the rails and couple yet sturdy enough for trouble-free play.

Designed to Grow

tank car

An add-on tank car is available for each set.

Sets can be combined with each other and with add-on track sections to create larger and more elaborate track plans.

You can also expand the trains with additional cars. An add-on tank car is available to match each of these sets. These will work with all other O Gauge trains as well.

Diesel Sets

Our two diesel-powered sets, 6-81031 Dinosaur Diesel and 6-81288 Pet Shop Express, include all of the following:

pet shop

6-81288 Pet Shop Express

  • Vulcan diesel switcher with
    • LionChief Remote control
    • Powerful maintenance-free motor
    • Diesel engine sounds and user-activated horn, bell and special dinosaur / animal sounds
    • Separately applied bell and ladder details
    • Working headlight
    • Fixed couplers
    • Traction tire
    • Sturdy plastic construction
  • Boxcar
  • Gondola with removable loads (dinosaur eggs and figures / animal figures)
  • Bobber Caboose
    • All cars feature metal wheels and fixed couplers
  • Circle (approx. 40″ outside diameter) of FasTrack
  • Wall Pack plug-in power supply
  • Remote Control (requires three AAA batteries – not included)

Steam Sets

Our two steam-powered sets, 6-81286 Lionel Junction and 6-81287 Union Pacific, include all of the following:


6-81287 Lionel Junction Union Pacific Set

  • “Kickapoo” steam locomotive with
    • LionChief Remote control
    • Powerful maintenance-free motor
    • Steam engine sounds and user-activated whistle, bell and special announcements
    • Separately applied bell and whistle details
    • Fixed couplers
    • Traction Tire
    • Stamped metal frame
    • Sturdy plastic construction
  • Boxcar
  • Gondola
  • Bobber Caboose
    • All cars feature metal wheels and fixed couplers
  • Circle (approx. 40″ outside diameter) of FasTrack
  • Wall Pack plug-in power supply
  • Remote Control (requires three AAA batteries – not included)

Each set has a retail price of $174.95. There has never been a better time to get started with Lionel Trains! See your favorite dealer to place orders today.


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