In a first for the Lionel RailRoaders Club, Lionel LLC is raising the bar for its exclusive club offerings with a limited run special edition of the K4s. The Tuscan Red K4s is certainly one of the great “firestarters” among fans of the Pennsy – bringing about a debate more fierce than that over the debt ceiling. Did they really do it? If so, to how many? For how long?
Here’s what we know: 1) There are lots of experts on the subject, but very little in the way of hard truth. 2) Regardless of whether it actually happened, this locomotive would have looked sharp wisking the Red Arrow along the Broad Way. If we can’t travel back in time to see it for real, we can at least get there in our miniature worlds.
Now for the much-debated story… In the 1930s, the PRR painted as many as 10 K4s to promote the improved service on the Red Arrow between New York and Detroit. In the most definitive secondary sources on the subject, Pennsy Power and The Many Faces of the K4, Alvin Staufer states that there were ten and can confirm Nos. 2769, 5409 and 5436. Color photography was in its infancy in the 1930s, and although some claims have been made at seeing color photos, none have ever been made public. Neither have any official confirmation records been unearthed in any of the extensive PRR archives, now scattered about the Northeast.
Is it possible? Certainly. Despite being crippled by the Great Depression, the PRR was still investing heavily in its physical plant. The railroad was also doing everything it could to promote its passenger services. Although the first streamlined K4s wasn’t introduced until 1936, followed by the famed “Fleet of Modernism” in 1938. An earlier and more modest attempt such as painting some of the K4’s red would seem very plausible. After all, in 1927 the rival B&O had debuted their famous “President” Pacifics in olive green. Even the “Standard Railroad of the World” made exceptions.
The historical debate will certainly rage on for years to come. But you can have your piece of Tuscan history (or mystery) this fall. A very limited run of No. 5409 will be produced in both Legacy and Conventional models and available exclusively through the LRRC. Not a member? Join today and start taking advantage of all of the great benefits of membership. And look forward to future special releases in the near future!