New Product Spotlight – Milwaukee S-3

21 11 2011

Milwaukee Road No. 261 is certainly one of the most seen mainline steam locomotives in recent history. In fact, her excursion career has already been longer than her original service run!


The new LEGACY models capture the smooth yet powerful lines of the S-3 class.

The Milwaukee Road’s S-3 class of Northerns (4-8-4s) were ordered to meet the extreme demands of World War II traffic and arrived in 1944. All were built as coal burners, five were later converted to oil. Unlike the road’s previous Northerns, the S-3’s were built by ALCo, who touted their modernity as the “last word in 4-8-4 design.” Those words would be somewhat prophetic, but probably not for the reasons ALCo suggested.

261 smokebox

There's no mistaking the 261 from the front. The Lionel model features a working Mars light and a non-operating, but positionable drop coupler.

The S-3s were assigned to both freight and passenger service, especially on passenger trains of 12 cars or more. As modern and efficient as they were however, the Northerns were no match for the new diesel-electrics that would become available again as soon as the war was over. Retirement began in 1954, and all ten were off the active roster by 1956. Like so many other great steam locomotives of the 1940s, the S-3’s time in the sun was brief.

261 running gear

Lionel's models capture the Northern's powerful running gear and pistons - with steam effects no less.

Two of the class were set aside for preservation however. No. 261 became the first locomotive in the National Railroad Museum in Green Bay. No. 265 traveled to the Illinois Railway Museum in Union. No. 261’s fate was forever changed in 1991 when North Star Rail went searching for a modern steam locomotive to restore to service for mainline excursion runs. A 4-8-4 capable of pulling long passenger trains, equipped with roller bearings and other “modern” devices – and with a boiler that had only seen 10 years of service – what more could you ask for?

The restoration was completed 2 years later. Her excursion career has taken the 261 from Pennsylvania to celebrate Steamtown’s opening to pulling BNSF employee specials, to teaming up with Canadian Pacific steam and more. Now owned by the non-profit Friends of the 261, she is currently undergoing continued overhaul but will soon be again pulling her matched consist of Milwaukee Road-colored passenger cars to the delight of fans everywhere.

The LEGACY Model

boiler details

The high level of realism on the entire engine extends to the smallest details on top of the boiler and sandbox.

For such a famous face, Lionel committed to making the most authentic model possible. The all new LEGACY S-3 is an impressive beast of an engine. Equipped with LEGACY control and sounds, there will be no mistaking this engine with both its steam whistle and single-chime air horn. And in addition to chuffing smoke, you also get cylinder steam effects. The hefty locomotive will have no problem pulling a 12+ car passenger train like the prototype, and she’ll be right at home on a long freight too. Our wireless tether to the tender, plus a new self-adjusting drawbar will make the connection between loco and tender the most realistic it’s ever been.

261 Tender

With a self-retracting drawbar, your tender will always remain as close as possible to the engine.

And of course you get all of the other features and quality that you’ve come to expect from Lionel’s LEGACY engines: directional headlights, marker lights, Mars light, cab, firebox and ashpan lighting, amazing backhead detail, and more separately applied detail castings than we can list.

No. 261 is ready for freight, passenger or excursion service on your layout. No. 267 is also available for those who’d like to model the S-3 fleet in its prime. They’ll negotiate O-54 curves. MSRP is $994.99 and they should be blasting into a dealer near you very soon.



3 responses

14 04 2012
Edward Vaughn

How do I turn the red mars light off? It is my understanding that it was only used in passenger service at station stops to warn other trains that people might be crossing the tracks

16 04 2012

The mars light function can’t be controlled. We are working on a module upgrade that will change that however. I’ll post more information when it is available.

21 11 2014
Kyle Deschner

Have you guys done any module upgrade for the mars light?

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