New Product Spotlight – Victorian Christmas LionChief Set

7 07 2014

How about a little Christmas in July? Lionel’s complete new 2014 Christmas Catalog is available for viewing on our website. Here’s a look at one of our new sets to get you thinking about this year’s Christmas train display!

Victorian ChristmasUsing our Hall Class 4-6-0, this new set brings all the charm of an English Victorian Christmas home. (For more background on the actual locomotives, see this earlier blog on our new Albert Hall set!) This train will be a natural complement to many of the Christmas village collectables as part of a larger display.

The set includes a LionChief-controlled “Saint Nicholas” Hall Class 4-6-0 and tender, two coaches, a combination car, wall-pack power supply, remote control, and a 40 x 60 inch oval of FasTrack with eight O-36 curves, three 10 inch straight and one plug-in terminal track. Adding to the fun, the train plays British Christmas music in addition to its train sounds!


6-81280 The Victorian Christmas set includes a locomotive, tender and three matching passenger cars.

This new Lionel set captures the graceful lines of these beautiful trains beset with all the warmth and charm of Christmas’ past. Controlled by the LionChief Remote, the new train is easy to control and comes with many great features:

  • Electric locomotive controlled by remote


    The LionChief Remote puts all of the controls in the palm of your hand.

  • Operating headlight
  • Puffing smoke with ON/OFF switch
  • RailSounds RC with steam chuffing and background sounds, whistle, bell and user-activated announcements
  • ON/OFF switch for steam chuff and background sounds (all other sounds are only activated by pressing the buttons)
  • Operating coupler on rear of tender
  • Maintenance-free motor
  • Cab window “glass”
  • Die-cast metal locomotive body and tender frame
  • Two traction tires
  • Separately applied details including buffers, coupler air lines, brake stands, marker lamps and valve gear

The user-friendly LionChief remote features a single forward/reverse/speed control knob and three separate buttons for the whistle, bell and announcements. The sounds for this set will have a distinctly British flair, from the shrill whistle to the Christmas music selection. The remote requires three AAA batteries, not included.

Retail for the set is $399.99. See you local Lionel dealer to order one today!


Happy Thanksgiving

28 11 2013

Happy Thanksgiving from all of us at Lionel!


We are all thankful for every one of our loyal and passionate fans. From our biggest collectors to those of you who have just discovered the fun of toy trains for the first time, we share the smiles every time you open a blue and orange box. And whether we’ve met here online or in person at shows, open houses and conventions, your stories and enthusiasm have always made Lionel a special place.  We hope you all enjoy a Thanksgiving filled with family, joy and peace and we look forward to another busy month and year ahead!

A Visit to the San Diego 3-Railers

14 02 2013

As soon as San Diego was announced as one of this year’s stops on the World’s Greatest Hobby Tour, I knew I would have to make some time for a visit to the San Diego 3 Railers and the other great clubs and layouts at the San Diego Model Railroad Museum. This public museum is like nothing else in the country and a must-see for anyone visiting southern California.

A Club Within a Museum

SD3R layout

The San Diego 3 Railers’ layout is a sight to behold.

The San Diego 3-Railers are one of four clubs who call the San Diego Model Railroad Museum home. This large museum is located in one of the public buildings in Balboa Park. Each club is its own entity, much like many local clubs, with one big exception. These clubs are all open to the public six days a week.

The Museum is governed by a board of directors made up of two representative from each club as well as other community leaders. A Director and small paid staff handle the general operations and public relations for the museum as a whole. Each club maintains their own membership and has their own layout, plans and goals.


The room features day and night lighting.

Visitors are given the unique opportunity to not only see trains running on a multitude of layouts and scales (two HO, O 2-rail, N and of course O 3-rail) but also watch as these layouts progress and grow over time. The museum and clubs also allow the public to view work sessions after public hours. Such was the case for our visit. For more information on the Museum and it’s hours of operations, see their website.

Doing It Right


The layout features beautiful scenery throughout, and many scenes typical of California like this oil refinery.

Being open to the public so much, the club has incorporated many family friendly features. One of the first things you’ll notice is the finished appearance of not only the layout, but the entire 42′ x 44′ room.

Wood panels with display cases and framed Angela Trotta Thomas art line two of the walls. The trains and prints change seasonally. The layout too is nicely finished with no bare benchwork, wiring or even unfinished scenery showing. As impressive as it all is, it is hard to imagine that it was all completed in about two years!

snow scene

Parts of the layout change with the seasons.

But that doesn’t mean the layout is finished or doesn’t change. The club has incorporated a scenery panel in one prominent corner of the layout that changes with each season.

Other scenes are being refinished or added to all the time. No model railroad is ever finished! And since the club members supply their own trains, you could visit every day and see something different running.

dino dig

Fun scenes like this dinosaur dig fill the layout.

Four loops offer continuous running. The long mainlines offer club members a chance to run big power and long trains. Just about anything can show up.

There are plenty of fun things for the kids too. A push button-operated train is hugely popular with kids. There are lots of fun things placed around the layout for them to find too, like a dinosaur dig, baseball game, miniature trains and more. A camera car provides an engineer’s eye view of the layout.


The layout even features the Lionel factory!

Speaking of cameras, the club runs live feeds of the layout on their website. The camera feed runs when the club is open and you never know what you’ll see.

The club is committed to making this great hobby accessible to everyone. From the inviting nature of the club room and volunteers to Saturday programs for kids and outreach at local shows, the San Diego 3 Railers are excellent ambassadors for the hobby. And with 125,000 visitors a year, they must be doing something right!


Beautiful display cabinets, made by one of the club members, line two of the walls.

The next time you are in southern California, you owe it to yourself to pay them a visit. It is a trip you will not soon forget. I want to extend my personal thanks to club president Jon Everett and all of the others who went out of their way to show us around during our visit. Your hospitality helped us feel right at home. Great people, great club, great layout – I know I’ll be back!

Check out a little video of the layout in action! This clip is courtesy of the San Diego 3 Railers and is part of a wonderful DVD which outlines the mission, history and construction of the club. It is available for sale through the club themselves. 

World’s Greatest Hobby!

27 12 2012

Christmas may have passed, but there is no reason to put those trains away yet! Trains and model railroads are a hobby that can be enjoyed all year-long. In fact, they’re the World’s Greatest Hobby!

Why? There is much more to building a train layout than putting together a circle of track and watching the train run ’round and ’round. The hobby has many different facets, and can develop many talents you never knew you had. It gives you a chance to express your creative side, and study the world around us. It’s a hobby that can be shared by the entire family and brings out the kid in all of us.


New product displays are just the beginning!

Every year, the World’s Greatest Hobby Show goes on tour to new cities across the United States to showcase the best of what this hobby has to offer. This is more than just a train show. It is a chance to meet the manufacturers, learn new skills, connect with local model clubs and groups in your area and just have fun! There will be operating layouts, clinics and lots of things for kids to enjoy.

modular railroad

Our Modular Railroad will be a learning experience for all.

And of course we’ll be there too! This year, we’ll be doing something new in our booth. In addition to displays of our new products and an operating layout, we’ll be conducting some demonstrations of our own using our new FasTrack Modular Layout. At each show, we’ll be completing the scenery on one of our unfinished modules so you can see first hand how easy it is to transform your train platform into whatever you desire.

These modules are a great way to get started in the hobby. But you can use the skills we’ll be showing on any layout. We’ll take lots of pictures too so after the shows we can post instructions here on the blog for those who can’t make it.

Here are the five stops on the 2013 tour. Don’t see one near you? Don’t worry, we’ll be on the road again to different cities next year! For more information, see the World’s Greatest Hobby Show website.


One of our operating display layouts will be on hand too.

  • January 5-6, Fort Worth, Texas  Will Rogers Memorial Center
  • January 12-13, St. Louis, Missouri  America’s Center
  • February 9-10, San Diego, California  Del Mar Fairgrounds
  • February 22-23, Sacramento, California  Cal-Expo
  • March 2-3, San Francisco, California  San Mateo County Event Center

Whether you’re a seasoned model railroader or have never been to a show before, these are great events. We hope to see you there!

Second Annual Lionel Customer Service Open House

31 07 2012

Lionel Customer Service, in Canfield, OH, will be hosting its second annual open house on Saturday August 18th, 2012 from 9am to 4pm EDT. Don’t miss your chance to see inside this amazing facility and take part in some fun programs, raffles and discounts.


Come see the Service Center for yourself!

You’ll see our inventory of more than 110,000 individual parts bins, the workrooms, and of course the massive test layout! Our facility is now even bigger than it was last year. Best of all, you’ll have the opportunity to meet and ask questions to our staff – who truly make Lionel Customer Service the best in the business.

Visitors will have the opportunity to see all the improvements we have made in Customer Service, as well as participate in the following activities:

  • Tours of our facility
  • See how part lists are created
  • Demonstrations on
    • Lionel LEGACY Control System operation
    • Periodic maintenance of locomotives
  • Door Prizes and Product Raffles!

Parts inventory – just one row of many.

Water will be provided free of charge and food vendors will be on site all day! The day will also include a raffle for several new Lionel products (must be present to enter, not to win). Raffle products will be on display day of the open house. No purchase necessary!

Those who attend the Open House will be able to take advantage of a 50% discount on part purchases on August 18th (must be present to receive 50% discount).

For those customers who are unable to attend the Open House, we are offering a 35% discount on all on-line part orders at on August 18th from 12:01am to 11:59pm.

Meet the people who make us the best at what we do.

Please make arrangements to join us for this exciting day! Our facility is located just minutes off the Ohio State Turnpike, and within a 30 minute drive of some great train watching locations across eastern Ohio and western Pennsylvania. Abundant lodging and food are also available nearby.

Lionel Customer Service

6655 Seville Dr

Canfield, OH 44406

(586) 949-4100

LEGACY Software 1.4 Available for Download

22 05 2012

For those of you who obtained the black memory module and have the LSU on your computer, you can now download the zip file containing the base and cab-2 hex files for version 1.4 software. Pages 4 and 5 in the new manual (also included in the zip file) highlight the improvements in version 1.4 versus 1.3.

Lionel will not be mailing out 1.4 modules. They are available in one of three ways:

  1. If you recently purchased a LEGACY 6-14295 No. 990 set, it came with 1.4 modules from the factory.
  2. If you plan to purchase the ZW-L, it will include a set of 1.4 modules
  3. Download the LSU Freeware in conjunction with the black memory module (6-37125, available through dealers) and download 1.4 from this link:


All future LEGACY software upgrades will be presented in this same format; a downloadable zip file, accessed from the Lionel website, specifically under the product number of the LEGACY set (6-14295). Use the Product Finder to quickly access the files, clicking on “Software Update”. Then just click on the file and select “save.” Once downloaded you can unzip the file and access the contents.

The 1.4 zip file includes the following:

  • BASEv1.4 – hex; this is the hex file for the base
  • CAB-2v1.4-hex; this is the hex file for the cab
  • Manual.pdf; version 1.4 manual (including new pages outlining the differences between 1.3)

Freight Car Friday – Moving the Mail

13 04 2012

The connections between railroads and the mail go back nearly to the begining of rail service. The first recorded transport was made in the United Kingdom in 1830. The responsibility for carrying the mail was a primary factor in the awarding of public funds to build many early lines. Later, the mail contracts would become the financial boost necessary to help maintain many passenger services. Carrying the mail meant fast schedules, reliable service and hard work.

The Railway Post Office

mail crane

The mail crane held the rugged pouch between a pair of spring-loaded arms. They were common at small towns and "whistle stops" all across the country.

For the first decade of transporting the mail, that is all the railroads did. Mail was picked up at small towns, taken to sorting centers, then taken back.  In 1838, mail would be sorted for the first time on the train in a car on the UK’s Grand Juntion Railway. It was the birth of the RPO, or Railway Post Office. The Hannibal and St. Joseph Railroad in Missouri became the first in the United States in 1862. Mail picked up in towns was sorted by clerks as the train rolled on. At each stop, more mail came on and sorted mail was dropped off.

As service grew faster, trains didn’t even have to stop at every small town to move the mail. In a simultaneous blur of motion, outbound sacks of mail would be kicked to the station platform while the clerk held out the steel arm which would catch the inbound sachel. First patented in 1865, the mail crane and hook became more than just a tool, they became an iconic symbol of the golden age of railroading.

Onboard the RPO, clerks stood at sorting desks facing a rack of hundreds of “pigeon holes” which held letters for each town. Letters spread out of the table before them, they grabbed envelopes and swiftly moved them to the right box – often using two hands at the same time. As stations were called out, the mail was collected from the box, placed in a heavy sack and prepared for delivery. Seconds later, a new bag was open and spread out in front of them.

To make the cars as efficient as possible, the Post Office developed standard sets of plans. No matter what the car looked like on the outside or which railroad name was on the letterboard, inside they were all the same. Even the pigeon holes themselves were fitted with a four-sided name tag at the front of each box. This way a car could be used on four different routes by only resetting the names – not replacing every tag. A rack for the mail bags filled the center of the car. At one end, a very small bathroom facility and in the early years, a coal fired stove. The windows of the RPO were often protected by steel bars or with safety glass. Every RPO clerk was required to carry a gun and know how to use it. Security of the mail was never taken lightly.

Not only did the mail contain valuables, it also carried personal stories and letters which bring a different sort of value. One of the lesser known personal “tails” of the Railway Postal Service was their unofficial mascot – a scruffy little dog named “Owney.” You can read more about this heartwarming personal side of the story through the National Postal Museum, or a recently published book, A Lucky Dog: Owney, U.S. Rail Mail Mascot. (You’re children will love it as much as you do!)

The Mail Train

It was not uncommon to find an RPO on many different types of trains. From small branchline runs that used combination post-office / passenger / baggage cars to accomplish many tasks, to dedicated RPOs on famous trains like the Broadway Limited, to dedicated mail runs which included not only an active RPO, but also many cars loaded with presorted mail.


An RPO was the first car in the Pennsylvania's Broadway Limited. No matter how much streamlining was applied to the outside, inside these cars had the same floor plan as any other.

Traditionally, RPOs and other express cars were placed at the front, or head-end of the train. For this reason, mail and express was often referred to on the rails simply as “head-end traffic” regardless of where the cars were in the train. One reason for this was passenger safety. In the event of a collission, the cars at the front of the train were most likely to sustain damage. Another was efficiency. It was much faster to couple and uncouple these cars from the front of the train at the beginning, end, or at intermdediate stops on the run. It was not uncommon however to occassionally find “head end” cars attached to the back for the same reason.

Bulk Mail

Not all mail needed to be sorted along the way. There was often enough mail moving between major cities to justify complete dedicated carloads – or even trains. This “storage mail” could ride in baggage cars or express boxcars. Express boxcars were equipped with passenger car trucks and steam lines so that they could be used in passenger consists and travel smoothly at passenger train speeds. In addition to mail for the Post Office, these trains also carried parcel express traffic for companies like the Railway Express Agency. We’ll cover these cars more in another blog.


Although lettered as a Railway Post Office, cars like this American Flyer boxcar carried bulk mail, but didn't sort it.

Although the last RPO run was made in 1977 between Washington D.C. and New York, bulk mail continues to travel by rail today. This mail usually includes lower-priority mail like magazines, catalogs, etc. Despite the efficiency of moving mail by rail, it can’t compete with the speed of an airplane. For many years, Amtrak continued to haul the mail in special “Material Handling Cars,” baggage cars and express boxcars. Other mail contracts have gone to freight railroads that move the bulk mail in trailers aboard priority intermodal trains. These expedited moves still cary the fastest schedules on the rails.

Air Mail

The advent of the airplane spelled the beginning of the end for railway mail service. At first, railroads tried to find cooperative ventures, and even helped start some airlines to move priority mail. The Illinois Central even tried an exchange between a moving train and a blimp in 1938 – but not surprisingly that idea never really “took off.”

By the 1950s, the speed of air travel and the growing efficiencies of highway transport were taking a huge bite into the railroads’ revenues, and the mail was no exception. Mail contracts kept some passenger trains in the black and on the schedule years longer than they would have survived otherwise, but ultimately the faster technology would win.