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!

New Product Spotlight – Early Berkshires

9 04 2012

As our recent “Motive Power Madness” popularity contest on Facebook proved, the Lima Berkshire is one amazing machine. Today, the Berk’s legacy is secured by the many examples of the later production locomotives that have been preserved from the C&O, Pere Marquette and of course the Nickel Plate Road. And the locomotive that introduced “Super Power” has also invited a new generation of rail fans through its role in The Polar Express.


Lima No. 1 set records and sold locomotives everywhere she went. The locomotive was sold to the Illinois Central after her tours.

The Lima Super Power concept was a proven mechanical success from the earliest tests of their new 2-8-4 locomotives in the Berkshire Mountains of New England on the New York Central, and Boston and Albany in 1924. By enlarging the firebox, hence the need for a four-wheel trailing truck, the locomotives could generate and maintain greater steam pressure. The 2-8-4 was designed as a replacement for the Mikado (2-8-2). In one test, the prototype locomotive was matched against a Mikado between Selkirk and North Adams. The Berk departed 45 minutes behind with a heavier train – and arrived 10 minutes ahead of its rival. Used in fast freight service, the locomotives were a natural on produce, livestock and mail trains. The extra power gave them what they needed to maintain a tight schedule even over rugged grades. But their design was also compact enough to make them perfect for the tighter clearances of the Northeast.


The first Berk's were more function than form. The Coffin feed water heater did little to improve upon the locomotive's looks.

Despite the famous looks of the later Berks built for the Van Swerigan roads, the first 2-8-4s were a bit less visually balanced. Perhaps the biggest visual change were the feed water heaters on the smokebox fronts. The Coffin feed water heater especially is, frankly, not designed for aesthetics. Still, even if the styling had room for improvement, their service record was impressive from the start.

Lionel’s LEGACY Models

Santa Fe

While we traditionally think of the Berkshire as an eastern locomotive, the largest fleet was owned by the Santa Fe (91 locomotives.)

Lionel’s 2012 release of the Berkshire captures the unique look of these earlier locomotives. In addition to the New England Roads, the early orders for the Illinois Central, and Santa Fe are also represented along with the demonstrator itself, so these locomotives will look right at home on railroads anywhere from the Atlantic to the Pacific.

Boston and Albany

No history of the Berkshire would be complete without the Boston and Albany.

The Berkshires are LEGACY equipped, with all of the control, bells and quillable whistles you’ve come to expect. Sounds also include crew dialog including speed and fuel announcements and sequence control to narrate an entire trip. Additionally, they feature both smoke and whistle steam effects, directional headlight and tender back-up light, firebox flicker, lighted number boards and cab interior. These Berks are packed with details including the correct Coffin or Elesco feed water heaters.

The 2-8-4 will negotiate an O-54 curve and retails for $1249.99. Available in the following road names:

Illinois Central

In addition to the original demonstrator, the Illinois Central purchased 50 Berkshires early.

  • 6-11386 Boston and Maine
  • 6-11387 Santa Fe
  • 6-11388 Southern Pacific
  • 6-11389 Boston and Albany
  • 6-11390 Lima Demonstrator
  • 6-11391 Illinois Central
  • 6-11392 Michigan Central

It’s no surprise that most railroads who saw the Berkshire in action quickly ordered some for themselves – we think you’ll want to do the same!

New Product Spotlight – 726 Berkshire Sets

12 12 2011

New for 2012, in our Conventional Classics line, comes the return of the fabulous 726 Berkshire in two sets straight from Lionel’s post-war years. The Berkshire is back with a rugged Pullmor motor, Magne-Traction and conventional transformer control. The super-detailed 2-8-4 also features a working headlight, synchronized puffing smoke and an electronic whistle and bell.

No. 2129WS Freight Set

Berkshire Sets

Look for these two exciting sets in 2012.

From the 1947 catalog comes this action-packed freight train sure to bring out the kid in you. The train includes three freight cars and a caboose. The highlight of the set is the long-desired operating merchandise car. Load packages manually through the roof hatch and unload them with the push of a button. The car includes a sturdy plastic (not Bakelite!) carbody, metal doors and, like the rest of the cars, metal trucks and operating couplers. Six crates and an unloading bin are also included.

Trailing behind the merchandise car comes a metal flatcar with log load and a metal Sunoco tank car decorated in black as it appeared in the original catalog art, with a lighted SP-style caboose bringing up the rear. No doubt you could have hours of fun with this train!

No. 2146WS Madison Passenger Set

Take advantage of the Berkshire’s speed with this classic passenger train. Back from the 1949 catalog, this set includes three Irvington-series cars. The cars, No. 2625 “Irvington,” 2627 “Madison,” and 2628 “Manhattan,” all feature die-cast metal 6-wheel trucks, metal ends and interior lights. It will make a nice complement to any post-war layout.

Look for these exciting sets at your dealer in 2012, and recapture a little bit of Lionel’s history!