New Product Spotlight – American Flyer Waffle-side Boxcars

23 06 2014

A new boxcar is coming to the American Flyer line this year – the waffle-side boxcar! A similar car has been available in O Gauge for many years. Now S Gaugers can enjoy this distinctive car as well.


6-48855 American Flyer Lines

The prototype for this car is a Pullman Standard design built for many railroads from the mid 1960s to 1970s. This era saw a variety of bright color schemes and graphics – some of which certainly provided plenty of headaches to the paint shops that had to apply them over those lumpy side sheets! The cars are similar in overall dimensions and design to the company’s standard and incredibly popular 50′ PS-1 boxcar.


6-48856 New Haven

The many corrugations which give the cars their nicknames provide room on the interior of the car for anchoring straps and tie downs. Looking at the car from the inside, all of these load restraints fit into pockets between the side posts and give a smooth interior wall which maximizes the loading space and reduces damage to both the loads and tie-downs. For a more detailed look at waffle-side boxcars, see this earlier Freight Car Friday post!

The new American Flyer models debut in three roadnames: American Flyer Lines, New Haven and Chicago and Northwestern. The cars feature

  • 6-48857

    6-48857 Chicago and Northwestern

    All new body tooling

  • Opening doors
  • Metal frame
  • Die-cast metal trucks
  • Operating couplers

The trucks will use traditional American Flyer wheels and will operate around S-36 curves. Suggested retail on the cars is $49.99 each. See your local Lionel dealer to order yours today!

New Product Spotlight – LionChief Plus Diesels

12 05 2014

Lionel’s new LionChief Plus steam locomotives have quickly earned a reputation for their power, features and easy operation. Soon diesel fans will have comparable choices for their railroads as well! The new LionChief Plus GP-7 and RS-3 will offer amazing performance and value on two of the most common early road-switcher locomotives.

Prototype History


LionChief Plus RS-3 pre-production sample.

In the 1940s, a new type of diesel locomotive was coming to the rails. Alco was the first to introduce the “road switcher” with its RS-1 model in 1941. The locomotive was essentially a stretched switcher with a small hood added to the back of the cab and larger trucks. The short hood offered room for a steam generator or dynamic brakes.

The new road switcher was a true jack-of-all-trades, capable of handling freight or passenger trains on the mainline, branch lines or in the yard. The narrow hoods offered better visibility from the cab in either direction and easier access for maintenance. Although few could have predicted it in 1941, the basic standard for the future of the diesel locomotive had been born.


LionChief Plus GP7 pre-production sample

EMD countered the RS-1 with its “General Purpose” GP7 in 1949. The new “Geeps” were just what the railroads needed to replace their steam locomotives and orders were strong. In 1950 Alco unveiled their third version, the RS-3. EMD’s updated GP9 came in 1954. Together, the new road switchers made it possible for railroads to replace nearly all of their steam locomotives by the end of the decade. While EMD greatly outsold the competition, both models have maintained a good reputation and many examples of each can still be found at work today.


6-38779 New York Central RS-3

LionChief Plus Locomotives

Like the prototypes, the new LionChief Plus diesels should be the perfect fit on many railroads – though thankfully in our world there is no need to retire your steam!

With its LionChief™ Remote they can run on layouts powered by the LionChief™ wall pack, a conventional transformer (set to 18V) or a Command Control system. Flip a switch on the locomotive and you can run it conventionally with a transformer as well. (For more information on the LionChief™ Plus control system and how it relates to others, see this earlier blog.)


6-38827 Burlington GP7

It’s not just the control system that sets the new LionChief™ Plus locomotives apart. Like the LionChief Plus steam locomotives, these new diesels are excellent pullers. Our test samples had no trouble taking 35 scale freight cars on our layout, including up a FasTrack grade.

These new diesels are packed with features including:

  • User selected operation – Conventional AC transformer control or LionChief™ Wireless Remote (included)

    DRGW RS-3

    6-38819 Rio Grande RS-3

  • RailSounds RC™ with diesel revving and background sounds, horn, bell and user activated announcements
  • Fan-driven smoke operates low at idle and increases when the locomotive is in motion
  • Speed Control maintains a constant speed on curves and grades automatically
  • ElectroCouplers on each end controlled by the remote
  • Operating headlights

    UP GP7

    6-38825 Union Pacific GP7

  • Maintenance-free motors
  • Die-cast pilots and trucks
  • Stamped metal frame
  • Lighted cab interior
  • Engineer and fireman figures
  • Traction Tires

The LionChief™ Plus RS-3 will be available in Chicago and Northwestern, Denver and Rio Grande, New York Central and Pennsylvania.


6-38824 Northern Pacific GP7

The GP7 will come decorated for the Burlington, Northern Pacific, Santa Fe and Union Pacific. The LionChief remote is preprogrammed specifically for each locomotive. You can have one of each on your layout – or any number of the other LionChief™ or LionChief™ Plus locomotives – without a signal conflict.

The new locomotives will retail for $329.99. See your local Lionel dealer to place your order today. The diesels should be available by mid Summer.


Freight Car Friday – Railroads of Milwaukee

2 11 2012

We’re off to Trainfest in Milwaukee this week, so what better time to look at some of the classic fallen flags that have called this city home?

Milwaukee Road

Milwaukee Road

Despite multiple mergers, the bold graphics of later Milwaukee Road cars remain highly visible today.

When you think Milwaukee, Hiawatha’s and rib-sided boxcars probably come to mind right after that other bubbly industry that made the city famous. The Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul and Pacific, better known simply as the Milwaukee Road, had one of the most unique freight car fleets in the midwest.

Perhaps the most distinctive were its home-built cars which included the unique boxcars and cabooses with horizontal stiffening “ribs” on the exterior. These cars traveled the country from the 1940s to the 1980s.

The Milwaukee’s distinctive look began to fade in 1986 when it was merged into the Soo Line, which today is part of CP Rail. Still, decades after the merger you can still find billboard-lettered covered hoppers and even the occasional boxcar roaming the rails in regular service.

Chicago and North Western

The Milwaukee Road’s biggest competitor in its hometown was the Chicago and Northwestern. The C&NW operated both freight and passenger service into and out of the city.


The C&NW offered a rich mix of priority freight, passenger and heavy mineral trains through the region.

Like other roads of the region, the CNW served the agricultural industries heavily. From seasonal grain traffic to refrigerated trains serving the brewers, meat packers and markets, the railroad whisked priority freight trains across the upper midwest. Contrasting this traffic was the heavy flow of iron ore, taconite and coal from the region down to the mills on the south shore of Lake Michigan.

The North Western and the Milwaukee Road actually considered a merger in 1970, but the plans never came to be. After divesting many of its western and smaller lines, the remaining property became part of Union Pacific in 1995. The green and yellow freight cars of the railroad can still be found today all over the massive UP system and beyond. A few locomotives even remain in their original paint.

Soo Line


Like its competitors, the Soo’s freight operations around Milwaukee featured plenty of covered hoppers and bold graphics through the 1970s and 1980s.

The Soo Line had long been a player in the Milwaukee market, but it also found itself entwined in the history of some of its other carriers. The Soo’s presence in Milwaukee obviously grew greatly in 1985 with its acquisition of the Milwaukee Road. In 1987, it then had a hand in the creation of the “new” Wisconsin Central when it sold off its trackage acquired from the original carrier of the same name in 1960.

Today the Soo is an operating subsidiary of Canadian Pacific, existing on paper only as all operations have been fully integrated into the larger system. Those two roads had a long relationship going back to the Nineteenth Century. Although CP had divested itself of most of its ownership in the Soo following the Milwaukee takeover, it would come back to pick up the line entirely in .

Wisconsin Central

The Wisconsin Central is a classic shortline success story. The railroad began like many, acquiring branchlines spun off by larger carriers in the 1980s, starting with the routes of the original Wisconsin Central from Soo Line in 1987. By the 1990s, the Wisconsin Central was a major regional and international player. The WC acquired the Algoma Central, Fox River Valley and Green Bay and Western routes in its home territory in the United States and Canada.


The Wisconsin Central was an enterprising road that never left an opportunity pass it by. While logging may not be the most thought of industry for Milwaukee, the nearby upper peninsula of Michigan provided a steady flow of lumber products through the region.

Management then followed a unique course of actions, acquiring rail lines in the United Kingdom, Australia, and New Zealand.  The plucky little shortline now had operations on three continents! It eventually grew so successful it was acquired by Canadian National in 2001. Like the Soo Line, it exists in paper form only, with all of the operations absorbed into the parent company.

The railroad became a fan-favorite for its fleet of SD45 and F45 locomotives, some of which are preserved today. But also like the Soo, Milwaukee, and C&NW, you’ll still find plenty of maroon Wisconsin Central boxcars roaming the rails. And they’ll probably be a common sight for several more years to come.

Chesapeake and Ohio


You wouldn’t expect to find the Chessie in Wisconsin, but the railroad saw fit to maintain an interchange point here for generations.

Perhaps the most unexpected player in the Milwaukee scene was the Chesapeake and Ohio. While the railroad’s footprint in the city was small, the C&O did maintain a carfloat operation across Lake Michigan and had a small yard in town where it interchanged with the other lines. A C&O, and later Chessie, switcher could usually be found around the Jones Island yard to handle the work.

Little outlying pockets like this can be exciting finds on railroads and a great way to model your favorite line in a different way. No need for Alleghenies or stainless-steel streamliners here, but it’s still the C&O through and through!

New Product Spotlight – SD40-2s

11 06 2012

Not only was EMD’s SD40-2 one of the best-selling diesel locomotives of all time, it virtually defined the face of railroading for nearly two decades – much as the “covered wagon” had done a generation before. Lionel is proud to bring back this landmark locomotive with LEGACY and non-powered versions to boost your roster.

Prototype Background


6-34788 Chicago and Northwestern

The SD40-2 emerged almost as a step-down model from EMD’s brutish SD45 designed in 1965. The 3600 hp SD45’s were good pullers, but that 20-cylinder engine had a hungry appetite for fuel. Problems with crankshaft failures also haunted the giants. With fuel costs rising in the 1970s, the added fuel consumption combined with higher maintenance costs per unit caused a shift in railroad thinking and purchasing. Operational efficiency had to be redefined as more than just squeezing every bit of horsepower you could out of a single locomotive.


6-34779 CSX

The 3000 hp SD40, also introduced in 1965, offered such a platform. Seeing the potential in this locomotive, orders began to rise towards 1970. When EMD introduced its new “-2” upgrade package in 1972 and added it to the SD40, they created the reliable, efficient and powerful locomotive the railroads demanded. And the railroads responded with more orders than EMD had ever seen.


6-34776 N&W

Over the course of its production, the SD40-2 saw several design revisions and buyer options. From dynamic brakes to high short hoods, to varying sized fuel tanks, trucks, cabs, lights and smaller details, all 3,982 SD40-2s were far from identical. Perhaps the most common characteristic of nearly all the SD40-2s was the long “porches” on the ends of the units. The SD40-2 shared the same frame as the SD45-2, not the SD40, which created several feet of extra space beyond the hoods at each end. This was done to accommodate the new HT-C trucks, although some roads ordered SD40-2s with the older Flexicoil trucks anyway.


6-34791 MKT

Despite the introduction of the SD50 in 1981, SD40-2 production remained strong for North American railroads into 1986 and orders for more distant countries lasting until 1989 – four years after production of the SD50 ended! The longevity of the SD40-2 went way beyond initial construction and continues today. Beginning in the late 1980s, many railroads began upgrading SD40s with -2 packages. Others began downsizing their SD45s to SD40-2s. Rebuild programs continue today, with some roads converting SD50s into what are essentially modern SD40-2s.

Now 40 years after production began, many SD40-2s are still going strong. While their numbers are certainly declining, the distinctive classic carbodies show no signs of disappearing any time soon. The final chapters are still being written on these locomotives.

Lionel’s LEGACY SD40-2

If your railroad interests cover any time after 1972, your layout just wouldn’t look right without at least one of these ubiquitous units! With the addition of our LEGACY systems, these locomotives should be just as popular on your line as the real ones were with most crews.

This latest release comes with LEGACY powered locomotives in two numbers for each roadname and an additional non-powered number to recreate those typical 3-unit SD40-2 lashups that exemplified railroading for a generation. LEGACY versions retail for $529.99 and non-powered $239.99. All will negotiate an O-31 curve.

Legacy Features:

      • LEGACY control – capable of running on TMCC and conventional as well


        6-34786 SLSF (Frisco)

      • Odyssey II Speed Control for 2 Maintenance free motors with momentum flywheels
      • LEGACY Railsounds including
        • Crewtalk and TowerCom communications
        • Six official railroad speeds
        • Eight diesel RPM levels
        • Quilling Horn along with appropriate warning sounds
        • Bell with single hit or continuous sounds
        • Sequence Control to narrate an entire trip
        • Fuel and speed announcements and refueling sounds
      • Fan-driven smoke unit with adjustable output
      • Lighting Effects including
        • Directional LED headlight and back-up light
        • Marker lights front and rear
        • Number boards
        • Cab interior
      • Traction tires
      • Die cast metal pilot, trucks and fuel tank
      • Detailed cab interior with window glass and engineer and fireman figures
      • Loads of separately applied details
      • ElectroCouplers on front and rear
      • MSRP: $529.99

Non-Powered Locomotives Feature


6-34782 Burlington Northern

    • Die cast metal pilot, trucks and fuel tank
    • Detailed cab interior with window glass
    • Select separately applied details
    • Magnetic couplers on front and rear
    • MSRP: $239.99

These locomotives are on their way to dealers now, so don’t wait to catch your iconic piece of railroading! See more now on our Customer Service new product video.