New Product Spotlight – H24-66 Train Masters

21 04 2014

When Fairbanks Morse debuted the Train Master in 1953, its massive size, weight and power were unlike anything else the railroads had ever seen – at least in a diesel. As rare as they were immense, the Train Master left a big impression wherever it was seen.

Prototype Background


6-81207 Canadian Pacific 8900 (8903 also available)

Locomotive builders’ order books were filled in the early 1950s. Alco set the new standard at the end of the last decade with their RS series and EMD couldn’t seem to build GP7s and GP9s fast enough. The typical diesel of the day was a four-axle road switcher, weighing in at about 120 tons and producing around 1500 horsepower. By themselves or in multiple unit consists, they could handle any freight or passenger job the railroads had.


6-81209 New Jersey Central 2401 (2406 also available)

FM’s Train Master dwarfed its competition. The 66 foot, six axle, 194 ton monster produced 2400 horsepower and a continuous tractive effort of 82,500 pounds. Like its smaller competitors however, the locomotive was capable of handling a multitude of tasks. A pair of Train Masters could do the work of three GP9s on a heavy coal drag in the eastern mountains. Yet the locomotive still had acceleration rapid enough to suit them well in commuter service on the Southern Pacific.


6-81217 Norfolk & Western 157 (#164 also available)

A locomotive with these capabilities should have been an overwhelming sales success. Only 127 were made in the four year production, with 20 locomotives on the Canadian Pacific being the biggest roster of any road.

Several reasons have been given for the model’s failure to catch on. The unique FM opposed-piston diesel engine is an easy scapegoat. Although the engines had a proven track record in the marine industry, and while some railroads got long and productive careers out of their own, the engine was a maintenance headache. Its design made it more challenging to access and repair in the smaller locomotive shops and unlike an EMD GP9 that shared many parts with earlier models, the FMs needed their own inventory.


6-81211 Reading 801 (#804 also available)

The locomotives were too big for many lines and were harder on the track than lighter diesels. In many ways, the Train Master was simply a locomotive ahead of its time. Within another decade, the idea of higher horsepower, six axle locomotives would catch on with railroads everywhere.

While most Train Masters were retired in the 1960s, Southern Pacific maintained their fleet for commuter service out of Los Angeles into the 1970s. Today only one survives – Canadian Pacific #8905 at the Canadian Railway Museum in St. Constant. This locomotive was built by FM’s Canadian division, the Canadian Locomotive Works.

Lionel’s Model

The Train Master has enjoyed a much longer history in Lionel’s sales books. Our latest release brings the model up to date with today’s LEGACY control and other great features, including:


6-81215 Southern 6300 (#6303 also available)

    • LEGACY Control System – able to run on LEGACY, TMCC or Conventional control layouts
    • Odyssey II Speed Control with On / Off switch
    • LEGACYRailSounds including
      • CrewTalk and TowerCom dialog
      • 6 Official railroad speeds
      • 8 Diesel RPM levels
      • Quilling Horn
      • Bell (single hit and continuous)
      • Sequence Control
      • Current speed and fuel dialog
      • Refueling sounds
    • Dual maintenance-free motors
    • Traction Control

6-81213 Southern Pacific 4803 (#4809 also available)

  • Refined Conventional Control mode with lower starting speeds
  • Front and Rear ElectroCouplers
  • Fan-driven smoke with adjustable output
  • IR Transmitter
  • Directional lighting
  • Marker Lights
  • Lighted cab interior with crew
  • Many separately applied metal detail parts including positionable drop steps on the pilots.
  • Metal frame, pilots, trucks and fuel tank
  • Minimum Curve – O31

The Train Master will be available in two road numbers for Canadian Pacific, Central of New Jersey, Norfolk and Western, Reading, Southern (TNO&P) and Southern Pacific. Suggested retail price for the locomotives is $549.99. See your dealer to place your order today!



New Product Spotlight – American Flyer Norfolk Southern Heritage ES44ACs

7 10 2013

We introduced our American Flyer replicas of Norfolk Southern’s now famous Heritage Series of locomotives in 2012. This year we are completing the run with the remainder of the twenty locomotive fleet including a new-to-S Gauge ES44AC!


6-42531 – Reading SD70ACE

Shortly after their introduction, these locomotives were turned loose on Norfolk Southern to perform daily chores just like the rest of the roster. They can show up almost anywhere at any time on any train. Several have even made it well off of Norfolk Southern’s rails, being seen as far away as Washington and California. Despite their “regular roles” the locomotives are still required to be washed monthly and crews will often take the extra time to make sure they are in the lead on a consist whenever possible.


6-42542 Central of Georgia ES44AC

Whether you are a fan of modern era railroading or just like seeing a favorite fallen flag back again, these locomotives have something for everybody. And our American Flyer models are designed to please as well.

Both the SD70ACE and ES44AC models have similar features. Powered and non-powered models of each scheme are available with unique numbers. Powered locomotives include:


6-42552 Norfolk and Western ES44AC

  • LEGACY Control System – able to run on LEGACY, TMCC or Conventional power. The models are also DCC enabled.
  • AF Speed Control with on/off switch for maintaining an even speed through curves and grades
  • LEGACY RailSounds featuring
    • CrewTalk and TowerCom announcements with varying scenarios based on the train’s motion


      6-42546 Interstate ES44AC

    • Eight diesel RPM levels
    • LEGACY Quilling Horn
    • Single hit or continuous mechanical bell
    • Independent volume control
  • Two maintenance-free motors
  • Front and Rear ElectroCouplers
  • Mounting holes and support plate for scale couplers (sold separately)
  • Pivoting Pilot allows for operation on tight curves with better appearance
  • Operating headlight, ditch lights, illuminated number boards and detailed cab interior

    6-42544 Conrail ES44AC

    6-42544 Conrail ES44AC

  • Traction Tires
  • Metal Frame
  • Fan-driven smoke unit
  • Die-cast metal trucks, pilots and fuel tank
  • Separately applied metal details
  • Cab window glass
  • Engineer and conductor figures

Non powered locomotives feature:


6-42548 Lehigh Valley ES44AC

  • Metal Frame
  • Die-cast metal trucks, pilots, fuel tank
  • Front and Rear operating couplers
  • Separately applied metal details

6-42550 Nickel Plate ES44AC

All locomotives will negotiate S-36 curves. All come with American Flyer wheels but can be switched to scale wheels which will be available separately through Lionel Customer Service. ES44AC locomotives retail for $529.99 (powered) and $269.99 (non-powered.) SD70ACEs retail for $479.99 and $239.99.


6-42535 Virginian SD70ACE

In addition to the locomotives, separate sale cylindrical covered hoppers are also available decorated in complementary schemes for each road name. Twenty of these would certainly create a colorful consist! Cars retail for $79.99 each.


6-42558 Norfolk Southern ES44AC

If you are looking for colorful modern power for your American Flyer layout, it doesn’t get any better than this. Keep your eyes open for these Heritage Units coming to the rails and hobby shops near you!


6-42556 Southern ES44AC


6-42537 Wabash SD70ACE


6-42554 Pennsylvania ES44AC


6-42533 Savannah & Atlanta SD70ACE

6-42560 Monongahela ES44AC

6-42560 Monongahela ES44AC

Freight Car Friday – Freight Cars that Changed the World: Big John

12 04 2013

There aren’t many freight cars big enough to make it to the Supreme Court – but the Southern’s innovative Big John did. And it paved the way for a host of new freight car designs for multiple commodities, making the railroads competitive once again.

The Big John


The aluminum carbodies weathered extensively over the years. Car 7966 still carries its original paint with few modifications in 2008.

Up until the 1960s, grain generally traveled by rail in 40 foot boxcars. Although they were harder to load and unload, the cars could be used throughout the year in general service when not needed for the grain rush. Faced with growing competition from trucks and barges on new Federally funded interstates and inland waterways, the railroads were loosing this business rapidly. Some railroads sought protection in rate regulation. The Southern would beat them with technology.


Cars were originally painted with black, green and orange lettering. Between the darkening of the aluminum and weathering from ladings, the original lettering could become very hard to read.

Engineers on the Southern, working with the Magor Car Company, developed a new super-sized covered hopper. The first Big Johns hit the rails in 1960. Made of light-weight aluminum, and with a carrying capacity of 97 tons, the cars featured four compartments so that multiple types of grain could be shipped in the same car. An additional order, with a 100 ton capacity, arrived in 1961-1962. Twelve round roof hatches were used for loading and there were eight discharge outlets on the bottom of the car (four on each side of the center sill.) In addition to the Southern, the Soo and Seaboard Coast Line purchased similar cars.

SOu 8905

Many cars were later repainted by Southern into a more simplified scheme. Norfolk Southern also repainted some cars in a variety of patterns some of which retained the “Big John” name.

The cars were nearly double the size of the largest covered hoppers in regular use. This allowed the Southern to slash its rates for grain shipments from $10.50 / ton to as little as $3.97. Not only was this much cheaper than their old rail rates, it was also cheaper than the trucking or even Federally supported barge companies could offer. Now it was the competition filing injunctions with the ICC against the railroad’s lower “unfair” rates.

The ICC forced the Southern to maintain its rates in 1961 while it heard arguments. After nearly two years of deliberation, they allowed only a partial reduction. The Southern took the case to Federal Court and ultimately achieved victory in 1963. The first revenue movement of grain in the Big John’s came just days later from Cincinnati.


Even after repainting, the car’s identity could often be hidden from the elements. Even though it’s number (8660) is hard to see and the Big John name is gone, there is no doubt about the heritage of this huge hopper.

In 1965, Southern went back to Magor for 500 “Super Big Johns” with an even greater capacity of 130 tons. These cars were 61 feet long, 15 feet tall and came at a cost of nearly $12 million. These cars also featured a long center loading trough in the roof of the car.

The cars survived into the Norfolk Southern era. Although the aluminum sides showed the effects of years in the weather, it seems an appropriate badge for a battle hard-fought and a legacy well-earned. Their victory was not just for farmers using the Southern Railroad. The Big John paved the way for larger cars and lower rates for many commodities on the rails, helping lay the tracks for their resurgence in coming decades.

Freight Car Friday – A Visit to the North Carolina Transportation Museum

22 03 2013

We’re gearing up for our open house tomorrow here at our Concord, North Carolina offices. While we’re setting up, the LCCA, who are sponsoring the event, are enjoying a tour of the wonderful North Carolina Transportation Museum in nearby Spencer.


The roundhouse at Spencer is filled with historic treasures.

Housed in the historic shops of the Southern Railway, trains are a big part of this museum’s mission and exhibits. From historic diesels to the original roundhouse a turntable to the always-popular train rides, there is a lot for any railfan at this great facility. But since this is Freight Car Friday, let’s look at some of their collection of unique freight equipment.


The Southern was a big buyer of Pullman Standard’s products. This 50′ PS-1 has been modernized and lost its ladders and roof walks.

The Southern was an innovative railroad in many freight car efforts. This was never more true than during the leadership of Graham Claytor in the 1960s.

The most famous of the Southern’s cars at this time were the “Big John” covered hoppers. These huge cars and the marketing campaign that went with them would revolutionize farming and the way grain was shipped by rail. The changes were so big, competing barge companies filed legal suits which made it all the way to the Supreme Court.

covered hopper

Though small compared to the Big John, cars like this DuPont covered hopper owe their careers to the Southern’s innovative design.

The railroad’s “Green Light to Innovations” also extended to coal and intermodal technologies. The railroad was a leader in pursuing unit trains and aggressively courted new customers to its rails.

Although Spencer is the home of the Southern, the Museum’s mission and collection goes far beyond just one railroad. Like most state museums, anything which falls within the borders merits coverage. Norfolk and Western, Atlantic Coast Line, Norfolk Southern (the first one) and more are all well represented as well as private shippers.

ballast cleaner

This beastly contraption mechanized ballast cleaning.

In addition to the usual cars like boxcars, hoppers, gondolas, etc. the Museum has some more unique equipment like bunk cars and cranes from a wreck train. Perhaps most unique is the gigantic ballast cleaning machine. This was home-built by the Southern to dig up, clean and replace the stone ballast along the right-of-way in one continuous motion. Innovation stretched to all parts of the Southern’s operations.

Pulpwood Car

The Museum’s train ride rolls past the active Norfolk Southern yard where you may find even more freight car treasures like this pulpwood car.

There is a lot to see in Spencer. Whether you visit this weekend as part of the LCCA’s Red Carpet Event or make it a trip on its own, this is one museum you don’t want to miss!