By Bob Mintz and the assistance of John W. Schmid from Project Roar Publishing
(Updated Spring 2017)
(Editors/author's note: different cameras were used at different times under different lighting conditions, so the olive drab color may vary as well as the Lionel definition of olive drab)
I once worked on a toy train article for Popular Mechanics Magazine. The Editor asked me for some train-related buzz-words. (is the word buzz-word itself, considered a buzz-word? By the way, I am always trying to think of another word for thesaurus!)
I came up with the following terms after showing them that the proper way that a Lionel tender hooked up with its engine; the metal tab facing the engine and the coupler towards the rear:
Rare; split door; unique; prototype; factory error; paint sample; scarce; "goes with or compliments"; mock-up; salesman's sample; test run; sans serif; overstamp; Club car; Type I, Type II; Tank 1 Tank 2;uncataloged; handstamp;, special or promotional; box type; blister pack; special outfit; reverse color; matching; unique; early/regular/late/exclusive/limited production run; difficult/easier/easy to find; common; Girl's Set, "B" or dummy unit, etc.
The one term missing from the above is a "RARE VARIATION".
Variations are part and parcel of the vocabulary that we collectors, no matter what we own, have in common.
# 44 U.S. Army Mobile Launcher
I purchased from a friend when I was all of 16, the # 2527 U.S. Army Mobile Missile Launcher set headed by the #44 mobile missile launcher, blue in color.
My curiosity was piqued when I saw at a toy train meet, an almost identical engine, that being the # 45 U.S. Marine Corps mobile missile launcher from the #1805 Land-Sea-and-Air Gift Pack decorated in what is described as painted in "olive drab". (LASER—who knew from the first fully functioning infrared laser beam in 1960? The first time I ever heard of such a thing was in the James Bond movie Goldfinger in 1964—James Bond: "Do you expect me to talk?" Goldfinger: "No, Mr. Bond, I expect you to die.")
According to Wikipedia: "The strict definition of olive drab is the color olive shaded toward a greener color.
Olive drab was the color of the standard fighting uniform for U.S. GIs and military vehicles during World War II. U.S. soldiers often referred to their uniforms as "OD's" due to the color. The color used at the beginning of the war by the US Army was officially called Olive Drab #3, which was replaced by the darker Olive Drab #7 by 1944, and which was again replaced by Olive Green 107 or OG-107 sometime in the 1950s and continued as the official uniform color for combat fatigues through the Vietnam War, until replaced by ERDL camouflage uniforms. The ERDL uniforms were then replaced by M81 woodland camo fatigues as the primary US uniform scheme in the 1980s, and still retain olive drab as one of the color swatches in the pattern.
As a solid color, it is not as effective for camouflage as multiple-color camo schemes (i.e. US Army Combat Uniform, tigerstripe, MARPAT, Multicam, etc.), though it is still used by the U.S. military to color webbing and accessories. The military refers to the color as Olive Green 107, or more commonly OG 107. There are very few countries still issuing uni-color Olive Drab Israel, India, Cuba, and Austria being the exceptions.
The color is currently defined by the FS-595 paint standard."
The RGB color for Olive: Red=128; Green=128; Blue=0 and for Olive Drab: Red=107; Green=142; Blue=35
I had always associated olive drab to be a U.S. Army issue, with blue being more associated with the U.S. Navy.
Although my father worked as a civilian at the Brooklyn Navy Yards during WWII, I have always had a fascination with the military, although I had never enlisted or been drafted.
Irregardless, which I know is not a word; I was hooked on the color olive drab, or what Lionel had described as an olive drab color scheme.
I spoke with my friend and fellow RMLI (Railroad Museum of Long Island) member "Fireman" Al Schwartz concerning the olive drab color. "As per our conversation today about different shades of paint…I had a conversation with Lenny Dean a long time ago and he told me on some days a color didn't match the production run of the day before. Sometimes there was a difference in AM and PM productions. He told me it wasn't a common thing but it did happen. There were many reasons for this, one was the temperature in the factory which affected drying conditions; even atmospheric conditions played into it. It was then a whole different process than it is today. That's why there are color variations on some of the Postwar cars. Also, sometimes when they were putting sets together and they would run out of a car that was supposed to be in the set, a different car was substituted. Again not a common thing but it did happen."
So started my hunt for every olive drab piece that Lionel had ever produced. Other than pastel colors used in the Girl's Set, I cannot think of anyone nutty enough to try to accumulate just a certain color.
I had started collecting motorized units and picked up the #45 Mobile Launcher (to compliment the #44) and eventually the remainder of the set. The odd fact of this set is that the flatcar holding the U.S. Marines #3820 flatcar was not carrying a U.S. Marines #3820 submarine but instead came with a U.S. Navy Submarine #3830.
# 45 U.S. Marines Mobile Launcher
# 3820 U.S.M.C. Operating Submarine Car
# 3429 U.S.M.C. Helicopter Car
# 6640 U.S.M.C. Missile Launching Car
# 6824-25 U.S.M.C. Work Caboose
My preference for the submarine car would be the following:
But I digress…
One of the rarest Postwar Lionel accessories is the #347 Rocket Launching Platform which only appeared in three promotional outfits. Purely by accident, I asked someone in the Holidome parking lot some 15 years ago (my first York) if they had one and, to my astonishment, they said "YES". Finding perhaps the hardest piece in this collection convinced me to continue "the hunt", which has taken the full fifteen years with the last "score" at April 2010 York.
People sometimes get confused between the #347 Rocket Launching Platform and the #448 Missile Firing Range set. The former fires a gray shell and the latter white missiles and is not olive drab. The Postwar remake # 24234, was redesigned with an olive drab trim though.
# 448 Missile Firing Range Set
# 24234 Missile Firing Range Set
Some pieces from Set # 19326
# 347 Rocket Launching Platform
# 3666-25 Cannon Boxcar
# 6401-25 Flatcar w/ # 958-75 Tank
975-1 Squad of Soldiers
975-1 Squad of Soldiers in bag
(Editor's Note: both images above and one below of 975-1 squad of soldiers courtesy John W. Schmid from Project Roar Publishing)
# 3309-50 Turbo Missile Firing Car
Over the years there has been confusion over Lionel's numbering of the Turbo Missile Firing car. In collaborating with John Schmid of Project Roar Publishing on this article, he went to the authoritative source, actual Lionel production records to finally resolve this long lost mystery. The Olive Drab version was numbered 3309-50. The "-50" indicated color (Olive Drab) as well as coupler configuration (one dummy and one operating coupler). John's book, the Authoritative Guide to Lionel's Promotional Outfits 1960 – 1969 indicates that this item came in three promotional outfits (19334, 19334-500 and 19432) and was intended to come in one more that never was manufactured (19416).
Set # 19334:
# 221P-50 Diesel Locomotive
Note, Lionel production files courtesy of Project Roar Publishing indicate the "-50" suffix was for the USMC Olive Drab and "-75" is for the Santa Fe Olive Drab locomotive. Either could be included in outfit 19334.
# 3309-50 Turbo Missile Firing Car
# 6142-175 Gondola Car
# 6176-100 Hopper Car
# 6119-125 Work Caboose
# 975-1 Squad of Soldiers
#6119-125 and # 6824-25
I was looking at some Postwar Lionel paper in the Blue Hall at April 2010 York (have been trying to collect all of the Postwar Advanced consumer catalogues) when I asked the guy if he had a certain uncataloged caboose, which I had just found out I was missing before going to York. He thought he had it "back at the store."
These are two similarly looking pieces as you can see. The left one, which says Lionel instead of USMC and has no number (of course) luckily never came with the figure, stretchers or oxygen tank, so that was a good thing.
Otherwise, they are almost identical (the 6119-125 is molded Olive Drab whereas the 6824-25 is painted), with the one that I scored extremely difficult to find, especially in decent condition.
I felt that the guy at York was mistaken for the other piece, but lo and behold, it was the one I wanted.
Score one for the "Good Guys" and the final piece I needed for this article, I hope! I bought both the first and last piece at York, quite surprising.