Ten Things I Have That You Don't!!!
By Mike Stella
Now why would anybody write an article seemingly to brag about all the "rare" Lionel train items he has. The answer is simple.
First: I want TCA members to write about items they have in their collections that are considered "rare" and maybe show me a few things that I don't even know exist. It then will give me new things to search for and make going to meets a lot more fun. And don't we all just want to have a bit more fun in this hobby?
Second: I truly am "The World's Greatest Lionel Collector" and owner/operator of Lionel Lines (The Largest Lionel Railroad on my Block) and feel it is important to share with all of you some of the Lionel Trains I have searched long and hard to acquire.
Third: While the train items might be rare and unusual, it is really the stories of the "Chase and Find" that are fun to tell.
Let's get started.
The "Over and Under" Santa Fe caboose and the VHTF BLACK LETTERED #3656 Cattle Car.
My first picture shows two very hard to get Lionel freight cars. I've been playing on the Internet for about 8 years and have only seen these cars show up a few times. Compare that to a 6464-300 Solid Shield Rutland which I've seen more than a dozen times! I bought my #6357 Santa Fe (from the 1960 “Over and Under” Lionel set) many years ago at a toy train convention from Doug DuBay. I paid a huge amount to get it but it is one of those "must have" items. My good friend John then found one at a Cal-Stewart meet in Pasadena for $1.00. NO KIDDING, for ONE Dollar! The second car in the picture is the #3656 Operating Cattle Car with BLACK LETTERING. This seems to be a real tough piece to find. I spotted mine in an auction box at the TCA Nor-Cal meet about 20 years ago and sat on pins and needles waiting for it to come up for bid. I don't think the other bidders knew how rare (a word I really don't like to use) this piece is and I got it for a song. (you really don't want to hear me sing!).
A #53 Snowplow with the forward facing "a" and a brand new #6447 Pennsylvania Porthole.
My second picture shows another caboose and a motorized unit. I purchased the #6447 Porthole Caboose at a small local train meet from a fellow that needed gas money (when gas was still under $1.00 per gallon!). It was “Like New” in a crisp original box and I sold the box a number of years later for a lot more then I paid for it with the car inside! I display as much of my collection as I can and I don't need thousands of boxes taking up storage space. I have been debating with myself about installing a second coupler on this caboose but don't think I'll install a light. The #53 Snow Plow is shown having the "correct A" and I purchased the shell only for a whopping $10. I almost didn't include this item in my list of ten because you really do see these pop up all the time. Does anybody know how many Lionel actually produced?
My #50 Gang Car found with Gray Bumpers and a "shocking" #6468-25 NH.
The third picture shows a Gray Bumper #50 that I salvaged from a sellers junk box for $2 at another Cal-Stewart meet. It had the swiveling BLUE man (as correct) but lacked either of the GREEN men so I had to opt for repos but I am still very happy with this hard to find variation. The 6468-25 New Haven boxcar is really a conversation piece and may indeed be a “One-of-a-Kind” car. Notice the "SHOCK CONTROL" printed on the side. It does not appear to be after market. This car was obtained from a very well known West Coast collector that didn't know the story behind it. Too bad. I've shown it around at conventions and such, but it is very difficult to get any "experts" to commit to anything they are unsure of.
A #6414 Auto Loader with four "New-in-the-Sleeve" autos.
Picture four shows a very common, everybody has at least one of, #6414 Auto Carrier. But, I found this one with the original autos still inside their protective sleeve. How often do you see that? It sits on a display shelf in the middle of a freight train and people ask why I keep the cars in cardboard? Why indeed?
Possibly the hardest Post-War Lionel Diesel to obtain is the #2347 C&O.
Picture five shows the only locomotive I've included in my list of ten items. Say what you will about Jersey Central FM's or Canadian Pacific F3's or any other Lionel Diesel. Watch the Internet and it seems they all appear almost weekly. But not the #2347 "SEAR'S" Chesapeake and Ohio GP. You just do not see very many, if any, come available. I had a friend in the Navy that knew I liked trains and he took me to his home where his family brought out the entire Sear's set in terrific condition with all the track, transformer, everything complete. They wouldn't part with it so I had to buy my #2347 for a big time "Wheeler-Dealer" but worked a partial trade and time payments so the pain was lessoned. I bought a second one years later form a great seller at Cal-Stewart that carried it about for over a year but finally sold it to me at a “can't refuse” price. I figured it would be great trading stock but nobody has anything I want!
Extension Searchlight Cars in three colors: Light Gray, Dark Gray, and Olive.
Picture six shows three extension searchlight cars and here is where the variation collector in me takes over. I have always liked this car and added one very early on in my collecting youth. Years later I was able to add the Dark Gray version which doesn't turn up very often. Thanks to the Internet, I was able to win only the second OLIVE colored version I've seen come up. It may be difficult to really see the difference in any picture but when you hold them both side by side it is obvious they are different colors.
A Lionel #193 Water Tower in GREEN!
Finally, picture seven shows a Lionel accessory. Beacons and Floodlight towers come in a variety of different colors and even the #193 Water Tower that is normally RED has an unusual BLACK variation. But it has been documented many times that the workers at the Lionel Factory would sometimes unwittingly "create" an unusual piece by painting something with a color on hand. Such might have been the case with this GREEN #193 Water Tower. I can't recall seeing another, but I bet there are a few more out there. Something for you to look for at the next big train meet you attend, even if it isn't in Pennsylvania!