By Mike Stella
It's hard to believe that I started collecting Lionel boxcars
over 30 years ago. Unlike many of today's collectors that only
concentrate on the original postwar classic 6464 series; I started
with the MPC Modern Era 9200 series.
The 1970 Lionel catalog introduced us to seven new boxcars and
proudly proclaimed the Famous Name Collector Series by popular
demand. Seven addition 9200s were shown in the 1971 catalog and
one uncataloged 9200 series also was produced.
By 1972 the series had changed to the 9700 cars and eight boxcars
(plus one cattle car also numbered in the series) appeared in
the catalog and two more were included in the 1972 SSS set. Lionel
in 1972 was rapidly growing, introducing new products, and finding
ways to reduce costs. Variations galore were created for the boxcar
collector and today I want to share a series of FIVE different
#9705 D&RGW boxcars.
Cost cutting production changes at Lionel created the 9700 series
boxcars where the bottom door guide was eliminated. The die maker
failed to change the end number plate, however, so many of the
early 9700 boxcars can be found with a 9200 endplate as well as
the correct 9700 endplate. A very few 9700 boxcars were produced
on original 9200 shells with double metal doorguides and these
tend to be very collectable and very pricey.
The 1970s was a time for rapid expansion of toy train clubs and
their chapters or divisions. Many groups used a regular production
Lionel boxcar and added overstamps or special decals to promote
a special event, the holidays, or their chapter.
Trying to collect every modified boxcar can be a challenge. Finally,
in the early years of MPC production, current years’ decorations
and car number were used on the following years new body color
for catalog pictures and preproduction critiques. This has created
some very rare color samples in very limited quantities.
The D&RGW #9705 boxcar from 1972 is a car that exhibits many
of the changing features of early MPC production. The accompanying
photo shows five different 9705s in my collection.
(LowerLeft) The regular 9705 with 9700 endplate.
(LowerRight) The 9705 with 9200 endplate.
(UpperLeft) The 9705 with Double Metal Doorguides.
(UpperRight) TCA Sacramento Sierra Chapter decaled 9705.
(Middle) The 9705 on a Silver shell that became the 9714 in 1973.
A letter from Lionel dated 9/20/1973 explains this car was a
door prize given at the 1973 TCA National Convention. These five
boxcars show why it can be fun and very challenging to collect
Modern Era boxcars.
'til next time...