Lionel 822 prewar O-gauge cabooses
By Doug Gordon
I have been reading and enjoying the new prewar Lionel book
by David Doyle Standard Catalog of Lionel Trains 1900-1942. I
have a particular interest in the early period freight cars and
noticed that the 822 cabooses were omitted. I've written this
short piece with photos to help fill in that small gap in David's
Lionel produced both smaller and larger O-gauge freight cars
in the early production period 1915-26. The smaller freights
have received much attention, but less has been given to the
larger ones. One reason may be the greater variety of small freights:
boxcar, cattle car, gondola, caboose, and tank car and hopper
car in the later years. For several years only the boxcar and
caboose were produced in the larger size, with the cattle car
appearing toward the end of the era. The larger series cars are
not difficult to collect, possibly a reason for less general
interest, but for me a good reason to buy them. Most versions
of the 822 caboose are not rare and can be obtained at reasonable
cost---less than $50 for most versions in good condition, though
much more than that for examples in excellent condition.
The 822 caboose has a similar progression of changes in the
stamping of the Lionel name to the other early series O-gauge
cars, small and large. That timeline has been well described
by Richard Vagner and Lou Redman in their Classic Toy Trains
articles in the Winter 1989 and Spring 1989 issues. Those articles
are a wealth of information about the small O-gauge freights.
I recommend them to collectors interested in early period freight
cars, small and large. Greenberg's Guide to Lionel Trains 1901-1942
Volume II: O and OO Gauges also describes the progression from
manufacturing lettering to corporation stamping. The other notable
changes for the 822 caboose are a change in color from brown
to maroon, and a change in the embossing of the ribs, from inward
The first car shown is the earliest in my small collection.
It is brown and the ribs are embossed inward. On the end, the
font size of the Lionel lettering is relatively small. The number
822, though, is large.
The second car also has inward embossed ribs, but the brown
has maroon mixed with it.
The lettering on the end is similar to that on the first car,
but the 822 is notably smaller.
My third car is more clearly maroon. The ribs on the side of
the car are embossed outward.
This caboose has a Lionel Lines stamp on the side and a Lionel
Corporation stamp on the bottom. The stamp on the side is significantly
larger than for the earlier cabooses.
The lettering takes up nearly the whole distance from the edge
of the doorway to the edge of the caboose. I have another caboose,
unshown, that has similar large lettering but no “Corporation” stamp
on the bottom. It appears that larger lettering was used near
and during the transition to incorporation. This is the same
situation as for the small freight cars.
The fourth car has just the number 822 on the end and the Lionel
Corporation stamp on the bottom.
And the last example in my collection has the number 822 at
the lower right of each side. Both these later cars have the
ribs embossed outward. They are a deeper brighter maroon than
the earlier cars.
There are other variations that I do not own. I once saw an
822 caboose with inwardly embossed ribs and a stamp on the bottom
reading: “The Lionel Lines/New York / Made in USA.” I haven't
observed the 822 cabooses with any railroad stamping other than
the New York Central Lines. In my small collection the oval stamping
of that label remained the same throughout the period.
These early 822 cabooses go well with a pair of boxcars behind
the larger engines of the early period, such as the 701, 703,
706, 154, and 156, though they weren't cataloged with the 703
Further note on the 801 cabooses with 4390
I had the pleasure of meeting Richard Vagner at York this fall
and showing him my 801 cabooses. He helpfully explained details
of the construction of those cabooses and argued persuasively
that the apparent 4390 was not intentional. Rather, the stamping
machinery for the early cars was misaligned so that the 8 crossed
an inwardly embossed rib and did not form the left edge of the
lettering. This created the apparent 4390 rather than 4890 on
the early brown cabooses. The problem was eventually noticed
and corrected. I think the correction was done before the change
from brown to maroon as I've seen a photo of a brown 4890 but
haven't seen later maroon cabooses with 4390. But my knowledge
is limited and they may exist.
It does seem odd that Lionel would change only one digit of
a car's number and I don't know of other cases in the early series.
A misalignment that was eventually noticed and corrected explains
the puzzle. The 822 cabooses do not have numbers other than the
Lionel item number. Richard sent me the photo below, showing