The World’s Fastest Growing Hobby?
by Bob Mintz
I have owned the now out of print “Greenberg’s ®
Lionel ® Catalogues” for several years, but it was not
until recently that I paid more attention to the last and final
edition, Volume VI: 1961-1969.
I was desperately trying to identify some pieces that I had picked
up recently at York. My computer inventory program requires that
I include a catalog number, and none of those pieces had any identifying
material giving me the semblance of a clue.
An email to both Gordon Wilson and Paul Wassermann helped lead
me in the right direction, and then I suddenly realized that the
material was close at hand.
I must admit that I have never really studied this era with any
great detail. Although I have tried to accumulate items within
the Postwar period, most items produced in the 60’s seemed
to be the poor neglected stepchild of the train collecting culture.
The cover and inside front cover and following page of the 1961
consumer catalog showed both the Lionel Corp.’s trains as
well as Lionel-Porter science lines, giving equal billing to both.
In fact, the next 18 pages were devoted entirely to the “Famous
Inventor Series”; “Electronics and Plastics Engineering
Sets”; “Weather Stations”; “Chemcraft/Microcraft/Biocraft/Labcraft/Mathcraft/Toolcraft”;
“Mineralogy”; “3-D Stereo-Vision”; “Geology”;
and “Physical Science”. Only on page 22 do we again
see a toy train.
The rear cover mentioned “The most exciting auto racing
game of all…Lionel’s new raceway set on HO track.”
The cover for the 1962 consumer catalog was now split into four
categories: train and accessories; model motor racing; complete
science labs; and photographs and tape recorders. This catalog
showed a red #6445 mint car being included in the “Plainsman”
steam outfit, thought the car was actually silver, later to be
issued as part of the Archive Series; the horrible and cheesy
battery operated #375 motorized turntable, the hard-to-find #419
Lionel Heliport and an actual photo of the highly desirable 1960
set # 2555W, better known as the Father/Son set of identical Super
“O” and HO twin railroad empires! In a sudden reversal,
toy trains recaptured top billing in this catalog, followed by
the other product lines and then the Scalextric Lionel-Tri-Ang
auto racing, “the hobby that is fast becoming an international
sport.” At least this catalog was in what is called in the
printing industries as 4C or full color.
an apparent capitulation to the realities of the times and things
to come, the 1963 catalog was a bicolor job (black and red on
a white background) and page 50 just about said it all: “HO
Scale Raceways The World’s Fastest Growing Hobby.”
In one short year, slot cars had gone from an international sport
to the world’s fastest growing hobby.
This year Lionel offered Standard and HO accessories for its’
motor racing car line. Some items were car-specific; as toy trains
were not exactly made for banking curves, lap counters, guard
rails or timers, although some of us wish they were at the time.
We did have 60 & 90 degree crossings (Super- “O”
of course) but could you imagine a converging one lane Chicane;
a hump back bridge whereby our precious toy trains would become
airborne and hopefully re-rail on the track all by themselves;
a skill-tilt Chicane were our trains would race up an inclined
ramp and daringly leap back to the mainline; a Le Mans type start
track or a Loop-the-loop whereby a Santa Fe F-3 and Hudson type
steam engine would barrel down the mainline and proudly defy gravity.
Others accessories were reproductions of normal (were toy train
the norm or the alternate product line by this time?) Lionel toy
train production, with different numbers and/or more adapted towards
The cross-over products included #195R 8-bulb Floodlight Tower;
#310R Billboard set for Standard Scale; #5155 “Pacesetter”
Timer with automatic power control (similar to # 413 Countdown
control panel) and the #5160 Official’s Viewing Stand (similar
to the #365/#465 Dispatch Stations and #419 Heliport Control Tower.
#5154 Electric Lap Counter Set
for Standard Scale
#5160 Official’s Viewing
#5150-30 Track Flags
An interesting series to collect. See them at a York dealer near
you. Batteries, power pack and track not included.