Yard Sale Treasure
By Bob Grassi
There is no question that my wife stirred the fires that got
me interested in toy trains. Until the late 1980’s when
my wife brought home some Postwar American Flyer from a garage
sale, I was totally content with the N gauge layout in my basement.
Once the American Flyer came home there was no stopping me.
I sold the American Flyer and encouraged her to look for Lionel.
She was exceptionally adept at bringing me a variety of treasures
from the dusty attics of older houses on eastern Long Island.
The trains I describe to you today came not from a dusty attic
but the small closet of a modest home being sold by a recently
divorced woman with a need to get rid of her former husband’s
leftovers. These were the trains that truly were the most memorable
of all that my wife has found.
It all started on a Saturday morning when I got a call from
my wife, who was out on a yard sale jaunt. She told me to come
and look at some trains that she had found. I rushed to the
house and found a middle-aged woman who said the trains were
probably in good shape since her former husband never liked
trains as a boy. I looked at what she had and found a post
war set headed by a 675 Pacific plus a milk car, cattle car,
KW transformer, 45 gateman, a pair of 022 switches, and a die
cast bumper. At that time I had very little knowledge of toy
train prices. She wanted $140 for everything. I attempted to
bargain. She refused. I gave her the money.
I rushed home with my car full of goodies. As I unpacked I
found that everything looked hardly used but the boxes they
came in were torn and falling apart. I speculate this man was
one of those kids you read about who throws aside the toys
and plays with the boxes.
I had recently acquired Greenberg’s Lionel Catalogue
Book for 1945-54. I was able to identify the set as #2137WS
in the 1948 catalog. The set contains the 675 Pacific and tender,
2458 automobile car, 3459 operating dump car, 6456 hopper,
and 2357 illuminated caboose.
As is frequently the case when you first get into the hobby,
I started checking out all the cars to see if I didn’t
have any that were rare or a factory defect. I made two finds
in the one set.
Perusing through my 1988 edition of Greenberg’s Guide
to Lionel Trains Volume One, I found that the 3459 green dump
was a somewhat rarer version of the dump car that normally
came in black. Not tremendously rare but at least rarer. A
nice feeling for a neophyte toy train collector in 1988.
Next, I was looking through Volume 2 of the Greenberg guide
for the same year and came across an article on the hopper
car in my set. It stated that in 1948 Lionel put the numbers
2456 and 6456 on the same hopper car. The 027 6456 had the
couplers that required the operating track with the magnet
in the center. The 0 gauge 2456 had the coil couplers that
required the prewar 5 rail operating track since the newer
track with the magnet would not be introduced until 1949. For
some reason a number of the 6456 hopper car bodies ended up
with coil couplers. No one is sure why or how many ended up
this way. Well wouldn’t you know I had one of these in
my set. The car is described as a 2456 in the catalog but I
got one with the 6456 body and coil couplers. I wrote the Greenberg
people telling them about my find. In the next issue of the
Greenberg guide I was credited with the discovery in the section
on the 6456/2456 hopper car. I think my name disappeared in
the following volume but at least I had my 15 minutes of toy
I made one additional discovery. One of the accessories that
came with the set was a #26 die cast bumper. The first year
they were produced was 1948. Most of us are very familiar with
the red one. Many do not know that initially they were made
in gray for a short while. I had one of the gray ones. Again,
not tremendously rare but quite a nice find for a newcomer
to the hobby.
have one other fond memory associated with this set. Even though
the 675 was in beautiful condition, one of the running
lights had been broken off. I decided to try and find a replacement
for the faceplate on the engine. Looking through one of the
magazines I came across the name of Madison Hardware. I was
totally unfamiliar with this illustrious establishment and
its’ owners. I called about the piece, some elderly gentleman
answered, assured me that he had the part, quoted a hefty price
of $25, and stated “you can be sure it’s the real
thing.” I bought and replaced the face plate. For a while
I remained unaware of the world of repro replacement parts
but eventually realized that it was my luck to have called
Madison Hardware, the one place where there was no question
that the part you got was an original.
I ran this train set a few times but it eventually ended up
on a shelf mostly because it is in such pristine condition
and has two unique cars that make it special to me. The KW
is on my layout, providing power to nineteen 022 switches,
two of which are the originals I received with this set. The
original milk and cattle platforms are also on the layout,
as is the clunky 45N gateman. My little gray bumper remains
in its box. I realize it has minimal value but it is too special
to be placed at the end of a track where it can be banged around
by uncaring freight cars.