The Lionel Visitor's Center - Rolling Stock and
(Updated Summer 2011)
By Bob Mintz
The Lionel Visitor's Center showroom is located
in Chesterfield Michigan, down the road from what was once the
Lionel factory. The building is also home to the Lionel offices.
It features a 14-foot by 40-foot layout with ten
running trains and 37 operating accessories.
Opened in 1992 with the help of the Lionel employees,
Chuck Horan would often be seen at the controls of this elaborate
layout, as was seen at the various clubs annual conventions
during the summer of 2000.
Rumor has it that the 10th anniversary car will
be the last, so this entire set may become a desirable collectible
item sooner than later.
The LVC was officially opened on February 19th,
1992 with a boxcar commemorating the event, with the quintessential
scissor and ribbon cutting ceremony on the boxcar. The logo
was of the red, white and blue 1986 version.
The 1993 version had a reversed color scheme and
what would appear to be an image of tunnel portals from the
layout itself showing what looks like a Santa Fe F-3 AB unit,
perhaps a Hudson or other steam engine, and what could be an
EP-5 or GG-1 in bizarre colors, gray and red. So much for artist's
embellishment! If you don't believe me, check out the 1957 back
page Lionel catalogue and look for the trestle on the track!
The 1994 entry would be another boxcar with graphics
of a steam engine pulling what looks like two #26284 "2000
NEW YORK TOY PREVIEW" boxcars, a Santa Fe F-3 passing E-Train's
web-site designer Brad Kaplan's favorite and often touted #
115 Station against a silhouette of what could be New York City
complete with the Empire State Building and water towers. The
SKU number would also be included on the car itself. A commemorative
would also be issued this year in the form of a Visitor's Center
For 1995, a boxcar was created paying homage to
the great state of Michigan, and more specifically Detroit with
a narrower parameter of the city of Chesterfield. Graphics contained
what looks like a Standard Gauge turntable and engine shed,
an "O" gauge Santa Fe Warbonnet F-3 or Alco engine
pulling aluminum sided passenger cars with a red stripe and
another unknown passenger set with a mustard yellow color scheme.
Another delight this year would be a lighted billboard similar
in looks to the Postwar # 410 Billboard Blinker
1996 would be a departure from the previously
issued boxcars. This time a single dome tanker car was assembled
with an American flag with the wording "An American Legend"
underneath and "A Magical Tour" on the opposite side
of the car. The year "1996" and "BLT by Lionel"
can barely be seen under the ladder.
The 1997 production would start a recycling of
the 1994 tractor-trailer on flatcar, but this time, the tractor-trailer
would contain the date in black lettering "1-1997"
pad printed on the roof. The flatcar had the year "1997"
A coil-covered gondola for 1998 would contain
a new logo that reminds me of the Postwar # 90 controller, an
"L" with circle around it.
The following year would keep the same basic color
scheme as the previous year, but this time the 1999 addition
would be a vat car with orange vats and the words "1999"
plastered across it four times on each vat.
Similar in appearance to the first car in the
Artrain series to carry a true roadname, the 1991 #17891 Grand
Trunk boxcar, our millennium car for 2000 would be a refrigerator
reefer boxcar with "206482" written on it.
The 2001 entry would continue with a more prototypical
boxcar (accept for the Lionel Visitors Center logo) previously
seen in the area of the present Lionel corporate offices. Port
Huron & Detroit was incorporated on Sept.1, 1917. It was
sold Dec.13, 1984 to Chessie System, and merged by CSX five
years later. Oh yes, on the sides of the PH&D's dark blue,
white and red boxcars you'll see, "St. Clair Blue Water
Route." After all, who ever said that a Michigan shortline
-not as long as a Santa Fe or Burlington Northern, but just
as wide -can't have a slogan, too? Another retread, similar
in appearance (except for the added cost of the white line through
the door) to #17875, the 1989 "#1289" Port Huron &
Detroit boxcars produced by Lionel for LOTS' 10th National Convention
in Dearborn, MI.
I was not even aware that the 2002 10th anniversary
car was even available until I spotted it at the April 2002
York meet. Rumors had been rampant that this series had run
out of steam, and with the recent move of the production overseas,
it seemed that the Lionel Visitor's Center had run its course.
But rekindling the group is a coal hopper reminiscent of the
"separate sale" Lionel Lines collection from the early
80's, handsomely displaying the original orange and blue color
scheme and Lionel and Visitors Center logos. The SKU number
for the second time appeared on an LVC item; as well as the
words "10th Anniversary".
Could be on the endangered species list as there
are no plans to issue a car for the following year.
6-19920 Tan colored boxcar with orange roof and sides and
dark blue doors.
6-19927 Tan colored boxcar with blue roof and sides and
6-19932 Battleship gray boxcar with black roof, sides and
doors. Contained "When empty, return to Chesterfield,
6-12860 Tractor-trailer with gray with red, white and blue
graphics and black lettering with new Lionel slogan "The
Magic Lives On".
6-12882 Black billboard with red, white, blue and black
6-19934 White boxcar with emerald green roof, sides and
doors. Contained a train order variation: "Return to
Chesterfield when empty."
6-19944 White tanker car with red, white, blue and black
6-19948 Identical 1994 tractor-trailer containing "1-1997"
on roof, and dark blue flatcar with white lettering.
6-19955 Silver gondola with dark blue lettering and cover
with reverse color scheme.
6-19772 Blue vat car with silver roof, blue sides and orange
6-26108 Blue reefer boxcar with blue roof, sides and doors
and white lettering.
6-36228 Blue boxcar with blue roof, sides and doors and
white and red lettering.
6-19999 Blue and orange hopper with coal load.
The Lionel Corp. maintained a showroom at 15 E. 26th Street in New York until its 1964 shutdown. The layout was then disassembled and stored in pieces on top of one another in a warehouse somewhere in New Jersey, whereby it eventually disintegrated to the point that it was impractical to repair, and was eventually discarded. In 1991, a group of Lionel LTI employees built, on a volunteer basis at the Mount Clemens, Michigan corporate offices, a display that evoked the classic 1949 design of the original layout. It featured a 14-foot by 40-foot layout with seven running trains and 37 operating accessories. It officially opened to the public on Feb. 19, 1992 and was closed on June 20, 2008.
“The Magic Lives On…” In February of 2009, volunteers from the Railroad Museum of Long Island (RMLI) went to the closed LVC to review how to disassemble and move this layout to Long Island. On April 7, 2009, RMLI received an official letter from Lionel LLC donating the Visitor’s Center Layout to the RMLI for the purpose of its continued display to the public by the Museum. It was decided to purchase a 40-foot container, install 68 eight-foot 2 x 4s for shelving and have it loaded on a truck to bring the layout back to Riverhead N.Y. in fifteen pieces. In early May 2009 a group of RMLI volunteers went back to Michigan and accomplished this task, which took about a week. The total weight of the layout was a little over seven thousand pounds.
To commemorate the Grand Opening of the former Lionel Visitor’s Center at its new location in Riverhead, N.Y., the RMLI has created this Lionel factory produced 6464 style boxcar (6-52571) in “O” Gauge. It features die-cast metal sprung trucks and will come in a unique blue box, the same as our recently released 175th Anniversary LIRR 6464 boxcar (52548).
6-52571 Riverhead Visitor’s Center blue colored boxcar with orange doors