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Pre-War "Factory Samples"
by Paul Pullen
For several years, a friend of mine has been accessing some old
pre-war cars, and wanting them to run with his post-war Lionels,
so he has been re-equipping them with post-war trucks, and has
passed the old pre-war trucks (and couplers if they still had
them) to me. This left me with several sets of old post war trucks
in a drawer with "nothing to do."
Recently, on the Toy Train Membership List, there has been a
thread about my first Lionel train. Well, in all reality, I could
write about mine, but all I could say was that the engine still
runs, and is still in my possession, but the rest of the train
has been rebuilt so many times that you would never recognize
it. As a teen-ager, I tore apart all of my old Lionel cars, tossed
the frames and bodies, and built up from the trucks in wood. All
of these cars are still in existence. I repainted the old 2-4-2
engine my brothers and I received for Christmas in 1954, so I
don't even know its original number.
back to the trucks. They have been sitting in a drawer where I
have spare trucks stocked. One set of them went onto a pre-war
Lionel lithographed Gondola that this friend gave to me when he
received it from another operator minus trucks and couplers. As
a result, this Gon is running again with original trucks and has
I still had two sets of trucks sitting in my parts drawer. What
could I do with them? I thought about this, and in honor of Lionel's
100th anniversary, I decided to produce a "Pre-War Factory
Samples" from these trucks. Now the question was what it
would take to do this job. They had to be made from mostly metal,
to go with the tin-plate that Lionel used during the 1920's and
1930's. So I started brainstorming.
order to do metal work, I had to assemble the proper tools. That
is the key to this. I had to build a metal brake to form the chassis
and the body sides, door guides, etc. How was this to be done?
I bought a 2x4 sign scrap from Hechinger before they went out
of business, a short piece of shelf bracket that was formed in
a 60 degree angle, a piece of 1 inch L shaped aluminum. I had
two types of tin snips to do the cutting on the metal for the
frame and body. These made up the main tools that would be necessary
to "build" the "factory samples."
For the roof and roof supports, I used wood. I have been given
a piece of milled roof by a friend who scratch builds custom cars
for Lionel here in the Baltimore area. I used this mounted on
a ends made from ½ inch plywood.
The "factory samples" are based on the Lionel 1689
Baby Ruth car pictured here. From this car, I constructed a template
for the chassis out of cardboard to trace onto the aluminum. The
aluminum I used is left over from some work done on the exterior
of our house. When the contractor was working on the house, he
purchased aluminum from Home Depot, and had some left over. I
kept it for general purposes, which at that time I did not know
the actual reasons. I guess I had this in mind at the time. I
have used heavier aluminum that came from a commercial residing
of a building I used to work in for a series of scratch-built
cars (chassis only) for my post-war Lionel trains. This is the
first time I ever attempted body work.
Once the car were laid out on the inside from the template shown,
I used tin snips to do the rough cut-out, and a nibbling tool
to do the fine cutting. After forming the chassis, I used the
metal brake to bend the sides of the chassis to create the beginning
form of the car. On the first car, number 2002, I drilled mounting
holes for the trucks, couplers, and the end wood supports. Then
I bent the end sills of the chassis into place. With this one,
I put a wood sill under the chassis, and mounted the trucks and
couplers on the wood. This car sits higher that my second unit
does. It is strictly as Lionel would have made it--metal chassis,
no wood sill.
first car, 2002, for the year of manufacture, was physically completed
in the beginning of October of 2002. At this time, I went to work
to create the decals for the car. Then I decided if I was building
one car, I would build a second one as well. The decals were created
in several steps. Images of Lionel emblems were scanned from the
latest issue of Classic Toy Trains, then cleaned up to be satisfactory
for my use. I took out the "LEGENDARY" from between
the Lionel Trains on the image for the car. I did not have the
availability of a Lionel Electric Trains image at the time.
used several packages in conjunction with creating the decals.
Scanning the images was done in an old graphics package, PhotoStyler.Cleaning
up the image was done in PhotoShop and PhotoPlus, depending on
the machine I was using. The images were then inserted in a WordPerfect
document, and the text was added. By the time I had the graphics
ready to print, the document was in excess of 69 megabytes. It
was not a small undertaking getting the graphics ready. Printing
was done on my Alps MD1000 printer. An image with some of the
left over images from the sheet of decals is shown here.
The car body and frame were made from cream and white aluminum
siding, and so did not require painting once formed. The doors
and door guides were also cut out of aluminum. The doors are just
a small square, but the door guides were a little more because
they had to be formed into a "U." I cut a strip to the
width of 3/16 inches, then put it into my portable vise for the
beginning bend. That got a 90 degree angle into the guide, then
I had to close the U with a piece of printed circuit board between
the two sides of the U. It worked pretty well.
The wood end supports were screwed onto the frame, and the roof
was glued to the end supports. One side of the car was formed
with one end attached. The side was measured to fit from the door
down to the chassis, where a 90 degree bend was inserted to give
the side some rigidity. The door was drilled, then opened with
a nibbling tool. Door guides were attached with 2-56 screws and
nuts. The car was assembled with 2-56 screws holding the corners
to the wood blocks.
Decals were then put on the side of car number 2002.
number 2001 was the second one off of the production line. It
varied from car 2002 by having no center sill. This meant I needed
to strengthen the chassis, so I pop-riveted the corners of the
frame together. I opened a slot in the end of the car for the
coupler to extend through, much like JLC did in the 1930's. The
car was then built up from the chassis, sides formed and mounted.
Final work was decaling the car. This time, because I did not
have the Lionel Licensed image, I just went with the enlarged
Lionel "L" image wrapped with "Since 1900."
This is the same image that graces the doors on both cars.
I have enjoyed building cars since I was a teen-ager, and these
were no exception. It was just done in another medium--metal instead
of wood. These cars will look right at home on the Buffalo Creek
Railroad while running in a consist of pre-war cars. The only
difference will of course be that they look to be "brand
new" as compared to the older rolling stock. But you could
just imagine that they were hidden in the factory all those years
ago as samples from the "What If" department when JLC
was in charge and wondering "What if my company makes 100
years, what will we do then?"
Enjoy your trains!