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Lehigh Valley #409 Alco C-420, #6-18589, List price $349.95
by Stirling Woodin
Alco delivered C-420 #409 to the Lehigh Valley in November of
1964 in the Yellow Jacket paint scheme, (picture of a Rivarossi
HO model shown for comparison). The C-420 was in the Century series
from Alco, and the nomenclature denoted that it was equipped with
4 powered axles, and was rated at 2,000 horsepower. It was repainted
in May of 1973, and Lionel’s model reflects the repainted
model first appeared in Lionel’s 1900-2000 Centennial catalog
on page 37, and was also available in New Haven, Nickel Plate
Road, Monon, and D&H paint schemes. All road names were available
in either Traditional or Command Control versions, and both versions
featured dual vertical can motors with flywheels, traction tires,
die cast trucks, couplers, and pilots. The Command Control version
added electrocouplers, RailSounds, and directional headlight and
The body has details including cab lift rings on the long hood,
a sand filler hatch on the short hood, separately applied and
painted handrails, grab irons, and safety chains are across the
The paint on my unit is even, and the lettering is crisp, including
all of the high voltage and safety warnings littered around the
shell. The yellow paint line on top of the battery box is incorrect
for this road number, as on the actual #409, this stripe does
not appear. This is a very minor error, and only noted here for
sake of historical accuracy.
I purchased my example in April of 2001, and it has been a favorite
on my modest 10’x10’ Super O layout ever since. It
is a good puller, has never had any problems, and handles any
task asked of it, from running the main to switching the lineside
industries. It is a little awkward using the Century as a switcher
due to its length, which is a hefty 15”, so mainline duties
are more the norm.
smoke unit is fan driven, and is anemic at best. Generates a slight
plume running in Command mode with constant 18VAC power, and the
smoke is barely visible running under transformer control. I have
repacked the smoke unit with new fiberglass, and that has helped
the smoke output slightly, but my piece will have to be considered
altered under TCA standards.
It seems to ride a bit “heavy” on my Super O track,
but negotiates the turnouts effortlessly. I had the pleasure of
double heading a pair of these when a TCA friend brought his example
over. Programming the lashup was easy, and running two of these
was a nice sight.
The Railsounds faithfully captures that peculiar Alco undulating
idle, and also it’s mechanical turbocharger whine. The two
note horn is located on the cab roof, and the Railsounds alternates
the sound of the horn from a single to a double chime, which was
typical of these older units in their waning days on the Valley.
If you’re an Alco fan, or like the roadnames Lionel has
produced for these units, it is a good solid performer and can
be had new in the box at shows for between $210-$295, and I have
seen them for as low as $175.