Facebook Page
Houston Tinplate Operators Society - Lionel, Trains, Layouts: Newsletter

Newsletter: July 1999

In this issue:


By Jim Herron

In the span of five short years, my son, Andrew, and I have been on many railroad adventures. We have covered the United States from Maine to California. We have visited many a site, expecting less but receiving more than anticipated.

In listening to travel talk around the club, there seem to be a lot of people loving the adventure of traveling back in time to explore early railroading. So, I thought it might be a good idea to list our ten most popular scenic and historical places to visit in American railroading history.

My personal favorite is the Durango & Silverton Railway in Colorado. This narrow gauge steam train rides through the mountains to Silverton's famous silver mines. Arguably the most scenic train ride in America, it is about a 90-mile trip and takes a whole day. Reservations are recommended.

While in Colorado, take a ride on the Georgetown Loop Railroad, located about 90 miles west of Denver. This is another narrow gauge railroad that at one time catered to the silver and gold mining community of Silver Plume. The Loop has several steamers, including 2-8-0 and Shay types. The 6 1/2-mile trip takes about 90 minutes. The rising mountains and traverse of the 96-foot high trestle known as the Devil's Gate Viaduct make this a special train ride. Close by is the Colorado Railroad Museum in Golden and a visit to the state's Railroad Heritage Museum in Denver.

Traversing the border between New Mexico and Colorado, on what used to be Denver & Rio Grande narrow gauge trackage, is the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad. This 64-mile steam excursion crosses Cumbres Pass at 10,015 feet and goes through the spectacular Toltec gorge. It goes through tunnels, over high bridges, stop for lunch and returns, and is as scenic as any rail ride in America and a must visit. This is a great weekend trip for the family.

A train operator's dream is a weekend in Pennsylvania Dutch County, the home of the Amish. You go back in time in the midst of horse-drawn carriages and homes without electricity. You can spend a night or two in one of the 50 or so red cabooses at the Red Caboose or eat at the Red Caboose Victorian Restaurant. Kids will love it. Plus, close by is the Choo-Choo Barn, a model railroad layout of about 1700 square feet that was begun over fifty years ago. It is now loaded with animation. Next is the National Toy Train Museum at Strasburg, then the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania, a 90,000 square foot museum of 19th and 20th century trains of all kinds. Finally, there is the Strasburg Railroad, a nine-mile, forty-five minute ride to "paradise" on a Baldwin steam locomotive. If you coordinate this visit with a trip to a TCA meet at nearby York, Pennsylvania, it will really be a train lover's dream vacation.

Down Tennessee way in the old Southern Railroad terminal in Chattanooga are 48 old Victorian train cars that are part of a hotel. It contains dining cars, a bar, a formal restaurant and banquet room. A trolley takes people on tours and to the Downtown Arrow, a nine-mile steam locomotive ride through Chattanooga.

Steamtown, U. S. A. in Scranton, Pennsylvania, is a National Historic Site. A day spent here is well worth the time, as there is an operating roundhouse, museum, operating maintenance facility, train rides and a hotel with a restaurant in the old passenger terminal. It is open all year.

The San Diego Model Train Museum is a 24,000 square foot model train display of all scales. A toy train Lionel room, as it is called, makes this visit. Close by is the old Santa Fe train station that looks the same as it did in 1930. There you can catch the trolley for a ride through San Diego or to Tijuana, Mexico or catch the Coaster or Amtrak.

A trip to New England would not be complete without visiting the Conway Scenic Railroad in Conway, New Hampshire, and the Mt. Washington Cog Railway about thirty minutes away. Both are worth a visit. A journey on the Conway Scenic Railroad begins at a 1874 railroad station. There you board a Pullman car or a dining car pulled by either steam or diesel locomotives for a trip on former B & M trackage. The Cog Railway was the world's first mountain climbing railway and was completed in 1860. It is all steam powered and the passenger cars are pulled up grades as steep as 37-degrees. The train travels to an elevation of 6288 feet. Bring a sweater. There are sometimes snow showers in July! Just ask Andrew.

Moving to middle-America is the National Railroad Museum in Green Bay, Wisconsin. A 20-minute ride starts you off to see an eclectic variety of trains, a museum, depot and restaurant. It contains a collection of about 65 pieces of moving equipment, including a GG1 and UP Big Boy.

The last of the ten best places to visit is the Virginia Railroad Museum of Transportation in Roanoke, Virginia. It was founded in 1960 and dedicated by the Commonwealth of Virginia in 1983 in recognition of the quality and diversity of its equipment and collection. It has a former N & W freight station, plus a number of diesel, electric and steam engines (including recently retired N & W J-484 #611). There is an extensive collection of passenger cars, freight cars, trolleys, antique automobiles and tracks. It rates in the 10 best category because of the number of pieces. So, if you pass through the area, stop by and see a real J.

As time permits us to visit places we've missed, our "top ten" will likely change or simply grow. That's for the next installment (hopefully NOT in another five years). In the mean time, if you have a personal favorite not on the list, please let me know so it can be added to future articles.


The new Lionel Classic Catalog is due out in early July, and according to Lionel is "chock full of new products and ideas." Here is a sampling of what this catalog will have to offer:

Special Edition F3s: The Platinum Ghost (clear polycarbonate shell with "Lionel Lines" markings, platinum-plated die-cast truck sides, frame and front pilot) and the Spirit of the Century (bright and colorful deco paint scheme designed by a Lionel enthusiast living in Australia, Command equipped and special RailSounds chip). Each are limited editions, and matching passenger cars will also be available for each F3.

Allegheny 2-6-6-6 steamer: Lionel's first articulated steam engine, lettered for the C & O or Virginian RRs. This will be Lionel's largest die-cast locomotive ever made, measuring 32" in length and weighing almost 18 pounds.

West Side Lumber Shay: Command-equipped, fan-driven smoke unit, and RailSounds 4.0 with an actual Shay recording. Prototypical log cars will also be available.

RS-11: This all-new diesel is near scale and includes details such as pneumatic hoses and a fan-driven diesel smoke unit. Road names will include New York Central or Delaware & Hudson.

Route 66 Series: Two new accessories, designed by Mike Fulmer, will be offered - the UFO Café and Hindenburger Café, "more colorful and creative than any accessory you've laid eyes on".

Lionel Heavies: Lionel's most popular boxcars will be available with an optional die-cast frame.

The "Ultimate" Starter Set: Lionel will offer a ready-to-run set lead by a RailSounds die-cast Hudson. A new 80-watt transformer, modeled after the ZW, will also be unveiled. MSRP under $400.

Lionel Archive Series: Samples of products that went into production and prototypes never produced make up the Lionel Archive. Three 6464 boxcars never produced mark the first set in this collectible series.

Christmas Offerings: A Christmas Work Caboose (loaded with presents), Christmas boxcar (plays Frosty the Snowman), and an operating car with an elf chasing Rudolph around and around. There will also be the traditional dated cars.

Eastwood Automobilia has announced the Monopoly Set #2. Manufactured by Lionel and priced at $289.99, production will be limited to 1400 sets. The four cars in MS #2 include: FREE PARKING FLATCAR with TWO AUTOS, GO TO JAIL / IN JAIL STOCKADE CAR, MONOPOLY RAILROADS BOXCAR and CHANCE GONDOLA with RICH UNCLE PENNYBAGS CANISTERS. Each car bears authentic Monopoly graphics dating back to the 1930's. This set is scheduled for delivery in December. Check this set out at the Eastwood Automobilia website @


By Walt Sklenar

Test your knowledge about post war and MPC Lionel Electric Locomotives:

Lionel's first production version of the GG1 appeared in:

A: 1945

B: 1947

C: 1949

Lionel's post war version of the EP-5 first appeared in which paint scheme?

A: Great Northern Railway green and orange

B: Milwaukee Road

C: New Haven

When the Lionel EP-5 was revived by MPC, which roadnames did it appear in?

A: Milwaukee, Pennsy and Great Northern

B: New Haven, Milwaukee and Pennsy

C: New Haven, Milwaukee and Great Northern

Lionel's version of the Virginian rectifier electric was produced during what years?

A: 1953-1955

B: 1955-1958

C: 1958-1959

The list price of the Lionel EP-5, released in 1956, was:

A: $29.95

B. $39.95

C: $59.95

Through the post war years, Lionel produced the GG1 in several paint schemes. Which of these was the last to be produced at their New Jersey factory (in 1963)?

A: Pennsy Tuscan Red with single stripe

B: Pennsy Tuscan Red with five stripes

C: Penn Central (black)

D. Pennsy Brunswick Green with single stripe

During the production of Lionel's first run of GG1s (#2332), what discrepancy was discovered and corrected?

A: Horn was initially not included but later added.

B: Engines were finished in flat black but later changed to Brunswick Green.

C: Magnetraction was not initially featured.


By Jim Herron

Railroad motorcars were nicknamed "Doodlebugs" and combined three functions into one vehicle: motive power, passenger seating and baggage storage. This functional consolidation efficiently serviced branch lines by saving the railroads the costly operation of an entire train with a locomotive and half-filled cars. The baggage and freight compartment served as a railway post office (RPO) and as a refrigerator car (by using metal plates and ice).

Doodlebugs were the life-blood along the routes of the Santa Fe system serving small rural communities in Oklahoma, Kansas and Texas. The last "Doodlebug" operated on a line between Pampa, Texas, and Clinton, Oklahoma. It was retired in October, 1953.

A. T. & S. F. M.177 Motorcar was jointly constructed in September, 1929, by the General Motors Electro-Motive Division and the Pullman Car and Manufacturing Division in Chicago, Illinois. Mechanically, the M.177 Doodlebug is a unique survivor in that it retained its original Winston gasoline powered engine while other Doodlebugs were converted to diesels.

M. T. H. has come out with a magnificent line of Doodlebugs in Santa Fe, Baltimore & Ohio, Pennsylvania and Chicago & Northwestern livery. The RailKing Doodlebug is a twin-motored single unit with an operating headlight, lighted interior, operating on a O-31 track. It has die cast trucks, metal couplers and can be optionally equipped with ProtoSound, MTH digital sound and train control system, featuring passenger station sounds, speaking brakes and remotely controlled ProtoCoupler. It can be found for about $100 and with ProtoSound for about $200.

The "Doodlebug" is a fine running engine. It is smooth, quiet and a strong runner with great sounds. There is also a rumor that MTH is going to produce a second passenger car for the Santa Fe and B & O some time in the next year.

| Privacy | Legal | Contact |