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

Newsletter: August 1999

In this issue:


By Jim Herron

As a child, I received Lionel trains from my parents, aunts and uncles almost every Christmas. When my interest in toy trains was rekindled several years ago and I started to pull my engines and locomotives out of the closet, I was surprised by the number I had accumulated as a youngster. There were quite a number of locomotives with different names and lengths, like Hudsons, Berkshires, Northerns, Americans, Turbines, Consolidateds, Mikados and Atlantics. I never knew the reason for the distinction until I did a little fact finding and learned the history of the "Whyte Wheel Classification for Steam Locomotives."

F. M. Whyte, a mechanical engineer, suggested a method for classifying steam locomotives by the number of wheels they had. This system came into use early in the 20th century and is still common terminology today.

These numbers, read from left to right, refer to wheel sets positioned front to the back on the locomotive. Each of these sets of wheels has a specific function. With a 4-4-0, for example, the first place indicates the number of small wheels which lead the locomotive, known as the leading or pilot wheels. These wheels support the weight of the cylinders and smoke box at the front of the locomotive, and give the locomotive stability as it travels. The second place shows the number of wheels which actually power the locomotive, called the driving wheels. These wheels are larger than either leading or trailing wheels and, besides propelling the engine, are strategically situated to support the weight of the locomotive. The third place usually gives the number of small wheels trailing the drive wheels. They can support the weight of the boiler's firebox in the cab. Sometimes a locomotive's classification numbers will have four number places. In this case, the third place gives the number of wheels in the second set of driving wheels and the fourth place shows the number of trailing wheels. An example would be the 4-6-6-4 "Challenger."

Most locomotive types are also known by a name. For example, the 4-4-0 type locomotive is commonly referred to as an "American." Other 19th century locomotive classes include the 4-6-0 "Ten Wheeler," the 2-6-0 "Mogul," and the 2-8-0 "Consolidation."

One can appreciate the work a particular type of steam locomotive was designed to do by looking at both the size and arrangement of its wheels. Before the 1880's, most locomotives were the "American" type and were used for both passenger and freight service. As the 20th century approached, locomotive designs became specialized according to proposed use. Freight trains, for example, were heavy and long, demanding great power to get rolling. A heavy locomotive with small driving wheels satisfied this need. On the other hand, passengers expected to arrive at their destinations as soon as possible, so passenger trains required locomotives that could attain high speeds. Since passenger trains were not as heavy as freight trains, their locomotives, like the "Atlantic," could sacrifice starting power for speed. Locomotives used in railroad yards for switching duties usually had small driving wheels and no leading or trailing wheels (0-4-0 or 0-6-0 commonly). Locomotives used within industrial plants were often designed to carry extra water in a saddle-shaped tank right over the boiler, rather than pull a tender behind them. Hence, the name "Camelback."

Although the 19th and 20th century engineers built and designed locomotives with other wheel arrangements, many railroads did this in their own shops. A classic example was the Norfolk and Western "J," an engineering marvel. As technology grew, the life of steam became obsolete and diesel and electric power took over, thereby changing the locomotives and the industry forever.


The LCCA (Lionel Collectors Club of America) will hold their 29th Annual Convention at the Fort Worth Convention Center August 10th - 15th. Events include a number of tours around the Dallas-Ft. Worth area, mostly Wednesday through Friday. For train enthusiasts, there are rides aboard the Tarantula Steam Train and a tour of the Age of Steam Museum. Not on the LCCA tour agenda, but nevertheless of railroading interest, is the Fort Worth Amtrak station, just a few blocks from the convention center. This former Santa Fe station celebrates its 100th birthday in 1999. The Trading Hall heats up on Saturday (9 AM to 5 PM, LCCA members only) and Sunday (9 AM to 3 PM, open to public).

As noted in the June issue of LCCA's bimonthly magazine The Lion Roars (page 46), "one of the highlights of the convention will be a wonderful operating train layout deigned and built by the Houston Tinplate Operators Society." Yes, your eyes are not deceiving you!! The portable layout makes its longest journey to date for the weekend festivities. What a way to debut months of hard work redoing the scenicking, installing a new wiring system and constructing a new control panel!

It promises to be a fun-filled weekend. Give Jim Herron a call for details. We'll let you know how it went in the September HTOS newsletter.


By Walt Sklenar

Here are the answers to last month's quiz on Lionel post war and MPC electric locomotives:

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

B. 1947

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

C. New Haven

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

A. Milwaukee, Pennsy and Great Northern

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

C. 1958-1959

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

B. $39.95

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

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

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


To commemorate the 10th anniversary of HTOS existence, the club is offering a limited-edition, custom decorated aquarium car. The "Lone Star Aquarium Car" will be painted in the Texas State flag motif of red, white and blue, with the HTOS logo centered between the tanks. This uncataloged car will have an "8999" reporting mark, signifying years of the club's inception and release of this car. Anticipated delivery is October. Price is $89, plus $6 shipping and handling. For more information, visit the HTOS website at: or e-mail to:


We thought it appropriate to reprint, for the benefit of new club members and LCCA members not familiar with HTOS, some seldom talked about benefits of membership to our club:

See first hand virtually every piece of new Lionel rolling stock and accessories, as well as some of the largest (i.e. most expensive) diesels and steamers manufactured by Lionel and MTH. This benefit is provided primarily by Tom Lyttle, and is a better alternative than reading a review in CTT or OGR!

Learn first hand how to rapidly modify a layout under construction, even if you have spent months (or longer) planning and building your train world. This is actually an offshoot to benefit #1 - such modifications are almost always the result of purchasing a locomotive that only works on 072 curves. Again, thanks Tom!

Learn how to hide those big ticket or multiple item purchases from your spouse. Since the club has two operational layouts and storage space, it is perfectly logical to bring those purchases there instead of home. This benefit is related to both #1 and #2. Keep it up, Tom!

Learn subtle ways of getting out of those not-so-fun chores around the house. When your better half asks about cutting the lawn, painting the den or cleaning the bathroom, you can always say: "They need me at the club!" Rumor is that Tom can also take credit for this benefit.

Learn about recycling and hand-me-downs. It is easy to justify spending $150 for that 6464 boxcar issued in 1956 when you point out that you are saving the environment by recycling the plastic and that hand-me-downs are common sense for kid's clothing.

Y2K. Industries such as banking and the airlines are spending huge amounts of time and capital to insure their systems don't shut down January 1, 2000. What about the operations of the HTOS layouts? There may not be a better way to get out of doing those chores then to say, "I need to be at the club to help work on our Y2K problem." This in fact will probably sit better with your spouse than saying you're going to GATS or a TCA meet, since the notion of spending huge amounts of money will be eliminated.

Exercise. For many of us, trying to fit in an exercise program amidst our busy schedules is difficult. Think about the aerobic benefits of carrying around a box or two containing your favorite die-cast steam locomotive. And here's a heart-healthy suggestion - when bringing your engine to the club, park at ground level and use the stairs rather than the escalator.

Investment. Think of your major train acquisitions as a stock purchase. The market may rise and dip, sometimes free-falling, but your train collection keeps on appreciating. Well, at least you appreciate it. Especially if like some of us, you buy two of the most collectable of everything.

Brain power. As we age, certain basic thinking skills can dull. Learn to add large numbers in your head as you thumb through the latest product catalogs - and if you're really good, subtract that amount from your current bank account.

Camaraderie. Finally, it just fun comparing notes, talking, story telling and laughing about all of the above with your train buddies who share the same problems. At least your spouse hasn't recommended a shrink yet.

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