When most Americans think of toy trains, they think of Lionel. Many a youngster has awakened on a Christmas morning to find a Lionel train running circles under the Christmas tree. Many of them have passed that tradition on to children and grandchildren. Lionel trains have been around for over 100 years, longer than the Ford Motor Company.
Lionel has made trains that fit any model railroaders needs – from toy trains, trains for hobbyists, and many are now collectible. Lionel trains from years ago are still able to be operated on today’s track, with today’s controllers. While specific Lionel train models are only made for a few years, they often are “re-cycled” with new paint schemes and upgrades.
While Lionel produces HO scale trains, there are more well known for their “O” scale trains (sometimes referred to as O-gauge). O gauge is 1:48, a 48 foot prototype locomotive would be 1 foot long at this scale (and in HO scale it would be about 6 inches long). Lionel trains are known for their size, weight and bulk.
The size and weight of a Lionel O gauge train means that it can be set up on a carpet or floor, and run reliably. It also means they can be handled by children without concern about damage. And, for the older model railroader, the larger size means it’s very easy to see what you are working on with these replicas.
Lionel makes several “sizes” of O gauge trains, all using the same track and controllers. The O-27 size is the smaller and least expensive, entry level model. Their slightly larger cousins are designated O gauge. Finally, there are the “Standard O” models. These are almost exact replicas of earlier models of trains, with better dimensions, performance and features.
Standard O are exact 1:48 scale, and are the largest of the Lionel locomotives. These locomotives have a longer wheelbase, which limits them to operating on 54-inch diameter curves and 0-72 switches. Remember this when looking for that perfect locomotive to add to your collection!
Lionel has also developed what they call “near-scale” models of some of the largest locomotives. This is the LionMaster series, which are designed with a wheelbase that can operate on the smaller 31-inch curves and O gauge turnouts (switches).
Stamped Steel Lionel Trains
Most toy trains made prior to World War II were constructed using stamped steel, and these are referred to as “tin plate” because they were plated to combat rust.
Lionel has recently been producing replicas of the stamped steel locomotives, rolling stock and accessories from that Pre-war era, and the company calls them “Lionel Classics” or sometimes “Lionel Standard Gauge.” These re-creations are marked, and have minor changes, so that the originals (more valuable) can be identified.
Lionel O-Gauge Track
Lionel track is characterized by its 3 rail design, where power is carried in the center rail. Standard curved track is available in radii of 42”, 54” and 72.” Lionel’s FasTrack has curve sections with radii of 36”, 48”, 60” and 70.”
A decent small layout can be constructed in a space about 4×6 foot.
Lionel manufactures a complete line of O gauge accessories, from working bridges to coal cars to buildings to turntables to power packs (standard and DCC), and everything in between. Remote control uncoupling is available, track signals that work are available, and more are all available to make your model railroad as realistic as possible.