Tinplate FAQ Part 1

Archive-name: model-railroad-faq/tinplate/part1
Posting-Frequency: monthly
Last-modified: 01-05-02
URL: http://www.spikesys.com/Modelrr/faq1.html


Part 1 of 4, Information

This is a listing of frequently asked questions and general information concerning the collection, operation and repair of collectable model railroad equipment. I make every attempt to keep this information current and accurate, but I accept no liability from the use of this information. I do not endorse any of the products or companies listed here, although I often state what I have chosen to use myself. Any comments critical of a product or company is only an opinion from the experience of the author or a contributor to the FAQ, and is to be taken in that context. Many corporate names and products mentioned here are trademarks, so don't use them for profit! Your input is necessary to keep the FAQ accurate and comprehensive. Additions and corrections are always welcome. E-mail the author at:

(Christopher D. Coleman)
TCA #88-26999
LRRC #0032070

Note: This FAQ concentrates on 'traditional' tinplate trains with AC/DC motors and mechanical sequencers. Modern electronics and DC 'can' motors receive little coverage.

The official World Wide Web archive for this FAQ is at http://www.spikesys.com/Modelrr/

This FAQ is hereby Copyrighted © 1994-2002 Christopher D Coleman. It may be copied and distributed anywhere in either electronic or hardcopy format, providing it is not altered, changed or edited in any way other than format (DOS, UNIX, MAC, html, WP, etc) and no payment is extracted solely for its use. All other rights are reserved by the author. All other types of reproduction in part or in whole, or use in a for-profit manner are not permitted without express permission of the author. Those who choose to archive this FAQ are required to notify the author as to its archive location and to keep the most current copy on file. This is solely to keep the FAQ as current and accessible as possible. The author accepts no liability for the usage of this FAQ.

This FAQ contains the following topics:

Part 1, Information

Part 2, Equipment

Part 3, Equipment

Part 4, The Hobby


After a long absence, the FAQ is back and updated. I'm hoping it is still useful to folks out there despite the small trickle of feedback I've received about the FAQ recently. I am adding more MTH info but need source material in the form of MTH catalogs from 2000 and earlier. K-line and Atlas-O catalogs would help too.
- Updated makers listing with URLs and other data.
- Updated Thomas the Tank Engine with more current production info.
- Updated Lionel TrainMaster section with latest products.
- Added section for MTH Digital Command System.
- Added MTH track systems.
- Rewrote the Motor Design section.
- Updated prices on club dues and magazind subscriptions.


What constitutes a collectable model train?
A collectable model train is any model train with intrinsic historical or sentimental value rather than just scale accuracy. This can include any vintage or antique trains as well as many current production items manufactured in a similar way. For example modern issue trains using three rail operation often appeal to those who collect older three rail equipment. Scale model trains, on the other hand, are made and used with scale accuracy as the paramount factor. Scale and collectable often overlap in that models initially made for realism become uncommon and are sought by collectors, such as 1930's OO Scale. They may occur in any scale or gauge but are common to Standard, Wide, O, S and other large gauges.

Tinplate is the word most often used to describe these trains but I find it is often misunderstood as referring to only the stamped steel "tinny" trains made early in this century. It also includes plastic models made from the 1940's and later. The word collector is also misunderstood. A collector is not just someone who amasses old trains on shelves or in closets. Most collectors operate and most operators collect. It is very difficult to draw a line between the two, but most choose their own location in this spectrum. The pure collector is concerned only with appearance and the pure operator mostly with operation. Here I will use "Collectable" and "Tinplate" interchangeably. Whatever these people are called, they like trains for their "neatness" and entertainment value rather than their "exactness".

Each collector (or operator) must establish his or her own unique collecting strategy. Most basic to this is the selection of what types of trains you wish to collect. A collection of all known types and scales of model trains is not a realistic goal. The area of specialty can vary from a period of a particular make (e.g. Flyer 1907-1942) to all of a particular scale (e.g. O scale) to a particular style of trains (e.g. cast iron). This choice is completely up to the collector's preference.

There are, however, many in the hobby whose sole interest is to buy and hoard trains until they appreciate and sell them at profit. These persons have little interest in the hobby, but rather in monetary gain from them. They are generally considered a liability to the hobby and are disliked for their practices.


What are Grading Standards and what do they mean?
These standards were set forth by the Train Collectors Association and have been accepted as the means for identifying a piece's appearance. They give no information on its operational condition. The exact interpretation of these levels is somewhat subjective.

Other collectors jargon you may see:


Which manufacturers are commonly collected?
Those with address are currently in production:


The Edmonds-Metzel Manufacturing Company was founded by William O. Coleman in partnership with William Hafner (Hafner left to found Hafner Mfg. Co.) in 1907. It's train line included clockwork O gauge trains. The company first identified itself as the American Flyer Manufacturing Company in 1919. At about that same time Flyer introduced electric trains. Both cast iron and stamped steel were used in the trains.

American Flyer introduced 2 1/8" Wide gauge trains in 1925 to compete with Lionel's Standard Gauge. Wide gauge was the fad gauge of the 1920's, with Flyer and Lionel the big makers, and Ives, Boucher and Dorfan with significant shares of the market. The Great Depression killed all the Wide gauge lines and O became the mainstay of all makers that survived. Flyer Wide gauge production ended in 1932. Having weathered the depression, Flyer, like Lionel, concentrated on more scale accurate trains that the public was demanding.

W. O. Coleman Jr. sold Flyer to A. C. Gilbert of New Haven, CT in 1938, who moved production and senior staff to Gilbert's factory. Gilbert also made the highly collectable Erector Sets. Gilbert's momentum, however, was interrupted by the onset of World War II and the collateral shift of American factories from private production to war-time production.

After the war, production resumed but in the S Gauge line, which featured realistic two rail "T" track. Later, appearance was improved by the introduction of the knuckle coupler. Gilbert and Flyer prospered in the early 1950's as second in sales to Lionel. Their primary selling point over Lionel was realistic length trains and two rail track. By the 1960's Gilbert was in the same trap as Lionel with rapidly decreasing demand for their "old fashioned" toys. A. C. Gilbert Jr., then president, was unable to curb the slide and in 1962 the company was taken over by an east coast holding company. With their own staff they were equally unsuccessful and ended Flyer production in 1966 only to declare bankruptcy in 1967. Flyer rights were bought by Lionel. Not until 1979 did Fundimensions reintroduce the Flyer line and there have been limited offerings in most years since then, using mostly old Flyer dies.

Address mail to Lionel LLC below
concerning their American Flyer Line


Founded in 1948 in Fort Wayne, IN by Jack Ferris Jr. They produced a large line of the most realistic passenger cars made during the immediate postwar era until being displaced by Lionel's extruded aluminum cars. AMT also beat Lionel to the boxcar market with a line of highly detailed cars, only to be displaced again, by Lionel's 6464 line. As American Model Toys the firm brought out starter sets in 1953. The firm continued with production of F-3 Diesels and Budd cars, but by that time the market had shrunk and the company was in financial straits. In 1954 after an unsuccessful reorganization as Auburn Model Trains, the line was sold to Kusan who continued production.


Maker of S gauge models

American Models
10087 Colonial Industries Drive
South Lyon, MI 48178
Phone: 810-437-6800
Fax: 810-437-9454
e-mail:info@americanmodels.com URL: http://www.americanmodels.com/


American Standard Car Company
PO Box 394
Crystal Lake, IL 60014


(Polk's Model Craft Hobbies Inc./Aristo-Craft Trains): Scale like G-Gauge equipment in 1:29 and 1:24 scales.

Polk's Model Craft Hobbies Inc./Aristo-Craft Trains
346 Bergen Avenue
Jersey City, NJ 07304
Phone: 201-332-8100
Fax: 201-332-0521
URL: http://www.aristocraft.com/


Recent entry into O from a background in HO and N, Atlas now offers locos, cars, structures and track.

Phone: 908-687-9590
Fax: 908-687-6282
URL: http://www.atlaso.com/


Originally "Bachman Brothers" was started in 1833, but did not become important to tinplaters until the 1950's when they mass produced a large line of injection molded plastic buildings called "Plasticville". The buildings are roughly O Scale but also look good with S. The molds were also half-sized in the 1960's to produce HO scale versions. Most of the kits in both sizes are still produced. More recently Bachman has entered the G Gauge market starting with battery operated trains and moved up to track current. Currently they hold the low price range of the G market with some higher end items in their Spectrum series. They also continue to make Plasticville structures.

Bachman Industries, Incorporated
1400 East Erie Avenue
Philadelphia, PA 19124
URL: http://www.bachmanntrains.com/


Pre WWII German train maker, who imported in clockwork or electric O and 1 gauge trains to the US. Also introduced HO/OO gauge trains to the US. Was forced out of the US market by World War I.


The Boucher Manufacturing Company made model ships previous to their 1922 purchase of Voltamp's line of trains. They were modified from 2" to 2 1/8" to be compatible with Lionel's Standard Gauge line. Boucher marketed their trains as highly accurate and occupied the high end of the market. As with other larger gauge lines the Great Depression killed Boucher's, and having no smaller gauge line to fall back on it finally folded in 1943.


Made a line of large unpowered trains for outdoor use from about 1926 to 1931. They still produce a line of rugged toy cars. Powered reproductions of the trains were made in the last decade.


The Carlisle and Finch Company was founded in Cincinnati, OH in 1894. They began production of an electric train line in 1896 using three rail track, then shortly converting to two rail track. Initial products included only trollies but expanded to include an entire line. C&F trains were heavy and detailed catering to the high end market. C&F was the earliest leader in US train production until being overtaken by Ives.


Makers of standard gauge locomotives

PO Box 179
Hartford, OH 44424
Phone: 216-772-5177


Founded by James Cohen, it produced standard gauge stamped steel equipment.

PO Box 174
Trumbull, CT 06611


Founders Antony Collett and William Burke initially started in the appliance business in New York, NY, and later began repairing trains as a Lionel service station. In 1946 Trains became their primary business as they became the Train Center of America, and grew to be the largest Lionel distributor in the East. Unable to stock trains fast enough to meet demand, they began making low price versions of Lionel accessories in 1948 as Colber Manufacturing Company. Their versions included beacon and floodlight towers, watchman's shanty, street lights, and wig-wag signal.

Colber received a stern warning from Lionel concerning their packaging in 1950, concerning that it was a near copy of Lionel's, which led to its modification. During 1951-54 Colber supplied Flyer with several accessories in addition to its own line by using different nameplates and plastic colors. By 1954 Flyer no longer needed Colber's help and the toy train market was shrinking so Colber decided to leave the market. They sold their dies to Marx, who primarily wanted them out of the market, and switched to electronic components, which it still makes today.


Milton and Byron Dunkelberger created this line of 4" gauge trains from 1922-25. Their principle feature was remote control of coupling, uncoupling and dumping several years before Lionel and Flyer trains. Their track was steel ribbon placed into slotted wood ties, similar to Lionel's early track.


Maker of G Gauge equipment. The exact disposition of Delton is unknown, but they seem to be out of existance and their dies are now used by Aristo-Craft.


Dorfan was founded in 1924 by Milton and Julius Forchheimer. Their trains were promoted as being educational in that they were easy to disassemble. Their trains were made primarily of a copper-zinc alloy termed Dorfan Alloy, which was strong and light weight, but impurities in the alloy oxidized over time causing the metal to expand and crack. Since most Dorfan castings are now deteriorated, many collectors replace defective castings with reproductions.

Along with its idea of being a more thought provoking toy train, it placed well detailed and painted passenger busts in the passenger cars. Less expensive lines were lithographed stamped steel, but also had flat lithographed figures.

Dorfan was unable to weather the depression with its higher detail and hence more expensive trains, and ended production in 1934.


The J. K. Osborne Manufacturing Company produced a line of 1 Gauge trains from about 1910-17 which were known for small production runs and excellent detail work. They were made of stamped steel and were meant as competition for Bing and Marklin 1 gauge trains. Electoy trains were not produced after WWI rationing ended.


Founded by Harry Stearns in Chicago, IL, it produced a model of the Union Pacific M-1000 and a two rail standard gauge track system from 1933-34.


Founded by William Hafner in 1901 producing Clockwork toys. He produced trains from 1905-07 when he joined William Coleman to start American Flyer. In 1914 he reformed his company and produced lithographed trains. His son John took over in 1944 and ran the company until 1951 when he sold it to All Metal product which shortly went bankrupt in 1956. The tooling ended up with Marx who reused some items.


(pronounced Hoagy) Founded in 1909 in Manhattan, NY, by Hampden Hoge, who had left the company by 1919. They produced only office supplies until 1931, when Henry Katz dissolved his company and came to manage Hoge's new toy division. The firm contracted construction of their toy designs to Mattatuck Manufacturing Company. Products included stamped steel passenger and animated circus cars as well as electric and clockwork locomotives. The line ceased in 1939 and Hoge was bought and dissolved by Mattatuck in 1958. The name is currently the property of Robert Hoge (no direct relation to the founder), a Hoge collector.


Hornby was a large train producer in Britain and Europe, and attempted to establish an American plant in 1913 to market its lithographed trains. By 1925 it was producing US prototype equipment. Fierce competition, their higher prices and limited selection contributed to their limited success. Hornby was ill prepared to handle the 1929 depression and ended its US production. They are also known for their Meccano construction set which they later sold to American Flyer. Hornby is still a manufacturer of HO and OO toy trains in Europe.


The Howard Miniature Lamp Company produced a line of 2" gauge trains from 1904-07. The line included steam and electric locomotives, cars, and trollies. In 1907 the recession prompted Howard to concentrate on its manufacture of electrical components.


Founded by Harry Ives in 1868, they produced various toys including floor clockwork trains, until 1900 when a fire destroyed the plant. Afterwards Ives was able to design an entirely new toy line including both cast iron and stamped steel O gauge trains and 1 gauge clockwork trains. They were also the first US maker to use preassembled sectional track, as pioneered by European makers such as Bing. Ives became the initial American market leader in electric trains in 1910, when it introduced electric O gauge versions, following from clockwork trains. 1 gauge electrics followed in 1912. Ives was in for stiff competition when Lionel entered O gauge in 1916 and it was exceeded in size by Lionel in 1924. Ives changed from 1 gauge to 2-1/8" Standard Gauge introduced by Lionel, calling it Wide Gauge. Lionel fiercely targeted Ives quality in their ad which is at least partially due to the personal rivalry between J. L. Cowen and Harry Ives. By 1926 Ives was in financial straights and filed bankruptcy in 1928. Lionel and Flyer jointly bought Ives and in 1930 Lionel purchased Flyer's portion. Lionel continued to build Ives trains until 1931 when train sales plummeted. Lionel mostly wanted Ives for their superior and patented three position reversing unit.

Ives is not produced except occasional reproductions
Name owned by Lionel LLC


A small maker of tin trains which became Marx's entry into the market when they purchased it.


A more recent addition to the three rail fray, it was founded in the 1970's by Maury D. Klein (hence MDK Inc.). K-Line acquired many of the old Marx dies and tooling, changing only the name on the products. More recently they have greatly diversified into more accurate models. They currently offer a full range of O-Gauge products. Their quality is usually good but can sag dramatically in some cases.

MDK, Inc.
K-Line Electric Trains, Inc.
PO Box 2831
Chapel Hill, NC 27515
Phone: 718-648-5399
Toll Free: 800-34-HOBBY (800-344-6229)


Maker of G-Gauge equipment

Kalamazoo Trains
655 44th Street
Allegan, MI 49010


Henry Katz and Company was founded by Henry Katz and was famed as the creator of the one dollar train and one dollar transformer in 1929. The firm produced a few low priced yet attractive lithographed trains. It was dissolved in 1931 when Henry Katz moved to Hoge.


Founded by Norm Kasiner and Bill Kachler in 1947 in Rochester, NY. They produced a small line of O gauge passenger car kits.


No information available.


The Knapp Electric and Novelty Company was founded in 1890 and introduced its full line of 2" gauge trains in 1904. Train production ended in 1913, but Knapp later marketed HO scale trains from 1931-46.


No information available.


An established plastics maker who, under the guidance of president Bill McLain, purchased AMT's tooling in 1954 and used it as a base for their own line of trains. They were unique in being able to run on either two or three rail track. Kusan created many "space train" items in the late 1960's prompting Lionel to do the same. Nevertheless as the train market declined, Kusan was financially forced to phase the line out beginning in 1958. In 1961 the line ended production and the tooling was sold to Kris Model Trains.


(Lehmann Gross Bahn) A German maker who defined G Gauge (G for (Gross) or Big) in the 1970's and has imported increasingly to the US for the past fifteen years. Known for their high quality and price as well as being weatherproofed for outdoor operation.

Lehmann (Ernst Paul Lehmann Patentwerk)
Nuremberg, Germany

LGB of America
6444 Nancy Ridge Road
San Diego, CA 92121
URL: http://www.lgb.com/


It was founded as the Lionel Manufacturing Company in 1900 by Joshua Lionel Cowen (spelled Cohen at the time), a young inventor. It initially produced electric fans during the summer of 1900, but in the fall demand waned and during the Christmas season he had the "vision" of an electrically propelled train. In 1901 he began production of 2-7/8 gauge two rail equipment. In 1906 he changed to three rail 2-1/8" gauge "Standard Gauge", a trademarked name. 2-1/8" gauge was an improper interpretation of the old Marklin defined gauge which was 2- 1/8" between rail CENTERS not their inside faces as Cowen interpreted it.

Lionel changed its name to the Lionel Corporation in 1918 and exceeded Ives in sales in 1924. This marked the start of the Classical Period of flamboyant, bright trains. The depression took its toll on train sales and killed the extravagant Standard Gauge by 1940 in favor of O, which Lionel began in 1916. Lionel bought the bankrupt Ives in 1930 and then itself entered receivership. It recovered by 1939 largely with the help of its hugely successful Mickey Mouse hand cars. From 1938 to 1942 Lionel produced several O and OO scale models as part of the birth of the scale model movement. During WWII, as it had in WWI, Lionel made naval navigation equipment.

The peak postwar year was 1952. By 1955 the market had soured and Lionel headed into the red. In 1959 Cowen and his son sold their stock to Roy Cohn, an corporate raider, who tried cutting costs and massive diversification only to wreck the company by 1964. Lionel produced or distributed fishing reels, race sets, chemistry sets, record players and other odd products. Quality was often negated to the quick buck. Lionel managed to buy the rights to Flyer in 1967 and keep a toy line going until 1969 when they sold the train making rights to General Mills Model Plastics Division (MPC), which later changed its name to Fundimensions. Lionel floundered financially as a holding company until bankruptcy around 1990.

Fundimensions had the advantage of great experience in the plastics industry which they incorporated into the train line. The size of the line ebbed and flowed, peaking in 1978 and 1983. Quality was good on the whole, with top of the line items being far superior to old Lionel and bottom of the line being worse. Fundimensions became a part of Kenner-Parker Toys in 1985 and produced Lionel until 1986 when the name, rights and facilities were sold to Richard Kughn, a collector and real estate man.

Kughn created Lionel Trains Incorporated, an autonomous train maker. Initially there were numerous excursions into semi-scale models and Standard Gauge reissues, but their production was reduced greatly by 1991. The line has been significantly re-vamped providing more and higher quality beginner level equipment and an overall more balanced line up to $600 diesels. Quality and selection have also been greatly increased. LTI introduced new and innovative items with a vigor matched only by the Lionel Corp. of the 1950's. They have made substantial use of the latest electronics in such items as Railscope, RailSounds, RailSounds II, electronic e-units, and now TrainMaster control system.

In September 1995 Wellspring Associates LLC acquired LTI and the trademarks of the original Lionel Corporation, previously leased by MPC and LTI. Their intentions include increased marketing toward the general population rather than just the toy train market.

Lionel LLC
50625 Richard W Blvd
Chesterfield, MI 48051-2493
Phone: 313-949-4100
Toll Free: 800-4-LIONEL to locate the nearest authorized dealer
Toll Free: 800-727-7297 for info on the TrainMaster control system
Fax: 313-949-3273
URL: http://www.lionel.com/


Leading European maker of a wide range of gauges and scales.

PO Box 319
16988 W Victor Road
New Berlin, WI 53151
URL: http://www.marklin.com/


A popular manufacturer of toys and trains founded in 1919 by Louis and David Marx, which usually supplied the price niche below Lionel and Flyer, making it popular with those who couldn't afford those brands. Marx train production started in 1938 when they purchased Joy Line trains. Marx was likely the last train maker to convert from stamped steel to plastic, in the 1960's, whereas Lionel and Flyer did so in the 1940's and 50's. Marx's principle concern was maximum production and quality at the lowest price. As a result there were endless variations of products. Additionally Marx often did not place catalog numbers on many trains. In 1972 Marx sold the company to Quaker Oats Company who continued production until 1975. Many of the Marx dies were purchased by MDK, who changed only the name imprint. The Marx trademark is currently the property of American Plastics, and has recently been licensed to James and Debby Flynn, who are making reproduction stamped steel Marx trains.

Marx Trains
209 E. Butterfield Road #228
Elmhurst, IL 60126
Phone: 708-941-3843
Fax: 708-941-3829
URL: http://www.choicemall.com/marxtrains/
URL: http://www.choicemall.com/marxtrainsusa/


This Kent, WA company is a producer of larger scale stamped steel trains. It produced reproductions of Lionel's 2 7/8 gauge line from 1957-61. In 1966 it introduced its own Standard Gauge line eventually including steam and diesel locomotives and freight and passenger cars.


No information available.


Maker of G-Gauge cars

Model Die Casting
3811 W Roscrans Blvd
PO Box 926
Hawthorne, CA 90251


(Mikes Train House) A modern distributor of well detailed locomotives which they design and have manufactured by Samhongsa in Korea. MTH previously made several Lionel authorized Standard gauge reissues. MTH is currently posing a major challenge to Lionel for market share. They produce a full range of O gauge including starter sets and transformers.

MTH Electric Trains
9693 Gerwig Lane
Columbia, MD 21046
Phone: 410-381-2580
Fax: 410-381-6122
URL: http://www.mth-railking.com/


Maker of Disney and similar motif stamped steel trains and trollies. Meant as toylike collectibles, though they do operate.

Pride Lines Limited
651 Hoffman Avenue
Lindedhurst, NY 11757
Phone: 516-225-0033
Fax: 516-225-0099


Maker of scale like tinplate locomotives.

Red Caboose
PO Box 2490
Longmont, CO 80502
Phone/Fax: 303-772-8813
URL: http://www.red-caboose.com/


(ROW) Maker of scale-like O gauge equipment. Reported to be out of business.

Right-of-Way Industries
1145 Highbrook Street
Akron, OH 44301


Maker of S scale rolling stock.

S Helper Service
2 Roberts Road
New Brunswick, NJ 08901-1621
Phone: 908-545-0303
Fax: 908-545-8303
URL: http://www.showcaseline.com/

SUNSET MODELS (3rd Rail division)

Maker of scale like O 3 rail locos.

Sunset Models
3rd Rail Division
138 W Campbell Ave
Campbell, CA 95008
Phone: 408-866-1727
URL: http://www.3rdrail.com/


Makers of reproductions of prewar tin and Buddy L trains. Reportedly in bankrupcy as of September 2004. Web site is offline.

227 West Main Street
Johnson City, TN 37603
Phone: 615-926-4287
Order: 800-825-4287
URL: http://www.buddy-l-antique-repros.com/


Founded by Jim Thomas in Wenonah, NJ to create a line of 0 gauge trains. They succeeded in producing a General steam locomotive and set before Lionel. They acquired Scale-Craft and Company's line of 0 gauge cars and moved to a new facility in Shawnee, MI. Thomas continued to produce trains until 1959 when Jim Thomas died suddenly of a heart attack. Other firms continued production until the dies were destroyed in a fire in 1964.


Founded by Ulmer and Robbins in 1949 in Chenango Bridge, NY. They produced a small line of passenger cars until 1952.


Unique made a line of tin lithographed trains produced 1949- 51 by Unique Art Manufacturing Company, an established toy maker. The line included both electric and clockwork trains and four wheel cars, some using old Dorfan dies. As a lower end of the market line, it could not compete with Marx, and was ended when Unique decided to stay with other toys and office supplies.


Maker of a variety of G gauge equipment, including cars and locomotives.

USA Trains
662 Cross St.
PO Box 100
Malden, MA 02148
URL: http://www.usatrains.com/


No information available.


The Voltamp Electric Manufacturing Company was founded in the 1890's by Manes E. Fuld. It began producing electric trains and accessories for 2" two rail track. The line included mostly B&O steamers, electrics and passenger cars. The line was sold in 1922 to Boucher.


Another modern maker of scale-like O collectors pieces.

Weaver Models "Quality Craft"
PO Box 231
177 Wheatley Ave
Northumberland, PA 17857
Phone: 717-473-9434
Fax: 717-473-3293
URL: http://www.weavermodels.com/


Founded in 1971 by Jerry Williams as a maker of reproduction Lionel and Ives Standard Gauge. The company slowly shifted its interest to modern O gauge beginning with the purchase of some old Kusan dies. They are now a distributor for scale-like three rail locomotives and cars. Their quality was excellent in the 1980's but seems to have sagged lately in the early 1990's.

Williams Electric Trains
8835 Columbia 100 Parkway
Columbia, MD 21045
Phone: 410-997-7766
Fax: 410-997-6196
URL: http://www.williamstrains.com/


Thomas, Thomas, I must have Thomas!
Please do not ask me where to get Thomas. I don't know who has the sets in stock, but I can tell you when they were produced.

Thomas was offered by Lionel in G gauge 1993 thru 1995. Lionel offered Thomas in O gauge from 1997 through 2000. The G gauge set was reintroduced in 2001, minus a few components in the earlier set.


All are Large Scale and have loop and hook couplers.


Items were available for separate sale in 1998 and as a set in 1999 and 2000 along with a play mat, station (1999) or circus tent (2000) and oval of track.

Items were available for separate sale in 1999.


What the heck is Railscope?
Railscope is an invention of LTI which involves a miniature B&W camera mounted in a locomotive sending a signal to a remote TV. The signal is sent through the rails. The Railscope system includes the locomotive, receiver enclosed in a simulated lumber pile, coax cable, coax adapter, two inductors and a capacitor. A Lionel 4-1/2" TV was offered separately. On larger layouts use of chokes and resistors on all track connections is necessary to filter out noise that will distort the picture received. The earlier engine cameras were powered by a 9 V which lasted only about 30 minutes of run time. Later units contain adapters for 6 AA batteries which will last longer. The receiver also uses a 9 V which lasts much longer.

First introduced in 1988 with O gauge GP-9 and HO FA-2 with "Lionel Lines" markings, all units ran on one 9-Volt battery in the locomotive and one in the receiver. They suffered from the exhausted locomotive battery problem. In 1989 the line was the same except for the addition of a large scale (G) 0-4-4 and S gauge PA-2, also in Lionel Lines markings. In 1990 Two additional O GP-9's were added, one in Union Pacific and one in New York Central, and both cameras were to run track power with a 9-V in the receiver. Neither unit was produced, though. The S gauge was replaced with a PA-2 in Nickel Plate Road markings, but it is reported that neither S unit reached production. The previous HO, G and O were still offered, but with adapters to substitute 6 AA batteries. There have been no units cataloged since then.

At the HORDE rock concert a few years ago, Lionel (a la Neil Young) had a layout showcasing coming Lionel innovations. Among them was LionVision, and improved version of Railscope. LionVision does not transmit the signal on the track, thus eliminating many sources of noise. Also the image was color and the demo at HORDE included sound. It is unclear when or if LionVision will hit shelves.


I'm confused what all the locomotive types are.
This is a ROUGH listing of prototype locomotives types.
     STEAMERS - (# front/pilot - middle/drivers - back/trailing
     Principal Makers: Alco, Baldwin, Lima, N&W RR.
     Burns Coal, Wood or Oil in firebox, fumes pass through water-
     filled boiler in flue tubes, and exit into smokebox and up
     through stack. Heated water passes from the rear tender tank
     to boiler to the cylinders. Reciprocating rods connect pistons
     to wheels.

     O-anything-O Switcher
     4-4-0 American
     4-4-2 Atlantic
     2-6-2 Prairie
     2-6-0 Mogul
     4-6-2 Pacific
     4-6-4 Hudson
     2-8-0 Consolidation
     2-8-2 Mikado
     2-8-4 Berkshire
     4-8-0 Mastodon
     4-8-2 Mountain
     4-8-4 Northern
     2-10-0 Deacpod
     4-6-6-4 Challenger
     4-8-8-4 Big Boy
     2-8-8-8-2, 2-8-8-8-4 Triplex
     4-6-0  Tenwheeler
     4-10-0 Twelvewheeler 
     2-10-2 Santa Fe
     2-10-4 Texas
     2-4-2 Columbia
     2-6-6-6 Allegheny
     4-4-4 A Baltimore
     4-6-4-4 Pennsylvania
     4-10-0 Mastodon
     4-10-2 Southern Pacific
     4-12-2 Union Pacific 

     A steamer with two pair of cylinders is Duplex.
     A duplex with the front and/or rear drivers hinged is Articulated.
     A duplex which uses the steam in the cylinder pairs sequentially is a Compound.
     A duplex which divides the steam between cylinder pairs is a Simple.
     An articulated compound is a Mallet.

     Diesel engine or gas turbine is connected to a generator: or
     power from overhead lines passes through internal step-down
     transformer. Electric power is regulated and transmitted to
     axle motors in the trucks, hence diesel-electric, (AC or DC).
             A=one powered axle       1=one unpowered axle
             B=two powered axles      2=two unpowered axles
             C=three powered axles    3=three unpowered axles
             D=four powered axles     4=four unpowered axles
             +=separation between different wheel sets
             Ao, Co,... is sometimes used for an axle with an independent traction motor
     General Motors Electro-Motive Division.
     GP-7,9,12,18,20,30,35    B+B       GP=General Purpose
     SD-9,7,40,40-2,50,60,70  C+C       SD=Special Duty
     F-3,7,9                  B+B       F=Fifteen-hundred HP (later 
     E-2,3,8                  A1A+A1A   E=Eighteen-hundred HP

     General Electric Transportation Division
     U-18B,22B,36B            B+B       U=Universal
     U-22C,36C                C+C
     Dash 8-40C,              C+C
     EL-C (electric)          C+C
     EP-5 (electric)          B+B

     Alco (American Locomotive Company)


     Baldwin/Lima/Lima-Hamilton/Lima-Hamilton-Baldwin (mergers)

     Pennsylvania RR

     Other oddities such as Steam turbines and Hydro-Motive
     existed, but did not catch on.
End of the Tinplate Train FAQ, Part 1 of 4
On to part 2 of 4