Brand new book about Lionel's postwar trains

Posted by Roger Carp
on Monday, April 10, 2017

I'm delighted to share the big news with you about the latest addition to my family. This is the sixth or seventh new member we welcomed over the past 25 years. 

Wait, don't get confused and imagine I have a new son or daughter. Nope, much too old and too tired for a little one in diapers.

I'm thrilled to announce my latest book from Kalmbach Publishing Co.: Collectible Lionel Classics: Treasures from the Postwar Era.

My newest book.

Note: Click on any of the images to enlarge.

Part of an overview of the Lionel postwar era.

Readers of Classic Toy Trains know that for almost 20 years, I have been researching and writing one-page essays about different collectible trains and accessories published as "Collectible Classics." I've covered items from every era of toy train production from a host of large and small American manufacturers.

The 2322 Virginian Fairbanks-Morse H-24-66 Train Master.

About a year ago, I was given a green light by the Books Department at Kalmbach to create a 128-page book focusing exclusively on the popular era spanning the years 1945 through 1969, a period known in the hobby as "postwar." I decided to make Lionel locomotives, motorized units, rolling stock, and accessories the subject of this book. As much as I love and respect models made and marketed by American Flyer, Marx, Kusan, and other firms during the postwar era, I have studied the trains and business practices of Lionel the most. It therefore seemed most sensible to look only at Lionel items.

It's not just locomotives. Accessories are included too, like the 455 Operating Oil Derrick and Pump.
I then explored the advance and consumer catalogs put out by Lionel during the postwar era to come up with a list of 100 items about which I knew some great stories and would be able to write strong articles. I wanted to explain to readers why the different models had significance and should be appreciated by collectors and operators. As important, those trains and accessories could still be obtained for reasonable prices. I decided as well to omit passenger trains because they typically are acquired as sets rather than individually.

Before long, I had compiled a long list of cool and notable trains and accessories,  the vast majority of which I had never written about or included as Collectible Classics. I worked with CTT contributor Joe Algozzini and photographer William Zuback to get the pictures I would need to show each item. 

Then it was time to write brand-new essays about the 100 items. I conducted fresh research using vintage catalogs and promotional literature as well as the Lionel Service Manual from postwar days. The articles came together, and I realized how much I was learning as I wrote them. I gained greater appreciation for the innovative engineers and model makers who had worked under the supervision of Chief Engineer Joseph Bonanno. I also grasped more fully how Lionel's marketing and sales executives publicized what they were putting out for children and families to enjoy. 

In addition to the different one-page essays, which include color photos and boxes with additional and noteworthy facts about each item, I wrote brand-new overviews about Lionel in the postwar era and then about the development of the steam engines, diesel and electric locomotives, motorized units, freight cars, and accessories cataloged during the postwar era. These longer articles will help readers better understand where particular models fit into trends in design, decoration, and marketing at Lionel.

By the way, I made a couple of decisions about organization and information worth mentioning here. First, I departed from the customary method of looking at freight cars. Instead of listing each of the boxcars or tank cars discussed in order of their product number, I arranged them chronologically. That way, readers will see how designs and types changed over time to reflect overall marketing goals. And I broadened the standard definition of flatcars to include various models whose features and superstructures were added to the flat and level framework. Thus, a crane car and a searchlight car qualified as enhanced flatcars. After all, their boom and floodlight were built on top of a flatcar, the way props were added to stages in theater.

Second, after specifying how much an item retailed for the year it was introduced, I adjusted that amount for inflation. Using the calculator program on the Internet from the Consumer Price Index, I was able to learn how much a boxcar priced at $3.95 in 1946 would have sold for in 2016 dollars. All of a sudden, the general point that Lionel trains were not inexpensive became crystal clear. The information stands out, thanks to the excellent design of the book done by Tom Ford and supervised by Randy Rehberg.

There is much more I could say about the new addition, but I'll let the book speak for itself. You can order Collectible Lionel Classics (product number 10-8806) from or by calling 1-800-533-6644. The price is $25.99.

You will enjoy and learn from this book. And you will gain greater appreciation for what Lionel achieved during a golden age of toy train production. So pick up a copy and start building your collection!

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