Lionel Presidential Passenger Cars 2521-2523

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  • Member since
    April, 2018
  • 10 posts
Lionel Presidential Passenger Cars 2521-2523
Posted by RJSMITHINDY on Tuesday, May 08, 2018 4:22 PM

Calling all Lionel historians out there to help with the backstory on this passenger set.

The first train set my brothers and I received as kids was a 736 Berkshire with the Presidential Passenger set on Christmas morning. The set comprised of a 2523 President Garfield Pullman, (2) 2522 President Harrison Vista Dome cars, and a 2521 President McKinley Observation.  The set only came out at Christmas time as our Christmas tree train. The lights of the cars, particularly the two Vista Domes, put on quite a show along with the tree lights. This set continues to be a family tradition years later with my own family, and of course when my brothers and their families visit during the Holidays.

I’ve done some research on this set that I wanted to share, with the hope others might share additional information or any corrections.

  • The set was first manufactured by Lionel in 1962 as part of sets pulled by a GG1 (set 13078) and a Santa Fe F3 A-A (set 13088). 
  • The set was last manufactured in 1966.
  • It does not appear that there was any variation in the cars themselves during the time they were produced. However, I have seen some sets in which there were two Garfield Pullmans and one Harrison Vista Dome. Were some sets sold this way?

What is curious to me, is the Presidents that were selected for this set. Does anyone know the story in Lionel’s selection?  In checking some historical facts I learned the following:

  • All were born in Ohio.
  • President Garfield was the 20th President  (Pullman), President Benjamin Harrison was 23rd (Vista Dome) and McKinley was the 25th President (Observation). 
  • There were two President Harrisons: William Henry Harrison (9th President) and Benjamin Harrison (23rd President & William Henry’s grandson). Are the two Vista Domes intended for both or was the duplication simply a short cut by Lionel?  Since there may have been sets with two Garfield Pullmans (can someone verify?), perhaps just coincidence? 
  • In the case of William Henry Harrison, Garfield and McKinley, all died while in office. 


Any additional information others can provide is greatly appreciated - thanks!

- Rob

  • Member since
    September, 2010
  • From: Parma Heights Ohio
  • 2,563 posts
Posted by Penny Trains on Wednesday, May 09, 2018 6:28 PM

I've never really heard any "official" story I can pass along, but Lionel routinely included cars with the same name in sets starting with the original prewar heavyweights labeled "Madison" (after a town in New Jersey rather than the President).  In 1957 Lionel produced the 2296W Canadian Pacific set which had 3 Skyline 500 Vista-Domes and one 2551Banff Park observation behind the pair of gorgeous F3 A units.  You would think they would have included the 2553 Blair Manor and 2554 Craig Manor Pullmans instead of the two extra "same name" dome cars.  But no, the Pullmans were separate-sale only.

So it wouldn't surprise me a bit if you find out the set is all original.  I just don't have enough material to tell you for sure.  But somebody around here knows!  Of that I have no doubt!  Big Smile

Welcome Aboard!


P.S.  Ohio born and bred!

Big Smile  I'm Cuckoo For Choo Choo Stuffs!  Big Smile

  • Member since
    April, 2018
  • 10 posts
Posted by RJSMITHINDY on Wednesday, May 09, 2018 6:55 PM

Thanks for your reply Becky!  You make a good point about the 2296W set.  After all, Lionel was a toy company first and foremost at the time and some of their selections did not concern such details. I do wonder if someone in marketing or management had a tie to Ohio in selecting these Presidents?

Thanks for the welcome too!



- Rob

  • Member since
    April, 2018
  • 10 posts
Posted by RJSMITHINDY on Wednesday, May 09, 2018 8:00 PM

I found this additional information from

Offered from 1962 through 1966, the Presidential streamlined passenger cars were Lionel's way of creating a new product with old tooling. Lionel offered streamlined cars of this style starting in 1954 with Lionel Lines markings. In 1962, Lionel took the cars and added gold, paper-based stripes to the "channels" - the flat space below and above the windows. The stripe above the window has "OBSERVATION," "VISTA DOME," and "PULLMAN," written in black. Below the windows are the names of USA presidents - McKinley on the observation, Harrison on the Vista Dome, and Garfield on the Pullman - also in black. 
  • These cars have die cast trucks and magnetically operated couplers at both ends (except the observation, which only has one coupler). Each car has two lights each for interior illumination. Each car also has window silhouettes to represent passengers inside.
  • Originally, these cars were offered as a four-car set, pulled by a 2360 Tuscan GG-1 in 1962, or much more commonly, a pair of 2383 Santa Fe F3s. The fourth car was sometimes a second Pullman, and sometimes a second Vista Dome. They were also available for separate sale.

- Rob

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