Conducting an ethical restoration of a Lionel 253?

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Conducting an ethical restoration of a Lionel 253?
Posted by Leverettrailfan on Monday, January 27, 2020 11:37 AM

Okay, here's the scoop. I was at the Amherst Railway Society show in Springfeild this weekend, and bought a prewar "set" for $30. The contents are a Lionel 253, two 607 pullmans and a 608 observation. It seems that someone was going to restore them, and took them apart, stripped paint, but didn't get to the rust removal phase. The cars are all missing their trucks, and almost all are missing their tanks. Window inserts & roofs are present. And then we come to the loco, which was the best value of the bunch. The frame is missing everything except for the flag posts, and the cab lacks everything except window inserts and one headlight. What made it really worth bothering with, was the inclusion of the motor, which is operable (in dire need of a service, but operable), and virtually rust-free with good wheels.

My initial plan was to custom paint it. Since it was already stripped, and not in great shape, it seemed like a good canidate for a custom job. My idea was to paint it up like a New Haven passenger train, as the 253 is based off of a New Haven boxcab design as far as I can tell. But there's one conflict to that plan. The paint was not fully stripped from the 253 shell, there are a few swatches of paint that were not fully removed, giving a look at the original color, undoubtably either Terracotta or Red (the remaining swatches look like someone was trying to sand them off). I am under the impression these are both rarer colors for the 253, and wanted to ask folks what they thought- would it be 'wrong' to custom this loco, instead of restoring it to its original colors? I'm anticipating a wide variety of answers. My main concern, is, does this locmotive lose status as being x color once it is restored, and at that point, is it purely a matter of taste with no regards to collectability and preserving originality, or is it a good idea to restore it to the original color (ie not do a custom paint job, to make it look like a NY NH & H loco). I'm not so worried about the cars, as they seem to have not a trace of original paint left to suggest their former colors, and they are common enough that it shouldn't matter.

"If it don't work, then gosh darn it, get a' fixin!"

Can I fix trains? Mostly. How long have I been doing it? Took me years to get much success beyond the "taking it apart" step. Where am I at now? Well, does she run?

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Posted by Leverettrailfan on Monday, January 27, 2020 11:54 AM

Update: I noticed a swatch of darker reddish paint on the frame, so I'm almost positive this 253 was a Terracotta loco with Maroon frame.

"If it don't work, then gosh darn it, get a' fixin!"

Can I fix trains? Mostly. How long have I been doing it? Took me years to get much success beyond the "taking it apart" step. Where am I at now? Well, does she run?

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Posted by BigAl 956 on Monday, January 27, 2020 2:58 PM

So if you came across a trashed 64 Mustang convertable with rusted paint and a torn roof and you restored all that it's value would certainly go up wouldn't it?

Trains are a bit different in that the highest values are always going to be for original paint in mint like condition. Repainting will bring up the value over it being trashed but a repaint/restored will never be worth as much as all original.

That being said. If the restoration is done professionally with factory original colors you will have a more valuble piece than the original faded rusty model.

On the other hand, the bargain bins at many a model railroad show are filled with poorly done, non original, one-off repainted pieces.

Finally, it's not unethical if the repaint and restoration is properly noted and disclosed.

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Posted by Leverettrailfan on Monday, January 27, 2020 4:31 PM

Thanks for the response!! I am well aware that a restored model is always worth far less than a model in the original paint. My main concern was, knowing I have a piece that was originally in a rarer color scheme, is it better to restore it to those colors, or is it insignificant whether I restore it to how it would have looked, vs doing a custom paint job.

"If it don't work, then gosh darn it, get a' fixin!"

Can I fix trains? Mostly. How long have I been doing it? Took me years to get much success beyond the "taking it apart" step. Where am I at now? Well, does she run?

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Posted by Penny Trains on Monday, January 27, 2020 6:21 PM

I purchased this standard gauge #8 several years ago from an ebay vendor.  Upon receiving it in the mail, I took it apart to check it out and it became obvious to me on inspecting it further that someone had already done at least a partial restoration of the loco sometime in it's past.  (The M.E.W. wheels and plastic coated wire were dead giveaways.)

However, somewhere along the line after that restoration battery acid had leaked on it.  The brasses and sides of the motor showed etching and the wheels were hopeless.  So, I stripped everything down and set out to do a restoration job of my own.

Here's the loco:

Here it is in action Christmas 2018:

I also opted for a 402/408 style pantograph so it would look a tiny bit more like the locomotives that used to run near my house:

P-1a's of the Cleveland Union Terminal if you're curious.

Another school of thought suggests that if you can't do a faithful restoration do something that should make it obvious that it isn't either a restored piece or a "factory prototype as yet undiscovered".  Lionel never gave it's small #8 boxcabs a two tone blue paint scheme and I figured the world wouldn't miss an olive green #8.

I later painted 2 #35 coaches and a #36 observation to match.

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

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Posted by LL675 on Monday, January 27, 2020 7:30 PM
I'll solve your dilemma and send you $30..... ;) since it was already stripped...make it your own and have fun with it. But be sure and add some pics please!

Dave

It's a TOY, A child's PLAYTHING!!! (Woody  from Toy Story)

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Posted by Leverettrailfan on Monday, January 27, 2020 9:43 PM

Thanks for the replies everyone!!!

I've been giving this one a lot of thought, believe me!! Here's where I'm currently at: I honestly do rather like the original paint scheme my 253 had. I probably won't be getting another with those colors, since they aren't too common. Since there are swatches of paint on the loco that remain, I could possibly take them somewhere and get someone to mix up some paint to match them. It's been tough, but I think that I'm going to restore the loco to the original colors. The body and frame are still in good shape, no rust pitting anywhere. 

that said, I fully intend to have my wicked way with the passenger cars! I plan on painting them into New Haven colors. And then, maybe someday another 253 will come my way, that I wouldn't feel guilty repainting. And when that day comes, it will be painted into New Haven livery to match the cars. 

So, if anyone here has a beat up, rusty ol' 253 they're just DYING to get rid of, I might know somebody who could use one Stick out tongue

PS: I love that idea of swapping out the panto- I was actually pondering over doing just that on either this 253, or the No. 10 std gauge loco I also got at the show this weekend. It's a sloppy repaint, so no guilt!!

"If it don't work, then gosh darn it, get a' fixin!"

Can I fix trains? Mostly. How long have I been doing it? Took me years to get much success beyond the "taking it apart" step. Where am I at now? Well, does she run?

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Posted by Flintlock76 on Tuesday, January 28, 2020 9:41 AM

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Posted by Flintlock76 on Tuesday, January 28, 2020 9:42 AM

If you're going to restore your 253 to original status let me suggest these folks for the proper paints, they specialize in the same, and also parts.

http://www.henningstrains.com   

Great people!  I can't say enough good anout them!

My own thoughts would have been since it's your  engine and it's in nasty shape if you want to do a New Haven version of it I don't see the harm, but of course you've got to  make the final decision.  But don't let anyone say you're wrong!  In the end, you've only got to please yourself.

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Posted by Leverettrailfan on Thursday, January 30, 2020 1:43 PM

Flintlock76

If you're going to restore your 253 to original status let me suggest these folks for the proper paints, they specialize in the same, and also parts.


Thanks! i've ordered from them before, when replacing brushes & springs on a Lionel super motor- they sent me replacements when my springs weren't cooperating with me too! Very wonderful folks. I think I will likely order the paint since I do like the original colors a lot! I haven't scratched out my dreams of doing a custom, but I don't think this loco will be the one I do it on. It did have paint stripped mostly, but the actual body is in great shape, and the frame only a tiny bit less so. The motor is about as flawless as you could hope from a nearly 100 year old lionel loco!

"If it don't work, then gosh darn it, get a' fixin!"

Can I fix trains? Mostly. How long have I been doing it? Took me years to get much success beyond the "taking it apart" step. Where am I at now? Well, does she run?

  • Member since
    January 2019
  • From: Henrico, VA
  • 3,693 posts
Posted by Flintlock76 on Thursday, January 30, 2020 3:09 PM

Another suggestion.  If you do  want to do a custom paint job on anything you could try one of Lionel's post-war 2-6-4's, numbers 2016, 2018,2029, or 2037, with "Lionel Lines" tenders.  They're as common as dirt and with a non-prototypical wheel arrangement you won't be destroying a priceless historical artifact and they can ususally be found quite reasonably priced.  It seems like every train show I go to has a bunch of them.  

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