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Lionel 217/226 color variation VS plastic yellowing

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Lionel 217/226 color variation VS plastic yellowing
Posted by El Fixes Things on Friday, January 27, 2023 8:02 PM

I'll start of by restating the obvious- New England native here, and a fan of the classic B&M 'bluebird' livery (not that the maroon and gold is a bad look at all!). A couple years back, I bought a 217 on eBay... turned out in some ways to be a bit of trouble, but the motor runs beautifully. Lately I've been thinking about the loco, and I wanted to see if anyone over here could answer some questions I've been having. Also wanted to bounce around some thoughts.

So. I have the "complete" 217, ie, both the powered A and the dummy B. Mine is the variation with the teal A unit. I quickly found that the tandem associates site information definitely is flawled covering the 217 and close cousin the 226 (knew already that it has a number of errors), and some of the info is very vauge. In fact... the picture shown for the 226 is the same as the 217, but the image was edited to show the different number.
As far as the 217... tandem says the 217 can be found with 'one of the units in a teal color'. 'Lionel Trains Library' claims there's no variations at all. Looking around both at the shows I've been to, and on the web, I've come to the conclusion that only the A units crop up in this color- can't find a single image of a teal B unit anywhere.

Tandem also describes the 226 as sometimes being teal, but here, explains that the teal color is the result of UV exposure (sunlight) yellowing the plastic. 

Here's the deal- I don't think I've ever, ever seen a 226 with a teal shell, A or B. I'm not a toy train expert. That said, it strikes me as suspicious that I have seen multiple 217 A units that all have a rcognizable teal color, but never 226s with that same color.

I've seen a lot of yellowed plastic. I grew up with heaps of lego, maybe half of which was handed down to me and my siblings- some of the older parts were very yellowed. Some of our toys made out of plastic, had yellowed over time. But the thing is, the yellowing only happens where the plastic is exposed to UV light... so say you built a wall out of lego bricks, and sat it in a window sill. One side would get pretty discolored by sunlight, since it faced the window. But the side facing away from the glass would not be the same color, as it wasn't getting hit by the sunlight.
If you look inside the shell of a locomotive or car that has been discolored by UV light... it should still be the original color on the inside, or at least close to it. And places where paint has been worn off likely don't match areas of the shell that were always left unpainted.
I've examined my 217 shell a number of times, and as much as I look at it, one think that's very clear, is that even inside the shell, it isn't the same color as the B unit, not even close. Very much teal.

My conclusion has been that a batch of these 217 shells must have been molded in the wrong color. UV discoloration could absolutely make the teal turn more green-ish/yellowy, but you would see a dramatic difference between the inside of the shell and the outside if that was how the units wound up teal. Also.... if it were that easy for the plastic to yellow, I doubt it would happen so evenly.

Does anyone know more about this variation? And if any 217 B units, or 226s were ever this color?

Here's another image, showing the insides of the shells for the A and B units:


I'll probably get the thing running properly again, maybe in the coming week. Noticed a broken wire when I opened it up for the 'inside' shot, so there's one thing already that needs fixing!

-Ellie

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Posted by Flintlock76 on Saturday, January 28, 2023 9:24 AM

I'm not an expert on that model by any means but I'd say one of those units slipped through the cracks at Lionel with the "wrong" color, just when is anyone's guess.   I doubt exposure to light had anything to do with it considering the colors are even inside and out.  You may have a rare variation no-one knows about. 

Last August I visited a collection of a guy who specializes in Lionel "oddballs."  He didn't have anything like those B&M units but I doubt he'd be surprised by them.

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Posted by smokey1 on Saturday, January 28, 2023 12:21 PM

Ive had one like that, I believe it was the A unit. Actualy I believe there is more out there if you look

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Posted by philo426 on Saturday, January 28, 2023 1:01 PM

According to Greenberg's Guide To Lionel trains 1945-1969,the plastic is known to fade to teal.   

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Posted by Flintlock76 on Saturday, January 28, 2023 1:33 PM

Hi Ellie!

I passed your photos along to our Lionel "oddball" expert (Don't worry, I didn't say who owned them!) and got a response.

First off, he says you've got some nice pieces!  Second, he refers to the color of your A Unit as "Aqua" and says it's a totally legitimate variation, but there's no reports of an aqua B Unit.  So both pieces are correct and as-issued by Lionel.

Hope this helps! 

Just an addendum, this is from The Train Station train shop in Mountain Lakes NJ's research library.  The A Unit pictured resembles yours, unless it's a color freakout on the photo.

https://www.train-station.com/Pages/archives/Library/PW-217.html

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Posted by pennytrains on Saturday, January 28, 2023 8:20 PM

The only info I have comes from Doyle's Standard Catalog.  It mentions that various shades of blue plastic were used "over the years" for the 217 A-B and that "most collectors prefer that their units match" but little else.  Some 226 A units however, were molded in gray plastic and painted blue.  But that doesn't jive with what you own.  (On a side note, I baked green cookies for Christmas this year that came out of the oven almost white!)  So it may just be related to the pigments used.

Big Smile  Same me, different spelling!  Big Smile

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Posted by El Fixes Things on Saturday, January 28, 2023 9:46 PM

Thanks so much all! I was fairly confident it was a variation... because as eluded to (shoulda mentioned more clearly), I've definitely seen it before on units other than mine. I can see why it's not one that collectors like, too- I also wish my units matched in color! But I'm happy to have it nonetheless.

Wayne, I think your expert might reconsider my pieces being nice, after knowing that the A unit had some very serious damage to the roof above the cab, which was a challenge to attempt to repair/cover up. I need to go back and improve it, I'm not satisfied with it completely, or the finish of the touch up paint I used. Broken off pilot too, but the steel pilot reinforcement helps to hide the eyesore. The B unit though? that one's more of a looker, for sure.

I suspect the Greenburg guide misinterpreted these aqua units as being faded, because it's certainly a real issue and that’s roughly the color it would turn I bet. But as already discussed, yeah. No way it would be so even, and the inside would still be blue.

Very cool! I'll treasure them all the more, and tell off anybody who says I gots myself a discolored 217 Big Smile

-Ellie

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