Trains.com

Subscriber & Member Login

Login, or register today to interact in our online community, comment on articles, receive our newsletter, manage your account online and more!

Lionel HO Rolling Stock Quality

5704 views
22 replies
1 rating 2 rating 3 rating 4 rating 5 rating
  • Member since
    September 2010
  • 121 posts
Lionel HO Rolling Stock Quality
Posted by Canadian Big Boy on Saturday, January 23, 2021 9:31 AM

Wanted to know if anybody has purchased any Lionel HO rolling stock and what they thought of the quality? I've come across some of their caboose and boxcars for less than twenty bucks!

Thanks

  • Member since
    January 2017
  • From: Southern Florida Gulf Coast
  • 18,255 posts
Posted by SeeYou190 on Saturday, January 23, 2021 10:25 AM

I have not purchased any.

The current release of Lionel HO scale rolling stock is not new tooling. It is the same train-set quality stuff of decades gone by.

You can find the same stuff at train shows on the $2.00 table.

Maybe some day we will have a train show again.

-Kevin

Living the dream.

  • Member since
    December 2004
  • From: Bedford, MA, USA
  • 21,413 posts
Posted by MisterBeasley on Saturday, January 23, 2021 10:37 AM

A friend found a boxed set of Lionel trains in his attic.  He thought he'd found a fortune.  I sold them for him at a train show for $20, all that I could get.  It was cheap train set quality, with a nuclear waste car, a helicopter launching car and even a giraffe car.

These were older models.  They might have had horn hooks.  I didn't try to run them.

It takes an iron man to play with a toy iron horse. 

  • Member since
    July 2010
  • From: Kyoto, JPN
  • 250 posts
Posted by BN7150 on Saturday, January 23, 2021 1:27 PM

Lionel has entered the HO scale market several times over its long history.

In 1957-1966, the products were ex-HObbyline and supplied by Rivarossi and Athearn. In 1974-1977, Lionel themselves and supplied by Kader. In 1988, the "Rail Scope" (FA-2) was released (manufacturer unknown. Page 51-56 of the MR Feb. 1989 issue). In 2003-2005, the UP Challenger and Veranda Turbine manufactured by Korea Brass were launched. After that, the toolings were transferred to MTH. In 2016-present, the Polar Express was launched (official website, manufacturer unknown). (from my Model Railroad Dictionary)

After all, their target is the train set purchasing people (except 2003-2005). Quality is different from time to time, so you have to judge it according to your own taste. I own the following models around 1974. These prints are first-class in the era. I like to upgrade these promotional models. See my blog post.

Lionel Sears

Lionel AMF

Lionel Spalding

  • Member since
    September 2002
  • From: North Carolina
  • 1,905 posts
Posted by csxns on Saturday, January 23, 2021 1:39 PM

That Sears boxcar i have two trailers and a container the same color made by Cox.

Russell

  • Member since
    December 2016
  • 554 posts
Posted by Shock Control on Saturday, January 23, 2021 1:56 PM

I'm waiting for reissues of the satellite car, missile car, helicopter car, exploding boxcar, and livestock car with the giraffe poking his/her head through the roof.

  • Member since
    May 2010
  • From: SE. WI.
  • 8,253 posts
Posted by mbinsewi on Saturday, January 23, 2021 2:10 PM

Shock Control
I'm waiting for reissues of the satellite car, missile car, helicopter car, exploding boxcar, and livestock car with the giraffe poking his/her head through the roof.

I don't remember those in HO scale.

I do remember the HO scale locomotive with the built in cam, and the box with the viewing screen.

Mike.

  • Member since
    January 2009
  • From: Maryland
  • 12,874 posts
Posted by ATLANTIC CENTRAL on Saturday, January 23, 2021 2:11 PM

csxns

That Sears boxcar i have two trailers and a container the same color made by Cox.

 

And every model train sold under the cox name was made by Athearn.

The current LIONEL HO line, except the Polar Express, is old Model Power/TYCO/Mantua tooling.

Sheldon

    

  • Member since
    December 2004
  • From: Bedford, MA, USA
  • 21,413 posts
Posted by MisterBeasley on Saturday, January 23, 2021 2:24 PM

mbinsewi

 

 
Shock Control
I'm waiting for reissues of the satellite car, missile car, helicopter car, exploding boxcar, and livestock car with the giraffe poking his/her head through the roof.

 

I don't remember those in HO scale.

I do remember the HO scale locomotive with the built in cam, and the box with the viewing screen.

Mike.

My friend's train set had the giraffe car and the helicopter car, and they were in HO.  Whether they will reissue those particular cars is up to them.

The nostalgia modelers are fading from the scene.  I had the exploding boxcar and other toy trains in the mid 1950s, but those were in O scale.  I've grown out of that phase.  I suppose if I were in a modular club that did shows, those would be fun to pull around for an afternoon, but as I've grown older I'm more interested in prototype modeling.

It takes an iron man to play with a toy iron horse. 

  • Member since
    March 2002
  • From: Milwaukee WI (Fox Point)
  • 11,435 posts
Posted by dknelson on Saturday, January 23, 2021 3:45 PM

I had a hopper car from Lionel during their first go around in HO and the one thing I can say for it is that the all metal trucks rolled very well, one of the best rolling metal trucks of that era in fact.  But then Lindberg came out with their Delrin and changed everything.  If I recall right that hopper was painted and lettered for Alaska Railroad, and it may well be that Lionel had an O or O-27 hopper just like it.  I do recall when they sold a special double train set, with identical trains in O and HO and it was on the cover of their catalog that year.  Maybe 1960?  I think that notion Lionel had that HO was just like Lionel O or O-27, only smaller, is what kind of doomed them to being marginal.  HO being too small for part of their target age group; and their version of HO being too toylike for those ready to move on from toy trains.

I also ended up with some Lionel cars from the 1974-77 era.  A short hicube and the steel coil car with the hinged covers (for which there was a prototype by the way).  The paint was a bit thick and the sill steps oversized, but the lettering was pretty clean and crisp and plausible, maybe even totally accurate, and the tooling was crisp and good enough that Bachmann I think took it over when Lionel gave up yet again on HO.  Decent train set quality stuff, easily upgraded if you were so inclined.  In other words, not like Lionel toys only smaller.  Genuine HO scale trains

I'd have to think anything now would be former Mantua/Tyco and/or Model Power tooling.  Soem of which was OK.  I don't see any reason why Lionel could not produce decent trainset quality or better stuff - if they wanted to. 

Some of their market won't care and would buy regardless.  Others will only buy if it meets certain standards.  So why not meet those standards and sell to both groups?  

Dave Nelson

  • Member since
    January 2007
  • 597 posts
Posted by azrail on Saturday, January 23, 2021 5:48 PM

The first few years of the Cox line were assembled Athearn products, after that Cox was importing Athearn look-alikes from Hong Kong.

The new Lionel HO line is basically the old Model Power line that was bought from MRC. With a better paint job.

 

 

  • Member since
    February 2002
  • From: Reading, PA
  • 30,002 posts
Posted by rrinker on Saturday, January 23, 2021 10:11 PM

 I had the auto-reversing section gang car, the nuclear waste car (ominous glowing red-painted bulb in the center), the missile launching car, and the exploding boxcar. I was not away of an HO version of the giraffe car. I sold them all off on eBay some 20+ years ago when I was getting rid of all the old trains et stuff to make room for some good models. 

                                       --Randy

 


Modeling the Reading Railroad in the 1950's

 

Visit my web site at www.readingeastpenn.com for construction updates, DCC Info, and more.

  • Member since
    November 2013
  • 2,709 posts
Posted by snjroy on Sunday, January 24, 2021 3:38 PM

Back in the 70s when I was a kid, my parents bought me an HO Lionel set that included the Daylight Flyer 4-8-4 and a few cars. It was made in Hong Kong and it was definitely toy train quality, which was fine because I was at that age. I remember a boxcar with the BC rails scheme that was OK. I think I used it to practice my weathering skills. It was a total loss after that. But the original paint was OK. Details were molded on, of course. A new set of trucks, metal wheels and body-mounted couplers would improve it a lot. Later on, someone gave me a CN caboose - it has the Lionel logo under it. Same category as the above. 

As for Cox, my parents bought me a Cox train set in the 70s for Christmas. The F7 was powered by a motorized truck - train set quality and I doubt it was made by Athearn. It did run very smoothly though... My cousin had the same set. His F7 ran like a coffee grinder. I guess I got the good lot!

Simon

  • Member since
    January 2009
  • From: Maryland
  • 12,874 posts
Posted by ATLANTIC CENTRAL on Sunday, January 24, 2021 4:16 PM

Back in the day, Athearn did more contract work than people realize.

I worked in a hobby shop in 1970. The Cox trains of that era were made by Athearn. The locos did have a cheaper drive, no doubt imported from China.

And at some point I think Cox and Athearn worked out something for overseas production of the Cox stuff.

But go on HOseeker, look at the the Cox catalog pictures, every item has its perfect match in the Athearn line of that time.

Other side note. From about 1958 to about 1968 Athearn offered the "blue box" plastic cars (which originally came in yellow boxes) both as kits and RTR.

They stopped offering RTR cars right before the deal with Cox.

They also offered some of the older metal car kits into the mid 60's.

 

And here we have a 1950's "Globe" passenger car, with instructions that say Athearn. Those one piece body, one piece floor passenger cars started life as multi part kits like this:

Athearn bought Globe, a wood kit producer in Chicago, kept most of their wood kit line, but used the Globe name to "test" the market for the plastic F7 and the streamlined passenger cars.

Irv Athearn was afraid offering plastic models might hurt the Athearn image. He quickly learned that his new plastic line was good enough that is was quickly accepted by most modelers.

Athearn quickly phased out the Globe name bringing all the products, wood, plastic and metal, under the Athearn banner. This kit must have been packed when they had run out of Globe instructions, but not out of Glober boxes yet.....

The advent of the plastic line allowed them to get into the RTR market. Once they got out of the RTR market in the late sixties, they did contract RTR work for Cox, LIONEL and others, not returning to the RTR market until the 1990's.

Sheldon

 

    

  • Member since
    January 2009
  • From: Maryland
  • 12,874 posts
Posted by ATLANTIC CENTRAL on Sunday, January 24, 2021 4:34 PM

Athearn also produced LIONEL branded RTR HO in the late 50's, as well as Herkimer 'OK' trains at the same time.

Herkimer made a line of extruded aluminum HO passenger cars, Athearn supplied them with F7's in paint schemes to match, and freight car train sets.

The Herkimer passengers cars were still in production a decade or so ago, not sure if they are still around.

https://www.ebay.com/sch/i.html?norover=1&mkevt=1&mkrid=711-156598-675664-4&mkcid=2&keyword=ok+streamliners&crlp=435088953721_&MT_ID=585576&geo_id=10232&rlsatarget=kwd-303304955678&adpos=&device=c&mktype=&loc=9007855&poi=&abcId=1141806&cmpgn=6537417793&sitelnk=&adgroupid=81476721794&network=g&matchtype=p&gclid=Cj0KCQiA0rSABhDlARIsAJtjfCcNjb6lv_Bg4fFo76lH6BgU7ChiVyPisSMLGx-syYmPQiay2t40iPYaAs-OEALw_wcB&_nkw=ok+streamliner&_blrs=spell_check

Athearn also sold unassembled kits for specialty lettering and sometimes RTR assembly by Bowser, KarLine, BevBel and others.

Not to mention that ANYONE willing to buy a whole run, club, individual, NMRA, etc, could get cars lettered any way they wanted.

Irv liked money.

Sheldon

    

  • Member since
    January 2013
  • 1,034 posts
Posted by PM Railfan on Sunday, January 24, 2021 10:13 PM

Canadian Big Boy

Wanted to know if anybody has purchased any Lionel HO rolling stock and what they thought of the quality? I've come across some of their caboose and boxcars for less than twenty bucks!

Thanks

 

I cant speak for the HO cars, but i will give a Yes on the FA units they made. They were unbelievably heavy, pulled good, ran fairly quiet - smooth, tracked well. I got rid of the 2 i had, simply preffering the EMD F design over the FA.

That was a regretable decision. The Lionel FA was definately a good one to own if you come across it.

 

PMR

 

  • Member since
    February 2002
  • From: Reading, PA
  • 30,002 posts
Posted by rrinker on Monday, January 25, 2021 8:27 AM

 I wonder if those 70's Lionel FAs (not the Railscope thing) were Train Miniature, which later were sold as Walthers Trainline - I have a couple of those and other than lacking fine detail on the shell, they are great runners. Superb slow speed operation, very quiet, and very heavy. The details can be fixed by putting on your own grabs and so forth, detail parts readily available.

 I'm just the opposite - I much prefer ALco to EMD - which is why I have like a dozen RS-3s. EMD F units are everywhere - I want to see something different, hence some FAs and Baldwin AS-16s. and all the RS-3s to balance out the F units and GP7s.

                                       --Randy

 


Modeling the Reading Railroad in the 1950's

 

Visit my web site at www.readingeastpenn.com for construction updates, DCC Info, and more.

  • Member since
    February 2002
  • From: Mpls/St.Paul
  • 13,848 posts
Posted by wjstix on Monday, January 25, 2021 8:44 AM

Canadian Big Boy

Wanted to know if anybody has purchased any Lionel HO rolling stock and what they thought of the quality? I've come across some of their caboose and boxcars for less than twenty bucks!

Thanks

 
Although I always find model railroad history interesting, I'm pretty sure the OP is asking about the current line of Lionel HO products, which are a mix of former Model Power and Mantua pieces.
 
What I would like to see Lionel do is get the tooling to the old Cary USRA-style replacement boiler and details that was designed to fit the Mantua/Tyco 2-8-2 and 4-6-2 chassis and start using it on those engines...kinda like what Athearn did when they started using the Highliner F-unit shells on Genesis engines. That body and details coupled with the can motors and sound decoders the Lionel engines now have would produce a much better model.
Stix
  • Member since
    January 2009
  • From: Maryland
  • 12,874 posts
Posted by ATLANTIC CENTRAL on Monday, January 25, 2021 9:20 AM

rrinker

 I wonder if those 70's Lionel FAs (not the Railscope thing) were Train Miniature, which later were sold as Walthers Trainline - I have a couple of those and other than lacking fine detail on the shell, they are great runners. Superb slow speed operation, very quiet, and very heavy. The details can be fixed by putting on your own grabs and so forth, detail parts readily available.

 I'm just the opposite - I much prefer ALco to EMD - which is why I have like a dozen RS-3s. EMD F units are everywhere - I want to see something different, hence some FAs and Baldwin AS-16s. and all the RS-3s to balance out the F units and GP7s.

                                       --Randy

 

 

I think they were the TM units, and here on the ACR we have a lot of ALCO's as well.

Sheldon

    

  • Member since
    November 2013
  • 2,709 posts
Posted by snjroy on Monday, January 25, 2021 9:21 AM

Well, the point to be made here is that without a picture, it could be pretty much anything given the complex history of Lionel in HO! 

Simon

  • Member since
    January 2013
  • 1,034 posts
Posted by PM Railfan on Monday, January 25, 2021 3:44 PM

rrinker

 I wonder if those 70's Lionel FAs (not the Railscope thing) were Train Miniature, which later were sold as Walthers Trainline - I have a couple of those and other than lacking fine detail on the shell, they are great runners. Superb slow speed operation, very quiet, and very heavy. The details can be fixed by putting on your own grabs and so forth, detail parts readily available.

 I'm just the opposite - I much prefer ALco to EMD - which is why I have like a dozen RS-3s. EMD F units are everywhere - I want to see something different, hence some FAs and Baldwin AS-16s. and all the RS-3s to balance out the F units and GP7s.

                                       --Randy

 

 

Randy, i just dont remember. Been so long ago. I dont even think i questioned who made them back then. Im pretty sure i was content with the Lionel name for who they were, and took them as that. I dont mind TM, but im not a real fan of their stuff.

But i need to digress here, ill get off topic easily. So i will just say, yeah, i regret not having those FAs now, not just because they were excellent models, but my fleet could use the diversity of a few AlCos and GEs also. Now that im older, appreciation of others aspects of the hobby have changed.

I will get another Lionel FA if I come across it, just to have. Regret eliminated. Like you said, something different.

 

Clear Ahead!

Douglas

  • Member since
    November 2002
  • From: Findlay, Ohio
  • 440 posts
Posted by danmerkel on Monday, January 25, 2021 4:55 PM

Canadian Big Boy
I've come across some of their caboose and boxcars for less than twenty bucks! Thanks

Just curious as to where you have seen the cars sold spearately. I wouldn't mind trying to chase down one of their NKP cabooses that goes with one of their new sets.

dlm

  • Member since
    June 2002
  • 569 posts
Posted by drgwcs on Monday, January 25, 2021 7:22 PM

rrinker

 I wonder if those 70's Lionel FAs (not the Railscope thing) were Train Miniature, which later were sold as Walthers Trainline - I have a couple of those and other than lacking fine detail on the shell, they are great runners. Superb slow speed operation, very quiet, and very heavy. The details can be fixed by putting on your own grabs and so forth, detail parts readily available.

 I'm just the opposite - I much prefer ALco to EMD - which is why I have like a dozen RS-3s. EMD F units are everywhere - I want to see something different, hence some FAs and Baldwin AS-16s. and all the RS-3s to balance out the F units and GP7s.

                                       --Randy

 

 

Actually they were different tooling. The Lionel was from the old hobbyline tooling. Model Railroad News had an article on it- (from their website) 

The proportions were way off on the nose.

Compare to the Walthers

Subscriber & Member Login

Login, or register today to interact in our online community, comment on articles, receive our newsletter, manage your account online and more!

Users Online

Search the Community

ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
Model Railroader Newsletter See all
Sign up for our FREE e-newsletter and get model railroad news in your inbox!