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Lionel HO (Eek!)

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Lionel HO (Eek!)
Posted by Leverettrailfan on Saturday, October 23, 2021 10:11 PM

Alright, it's about time I made a post about this.
Remembering my visit to the Massena NY show reminded me about the HO Lionel that fell into my hands, and an HO Lionel M&StL switcher that a fellow I had been talking with brought over to see if I could fix. I couldn't fix his switcher, unfortunately- the behavior the motor exhibbited was clearly that of an armature with a burnt out winding. 
The trains I went home with were in a lot of stuff someone left at the table I was helping with. There was only one locomotive, I need to check but it was an 0635 I believe. Unfortunately the thing is missing not only the motor, but the intermediate gearing that transmits power from the armature shaft to the drivers. 
I was really excited to have an operating example of an HO Lionel set, but my hopes and dreams are dashed. 
So, I come to the CTT forums in event perhaps someone can help enlighten me on something.
I had read that Lionel's postwar offerings were almost entirely outsourced to other makes. Their little 0-4-0 diesels for example match the design of the Athearn 'Husky' switcher.
But here's what perplexes me. Some of the equipment has Lionel corperation markings embossed into both plastic and metal parts. Does that mean Lionel actually made these items, or were they all outsourced?
Secondly, the motors and drive train used in the 'Husky' don't look to me like anything Athearn used, despite having shells and designs that overall are dead ringers. The 0635 should have the same basic motor type (albeit different length shaft and gearing). 
Exactly how much of Lionel's HO lineup in the postwar years was produced by the Lionel Corperation? Did Lionel only make parts of some of their HO trains?
Fingers crossed for this one, but... was a somewhat identical locomotive to the Lionel pacific made by any other make? Is there, dare I say it, any hope of finding that missing intermediate gearing?
My best guess is maybe the motor failed one day and the owner decided to gut the drive train so it could be used as a "hand powered" train. But it would be nice to have a working loco without buying another.
Also wondering about rebuilding the smoke unit.

I always figured the Lionel HO stuff was just cheap junk created when the sales went downhill, but the quality of some of this stuff seems on par with their O gauge lineup... albeit limited by the confines of a smaller scale, DC power, and 2 rail operation.
I'll have to share pictures at some point, almost everything has the original box (varying states of condition) and there were two original manuals as well.

I'll never favor the HO over the O for simplicity of repair and availability of parts, but now I've checked it out I have a little more respect for these trains and I would love to have my "set" run (no idea if it's an actual set or a collection of various items). I think it's ingenius how Lionel figured out how to make HO operating cars. Clearly the cars were too small to fit an electromechanical device inside... so they went and developed an external actuating mechanism which could be used to trip the operating cars mechanically. The HO milk car is fascinating.

Anyhow, help on how to get the 635 back in shape, and more on what HO lionel actually did/did not make in-house during the pw era would be very, very gratefully recieved and profusely thanked.

Thanks :)
-Ellie

Tags: Lionel HO , postwar

"Unless bought from a known and trusted dealer who can vouch otherwise, assume every train for sale requires servicing before use"

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Posted by Flintlock76 on Sunday, October 24, 2021 10:43 AM

As far as I know ALL Lionel HO products were outsourced.  There were three companys they purchased from; Athern, Roco, and Rivarossi.  Quality was reportedly quite good from all three.

Unfortunately that's all I know about Lionel HO.  HO's never interested me at all.

I can be a bit snarky where HO's concerned:

"HO=How Ordinary!"  Needless to say I never  say that to HO fans!

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Posted by Art Young on Sunday, October 24, 2021 12:31 PM

Not all: the copies of the operating accessories and most of components of the operating cars were made "in house". For myself, the only one I have on my "0" layout is the #0145 Gateman since its size comes closer to "0" than "H0".

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Posted by Swiss-Colorado-Lines on Sunday, October 24, 2021 1:35 PM

I've often reflected on how so many model train companies took a stab at H0 at one time or another. Gilbert, Lionel, and Marx all produced H0 trains at one point, probably trying to read the market, and figure out what people wanted, and would sell. 
 Roco made quality trains- my N scale engines from the '70's still run!
Tyco, which I grew up with, made operating cars as well.

Please post some pix when you get a chance !

Paul

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Posted by Billwiz on Sunday, October 24, 2021 2:17 PM

There are some websites with the history of Lionel HO, including the manufacturers.  Pretty interesting if you like model train history.

 

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Posted by M636C on Sunday, October 24, 2021 8:16 PM

The present Bachmann Southern Pacific GS-4 4-8-4 dates back to the mid 1970s and was produced for Lionel for an "American Freedom Train" set sold in advance of the Bicentennial. Lionel also offered it in post war SP red and orange.

I obtained one of these SP units. Kader often sold off excess production to third parties, and I ended up with the GS-4 in an unmarked moulded white foam tray with just a sheet of plastic taped to the top to protect the model. No paperwork of any kind...

I subsequently purchased a plain black GS-4 from Bachmann (which came with full packaging) and it was clear that the body moulding was identical. The Bachmann chassis was a much later design with a die cast split chassis design, while the lionel chassis was plastic with a transverse motor driving the trailing coupled axle. I think Bachmann also sold the model with the plastic chassis earlier.

This GS-4 is still in production. The body was clearly based on Japanese built brass models from the 1960s, and falls far short of current models, but it is to scale and looks like the prototype.

Peter

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Posted by Leverettrailfan on Sunday, October 24, 2021 8:55 PM

Flintlock76

As far as I know ALL Lionel HO products were outsourced.  There were three companys they purchased from; Athern, Roco, and Rivarossi.  Quality was reportedly quite good from all three.

Unfortunately that's all I know about Lionel HO.  HO's never interested me at all.

I can be a bit snarky where HO's concerned:

"HO=How Ordinary!"  Needless to say I never  say that to HO fans!


At first I figured all Lionel HO was outsourced. What made me question it was the blurb on Lionel HO here. So presumably some in-house manufacture, but it does sound like very little.
I guess it just surprised me that even though Lionel didn't make their HO line, the motors don't look like any other make I've seen- my 0635 pacific doesn't seem to match anything I saw when I looked up 4-6-2s made by Roco, Athearn or Rivarossi.
It makes me curious if while the manufacturing was outsourced, the models in some cases were exclusive to Lionel? But then again I'd expect to see the tooling have been used after Lionel Corp. was no more.

I understand your sentiments Flintlock, after I got into O and S, I turned my back on HO and never looked back. None of it had much of any interest to me whatsoever. I still kept the odd piece around but wasn't too keen on it. As you say, "how ordinary!". But whenever I saw something really weird, I had to have it if it was cheap. Like my Varney 'L'il Raskal', or the peculiar unbranded switcher engine I have somewhere. 
Going to the Massena NY show gave me a run for my money, however. I was helping out a friend with displaying his HO layout, and after servicing some of his engines that wouldn't run right, and then getting the Lionel HO in... I just started to think that maybe HO could be fun sometimes. It'll never be able to replace my O and S, but it's not all as bland as I had originally come to feel. The way I see it, having a little HO means that I have something to run if I visit a friend's layout and they use HO. Unless, of course, they've gone to DCC.

If I have some time tomorrow, I'll defnitely try to snap some pictures of what I've got. I did a peek online trying to find the number the tender might have had, and discovered instead that what I have is Lionel's set number 5757. This set appears to have been cataloged in 1961 only. 

My set is missing the track, transformer, and set box, as well as the 0842 culvert pipe transport car. I foolishly didn't realize I had the original logs for the 0300 and let my friend have those. Regret! I have 2 of the 3 culverts that went with the 0842. The 0366 is missing the doors, but by some miracle not a single one of the cans is missing. Original boxes are present for everything except the set box, and the 0635. Most of the boxes are in pretty awful shape, the only box I'd consider to be fully intact is the 0900 remote control track section.

It's really neat to me just how much Lionel was able to pack into their HO line, I'd never pick an HO set over an O one, but they did a pretty good job of putting the action into their HO line. Both the 0300 and the 0366 seem in keeping with the tradition of Lionel's O scale accessories, complete with the classic look of heat-stamped lettering that I always associate with postwar Lionel. The cars also all have sprung trucks with metal sides and wheels.

-Ellie

"Unless bought from a known and trusted dealer who can vouch otherwise, assume every train for sale requires servicing before use"

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Posted by Flintlock76 on Monday, October 25, 2021 9:30 AM

Yeah, when I was a kid back in the Jurassic Period my friends had HO sets while I had Lionels.  The HO sets left me cold, they just didn't have the bodacious impact those big Lionels had and they seemed to derail all the time.  In fairness they were probably cheap sets but as they say first impressions are lasting ones.

I have to confess, I did  save some HO cars from my late brother-in-law "Big B's" train hoard, eight Dairylea milk cars.  He actually was an N Gauger, but I suspect he bought the cars since my father-in-law (and "Big B" himself for a while) worked for Dairylea.  "B" never did anything with them though.  So, I'm going to set up a little layout around our fiber-optic "Robo-Tree" this Christmas after picking up an engine and caboose at one of the upcoming train shows.

But that's  as far as my HO involvement's going to go!  Big Smile

PS:  Thanks for posting that Lionel catalog!  Interesting!

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Posted by Leverettrailfan on Monday, October 25, 2021 10:54 AM

Flintlock76

Yeah, when I was a kid back in the Jurassic Period my friends had HO sets while I had Lionels.  The HO sets left me cold, they just didn't have the bodacious impact those big Lionels had and they seemed to derail all the time. 


I grew up with an HO set my parents got for me when I was 8. Looking back, they really did think well on it, they bought me a pretty fancy set instead of just getting me a basic one with a loop of track, an engine, and 3 cars. 
That said, yeah, my experience with it involved a lot of derailing, cars uncoupling without me wanting them to, and stuff getting stuck because the track or the wheels needed to be cleaned. I grew up watching some of the "I love toy trains" videos put out by TM books & video, and always wanted the trains I saw in those videos. I didn't really know for sure what they were called. But the HO was fun, and I played with it plenty. I got more engines and a couple cars. I bet I'd have had more fun if 'horn hook' couplers were still the norm. The knuckles were just very unreliable for a kid's standards, and they were very easily broken. Several cars went 'out of service' because of this, and I had to run one of my engines backwards when the rear coupler broke. 
Had fun, but as soon as I got my hands on some Lionel, the HO fell to the wayside in an instant. The lionel stuff was bigger, heavier, the couplers weren't fragile, and they made lots of noise clattering down the track. All I had was MPC stuff originally, but even that was enough to tear me away from HO without a glance back.
Flintlock76

I have to confess, I did  save some HO cars from my late brother-in-law "Big B's" train hoard, eight Dairylea milk cars.  He actually was an N Gauger, but I suspect he bought the cars since my father-in-law (and "Big B" himself for a while) worked for Dairylea.  "B" never did anything with them though.  So, I'm going to set up a little layout around our fiber-optic "Robo-Tree" this Christmas after picking up an engine and caboose at one of the upcoming train shows.

I reccomend buying an old Athearn engine. They're easy to service, and run beautifully. Only thing is the original rubber motor mounts turn solid as a rock and you'll need to replace those.
Or, keep an eye out for a postwar Lionel HO Smile, Wink & Grin
The thing I'd watch out for, is that I tried fixing another person's 0055 M&St.L switcher and discovered one of the last things you generally want to discover. The old lube in HO engines seems not to have been any better than the kid Lionel used in their O stuff. Maybe it was good 60-70 years ago, but by now it's performing the opposite effect of lubrication. Anyhow, seems that it caused the motor to overheat and blew a winding as well as melting the shell a little. 
So keep that in mind. Inspect carefully, better yet bring a power supply and test to see if the motor doesn't like to start in a certain position/gets stuck at low speed in the same rotation of the armature. Though my guess is that the melting on the shell would probably be a clear indicator. And assume you're going to be giving anything a full service before you run it, naturally.
-Ellie

"Unless bought from a known and trusted dealer who can vouch otherwise, assume every train for sale requires servicing before use"

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Posted by ADCX Rob on Monday, October 25, 2021 1:27 PM

Leverettrailfan

 discovered instead that what I have is Lionel's set number 5757. This set appears to have been cataloged in 1961 only.

Rob

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Posted by Flintlock76 on Monday, October 25, 2021 4:19 PM

Leverettrailfan
I reccomend buying an old Athearn engine.

Thanks for the advice!  I was thinking about a somewhat recent Bachmann product, I've got some of their N Gauge stuff (a sidetrack on my part, "Big B's" malign influence) and the engines work pretty well.  I haven't heard anything bad about their HO equipment.

Don't worry about me test running it!  I'll probably get an HO engine at one of our train club's shows, and  built the test tracks, so I know they  work!

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Posted by Leverettrailfan on Monday, October 25, 2021 9:13 PM

Flintlock76

...I was thinking about a somewhat recent Bachmann product, I've got some of their N Gauge stuff (a sidetrack on my part, "Big B's" malign influence) and the engines work pretty well.  I haven't heard anything bad about their HO equipment.


I owned a few Bachmann HO engines when I was a kid. They were all great runners. Only one of them really withstood my usage over the years, but I recall they all ran real smooth and quiet. They were nicer models than an 8-12 year old was fully equipped to look after properly! As long as you're not buying a Bachmann starter set engine, I doubt you can steer wrong.
I've heard fantastic things about Kato- but I believe their N gauge line is much bigger than the HO one.
I prefer my trains vintage, something about working on open frame motors is a lot more fun to me than stuff with DC can motors. but that's entirely personal preference. As far as things go, the stuff they make now is just better for your typical modeler, offering better low speed control and all that good stuff.

Thanks for that nicer catalog scan, Rob! It's gorgeous!

I didn't get a good moment to snap pictures of the trains, will try again Wednesday perhaps. Tomorrow I've got other plans.
Stay tuned for further developments :)
-Ellie

"Unless bought from a known and trusted dealer who can vouch otherwise, assume every train for sale requires servicing before use"

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Posted by thesiding on Monday, November 1, 2021 10:41 AM

Gibert made HO trains before WW2             Possibly why Lionel tried OO        Lionel stuff was made by Rivorassi Athearn and Hobby Town I have a fairly decnt Lionel HO collection (1/5 came from Madison Hardware before they closed in 1990)and representation of all three brands. Supposely J Cowen did not like HO and hence WHY it took so long for Lionel to consider it but essentially they were too late with too little when they did. They could not seem to grasp the market In addiion depite beating Lione by nearly 20 years Gilbert was not much better with their HO in terms of Marketing  though they did make some quality items

And in te 70's Lionel HO was also Bachmann  wwho despite making plasticville buildings for some tim e began to make HO trains in early seventies

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Posted by Leverettrailfan on Monday, November 1, 2021 2:50 PM

thesiding

Gibert made HO trains before WW2


I was aware of Gilbert's HO, I actually have an HO hudson. It's not in great shape but I have hopes of someday buying the parts to make it a usable model. I didn't realize they tried HO before WWII, or maybe I just forgot about it. 
thesiding

Lionel stuff was made by Rivorassi Athearn and Hobby Town

That's what I keep reading. Though what I read in one place, was that Lionel used tooling acquired from hobbytown, not that hobbytown made the trains.
I have my doubts about some of the items being manufactured in whole by others, and suspect that perhaps some tooling or parts were provided to Lionel but maybe Lionel did final assembly on a number of items- and regardless, there were items which if not made by Lionel, were exclusive to Lionel.

For instance, the milk car seems like nothing that anyone else created- and the construction of it seems to be similar to Lionel O Gauge. All the equipment from my 5757 set has heat stamped lettering, which I haven't really seen on any non-Lionel HO equipment.
There are certainly obvious examples of rebranded equipment- the 0272 New Haven is clearly a stock Athearn rubber band drive F unit. The Lionel HO cabooses are dead ringers for cars made by Roco*. The interior of the 0827 illuminated caboose features a socket and bulb that scream 'Lionel' which inclines me to think that Roco supplied Lionel with the tooling or just the plastic components, and Lionel decorated and assembled them. I don't know, this is all just my own speculation.


I'd assume all the trucks were made by someone else, but some of them have Lionel embossed into the insulating plastic part that comprises the coupler box and bolster. Likewise almost all the cars, and the locomotive I have, have "made by the Lionel Corperation, New York NY" embossed somewhere on their undersides. 
This image shows a few different models of 'Hustler/Husky' switchers:

The article it's from has this to say on Lionel's model:
Lionel used the Athearn molds with some modifications - all in the 1960's. They started out with the Athearn mechansim and later switched to their own. Lionel called their little locos "Husky".

The Lionel 'Husky' I've been inside indeed had a motor and drive that looked nothing like Athearn to me, so I'm inclined to believe this text to be 'on the right track'.
-Ellie 

*
I have the body of a Roco caboose, which I compared to my Lionel 0827. The cars clearly share the same basic mold, however the 0827 has the catwalks molded into the shell wheras when I web searched for images of other Roco cabooses, they all had separately applied catwalks- the 0827 seems to be an odd exception among the Lionel cabooses though since I found plenty of images online of Lionel cabooses with seperately applied catwalks.

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Posted by emdmike on Saturday, November 6, 2021 12:34 AM

From my research, Lionel went with OO for a couple reasons, one was at that time, we were on the cuff of decent motors in HO scale, but in slightly larger OO the motors were much better at that time.  There also was a "pissing" match between JLC and the owner of Scale Craft, which was in competition with Lionel in the O and OO scale markets back in those prewar years.  Lionels HO stuff runs good for its vintage.  Compared to what we have today its crude and noisy but for its day it was pretty good.  But, Lionel was king of O toy trains and the effort into the HO market was half hearted. JLC himself wasnt even really in the picture as much by the time HO came out.  His son Lawerance was running the company by then.   For those that have never held or seen a Lionel OO Hudson, the full scale version is a mini 700e, all diecast and just as detailed.  When one remembers what year those were made, its amazing and a jewel of a model.  The semi scale version is like a 773 postwar Hudson, still scale size but lacking the super detailing of the 700e.  The 3 rail track has a 27" radius and the full scale Hudsons will run on it, makes an excellent table top Christmas layout!   

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Posted by Leverettrailfan on Friday, November 19, 2021 1:55 PM

I have more information! I was looking online for the Lionel HO service manual (no luck so far, if anyone knows where to find a copy I'd really appreciate it), and stumbled into a Greenberg book you can borrow from the online library at Archive.org. It answered a good few questions for me-
Apparently Rivarossi only produced products for Lionel in 1957, and generally they weren't visually identifiable as Lionel, and had the word 'rivarossi' on them.
Lionel "broke up" with Rivarossi in 1958, switching to Athearn. It seems they had an arrangement for Athearn to produce equipment for Lionel, but Athearn also used those Lionel items in their own product line. There were a few weird exceptions, the Virginian rectifier's shell apparently was Lionel tooling, not Athearn. 
1959/1960 seems to have been the end of the deal with Athearn, and transition to Lionel producing their own product line entirely. Lionel bought the Hobbytown tooling from John English and started producing models based off of that tooling in 1959. Post Athearn arrangmement, Lionel sold some 'clones' of Athearn offerings (namely the 'husky' switcher). That might explain the different mechanism and slightly different tooling for the shell. Lionel corp also did create their own drives, hence why the motors don't seem to resemble anything made by another manufacturer. It would seem all the HO operating cars were designed and manufactured by the Lionel Corperation.
Oddly enough I can't see mention of Roco anywhere in the book, and considering the copyright was back in 1986 I don't know how much of the info is right on the money... but it would certainly put some clarity on the inconsistencies I was feeling, in the narrative of "Lionel never made their own HO" versus the trains that had the Lionel name molded.embossed into them.

I definitely think that the Lionel offset cupola caboose is a dead ringer for a Roco model, perhaps the tooling went to Roco after Lionel abandoned HO production in ~1966. Interesting stuff. Unfortunate that the service information and parts for Lionel made HO is so hard to come by compared to the O gauge line- though it makes sense that the less popular, and shorter lived HO line doesn't exactly fetch the same demand for resources to maintain and repair its products.

I was hoping I could repair my 0635LTS, but it seems all the vital components were gutted to convert it into a "push" model. The only way I could get it back on the rails is with a donor locomotive, so we'll see how that goes. Aside from a crack at the mounting hole in the shell, under the cab, and some patchy loss of the chemical blackening on the steam chest and frame, the cosmetic shape is definitely nice. Plus I'd rather keep my set as original as possible, since I found them together.

-Ellie

"Unless bought from a known and trusted dealer who can vouch otherwise, assume every train for sale requires servicing before use"

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