Back in 1910, Joshua Lionel Cowen, the founder of the Lionel Company, created a model train that was a replica of the 4-4-2 locomotive, quite famous and popular in those times. The numbers of this model come from the number of wheels the locomotive had, which meant that 4 wheels were in the front alone, four more in the middle section, and two in the back end. This model locomotive was a gorgeous electric train to own in the beginning of the 1900s, presenting beautiful details and being a wonderful collectible to enjoy.
The most famous Lionel model train in the 1920s was the New York Central model. It became a highly popular and appreciated model in the period before the war, its creators believing that the model’s success came from the fact that it was the first model train that came with a three-rail track that had 1.25 inches in width, called “O Gauge”.
The 1930s brought the Silver Streak Diesel Engine to Lionel model train enthusiasts and collectors. This model train caught the Great Depression and was one of the small joys you could find in those times of hardship. Pioneer Zephyr was among the train models that ran in reality and were used as inspiration for this model trains line. The Silver Streak were train models that had to be winded up to work, Lionel changing this aspect and producing them as electric trains later on.
The B-6 Switcher Stream Locomotive, together with a coal car model, made collectors’ days brighter in the 1940s. This model train was actually a loyal replica of the real Pennsylvania Railroad B-6 class switcher, which was an imposing and impressive train to be seen in those days. One of the largest railroads in the US, which was founded in 1846, the Pennsylvania Railroad also become a real source of inspiration over time for the numerous model trains released by Lionel.
Another Pennsylvania Railroad-inspired model train was released in 1947, the GG1. This model locomotive was so appreciated and demanded by collectors and other people who ended up being mesmerized by this kind of items, that the GG1 model made by Lionel remained available for 50 years. A solid and massive locomotive, the real GG1 was created to haul long and extremely heavy trains that transported passengers, as the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania mentions in the history of this train.
Lionel always managed to pleasantly surprise its clients, so, in 1950, the company introduced on the market the Electric Box Cab, accompanied by a flat car model that used to carry models of rockets, cars, submarines, or construction equipment. All these accessories were provided together with the model trains, for the enjoyment of the people that bought this model.
Lionel is a company famous for its electric train models, but that didn’t mean that it refused to take in new challenges. Thus, in the 1960s the most popular model train made by Lionel was the Santa Fe F-3 Diesel, one of the first Diesel train models ever made by the company. While it is true that the F-3 models appeared somewhere in the 1940s, the beauty of these trains was discovered almost two decades later by collectors. But they had enough time to enjoy this model, as it remained in the company’s product offer until 1966.
The 1980s came with a lot of breakthroughs and new things for the world to enjoy, and the Lionel Company couldn’t afford to lose the pace. So, it offered to its customers the Amtrak Silver Spike, a Diesel model train, one of the best Diesel provided by Lionel, according to enthusiasts. The company stated that this model was made especially for collectors and people that had railroad modeling as their much-beloved hobby, and judging by the success of this model, they managed to do a great job in attracting the attention of their target customers. The details presented by this particular model are rather stunning, having in mind that the company and Amtrak did not work together for the creation of this model train.
The end of the 1990s found the GP-30 Diesel model on the list of favorites among railroad modeling enthusiasts. This particular train was common on the railroads of North America and was quite popular in the 1960s. But Lionel decided to create a model train replica 40 years later and the choice was not a bad one at all, as this model was greatly appreciated by the collectors’ community.
In 2000, when the Lionel Company was ready to commemorate 100 years of activity in the model railroading domain, a limited-edition 700 EJ1E Hudson was released. The J-Class 4-6-4 Hudson of New York Central was the favorite locomotive of the company’s founder, Joshua Lionel Cowen. Back in the days, this particular locomotive was used both for pulling freight cars and passenger trains, because it was very potent and capable of managing any kind of task. But, the J-Class replica made by Lionel was extremely special for the occasion celebrated during this year, the surprise consisting in the fact that the model locomotive was plated with 24K gold. It didn’t come cheap, costing $1,399.95, but collectors did not hesitate to grab a piece of this unique and amazing model train.
In 2010, Lionel decided to exploit the pieces of information provided by a movie and children’s book that was published in 1985 for the making of a model locomotive. The chosen children’s book was a classic, inspiring a film with the same name, “The Polar Express”. Starring Tom Hanks and released in 2004, the movie enjoyed a lot of success, so Lionel’s collection expanded in 2010 with the Polar Express O-Gauge model train. This miniature train was as fascinating as it was in the story, managing to win the attention and hearts of enthusiasts.