For generations the name was as closely associated with Christmas as Santa Claus

Around 1900, when electrified toy trains were in their infancy, a battery-powered railroad car appeared in the show window of Robert Ingersoll’s novelty store on Cortlandt Street in downtown Manhattan. It wasn’t intended as a toy. Rather, the little car that tirelessly circled its loop of track was meant to draw attention to the other items on display.

A rapturous recipient of both freight and passenger sets powered by GG1 locomotives, as pictured in the company’s 1948 catalogue.
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Lionel’s 10 Greatest

A roster of the company’s most desirable products

One prominent Lionel enthusiast and collector, Michael Shames, thinks these are the company’s greatest classics.

1. 20th Century Limited set: This set first appeared in the 1931 catalogue with a 400E steam locomotive, tender, and three passenger cars, each of which carried the name of a state. Read more »

How To Catch A Train

You can buy a handsome vintage Lionel car for less than $100 today, but many desirable engines and sets sell for four-figure prices. Occasionally something soars much higher. This past autumn Stout Auctions, which specializes in toy and model trains, sold a superb example of the Lionel 20th Century Limited set characterized by cream trim around the windows of its four green cars, a great rarity. The buyer paid $253,000, in part because the set included not only the box for each piece but also the carton in which they were originally packed.Read more »

Railroad In A Barn

Snowshed crews on the Central Pacific, battling blizzards and snowslides, built “the longest house in the world”

The Boomer Brakeman, a Paul Bunyan of western railroad lore, is supposed to have made the run over the Sierra Nevada mountains just once. For nearly forty continuous miles, in the 1890’s, the main line of the Central Pacific Railroad was covered by wooden snowsheds—a railroad enshrouded in one long, twilit forty-mile tunnel protecting the tracks and the transcontinental trains against some of the heaviest snows known to man.

The Great Rail Wreck At Revere

Single-track lines run by one-track minds gave the reformers of Boston their biggest cause since abolition

So long as it remained in public consciousness it was known as the Great Revere Disaster. Written or spoken it deserved the adjective, and the capitals. Worse railroad wrecks had happened before; worse were to come after. But none had such far-reaching results as this tragedy which in 1871 took place in the small Massachusetts village whose name sought to honor the state’s incomparably best-known hero. Read more »

How Rails Saved a Seaport

John W. Garrett turned the pioneer Baltimore & Ohio into a great instrument for tapping the treasure of the West


On June 1, 1881, the morning train from New York arrived in Baltimore on schedule at 2 P.M. Its most distinguished passenger, a large, heavy-set man in his early sixties, stared eagerly from the window of his private palace car as the train was broken up and shunted aboard the ferry steamer Canton for the trip across Baltimore Harbor to the B&O piers at Locust Point.