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Lionel Product Reviews

This week I received 3 new Lionel Engines. The Southern F-3 A-B-A, part of the Postwar celebration series, the Southern Pacific F-3 A-B-A, part of the Archive Series and finally the Century Club 773 Hudson. I've had a chance to inspect and run all of these engines and I thought it was time to review a few of Lionel's classic entries into todays market.

The Southern F-3 A-B-A

I always share with the reader all of my Lionel experience, so I picked up the Southerns at my dealer after a long day at work and took them home for inspection. Much to my surprise there were two B-units in the box and no dummy A with all the sounds. It was no big deal so back I went to the dealer and swapped sets.

Home I went again and started to inspect the units under some light. The A units were beautiful the lettering crisp and the stripes shiny and sharp. The B unit looked equally nice until I put it under the light. The stripes were different in finish they were not uniformly shiny along the length of the unit. It almost looked as if the unit had been placed on an uneven or a rough surface before the stripe had "set."

I drug the B Unit back to the shop and inspected their display, the display showed the same inconsistent finish as my unit, and in addition the yellow was a different tone. My B Unit was a brighter, and, well more yellow. The display was a lighter more subdued yellow color. Our interest was peaked, and (with permission) I checked out 4 more sets. They were all of the lighter yellow variety, my yellow didn't match any of them, and all had the "rough" stripes that my unit had. My usual thoughts on this kind of visual marking is that if several have the rough stripe they all (or a significant number of them) will have it so it makes no difference which one you end up owning. In this case that is not quite right, first your B Unit Yellow should match the A Units in your set. My Bright Yellow B did match my two A units, and all the other sets of the lighter yellow stripe matched, so Lionel looks to have matched colors in this small sampling. Secondly, at least one of these samples showed the same paint roughness and was missing a little yellow through the lettering, I think this weakened lettering would be unacceptable as it is more noticeable. Without a strong light source the stripe issue is not as noticeable.

As for the operation of the Southern it was excellent, sounds were the usual High Quality Railsounds we have come to expect from Lionel. Magnetraction levels seemed adequate but I still do not like the use of plastic and nylon idler gears on the F-3 Unit power trucks. Other than the stripe appearance, every A unit I looked at was very nice, no truck scratching and the bodies were nicely painted. There were few marks from the inserting of the porthole window, which was a severe problem with the early GP-9 Dummy B units. The number boards are the true postwar , black with clear numbers which has not always been the case for Lionel in recent years and especially with the Postwar Celebration items. All in all, I wish the stripe were done cleaner, but it's still a nice piece to run on your layout. (And the passenger cars are coming!!)

The Southern Pacific F-3 A-B-A

All of the operational comments apply to the Southern Pacific F-3 set. The sounds are again excellent. There is a very minor cab roof depression in one of the A units but it is barely noticeable. The tooling for the F-3's is showing its age anyway, with lumps and sharp indents, so the depression isn't a major concern. In fact if I didn't point it out to you it
would go unnoticed, and more

importantly you would not find it objectionable, (maybe I'm too hard on this stuff.) The paint and lettering is excellent, Lionel added the silver stripes to the front pilot and they really set it off. I have heard some comments that The unit should have been made with silver trucks, like the other Lionel Southern Pacific Pieces but the Archive Piece Lionel Modeled may not have been done that way. Anyway it is beautiful!!

In the right photo the 2387 is waiting on the freight right-of-way to be signaled to move along. In the close-up on the left, our engineers are carefully controlling number 2387 as it starts down that freight right-of-way.

If you own any of the other stunning Southern Pacific Engines in their "Black Widow" decoration you will want to own this one too.

I would recommend the Southern Pacific over the Southern for appearance. Just look at the nose, the red stripe around the base of the unit and the perfectly done nose herald. It all fits!

The Century Club 773 Hudson.

This engine was one of the main reasons I joined the Century Club. It was worth the wait, as I was one of the last to receive this beautiful engine. The finish is perfect, (yes I know I'm praising three Lionel Engines at the same time.) The tender is too small for the engine but it has always been that way with the later 773 style Hudsons (remember the 1964 version tender that really belonged with a 736?)\The engine has the infrared transmitter and receiver and the wireless system works flawlessly. It is unfortunate that the other Century Club steamers do not have the wireless tether. Take note that there are ornamental pieces below the tender and one of them is a particularly fragile piece of plastic, so be careful removing the tender from its snug Styrofoam packing.

The Engine is shipped with rubber tire equipped center drive wheels, the box also contains an extra set of rubber tires and another set of drive wheels without the tires. Novices...BE BRAVE, there are no instructions, unscrew the eccentric crank bolt then remove the screw holding the drive wheels and you too can enjoy the wheel slip of magna-traction. My big surprise came on the layout, this is by far the fastest running 773 Hudson I've had the pleasure to play test. It smoked well and ran effortlessly on my O-42 loop at a voltage well below my 18 volt maximum. This engine is a fitting addition to the Century Club Line.

The Century Club II

The waiting is over and so is the guessing Lionel has announced a new Century Club 2. It will include the following engines.

Looks like Lionel will be catering to a different client with this new club. Original Century Club members will be receiving an offer letter to join the new Club in September. Those registering by October 15th will receive a boxcar. The final cutoff for membership is December 15, 2000.

The Repair Corner

Here at the repair corner you can get help from a collector who has been repairing Lionel Trains for over 20 years. Even the modern engines with multiple circuit boards can be tackled and fixed. If you need help in finding a part, or just need your confidence built up, this is the place to be. Just drop a line to Remember , this is a busy time of the year for train enthusiasts, but I will get back to you as soon as possible.

Check out the LOTS web site web Site:

Lionel Operating Train Society Home Page

Watch for my articles appearing in the LOTS Switcher, coming soon to a member mailbox near you...


The Train Collectors Association

Every collector should belong to a club, a group of similar minded people who can gather to grow and preserve their particular area of interest in the hobby. There are operator clubs, scale layout clubs and "Toy Train Clubs". I would suggest that you try out the Train Collectors Association, headquartered in Lancaster Pennsylvania. In addition to the TCA Museum, the Train Collectors Quarterly is one of the best magazines put out by Train Collectors for Train Collectors.

I have been a member of the TCA Since 1987 and what drew me to it was the organization's dedication to preservation, and standards. Indeed there are Standards committee members at every TCA Sponsored Event. It doesn't have to be "let the buyer beware"!

For more information on the TCA please check out the TCA Home Page. Keep in mind you will need two members of the TCA to personally sign your application, but membership is worth it.

Toy Train Operating Society

Another Club with a different focus, Is the Toy Train Operating Society, this group has a more West Coast Feel. In addition to the TTOS Order Board Magazine, TTOS has put out some of the best Lionel Convention/Club Cars over the last few years.

Their magazine contains articles on realistic operation and neat operator wiring tricks that collectors may not want to do as much as the operators out there!!


Lionel Collectors Club of America

This club is of special interest to Lionel collectors. The LCCA is famous for its Special Relationship with Lionel. While they no longer provide members with catalogs they still do great insider reviews of Lionel Equipment. They have even taken members on tours of the Lionel factory and the Madison Hardware store (when their Convention was in Detroit).

For more information on the LCCA please check out the:

LCCA Home Page.

You are Lionel Site Visitor

Author: Steve Morris email: <>

Last Updated: Thursday August 24, 2000

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