Identifying Rare and Valuable Model Trains

Collecting model trains can be an exciting hobby but some items are rarer than others. Learn how to identify rare & valuable model trains from our expert guide.

Identifying Rare and Valuable Model Trains

Collecting model trains is a popular hobby, but some items are rarer than others. Rarity can help determine the value of a train, but not always. Train collectors have a definite set of likes and dislikes that help establish the value of the items they collect. The valuations of model railroads are determined by a number of important factors, such as the serial number that appears on the side of a locomotive, the condition of the model and its box, and the manufacturer. Lionel is one of the best-known manufacturers of collectible toy trains, having been in business for more than 100 years.

One of their rarest models is the Lionel Standard Gauge set, which consists of three railroads with a distance between the tracks of 2,125 inches. What makes this set of rails exceptional is the third center rail, which is isolated from the other two rails. The discontinuation of this set made it scarce, making it one of the favorites of collectors. The 2360 Vagell GG1 is another rare post-war model and a favorite among collectors. This vintage train model was created by Bill Vogel who wanted a black post-war GG1 train.

He bought eight post-war Lionel trains, painted them black and had Lionel do the decoration. The Lionel 2360 was first created in 1945 and was discontinued after three years. The second production began in 1949 and also lasted three years. During the six years that the train was in production, there were several iterations of the model. The Brute Lionel train was built in 1927 as a pre-production model or prototype of the standard 381E electric meter.

For a train built in the '20s, the Brute was quite pompous. With a length of 28 inches, few children could lift this toy train. The Brute replicated the two-pole Milwaukee Road engine, with three engines. This model was also created to run on a track more than 3 inches wide, something quite unusual for a toy train. The exceptional Brute engine was on display in Lionel's showroom for years before passing into the hands of Bill Vagell and other collectors.

Lionel also began manufacturing trains for girls in order to expand its market. The new train set for girls was made with whimsical pastel colors and was called Lion Girls train set from 1957. The Freight steam set is rich in history. Lionel created this set as an introduction to the 726 Berkshire, and the successor introduced a new number (73) and a magnetic traction system. Produced in 1950, this Lionel cargo comes with a premium 12-wheeler truck.

The tender itself is a bit out of the ordinary, as it includes the phrase Lionel Lines on the sides of the train. The same year, the loading assembly was introduced, and the 6472 refrigerated wagon and the operating mill wagon 3472 were also manufactured. The components of this set include a 2671WX van, a 736 locomotive, a 6462 gondola consisting of six wooden barrels, a 6472 refrigerated wagon, a Sunoco 6555 tank car and a 6457 tailcar with Lionel Lines. Produced in 1953, this railway set has a basic and simple design that makes it intriguing for enthusiasts. The 400E steam locomotive has all the details of a classic Lionel train from before the war. This gray locomotive model has reproduction air tanks, boiler bands and copper moldings. Included in this standard pressure gauge is a 4-4-4 steam engine attached to a matching tube.

The brass and copper details combined with the gray color really help improve the value of this classic locomotive. The Lionel 400E is a large model train kit and will undoubtedly stand out in your collection. The overall Halloween set is arguably one of the rarest Lionel trains. This has a 4-4-0, A, R engine tender is an orange taxi and it comes with a mail luggage wagon and a passenger car from the western Atlantic. The Halloween train runs on a FasTrack railway circuit powered by a PowerMax transformer. The Polar Express set includes 38 pieces, including 24 pieces of curved track, eight pieces of straight track, passenger cars, a Berkshire-inspired locomotive, a charcoal boat and a bell.

Created in 1963, the Sears Lionel train is another rare exclusive find. It has a Santa Fe Alco diesel engine, a red freight car, a Lionel gondola, a launch car and a tail wagon. This train set is popular because of its 18-piece border which includes animals, fences, windmill and more.

Myrna Person
Myrna Person

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