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Discussion Starter #1
Hello all, I am new here and I do not have a huge collection but have inherited my grandfathers Lionel "army" train set from when he was a child. I am guessing pre war but can not find any information on this set. Can anyone tell me a model number or where to even start with this set please? Should I try and restore it, sell it, keep it? I have the transformer and original 0 gauge track with it as well. The bottom half of the box was destroyed but have the top half as pictured. TIA :thumbsup:









- Ryan
 

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Hello all, I am new here and I do not have a huge collection but have inherited my grandfathers Lionel "army" train set from when he was a child. I am guessing pre war but can not find any information on this set. Can anyone tell me a model number or where to even start with this set please? Should I try and restore it, sell it, keep it? I have the transformer and original 0 gauge track with it as well. The bottom half of the box was destroyed but have the top half as pictured. TIA :thumbsup:









- Ryan
You could get big bucks for it.
This guy made one.
Look at the bottom of this link.
http://www.toycollector.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=blogcategory&id=97&Itemid=419&limit=30&limitstart=30

SAVE THE BOX DO NOT DESTROY!:D

I can dig up more later, got to go to work.

Don't restore the paint just cleanup the engine and lube it. Does it run? Watch the transformer wire as it is old.
 

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Discussion Starter #3
Thanks! I have not tried to run it since the wire out of the transformer is very old and brittle. I did find that info and was the ONLY info I found. I would just like to get in touch with the right person I guess and not just any local train shop around my area. Any tips on removing rust? There is a very small amount on the one car wheel. Thanks again Ed...
 

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Smpldezine,
Welcome to the forum! What a find! My first suggestion is that you not attempt to remove the rust until you have made a decision whether to keep it or not. I'm not a Lionel runner, but the set is obviously old, possibly rare, and most likely valuable. Silly as it may seem, the cardboard box and any wrappings add to it's value, so protect them. In fact, I'd invest in a plastic tote that will hold the cardboard stuff without bending it so you can better protect it.
Next---sell, or restore? That depends on your level of interest. If you want to sell it, the most I would do is get a quality brush with long, soft bristles and gently brush the dust off. Then carefully roll each car up in tissue paper and put them in a separate plastic tote. Do not attempt to clean or restore them----you'll likely reduce their value.

If you want to keep it as a family heirloom, though, you've come to the right place. We have people on this site who run Lionel and can probably help you identify the set. They should also be able to help you restore it and get it running, again.

So....sit back for a few days and ask yourself: do I keep it or sell it? Do I have room for setting it up, and enough interest in it to maintain it? Finally, is the place I want to set it up dry enough to avoid damage to it? It really comes down to whether you see this as Grandpa's train you want to keep and cherish, or an inheritance you can't really use and would like to sell. Either is an honorable choice that we'll be happy to help you with.

One other thought....you showed one car that is essentially a tank. The tank came into existence in WWI and looked nothing like that in it's original form. My gut feeling is you are looking at a very late prewar or an early WWII set, just by the design of that tank. I'm guessing you'll find it to be 1935-1940 in origin, but like I said, I'm not a Lionel guy. Best wishes on it, and please accept our condolences on losing your Grandpa.
 

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The Tank is 1917 vintage from the Olive Green color. The rarest. It has a 154 motor. The turret came off a tin battle ship. If you have the set that is rarer. That is why it is hard to find out information. Information on prewar trains has always beem poor on the internet.With the economy, now is the worst time to sell. Hang on to it and leave it alone. Get a guide for prewar trains, if you have more. If you talk to anyone use another (less rare)engine to test the waters.
Selling? Get serious. We are a discussion forum, not appraisers,but you did ask for information. We have had some nice prewar questions. Just about all od them were valuable but you are off the chart. I enjoyed the pictures . Seek out a national train auction.
This one should not be restored, it will loose value.
You may want to join a train collector club.
After all you are an instant collector with an envious collection.
Type 2 is green, later models were grey. The catalog shown is 1922.
Hope this helps.
Generally I don't use the prewar transformers. Get a 30 buck 1033 to run it. O gage tubular track will work. You should mess with cheeper trains first.
The engine is so rare it is not priced out.
 

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Discussion Starter #6
Thanks for the help and for the condolences... I actually never got to meet him. He died a few years before I was born, actually 10 years when my mom was only 17. She decided to give it to me now since she knew I would appreciate it and do the right thing by either keeping it or selling it. This is why it is so hard to keep it or sell it. I am getting married next year and this would really help things out if I find the right buyer. I do not want to unload this just for the $ aspect.

The original cardboard box is kept inside a bigger cardboard box to protect it.

The cars are kept in a shoebox lined with socks and padding between each car. I should look into the plastic bags though...

Thanks again for the help and can not wait to find out how rare this is and just what exactly it really is.

-Ryan
 

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Discussion Starter #7
The Tank is 1917 vintage from the Olive Green color. The rarest. It has a 154 motor. The turret came off a tin battle ship. If you have the set that is rarer. That is why it is hard to find out information. Information on prewar trains has always beem poor on the internet.With the economy, now is the worst time to sell. Hang on to it and leave it alone. Get a guide for prewar trains, if you have more. If you talk to anyone use another (less rare)engine to test the waters.
Selling? seek out a national train auction.
This one should not be restored, it will loose value.
Thank you for the vaulable information, it is much appreciated!!
 

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Search ebay for a 154 engine. It has the same motor. It is more common and may run up to 200 bucks. This is something you just have to sit back and gather info. For cheep stuff, get some postwar that uses the same AC. A 2034 or 2026 is a good starter
Getting married is a great time but not for trains or money. I waited and collected for 20 years before I got into a larger house to get a table set up.
Your Welcome!
 

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Please don't put any of it in plastic bags. There is moisture in the air and Bags trap it. When the room cools, the moisture settles onto the metal and will rust it. Considering your circumstances with the upcoming nuptuals, selling it would seem to be the best option. Take your time, though, and get more than one appraisal before even discussing it with an auction house. A national auction house is an appropriate venue, but walking in with a couple of appraisals under your belt can give you an idea of whether they really know anything about your stuff. OH! One more thing....keep quiet about it. Don't tell the neighbors or anyone else; don't give your address to anyone who appraises it, and don't give a house or apartment phone number to any of the appraisers. Most folks are honest, but it only takes one thief and a reverse phone book to figure out where you live, you know?

Best of luck with it!
 

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Ryan,

I'm just chiming in now, as my heart had stopped, and I had to use a defibrillator to jump-start it back up again ... Wow ... you have quite the treasure.

All great comments from our forum guys above. I'll add a few more points ...

1. The tank/loco is Lionel #203, is suspect Type 1 from 1917. Type 1 was olive (as yours) and had "Lionel Manufacturing Company" on the bottom tag (as yours). Type 2 were battleship grey, and Type 3 (1918 through 1921) were grey with a "Lionel Corporation" tag. Your #203 Type 1 is very rare, indeed, with no price reference in the Lionel guides.

2. The #203 was teamed up with a pair (2) of the #900 Ammunition Boxcars to constitute freight set #214, which I believe is what you have, circa 1917 or 1918. The ammo boxcars were grey (rather than olive), I think confirmed by your first photo.

3. As side notes ...

a. The #200 ammo cars appear to be similar in form to the #800 boxcars, with the #900 being much more rare.

b. The #203 loco/tank was also sold as set #215, which included a pair of baggage cars (#702), rather than the ammo cars.

4. Re: paint and finish. Absolutely do NOT attempt to strip off any paint, rust, etc. Leave as original an untouched as possible.

5. Reck has a good point about the risk of moisture in plastic bags. I've wrapped a couple of old trains I have loosely in cotton micro-fiber towels, then placed them in a rubbermaid-type bin, along with some silica gel.

6. As you begin to contact reputable Lionel dealers, etc., make sure that they are TCA certified (Train Collector's Association), or can give you good reason as to why they are not.

7. You might want to contact the National Toy Train Museum to ask their advice on what to do next -- whether you consider preservation or eventual sale. www.traincollectors.org

Thanks for sharing this fabulous set, and please keep us posted on your thoughts.

Regards,

TJ
 

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Ryan,

A bit more ...

Remember that the US was in the midst of WWI in 1917, and Lionel was busy making military equipment, rather than a full focus on trains.

Click the links below to read a bit of the history going into your tank set ...

See top-right of Page 32 and photo on Page 33

http://books.google.com/books?id=4kzYAzncO5oC&printsec=frontcover&dq=Lionel:+America's+Favorite+Toy+Trains&source=bl&ots=L9QXsNwQHy&sig=Yy3BAiNpLgVwSnxkzwZ1Dmw3t9s&hl=en&ei=L_9WTKG_Oob0swPVnoHZAg&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=4&ved=0CDAQ6AEwAw#v=onepage&q=203&f=false

also ...

http://www.thirdrail.com/ttr_ww1.htm

For your understanding in the first link, "Cohen" (or sometimes "Cowen") is Joshua Lionel Cohen, the founder of Lionel.

TJ
 

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Thanks! I have not tried to run it since the wire out of the transformer is very old and brittle. I did find that info and was the ONLY info I found. I would just like to get in touch with the right person I guess and not just any local train shop around my area. Any tips on removing rust? There is a very small amount on the one car wheel. Thanks again Ed...
Just got home from work 13hrs! And I got to get up early tomorrow!

I have seen just one on e bay and it was only the tank not the set GO FOR BIG BUCKS!

I guess I don't have to say much more as everyone else beat me to it.:D
Keep checking back I am going to try to dig up some more to add to the post but I don't have the time right now.

The rust? I say it would not hurt but help if you take some wd-40 and rub it on your finger and apply it to the rust on the wheels. It would help stop further rusting. Don't try to clean them if you don't know what your doing.


I can't remember how much just the tank fetched but it was a good buck!
And you got the set with the box!

Watch out for appraisers too, especially if they offer you money. I would keep them if I were you. If your young another 10, 15 years they will be WORTH A LOT OF DOUGH!:D
 

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I'd echo ed's comment about appraisers or anyone who begins a sentence with "I'll give you (enter value here) right now for it..." or who needs to know where you live, etc. An apartment phone number or house phone number given out is like offering a key to your door. So is calling them from your home phone---everyone has caller id, these days. I don't mean to sound paranoid or over-react, but the item you have is worth stealing and can be easily sold under the table to an unethical collector. Just be circumspect about personal information and you'll do fine.
 

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Discussion Starter #14
Thank you everyone so much for the info and input, it is truly appreciated and wonderful! I am so torn on even thinking of selling it but with just purchasing a house last fall and the wedding next fall it should would be great. Like I said before, I dont want to sell to just anyone. I am going to get 2 apprasials today and 1 tomorrow and will keep y'll posted. I did put them in plastic bags just for the next few days while I take it around. Should I contact someone at Lionel as I don't just want this going to some train shop... Again, thanks for all the valuable information regarding the set I have inheritied.
 

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Discussion Starter #15
I'd echo ed's comment about appraisers or anyone who begins a sentence with "I'll give you (enter value here) right now for it..." or who needs to know where you live, etc. An apartment phone number or house phone number given out is like offering a key to your door. So is calling them from your home phone---everyone has caller id, these days. I don't mean to sound paranoid or over-react, but the item you have is worth stealing and can be easily sold under the table to an unethical collector. Just be circumspect about personal information and you'll do fine.
I certainly will take this into consideration... I use my cell phone only and have it locked in my gun safe. That is something I didn't really think about but they are all good points. I have some time to sit and think about this and where I want this train to go. I just want to make sure whatever happens is the right thing. What is an approximate quote I should expect on this set?
 

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Should I contact someone at Lionel as I don't just want this going to some train shop
That's a good question. Normally, (present day) Lionel doesn't get involved in collector issues (restoration, appraisals, etc.). But this tank/loco is so rare, that they might have some interest in steering you in a suitable / ethical direction. Give 'em a shot, perhaps.

Do follow through with the TCA and the National Toy Train Museum ... I think they'd offer ethical advice, too.

Maybe your bride-to-be would love to have a little old tank as a wedding gift ?!?:laugh:

TJ
 

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Discussion Starter #17
I did call Lionel and left a message just to see where I should go with it from here. I don't think I'm going to take it to any local shops today, maybe just the pictures. If they know what they are doing, they will know what it is anyway. I'm sure she'd love an old tank loco as a wedding present haha that might just pay for the divorce that would soon follow lol
 

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I don't think it's overkill to suggest renting a PO Box for your correspondence. The real problem is that, in not knowing how you want to proceed, you need to create some flexibility in advance. Reputable people may need to send you documents to sign or return photos to you; unfortunately, you can't tell who is reputable. Build yourself some leeway now. It can be awkward to say "I won't give you my address" to someone who is interested. Also, don't be too averse to having it end up in someone's collection instead of a museum. My guess is that both your Mom and Grandpa would rather you have a great wedding present than an antique train. Use part of the money to start a new train set to hand down to your grandchildren and pass on the favor!
 

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Discussion Starter #19
My parents have a PO Box if it comes to that I would use. I called the National Toy Train Assoc and they were very helpful. It is #203 and not 154 and both cars are #900. They recommended I get the Greenburg pocket price guide to Lionel trains 1901 - 2010 so I just ordered it. Should be here by the weekend and I guess I will go from there. That's a great idea about investing in another train to pass on and good point. I will def search for a pre '70 set though. Thanks again for the help everyone!
 
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