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Attic Layout in Alameda, CA

The golden era of Lionel standard gauge began in 1923 and covers four fairly distinct periods. The early period from 1923 to 1926 included earth-tone colored rolling stock, brass trim, nickel journals and in 1926, small two-piece brake wheels. The common period from 1927 to 1930 included lighter colors, brass trim, nickel journals, and large two-piece brake wheels. The copper journal period from 1931 to 1934 retained most of the common colors and brass trim, but had one-piece brake wheels and no oil labels on their bottoms. The nickel trim period from 1935 to 1939 added bright toy-like colors.

By changing trim and colors every few years, Lionel could make itself look fresh without spending money on expensive tooling. The last new Standard Gauge tooling was for the 385E steam loco introduced in 1933. Collecting toy trains is similar to collecting stamps. Most freight cars come in up to 10 variations. To a collector, one cattle car may be worth $200 and another worth $2,500. It depends on the rarity of the variation.

For my layout, 25 freight cars are enough. So here you will see a full set of the nine early period 200-series freight cars introduced in 1926. The other sixteen 200-series freight cars are from the copper journal period. The layout fits a certain timeframe: In 1931 Lionel introduced four-tie straight track and five-tie curves. Prior to that they had three-ties and four-ties respectively. The ties were tin plated. In 1934 the ties became black. Non-derailing 223 switches were introduced in 1932 in green. In 1934 they became black. Rubber roadbed was introduced in 1931 and was a poor seller. So all of the track is from 1931 or 1932 or 1933, and the switches are from 1932 or 1933. Everything is original to the era.

In 1933 the top of the line freight set was outfit 423E consisting of a 400E-400T loco, tender and seven 200-series freight cars with copper journals. Contrary to popular belief, not all 400Eís were Black in 1933. Dark gunmetal was introduced. Proof is this loco and tenderís original boxes, they are marked 400E GM w 81 and 400T GM (for Gunmetal). 1933 was the last year of the 81 rheostat. In 1934 the 95 rheostat was introduced. And if you look at the boxes you can see where the rubber stamps were altered as the GM does not line up with the other markings and is in a different font. The word Black was removed from the stamps.

The layout is 44 feet long and 16 feet wide. Two trains can be run at the same time as there is an outer and inner mainline. Note that all visible wire is original Lionel wire of the era. The vintage connections to the 33 switches, 16 blocks and many accessories go to 5,000 feet of modern wire under the layout. Some switches are 65 feet away from the control panel.

To download and play a video, click MAF_MP4  (I don't know how to edit it, so ignore the shots of the floor.)










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