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Earle Baldwin

"Lionel Classic Locomotives: The Fairbanks-Morse Train Master" (Video)

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When the Lionel Corporation released its 1954 consumer catalog, it had already established itself as a premier manufacturer of model and toy trains. Since the early years of the Twentieth Century, it had produced miniature railway equipment in a variety of sizes, most notably Standard, O and OO gauges. Tinplate reproductions of New York Central’s S-motor, Milwaukee Road’s bi-polar electric locomotive and subsequent scale detailed models of the Pennsylvania B6 0-6-0 and New York Central J1e 4-6-4 represented the pinnacle of the train maker’s art at the time of their introductions. Building upon its fine reputation, in the late 40’s the company issued its legendary models of Electro-Motive’s F3 diesel and Pennsylvania’s mighty GG1 electric. The success of these locomotives inspired Lionel to reach even greater heights as, in 1954, the company announced what many hobbyists consider the finest locomotive released during he company’s golden postwar period. That locomotive was Lackawanna Railroad’s Fairbanks-Morse Train Master.

 

Lionel announced its model of the TM very soon after the prototype was delivered to DL&W. At 2,400 horsepower, the Train Master was the most powerful single unit diesel of its time. Fairbanks-Morse billed its new powerhouse as the “Most Useful Locomotive Ever Built.” While the engine never garnered the success its builder had envisioned, it was an impressive locomotive and the Lionel reproduction represented its prototype magnificently. The model featured a well detailed plastic body, accurate F-M six axle trucks and twin motors which would have enabled the engine to pull down the house if given the chance. Due to the Train Master’s impressive pulling power, hobbyists , myself included, often tried to see just how much it could pull. The locomotive would sometimes pull couplers open before reaching its maximum load. The TM was produced intermittently until 1966 decorated for Lackawanna, Jersey Central and Virginian. Each road name featured several paint scheme variations.

 

Because it was such an impressive model, the Lionel Train Master developed a strong following within the model railroading community and, to this day, remains very much in demand. Following cessation of operations of the original Lionel Corporation in the late 60’s and before General Mills resumed production of the line under the banner of its MPC subsidiary, many Lionel products became collectible with associated skyrocketing prices. The TM was among the most desirable of items and the acquisition of an original locomotive typically required a substantial investment. As General Mills/MPC O gauge volume increased throughout the 70’s, other companies such as Williams Electric Trains began production activities of their own. One of Williams’ most successful items was a reproduction of the Lionel Train Master. Hobbyists could not get enough of the TM. In recent years, other manufacturers have put forth their own Train Master models.

 

“Lionel Classic Locomotives: The Fairbanks-Morse Train Master” is a 32 minute video discussing the history and construction of this famous Lionel model. Presented by Don Shaw, Proprietor of “The Train Station” model railroad store in Mountain Lakes, NJ and a respected Lionel historian, the program provides an in-depth look at all facets of the model. The video is very well done. A segment is hosted from the site of the now closed Lionel factory in Hillside and we are treated to a ride aboard an NJ Transit train to reach Don’s store. His style is personable and makes the viewer feel as if you’re sitting in your living room talking trains. There is also a nice bonus in the form of a vintage cartoon about railroad safety titled “Play Safe” which is included following the main presentation.

 

My VHS copy was purchased at The Train Station when the program was first released in 1987 at its list price of approximately $30. I see copies available at train meets from time to time. In addition, a combination DVD including this program and Part II which discusses the Lionel F3 is now available on The Train Station’s website at http://www.train-station.com. The price is $4.95…quite a bargain.

 

If you like Lionel and have an appreciation for the history of the railroading hobby, take a look at this delightful program. You won’t be disappointed.

 

Best regards,

 

Earle

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