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Earle Baldwin

Lionel™ NJ Transit Passenger Set

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11828.jpg

 

In 1996, with full cooperation from NJ Transit, Lionel released the first of three completely ready to run train sets decorated in the agency's image. This first set, Item Number 6-11828, consisted of an NW2 diesel locomotive and three passenger cars. Also included was a 40 watt power and control system and a 27 X 63" oval of traditional O-27 track.

 

Given the relative scarcity of NJ Transit models at the time of its release, the set was extremely well received by the railroading hobbyist community. Despite its mechanical and decorative enhancements, the set's equipment has ties to Lionel's famous postwar era as its model of the stalwart EMD NW2 was initially introduced during the 1950's and the coaches were produced utilizing tooling of the former 2400 series type first catalogued in the late 40's. The locomotive features a can motor, electronic horn, working headlight and operating magnetic couplers. The cars are equipped with interior illumination, passenger silhouettes in the windows and operating magnetic couplers. Paint and lettering are skillfully applied in the manner for which Lionel modern era production is well known.

 

The set's consist is not totally accurate for NJ Transit. NJT did not operate switchers in road passenger service. In addition, it has never rostered the NW2; however, former Erie Lackawanna SW9 and Pittsburgh and Lake Erie SW1500 units have been employed by the agency for switching and non revenue service. The Lionel NW2 carries road number 500 which was assigned to one of the ex-P&LE units. The prototype SW1500's were painted in a black Maintenance of Way variation of NJ Transit's silver scheme; however, the NW2 has been painted in standard NJT silver. One additional departure from correct NJ Transit practice involves the car numbers but this is easy to explain. The coaches, while painted accurately in terms of the placement of herald, car number and blue window striping, carry road numbers of Comet equipment rather than those of former Great Northern cars which were acquired along with the GP40P's by the New Jersey Department of Transportation in an effort to modernize Jersey Central consists during the late 60's and early 70's. Many of these cars were conveyed to and repainted by NJ Transit as its 5300 series during the early 80's. Even though the Lionel models are a closer match for the older equipment given their heritage of the late 40's, it is perfectly understandable NJT would want to represent its newest equipment at the time of the set's release.

 

Since the equipment is of train set and not true hobby quality such as the more accurate and expensive Atlas O scale ALP44-Comet II package , certain economies of production are evident. Rather than featuring the correct truck side frames, the NW2 is equipped with side frames apropriate for the General Electric center cab diesel unit, another item catalogued by Lionel. The locomotive features a sheet metal frame; however, it is devoid of railings with the exception of those at either end of the engine...definitiely not FRA compliant! As mentioned previously, the coaches are modeled using the 2400 series patterns and are extremely truncated in length. This series evolved as part of Lionel's desire to develop a passenger car capable of negotiating very tight O-27 curves. At the time, the decision to use the NW2 versus a road switcher was questioned by many. It was explained to me Lionel was using the switcher tooling elsewhere at the time, had it ready to go and NJ Transit approved its use. Lionel later issued two NJ Transit sets powered by its GP38 model disguised as NJT 4300 series GP40-2's so the desires of those who wanted road switchers were satisfied.

 

Based upon my review, you may get the impression I'm not thrilled with the set. On the contrary, I believe it is very well done and represented a significant event for the railroad hobby as its sales numbers proved just how popular models of local commuter equipment can be. As a reviewer, I consider it my responsibility to be accurate and thorough in my evaluations. Even though I like the set the very much, I must still point out potential shortcomings for those who desire the utmost in prototypical accuracy. The set runs very well and we have a lot of fun with it when we operate it. I reserve the Atlas ALP44 and its companion scale length Comet II coaches for those times when I desire a bit more accuracy. We must keep in mind Lionel and NJ Transit were looking beyond the hobbyist market when this set was conceived and introduced. They wanted something which would appeal to the general public and increase awareness of their repsective brand names as well. This set and the two which subsequently followed served them well in this regard.

 

The NJ Transit set carried an original list price of $299.95. It can be found for less on the secondary market. There is almost always at least one available at auction on eBay. Regardless of individual scale or gauge preferences, if you're a fan of NJ Transit or commuter railroading in general you should take a close look at it. I have included a link to the set's box artwork for your edification as follows:

 

http://www.toytrainfactoryoutlet.com/index.asp?pageaction=viewprod&prodid=657

 

(I hope the link works!)

 

Happy railroading and Happy Thanksgiving!

 

Best regards,

 

Earle

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