A Word of Caution

In 1958 and early parts of 1959, Lionel’s H0-Scale production was manufactured by Athearn, of California.  For items produced in other years, Lionel H0 items are easy to identify, but beginning Lionel H0 buyers should be wary of items produced in the Athearn phase of manufacture.  Although there are some distinctive Lionel locomotives that were produced by Athearn (such as the “Rectifier” electric locomotive), many other Lionel locomotives and cars of 1958 are simply Athearn items painted in the same livery as the regular Athearn H0 items. 

Consider the Wabash Railroad work caboose (above), which is Athearn tooling. This same caboose tool was used to manufacture countless work cabooses sold by Athearn in a variety of road names, including Wabash.  In addition to this one car, Athearn manufactured locomotives, freight cars and passenger cars for Lionel. The Athearn passenger cars are distinctive, very different in design from the later Lionel-made passenger cars.  But the freight cars and locomotives were essentially the same as a regular production Athearn item.

To distinguish the Athearn items produced for Lionel from the more common  (and less expensive) Athearn units, Lionel stamped a small Lionel logo (a capital letter L in a circle) on the sides of the locomotive.  Likewise, most Athearn-manufactured Lionel freight cars are similarly marked. See below:

The logo used on Lionel H0 items which were manufactured by Athearn is a small one in a contrasting color.

Since the Lionel items of 1958 are uncommon, there is the temptation to create a rare Lionel locomotive or car using a much more common Athearn item by simply marking the Athearn unit with a Lionel logo.  Even the experts have been fooled, so you should be cautious.