Lionel H0

This section is devoted to a specific period of Lionel H0 production, 1959 - 1966.  Lionel had several forays into H0-Scale trains, starting in 1957:

  • 1957 - H0-Scale trains that were manufactured by Rivarossi of Italy.
  • 1958 - H0-Scale trains manufactured in conjunction with Athearn.
  • 1959 - 1966 - The subject of these pages.
  • 1974 - 1977 - H0-Scale trains manufactured in China and Austria.
  • 2003 - A brief flirtation with two high end H0 locomotives.

Iím sentimental about Lionelís H0 from the 1960ís since it was my introduction into ďscaleĒ model railroading. In looking back, we now understand that Lionel made several missteps along the way, partially because of the market issues which Lionel was facing in that period. Joshua Lionel Cowen had retired to Florida and his son, Larry Cowen, would soon retire from Lionel also.  Where once Lionel had produced mighty cast metal steam locomotives, things had devolved to plastic, with rockets, missiles and radioactive waste cars.  While some might turn their noses up at this, not me.  I love the stuff because of all the bright colors and interesting prototype choices.  

To be sure, the giraffe car and such were oddities, an indication of the conflict inside Lionel as to whether what they were manufacturing were toys or scale representations of actual trains. And, to a degree, the items which were in Lionelís 0-Gauge product line also showed up in the Lionel H0 offerings, too.  There were limitations because of the smaller sized H0 trains, but Lionel made some interesting operating items in H0, notably their operating milk car.

At the same time, Lionel had both name recognition and distribution. While many model railroad manufacturers in the United States of the late 1950ís were small cottage operations, Lionel was big. In 1953, Lionel was briefly the biggest toy manufacturer in the world. So, more than a few Lionel H0 trains were sold on name alone. My late father was one of those who chose to buy Lionel H0 rather than other brands.  My first H0 set was the 5741:

The 5741 set was in the middle of the price range, not an inexpensive set, yet big enough to offer an operating car and a larger locomotive.  It should also be noted that my father, a research chemist by trade, was also probably a model train fan, but one who could not publicly reveal that fact.  One indication: instead of buying the 5741 right off the shelf, Dad had the train dealer substitute a more powerful power supply instead of the one which came with the set. Dad was good that way.

I would let this set get away from me in a moment of youthful unsentimentality.  Fortunately, there is an active resale market, and I now have the elements of this set back in my collection.  Along with more than a few other pieces, too. Well, a lot of pieces. Iíve tended to confine myself to the Lionel H0 of the early 1960ís.

While Lionel H0 has been well covered, both online and in the Greenberg books on the subject, for some reason, the different train sets (Lionel called the ďoutfitsĒ have never been detailed.  So, most of these pages are devoted to Lionel H0 train sets for the period between 1957 and 1966.

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