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Prewar 0 Gauge

Lionel O Gauge Electric Locos 1915-36

This page has pictures of each style of loco and links to more detailed information for each.

Early Period O Gauge Electric Locos 1915-27

In 1915 began making the smaller 0 gauge trains. These run on track 1 1/4 inches wide between the rails. Three sizes of loco were made in 1915-17 These were the 700/150 small locos, the medium sized 701/154 and the large 703/156 locos. In 1918 lionel intr0duced and even smaller loco which became the 150 and later when sold without a headlight the 158.

Links will be added later

Lionel Classic Period O Gauge Electric Locos 1924-36

In 1924 Lionel introduced classic period electric engines in both the O and Standard gauge line. These engines featured added brass trim, and were usually brightly colored. Quite different than the earlier period engines that had very little added trim or ornamentation and were usually painted dark green or other dark flat colors.


Lionel Prewar 0 Gauge 248 Electric Locomotive 1927-32

Lionel Prewar 0 Gauge 250 and 252 Electric Locomotives 1926-34

Lionel Prewar 0 Gauge 251 Electric Locomotive 1925-32

Lionel Prewar 0 Gauge 253 and 450 Electric Locomotives 1924-36

Lionel Prewar 0 Gauge 4U and 254 Electric Locomotives 1924-34

Lionel Prewar 0 Gauge 256 Electric Locomotive 1924-30

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Prewar 0 Gauge

Lionel Prewar 0 Gauge 254 Electric Locomotive 1924-34

The 254 was introduced in 1924 and was cataloged until 1932. The 254E with a two position pendulum reverse was introduced in 1927 and cataloged until 1934.

The 4U was cataloged from 1928 through 1932. The 4U came with components to convert the motor to a stationary motor. Teh 4 only came in gray and orange.

These engines are 9 1/4 inches long- not including couplers. 254E locomotives can be found with an E rubber stamped on the door or engraved on the number plate.

4U Orange.

254 dark green.

254 Mojave

254E Pea green, orange hatches and stripe.

254 Olive green, maroon hatches and stripe.

254 Olive. Untrimmed replacement cab mounted on 254E frame.

254 Orange. This is an export engine and has 254 plates but is actually a 4U body and motor.

Stationary motor constructed with 4U parts.

Pea green and olive green engines can be found with or without painted hatches and stripes. Also the olive green and pea green engine can be found with colored celluloid behind the ventilators.

The 254 was also made in red and apple green. The 254/4 was exported to Europe to get rid of the extra 4 bodies after the 4 was discontinued. Both gray and orange versions were exported. The export engines can have 4U or 254 plates but always have “Made in US of America” rubberstamped on the inside of the engine.

There are three variations of the body stamping of the 254. There can be one or two hand reverse slots. The earliest engines have one hand reverse slot, or two diagonally opposite reverse slots. Later cabs have two slots both on the same end of the cab.

Sets: The 4 came in sets with matching 605/ 606 passenger cars. The dark green and mojave 254 came in sets with early 610/ 612 passenger cars. The mojave, olive green and pea green engines cam with late 610/ 612 passenger cars. The 4 and the 254 also came in sets with the large eight wheeled 800 series freight cars.

Rarity: The export engines are extremely difficult to find. The gray 4 is harder to find than any other engine except the export engines. The red 254 is the hardest color 254 to find. The olive green and pea green are the easiest to find.

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Prewar 0 Gauge

Lionel Prewar 0 Gauge 256 Electric Locomotive 1924-30

The 256 was introduced as the top of the line O gauge engine in 1924, and cataloged through 1930. This engine featured two motors, Lionel called this the twin motored locomotive. The 256 is 11 1/2 inches long- not including couplers.


Early 256 with strap headlight, non operating pantographs and rubberstamped lettering

Later 256 with cast headlight, operating pantographs and brass plate lettering.

Early versions had stamped headlights with working on/ off switches, Non operating standard gauge pantographs, and rubber stamped lettering. Later versions had cast headlights, standard gauge operating pantographs, and brass plate lettering.

There are variations of both types of lettering. The rubber stamped engines come with or without a border, and with stamped or cast lights.. The brass plate engines come with or without a black border on the plate.

Sets: The 256 came in sets with the 710/ 712 passenger cars from1924 through 1929. In 1930 it was cataloged for separate sale only.

Rarity: The rubber stamped version with the border is the hardest to find. The rubber stamped version without the border is easiest to find. All 256 locomotives are highly sought after by collectors.

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Prewar 0 Gauge

Lionel Prewar 0 Gauge 253 and 450 Electric Locomotives 1924-36

The 253 was introduced in 1924, and cataloged through 1932. The 253E with electric reverse was introduced in 1931 and ran through 1936. The engine is 9 inches long- not including couplers.

253 Dark Green

253 Mojave

253 Peacock

253 Peacock orange stripe

253E Stephan Girard green, dark green frame.
253 Terra cotta, maroon frame 450 Red. Special for Macys 450 Stephan girard green, dark green frame. Special for Macys

The mojave, dark green and maroon engines come with strap headlights. The dark green comes with orange inserts and die cast light. The other colors come with die cast headlights. The frame on this engine can have two hand reverse slots or one. The E locomotives can have the E engraved on the plate or rubber-stamped on the side of the engine.

Sets: The early strap headlight engines came in sets with matching early 610/ 612 passenger cars. The peacock and two tone green engines came with 607/ 608 passenger cars. The terra cotta engine came with the 613 series passenger cars in sets without baggage cars. The 253 also came with the large 8 wheel 800 series and the small 4 wheel 800 freight cars.

Rarity: The peacock and two tone green engines are the easiest to find. The maroon, gray, pea green and red engines are very hard to find. These are not shown because I need to get pictures from other collectors. The 450 engines made for Macys’s are also hard to find.

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Prewar 0 Gauge

Lionel Prewar 0 Gauge 251 Electric Locomotive 1925-32

The 251 was introduced in 1925 and cataloged through 1932. The 251E with two position reverse was introduced in 1927 and cataloged until 1932. The engine is 10 inches long- not including couplers.

251 Gray. Brass windows.

251E Gray. Red windows.

251 Red. Cream windows.

The gray engine comes with strap or cast headlights. The red engine is found with or without a cream stripe on the at the bottom of the cab.

Sets: These engines came with matching 605/ 606 passenger cars. The red engine also came in an uncataloged set with the larger 710/ 712 cars in red. This engine also came with the large 8 wheeled 800 series freight cars.

Rarity: Red is harder to find than gray. The red engine with a cream stripe is the hardest to find.

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Prewar 0 Gauge

Lionel Prewar 0 Gauge 250 and 252 Electric Locomotives 1926-34

The 250 was only cataloged in 1926. The 252 was cataloged from 1926 to 1935. The 250 and 252 are the same engine but the 250 had NO reverse while the 252 had a hand reverse or later an Electric reverse (E unit). These engines are 8 inches long- not including the couplers. The earliest engines had strap headlights. The dark green 250 only comes with a strap headlight. While the peacock and olive 252s come with either strap or cast lights. The other colors only come with cast lights.

250 Dark Green. No reverse.

252 Peacock. Strap headlight. Also found with Die cast light.

252 Olive. Strap headlight.

252 Olive. Cast headlight.

252 Terra cotta, Terra cotta. Also comes with maroon frame.

Uncataloged.


Yellow-orange, Terra cotta. See text below.

252 Yellow orange, Black frame.

252 Maroon. This was a special for Macys’s. Uncataloged. 1930.

There is a body variation on the strap headlight engines. The earlier engines had wide reverse slots, and the later engines had narrow slots. The photo on the right shows both types of slots. The peacock loco on the left has a wide slot; the olive engine has the narrow slot. In this photo, I have removed the hand reverse lever for clarity. When Lionel changed the body to accept the cast light, the hand reverse lever was moved to the same end as the headlight.
The yellow orange and the terra cotta engines were also made with E units. The plate was never modified to have an E engraved on it. Lionel just rubber-stamped an E on the door. The yellow orange engines can be found with 250 plates on them, but they come in 252E boxes. Lionel was just using up leftover 250 plates. The reverse lever on the top of the engines with E units was used to turn the E unit on and off. The two-position pendulum E unit was not used on the 252. A three- position E unit without on off switch was used. Not all E engines have the rubber-stamped E on the door.

SETS: The dark green 250 came in sets with matching dark green 629/ 630 passenger cars, and the small 4 wheel 800 series freight cars. All colors of the 252 (except maroon) came in sets with the small 4 wheel 800 series freight cars. The peacock, yellow-orange, and maroon came in passenger sets with matching 603 or 607 type cars. The olive and terra cotta engines came with matching 529/ 530 series passenger cars.

Some collectors think the yellow-orange engine only came with the terra cotta frame and the terra cotta engines only came with maroon frames. They think collectors have switched frames to create yellow-orange engines with black frames and terra cotta engines with terra cotta frames. I don’t know if they are correct or not. All the engines shown here were purchased from other collectors. I think there are too many examples of these engines to be the result of switching, plus what happened to the maroon frames?

RARITY: The maroon Macys is the hardest to find. Next are the terra cotta, and the dark green 250. The peacock and olive engines are the easiest to find.

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Prewar 0 Gauge

Lionel Prewar 0 Gauge 248 Electric Locomotive 1927-32

The 248 was introduced in 1927 and cataloged through 1932. This was Lionel’s smallest electric engine, and never came with a reverse. The 248 is 7 3/4 inches long- not including couplers.

248 Orange, Brass Number board, Strap headlight.

248 Orange, Painted Peacock Number board, Die Cast Light.

248 Dark Green, Maroon, Die Cast light. Uncataloged.

248 Red, Cream,

248 Terra Cotta, Yellow No handrails by doors. Uncataloged.

 Photo not available.

Same as Terra Cotta but WITH handrails. Uncataloged.

Olive Green, Orange. Uncataloged.

248 Peacock, Orange. Uncataloged.

The dark green and orange versions comes with a strap or diecast headlight. The terra cotta engines without handrails are the result of Lionel using up cabs they made for Ives. In 1930 and 1931, Lionel owned Ives and produced Ives trains in their factory. One of the engines featured the 248 cab without handrails on an Ives frame. Lionel also used some of these cabs without handrails on the terra cotta 248.

Sets: This engine came in sets with the small 800 series freight cars and with the 529/ 629 passenger cars. The early orange engine with brass plates came in sets with the early bodied 603 and 604 passenger cars. The terra cotta locomotive did not come with passenger cars but Lionel made 529 and 530 passenger cars in terra cotta with maroon frames that most collectors put behind this engine. The terra cotta cars came in sets with the terra cotta 252 and the early hand reverse 259 steam locomotive.

Rarity: The red and orange colors are the easiest to find. The other colors are all difficult to find.

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Prewar 0 Gauge

Lionel 4 Wheel 600 Pullman O Gauge 1915-25

Lionel 600 passenger set in orange

Lionel introduced the O gauge line in 1915 with 3 different sizes of passenger cars. The little 4 wheeled 600 Pullman cars were the smallest O gauge car. In fact this is the smallest O gauge passenger car ever made by Lionel.

The first year the 600 was made in dark green with a gold stripe under the windows and in dark olive green. In 1916 the gold stripe was dropped.

In late 1917 or early 1918 Lionel produced brown cars that were sold in sets with matching short bodied 150 locos.

Later in 1918 Lionel changed the color of the car to maroon. Maroon is the most common color of the 600 Pullman car as it was made until 1925.

The orange cars shown on this page were probably made in 1921. They are extremely rare.

Some of the dark green cars without gold stripes may also be specials from the 1920s, but they don’t look any different from the cars produced earlier so are largely ignored by collectors. A dark green 600 Pullman with a corporation stamp on the bottom is probably a later special rather than a regular production item.

The pullman was almost always lettered New York Central Lines over the windows and pullman under the windows in gold. The number 600 is usually on the car end to the right of the door, but some cars have the number on the bottom. Earlier cars have “The Lionel Lines NY USA” stamped on the end, later cars have a Lionel Corporation stamp on the bottom.

Dark olive geen cars came in 1915 only sets with gold ventilator 700 locos.

The dark green 600 Pullman came is sets with the 700 and long 150 locos in dark green. Corporation dark green cars without gold stripes may have come with matching short 150 locos or 158 locos. Maroon and brown cars came with matching 150 or black 158 locos. The orange cars came with the maroon 150 loco shown in the photo above.

close up of orange 600 pullmans

Lionel reused the number 600 for a Pullman car in the 1930s.

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Prewar 0 Gauge

Lionel 820 Boxcar O Gauge 1915-26

Lionel Brown roof 820 box car from 1915

The 820 Box car was introduced by Lionel in 1915. The first runs of cars were yellow-orange with brown roof as shown above. Few of these brown roof cars were made, and they are very rare. Some guides say the roofs were produced in brown and maroon, but I’ve never seen a maroon one.

The brown roof 820 is much rarer than the brown roof 4 wheeled 800 boxcar.

After a few brown roof cars were produced, Lionel changed the roof color to match the body.

Cars were produced from 1916-26 in yellow-orange and in a darker shade of orange. Both shades of orange cars had Illinois Central or Union Pacific road names. There are quite a few variations of the lettering on the orange cars.

Sometime in 1916 or 17 Lionel made a run of dark green 820 box cars lettered for Santa Fe. My dates are based on a photograph of trains running under a Christmas tree that shows two dark green cars that is
dated December 1917 on the back.

The dark green car is worth more than the brown roof car, because it’s more widely known. The all orange cars are quite common and relatively cheap.

Any box for these cars is harder to find than the car itself, and if in nice shape with all flaps, will bring more than the car.

I’ll add pictures of the other colors of The Lionel 820 boxcar in the future.

Note: The number 820 was also used on a floodlight car made by Lionel in the 1930s.

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Prewar 0 Gauge

Lionel Mickey Mouse Circus Train 1935

Lionel Mickey Mouse Circus Set

This is a really desirable Lionel prewar windup train set from 1935 only. It’s O gauge.

The set is pulled by a 1508 loco with Mickey Mouse stoker tender. Here’s a closer shot of the loco and tender.

Lionel Mickey Mouse Barker

Also shown in the photo above is the composition Mickey Barker. Made of compressed sawdust the figure is very fragile and few survived.

The cars are a 1518 Diner, a 1536 Band Car, and a 1536 Animal car. While the cars share the same body, the litho is different.

When sold the set came with a cardboard tent and tickets. These are seldom seen today, but reproductions have been made.

Pride Lines made copies of this set using an electric motor rather than a windup.