Lionel introduced the 817 caboose in 1926. The first version had peacock sides and a dark green roof.
The earliest versions came with short wheelbase frames, and are the hardest cabooses to find.
By 1930 Lionel changed the windows on the caboose from orange painted to brass plated.
In 1933 the caboose got a new color scheme… Red with peacock roof.
In 1934 the color changed again to all bright red. The earliest bright red 817 cabooses had brass trim and latch couplers. These brass plate cars usually have a slightly darker shade of red.
In 1935 the bright red got a little lighter, and nickel plates and end railings replaced the brass trim. This version is found with latch couplers or box couplers. By 1937 the nickel railings were replaced with aluminum painted railings. The box coupler version ran until 1940 and was then discontinued. A rubber stamped version was not made.
817 Peacock sides, dark green roof, orange windows.
817 Peacock, dark green, brass windows.
817 Red, peacock.
Bottom of caboose above showing export stamp. Only trains Lionel exported had this stamp. It’s a collectible variation, but few collectors will pay a premium for export cars.
817 Light red, brass plates, nickel windows and railings. Latch couplers. 1934 notch car.
817 light red. nickel trim with painted railings and box couplers.
The 2812 gondola is the same as the 812 gondola except the 2812 has automatic couplers. Lionel made the 2812 from 1938 to
Lionel made four versions:
Accessory green with nickel plates and box couplers
Orange with nickel plates and dished frame and simulated knuckle couplers (shown above)
Orange with white rubber stamped lettering and dished frame
Same as 3 but with low couplers for use with the scale detailed cars. Sold as 2812X
2812X in orange.
The orange car with nickel plates is the rarest gondola. The green one is the most common. The 2812X is easier to find than the normal 2812 but because a 2812X can be converted to a 2812 by changing the trucks, collectors will not pay extra for the car.
The 812 gondola was introduced by Lionel in 1926, and was cataloged through 1942. It came in the following colors:
Stephan Girard Green – also called Apple
45N or Accessory Green – found in two shades, darker shade comes with brass or nickel platesand with latch or box couplers
Flat Orange with nickel plates
Here’s pictures of the different cars:
Dark Accessory Green
For a photo of the light green with nickel plates and the flat orange cars see the 2812 gondolas.
Below is a photo showing the loads Lionel provided with the 812 and 2812 gondolas. The cars always came with barrels. Early barrels were wine shaped as shown on the left, later barrels were oil shaped as
shown on the right. Gondolas sold in work train sets with the 810 or 2810 crane also came with the tools shown. Tools were also sold separately as the 812T.
In 1938 Lionel added automatic couplers to the 810 Crane to get the 2810 crane. The crane only has an automatic coupler on one end because the knob that turns the cab would interfere with the automatic mechanism. The 2810 only came in yellow with a red roof.
Two versions were produced – the early version with flat frame, and the more desirable dished frame version. The crane received the dished frame in 1940. Also in 1940, the hook was changed to a die cast hook, (Note: prewar hooks are perpendicular to the string while postwar hooks are parallel to the string.) and the knobs changed from turned to cast knobs. This car was never produced with rubber stamped lettering.
Lionel introduced the 810 crane in 1931. It was cataloged until 1942, but wasn’t made after 1940. The crane had three knobs: one to raise and lower the boom; one to raise and lower the hook and one to swivel the cab. There was also a clip to attach the crane to the track during operation so it wouldn’t fall over.
Until 1934 the crane came in the terra cotta color scheme. In 1934 the color was changed to yellow with a red roof. The first yellow cranes came with a darker green and darker red colors than the later cars. These earlier yellow cranes also had brass trim rather than the later nickel.
The 1934 810 crane with mixed trim is the hardest to find but the Lionel 2810 crane with operating couplers and dished frame is the most sought after.
The 3859 dump was introduced by Lionel in 1939 and ran through 1942. The car was always red with a black frame. This car dumps its load of simulated coal at the push of a button, and is a perfect complement for Lionel’s 97 coal loader.
The only variation is the type of frame and couplers. This car came with either the type 3 frame and automatic box couplers or the type 4 dished frame with solenoid actuated simulated knuckle couplers. Neither variation is difficult to find, but the later car runs better.
The 2820 Floodlight car was cataloged by Lionel from 1938-42. The first version had nickel plated lights, and the second version had gray painted die cast lights. The cast light version is much harder to find. The searchlight car with cast lights has a dished frame.
The 2820 is the same as the Lionel 820 Floodlight car but has automatic couplers. The switch on the top allows the user to turn the lights on or off.
The 2811 Flat car was introduced by Lionel in 1938 and cataloged until 1942. It’s the same as the 811 flatcar, but has automatic couplers. It was only made in aluminum with black lettering, and was never included in sets.
The 2811 and 811 while shown in the catalogs in 1940 – 42 probably weren’t made because dished frame versions haven’t been found. The 3811 automatic log car was made in both frame types.