Encyclopedia of Toy Trains
Lionel Prewar Trains

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Lionel's Classic Period Locomotives.

Electric Outline Engines
248, 250 and 252

In 1923 Lionel introduced the Classic period engines. These engines featured added brass trim, and were usually brightly colored. A striking contrast to the earlier period engines that had very little added trim or ornamentation and were usually painted dark green or other dark flat colors. The smallest of the engines was the 248 introduced in 1927.

The 248

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.

248 Olive Green, Orange. Uncataloged.

248 Peacock, Orange. Uncataloged.

The 248 was introduced in 1927, and cataloged through 1932. This was Lionel's smallest electric engine, and never came with a reverse. The dark green Engine also comes with a strap headlight. The 248 is 7 3/4 inches long- not including couplers. 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.

The 250 and 252

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.

252 Yellow orange, Terra cotta. See text below.

252 Yellow orange, Black frame.

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

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.

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.

Because of the size of the photos, I have divided these locos into three pages.

For the 251 and 253 locomotives follow this link.

For the 4, 254, and 256 engines follow this link.



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ã 2000 by Terry Gibbs. All rights reserved.