Encyclopedia of Toy Trains
Lionel Prewar Trains

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Lionel's Classic Period Locomotives.

Electric Outline Engines
256, 4 and 254

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 256 was the largest engine Lionel made in O gauge before world war two, and the only prewar O gauge engine to have two motors.

The 256

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

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

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 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 type of lettering. The rubber stamped engines come with or without a border- without is shown above, 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.

The 4 and 254

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.

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. 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. Pea green and olive green engines can be found with or without painted hatches and stripes. The 4 was also made in gray. 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. 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. Also the olive green and pea green engine can be found with colored celluloid behind the ventilators.

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.

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

For the 248, 250 and 253 locomotives follow this link.

For the 251 and 253 engines follow this link.



Follow this link to the Encyclopedia Index.

ã 2000 by Terry Gibbs. All rights reserved.