Postwar
Lionel
Terminology

The Postwar Library was constructed to help visitors become familiar with the trains produced by Lionel after World War II and through 1969. To that end, we have tried to use common, everyday language on each of the web pages. However, there are unavoidable industry-specific terms and other jargon that are part of railroading and part of the model train hobby. Understanding those terms can make your visit to this website more rewarding and can enrich your knowledge base of postwar Lionel trains. This Glossary identifies many of the frequently occurring words used throughout this website that may not be familiar to our visitors.

All definitions refer to postwar Lionel trains except where noted.

* Click on the term in the first column for a photo *

TerminologyDefinition / Explanation
027 gauge track The lowest quality three-rail track produced by Lionel in the postwar era. The height of 027 track is 7/16 inches while the length of one full straight track is 8 7/8 inches. A circle of 027 track -- requiring 8 sections -- is 27 inches in diameter. Production of 027 track started in the early 1900s and continues to be produced today. Virtually all 027 trains will also operate properly on both O gauge and Super O track. This track was included with Lionel's least expensive sets.

Note that Lionel produced the following items in 027 track: full straight, half straight, full curve, half curve, remote control (unload / uncouple) track, crossover (45 and 90 degree), manual and remote control switches and insulated track.

2400-series passenger truck All-metal truck with either a coil coupler or a magnetic coupler. Lionel used this truck on many of its shorter passenger cars -- those having a number in the 2400's. Available from 1948 through 1966.
2500-series passenger truck All-metal truck with magnetic coupler. This truck is slightly larger than the 2400-series passenger truck. Lionel used the 2500-series passenger truck on its extruded aluminum cars. Available from 1952 through 1966.
AAR An acronym for the Association of American Railroads.
AAR truck A plastic truck with metal wheels and axles plus either a fixed coupler or a disc coupler. Occasionally referred to as the Timken truck. Used from 1957 through 1969.
ALCO An acronym for the American Locomotive Company -- manufacturer of locomotives for real railroads.
Alco diesel A short diesel produced by the American Locomotive Company for small or mid-size trains by the real railroads. This locomotive became the prototype for both of the early and later series Lionel Alco.
Alco diesel, Early series Characterized by a die-cast frame and pilot, metal side trucks and illuminated number boards. The early series Alcos are more durable and of a higher quality when compared to the later series. Produced from 1950 to 1954.
Alco diesel, Later series Characterized by a sheet-metal frame, plastic side trucks and blank number boards. The later series Alcos are a lower quality when compared to the early series. Produced from 1957 through 1969.
Arch-bar truck A plastic truck and coupler with metal wheels and axles. Characterized by open sides and modeled from real railroad trucks of the Civil War period. Used from 1959 through 1969.
Bakelite A less flammable, early version plastic product used as a molding compound. In the early 1900s, Dr. Leo Baekeland -- a Belgian scientist -- came upon the compound by accident. He received a patent and created the Bakelite Corporation circa 1910. Lionel used Bakelite for numerous items including; transformer cases, sliding shoes, Madison-style passenger bodies, # 160 dump bin and numerous other items.
Bar-end truck All-metal truck introduced by Lionel to replace the staple-end truck. When viewed from the side, there is a short metal bar protruding from the truck side. The bar-end truck was available with magnetic or tab couplers and used routinely from 1952 through 1957 and sporadically through 1969.
Coil coupler All-metal coupler characterized by two main features; a copper wire wrapped around the coupler arm and a sliding shoe. The sliding shoe is used to activate the coupler.
Cowcatcher A V-shaped structure on the front of a steam locomotive designed to remove obstructions from the tracks. It is also referred to as the pilot. Except for steam switchers, practically every steamer has a cowcatcher.
Disk coupler A coupler on AAR and arch-bar trucks characterized by a disk metal disk used to open the knuckle. Mounted below the coupler arm, it is approximately the size of a thumb-tack. Used for operating couplers on AAR and arch-bar trucks from 1957 through 1969.
EMD An abbreviation for the Electro-Motive Division of General Motors -- manufacturer of locomotives for real railroads.
Flying shoe truck Characterized by sliding shoe suspended from a small insulation strip on the underside of the truck. Used from 1945 through the middle of 1946.
Fundimensions A subsidiary of the General Mills corporation. Fundimensions marketed Lionel trains from 1970 through 1986.
Knuckle coupler The movable portion of the coupler; when meshed with another knuckle coupler it locks two railroad cars together. Lionel introduced the prototypical knuckle coupler in 1945 -- thus replacing its prewar, toy-like coupler. The realistic-looking knuckle coupler is still used by Lionel -- and all of its competitors -- in today's O gauge market.
Magnetic coupler All-metal coupler that replaced the more complicated coil coupler. Features a metal plate attached to the two axles of the truck: it lacks the copper wire wrapped around the coupler arm. The magnetic coupler was introduced in 1949 and remained basically unchanged until the end of the postwar era. In 1955, a slight modification was made to include a small metal tab next to the coupler.
Modern era Term used to refer to the years 1970 to the present.
Modern trains All trains produced during the modern era.
MPC Abbreviation for Model Products Corporation -- a subsidiary of the General Mills corporation. General Mills purchased all rights for Lionel trains in 1969 and marketed its first Lionel trains line under the MPC division from 1970 through 1972.
NW2 switcher A diesel electric locomotive built by the EMD division of General Motors. This 1,000 horsepower, 125 ton unit was popular with most railroads throughout the United States. Lionel made accurate reproductions of this locomotive.
O gauge track A high quality three-rail track produced by Lionel in the postwar era. The height of O gauge track is 11/16 inches while the length of one full straight track is 10 inches. A typical circle of O gauge track -- requiring 8 sections -- is 31 inches in diameter. Lionel also produced 72-inch diameter track in smaller quantities -- with 16 sections required for a complete circle. Production of O gauge track started in the early 1900s and continues to be produced today. All O gauge trains will operate properly on Super O track, however, some trains designated by Lionel as O gauge will have problems negotiating 027 switches.

Note that Lionel produced the following items in O gauge track: full straight, half straight, full curve, half curve, remote control (unload / uncouple) track, crossover (45 and 90 degree), manual and remote control switches and insulated track.

Pilot The metal guide for the coupling system on a locomotive -- also called the cowcatcher on a steam engine.
Postwar era Term used to refer to the years 1945 through 1969 -- literally the time after World War II but before the modern era.
Postwar trains All trains produced during the postwar era.
Prewar era Term used by train collectors to refer to all trains produced prior to the end of World War II. For the Lionel corporation this referrs to all trains produced from 1900 through 1942.
Prewar trains All trains produced during the prewar era.
Road switcher A locomotive used for moving a small freight train for small distances. Examples of road switchers produced by Lionel include the GP7 and GP9.
Scout truck A combination truck consisting of metal frame, plastic side bezels and either a metal or plastic coupler. Used by Lionel on introductory sets from 1948 through 1953. Early versions are not compatible with Lionel's regular production coupler.
Six-wheel truck A combination truck consisting of six-wheels, metal frame, plastic side bezels and a coil coupler. This truck was used by Lionel from 1946 through 1951. It only appears on the Madison passenger cars, 2460 crane car and a few premium tenders such as the 2426W and 2671W.
Sliding Shoe A small piece of rectangular and beveled plastic (or Bakelite) located on the underside of certain trucks. It is held in place by a rivet and is used to open a coil coupler or activate an operating freight car.
Staple-end truck The first truck produced by Lionel in the postwar era. When viewed from the side, a 'staple' appears to be holding each side to the frame. When equipped with a coupler, the staple-end truck came with either a coil coupler (flying shoe or plate version) or magnetic coupler. Used by Lionel from 1945 through 1951.
Super O track The most realistic looking three-rail track produced by Lionel in the postwar era. It was constructed with two scale-like outside rails, a very thin brass center rail and numerous simulated railroad ties on each section of track. The length of one straight track is 9 inches. A circle of Super O track -- requiring 12 sections -- is 36 inches in diameter; and not produced in any other diameter. Production of Super O track started in 1957 and continued through 1966. It has not been produced by any manufacturer since that year. Lionel never produced trains solely for Super O track; they simply included Super O track with a few sets. All 027 and O gauge trains will operate properly on Super O track.

For more information on Super O track, * * Click Here * *

Tab coupler A magnetic coupler modified to include a small, flat strip of metal protruding from under the right side of the coupler. The tab coupler was introduced to assist in manually opening a coupler. Used from 1955 through 1957 and sporadically through 1969.
Timken truck A less frequent term for the AAR truck. See AAR truck for a definition.
Yard An interconnected system of close tracks -- other than main line tracks and sidings -- used for making up or breaking down trains plus storing or classificating rolling stock.
Yard switcher A locomotive -- either steam or diesel -- assigned to yard service. For Lionel, the diesel yard switcher prototype was General Motor's NW2 locomotive. Lionel also made 0-4-0 steam switchers which were fairly accurate representations of the real ones.

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