I couldn’t have imagined the excitement that year would bring to me as a collector and a new father.
Chasing after postwar Lionel trains for about four years, I had amassed a decent collection. [Anthony’s superb collection was profiled in the special Kalmbach publication, All-Star Electric Trains of the 1950s, which is currently available as a PDF. To order, just click here. – Editor]
Even better, my wife was expecting our first child. Friends would ask, “What are you going to do with your trains if you have a girl?” The question didn’t faze me because I knew girls loved to play with trains, too.
But enough pressure caused me to reconsider. Maybe a girl should have her very own train set. Nothing would be better than an original Lionel no.1587S Lady Lionel, popularly known as the “Girl’s Train.” Cataloged in 1957 and ’58, this set is highly coveted by all postwar fans.
Fortunate phone call
Having a girl would be a good excuse for me to obtain one of Lionel’s most prized outfits. Being a bit of a purist, I had to obtain an original set, though I was skeptical of finding one in like-new condition.
Sometime in September of 1987, before the baby arrived, I received a telephone call from my dear friend Frank Pettit. A delightful and active gentleman in his early 80s, Frank had worked at Lionel from 1924 to 1959. He had known Joshua Lionel Cowen and had great stories. [Frank Pettit recounted the highlights of his career as a salesman and development engineer at Lionel in the December 1992 and January 1993 issues of Classic Toy Trains, which are unfortunately out of print. – Editor]
Frank called to see if I had any interest in buying a small collection of Lionel trains. One of his former co-workers at Lionel, named Tony, was thinking of selling his trains and wanted to get information about prices.
I was very glad to help and told Frank to read the list of catalog numbers. At the end of the list, he mentioned nos. 2037-500, 6427-500, and so forth. I couldn’t believe what I had just heard: the numbers of the steam locomotive, the caboose, and other components of the Girl’s Train.
Yes, I wanted to see the collection. This was the opportunity of a lifetime. So Frank and I soon paid a visit to Tony. I enjoyed listening to them and Tony’s wife, Josephine, reminisce about the old days at Lionel. Even if I didn’t buy a single item, the visit was well worth my time.
Seeing the trains
After about an hour, Tony invited us to look at the trains. Frank and I accompanied him to the basement, and I carefully opened the boxes. Most of the trains and accessories were in like-new to new condition.
With each item, Tony would recall a story about its origin. He also remarked on the good nature of Lionel’s founder Joshua Lionel Cowen.
As I opened the Girl’s Train set box, I noticed that the individual boxes appeared to be relatively clean. Then I saw that the pieces of track, the transformer, and instruction booklet were all present. So far, so good!
Then I opened the box containing the locomotive. I followed by checking out the two no. 6464-series boxcars that came in the set. The steamer had minor scuffs. The -510 and -515 boxcars were practically new. At this point, I decided not to open any of the remaining boxes.
Tony recalled that he had gotten this set for his daughter at Christmas of 1957. But she, like so many other girls of the period, had not wanted a pink locomotive or pastel cars. She wanted a “real” train set. This no doubt accounted for the superb condition of this Lady Lionel.
At the end of this memorable evening, I went home with a great collection of postwar trains. It was well past midnight by the time I arrived home. I couldn’t go to sleep without taking one last look at the trains.
Better make it blue
Three months later, around Christmas, my wife gave birth to a son, whom we named Matthew Thomas. For the proud parents, the trains came second to this addition to our family. During the holidays, trains graced the living room, but the 1587S didn’t make its debut, remaining in a closet. I didn’t think that years from now our son would appreciate being photographed with a pink engine!
Months later, after a late night milk run for Matthew, I decided to take another peek at the Girl’s Train. I’m sure happy that I did so.
Up to this point, I’d never paid very much attention to box or train variations. This time, after hours of research, I noticed something different about this set: The tender didn’t look like anything in the catalog, which depicted a no. 1130T-500; mine was a no. 6026T square-back tender.
I immediately sifted through a Greenberg reference guide to postwar Lionel O gauge trains and noticed a similar tender listed as a one-of-a-kind item. Not believing my eyes, I continued going through the outfit box and noticed a shipping label hidden in the instruction booklet.
The label was a substitution notice for the no. 1130T-500 tender. I couldn’t believe what was in my hands: Having an original Lady Lionel set was one thing, but owning a rare tender variation was something else.
Three years later, in November of 1990, my wife and I welcomed our daughter into the world. The birth of Stephanie Ann made my Lady Lionel my greatest find, because she became its rightful owner. And unlike girls back in the 1950s, she has always loved this neat outfit.
Given the value of my original Girl’s Train, I decided that Stephanie should have one of the recent reproductions to play with. After all, a child playing with a highly collectible train set (even if she is a beautiful young princess) could prove disastrous to her dad’s health!
In 1,000 words or less, please tell us all about your greatest find, including what it is, when and where you got it, and why it qualifies as your top find. Send all submissions, including photos of your prized locomotive, set, catalog, and so forth, to “My Greatest Find,” Classic Toy Trains, 21027 Crossroads Cir., Waukesha, WI 53187-1612. Electronic submissions (along with digital photos) go to email@example.com
9 thoughts on “Anthony Stucchio’s Greatest Find”
While I can appreciate all the details of modern O scale trains, the vast majority of my collection is semi-scale or O27 "classic toy trains". Too often I hear and read the criticisms of less than scale trains or non-prototypical fantasy locomotives and cars. This should be the one magazine that embraces toy trains for what they are TOY TRAINS. What's wrong with finding enjoyment in running trains with fantasy cars and engines? They can be very colorful and lots of fun to collect and operate. Why can't I mix NYC, SF, UP and Penn cars in the same train if I like each car? I say to each their own, but please don't criticize or neglect those of us who like toy trains. I hope to see a refocus in CTT as well.
Just do it. Us baby boomers will read (and buy) anything that would enlighten or enhance the knowledge we already have on pre-war and postwar trains. I have to admit I have thought of dropping my subscription; the same for your competitor. I am tired of hearing about the sound, sounds, sounds. Tell me how to repair a 65 handcar with it's ho motor and rectifier etc. I can't afford the new trains. But if I look long enough, I can find the postwar train car or accessory I am looking for at an affordable price. I don't want the new 342/345, it runs perfect I admit. I rather have to play with my postwar version for minutes at a time to get it to funtion each time I use it. What a great way to spend my time. I love smelling the steam engine with it's white pills. I buy em whenever I can find and afford the original ones. Well, enough from me.
I totally agree with Bob. I and a couple of collector friends have been considering nor renewing our subscriptions as we collect and run CLASSIC TOY TRAINS , not the new trains which are the focus of the vast majority of articles in the magazine. Every month I open my magazine looking for the very few articles on prewar trains of any manufacture. I have great hopes for this new classics area online.
in defference to Mr.Zeller from Lousiana, I must disagree about the Lady lionel set reference. While I agree that The marketing was off and this is why the set did not go over well. The remark about marketing to Rosie the Riveter is correct it was a time when girls were still in the groove of doing things like the boys and the girls who grew up around this time were not interested in frilly toy trains. and this is a quote from my Aunt who In 1957 was given a Lady lionel set by her father. Like so many stories She opened the box looked at the set and then boxed it up and put it on the top shelf of the closet. Then continued to the train room and fired up their layout while Muttering her quote.
OK, are we moving to creating a new magazine, called something like… Classic Toy Trains? Maybe we can call the paper magazine Hi-Rail Scale Trains, or something similar.
I recently found my archive box of earlier CTT' s (1991 – 2001) and found them to be way more interesting than the current issues.
I'm all for the "Focus on classics" idea. Why not make it an insert in the paper mag?
Probably a girl who liked trains would like normal trains. The pink wouldn't make a difference, although Beth in our club likes her modern girl set from 1991. It's real obvious at train shows which train is Beth's train, although she also likes the purple Atlantic Coast Line set. The story was good,tho. I'm interested in the variations of stuff.
Last October at York, I wanted to meet with the editorial staff of CTT and broach this issue. It was clear to me at that time that CTT had changed its subject matter content and direction, and was attempting to appeal to what it obviously feels is a broader audience that focuses on hi-railing and modeling. I ran out of time and could not talk to the staffers present, but will make the time to do so at the upcoming York in April. I would encourage others to do the same. It's unfortunate we have to go on-line to read Classic articles, when that was the original goal and focus of the magazine when it first appeared in 1987. Does Big Carl get it or are we all reading Model Railroader with a toy train twist and a red in lieu of a blue banner?
I have to disagree with people saying the "Lady Lionel" set failed because girls wanted a "real" trainset. BS! I have a niece and when she was little she played with Barbie dolls. These dolls came with pink houses, helicopters, and a realistically style limosine complete with the cell phone antena on the back on the car, you could have called it "scale-detailed" and, it was PINK! She played with it and loved it. Did Tony offer real trains to his daughter first? Was this a last ditch effort to get her to like trains? Look at Disney's princess line where girls can have parties, games and clothing. Girls mostly like girl stuff. It wasn't totally stupid on the part of Lionel to try a pastel colored train set. Maybe it failed because of not marketing to Rosie The Riviter and her daughter after WWII that helped doom Lionel. Ignoring half the country didn't help it's fortunes. It wasn't that the train was pink! Get it now?