The Lionel no. 6407 flat car with missile and removable Mercury capsule was cataloged for one year only, in 1963. It was offered as both a separate-sale item (priced at $4.95) and a component of two O-27 outfits: the nos. 11341 Space Prober diesel freight set and 11385 Space Conqueror diesel freight set.
Author John W. Schmid points out in Authoritative Guide to Lionel’s Promotional Outfits, 1960-1969 (Project Roar Publishing) that the 6407 was used in several uncataloged sets in 1963 and ’64. Two of them, along with the two cataloged sets listed above, included boxed examples assigned the product number “6407-1.” The remaining seven promotional set came with unboxed examples assigned the product number “6407-25.”
The 11-inch-long 6407 (using a no. 6511 body shell) has long caught the attention of collectors while leaving them puzzled. Their confusion relates not to the flatcar, but to the load. The common red plastic car with “LIONEL” heat-stamped in white across each side couldn’t be simpler. But the big and impressive no. 6407-11 missile it carries as its load is quite another story.
When considering the flatcar load, Lionel fastened onto a product from Sterling Plastics Co., a maker of school supplies located near the Lionel factory in northern New Jersey. Sterling produced a pencil case in the shape of a rocket. On the top it added a replica of a Mercury capsule that enclosed a pencil sharpener.
Questions about the Lionel no. 6407 flatcar with missile and removable Mercury capsule revolve around whether, when Lionel bought versions of the pencil case from Sterling, the capsules intentionally included a sharpener. If so, then current dealers and collectors can legitimately substitute the school supply for the Lionel missile with Mercury capsule on one of the red flatcars and have the correct piece.
However, research in the Lionel archives and interviews with former Lionel employees led to the conclusion that Lionel did not intend the capsules it purchased to contain a pencil sharpener. Some such items might have been included in the order, but Lionel had no reason to offer a sharpener to its customers, especially when doing so would raise the cost of buying the load from Sterling.
Use caution when purchasing a no. 6407 flatcar or one of the two O-27 outfits that included this model and spend time examining its load. Remember that most of the missiles lack a pencil sharpener and that reproductions of the rocket and the Mercury capsule have invaded the toy train marketplace. As for prices, the 2022 edition of Greenberg’s Pocket Price Guide to Lionel Trains specifies a value of $178 for a car in very good condition and $322 for one in excellent condition with its original box.
More on Lionel postwar cars
Interested in learning about other Lionel postwar items to upgrade your collection?
Lionel set no. 2190W, a Santa Fe passenger outfit from 1952
Lionel no. 2855, Sunoco tank cars
Lionel no. 3672, the “Bosco car”