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Home / How To / Timeless Classics / Lionel set no. 2190W, a Santa Fe passenger outfit from 1952

Lionel set no. 2190W, a Santa Fe passenger outfit from 1952

By Roger Carp | April 28, 2022

The streamlined Super Speedliner launched a great tradition of passenger train sets

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Lionel set no. 2190W

During the holiday season of 1952, Lionel introduced outfit no. 2190W, also known as the Super Speedliner, at the top of its O gauge lineup for the year. That magnificent four-car passenger set featured the iconic nos. 2343 Santa Fe F3 powered and unpowered A units on the point. They pulled a couple of the gleaming Pullman coaches plus a dome car, and an observation.

Lionel set no. 2190W
Lionel set no. 2190W crowned the cataloged line released for 1952. Known as the Super Speedliner, this four-car passenger has earned raves since its introduction. Striking no. 2343 Santa Fe F3 A units led the way, with the brand-new no. 2500-series extruded aluminum streamliners right behind them.

It would be no exaggeration to say that toy train enthusiasts of all ages had been waiting eagerly for Lionel to release such a train. Ever since the first Santa Fe F3s were announced in the catalog printed for consumers in the autumn of 1948, youngsters and adults alike had dreamed of being able to recreate in miniature the Super Chief or another of the Santa Fe’s streamliner trains.

Unfortunately for O gauge modelers, Lionel didn’t have near-scale replicas of any of the extruded aluminum streamliners then being added to the rosters of full-size railroads across the U.S. The toy company used the new nos. 2333 Santa Fe F3 A-A combination to pull deluxe freight sets.

About all someone buying the Santa Fe beauties could do was to go out to acquire the near-scale streamlined passenger cars being put on the market by American Model Toys, a small yet dynamic firm based in Auburn, Ind. It offered several different models, including a baggage car, coaches, a diner, a dome car, a combination car, and an observation, all with authentic Santa Fe nameplates. Best of all, the trucks and couplers were compatible with what Lionel manufactured.

Decision makers at Lionel’s headquarters and its factory quickly became aware of what AMT was doing and realized they had to respond to the upstart before more sales were lost. Plans were made, beginning around 1950, for Lionel to develop its own group of O gauge streamlined cars that could be matched with the Santa Fe F3s or, presumably, their New York Central comrades (no. 2333).

Whatever delays resulted from the outbreak of the Korean Conflict in June of 1950 had been resolved by the end of the next year. The advance catalog printed in the initial weeks of 1952 showed the brand-new extruded-aluminum cars about to inaugurate the no. 2500 series. Curiously, they had nameplates, not for the Santa Fe or one of its crack trains, but instead for the California Zephyr.

Introduced in March of 1949, the California Zephyr – promoted as “The Most Talked About Train in America” – carried passengers between Chicago, Ill., and Oakland, Calif., via three railroads: the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy; the Denver & Rio Grande Western; and the Western Pacific.

Lionel didn’t yet catalog any locomotives with the name or herald of the Burlington or the Rio Grande. However, its line for 1952 contained a third road name for the popular F3: the no. 2345 Western Pacific. Possibly, sales executives envisioned packing the new A-A duo with the streamlined passenger cars to allow O gaugers to purchase a miniature version of the California Zephyr.

Minds evidently changed during the months between the time the advance catalog was issued and the consumer catalog came out because the latter showed the three streamliners with nameplates stating they belonged to Lionel Lines. Traces of the California Zephyr had vanished, probably because they identified the train with an actual one associated with the Midwest and West. Better, the men at the top likely concluded, to appeal to enthusiasts everywhere with the generic Lionel Lines.

Thus emerged the 2190W outfit, an immediate classic when it arrived in stores for the holiday season of 1952 with a mind-boggling retail price of $89.50 (adjusted for inflation, that’s about $950 today). Interestingly, the four passenger cars carried specific names and not those from the Santa Fe. To the contrary, the nos. 2531 Silver Dawn observation, 2532 Silver Range Astra Dome, 2533 Silver Cloud Pullman, and 2534 Silver Bluff Pullman brought to mind their full-size kin being operating by the CB&Q. Yes, the link with the California Zephyr failed to be totally erased. Lionel used those names throughout the 1950s.

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