The Model Train Association Lionel 6464 boxcars are the subject of many collectors’ searches. Interest in the near-scale postwar series never flags. Newcomers to the hobby continue to discover the 29 cataloged entries and start tracking down examples. Longtime hobbyists hunt hard-to-find variations.
Among the sought after are the Train Collectors Association models sold as a fundraiser at its 1967 Baltimore convention. What made the leftover inventory decorated for nine railroads stand out was the shiny brass door that replaced one of the regular plastic ones. On them were the TCA name, logo and convention information.
A similar group of Lionel models has largely been ignored and undervalued – the 6464s made for the Model Train Association.
The MTA has its roots in Southern California in the 1950s and 60s. Lionel expert and past MTA president Mike Stella says the toy train collecting community in Southern California has a well-deserved reputation for independence. In the mid-1950s, individuals such as John Parker and Ward Kimball paved the way for the Train Collectors Association to be established.
Through some twists and turns, MTA was established in 1968. It remained strong throughout southern California for most of the next half-century and regularly held swap meets and annual get-togethers known as Roundhouses, mostly in the Los Angeles metro area.
Model Train Association Lionel 6464s
A year after the MTA was started, the organization was looking to raise funds. Instead of working directly with Lionel to produce a special car, leaders of the MTA simply drove to local hobby shops and bought many of the no. 6464-500 Timken models brought back to the cataloged lineup for 1969. Then they added a door on each side with a small metal sign that read “M.T.A. Roundhouse 1969.”
Most of the Timken boxcars had die-cast metal bar-end trucks with tab knuckle couplers. A few were originally given the elaborate die-cast metal trucks Lionel generally installed on O-27 streamlined passenger cars from the 1950s as well as on the no. 6517 Lionel Lines bay-window caboose cataloged from 1955 through 1959.
Several years later MTA introduced its next special car. Mike Stella recalls members buying up all the no. 9230 Monon single-door boxcars in the area and substituting a brass-plated sliding door for one of the plastic ones. On it was printed the name of the organization, the part number associated with the shiny door, and “Roundhouse 1977.”
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The MTA released more modified models in the following years. Among them was the no. 9747 Chesapeake & Ohio double-door automobile boxcar from 1978. The replacement doors carried the usual information and declared the MTA to be “The Friendly Club.”
Finally in 1986, the MTA made available its tenth car, a red bobber caboose with a large gleaming panel across most of the side. It promoted the 10th Anniversary Roundhouse in 1986. The model, while cute and colorful, was not from the Lionel line.
“The little caboose brought everything to an end,” Mike Stella said.
The MTA went on, and so did their annual get togethers, but not the modified models. Today, the cars are the stuff of lore and collectors keep hunting for them.