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Overlooked Lionel postwar accessories

By | June 30, 2022

While not superstars, these 5 golden era O gauge products are great in their own right

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Overlooked Lionel postwar accessory the Lionel ZW transformer

Overlooked Lionel postwar accessories? Yes, these stalwarts are well known but aren’t always top of mind when someone is asked to list the company’s greatest gems.

Click here to see the 7 Lionel accessories that usually garner the spotlight.

Read on to find out what the “Rodney Dangerfields” of postwar Lionel are.

By John A. Grams and Terry D. Thompson

Overlooked Lionel postwar accessory the Lionel ZW transformer
Lionel ZW transformer.

ZW transformer 1948-66

The ZW proves the adage that it’s easy to create complexity, but it’s the simple things that really swing.

Powerful and brilliantly simple, the ZW has four variable-voltage outputs and four throttles. Though Lionel advertised that a ZW could power four trains, only two of the throttles have handles and whistle/direction controls; the other two were intended for use with accessories. Rated at 275 watts input, it can deliver 180 watts of continuous output (about 14 amps at typical voltages). It requires almost no maintenance (you’ll wear out the carbon rollers eventually, but that takes quite a while).

It’s with good reason that the ZW remains the choice of many operators, even after nearly 65 years. Other firms (including the Lionel Corp.’s successors) have tried to match it, but the ZW remains the gold standard.

Lionel O22 switches with box
Lionel no. O22 switches.

No. 022 O gauge switches, 1945-69

The no. 022 O gauge switches (and their manually operated no. 042 counterparts) are tested, reliable, and versatile. They’re remarkably trouble-free. You can control them remotely, via their non-derailing feature, or with another 022, and they’ll operate on track power or another source, as long as it shares a ground with the track power. You can mount the motor on either side of the switch. The only service 022 switches normally require is cleaning and lubrication. As with the ZW, they remain the standard that others try to meet.

Lionel operating newsstand
Lionel no. 128 operating newsstand.

No. 128 operating newsstand, 1957-60

Sure, the figures are oversized, but the 128 is a real crowd-pleaser.

Lionel oil derrick
Lionel no. 455 oil derrick.

No. 455 oil derrick, 1950-54

Tall and colorful, the no. 455 gives you a reason to have all those Sunoco tank cars.

Lionel water tower
Lionel No. 30 water tower.

No. 30 water tower, 1947-50

This realistic trackside accessory is reliable and fun. Now the no. 38 pumping water tower, on the other hand . . .


Click here to read more about classic Lionel accessories.

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