News & Reviews News Thoughts on the Lionel 2024 Big Book catalog

Thoughts on the Lionel 2024 Big Book catalog

By Rene Schweitzer | February 2, 2024

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The Lionel 2024 Big Book catalog is here! At 228 pages, there’s a lot of products to sort through. I’ve given it a good luck and have thoughts and observations. Maybe you do too. If so, leave a comment or send an email to editor@classictoytrains.com

Roger Carp explained the history of when Lionel releases catalogs in his look at the 2023 Volume 2 catalog.

Unlike Roger, I have a different perspective when viewing the catalog. First, I’m younger and didn’t grow up with toy trains (except for a couple of brief encounters). But I’ve been immersed in toy train information since 1995, when I was hired at Kalmbach. My husband of 17 years is an avid toy train fan, and I’ve had many discussions with him about all aspects of the hobby. Being a new editor of CTT, I’m also on the lookout for new and interesting items that readers might enjoying hearing about.

Locomotives of interest

catalog page of model trains
Lionel’s Triplex locomotives

It’s hard to miss one of the first engines in the book—the VisionLine Triplex, along with the related Super Set. This product was officially announced in a separate booklet this fall. This massive engine will be available in nine paint schemes (plus more as custom runs). An interesting historical note that only three of these prototype engines were ever built, and all were scrapped.

model Berkshire engine with blue paint scheme
New Berkshire engines

On pages 16 and 17, Lionel features their new Berkshires. I have a fondness for the postwar version of this engine, and it’s great that they’re still making these engines. These built-to-order models feature road specific details, and they overall look amazing.

model Berkshire engine with blue paint scheme
The Nickel Plate Limited Berkshire

I was curious about the Nickel Plate Limited paint scheme and wondered if there was a historical basis for this. I reached out to NKP expert, Tony Koester, with my question. His response: “NKP’s shiny black sheet-metal jacketing of the boiler sometimes reflected enough of the sky to take on a blue sheen, and old photos and poor scans often take on a blue tint. But to the very best of my knowledge, the NKP never painted 777 or any other 700 in this scheme.”

catalog page of silver and orange locomotive

The Milwaukee Road 4-4-2 Hiawatha is attractive, and so are the related passenger cars. I hope I get to see this engine in person at some point. If the Milwaukee Road isn’t your style, there are other roadnames to choose from.

On the diesel side, the ES44s certainly stand out, and it’s nice to see more modern paint schemes like Canadian Pacific, Union Pacific, and BNSF. The lowly and common SW8 switcher (300 prototypes built) caught my attention. Since it can navigate O-31 curves, many smaller layouts could find a use for this engine.

Rolling stock of interest

models of several reefer cars
Can’t wait to see these Hot Box reefers.

The Hot Box reefers on p. 56 look like great fun! They have flickering lights and “smoke” to mimic an overheated journal box. I’d love to see one in action (the model, not the prototype).

Polar Express models of toy train cars
New American Flyer items from the Polar Express line.

This year marks the 20th anniversary of the Polar Express movie, and Lionel has a number of new products. Tucked in along with the O gauge items were two new American Flyer pieces of rolling stock, a boxcar and a coach (both on page 149). There’s also a Flyer (non-Polar Express) Christmas boxcar on p. 159.

Still available section

A chunk of the catalog features previously released, but still available, products. This is a smart move from Lionel. Perhaps you forgot about an item you’d seen in an earlier catalog, and you can buy it now!

Other noteworthy items

 control system photos in catalog: Lionel 2024 Big Book catalog

On pages 206-207, you’ll see the announcement of the upcoming Base3/Cab3 system. Many hobbyists are eagerly awaiting the release of this system. I’ve enjoyed using the app, especially the Bluetooth and voice control features, and look forward to seeing the changes and new features.

Final thoughts

It was exciting to flip through this catalog. Lionel has a broad range of engines from the high-end pieces to the more basic starter set locomotives. There weren’t a lot of new structure releases, but I counted more than 24 available structures still for sale. There’s a couple of new Flyer pieces, and three pages of still-available Flyer products in the back of the catalog too. If you like licensed products or have kids (or are young at heart), graphics like Looney Tunes, Barbie, and Mister Rogers Neighborhood will interest you. Take a look at the catalog on Lionel’s website.

Now, how many days until the next catalog is released? Asking for a friend.

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