News & Reviews Product Reviews A look at the Lionel 2023 Volume 2 catalog

A look at the Lionel 2023 Volume 2 catalog

By Chris Montagna | July 14, 2023

| Last updated on July 15, 2023

The F-19 Pacific makes a return with a lot of options, plus new SD50s, GP30s and more

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The Lionel 2023 Volume 2 catalog is here!

Sometimes Christmas does come twice a year, in the world of toy trains this celebration is typically associated with a catalog drop. For Lionel, that takes place in January and July. I typically can find something in each catalog that gets me excited for what’s to come.

Lionel 2023 Volume 2 catalog cover
2023 Volume 2 catalog cover

As we’ve come to expect the Lionel catalogs are broken down to different sections, beginning with the Legacy steam products followed by Legacy diesel, and then LionChief 2.0 and eventually accessories. For this overview we will quickly move through the various items presented by Lionel in this catalog and talk about when they were last done and maybe what’s the new tooling wise for Lionel. For the main sections of this review the locomotives will feature Legacy Command Control and Bluetooth.

Legacy steam

screenshot of model steam locomotive in catalog
The F-19 Pacifics feature new details like flying air pumps on the front of the smokebox.

We kick things off with a release of the F–19 Pacific, the first time this is back since the TMCC days. This locomotive features significant add-on detailing, including the flying air pumps on the front of the smokebox. Certain versions feature a silhouette on the feedwater heater. Lionel offers this in a few different road numbers for Chesapeake & Ohio, including The Sportsman No. 490, a gray boiler No. 494, No. 493 with a standard tender, No. 491, No. 492 circa 1929, and the George Washington in numbers No. 491 and No. 492. Lionel has also presented the F-19 in a Pere Marquette and Richmond, Fredericksburg & Potomac scheme, both which will be welcomed by the fans of those railroads. For the fantasy scheme collectors, Lionel offers a Halloween version and Sleigh Bell Limited version, both with fantastic graphics and paint details.

Back in the catalog since gfor the first time since 2007, the F-19 will feature Legacy control and will have whistle steam. These locomotives come in at 25 inches in length with the Vanderbilt tender and 24 inches in length with the standard tender. It should be noted that the standard tenders in the renderings are not what is expected on the standard tender models of the F-19, according to the Ryan and Dave Show Livestream they will be using Berkshire tenders on these Pacifics. Either version will need O-54 curves to operate. These engines MSRP for $1,299.

Lionel will also be offering C&O passenger cars to go with the F-19. These will include three separate 2-car packs and a StationSounds Diner, allowing collectors to run the George Washington seven-car train consist. These two packs MSRP for $499.99 and the StationSounds Diner is $429.99.

The second locomotive in the catalog is the 2-6-6-2 Mallet type steam locomotive. Lionel catalogs this as an “All New Product” to their line and offer it in six different railroads. Most notably is the announcement of Western Maryland 1309, a 2-6-6-2 built for the C&O. Lionel hints in their language for this locomotive that they base the tooling off their previously run USRA 2-6-6-2 Mallets but alter it with specific detailing in the front of the locomotive as well as road specific detailing. This will feature Legacy control and whistle steam. They are offering it in the following roadnames: Denver & Rio Grande Western with a green boiler; Nickel Plate Road; Northern Pacific with a red cab roof and gray boiler; Norfolk & Western with a blank tender; Weyerhaeuser Timber; and Western Maryland 1309. These locomotives come in at 26½ inches long and need O-54 curves to operate. The MSRP is $1799.99.

Along with Western Maryland 1309, Lionel is offering 21 inch passenger cars to match the Western Maryland’s Scenic railroad operation. These include two 2-packs, one with two coaches and another with a coach and vista dome. There is also a stand-alone full dome StationSounds car. These all carry the same MSRP as the C&O cars for the George Washington set, $499.99 for a two pack and $429.99 for the StationSounds.

Here’s where you can see Western Maryland 1309 and more steam run!

catalog screenshot of steam locomotive model
The Colorado & Southern Consolidation has a detachable snowplow.

Due to the success of the recent small Legacy steamers, Lionel brings back the 2-8-0 Consolidations after being previously run in the 2021 Volume II catalog. A rare sighting for such a quick re-release, Ryan Kunkle, Director of Production at Lionel LLC shared that with the vast number of options for the 2-8-0 and the ability for them to run on smaller layouts, these small locomotives are a win for everyone. Offered with a few new road specific details, including a short tender (17¾ inches), a 0-8-0 tender (19 inches), and a USRA tender (19½ inches) all of these can operate on the smallest railroad.

Featuring full Legacy control and whistle steam, these are sure to be a favorite for many that decide to add one to their collection. They are offered in six roadnames, Black River, Colorado & Southern with a large detachable snowplow, Duluth Missabe & Iron Range, Grand Trunk Western, Lehigh Valley, and Seaboard Air Line with a red cab roof and light colored boiler. We’ve also heard of at least one custom run for the 2-8-0, a New Hope RR No. 40 from METCA. These MSRP for $899.99.

The next steam engine in the catalog is none other than the PRR M1. The last time we had an M1 variation cataloged by Lionel was in 2014 with the M1a and infamous Coal Hauler Set from the same year. This rendition has undergone some tooling modifications to make it truer to the M1. Ryan Kunkle shared, “There is a lot more redesign in this one than you’ll see from the catalog.” These changes include steam delivery piping, program switch locations, and pilot details. We should see these changes enhance future M1a and M1b runs. Lionel six standalone models featuring various tenders, long haul, standard, doghouse, and Trainphone antenna variations.

These models also arrive in prewar and postwar variations. Lionel also offers a seventh M1 through a premium Middle Division Set, which we will cover after our diesel section below. With whistle steam and new details, these M1s are sure to be a favorite for a coal drag on any layout. At roughly 30 inches in length the radius restrictions vary by tender, long haul tenders require O-72 curves while the short tenders can navigate O-54 curves. These come in with an MSRP of $1599.99.

Rounding out the steam section is Union Pacific’s famous FEF 4-8-4 locomotive. This locomotive has been popular in the secondhand market since its previous run in 2015. This is the third iteration with Legacy control, second with whistle steam. It should be noted that the first rendition of this model featured road-specific crew talk, a feature currently restricted to Vision Line models. Lionel is offering the FEF in a few various schemes, including the 49ers or “hot dog scheme” as it is affectionately known online. It’s  also offering a version without smoke deflectors or Mars light (841), a Greyhound scheme, as well as a gray scheme with yellow striping. The inclusion of a Union Pacific locomotive was not too surprising for this catalog since during a podcast with Ryan Kunkel from Lionel after the January, volume one release, he spoke about spreading out the Union Pacific love. These models come in at 28¾ inches and will require O-72 curves. They MSRP for $1799.99.

CTT’s Bob Keller once proclaimed Lionel’s FEF the finest engine it ever made. Check out this classic review.

yellow tender model with American flag on the side
UP auxiliary tender No. 809

Associated with the FEF, we have auxiliary tenders finally back in the catalog. It should be noted, however, these are not the typical auxiliary tenders but the veranda tenders. These feature a more cylindrical body.

The auxiliary tenders used in the current UP steam program have been modified quite a bit. Lionel felt that these versions offer a closer look to the current prototypes. They also allow for those with previous runs of auxiliary tenders to add some more to their collection. The auxiliary tenders come in two variations, Legacy equipped ($499.99) with freight sounds, fuel loading sequences, rear directional light, and rear Electrocoupler or “dummy” versions without those features ($399.99). Lionel has also issued 18 inch passenger cars in Union Pacific gray colors for those looking for some passenger service for their new FEF. These are offered in three 2-pack options with a standalone StationSounds diner.

Legacy diesel

The diesel section of the catalog offered some nice surprises. These include SD50s and GP30s. We could have predicted another release of SD70ACes, however, it’s nice to see Norfolk Southern heritage units back in the catalog again.

The SD50 is new tooling for Lionel. Ryan Kunkle said it was developed by Lionel, and he looks forward to utilizing it as a launching point for future SD locomotives. Lionel offers a few cab numbers for each road name, including Norfolk Southern, Conrail, Chessie, Rio Grande, Reading & Northern, and Missouri Pacific. The inclusion of a Reading & Northern scheme in this catalog will go nicely with those that acquired the Reading & Northern F units from the 2021 catalog. METCA has also thrown its hat in the ring with a custom Reading & Northern “Red Hat” SD50.

These locomotives will feature Kinematic pilots for closer coupling operations and at 19 inches in length will need O-54 curves. Lionel offers two powered cab numbers and a SuperBass for the Chessie, Norfolk Southern, Missouri Pacific, Conrail (one powered unit has a paint scheme variation) and Rio Grande. For the Reading & Northern they are offering one powered unit and SuperBass. Powered units are MSRP-ing for $649.99 and a SuperBass unit for $499.99. An eighth SD50 is available in the premium sets section below.

Back again is the freight standard SD70ACe. While we’ve seen an abundance of these over the years it’s nice to see Norfolk Southern Heritage Units for the first time since since 2012. This time we’re offered a powered and non-powered unit (note – not SuperBass) for each heritage unit and two powered options and a non-powered unit for the lone Union Pacific offering.

The non-powered units only feature lighting; there’s no sound, smoke, or Electrocouplers. The offered roadnames for the heritage fleet are Central of New Jersey, Erie, New York Central, Illinois Terminal, and Lackawanna. It should be noted this is only a fraction of the NS SD70ACe heritage fleet, perhaps an olive branch from Lionel to the wallets of those wishing to collect them all. These locomotives are 19 inches long and can operate on O-36 curves. These powered units MSRP for $699.99 and the non-powered for $349.99.

two model diesel locomotives: Lionel 2023 Volume 2 catalog
Two of the five roadnames of the GP30s.

Next up is the GP30. Touted in the catalog as an “All New Product,” the GP30 was previously run by Lionel in the 2021 Big Book for $549.99. This time around Lionel offers them in five roadnames: Alaska, Conrail (two patch schemes), Pennsylvania, Santa Fe, Wisconsin Central, and New York Central. Road-specific detailing is offered on these units, including a Trainphone antenna on the PRR version, cab roof light on the Alaska units and horn placement. Each roadname is offered in two cab numbers, both  powered. These do not have kinematic couplers and at just over 14 inches in length can operate on O31 curves.

model diesel and dining car models on a catalog page: Lionel 2023 Volume 2 catalog
The Great Northern Empire Builder products include a dining car.

Next up is the F7. A classic O gauge diesel with options to increase the front-end power by adding a powered B-unit or SuperBass B-unit. These are offered in six roadnames with one being a premium set. Locomotive-only options are Frisco, Santa Fe (bluebonnet), Chicago, Burlington & Quincy, Boston & Maine, Great Northern, and Rock Island. Road-specific detailing is included on these and the main locomotives are delivered with two powered A units with an MSRP of $1199.99. These locomotives are all about 13 inches long and can operate on O-31 curves. A separate powered B-unit can be added for $599.99 and a separate SuperBass B-unit can be added for $549.99.

It should be noted that the F7s were produced in 2022 for the same price as this year. Along with the Great Northern locomotives you can add one the <em>Empire Builder</em> 21 inch passenger cars. These are offered in a four pack ($999.99), two pack ($499.99), a StationSounds diner ($449.99), and a full vista dome ($299.99).

The final Legacy locomotive in this catalog is the Alco S2. Would it be a Lionel catalog without a switcher? Back for the first time since 2014’s volume 2, Lionel offers up unique paint schemes. They include Staten Island RR, Archer Daniels Midland, Canadian Pacific, Lehigh & New England, NASA, and United States Army. These models feature fixed pilots and can navigate O-31 curves. They come at a price of $549.99 which beats the 2014 tag of $649.99. I wasn’t surprised to see the NASA option; this will pair nicely with the Union Pacific Rocket Booster set if you have one.

Premium sets

Lionel has always offered a couple high-end Legacy sets. Typically, you can get a better “bang for your buck(s)” with them as opposed to buying the locomotive and cars separately. The first option is the Lehigh Gorge Scenic Railway set. This features an SD50 with the Lehigh Gorge logo on the side, three coaches, and a Reading & Northern caboose. You can plus it up with the 2-car add-on option ($429.99). The main set is 72 inches long and features Kinematic couplers on the passenger cars and a figure in the caboose. This set MSRPs for $1199.99.

The next set is the Western Pacific Feather River set. At $1599.99 this set features a pair of F7 A units, a Freight Sounds boxcar, covered gondola, flatcar with trailer, and a bay window caboose. It’s 70 inches long and can operate on O-31 curves. The caboose has directional lighting which can be adjusted with a switch. The freight sounds boxcar features clickety-clack sounds when in motion.

The final set is M1 Middle Division Manifest Set. This set features a Legacy M1 steam engine, PS-2 covered hopper, Freedom Iron Gondola with coke containers, freight sounds boxcar, and an N5b cabin car. The M1 in this set appears to be postwar styling with a solid pilot and raised headlight above the smokebox. The locomotive features a long-haul tender and therefore will require O-72 curves. This set MSRP’s for 1999.99.

Rolling stock to highlight

While Lionel offers a variety of rolling stock in each catalog we aren’t going to go over every one in this article. I did want to highlight a few newer products. First is the American Orient Express passenger cars. These cars have an interesting history and although at its peak the AOE consisted of 22 cars, Lionel offers eight in this catalog. These cars are 21 inches and the pricing matches previous ones of the same size from the catalog. They come in a 4-pack, 2-pack, and stand-alone StationSounds diner and Full Dome car. These cars do need O-54 curves and feature Kinematic couplers.

Lionel is also offering Training cars which feature rail noise while in motion and classroom dialogue while stopped. Based on the chatter we’ve heard in previous sound cars I’m sure Lionel will have fun producing the attentive students taking the classes. The 18-inch variations include Rio Grande, Great Northern, Milwaukee Road, New York Central, and PRR. They are also offering a 21-inch UP version. These cars MSRP for $429.99.

Final thoughts on the Lionel 2023 Volume 2 catalog

The 2023 Volume 2 catalog earns a 4 out of five stars for my ranking system that I just created. While we didn’t expect a Vision Line engine, we did receive great options in the steam department. The F-19 Pacific wins in my mind as the best option out of that category. The details and options with it are vast and I look forward to seeing some in person once they are delivered.

As far as diesel goes, the addition of the SD50 is a winner. Bulky class 1 diesel power with some unique offerings (Chessie, Conrail, MoPac) and I anticipate some killer sounds from the SuperBass versions. My favorite set is the Lehigh Gorge Scenic Set. The colors and graphics along with the Reading & Northern Caboose will look fantastic going around any layout. It’s priced in a way that it’s not too difficult to add the two-car pack to the consist and make it a great looking train.

Lionel offers some great other trains in the LionChief section, including Berkshires. While I’m not going into depth on those items today, I highly recommend spending some time in that area of the catalog to see what other options are available.

Get more O gauge action on the Chris’s Trains & Things channel on YouTube.

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