News & Reviews Product Reviews First run of the Lionel Pennsylvania RR L1 Mikado

First run of the Lionel Pennsylvania RR L1 Mikado

By Chris Montagna | July 6, 2023

| Last updated on July 11, 2023

Detail and paint variations provide a flavor to suit every taste

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With the release of the Lionel Pennsylvania RR L1 Mikado, it seems that we’ve returned to pre-pandemic manufacturing timelines with the manufacturer. This Legacy engine, cataloged in Lionel’s 2022 Volume II edition, has been delivered in less than a year.

Lionel Pennsylvania RR L1 Mikado
This version of Lionel’s Legacy Pennsylvania RR L1 Mikado has a doghouse tender. There are several other variations.

This is another product made with tooling acquired from MTH Trains a few years ago. While Lionel has offered “Heavy” and “Light” 2-8-2s over the years, the PRR Class L1 version is a welcome addition to the catalog.

Lionel Pennsylvania RR L1 Mikado

Between 1914-19, the PRR’s Juniata Shops, Baldwin Locomotive Works, and Lima Locomotive Works combined to produce 574 L1 Mikados. These were the railroad’s largest 2-8-2s; the United States Railroad Administration’s Heavy 2-8-2 design is based at least partially on them.

Lionel Pennsylvania RR L1 Mikado front
This version has the postwar headlight placement, set back on the smokebox with the turbo-generator in front.

If the lines of the engine look familiar, it’s because it and Pennsy’s K4 Pacifics share the same boiler and other parts.

The L1s were stars for the PRR until the arrival of I1 class 2-10-0s a few years later and then the M1 4-8-2 “Mountains” which were in service by 1923. After being stored during the economic turmoil of the 1930s, the 2-8-2s were pressed into service during World War II.

Lionel Pennsylvania RR L1 Mikado rear tender view
The tender has a back-up light, classification lights, and ElectroCoupler at the rear.

Several L1s were sold to other railroads in the 1940s; a few of these we see in the Lionel catalog. PRR operated the engines into the 1950s. One PRR L1, No. 520, exists as a non-operating display at the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania in Strasburg, Pa.

Details tell a story

Lionel offers this model in a variety of iterations based on the timeline of the locomotive itself. All versions have the air tank mounted at the front of the engine which was done in the early 1930s with the installation of power reverse gear.

Lionel Pennsylvania RR L1 Mikado doghouse with figure
The doghouse has a crew figure inside.

Some of the specific detailing includes headlight location, either out over the front of the smokebox or above and behind the dynamo generator. These were moved on the prototype engines to make maintenance easier. Also changed is some of the piping.

A pair of the PRR offerings has a doghouse tender, as does the Detroit, Toledo & Ironton (once owned by PRR) version. One model also has a Trainphone antenna. The Santa Fe converted the 2-8-2s it purchased to burn oil; that model has a corresponding brass tender, presumably from the Lionel’s hybrid engine a few years ago.

Lionel Pennsylvania RR L1 Mikado cab detail
Crew figures and painted cab curtains adorn the Mikado’s “office.”

Lionel has also added painted cab curtains to these models, which is a step in the right direction. Hopefully we will see drop plates between the cab and tender as the next standard add-on detail.

These models feature the full Legacy package, including Bluetooth. The sounds feature engineer-tower crew talk. They have a dual-fan-driven smoke unit, one for the stack and another for the whistle steam effect. Smoke fluid for both effects is added directly to the stack.

The tender has rear ElectroCouplers and truck chains. A scale dummy front coupler on the locomotive can be removed for a non-operating O gauge coupler. Lionel has added an infrared wireless tether and track sensor for Lionel’s corresponding track. At 21¾ inches with tender these locomotives require O-42 radius curves.

Love watching steam engines?

Different shades

It’s no secret Lionel’s recent Achilles heel has been paint colors. The L1s from this release were quickly compared to the MTH models of years past. Earlier versions sported a glossy finish while this recent run has more of a flat look. The matte version tends to mute the rivet detail molded into the die-cast boiler.

Lionel Pennsylvania RR L1 Mikado boiler detail
A brass whistle with deflector and pop-off valves are on top of the boiler.

The Lehigh & New England version features black boiler paint and a flat finish, which is prototypical for the railroad. The PRR is done in a more Brunswick color which features more green than some of the last M1a models or E6 Atlantics. However, I’d say it’s darker than the H10 2-8-0s from the 2017 catalog.

These models feature five variations of whistle and bell pitches, with a banshee being the primary whistle choice.

Stay tuned

Out of the box my engine ran beautifully forward. However, it could not run in reverse with cars coupled. Without opening it up to diagnose the issue, it sounded like the gear was not seated correctly. I was able to return this to the shop I purchased it from, Berkshire Station, for a new model without issue.

The new engine worked fine, it appears to be an isolated incident.


Legacy L1 Mikado by Lionel

MSRP: $999.99

Roadnames: Pennsylvania No. 402 (No. 231011), PRR No. 4030 (231012) with red tender decking, prewar headlight placement; PRR No. 1343 (231021), PRR No. 1627 (231022) with doghouse tender, postwar headlight placement; PRR No. 1369 (231030) with red tender decking, prewar headlight placement, Trainphone antenna; Santa Fe with brass tender (2331040); Detroit Toledo & Ironton with doghouse tender (2331050); Lehigh & New England (2331060)

Another PRR L1 is included in the Cumberland Valley Wayfreight Set (2322030)

Custom runs: Mr. Muffin’s Trains – “What if” PRR Tuscan red (2331530); Pat’s Trains – Santa Fe “Black Bonnet” (2331490)

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

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