News & Reviews Product Reviews The Lionel Legacy 0-6-0 switcher has some tricks up its sleeve

The Lionel Legacy 0-6-0 switcher has some tricks up its sleeve

By Chris Montagna | January 23, 2023

This diminutive steamer features a moving bell and more

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Lionel Strasburg Rail Road No. 31

The Lionel Legacy 0-6-0 switcher has a great feature set for a steam engine this small. Strasburg Rail Road’s No. 31 has immortalized in this run of the locomotive. Really, the hype for the heritage railway was the story of the Lionel 2021 Volume 2 catalog, all courtesy of the brass-hybrid offering of 2-10-0 No. 90 and the appearance of wood-sided passenger cars.

The Lionel Legacy 0-6-0 switcher
Lots of detail is packed into Lionel’s Legacy 0-6-0 lettered for Strasburg Rail Road No. 31.

That trend continued into 2022 with the Big Book offering USRA 0-6-0 steam locomotives, including the humble No. 31.

Lionel Legacy 0-6-0 switcher

The 0-6-0 was certainly not a mainline locomotive. It patrolled the rail yards and industrial areas and was a workhorse, marshalling cars and building long freight trains. Original 0-6-0 wheel arrangements were found on railroads in the mid-1800s. However, the standardization of design under the United States Railway Administration during World War I brought the model we see today.

A total of 255 of these engines were built buy Alco between 1918-19. With a tractive effort of under 40,000 lbs., these engines were never envisioned to pull coal drags across the Alleghenies.

The real deal

The prototype of this model, Strasburg No. 31, was originally built by Baldwin in 1908 for the Grand Trunk Railway, eventually becoming a ward of Canadian National. It was sold to Strasburg in 1960.

More about visiting Strasburg Rail Road. 

No. 31 was the first steam engine at Strasburg since the 1920s. According to the heritage railroad’s website, it was the first steam engine returned to passenger service in the U.S.

The locomotive has been out of services for over a decade. However, crews at the railroad are actively working to restore it to operating condition. It’s timely as No. 90’s boiler inspection is rapidly approaching.

Plenty of tricks

Lionel’s offering comes to us with new tooling and great features. As we’ve come to expect from a switcher in O gauge, a footprint of 17⅛ inches means electrical pick up isn’t ideal. To combat this, Lionel uses a 20-pin tether between the tender and engine. This design isn’t just to improve continuity; it’s also a necessity due to the small boiler size as the Legacy electronics are in the tender.

Lionel Strasburg Rail Road No. 31 tender deck controls
Programming controls for the locomotive are under the coal load on the tender.

For the uninitiated, common Lionel practice is to use a wireless infrared tether between tender and engine so the Legacy boards can communicate with the speaker system in the tender.

Lionel Strasburg Rail Road No. 31 Tender wiring harness
The tender is connected to the locomotive via a wiring harness. Two slots in the drawbar allow for close coupling.

The benefits of the wired design are programming control switches are on the top of the tender, under the coal load. It also allows for more room in the boiler for the uncatalogued bonus, a swinging bell! This feature was announced by Ryan Kunkle, Lionel’s Director of Production, during a live stream in the fall of 2022.

Even more features

The engine also features stack steam, CrewTalk with updated dialogue, and Electrocouplers on the front of the engine and rear of the tender. Legacy speed control allows it to move at a crawl, something the predecessor TMCC switchers just couldn’t quite do.

Lionel Strasburg Rail Road No. 31 cab rear with socket
The cab features engineer and fireman figures as well as firebox glow. The wiring harness attaches between the deck and tongue.

Further, the drawbar has two slots to close the engine-tender gap if your layout’s design allows it. This engine is designed for the smallest of layouts with good clearance on O-31 curves.

Seven road names were cataloged in this run. While the Strasburg offering does have some roadname-specific detailing, including a lower headlight and number boards, the tender design for all models is the same. For Strasburg No. 31, that means incorrect for the prototype.

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


Lionel Legacy 0-6-0

MSRP: $799.99

Roadnames:  Bethlehem Steel (No. 2231530), Frisco (No. 2231540), New York Central (No. 2231550), Pennsylvania (No. 2231560), Strasburg (No. 2231570), Terminal Railroad Association of St. Louis (No. 2231580), Washington Terminal (No. 2231590).



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