News & Reviews Product Reviews Lionel Legacy SD50

Lionel Legacy SD50

By Chris Montagna | May 20, 2024

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Just as EMD needed to develop the SD50 to compete with GE’s Dash 7, Lionel developed new tooling to add to their lineup. The SD50, announced in the Lionel 2023 Volume 2 was advertised as a new product and all new tooling. Ryan Kunkle of Lionel verified that this product was not made from former-MTH tooling, but is an original Lionel design.

side view of blue model locomotive
The Conrail versions of the engines feature roadname-specific ditch lights. Chris Montagna photo

The SD50 was a 3,500 hp diesel-electric locomotive produced by the General Motors Electro-Motive Division from 1980-1987. More than 400 units were produced as the successor to the 20-cylinder fuel guzzling SD45 locomotive. The SD50’s 3,500 hp came from a V16 prime mover. Conrail was the top customer for these locomotives, with 135 units purchased. (Lionel offered three Conrail versions in this catalog.)

close up of blue model engine
Paint and details are spot-on and crisp. Chris Montagna photo

Lionel’s version comes with the latest technology, including Legacy Command Control, Bluetooth, and the ability to operate with Lionel Voice Control (LVC). LVC allows users to speak into the Lionel app, giving commands to the locomotive, and the model will respond appropriately. While this may seem like a gimmick, it provides great accessibility options for those unable to use a tactile remote or the full features within app-based control. Front and rear ElectroCouplers allow users to move freight around with ease. Minor road specific details include horn placement, PTC equipment, and ditch lights. Ditch lights are only cataloged on the Conrail and Reading & Northern options.

model locomotive with shell removed
A look at the inside after the shell is removed. Chris Montagna photo

Inside the box, Lionel wrapped this model in their standard plastic and soft foam wrap. Unlike the previously released GP30 model, which is packaged upright, the SD50 is packed on its side. Tip: I used gravity to easily remove the engine from the foam insert. I held my hand on the model and turned the foam upside down. The handrails are nicely protected by foam sections on all sides of the model. Cardboard protects the areas between the trucks and chassis. Because of the kinematic coupler, turn the cardboard sideways before removing it from the side of the truck.

¾ view of black model locomotive
The engine features front and rear ElectroCouplers, making operation a breeze. Chris Montagna photo

At 19-inches long, these SD50s are about 1.25 inches longer than true 1:48 scale, compared to the prototype. With their 3-axle trucks they do require O-54 curves to operate. A kinematic pilot allows for a more prototypical appearance without forcing greater curve restrictions. Weighing in at a solid 5 pounds 5.1 ounces, the SD50 has a pulling power of 1.8 lbs. One axle on each truck is equipped with traction tires and a spare set is provided in the box.

Side view of black model locomotive
The SD50 features all-new tooling. Chris Montagna photo

This model features two flywheel motors, one per truck. The smoke unit funnel is rectangular and deeper than older designs. This design prevents overflowing the unit and damaging the electronics. A standard “Mr. Lionel” sound file accompanies this model. There are five horn and bell options so you can select the right one for your railroad. An infrared sensor is embedded in the bottom of the fuel tank, allowing connection to Lionel SensorTrack.

While we are still waiting for the Base3 system to arrive [Ed.: Estimated later in 2024] it would appear these diesels do not have 4-digit addressing. Lionel seems to hold out on this feature for VisionLine or “special” models, which is disappointing considering it’s a hallmark feature of the Base3.

Overall, I think these models are a win for Lionel. Each version that I’ve seen looks fantastic and the colors appear to be perfect. The model I ran has a quiet smoke unit and runs without issue. The SD50 couples nicely with SD40s or SD45s giving you plenty of colorful power options and unique lineups on your layout.

Six road names were offered for this inaugural cataloging. Most with two powered options and a Superbass option, except for the Reading and Northern due to METCA’s custom run. Chessie (2433231, 2433232, 2433239), Rio Grande (2433261, 2433262, 2433269), Missouri Pacific (2433271, 2433272, 2433279), Norfolk Southern (2433281, 2433282, 2433289), Conrail (2433241, 2433249, 2433250, and Reading & Northern (2433291, 2433299). Custom runs were done by METCA with a Reading & Northern “Red Hat” (2401010) and a green Reading & Northern variation from Gryzboski’s (2433840).

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

Lionel Legacy SD50

MSRP: $549.99/$649.99 based on model

Features: TMCC, Legacy, or conventional control; Bluetooth control; Lionel Voice Control; fan-driven smoke unit; IR transmittor for SensorTrack, O-54 operation; front and rear ElectroCouplers; 5 levels of bell pitching

Roadnames: See text above


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