News & Reviews Product Reviews Quick takes on the Lionel 2023 Big Book catalog

Quick takes on the Lionel 2023 Big Book catalog

By Hal Miller | January 12, 2023

| Last updated on January 24, 2023

There’s a lot of new high-end O gauge offerings and a few in traditional size, too

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The Lionel 2023 Big Book catalog is out. I just had a quick flip through it and here are my first impressions.

Lionel 2023 Big Book Catalog cover
The Lionel 2023 Catalog cover

I’ll tell you right off, this isn’t an exhaustive treatment and I can’t cover everything. Nor will you find any mention of the prices of these things.

As I’m frequently inclined to say, these are my opinions and they’re worth exactly what you paid for them. You’re going to get some overall conjecture and some of my personal whims.

Get your eggs and overripe fruit ready to fling at me, and here we go…

Lionel 2023 Big Book catalog

What actually jumped out at me was what wasn’t up front – the company’s new Cab 3 control system. Yes, I know it’s been toward the front of the last few catalogs and it’s expected to be delivered this year. but to feels like to me the company is kind of saying, “Uh yeah, nothing to see here,” by burying it on page 226. The Universal Remote appears before the Cab 3, prominently at the start of the O Traditional section.

Lionel 2023 big book catalog J3 Drefuss Hudson
The star of the 2023 Lionel Big Book Catalog is the Big Boy, but for my money, the Legacy Dreyfuss J3 Hudsons steal the show.

I’ll also say this up front: Those of you looking for new offerings in S gauge are going to be pretty disappointed. There’s a new Christmas boxcar and a Polar Express flatcar with trailers. Yawn.

But let’s get the low-hanging fruit out of the way. The Vision Line Big Boy 4-8-8-4 was announced last fall, and it looks spectacular. You can get it in several road numbers and any iteration you like, plus a train of streamlined Union Pacific cars. Plenty of “wow factor” here.

Lionel 2023 catalog russian decapods
If you are a fan of 10-coupled locomotives, this is your year. Lionel is offering Russian Decapods in a variety of roadnames.

Gotta say, I like the Vision Line sound cars. We saw so-equipped stockcars in the 2022 Big Book and there’s a new round of them in 3-packs for ’23. The reefers are pretty cool, too; they play a loading-icing-unloading sequence. All will look great in dedicated blocks.

The Legacy Dreyfuss J3 Hudson, in light gray, with disc drivers and a striped tender. Now that’s art. If our definitions of the subject don’t match, there are other versions to choose from. The accompanying matching 20th Century Limited passenger car offerings just put it over the top.

Legacy locomotives

If you are a fan of Decapods, this is your year. You can get these Legacy steamers in two flavors: the lighter “Russian” style, or the Pennsy I1 “Hippo.” The latter come with standard or “coast-to-coast” tenders.

Lionel 2023 catalog Pennsy I1
Like bigger 2-10-0s? The Legacy Pennsylvania RR I1 with coast-to-coast tender is for you.

Nice detail on the Legacy “late production” NW2. At first, I thought it might just be an SW7 shell, but a close look revealed the half-height front radiator that stuck with the NW2 throughout its production. The distinct slant-flat shape of the hood in front of the cab did not.

Lionel 2023 catalog GP20 Kansas City Terminal
Want railroad specific detailing? The Kansas City Terminal Legacy GP20 has cab air conditioning, modern antennas, hood-mounted horn, dynamic brake blister, and winterization hatch. Other road names have a different mix of details.

The GP20 is one of those love-it-or-hate-it models. Lionel’s roadname-specific detailing really shows in the run, though. I spotted a roof-mounted bell, dynamic brakes, winterization hatch, hood-mounted horns, and modern antennas on various versions. Well done.

Legacy Sets

Just a few quick takes on these:

Not a big fan of Camelback steamers but it really works for the Legacy Lehigh Valley Camelback set. With the 4-wheel caboose the outfit is almost – dare I say – cute.

Lionel 2023 catalog quad cities rocket set
Emblematic of the Rock Island in its last years, the Legacy Quad Cities Rocket set is a personal favorite.

Chances are it will have a limited audience, but the Union RR Hot Metal Train set is a great combination of cars.

Continuing the steel-making theme is the Iron Hippo Set featuring the Pennsy I1. You’re gonna need a lot more GLa hoppers.

Ditto with reefers for the Santa Fe Fast Fruit Set. The 4-8-4 is kind of “meh” to me but keep tacking those orange reefers on. Go ahead, don’t be shy. More. Forty? Fifty?

The one that got me was the Rock Island Quad Cities Rocket Set. Being a fan of The Rock, especially in its colorful later years, this little passenger train is great. Maybe nicer than what the railroad could actually muster toward the end of passenger service.

Traditional O locomotives

An “All new product” run of Mikados. I have a Lionel model from a few years ago that’s a favorite; I’ll be curious when these come out to put them side-by-side and compare.

Lionel 2023 Big Book Catalog Budd RDC
Budd RDCs have been a mainstay of the traditional-sized line for a long time; these are offered in singles and powered-unpowered sets.

Even though they are kind of plain and in the real world they replaced actual passenger trains, there’s something neat about Budd RDCs. I like that these come in singles and powered-unpowered pairs. Next run can we get them in Missouri-Kansas-Texas and Rock Island, please?

Odds and ends

Some of the Disney 100 products look great. I like the black-and-white boxcars and the Mickey Mouse and Minnie Mouse Handcar.

Lionel 2023 catalog mickie and minnie handcar
The Mickey Mouse and Minnie Mouse handcar is a blast from the past commemorating Lionel’s long relationship with Disney.

If whimsy is your thing, the Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory items are pretty sweet looking. See what I did there? But seriously, there’s a transparent tank car full of “Everlasting Gobstopper” material. Veruca Salt: But daddy, I want a train! Mr. Salt: “Yes, Veruca darling.”

Texas Special Passenger LionChief Bluetooth 5.0 set: Love it, love it, love it. I do have a request, though. It’s nice to be able to get add-on cars to go with this and other sets like it; how about some unpowered FTs, too? The longer trains would look great behind an A-A set.

And following along those lines nice to see some individual powered FTs offered along with 2-8-0s. Both are great Traditional-sized power for compact layouts.

We’ll have more on the catalog soon in Bob’s Train Box and through our Product Reviews.

Agree? Disagree? Leave comments below!


















2 thoughts on “Quick takes on the Lionel 2023 Big Book catalog

  1. Lionel has hardly done anything with the Flyer line since they bought it. They should sell it to someone who will

  2. I would like to see them make a scale version of the NP 2626 Northern. It was a re-numbered version of #1111, first engine to feature Timken roller bearings. It was kind of a big-deal engine. It was made once, many years ago, but it came out before the highly-detailed engines became a big thing… the one I have is not very detailed.

    I’d like to see anything Northern Pacific for that matter, because that’s my go-to line for collecting since it used to run through my hometown. (I realize there are getting to be fewer and fewer of us around who remember that line….sad to say.)

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