News & Reviews Product Reviews The Lionel Aberdeen, Carolina & Western F9 locomotive set

The Lionel Aberdeen, Carolina & Western F9 locomotive set

By Chris Montagna | January 6, 2023

This colorful Legacy A-B pair looks great and has railroad-specific details

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Lionel Aberdeen Carolina Western F9 locomotive

The Lionel Aberdeen, Carolina & Western F9 A-B locomotive set is now out. The railroad – reporting mark ACWR – is a short line that, until January of last year, many of us in the O gauge hobby had never heard of.

Lionel Aberdeen Carolina Western F9 locomotive
Lionel’s Aberdeen, Carolina & Western F9 A-B locomotive set is as eye catching as the prototype.

“The Carolina Route” runs between Charlotte and Raleigh, N.C. It hauls goods from CSX and Norfolk Southern connections to local industry, and vice-versa, according to railroad’s website. Freight operations utilize diesel engines from EMD GP40s to SD40s and -60s and their subsequent variations, all dressed in a dapper hunter green with magenta trim. You can tell it’s a railroad that values its image.

Lionel Aberdeen Carolina Western F9 locomotives with fishing figures
The Lionel Aberdeen Carolina & Western F9 locomotives cut a fine figure on Chris Montagna’s layout.

Especially when it comes to its passenger locomotives.

A colorful railroad

After toiling in relative obscurity, the ACWR has been thrust into the toy-train limelight after these F9 passenger units in its paint scheme were announced by Lionel in its 2022 Volume 1 catalog.

Lionel Aberdeen Carolina Western F9A nose
The nose of the A-unit includes roadname-specific ditchlights, an ElectroCoupler with a simulated cut lever, lighted number boards, and windshield wipers.

The railroad bought the A and cabless B unit from Norfolk Southern in 2019 for passenger service. They’ve been repainted from the sedate black-and-white they wore while pulling NS’s executive train to a magenta-and-yellow scheme.

NS’s other F9 A-B set was purchased by Reading & Northern Railroad (officially Reading, Blue Mountain & Northern, RBMN). Lionel has also released an A-B set in that paint scheme.

Lionel Aberdeen Carolina Western F9 locomotive
Engineer and fireman figures populate the cab. The magenta paint has metal flake and sparkles.

The prototype units have an extensive lineage. Before joining Norfolk Southern in 2006, the two A units were built by Electro-Motive Division of General Motors in 1952 for the Baltimore & Ohio RR. They then served with the Maryland Area Rail Commuter (MARC) transit agency. The cabless B units were built for the Chicago Great Western Ry.

Once acquired by NS, all four engines were rebuilt to EMD GP38-2 specifications at Juniata Shops in in Altoona, Pa.

Lionel Aberdeen, Carolina & Western F9 locomotive set

Lionel’s offering provides a powered A- and SuperBass-equipped B unit. Each features Legacy control with ElectroCouplers on the front of the A unit and rear of the B. Each engine features a fan-driven smoke unit and sounds. They also have roadname-specific detailing, specifically roof appliances and ditch lights. Each unit is 13 inches long for an A-B set length of 26 inches. They can navigate O-31 curves.

Lionel Aberdeen Carolina Western F9A fan and exhaust piping
A closer look at the fan and exhaust piping of the A unit, that looks like the prototype.

The controls for programming, smoke, and sounds can be found by removing a magnetic hatch on the roof. I found this design to be much easier than previous F-unit panels with plastic clips.

Lionel Aberdeen Carolina Western F9A control panel
Underneath the unique fan and piping panel held down by magnets is a control panel with switches for various functions.

To say Lionel did a fantastic job on the paint for these diesels would be an understatement. The metallic magenta paint glimmers in the light. It’s contrasted by three yellow stripes and the field with the name of the railroad. The nose of the A unit displays the Aberdeen, Carolina, & Western logo and wings.

Many details

These models feature LED cab lights, headlight, and ditch lights. Add-on details include ladders, handrails, and windshield wipers. The black roof features detailing matching the prototype, including exhaust piping. There’s see-through grills along the sides and two glazed porthole windows.

Lionel Aberdeen Carolina Western F9 rear details
There’s a lot of detail at the rear of each unit. In addition to the grabirons, there are diaphragms, scale-like couplers, and a railroad-specific fan and piping.

The cab doors are spring-loaded and the interior features painted engineer and fireman figures.

Lionel Aberdeen Carolina Western F9 locomotive underneath
Underneath the A unit you can see the speaker in the middle. Just ahead of it is a track sensor. The blue sticker denotes it can be controlled via Bluetooth and the LionChief app.

Lionel’s CrewTalk has been updated on this set. The engineer has an audible accent and utilizes a variety of newer phrases than what has been offered on every diesel for the past few catalogs.

I asked a friend who ordered the Reading & Northern units if the CrewTalk in those is different from the ACWR chatter. He confirmed it is.

More to come

Cataloged with the engines were four passenger cars: a 21-inch dome, and a generator car with sounds; and an 18-inch coach and observation car, both heavyweights. All require O-54 curves. More to come on these offerings later.

Based on the popularity of this set and the ACWR’s roster, I would not be surprised if we saw more options to add to this set in future catalogs.

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


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