Model Railroads in the 1950's
As children of the '50's my brother Clay and I received nearly identical
Lionel toy train sets for Christmas. The trains were set up without fail each
Christmas, although they were not used much after the Christmas tree came down.
Our interest was sustained by our passenger train travels in the late '50's from
Miami to Chicago. Interest waned as we got older and air travel replaced
passenger trains in the '60's. We were also somewhat off put by the "goofy
bright blue" color of the locomotives and tenders compared to those of our
friends which were painted in the gleaming liveries of real railroads (more
about this later).
The Next Generation
In 1994, on a whim and with an eye toward renewing the tradition, we bid on
and won an inexpensive starter set at auction. We set the train up under the
tree for then 5 year old Matthew. Matthew took a real interest and faithfully
rebuilt that Lionel "Crayola" set by himself, each Christmas until 2001 when we
"rewarded" him with a new MTH New York Central Steamer. We subsequently
acquired, in deference to my youth, an MTH Florida East Coast Passenger set.
The Bright Blue Locomotives
In the summer of 2002, some 45 years later, I "reclaimed" our childhood train
sets from the exterior utility shed in back of the house in Stuart, FL. As I
began researching the sets, every database said the Lionel 2018 locomotive was
made in black only. Well. clearly this was not accurate.
It seems that in 1956, Lionel decided to develop a "Girls Set" with a pink locomotive and
tender, and pastel rolling stock. The set was catalogued in 1957 to encourage
more girls to play with trains.
During the discussion and development of the Girls Set, someone
in Lionel's executive group decided that if there was to be a Pink Girls Set,
there had to be a Blue Boys Set, temporarily forgetting that all the train sets
were boys sets, hence the original impetus to develop a Girls Set. In any case
an unknown (but small) number of Boys Set samples were manufactured and issued
to the sales force. It is believed the salesmen sold them to distributors and by
happenstance we now have two relatively rare sets.
Miami, FL Rail Depot Circa 1956
Courtesy Florida Memory Project