Well the Century Club 773 arrived today. While I am still digesting this, and I am slow, I have this to say thus far.
Firstly, consider what I paid for this thing - which incidentally is brand new never been opened - I would be an ingrate to complain one bit. From what I can tell I paid nearly $100 less than the least expensive one has ever sold for new OR used. So in this regard I did very well. I really do feel bad for these guys who thought this would be an investment. This seller had this thing for 20 years - in fact it was shipped to me in the original Lionel Box dated June 2000. And he never even saw it! That is sad I'm sorry. This is supposed to be a hobby not the stock market! And it is a wonderful hobby if one allows themselves to enjoy it. This poor guy must be ****ed as anything. I don't know what they cost new but I'll assume it was well over a grand.
Next - As I get the engine out of the box, I see the 6 drive wheels will not move. I tried with a reasonable amount of force and the wheels are frozen in position and will not move. I don't see anything obvious keeping them from moving and I don't want to force them. So I guess I'll have to take this thing apart to see what's going on. I can't believe grease would get THAT hard in 20 years to freeze this thing to this extent. I have NEVER seen anything like this. I have been pulling my Lionel stuff out that has been sitting for 30++ years and never saw anything like this. I thought there might be some lock or something but I didn't see anything in the manual.
The handrails at the front of the engine are not bent properly on one side. From the front they symmetrically straddle the nose of the boiler and one of them on one side was almost straight. So I gently bent it but I see it is still not right. Unless it is supposed to be like this which I doubt. Photo of the front below.
The brass whistle appears to be VERY SLIGHTLY off to one side. I do professional picture framing and have an "eye" for straightness etc. and i see it off a bit. I really don't think I will attempt to move it as it really isn't noticeable.
So this is where I am at - it is on display in that REALLY nice display base till I can figure out why the wheels are frozen. I'll just add this to all the other train projects. My bench, which is an electronics repair bench designed for vacuum tube repairs, is starting to look like a Mini Altoona!
Incidentally, I didn't notice any "Made in USA" anywhere on this thing but supposedly it is made here? Maybe due to some imported parts like the electronic stuff?