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I have quite a few prewar Lionel cars and engines. I know that there is a time period when they were produced like 1931-37. Is there a way to find out when each car or engine was manufactured by Lionel? Are there numbers or markings inside the cars to give that information?

How about posting a list of what you have that brings up this question.  Among the Greenburg O and Standard gauge books that I have, I can probably help with many of them.  I also have most catalogs from 1923 to 1941.    shouldn't be difficult to identify most within a range of 2-3 years.  I've done a lot of that kind of research on items that I've acquired that were made  between 1915 and 1941.

But how many items do you have ?  If this is a serious project, you might want to  buy  some of the Greenberg books.

I have all kinds of catalogs that give dates but more like from 1931-37. I wanted to know if there was a specific date put inside each car.

A very definite no to that question.

A date of manufacturer would not be very meaningful as many leftover parts from prior years were used.  For example, I have a 152 that I am restoring.  Looking in the Greenberg new O gauge book, I see that the coupler mounting style was last used in 1917.  The motor type was first used in 1918.  Most likely that was made in 1918 using a frame left over from 1917.

From all the responses Lionel did not put a manufacturing date anywhere on a lot of cars. I know that a majority of cars have the date stamped on the shell as to when it was built. I was looking for more specific information on the engines than boxcars and the like. One in particular is a 152 prewar engine. I think it was first produced around 1915 and was one of the first O gauge engines Lionel made. Correct me if I am wrong.

Nick:  You can look at this weeks post of "Front End Friday" from 8/5/21 to see my 152.  The 152 was made between 1917 and 1927.  One of the easiest ways to quickly date more closely is to look at the headlight.  There are pedestal (early) and "strap"(1919-27)  variations as to how the headlight is mounted and my strap headlight plus some other features dates the engine from about1923.  You can also look at Greenbergs very detailed text, "Greenbergs Guide to Lionel Trains, O gauge, Volume 1, 1915-1928" .   On page 80, the book contains a dating table devoted to the 152 which should help to better date your engine.  I would repeat the comment others have made, these early engines used parts from various years if they happened to be in  left over inventory so look for several "markers" to date your engine.

Don

I know that a majority of cars have the date stamped on the shell as to when it was built. ... Correct me if I am wrong.

Lionel, especially in the postwar period, did have markings on their cars such as these:

However, these do not accurately reflect the "date of manufacture" as you put it. There is a strong, but inexact and inconsistent correlation between these dates and the introduction of a mold or design. This carried into the MPC era, but most correlation has weaned since then.

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@bmoran4 posted:

Lionel, especially in the postwar period, did have markings on their cars such as these:

However, these do not accurately reflect the "date of manufacture" as you put it. There is a strong, but inexact and inconsistent correlation between these dates and the introduction of a mold or design. This carried into the MPC era, but most correlation has weaned since then.

Those dates were to replicate the prototype practice of having the built date among the stenciled data on the side of the car.  It was not intended to tell you what year the model was made.

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