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    After picking up a 150 engine and several passenger cars for it, I have started to look at the freight cars that also ran with the 150 engine.  I have seen the 901 caboose and 800 box car that have the matching couplers.  On the bay I saw a 804 tank car that has the simple drop in type couplers without the journal boxes, but when I look at the photos from O'Brien's book that all seem to have the latch style coupler.  The openings on the frame appear the same.  So my question is, did Lionel use the simpler style couples in the 1920's and then switch over to the latch style in the 1930's?


   Thank you,


          Kevin Coyle

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Louis Caruso filed a patent, assigned to Lionel, for an automatic coupler on May 22,1923. The patent #1608300 was granted on Nov. 23, 1926. Lionel was trying to compete with the Ives patented automatic couplers of that period.


The latch couplers were made compatible with the hook couplers by the addition slotted extension welded to the shank of the latch coupler. These combo couplers were used on locomotives up to about 1926.


Ron M

Kevin, there were two versions of the Lionel 5-3/4" enameled 4-wheel freight.  


The first or "early series" was the 800 box, 801 caboose, 802 livestock, 803 hopper, 804 tank, and 901 gondola. They all had rubber-stamped lettering, the hook couplers, and no journals.


The second or "late series" was the 803 hopper and 804 tank, 805 box, 806 livestock, 807 caboose, 809 side dump car, and 902 gondola.  These cars had brass plates instead of the rubber stamping.  They also had extra brass trim, they had the newer Lionel latch couplers, and brass journal covers.


I don't have my books with me so I'm not sure of the exact date Lionel stopped making the earlier version and started making the late series.


This is what makes collecting fun.  You start noticing differences in the details, and then you learn that the differences are not arbitrary.  There are two different sets of these early 4-wheel freights to collect; it can be a little difficult to locate all of them, but a fun hunt!


As Pappy suggests, pick up a copy of Greenberg's guide to prewar Lionel O Gauge, it is the authoritative guide.  Train collecting without Greenberg guides is like going to another country without your travel guide book; you'll miss a lot!





Last edited by Former Member

I have the Greenberg's Pocket price guide and it don't tell you what kind of couplers are on what.

What you are probably looking for is the Greenberg's Parts or repair guide for Lionel and these cost more then the price guide.


If you can find it Doyle's price guide is much better then Greenberg's guide. Doyles has photos and Greenberg's just gives a description.


I have some 1939 to 41 Lionel freight and passenger cars and they have the box & pin coupler with electric solenoid and can be used with the UCS uncoupling track.

From what I have found out about Lionel pre war numbers for freight and passenger cars; the 3 digit numbers are regular couplers, and the four digit are electric solenoid equipped.


Lee Fritz


I do not want to create any problems or cause confusion. As mentioned earlier, look for, "Greenberg's Guide to Lionel Trains 1901-1942 Vol II" Edited by, Christian Rohlfing. You will find photos and complete descriptions of each type and variation. Once you look through this book you will see why it is still in high demand today by collectors. 

God's Blessings,


Last edited by Prewar Pappy

Depending on the series, engine and car couplers evolved at different times.  The simple inverted "T" type hook coupler could be found on a variety of O gauge Lionel from 1915-1927....and even later on the cheap lithographed sets.  The combination latch/hook type or the plain latch type came about in 1924.


The 150 was made between 1917 and 1925.  The 1917 version had a cab length of 5 3/4", whereas later 150's were only 5" long.  Anything made in 1917 would also be labeled as Lionel Manufacturing, later labeled Lionel Corporation.


Pappy has it right...the Greenberg guides...not their price guides, are what you need for exact item dating.  Another such publication is from the TCA " Lionel Trains Standard of the World, 1900-1943.



Last edited by brwebster

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