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Hi everyone, trainfam here


for Christmas I received a Lionel mfg era 38 engine painted in black, with red window trim and red trim on the base of the shell. Here’s a photo:


The reason I’m posting is because I’m going to search for the cars to make it a set again. Again it’s a mfg era 38, my guess is it was made from 1916 to 1917 I am not sure if it came with freight or passenger cars ether, so any help would be appreciated.


                                       Thanks, trainfam 


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Hi Trainfam,

I have a passenger set with a #38 loco, “Mfg. Co”, vents in end doors, pedestal headlight... c. 1916-17.

Maroon with gold window trim.

The passenger set was Catalog Outfit #40, and included (2) #35 Pullman coaches, and (1) #36 Observation car. My cars are also maroon, to match the loco.

There was also a cataloged freight set with a #38 loco.  I would have to look up the specific cars.

 I do not know if the black loco suggests that would have belonged with a freight set... I am not aware of 30-series passenger coaches in black.

Your "new" 38 is very nice, by the way!  

Fran McM.

Last edited by Fran McM

Short answer, yes.

David Doyle’s “Standard Catalog of Lionel Trains, 1900-1942”, reproduces a Lionel catalog page from 1917.

It lists the following outfits with a #38 electric locomotive:

“No. 38  ...outfit includes 8 sections of curved track, making a circle 3-1/2 ft. In diameter.  Has electric headlight. Reversing controller and connection for lighting interior of cars. Price $12.00”

”Electric freight train outfit No. 39. Comprises No. 38 locomotive, 1 No. 116 coal car, 1 No. 117 caboose, and 8 sections of curved track making a circle 3-1/2 ft in diameter. Length of train 32 inches.  Price, packed in strong box with full directions for operating..... $13.00”

”Electric Pullman Outfit No. 40.  Comprises No. 38 locomotive, 2 No. 35 Pullman cars, 1 No. 36 Observation car, 8 curved and 4 straight sections of track, making an oval 5ft 9 in long and 3-1/2 ft wide.  Length of train, 4 ft.  Price, packed in strong box... $20.00”

”Electric Freight Oufit #41.  Comprises No. 38 locomotive, and 1 each Nos. 112 Gondola, 113 Cattle Car, 114 Box Car, 116 Coal Car, 117 Caboose. [ track as per # 40 outfit above] ... Length of train 5ft 4 in.  Price, packed in strong box with full directions  for operating... $18.00”


No mention is made of colors in the 1917 catalog page.


Last edited by Fran McM

Also, the 38 features a strap headlight. Not pedestal headlights like yours and most 38’s, I find this strange as it seems as if strap headlights were mainly featured on corporate era 38’s. Unless my 38 is from the tail end of mfg era? But there’s also the chance of my headlamp being replaced (it is much clearer compared to the rest of the finials). And the paint is a little rough around the tabs.... take a look: 




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Thanks for the additional photos!

Do you know anything of the history of this engine?

It seems both the headlight and whistle on your black 38 are brighter / newer than the rest of the nickel trim on the unit.

The strap headlight is supposed to be “later”; most of the 38’s I see on e-Bay and in the train books seem to have the strap headlight.  That said, the strap headlight is secured to the shell by tabs & slots, which would be difficult to add as a field or DIY change.

Also, there should be a binding post and small thumb-nut on the end opposite the headlight, for powering the accessory illuminating kit for passenger coaches.

My understanding is that the brass ID plates in the end-doors replaced the brass vent screens around 1918.  This is also the same time that Lionel revised its name from “The Lionel Manufacturing Company”, to “The Lionel Corporation”.

The “Mfg. Co.” end-plates suggest that your 38 was made right around that transition time.

Also, the handrailings are secured in Y-shaped stanchions, which are the third and last variety used on the 38.

Could you post a picture of your reversing switch, showing any stamped lettering, and also the underside of the motor showing the power pick-up?


PS:  if you amend your subject to include "Lionel 38 engine", you may get some more replies...

Last edited by Fran McM

Thank you for the info Fran. I will leave the name of the post alone so it is easier for you to find the post. Unfortunately, I do not know the history of this engine. It was purchased on eBay, most likely not from the original owner or any family members of the original owner of the 38. So I really don’t know any history of it. I feel as if I have seen one of these engines with the thumb nut before?.... (however it could have possibly been a 38 in a different color, or not even a 38 at all) however know that there is no wire leading to the screw Where the thumb nut is, also there is no wires in the motor that are not connected to something like it was disconnected from the screw. Additionally there are no solder joint, which would seem to indicate a wire being disconnected from the motor. Strange. Anyhow here are the pictures, the first two pictures are of the reverse switch:


And the pickup plate:





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I think your engine has "had some work done" during its life...

Looks like the wiring was replaced... (not uncommon).

According to a wiring diagram I have seen based on a hobbyist's #42 on tinplate times, the wire from the lighting post may have been run from the headlight, or perhaps a dedicated run to the same terminal on the reversing switch.

The sliding shoe pick-up is proper, and the "Manufacturing Co." stamping on the reversing switch agrees with the brass plates on the end-doors.

I think it narrows down to 1917-1918.

The reversing switch should have a threaded nickel pin protruding from the tab: it threads-into the metal & fibre tab, and there is a small nut on the backside to lock it in place.  The outer end protrudes just to the edge of the shell or slightly further.

Do you plan to clean / polish any of the nickel-plated bits ?




Fran McM posted:

Do you plan to clean / polish any of the nickel-plated bits ?




When it comes to cleaning or polishing the nickel plated pieces on the 38, I think I would rather leave this piece alone. It seems to run well enough also, but if it comes down to the dirt on the nickel plated parts risking its mobility I would be willing to clean it. But for now I think I will leave it alone.



OK guys....and you know who I am talking about....make light about our policy of staying on topic and make funnies about "the picture police...etc" it again and you can laugh your way to another forum!  If you don't respect our TOS and policies, then find another place to make fun of us.  If you want to talk about motor cycles and other non-train related topics, then go to those kinds of forum or do so privately via email. 

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