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Hi Arnold,

I have a 1954 Lionel catalog, so I looked up your set. It's #1519WS ("The Green Ball Express") on pages 12-13.

I recently inherited my late father's entire collection. As I opened box after box, I recognized some of the pieces as being those that I enjoyed as a young child. I hadn't seen them in more than 50 years. Thank you for starting this thread. It's nice to see how many other folks have kept/reconnected with their first set.


Thanks so much, Bill, for that information about my first set. I just checked it out.  So much was included in it: track, switches, remote control track section, smoke pellets, etc., in addition to the locomotive, tender and 5 cars.  Also, I never knew that it was known as the Greenball Express, which I think is a neat name.

Our first sets had as huge impact on us, kind of like a first love. For many of us, our first train set was, indeed, our first love, before that first girl we fell in love with. Arnold

My first set- for 3 days- at xmas in 1957 was a 621 set actually made in 56. It then quit running from what I later realized was an E-unit issue. It was a small town so no one could fix it. They had one other set , a 202 from 57 which I traded. It was not as nice but they included track and a couple of extra items. The 202 ran forever and later I added a Penn box car, The Wabash operating box car, a coal car, and the helicopter car. We were off and running.

Christmas 1957 - Santa brought this set along with a 6315 Gulf chemical car ( he knew I liked tank cars ) and a 41 Army switcher for some extra fun - could never figure out the 41 Army switcher - I didn’t ask for it and my father was in the Navy during the war - so why not a 51 Navy switcher ??? - oh well not complaining 😊 - Thanks Mom and Dad 👍🏼7C96129B-34FA-4C3D-8CED-DE2D639535D1


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Last edited by dorfj2

So I did some digging through the LCCA on-line archive of Lionel Catalogs and found my first set in the 1962 catalog!!! Santa definitely delivered a complete Super “O” set - a No. 13008 Super “O” 6-unit “Champion” Steam Freight $49.95. It came with an oval of Super “O” track (I still have most of that too). And in a show of true advertising flair, the catalog describes the flat car with boat as a “New Solid Fuel Jet Motorboat Car”!!! The one difference between the catalog and my set is my work caboose is Santa Fe, and the catalog shows the DL&W version.

These are not great photos. Took them yesterday; thought that they were better, and I put everything back on the shelf. Not going to do it again, so here they are, good or bad.

Christmas morning, 1955. I was 7. I had a complete 4X8 027 layout, switches and all, awaiting me in the dining room. I opened the set, box after box, next to the tree in the living room. Of course the boxes were burned (remember that?) in the trash later....

My "set" was apparently one that the department store made up or expanded for my father; I have never seen it in a catalogue, and it had 2 hoppers - open LV and N&W covered. I never asked him as I never thought about it until decades later. He had bought extra track, 4 switches, some uncoupling sections. Lower left, first photo below - you can see one of these installed on my current layout. They can live with GG track.


Looks like real freight cars looked then - not "colorful" (that never worked for me).


Best-looking PW tender that Lionel made. I think that it had an Erie switcher prototype. Not sure.


2055. The rollers are nicely grooved.


To seven-year-old eyes, at layout level, this looked absolutely real. The 2055-type ATSF 4-6-4 (and that tender) were the best PW tooling that Lionel had. Almost modern-sharp and precise. Neither was descended from Pre-War pieces. Look at the detail on that trailing truck - ATSF-correct, BTW.


My 4 later add-ons, foreground. The track cleaner bottles managed to survive, as did my original barrel car barrels. And I used the h**l out of my layout. These photos were taken on an under-renovation area of the layout (note bricks, upper right...trying to flatten a small hump in the lift-our section). The uncoupling section wires will be hidden again.



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Very nice trains, layout and photos, D500. I agree with you that they look very realistic. I think that's because of the scenery, backdrop and camera angles, among other things. Your photos of your 2055 might be the best I have ever seen of that locomotive.

I had the 2065 Hudson (which is identical to the 2055 except for the number), and now have my original 2065 from 1954, and a few months ago purchased another one in better condition from my LHS. Arnold

Last edited by Arnold D. Cribari
@atlpete posted:

At age 7,  I would've gone into shock if my parents had ponied up for this.

And, as I mentioned, there was also a complete layout to go with it. 4 switches, for 1 passing siding and 2 spurs. My father - not a modeler, but a builder by nature - scratch built, using 1/4" plywood and real glass, some buildings, including a reasonable evocation of our house. As I still have them, maybe I should photograph them.... My layout had a stool that he built with storage underneath (oil can, instructions, track pins, smoke pellets, etc.), and a nice control panel, including an on/off switch. I didn't have to set anything up/take anything down. 1033 transformer. Except for the actual layout table I still have all of this. There was even some brief 8mm footage of me running it at about age 11 - 12. Wonder where that is?

Yes, I was a very lucky boy. "Solid working-middle class" family, as they used to say, and raised an only child (I highly recommend that). The other Christmas that was even better, probably, was 1960, when I was 12 and got a go-kart. So did a couple of friends. We raced all Xmas day long through the neighborhood streets (city go-kart ordinances were passed later, darn it). As this all took place in Mobile, in the Deep South, there was never a "white Christmas", so no snow to get in our way.

Uh-oh - rambling on. Got to go take some photos of those scratch built buildings.

I was born in the mid '90's, and I didn't get anything truly electric until I was 7, so of course growing up in the 2000's, I was a frequent user of the wooden Thomas trains (along with those battery-powered Lionel locomotives). If I'm correct, I think my first set is this remote-controlled one right here:

Sesame Street remote control train set - YouTube

I remember having this when I was a toddler, and I remember the orange track and those barrels. I think I also remember the locomotive looking like this too. And now that I am thinking about it, I'm kind of shocked at how many trains I've acquired and went through up until now. Whether they ran on electricity, batteries or you push them around, I've had a whole bunch of stuff, lol.

The first piece of 3-rail O scale I acquired was a bunch of O27 track (surprise, surprise ), and the first car I got was the black 6460 Bucyrus Crane:


The first time I handled it, I felt like I was lifting a brick because of the diecast frame, lol. It was given to me from a friend of my mom's, whose father had passed away, and I got this piece first before they found the rest of the trains and gave them to me. It's because of that lot of trains that I got into O scale in the first place.

Got this Tyco F9 set for my 9th birthday. Stayed up half the night watching it go around that circle. Mostly a shelf queen these days, but it still gets out to burn off the dust on my HO loop every now and again. It also helped a kid from Oklahoma develop a weird fascination with the Penn Central…




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My first train sets were wooden trains, which I still have, and I occasionally play with. The layouts I used to build filled my bedroom floor (and occasionally my living room floor). My first electric trains were HO trains from Life Like and Bachman. I still have them, but they are pretty old and don't run well. From watching TM Books and Video I Love Toy Trains videos and layout videos (so many memories) as well as visiting a few museums, I decided that I wanted a Lionel train set. The sounds are amazing and the trains have other great features. I got the Lionel ATSF Flyer set for Christmas in 2004 (16 years ago). I still have the set, which I expanded into a shelf layout around my room. I recently (last fall and over the summer this year) switched out the CW80 Transformer (which I kept for a planned layout expansion) for a Legacy Powermaster, 180W Powerhouse, and Legacy #990 Command Set to run the train. I also have a couple of Legacy locomotives (a BNSF GP35 and an ATSF B40-8W) and more rolling stock. Eventually, I'd like to build a larger, more extensive layout. I will still run my old ATSF 4-4-2 #8642 on my larger layout.

Last edited by Dylan the Train Man

Arnold, a couple of Forum members subtly reminded me I inadvertently hijacked a topic you originated.  I had the idea for “first train” in my head, but hesitated to post it because it seemed like I’d seen it before.  Then I had a “senior moment” and decided to post a picture of my train a second time.

Sorry!  Some good came of it, because Forum members shared a lot of additional photos and memories of their first trains.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!


Here's a current picture of my original #2018 engine and the cars that the set included.  It now resides on a siding as seen in the picture.

We think it was ordered from the Montgomery Ward catalogue in the mid fifties, and for many years, ran on an oval on top of our ping pong table in the Wynnefield section of West Philadelphia. Who can ever forget the unique smells of smoke pellets and short circuits?16103966537117282491945055743498


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Hello, I have no idea what my "first" train looked like because although my father told my mother that it was for me, it actually was for him and it was a few years before I was old enough to play with it. His father did not believe in toys for kids, my father wanted one so when I came along he had the excuse to buy one. He built a rudimentary layout down cellar and I was allowed to help him when I gained some skills. When he died at age 60, my wife suggested that I save some keepsakes so I kept the Lionel 675 2-6-2 locomotive and some freight cars that he had built from kits. Most of the remainder, I sold and gave my mother a check for $3500 to help her pay her bills.

My first train was this..


Do you know anything about those plastic train cars?  My Grandma had some of those at her house for when my brother and I came to visit.  I don't remember the track at all, but the trains themselves survived and got mixed in with our Playskool Skaneateles set.  My toddlers are now the third set of kids to play with them.  I've always wondered where the plastic trains came from or what brand they were.

My first train set was the Lionel Black River Freight at some point in the mid-'70s.  My parents sold it at a garage sale when we moved from Hampshire, Illinois to Las Vegas, Nevada in 1980.  The replacement Bachmann HO set was not nearly as fun - though my Black River Freight was nowhere near as cool as my dad's Postwar stuff.  

My first modern train set when I got back into the hobby in 2013 was an MTH 30-4225-1 Union Pacific SD70Ace freight set.  When the guy at the train store showed the command control stuff with no forward/neutral/reverse my mind was blown.  

Do you know anything about those plastic train cars?  My Grandma had some of those at her house for when my brother and I came to visit.  I don't remember the track at all, but the trains themselves survived and got mixed in with our Playskool Skaneateles set.  My toddlers are now the third set of kids to play with them.  I've always wondered where the plastic trains came from or what brand they were.

Child Guidance.  They also made an excellent construction set a la Plasticville, called "Guidance Town".


Just like many of you My first train was received for my first Christmas in 1958 when I was just six months old. Today I couldn’t tell you if it was a present from my parents or Santa, I just don’t remember. I was one of the lucky kids who received the 2291W Rio Grande Five Car Diesel Freight Set. What a beautiful looking engine! And what about the three operating cars (animated gondola, operating barrel and generator car with power pole) included in the outfit with all this action. What more could a child or adult want! This consist has logged many reliable hours and miles on it’s Super O track. And yes, that Super O track looked so realistic. A KW transformer was used to power it all. I still cherish these beauties and enjoy watching these roll down the tracks on my Super O layout.




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I have always had Thomas stuff and HO, but my first Lionel came in 2010, not long after my parents got a divorce. My grandpa bought a box of old trains at a church yard sale, and being the joker he is just had to bring me to the place he got it and pretend like someone bought it before him, and then told me at the car. When we got back we started to go through it. Inside was a lionel 230 diesel as well as a minute man car, a satellite car, a 6812 maintenance car, a box car, and a caboose, as well as a lot of track. Then, after removing the track I notice the box had a false bottom, and inside that was a marx steamer (no tender) and some more track and a transformer. Still have them all (I've kept all my trains and toys) and while most of the stock still needs repairs (the satellite car and maintenance car came damage, as did the minute man car but it has since been repaired) the engine runs perfect and is still the pride of my fleet, even if she's not the strongest engine or the most complicated.

My dad bought a Lionel 221 freight set, with the “Big Inch” die cast flat with pipes, just before I was born in February, 1947. He also bought a 2035 freight set. By the time I was five, we had about a 5x9 layout in the basement, with a passing siding. It had the oil Derrick, cattle car and ramp, milk car and stand, coal elevator, remote control magnetic crane, block signals, crossing gates, and the giant gateman. The trains were run with a 1033 transformer, but he had another, larger transformer for lights and accessories. Fortunately he filmed me running the trains in 8mm, which I’ve converted to vhs, so it’s not all my memory. Most of my current layout is similar, but without the cattle car and coal elevator. I sometimes think about acquiring a 221 and a 2035, just for nostalgic reasons. I still love this hobby!

I've seen some members here recreate their first train set, and now that I have grandchildren I thought it would be fun to do that and then introduce them to it. So here is the train set that I assembled from Ebay searches, including a 1956 catalog where the set was featured on the first page, as well as a picture of me and my dad with the set.



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I still have my first set, a Lionel prewar 1087W set (cataloged from 1938-1941) that my paternal grandfather bought new to put around his Christmas tree.  For Christmas in 1974, he gave the set to me to put around the Christmas tree in our new home (along with his collection of Plasticville buildings and accessories, but they were for the whole family and not just me -- my brother has them now).  Let me tell you, I was one happy 6-year-old.   My father then taught me how to run it responsibly (no intentional crashes), and safety in dealing with electricity and the track (important in the days of real aluminum tinsel).  In the following years, my father bought 4 new MPC-era sets (three for the family and a General set for my brother) and they eventually replaced my 1087W set as the annual Christmas tree trains.  Still, I consider that set to be the greatest Christmas present I ever received, and it now occupies a place of honor on my bedroom dresser, which also happens to have been my paternal grandfather's bedroom.  Some day, I might just have to run it again...  Maybe next year for the 50th anniversary of it being gifted to me.




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Last edited by Andy Hummell

My first train set was a 1949 Christmas present for my brother and me.  My Mother took us to Madison Hardware in Manhattan and carried the train set, in the subway, back to our apartment in Brooklyn.  The set was a Lionel 224 steam engine with a few freight cars, a Milk Car, an operating becon, a transfprmer, and some track. 

Mom Me TrainsPeter Me Trains


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