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Pre-War Lionel Restoration

About three years ago, I was given a used and bashed up pre-war Lionel flat car. Saved from the trash, it had seen better days, which led me to think; why not give it a new lease on life?

That pre-war Lionel car was manufactured as part of a large size “O” scale freight series. After a quick web search, I realised that there is a huge following for those pre-war Lionels, with a very active business side. I was hooked, and for the last three years I have found and bought some old ones and made a hobby to restore them to their past glory.

This page is simply a place to share my love of these old trains.

Lionel Pre-war Pullman 605

This car was part of Lionel "O" scale line. At 10 1/4 inches long, it features six three-part windows, two lavatory windows and two operating doors on each side.

It was produced in various body colors: red, olive green, orange and gray, with various colour trims. Four types of lettering could be found: Lionel Lines, The Lionel Lines, Illinois Central and NYC.

This car is version G in the Greenburg book of Lionel, with a red body, ivory trim, copper journals and the Lionel Lines name.

These four pictures show the car as I got it. Lots of scratches, the ivory colour has faded and it has surface rust on the trucks.

The Restoration

First I tackled the trucks. Following a trip in the sandblaster, they were primed, followed by a coat of gloss black. For that color, I used professional grade Tremclad in a spray can. The copper axle covers were polished, and I used a bench grinder with a wirebrush wheel to clean the wheelsets. To clean the axles, I borrowed from a video on restoring a Matchbox car, I put the axle in an electric drill and ran it squeezing the axle in sandpaper, does the trick in 1 min.

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Next, was the window insert, body and roof. After cleaning, sandblasting and priming, the window inserts were painted ivory. For restoring this Lionel, I used paint from Henning's Trains in PA, USA. They have a line of authentic pre-war lionel colors called Collector's Paint. The body is painted in Roof Red.

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Clear acetate strips were used to make the windows. Replacement blue green semi-transparent material, also from Hennings, was used for the upper sash and lavatory windows. I glued them with Testors window making glue, which dries clear and doesn't show if some leaks happen around the frames. Lionel used to hold these with little tab cuts in the inserts, but they often break when you bend them back, so it is easier to take them out and glue the acetate instead. From the outside, you will never know.

All Done!

Finally, reassembled, I installed new couplers, replacement decals and a new light bulb bracket.

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