model train set on track

431 Hinged Roof Diner

e*Train Issue: May 2008   |   Posted in:

By Bradley Kaplan

From 1923 until 1930 (when the State Set was released), the 418 series cars were the top of the line passenger cars from Lionel. The 418 series car were cataloged until 1932.

There where 3 main cars in the 418 set: a combo car, a pullman and an observation. The 3 cars where sold in sets powered by either the 402, 402e, 408e or the #9. The cars came with a couple different numbers, different truck variations and different colors. An add on car was also sold for the set. This add on car was the diner. The regular set was very expensive at the time it was sold so not many people bought the add on car.

Some very expensive sets with the 418 series cars had the dining car cataloged with them, but this was rare.

The diner cars where numbered 431. The must common version of the 418 cars is the 418 pullman and they are plentiful as standard gauge cars go.

The 431s are very rare and demand a decent price even in good condition. People will find a beat up 431 and restore it to match their 418 set. For every twenty 418 sets you see you may find one 431 diner car.

Then there is a very rare version of the already rare 431 diner. This rare version has a hinged roof. Normally 418 series cars and the 431 diner come with roofs that are detached by removing 2 thumb screws from their top. Then the owner can look inside and see chairs and inside decorations of the car.

After detaching the roof on a regular 418 series car one would simply lay the roof next to the car. Obviously with the hinged roof version, the roof stays attached to the car and just folds to the side.

I just acquired a 431 diner and became very interested in the design and why Lionel made them

Look really carefully along the body. You can see 4 hinges if you look closely

The hinged roof diner allows the roof to fold off the car like a door on a hinge. Only a few 431 diners have been reporated with this roof design. No other 418 series cars are known to exist this way. The only paint scheme sceen with the hinged roof is the Mojave body with orange window inserts.

Here is a closeup of one of the hinges. It looks like Lionel bought some comercial hinges and soldered them into the car

After discussing this piece with several train collectors I got several possibilites
1) Lionel was testing the roof design with hinges because the State Set cars where going to have hinged roofs.
2) These where salesman’s samples
3) These where dealer display pieces for store dealers to show off in their window
4) Lionel just decided for some reason to put hinges on some diner cars. One person says they saw one in a set box labeled #403 and the box was not marked anything different. (403 was one of the set numbers that the diner was cataloged with.

Here is the inside of the roof showing the hinge from the inside

Reason 1 I do not feel is correct because why would Lionel test the hinged roofs for the State Car designs by selling the cars to the general public. And these cars do not at all resemble the design of the state cars.

Reason 2 is possible but there should be a carrying case for this piece. (though I can imagine that some of them where salesman’s samples)

Reason 3 seems the most obvious choice. The dealer is advertising the one add on car for the set. It looks much nicer in the store windows to have the roof attached to the car rather then sitting next to it.

Here is the inside of the car. Notice the stove on the left. The hinge on the right is the close up you see above
the other 3 hinges (which you can also see) have their solder joints broken. I am not sure yet if I will leave them
the way they are or repair the solder joints.
Notice the rubber stamp indicating the number “431.” There is no special designating for the hinged roof.

Reason 4 seems incorrect because why would Lionel only put hinges on the 431? And why would they go to this added expense. Though dealers would obviously eventually sell off their dealer samples so the fact that someone found one with a set in a box is not that unexpected.