A Collector’s Personalized Look at the Lionel ALCO 1500hp F Series…with a special Thank You to eBay!
By Mike Stella
A number of years ago I made the decision to “complete” my Lionel postwar collection. At that time I attended up to six local train meets per month searching for a wide variety of items to “fill the holes.” I added GG1’s, GP’s, accessories, rolling stock, and whatever I was “missing” in my effort to reach my goal.
I like to compare my collecting philosophy to that of a favorite uncle of mine that collects stamps. He shares his knowledge and collection while flipping the pages of many albums that not only display the stamps he has but also shows pictures of those yet to be found. The stamp album is not complete until every page is completely filled. Likewise, my collection will not be complete until I have acquired every number, every major variation, and every piece that Lionel ever made.
I may never reach my goal but I will get very very close. Quite an accomplishment for any collector, especially one that has NEVER ATTENDED YORK, nor has any immediate plans to do so.
While major Lionel pieces like F3s, GGIs, and 6464s seem to be readily available, it is the smaller, often less attractive, bottom of the ladder (end of the train?) pieces like the Alcos that become the most difficult units to locate. Enter eBay!
I believe that today any newcomer to Lionel collecting can (with a huge wallet and unlimited funds) amass a “complete” collection of Lionel within a year or less simply by using eBay! I was introduced to eBay about five years ago and in that time have sold two large collections for friends while adding numerous “hole filling” pieces to my own collection. My very first eBay purchase was an Alco. My most recent purchase five years later was also an Alco.
As I share my “complete” collection of Lionel Alco FAs (and FBs!), I will point out those which were added thanks to some last minute bidding on eBay. Some GREAT buys!!
A “Born Again” Lionel collector since 1969, I’ve always had a soft spot for Lionel FAs. The first diesels I acquired were a silver and gray set of 2023s just like I remember were under our Christmas tree in 1951! I quickly added the 2032s; 2031s; and a yellow pair of 2023s that came with the matching yellow passenger cars. These first Alcos made by Lionel are engineering marvels and possibly the finest single motored locomotives ever manufactured.
The first few pictures I took for this article show some of the early Alcos I have in my collection. The 1950 yellow 2023, universally known as “The Anniversary Set”, came at least five different ways, probably more! My first set that came with the cars had the more common “yellow nose” on black shell and black trucks. Also quite common and easy to acquire are the “yellow nose” on yellow shell with black trucks. I was sorting through a large collection I had purchased with a friend to resell and make the “Big Bucks” when I spotted the “yellow nose” on GRAY trucks. This is a variation that came about as Lionel was using up the early frames and trucks with the later “yellow nose” shells. Hard to find, I decided to keep these for myself! It took many years for me to locate and purchase the much sought after “Gray Nose/Gray Trucks” variation at an affordable price. I was “lucky” about 15 years ago.
Finally, (with much appreciation to eBay) I recently was very surprised to win a “Split Pair” of yellow 2023s, one Gray nose, one yellow nose, which is also a legitimate variation for these Alcos. My winning bid turned out to be less then 1/3 of what I was prepared to pay. Thank all of you for this terrific buy. It was after this surprise that I decided to write this article and share My Alcos with all of you.
Over the years as the collection kept growing, attention was paid to specific areas like accessories, and most efforts were concentrated on completing whatever area was then in focus. I turned down great buys on diesels if I was looking for steam locomotives. Reflecting back, one tends to kick oneself in the rear quite a few times.
I never appreciated the Lionel 200 series Alcos starting in 1957 because they weren’t as good as the earlier models. I couldn’t begin to tell you which numbers I first decided to keep. I think it might have been the #210 and #211 Texas Specials.
Being a sailor stationed on a Destroyer, I did latch onto a #224 complete Navy set very early on. Nothing really caught my eye except the #204 Santa Fe AAs, mainly because of the great looking and correct color scheme.
In my first 20 years of collecting Lionel, I might have accumulated 10 or so sets of these cheaper Alcos. I did manage, however, to acquire about 250 steam locomotives!
As the years flew by, I knew it was time to pay more attention to items I needed to “fill the holes” rather then more Berkshires, Hudsons, and Turbines. I started to hunt for the Alcos I was missing and most of them turned up. Of course eBay came through a few more times. The #226 AB and #2024 AA are two that were purchased over the net along with variations of the #2041. It can be frustrating at times trying to buy a pair of units on eBay when the seller has split them up selling one unit at a time. But then again, that is how I was able to upgrade a few pieces when only one half a pair was needed.
I took fourteen pictures of my Alcos to share with you. Towards the end is a picture of a pair of new KMT units in the MKT paint scheme. These were obtained many years ago for a whopping $15 with boxes. I keep them to compare how close they look to those produced by Lionel. I don’t recall ever hearing about any lawsuits filed by Lionel over these copies. How times have changed. I now consider my Alco collection complete. A few HTF variations are still out there and you never know. I’ll keep watching eBay.