An Artful Regret
by Dennis Leon Clad
In my almost 20 years of collecting modern era Lionel, I’ve never regretted a purchase from my Lionel dealer, how could I? Barry’s the best! When the only way to add to my Lionel family was by means of trading, my remorse came in the form of loss of a loved one. I soon gave this practice up when I discovered an old adage of my father’s was true: “When you give up something it costs you twice to get it back”.
I think my biggest regret in our hobby would come under the title of “Lionel trains I wish I had bought”. Keeping in mind and being ever fearful that the strain on my old ticker would be too much to list all my missed ownership’s on paper, I’ll throw all care to the wind and share with you the Lionel train that would rank at the top of my list of lost train loves.
At the time my reasons seemed sound for not making a yearly donation to Artrain USA and receiving for my gratuity a special edition Lionel car. I’m too embarrassed to share those reasons with you so instead I’ll put this space to better use by telling you a little history of America’s only art museum on rails “Artrain USA”.
I promise it will be less painful then a flu shot and over just as quickly. The inspiration for the “Artrain USA”is owed to the former first lady of Michigan, Mrs. Helen Milliken.
Since it’s founding in 1971 by the Michigan Council for the Arts, more than two million visitors in forty four states, not to mention our nation’s capital, have had the life enriching experience that “Artrain USA” delivers. The real Artrain consists of three gallery cars, a studio car and a caboose. The locomotive power and crew needed to bring the joy of Artrain to big & small town America has been generously donated by the Norfolk Southern, Burlington Northern, CSX Transportation, the Union Pacific and Santa Fe railroads. Now that we have the adult balderdash over with lets talk about the fun stuff the Lionel toys of “Artrain USA”.
To find any available facts on the first Artrain car called for much digging deep into the files of both Kughn Enterprises and the Artain itself. Still, with a backhoe bucket full of effort I was unable to unearth the two most important facts about 6-9486 the “I love Michigan” Artrain offering for collectors in 1989.
I do fear the number made with the 150th Michigan anniversary notion and the reason for this logo and not an Artrain banner will be another of Lionel’s history mysteries. I did discover one very important fact about this first Artrain Lionel toy, that being a very generous Mr.Kughn donated the cars to Artrain.
1990 would bring us another Artrain toy in the form of a single dome tanker 6-17885 is an O gauge lovers delight with full Artrain logos. Sadly, once again the number made is also lost to history.
It wasn’t only boxcar lovers who took a shine to the Artrain offer for 1991. With only 555 made and carrying the Grand Trunk road name 6-17891 was an overnight run away freight. This dressed up 9700 series freight protector with full rivet detail is a must own for three collector groups.
1992 would bring the only Standard “O”car to the Artrain freight mover. Just 375 Norfolk Southern trailer on a flat car (TOFC) were to be made. 6-52013 would be a must own for both Artrain collectors and owners of the oh so classy Norfolk Southern Standard “O” train set. This fact alone has caused our toy to continuously pack a punch in the $500.00 weight class for nine years.
1993 would bring another offering that would catch the eye of three Lionel collector groups.6-52024 the Conrail covered auto carrier is a must have that to complete my train for owners of not only our Artrain but the very lucky holders of the Conrail Standard”O” and Conrail Service Station sets. With only 500 toys made the track signals ahead are flashing disappointment for many Lionel lovers.
1994 brought bring two surprises for us Artrain fans, the first being the return of an old friend 6-17885 dressed up to excite Lionel collectors with an autograph of Mr.Kughn hand signed and dated 1994. If you’re like me and collected the Lionel employee cars and the 1994 Toy Train Operating Society (TTOS) Ford tanker with Mr.Kughn’s signature, this Artrain toy is also a must have to complete our series.
Our second treat for 1994 would be 6-52049 a covered gondola which proudly carries the Burlington Northern banner and colors. Only 500 cars would be made.
1995 would reveal another outstanding Artrain Lionel car, this time in the form of a breath taking Chessie Systems toy. 6-52097 is a 9800 series plug door reefer that carries Artrain’s silver anniversary notation. If you pick just one Artrain car to add to your collection, please give this stunning reefer first consideration.
Chrysler set owners, get ready to add 6-19425 the CSX Transportion TOFC for 1996 to your must own list of set add-ons. Only 800 CSX flat cars carrying a 40 foot dry goods trailer with not only an highly colorful and imaginative Artrain logo but a Chrysler Corporation notation and Corporate logo. Now trust me on this one, as this Lionel TOFC is not only a home run at the TOFC World Series but is a sure bet to have the visitors to your Lionelville pike asking were could I get one of my very own.
When I look over my roster of Lionel bunk cars I must confess that this highly detailed toy is so poorly represented in my Lionelville that it brings tears to my eyes. I can tell you this that the next example of this attractive Lionel toy that I’ll add to my roster will be 6-52140 the Union Pacific bunk car. Only 800 of this Artrain toy for 1997 were made.
1998 would introduce 6-52165 the Southern Pacific caboose to our Artrain. Attention fellow caboose collectors: With only 1000 made don’t fail to add this little charmer to your Lionel collection.
1999 would bring a close to the first Lionel Artrain freight mover and, wow, what better way to end this highly successful promotion then with a true Lionel classic.6-52197 is the SKU number assigned to one of the most beautiful GP-9s that I’ve ever had the pleasure to see and hold. This honest and faithful workhorse of the three rail track is all decked out in Santa Fe blue and yellow livery. Get ready to hold on tight to your rocking chair, gentle reader, as only 200 of these Lionel master pieces were made to carry the Artrain standard.
The best place to start your search for any of the Artrain Lionel toys is with a visit to the Artrain web site: www.artrain.com or call them at 1-800-ART-1971.