model train set on track

Boxcar Bonanza

e*Train Issue: Oct 2003   |   Posted in: ,

By Mike Stella

It’s hard to believe that I started collecting Lionel boxcars over 30 years ago. Unlike many of today’s collectors that only concentrate on the original postwar classic 6464 series; I started with the MPC Modern Era 9200 series.

The 1970 Lionel catalog introduced us to seven new boxcars and proudly proclaimed the Famous Name Collector Series by popular demand. Seven addition 9200s were shown in the 1971 catalog and one uncataloged 9200 series also was produced.

By 1972 the series had changed to the 9700 cars and eight boxcars (plus one cattle car also numbered in the series) appeared in the catalog and two more were included in the 1972 SSS set. Lionel in 1972 was rapidly growing, introducing new products, and finding ways to reduce costs. Variations galore were created for the boxcar collector and today I want to share a series of FIVE different #9705 D&RGW boxcars.

Cost cutting production changes at Lionel created the 9700 series boxcars where the bottom door guide was eliminated. The die maker failed to change the end number plate, however, so many of the early 9700 boxcars can be found with a 9200 endplate as well as the correct 9700 endplate. A very few 9700 boxcars were produced on original 9200 shells with double metal doorguides and these tend to be very collectable and very pricey.

The 1970s was a time for rapid expansion of toy train clubs and their chapters or divisions. Many groups used a regular production Lionel boxcar and added overstamps or special decals to promote a special event, the holidays, or their chapter.

Trying to collect every modified boxcar can be a challenge. Finally, in the early years of MPC production, current years’ decorations and car number were used on the following years new body color for catalog pictures and preproduction critiques. This has created some very rare color samples in very limited quantities.

The D&RGW #9705 boxcar from 1972 is a car that exhibits many of the changing features of early MPC production. The accompanying photo shows five different 9705s in my collection.

(LowerLeft) The regular 9705 with 9700 endplate.

(LowerRight) The 9705 with 9200 endplate.

(UpperLeft) The 9705 with Double Metal Doorguides.

(UpperRight) TCA Sacramento Sierra Chapter decaled 9705.

(Middle) The 9705 on a Silver shell that became the 9714 in 1973.

A letter from Lionel dated 9/20/1973 explains this car was a door prize given at the 1973 TCA National Convention. These five boxcars show why it can be fun and very challenging to collect Modern Era boxcars.

’til next time…