Hey Kids,…what time is it??? Why, it’s how’d he do “dat” time!!!
By Bob Mintz
(Article updated Spring 2021)
“People always need to know what time it is. Now from Lionel, a 17″ by 12″ fully illuminated electric clock to let people know it’s time to buy a Lionel train. Dropped-shipped to your store, pre-paid, in time for the Christmas selling season. All parts, except bulb, are guaranteed for one year from date of purchase. Remember, now is the time to buy Lionel.”
Or so said the copy for the new 1976 #6-1076 fluorescent electric clock from the Fundimensions of General Mills Fun Group, Inc. of Mt. Clemens Michigan.
There have been several licensed signage items in the Lionel LLC era, most notably a 12″ in diameter heavy-duty chrome-plated neon tube clock for the Century Club gift collection marketed by Ace Products Management Group, Inc. Milwaukee, Wisconsin, doing business as Lionel Express®.
Unlike the #6-1076 item for Lionel® dealers only, neon clock #LC98-80007 was available in 1997 to Century Club™ members.
The Lionel® LTI/Richard Kughn era seems to have had a deliberate desire to market their products through the use of clocks and other signage for distribution to their dealers and retailers.
The neon clocks used solid state electronic transformers (the new ZW perhaps?).
Another rather handsome 19 ½ inch in diameter neon clock “CLK-115473”, was discovered at “The Great American Train Store” before they went belly up. I do not know if these were sold to the general public. I bought this one “as is”, literally off the wall during their bankruptcy sale in a store in Roosevelt Field Mall, Long Island, N.Y., formerly the sight where Charles Lindbergh took off from for his historical trip to make the first solo nonstop flight across the Atlantic Ocean on May 20-21, 1927. It was licensed by Lionel and made in America by Great Traditions of Philadelphia in 1992.
Although no markings exist, this one looks very similar to one and almost identical in design to the highly desirable Authorized Lionel® Service Station “Circle-L” clock. Ah, what would our collecting lives be without rare variations?
I contacted Rich Shanfeld Great Traditions and found out the following:
“The Lionel clocks were first sold about 1992 and continued to be sold till about 1997. The clocks were made in 2 sizes (20 inch and 14 inch diameter). There was 1 design for the Lionel face for both size clocks and 2 different designs for the American Flyer version clock. Jim Pauley designed the American Flyer clock. The regular production Lionel clocks had either a white or orange neon tube inside and a glossy black finish to the metal case with an unpainted aluminum backing. The American Flyer clocks had a white or blue neon tube and glossy red metal case with an unpainted aluminum backing. There were about 12 pre-production samples made with different color cases and different color neon tubes which were sold at a York meet. The pre-production samples were made to determine the most popular color combinations and neon.
We painted some with glossy orange, glossy light blue, glossy dark blue, black crinkle finish, blue crinkle finish, glossy red and made up different neon combinations with the different color cases. There was only 2 American Flyer sample clocks made and they were sold the same time as the Lionel clocks. The 14 inch clocks retailed for $229 and the 20 inch clocks were $299. There was a Lionel neon store sign made which had Lionel trains with the Lionel “L” logo in a circle. All in neon held onto a plexiglas sheet with the transformer for the neon bolted to the bottom to make the sign self standing or it could be hung if desired. The prototype for the Lionel sign was made on a wire frame while the production pieces were made on the plexiglass. The Lionel sign retailed for $399.
The Lionel service station clock was made available through Lionel to their service stations only and was not allowed to be sold any other way. Some service stations bought 2 clocks and sold one. The service station clocks were made in the 20 inch size only with a blue crinkle finish. The reference number you have for the Lionel clock from Great American is probably a number they used for internal purposes. Great traditions out of Pennsylvania was the sole distributor and used the designation “D-” followed by the appropriate number to designate the Lionel 14 inch or 20 inch clock, the AF 14 inch or 20 inch and whether it was the shield or regular AF clock. The sign had it’s own designation as well. The records are not available at this time so I cannot tell you the numbers but they were only on the outer brown shipping boxes or the wooden frames that were used for the Lionel sign. Lionel had it’s own designation for the service station clock. There were approximately 500 service station clocks made, 500 20 inch Lionel clocks, 500 Lionel 14 inch clocks, 100 AF 20 inch clocks and 75 AF 14 inch clocks with an equal amount of the 2 designs made. About 75 of the neon signs were made. Hope this helps. Rich Shanfeld.”
While not as classy or large as the previous two, another clock item would be 18″ in diamater 9-65950 Circle-L Neon Clock
The signs were produced by TecArt Industries, Inc. Farmington Hills, Michigan and were made of lightweight nylon and used operating fluorescent lamps, had a rounded corner in either a portrait or landscape orientation, and a hinged frame design that allowed for easy replacement of the face panels or bulbs with no tools required.
There were five TecArt signs that I have found, but I am sure that there may be others. They are Fluorescent Sign, 9-65947 3 children and man 18″ x 18″ , and 9-65930 Fluorescent Sign, 4 children 13″ x 24″
Although originally offered only to dealers, an interesting assortment to collect for that Lionel® Service Station you always wanted to own and operate.
Now only if I could get that darn Madison Hardware sign to stay on my wall!