model train set on track

It Ain’t Easy Being Green!

e*Train Issue: Jan 2019   |   Posted in:

By Robert Stekl, TCA 70-3088 Winter 2019 

A Lionel Green Comet car, you ask?  Well, not quite!  Just a Stephen Girard car with the wrong nameplate, you ask?  Again, not quite!  This is a Stephen Girard lookalike car made from two Blue Comet Westphal cars.  The real question is, is it homemade or factory made? 

First a little history:  The car was originally purchased at a Midwest Division Train Collectors Association (TCA) meet back in the 1970’s by a friend of mine.  He sold it to me about 30 years ago and it is pretty much untouched since I got it.  This was before the MTH and other reproductions started.  Lionel introduced the Blue Comet cars in 1930 and introduced the Stephen Girard cards in 1931 so the Blue Comet bodies would have been available before the Stephen Girard cars were introduced.

In the Spring 1977, Vol 23. No.2, Train Collectors Quarterly, Dr. Gerald Wagner (with photos by Ward Kimball) wrote the article “Lionel Factory Prototype Blue Comet Set.”  In the article, the author describes the Blue Comet set cars as being “professionally constructed using parts from a least three State cars and nine 309-310-312 series cars” and “the roofs are made from two 309 roofs professionally joined at the center.”  The descriptions in this article are very similar to the physical attributes of my car and illustrate how Lionel made their prototypes.

The vertical section with rivets is soldered (or welded) into place and the vestibule ends were tabbed into place using the available slots. 
The name plate was moved over about an inch and a half to center it on the shortened car.  The indentation for the name plate under the second window was filled in with solder. 
The plate which should have contained the car number is blank and has no signs of anything ever being on it. 
The indentation for the Lionel Lines plate was made by cutting a hole in the car side and soldering a peace of metal with tab slots inside over the hole.
The light bracket has been centered in the car and the roof hold down brackets have also been moved to match the roof.
The roof is joined in the center, either welded or soldered together. 
The body of my car was shortened by cutting the lavatory end of the car off two left sides (looking at the rear of the car). 

The floor is also shortened and joined in the center.  The fishbelly has also been shortened and joined in the center.  Only one airtank is used.  The interior has no seats.  The car has no steps and doesn’t appear to have ever had any.  The car has cream window inserts with blue clerestory material. 

The paint on the car appears to be old and matches Lionel’s Stephen Girard green.  If it is a repaint is was done long ago and the car has seen much use since the paint was applied.  The car has been played with and shows numerous nicks and scratches and the interior is quite dirty.    The trucks were once rusty and have been repainted.  Overall a unique piece. 

I have always wondered whether the car was homemade or a factory prototype, but I don’t have the expertise to determine the provenance.  I leave that up to you, so please let me know.