model train set on track

Lionel Repurposing: ♫”Bring in the Clones”♫ – # Radioactive Waste Cars

e*Train Issue: Mar 2022   |   Posted in: ,

By Bob Mintz                      Spring 2022 With additional material by Ed “The Maven” Mazur

Lionel #14605

Repurposing is the use of something for a purpose other than its original intended use. Repurposing an item can be done by modifying it to fit a new use, or by using the item as it is in a new way.

Our last article ended with the following question:

“Speaking of the #6805 AEC Container, shown below in the 1958 set No. 2505W Super “O” Virginian Rectifier Freight, how many variations of this flatcar and load were produced?”

1958 Catalog

While doing research for this article, the first piece of evidence that there was an actual in-ground tunnel used to bury radioactive railcars, the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository came up.  It was a proposed deep geological repository storage facility within Yucca Mountain for spent nuclear fuel and other high-level radioactive waste in the United States.

The site is on federal land adjacent to the Nevada Test Site in Nye County, Nevada, about 80 mi northwest of the Las Vegas Valley.

The Nuclear Waste Policy Act of 1982 created a timetable and procedure for establishing a permanent, underground repository for high-level radioactive waste by the mid-1990s, and provided for some temporary federal storage of waste, including spent fuel from civilian nuclear reactors.

The Yucca Mountain Nuclear Waste Repository, was designated by the Nuclear Waste Policy Act amendments of 1987

It was evident that I, pardon the pun, had to dig deeper.

Plutonium Uranium Extraction Plant (PUREX)

Another article lead (pun intended) me to a Plutonium Uranium Extraction Plant (PUREX) in Hanford Washington.  On May 9, 2017, a 19-by-17-foot section of PUREX Tunnel 1 collapsed.  Workers immediately placed more than 50 truckloads of soil into the collapsed portion of the tunnel. In the days following, workers placed a protective cover over the breach and longer-term stabilization planning began.

Following an analysis of stabilization options, the U.S. Department of Energy determined filling both the tunnels with engineered grout was the best option for providing the highest level of stability and protection, while not precluding future remedial actions.

The Plutonium Uranium Extraction Plant (PUREX) operated from 1956 to 1972 and 1983 to 1988, to chemically reprocess fuel rods irradiated in Hanford’s reactors.  In the 1950s and 1960s, two tunnels were constructed next to the plant to hold contaminated equipment that had been removed from PUREX.

It was President Eisenhower’s most important project.  When he was elected he called it Project X.  And this project was literally number one in his priorities was to increase nuclear weapons production for a program that he called ‘Massive Retaliation.’”

The beginning year of 1956 for PUREX would coincide with our Lionel counterpart, so I figured I was on the …drumroll please.  Right track!  (sometimes, I can’t even contain myself)



#6805 Energy Disposal Car with Super-O rails

Version A: Gray containers

Version B: Tan containers

Postwar statistics:


  1. No. 2505W Super “O” Virginian Rectifier Freight 1958
  2. No. 2509WS Super “O” 5-Car Hudson Freight “The Owl” 1958
  3. No. 2517W Super “O” Rio Grande Diesel Freight 1958
  4. No. 2521WS Super “O” 6-Car “N&W” Freight Train 1958

Also for Separate Sale 1958 and Separate Sale only 1959 $6.95

From the Lionel 1958 catalog regarding the #6805:

“Atom-smashing produces radioactive by-products which must be transported to distant places where they can do no harm.  This car is especially designed to just that.  Blinking warning lights indicate “danger”.  Carries “hot” waste in two especially designed concrete containers…”


#0845 AEC Car with Blinking Light

  1. 5721 4-Car Texas Special Freight 1959
  2. 5717 6-Car 4-6-2 Steam Freight Set 1959
  3. 5731 5-Car 4-6-2 Steam Freight 1959
  4. 5747 5-Car Santa Fe “AB” Diesel Freight 1960
  5. 5753 4-Car Chesapeake & Ohio Diesel Freight 1961
  6. 5758 6-Car Santa Fe “AB” Diesel Freight with Missile Launching Platform 1961
  7. 1403 6-Unit “Weapons Carrier” Steam Freight 1962

Also Separate Sale 1959 $3.95; 1960 & 1961 $4.95; 1962 $3.95



It would be quite a few half lives, er, um, I mean years, before we would see another issue of this car.  The 1980 #1070 The Royal Limited Set would contain #9234 Radioactive Waste Car.  It was not available for separate sale.


The following two consecutive years, Lionel in 1981 & 1982 would produce the #9389 Radioactive Waste Car with tan containers, instead of the more usual grey.


It would another decade of decaying before Lionel would produce #16666 Toxic Waste Car in 1993 & 1994.


#16689 would come out in 1994, this time again with black containers.


Duck Dodgers in the 24 ½th Century had Marvin the Martian.  (not Marvin the Martin as the catalog showed, the TV show My Favorite Martian had Uncle Martin as the Martian) with his “INVASION EARTH” campaign.   The result was a “just add water” to recreate Instant Martians in # 16754 Porky Pig and Instant Martians Car in 1997.


White containers would grace the #36006 Uranium Flatcar #6508 was either a transposition error for the original #6805, or intentionally done.  There was no Postwar product that was numbered 6508.  This was made in 1999. 


#29829 POSTWAR CELEBRATION SERIES designed from original tooling, the “#6805 Atomic Waste Disposal Car” was made in 2006.


What other worldly substances are transported on this radioactive flatcar moving to and from Area 51 on the Groom Lake Railroad?  WE may never know but the #36829 Alien Radioactive Flatcar was made in 2007.


Edward Mazur: aka “The Chicago Maven” TCA # 86-24289

#52552 LOTS Radioactive Waste Removal Car

In 2009, the LIONEL OPERATING TRAIN SOCIETY annual convention was held in Chattanooga, Tennessee.  The club offers its members an extremely limited train car referred to as the LOTS Meet Car for each convention locale.  Approximately 300 units are produced and LOTS hoped to have them available at the time of the national conventions.  This is not always possible because of the vagaries of Lionel’s production schedules, shipping, packaging and unpacking by the club’s shipping agent and finally delivery to those who ordered the car.

For 2009, LOTS offered the DODX Operating Radioactive Nuclear Waste Removal Car.  The car’s graphics highlighted Oak Ridge, Tennessee, site of the uranium enrichment center that was part of the Manhattan Project during World War II.  The nuclear waste removal car was an all Lionel manufactured and decorated O-Gauge flatcar that featured die-cast metal sprung trucks and operating couplers.  The car’s body was black, with yellow ‘radioactive waste’ canisters that blink red as the car travels around operators layouts.  The end of each waste canister featured a radioactive waste logo and stated MANHATTAN PROJECT.  Lionel’s number for the car was 52552.  The car featured graphics including DO NOT HUMP on both ends, the built date of 2009, instructions that proclaimed WHEN EMPTY RETURN TO OAK RIDGE, TN, and the notification that the car was LEASED THROUGH LIONEL OPERATING TRAIN SOCIETY AS AGENT FOR THE U.S. GOVERNMENT AND SUBJECT TO A SECURITY INTEREST RECORDED WITH THE I.C.C. (INTERSTATE COMMERCE COMMISSION.

Originally, the car sold for $70 and members could purchase up to six cars.  Currently, in mint condition the car sells for approximately $80.


#38339 “#2505W Virginian Rectifier Freight Set”, appropriately named after the 1958 set of the same number, would contain #27757 #6805 Atomic Energy Disposal Car in 2010.  It was not available for separate sale.


#37002 Operating Plutonium Car 2-Pack would contain #37002 Operating Radioactive Plutonium Flatcar, cataloged issued in 2010 & 2011.  It was not available for separate sale.


#30144 Operation Eagle Justice Set would include # 37026 Operation Eagle Justice Radioactive Waste Flatcar # 37026, also cataloged in 2010 & 2011.  It was not available for separate sale either.


Grow your out-of-this-world layout with the Alien Radioactive Flatcar! Includes blinking lights in the containers!  # 2028320 Alien Radioactive Flatcar with Containers was made in 2020

Three Mile Island (TMI)

Speaking of racing sets….

Not a particular good segue, huh?

While researching this article, I ventured into the 1960s catalogs, an area that I had not really focused on.

Repurposed RaceCar Parts

Our next installment will include what Lionel race car accessories look awfully familiar but had different numbers and slight modifications to their train-related counterparts, in other words, they were REPURPOSED!

“Link-in” next issue for the answer…