model train set on track

Lionel Repurposing: “Bring in the Clones” – # 520 Boxcab (updated Spring, 2024)

e*Train Issue: Mar 2024   |   Posted in: , , ,

e*Train Issue: updated Spring 2024    By Bob Mintz, TCA #92-35064

Postwar advertisement for # 520 Boxcab

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.

We left off from the previous issue of e*Train with the following question: “What does this little Lionel engine and my little new bride have in common?”  The answer is that both were residents of Chile at one time.

I met Ms. Vickie here in “Floriduh” 4 years ago playing a new sport called “Pickleball” aka “old people’s tennis.”  She came here at 19 years of age some 47 years ago (hope she doesn’t read this article) to escape the Popular Unity Socialist/Communist coalition then of President Salvador Allende.  We just celebrated our 3rd wedding anniversary and are exactly 30 days apart in age, and lucky for me, I am the older one, that was a deal breaker on her part!  She just retired from American Airlines at Miami (MIA) as a Budget Analyst, so we both have an accounting background (free 1st class air travel for life, whoo-hoo!).  We did attend the October 2017 York (aka one and done), let’s just leave it at that.  Hopefully we will take the grandkids to the National Toy Train Museum one day if the parents concede.  The 5 year-old grandson (aka Gordito), upon seeing my train collection asked me, “what is this?”  I said, “this is your inheritance and will be yours one day” to which he responded “so what are YOU doing with MY trains?”  I told him that I was warehousing them for him for the time being and he owes me massive storage fees.

Smart alec!



I bought the # 520 Lionel Lines Boxcab Electric Locomotive at Madison Hardware in the late 1970’s for $108 thinking that because this was a unique design with only one roadname, it was a slam-dunk to go up in value.  Well, I’ve been wrong before and we’ll park this one in the loss column.  The 2020 Greenberg Price Guide show this at $32.  Bummer.  But I still like the design, and as this article will show, so did Lionel, as it was “repurposed” as several other items.  My friend and mentor, the late Bill “Mr. LOTS” Meyer added the opaque window inserts.

#520 prototype

The 520 Boxcab Electric engine was based upon a real-life 80-ton 600-volt DC powered engine using a third rail as well as a pantograph.  Built by General Electric and sold to the Chilean Exploration Company, it was designed to be used in their copper mines.

From the 1920s to the nationalization of the Chilean copper mines in 1971, Chile Exploration Company (Chilex) a subsidiary of the U.S.-based Anaconda Copper Mining Company, was a major player in Chilean history, economy, and politics.  Its Chuquicamata mine, located in Chile’s north desert, was the world’s largest open pit mine.  By mid-century the mine was the source of nearly three-quarters of Anaconda Company profits.

As you can see, the Lionel’s model is an exact replication of the real-life counterpart, down to and including the number.

According to “Lionel Trains 1945-1969 Volume III: Cataloged Sets” Second Edition by Paul V. Ambrose, the engine was issued in set No. 1542, a late offering to the product line in 1956 and was offered for separate sale in 1957.  What is odd is that it appears that no box has ever been found for this engine.  So how was it shipped to Lionel dealers in 1957?  One wonders if it really was available in 1957.

The Boxcab engine ran unchanged for both years, featuring a 2-4-0 wheel arrangement, and was an unpainted red body with white heat stamped numbering and lettering.  It has a three-position E-unit whose lever is adjustable from the top of the cab, an one operating coupler at one end and another die-cast non-operating magnetic tagged coupler at the other.  There is no horn or headlight.  It has a rather fragile single pantograph on the roof.  There are only two known variations.

Version 1:  Black Pantograph

Version 2:  Copper Pantograph


The body of this engine was also used on the #3535 Security Car.

#3535 Security Car

Unlike the #520 Boxcab, the #3535 was not based on a real-life equivalent.  The #3535 AEC Security Car (shown here modified with matching opaque inserts) with rotating searchlight, has the designation of being a true Frankenstein monster, the proverbial hat-trick and ultimate definition of repurposing.  It was a hodge-podge of various items: the modified body of the #520 Box Cab Electric, the #6511-2 flat car, the vibrating motor from the #3520 and/or #3620 Operating Searchlight Car and the simulated twin gun assembly from the #6804 or #6809 Pyro military trucks.

#3535 was available in 1961 for “Separate Sale” as well as included in No. 2572 Super ”O” 5-Car “Space Age” Diesel Freighter.


The next time that we would see the cab from either the Boxcab or Security Car would be in the 1981 No. 1150 L.A.S.E.R. Freight Set, this time transformed as the #6506 L.A.S.E.R. Security Car. 


Similar in looks to the #3535, but the searchlight was replaced with the radioactive waste containers from the #6805 Atomic Energy Disposal Flatcar, yet another repurpose.

#26761 (remake of #3535)

2001 Volume 2 had a remake of the 3535 car using the # 26761.  The text is very eerie for a catalog that came out in mid 2001 before the 911 terrorist attacks.  “Protect your favorite AEC rolling stock or your Lionel Nuclear Reactor accessory with the AEC Security Caboose.  With this car on duty, there is no chance that terrorists could capture the hazardous cargo on your layout.  This armed caboose features a rotating searchlight to scan the sky and the horizon for the enemy.  Add this car to your “radioactive” collection, and you’ll have a blast.”

#36718 (reverse color scheme of #3535)

The Lionel 2002 Vol 2 catalog would contain #36718 AEC Security Caboose, basically a reverse color scheme of the #3535 and reverting back from the AEC container to the searchlight on the #3535 in a reverse color scheme, although a red searchlight cover rather than the older version gray.


Shown in the 2006 Volume 1, under the “Space and Military Collection” pages, the # 26872 U.S. Army Security Car featured die-cast metal trucks and operating couplers, illuminated searchlight rotates via track power.


The K-Line Premier catalog 2007 Vol 1 would have the B1 as it was called, in New Haven color scheme, # 21268, although this and future issues would have directional headlights and an engineer figure.


K-Line by Lionel 2007 Vol 2 # 21267 in Pennsylvania roadname.


K-Line by Lionel 2008 Vol 1 # 22140 in Central of New Jersey roadname, including operating horn.


K-Line by Lionel 2008 Vol 1 # 22286 in Great Northern roadname including operating horn.


Shown in the 2008 Volume 1 under operating cars, the # 36863 Alien Security Car has a glow-in-the -dark body.


K-Line by Lionel 2009 Vol 1 # 21667 in Red River Lumber roadname including operating horn.


First shown in the 2009 Volume 2 catalog as part of the # 31789 CSX Trackside Work Set (aka CSX Weed Killer Work Set), the # 29897 illuminated research car never actually saw the light of day as this set was cancelled and never produced.  However, the Chessie System Laboratory Car would be resurrected in the 2011 Signature Edition catalog as part of the # 11166 CSX Freight 2-Pack # 1.


Lionel 2010 Vol 1 # 22639 in Baltimore & Ohio roadname including operating horn.


The 2011 Lionel Signature catalog would show the No. 30144 Operation Eagle Justice Set that included the camouflaged #37029 Operation Eagle Justice Security Caboose including searchlight.


The Lionel 2015 Ready-To-Run catalog would contain the #82099 Zombie Apocalypse Survivors Set, the set would end with the ????? Zombie Response Unit Security Car.

# 1923014

Our following issue is found in the 2019 Vol 1 catalog as part of the # 1923100 U.S. Steam LionChief® Set as #1923104 Armed Security Car, finally an appropriate piece of rolling stock which is protecting a mint car transport.


Interestingly enough, the 2021 Vol 2 catalog has a similarly numbered (“23014”) security caboose with some different graphics as part of # 2223010 Army Freight LionChief Set.


The Lionel 2022 Big Book has the # 2223040 Emergency Response LionChief Bluetooth 5.0 Set which includes a Police Searchlight Caboose.

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?

“Link-in” next issue for the answer…


Considering that this was the road to a “Nuclear Power Plant”, only a crossbuck for safety and no highway crossing gate?  Someone contact the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Railroad Administration and Operation Lifesaver.

2428060 Batman 85th Anniversary Bat Signal Caboose
2428300 Green Lantern Power Ring Searchlight Caboose