model train set on track

Lionel’s Lehigh Valley #409 Alco C-420, #6-18589, List price $349.95

e*Train Issue: Jan 2003   |   Posted in:

by Stirling Woodin

Alco delivered C-420 #409 to the Lehigh Valley in November of 1964 in the Yellow Jacket paint scheme, (picture of a Rivarossi HO model shown for comparison). The C-420 was in the Century series from Alco, and the nomenclature denoted that it was equipped with 4 powered axles, and was rated at 2,000 horsepower. It was repainted in May of 1973, and Lionel’s model reflects the repainted version.

This model first appeared in Lionel’s 1900-2000 Centennial catalog on page 37, and was also available in New Haven, Nickel Plate Road, Monon, and D&H paint schemes. All road names were available in either Traditional or Command Control versions, and both versions featured dual vertical can motors with flywheels, traction tires, die cast trucks, couplers, and pilots. The Command Control version added electrocouplers, RailSounds, and directional headlight and class lights.

The body has details including cab lift rings on the long hood, a sand filler hatch on the short hood, separately applied and painted handrails, grab irons, and safety chains are across the pilot handrails.

The paint on my unit is even, and the lettering is crisp, including all of the high voltage and safety warnings littered around the shell. The yellow paint line on top of the battery box is incorrect for this road number, as on the actual #409, this stripe does not appear. This is a very minor error, and only noted here for sake of historical accuracy.

I purchased my example in April of 2001, and it has been a favorite on my modest 10’x10’ Super O layout ever since. It is a good puller, has never had any problems, and handles any task asked of it, from running the main to switching the lineside industries. It is a little awkward using the Century as a switcher due to its length, which is a hefty 15”, so mainline duties are more the norm.

The smoke unit is fan driven, and is anemic at best. Generates a slight plume running in Command mode with constant 18VAC power, and the smoke is barely visible running under transformer control. I have repacked the smoke unit with new fiberglass, and that has helped the smoke output slightly, but my piece will have to be considered altered under TCA standards.

It seems to ride a bit “heavy” on my Super O track, but negotiates the turnouts effortlessly. I had the pleasure of double heading a pair of these when a TCA friend brought his example over. Programming the lashup was easy, and running two of these was a nice sight.

The Railsounds faithfully captures that peculiar Alco undulating idle, and also it’s mechanical turbocharger whine. The two note horn is located on the cab roof, and the Railsounds alternates the sound of the horn from a single to a double chime, which was typical of these older units in their waning days on the Valley.

If you’re an Alco fan, or like the roadnames Lionel has produced for these units, it is a good solid performer and can be had new in the box at shows for between $210-$295, and I have seen them for as low as $175.