model train set on track

Lionel’s New Missile Launch Set Or Lock and Load in Lionelville

e*Train Issue: Feb 2003   |   Posted in: ,

Brady Burdge

When I first saw the Lionel Missile Launch Set in the catalog, I didn’t pay much attention to it. Reactions to Lionel’s space and military trains typically range from mild interest to calls of “cheap junk” and I guess I was no different. I casually passed it by in favor of other offerings. I don’t think I even realized that the locomotive was outfitted with command control.

Several months later I saw a posting about the set on the O Gauge Railroading magazine’s on-line forum, along with a few photos on the Glancy Trains web site. The folks at Glancy Trains were not only running the set at shows, but also handing the CAB-1 to on looking kids and letting them run the train.

Unrealistic, toy-like. Looked like too much fun to pass up!

My wonderful wife agreed to let me get one, and in the tradition of a true covert military operation I never saw or heard about the set again until Christmas day.

The Set

Originally offered in 1959 and 1960 as the #2527 Super-O Missile Launcher Outfit, the Postwar Celebration Series version (6-21788) contains the same basic components:

44 Army Missile Launch Locomotive (6-18469)
3419 Lionel Helicopter launching Car (6-19891)
6844 Lionel Flatcar with Missiles (6-29410)
6823 Lionel Flatcar with Two “IRBM” Missiles (6-29409)
6814 Lionel Stretcher Caboose (6-19788)
943 Exploding Ammo Dump (6-14126)

The originals have been fully documented in Greenberg’s Lionel’s Postwar Space & Military Trains written by Joe Algozzini. The new set is for the most part, visually identical to the original. Some changes throughout are well worth noting; all pieces have a PWC plaque, and all the cars have die-cast sprung trucks – a welcome upgrade from the original’s plastic ARA trucks. The most significant change is the addition of Trainmaster Command Control (TMCC) to the locomotive, but conventional operators fear not – you can still access all the features of the original 44.

Set Packaging

Each piece comes in it’s own box and all is packed snugly in the master set carton.

No track or transformer. A fully illustrated 18 page manual is included; mine came with a correction sheet changing the part number of the light bulb for the dome light, and informing you that the locomotive is shipped with the command/conventional switch set to command.

The # 44 Army Locomotive

More like the original than it is different, the 44 runs well and can easily pull its’ train and a few extra cars, thanks to dual axle magne-traction. On close inspection you’ll see that Lionel changed the red dome light, removed the slot for the e-unit lever, and added very bright blue headlights. Like the original you can launch the missiles on a UCS track, or by using the manual fire lever on the back of the locomotive –each time its’ activated one missile fires. But where the loco really shines is when you use TMCC; pressing the front coupler button on the CAB-1 fires a missile, even on the move! My wife quickly learned this, and when I wasn’t paying attention she used me for target practice.

Using TMCC also allows you to turn the headlights and dome light on/off, and activate the rear coil coupler. TMCC also allows you to set the “stall” and maximum speed settings for the 44. Setting the stall is handy on Pullmor powered locomotives; often you have to crank the throttle to get these locomotives to move, but if you set the stall the locomotive moves as soon as you turn the CAB-1’s throttle. Both procedures are very simple and are detailed in the manual. I can’t program a VCR but I can program TMCC locomotives as long as I follow the manual.

The underside of the locomotive reveals three center rail pickup rollers, one on the front truck and two on the rear. The rear truck is equipped with a pick-up shoe. The front power truck has three plastic idler gears that connect the Pullmor motor to the wheels, and the axles run through round, brass colored bushings. The command/conventional button is located on the underside, but unlike other TMCC offerings the program/run switch isn’t on the underside–the 44’s operator is the program/run switch. Nice touch.

The locomotive runs well and produces a low growl like other diesels of the late postwar era. Since I run TMCC exclusively I reprogrammed the locomotives ID# to 44 following the simple instructions in the manual.

Note: Missile set operators on O Gauge Railroading Magazine’s on-line forum quickly figured out how the reprogram the locomotives “personality” so that the red dome light would “strobe”, actually slowly blinking on and off. Following the instructions on page 12 of the set manual, when I got to step 5 I substituted the number 5 for the number 8 shown in the manual. 5 is TMCC-speak telling the locomotive’s command receiver that the 44 is a diesel with a strobe.

There was only one hitch with the 44. Initially the power truck wouldn’t freely move counter-clockwise and occasionally caused a derailment. I removed the body shell and found that one of the motor wires would catch on the edge of the TMCC circuit board. I re-routed the wire; problem solved.

3419 Helicopter Launching Car

Wind the black winder 7-8 clicks and replace the helicopter. Activate the car manually (there’s a tab) or on a UCS track and the copter takes off. Getting 18″ off the deck is a good flight, so hitting the ceiling or attacking the cat across the room is out of the question. Still, a lot of fun! Like the original the helicopter is marked NAVY.

6844 Flatcar With Missiles

Carries 6 spare missiles for the 44 locomotive. Like the original the missiles are carried in a vertical position – odd for transport but perfect for quick reloads.

6823 Flatcar With Two “IRBM” Missiles

These are larger two stage missiles used on numerous postwar and re-issue missile cars.

6814 Stretcher Caboose

Two removable stretchers and an oxygen bottle assembly, along with an attendant in familiar blue. Like the original the rear truck doesn’t have a coupler.

943 Exploding Ammo Dump

A little like setting a mousetrap, the 943 “explodes” very nicely. Lionel also offers a separate sale version in camouflage.

Potential add-on cars

On tubular track the 44 is capable of pulling more than the cars in the set, and here’s a few suggestions for add-ons

6-26781 #3540 Operating Radar Car

Search the skies for friendly and unfriendly aircraft

6-19678 Army Bunk Car

A place for off-duty crewmembers to rest

6-16710 U.S. Army Anti-ballistic Missile Car
A 1996 re-issue of the postwar Minuteman Missile Car

Another re-issue from a few years ago. Lionel recently re-released the Missile Firing Range Set with an exploding boxcar and missile battery, but do you really want to travel with a bulls-eye on your train?

6-16719 Exploding Ammo car

Build your own

A junker flat found at a train show was put back in service with the addition of sprung trucks and a couple of Dime store Dreams Army vehicles.


Lionel’s Missile launch set is winner, combining the best of yesterday and today. The set is listed again in the new 2003 catalog along with an add-on Missile Launch Sound Car (6-36730) with sound effects designed to augment the set.