model train set on track

Maintenance of Way in the 21st Century–Ballast Tampers and Beyond (updated Spring, 2024)

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

By Bob Mintz, TCA#92-35064
(Article updated Winter 2024 – new photos imbedded within this article)
(Special thanks to Art Muller, Gordon Wilson and Michael Rotolo in their contributions for this piece)


Gandy dancers carrying pieces of rail have all but disappeared, replaced by huge pieces of railway track operations machinery maintaining track from the ballast up rather than simply rolling along over the top of the rails.

Puffing Northerns and Mallets no longer regularly haul trains across Class 1 rails in North America, but the days of behemoths plying the tracks is not over. Using the assembly line method, these huge machines and trains of machines help railroads get the work done within today’s short windows of opportunity.

Modern machinery is enabling railroads to deal with those challenges. In one pass, these motorized units working in tandem, remove old ties, fishplates, pigtails and rails, prepare the track bed for new ties, lay new ties, threads in new rails, and leave behind high-quality trackwork.

Ballast Regulators, Tie Cranes, Yard Cleaners, Shoulder Ballast Cleaners, Switch and Mainline Undercutting equipment, Tie loading machines along with other maintenance-of-way equipment are available by manufacturers such as Plasser-American and Knox Kershaw Inc.

Yard cleaning services provide for material reclamation and improving yard track condition for train crews. Undercutting services improve track drainage, lower track and resolve clearance issues.

Plasser-American does not only sell individual pieces of equipment that includes tamping technology; ballast management; stabilization; ballast cleaning; track renewal; rail treatment, track recording; and catenary, but their entire line of products work in unison, such as the THS-2000 system, which is a tie handling and track surface system that includes all of the following individual units:

Spike Puller Loading car/Spike Collector Tie Remover TKO Tie Handler Anchor Spreader Cribber Tie Inserter Tie Handler Gantry Crane Tie Cars More Tie Cars Herzog Crane Workshop car Nipper/Tamping Machine Rail Lifter Spike Driver Anchor Squeezer Spike Driver Plow PBR Unimat 09-32/4S with Plow Trailer PTS 90 Track Stabilizer with Double Broom

See this link for more information and photos:

Of special interest might be the Switch/Production Tamping Machine Metro 4×4 ZW, for obvious reasons.

One fine morning while waiting for the LIRR commuter train to take me into Manhattan, I hit the proverbial pot of motorized unit gold, a caravan parked on a siding at my station. Talk about variations!!! And “whassup” with Gordon Wilson’s hockey stick in this cavalcade of cars???

I met a man on my daily commute who had some of the best credentials for a pal around. No, my buddy did not have a heated pool nor boat. He works for the Long Island Railroad and he got me a ticket to ride the geometry car in and out of the 4 tunnels leading into Penn Station NY while he examined the tracks below for stresses, cracks and imperfections using infrared technology.

Surprisingly, much of these maintenance of way equipment pieces are made in HO.

Lionel has recently produced some new categories to be included in their maintenance of way items made after the Postwar era. These include inspection vehicles, pickup trucks, rail bonders, speeders, and step vans.


This group will include the Postwar variety; remakes; as well as more current and prototypical versions.

Postwar style:

54 Ballast Tamper
8578 NYC Ballast Tamper
18464 #54 Ballast Tamper Postwar celebration series
11831 Ballast Tamper (Not Manufactured) – Author’s Interpretation

Modern Style:

18483 C & O Ballast Tamper “48”
18490 Union Pacific Ballast Tamper

18490 LCCA OVERSTAMP Union Pacific Ballast Tamper “Route of the Challenger”

18483 LCCA OVERSTAMP C&O Ballast Tamper “48”

18491 M.O.W. Ballast Tamper “325”
28403 Pennsylvania Ballast Tamper “18”
??????? from # 2122180 Nickel Plate Road Work Train Set
2135080 BNSF TMCC Ballast Tamper
2135090 Burlington Northern TMCC Ballast Tamper
2135100 Conrail TMCC Ballast Tamper
2135110 CSX TMCC Ballast Tamper
2135120 Norfolk Southern TMCC Ballast Tamper
2135130 Southern Pacific TMCC Ballast Tamper


This group has the original Postwar version as well as several remakes and one that was part of a set. This particular item could be used separately and was not dependent on another piece to operate.

#3360 Lionel Lines Burro Crane
18402 Lionel Lines Burro Crane
18405 Santa Fe Burro Crane
18410 Pennsylvania Burro Crane
18477 Union Pacific Burro Crane Set #31706
28414 “#3360” Lionel Lines Burro Crane
28422 Pennsylvania Burro Crane
28445 from AEC Burro Crane Set # 31774
Bethlehem Steel Operating No. 20 Burro Crane by RGS Limited Editions
U.S. Navy-Philadelphia PA Navy Yard Operating No. 25 Burro Crane by RGS Limited Editions
U.S. Navy-Philadelphia PA Navy Yard Operating No. 28 Burro Crane by RGS Limited Editions
U.S. Navy-Pearl Harbor HI Navy Yard Operating No. 41 Burro Crane by RGS Limited Editions
Jersey Central Lines Operating No. 80 Burro Crane by RGS Limited Editions
Lehigh Valley Operating No. 620 Burro Crane by RGS Limited Editions
Alaska Railroad Operating No. 414 Burro Crane by RGS Limited Editions
New Haven Operating No. 34 Burro Crane by RGS Limited Editions
The Texas Special Operating No. 30 Burro Crane by RGS Limited Editions


This group contains the original Postwar version; remakes; one that was part of a set; another that could be considered a secondary set made up of separate sale items; as well as one never manufactured. The 1998 Service Station Set fire car could not function without the instruction/generator car. In the 1999 preview catalog, there was another firecar similar to the 1998 SSS, but in a different color scheme. This item also was dependent on the instruction/generator car to operate. In a bit of my own creativity, I purchased like separate sale identical items to make a second Lionelville Fire Company set to complement the first. #18412 Union Pacific fire fighter car as seen in the 1991 Book 1 but was not manufactured.

52 Fire car
8379 Pennsylvania motorized fire fighter
18411 Canadian Pacific fire fighter car
18412 Union Pacific fire fighter car
18470 #52 Fire Car Postwar celebration series

21753–1998 Service Station Fire Rescue Train Set:

18444 NYC Firecar
19853 NYC Instruction Generator Car
19442 Water supply flatcar/tank
19854 Lionelville Fire Company #1 searchlight car
26961 Lionelville Fire Company flatcar/ladder
26505 Lionelville Fire Company work caboose

11988–NYC Firecar and Instruction Car Set: (includes 18445 & 19857 only)

18445 NYC fire fighter car
19857 NYC Instruction Generator Car
16390 Lionel Flatcar w/ black water tankcar
19858 Lionelville Operational Searchlight Car “19584”
26991 Lionelville Ladder Firecar, Fire Dept #2
26513 NYC Fire Response Unit


This group contains the original Postwar version and remakes. Possibly in a Cheshire cat (C&O) smile towards collectors, one of the remakes included the rare gray bumpers variation.

50 Lionel gang car
18417 Gang Car
18465 #50 Gang Car Postwar celebration series
18485 New York Central Gang Car
28442 #50 Gang Car
38241 Maintenance of Way Gang Car
38240 Elf Gang Car
0050 Gang Car (HO)
Concept Gang Car

Image courtesy Robert (Bob) Osterhoff from [email protected] [RED HALL]

Per Bob:
“Several years ago I obtained the archives of Lionel artwork from the estate of Hank Makowski, the Advertising Manager and later consultant to Lionel from the early 1970s until 1999. I went through a few hundred of his drawings from about 1991-1995. It should be noted that concept drawings, which this is, are in the early stages and do not have any product number. In most cases they did not have identifiable products. This drawing is then taken to the next stage at Lionel to approve or disapprove and turned into final artwork for the catalog.”


This group contains the original Postwar version; a “Mintz-Modification” variation; a regular remake; a remake of an archive sample and a street hot rod version.

I noticed a similarity of an Eastwood Memorabilia product and made some modifications here and there and created my own homage to Postwar Lionel.

68 Inspection car, DeSoto wagon
68-modified Eastwood #303500 – Lionel 1955 Chevy Delivery Van/Bank with #68 chassis
18447 Executive Inspection Vehicle Postwar celebration series
18454 Archive Collection #68 Blue Inspection Car
18463 Hot Rod Inspection Vehicle
28440 Pennsylvania Inspection Car


This is a new category altogether. The first issue looked similar to a Checker station wagon, while the shells of the others were all Dodge® Ram 1500 V-8s

18430 NYC Crew Car
18436 Dodge® Ram Track Inspection Vehicle
18438 PRR High Rail Vehicle “49”
18439 UP High Rail Maintenance Vehicle
18440 NJ Transit High Rail Inspection Vehicle
18484 Norfolk Southern Dodge® Inspection Vehicle


This group contains the original Postwar version and remakes.

69 Lionel maintenance car
18406 Lionel operating track maintenance car
28404 #69 Maintenance Car Postwar celebration series


This is also a new category, but includes a reverse color version done by LCCA, as well as a special convention issue overstamp for their 1999 convention.

18424 On-Track Pick-up Truck
52107 LCCA Pickup
52107b Lionel Pickup Truck LCCA Fort Worth convention stickers added


This is also a new category of all similar shells.

18482 New Haven Rail Bonder “16”

18489 Great Northern Rail Bonder”HR-73″

18492 M.O.W. Rail Bonder “58”
28400 Amtrak Rail Bonder
2335010 M.O.W TMCC Rail Bonder #M-4
2335020 New Haven TMCC Rail Bonder #18
2335030 Pacific Electric TMCC Rail Bonder #1202

2335040 Long Island Railroad Rail Bonder #35040

2335050 North Pole Central TMCC Rail Bonder


This group consists of regular wedge plows as well as rotary snowplows. The confusion of the Postwar version relates to the so-called backwards “A”. Price guides refer to a backwards version and the correct version. The only problem is that the Rio Grande intentionally used the backwards “A” as part of their logo, so the forward version is actually technically wrong, not the backwards version. Even though the backwards “A” was prototypical, I suppose that the folks at Lionel, being politically correct way back when, felt that a backwards “A” would confuse small children and made a second version. One item comes from part of a set and is not dependent on any other piece to function.


53 Rio Grande snowplow-backwards “A”
53 Rio Grande snowplow-forward “A”
8264 Canadian Pacific snowplow
18458 #53 Rio Grande Snowplow Postwar celebration series- forward “A”
28413 Milwaukee Road snowplow “X903”
28427 Christmas Snowplow


58 Great Northern rotating snowplow
8459 Rio Grande rotary snowplow
18400 Santa Fe, 2-4-2 snowplow, “8400”
18446 GN Rotary Snowplow “58” Postwar celebration series
18466 Rotary Snow Plow “900080”
18488 from # 31717 Canadian Pacific Rail Snow Removal Train “400802”
18498 New York Central Rotary Snowplow “5”
28417 Christmas rotary snowplow
28423 Alaska Rotary Snowplow
28457 NJ Transit Rotary Snow Plow
*NOTE—same SKU number issued to B&M Rotary Snowplow
28457 B&M Rotary Snowplow “8457”
*NOTE—same SKU number issued to NJ Transit Rotary Snowplow
81441 North Pole Central Rotary Snowplow
81442 Pennsylvania Command Control Rotary Snowplow
81443 Rio Grande Command Control Rotary Snowplow


This is also a new category of all similar shells. LCCA is offering a unique combination of a three part issue, a flatcar with both a powered and dummy speeder.

18468 Canadian National Railroad Speeder
18469 Chessie System Railroad Speeder “83”
18493 Santa’s Speeder “No. 1”
18497 Norfolk & Western Speeder “541005”
18981 Pennsylvania Speeder
18982 Santa Fe Speeder “122”
28407 Union Pacific Speeder
52394 Frisco Speeder from 52396 MLR FRISCO FLATCAR WITH SPEEDERS “725”
52393 MKT speeder from 52396 MLR FRISCO FLATCAR WITH SPEEDERS – Non-Powered
28412 Christmas Speeder “No. 2”
28408 New Jersey Central Speeder “MW840”
28419 Lionel Lines Speeder
21169 City Traction Co Speeder
37061 Union Pacific Speeder
37062 Norfolk Southern Speeder
37063 Pennsylvania Speeder
37064 CSX Speeder
37065 BNSF Speeder
37066 Maintenance of Way Speeder
37067 New York Central Speeder
37068 Canadian National Speeder
??????? from Set # 2126490 Nickel Plate Road Work Train Expansion Pack
2135010 Baltimore & Ohio TMCC Speeder
2135020 Penn Central TMCC Speeder
2135030 Santa Fe TMCC Speeder
2135040 Sperry TMCC Speeder
2135050 The Polar Express TMCC Speeder
2135060 Halloween TMCC Speeder
2135070 Star Trek TMCC Speeder


2435130 North Pole Central TMCC Speeder

2435140 Chessie System TMCC Speeder

2435150 Chicago Northwestern TMCC Speeder

2435160 Rock Island TMCC Speeder

2435170 US Army TC TMCC Speeder

2435190 Area 51 TMCC Speeder


Like the pickup trucks, this is also a new category, and also includes a reverse color version done by LCCA, as well as a special convention issue overstamp for their 2000 convention as well as a third party repaint and a special commemorative done by the TCA Desert Division.

From Gordon Wilson: “ I know that there were 240 of them made for sale, first to TCA and then to the general public and some “special ones”. We ordered them from LIONEL, and I don’t remember what they charged us, but it was way under their normal price. They were delivered in FOUR boxes to my home in Fountain Hills. One box had the chassis/motor in them; one box had the truck cabs in them; one box had the compartment part of the truck in them. The last box had the headlights and tail lights in it. They were all made of GREY plastic, which sets them apart from all the other Step Vans that were made.

To prevent them from being swapped around and made into some “RARE” item at a later date, we had them LASER engraved on the two front doors and the rear doors of the compartment part. The front doors say “TCA” over capital “DD”. On the rear, the laser engraving says, “TCA (left door) DD” (right door) and under that on the left door is “5-11” and on the right door is “1996.” That was the day of our Silver Anniversary Party. The Holographic decals were made by a local vendor in Scottsdale and say the following: The Roof one – It has the TCA logo in one corner and the Desert Division Logo in the other. A Railroad track runs from corner to corner in a sort of modified “S” pattern. Each side of the Track’s remaining area contains, “25th Anniversary.” The colors move around according to the way the light hits it. The two side decals are the same on both sides. There is a railroad track which appears to connect to the track on the roof and swings around toward the front of the body in an elongated “C”. On the top section of that track is a rectangular black box with silver letters that say, “25th Anniversary”. Centered underneath that box is in full caps, “DESERT DIVISION” and under that is “Train Collectors Association” and finally, under that are the dates “1971-1996”. The Desert Division was founded or acknowledged as a Division by the TCA BOD in June of 1971. The decals were the stick on type, as were the decals on the rear. Each Step Van was personally numbered, from #1 #240. These decals were made by the same firm and were translucent, except for the numbers on them. The numbers were attached to the left of the left hand door and done vertically.

I remember that Bob Caplan, then TCA President Elect, was the successful bidder on at least one of the “special ones”. Here goes for the special ones: At each banquet table there was ONE special van. The instructions at each table said: “Banquet Table Prize Step Van in Special Chrome Scheme. A lucky attendee at each table will win one! Additional Vans will be auctioned at the end of the evening.” There were 12 tables, so there were 15 of these Chrome ones. Then something else, “ONE of a KIND Banquet Step Van Shells.Reverse Colors with Blue Cab and Silver Van”. Also: “Set of Gray unetched shells, just as used for our regular run of Division Cars, but neither Cab or the Van Has been laser etched. The graphics are the final prototype provided by the decorating firm. They chose # 275 because it was outside the range of Production Units”. And final factoid: “One of a kind Test Sample with Laser Etching on the Front Panel of Van. No other shells were marked in this fashion—TCA – DD and date being placed on rear doors for all other shells. The Vinyl Material is a test sample of pattern not used. The clear graphic overlay was used to test appearance against different backgrounds and is unique”. To the best of what I know, that accounts for all of them and the extra unused parts that were left over. NO extra chassis were sent by Lionel- only what we paid for; I guess the plastic stuff was so cheap that they didn’t miss it.

BTW, the boxes were drop shipped to me from (DRUM ROLL) CHINA. So as far back as 1996 Lionel was having things made off shore. This was, we have been told, the final item made by LTI prior to the sale to Wellspring. That info did not come to me from Dick Kughn, but from a front office employee of LIONEL who is no longer associated with Lionel.

We had a “step van assembly party” at the house of one of our members. I seem to remember that the officers at the time were the ones who did all the work, and their spouses, if they attended. Those were in 1996: Gordon Wilson, President; Bill Mack, Vice President; Beth Stange, Treasurer; Fred Hunter, Secretary; Jerry Calkins, Member at Large; Peter Coleman, Member at Large; and Paul Wassermann, Member at Large; Spouses who attended: Christie Wilson, Connie Calkins, Shirley Hunter, and TOM Stange. If memory serves me correctly the “party” was held at the Stange home in Scottsdale.”

Command Control 1955 Maintenance of Way (MOW) Trucks:

39530 Pennsylvania Command Control Pick-Up Truck #77
39531 Union Pacific Command Control Pick-Up Truck
39532 Santa Fe Command Control Pick-Up Truck
39533 Canadian Pacific Command Control Pick-Up Truck #22

39534 Rio Grande Command Control Pick-Up Truck
39535 Great Northern Command Control Pick-Up Truck #575
39536 M-K-T Command Control Pick-Up Truck #26
39537 New York Central Command Control Pick-Up Truck
39538 Nickel Plate Road Command Control Pick-Up Truck
39539 Northern Pacific Command Control Pick-Up Truck
39540 Southern Command Control Pick-Up Truck
39541 Southern Pacific Command Control Pick-Up Truck

39542 Weyerhauser Command Control Pick-Up Truck
58632 LRRC 1955 Maintenance of Way (MOW) Truck

81122 Christmas Command Control Pick-Up Truck
81126 Western Pacific Command Control Pick-Up Truck

81127 Alaska Command Control Pick-Up Truck
81130 CNJ Command Control Pick-Up Truck
81132 N&W Command Control Pick-Up Truck

Non-Command Control 1955 Maintenance of Way (MOW) Trucks:

58267 LCCA 2016 Registration Gift Kansas City Southern 1955 Inspection Truck

58268 LCCA 2016 Banquet Gift Kansas City Southern 1955 Inspection Truck

58269 LCCA 2017 Registration Gift Northern Pacific 1955 Inspection Truck

58270 LCCA 2017 Banquet Gift Northern Pacific 1955 Inspection Truck

STEPVAN UPDATE: From Bob Caplan:

“Stepvan #276, spray painted aluminum on gray plastic unlasered cab and van shells. This was the first van assembled as a trial to see how everything went together. It is marked with the limited run violet decorations made for the banquet cars.”

“Unique set of LTI shells provided to The Desert Division by Lionel in November 1995, to help in designing graphics, perhaps one of a kind color test shot. Thought to be one of a kind in blue as no production vans were made in blue. There are no part numbers on the inside (as are found on regular shells). No tabs to secure shells to frame. From Lionel to help design our graphics prior to production. A pre-production sample.”

52088 Desert Division TCA 25th Anniversary On-Track Step Van

52088 Desert Division TCA 25th Anniversary On-Track Step Van-Banquet Variation
52088 Desert Division TCA 25th Anniversary On-Track Step Van — Pre-Production sample

52088 Desert Division TCA 25th Anniversary On-Track Step Van — Pre-Production sample
Unique set of LTI shells provided to The Desert Division by Lionel
18423 On-Track Step Van

52108a Grand Trunk Track Van LCCA
Monopoly Step Van – Mint Green

52108 LCCA Stepvan
Monopoly Stepvan -Blue

Monopoly Stepvan -Dark Green
Monopoly Stepvan -Silver

Monopoly Stepvan -Yellow
UPS Stepvan

21698 Superstreets Lionel Van Set
22510 Lionel Step Van
22501 Chicago & North Western Van w/TMCC

(Monopoly stepvan photos courtesy of Bobby Striklin aka


This group contains the original Postwar version and remakes.

55 Tie-Jector, white lettering, “5511
18427 Tie-Jector “55”
18455 New York Central Tie-Jector “X-2”
28426 Union Pacific Tie-jector
81444 Pennsylvania Command Control Tie-Jector
81445 Maintenance of Way Command Control Tie-Jector
81446 Santa Fe Command Control Tie-Jector
81447 Norfolk Southern Command Control Tie-Jector
81448 Amtrak Command Control Tie-Jector


This group will include the Postwar variety as well as more current and prototypical versions.

3927 Track cleaning car
18461 Lionel Track Cleaner
26835 M.o.W. Track Cleaning Car
36878 New York Central Track Cleaning Car
28451 Christmas Holiday Track Cleaning Car
19826 Track Cleaning Car (Not Manufactured) Author’s Interpretation


28447 Factory Scheme Trackmobile
28448 CSX Trackmobile
28449 Union Pacific Trackmobile
28450 Canadian Pacific Trackmobile
28455 New York Central Trackmobile
28466 Army Trackmobile
28467 Pennsylvania Trackmobile
28468 Amtrak Trackmobile
28469 BNSF Trackmobile
38801 Kansas City Southern Scale Trackmobile
38802 North Pole Central Scale Trackmobile
38803 Maintenance of Way Scale Trackmobile
38804 Long Island Rail Road Scale Trackmobile
38805 Conrail Scale Trackmobile
38806 Norfolk Southern Scale Trackmobile
38807 Northern Pacific Scale Trackmobile
38808 Chessie Scale Trackmobile
38809 Canadian National Scale Trackmobile
1935010 Area 51 Trackmobile #51
1935020 Bethlehem Steel
Trackmobile #12
1935030 Burlington Northern
Trackmobile #1/2
1935040 Granite Run Quarries
Trackmobile #2
1935050 Milwaukee Road
Trackmobile #84
1935060 Pennsylvania Power & Light
Trackmobile #16
1935070 Santa Fe
Trackmobile #8
1935080 Southern Pacific
Trackmobile #5


28452 MOW Early Era Inspection Vehicle
28453 Pennsylvania Early Era Inspection Vehicle
28454 Canadian Pacific Inspection Vehicle
28471 Santa FeEarly Era Inspection Vehicle
28473 Great Northern Early Era Inspection Vehicle
28477 Lionelville RR Police Early Era Inspection Vehicle
28478 Frisco Early Era Inspection Vehicle
28479 Christmas Early Era Inspection Vehicle
28480 Grand Trunk Early Era Inspection Vehicle
28475 Union Pacific Early Era Inspection Vehicle
28476 Illinois Central Early Era Inspection Vehicle
28470 New York Central Early Era Inspection Vehicle
28472 Southern Early Era Inspection Vehicle
38493 Santa Fe Early Era Inspection Vehicle
38800 Boston & Maine Early Era Inspection Vehicle
38810 Pennsylvania Early Era Inspection Vehicle
38811 Rio Grande Early Era Inspection Vehicle
38812 Southern Pacific Early Era Inspection Vehicle
38813 Chesapeake & Ohio Early Era Inspection Vehicle
38814 Milwaukee Road Early Era Inspection Vehicle
38815 Transylvania Early Era Inspection Vehicle
82473 Norfolk & Western Early Era Inspection Vehicle NOT MANUFACTURED
82474 Burlington Northern Early Era Inspection Vehicle NOT MANUFACTURED
82475 Bethlehem Steel Early Era Inspection Vehicle NOT MANUFACTURED
82476 New Haven Early Era Inspection Vehicle NOT MANUFACTURED
82477 Virginian Early Era Inspection Vehicle NOT MANUFACTURED
82478 Reading Early Era Inspection Vehicle NOT MANUFACTURED
The End !