model train set on track

One car, exponential variations! A case of not so “fuzzy” math.

e*Train Issue: Feb 2004   |   Posted in: ,

By Mike Stella

I collect Lionel Postwar. (Big Deal…so do thousands of others). I collect variations. (Yeah, so do the rest of us). I figure out how many possible variations Lionel “could” have created with a given car and then try to find them all. (What does he mean?). Let me explain what I mean.

Take the 6823 Missile Car … P L E A S E!!! (Henny Youngman had nothing on me).

A pretty mundane postwar flat car that carries two ICBM missiles. I guess the idea was to have a few extra ICBMs around to fire from a variety of launchers produced by Lionel. Every postwar collector has at least one of these cars in order to have a “complete” set of Military and Space items. A variation collector has to have a few more. How many? Well, the #6823 red flat car comes in a 6424-11 mold and the 6511-2 mold. Many collectors might not really care but they really are quite different flats. The 6511-2 is a much darker red and has four extra holes in the middle of the deck used not in this configuration but on other flats with other loads. The more advanced Lionel collector will have at least one of each style of #6823 flat.

How about those ICBM missiles? Just as the much sought after #6500 Bonanza Airplane Car comes with a Red over White or a White over Red plane, so does the ICBM come Red over White or White over Red but also is found completely White and sometimes completely Red. If a collector has all four missiles combinations on each of the two style flats he ends up with EIGHT different cars.

Now take a LOOK at the rubber tips on those missiles. They can be Black or they can be Blue!

That’s SIXTEEN cars and it assumes the two missiles on each car have the same color tips. If not you jump to THIRTY-TWO different cars! (How long can this go on?) And finally, we still are assuming that both missiles on each car are the same color combination. Two Red over Whites. Two All Whites. “IF” Lionel ever sent cars out of the factory with two different colored missiles then each of the 32 cars can actually come four different ways bringing the final total to 128!!!

So how many #6823 flat cars DO YOU HAVE? I have four. (See Picture above) After all, there has to be a reasonable limit on some things.

Or not.