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The Inside Story of 6464-960: The “Janus” 6464-1965 and 6464-1965X Boxcars

e*Train Issue: Oct 2013   |   Posted in: ,

By Alan Stewart & Chris Allen. Photos by Chris Allen

In ancient Roman religion and myth, Janus is the god of beginnings and transitions. He is usually depicted as having two faces, since he looks to the future and to the past. The Romans named the month of January in his honor.

As we look to the past, this certainly seems to apply to the Lionel Corporation in 1965. For what it was worth, it was the beginning of a transition all right. The future at that point was rather bleak.

EDITOR’S NOTE: The following was originally published in “The Quarterly” January 2006 by Alan Stewart. Used with permission.

At the Pittsburgh Convention in 1972, a booklet was distributed titled, TCA Convention Special No.1. It was meant to finalize the first series of TCA convention cars and make room for the next series. Page three of this booklet is titled, “How It All Came About…” Here is a quote from that article, “Pittsburgh got the bid and along with it the donation from Joe Ranker and Hal Carstens of the box car design. The committee promptly adopted it and ordered 700 cars from Lionel. A second order was subsequently placed for another 100. In the rush to get the cars into production it wasn’t noticed that the design omitted the car number. Lionel rubber stamped the bottoms of these 800 cars with the number ‘6464-1965’ after Lou Redman caught the error.

“Long after the Convention, Lionel found an additional 74 of these cars which had not been assembled. The components were made into cars in Lou’s basement by some of the Pittsburgh collectors and to differentiate these as ‘specials’, they were rubber stamped in a manner similar to the others except with the number 6464-1965X.”

All these cars, the 6464-1965 and the 6464-1965X were made with conventional Lionel frames of the time, with plastic trucks. It appears, however, that there were a few TCA Cars made up on operating boxcar frames. I found and purchased one of these at York many years ago and took it by Lou Redman’s table to ask him about it. He said that before the shells were found in the Lionel parts department, E. Z. Schwaffel (a well known west coast retailer from Sunnyvalle. CA) had been there and gotten an undetermined number of shells and had made them up using operating boxcar frames. Finally, it should be noted that these TCA 1965 cars are known with both blue and black doors. Easily switched of course, but both colors are known on original cars.

6464-960 was Lionel’s number. 6464-1965 was the TCA number. Since TCA had to put the number on, (recall it was left off the factory graphics), it was fitting that TCA chose -1965 instead of -960, Also note the car was originally designed in 1964 for a proposed 1965 NETCA Convention. For some reason, plans for that convention were scrapped and Pittsburgh got the bid. Every year since then, the car has carried the Convention year rather than the manufacturer’s number. The idea for the car was Margaret Ranker’s and the graphic design was Hal Carstens’.

EDITOR’S NOTE: The following was written by Chris Allen.


There continues to be some confusion about the 6464-1965X Box Car. When I began researching information on the TCA Special Convention Set #1 it quickly became apparent that there was some conflicting information regarding some of the cars and in particular the first convention car from 1965. Stepping into a time machine and going back to 1965, TCA was still primarily focused on tin plate preservation. We were still in the Lionel post war era and just as today’s collectors dismiss current production, post war era trains at the time were nothing more than “novel souvenirs”. One can easily understand how the design for a convention car would have omitted a car number under these circumstances, especially since this was our first attempt at producing a convention car.

Although there have been varying production numbers published over the years, TCA records indicated that an astounding order of 700 units was initially ordered and a second order of 100 additional units was placed prior to the convention. These 800 units are rubber stamped on the bottom as 6464-1965 and no known or published variations exist of this series. However, with TCA total membership totaling only 1,050 members at the time one can easily imagine, “what were they thinking?” by placing an order that large. That’s one “souvenir” for every 1.3 member in the Association. But the story takes an even more bizarre turn. Enter the “X” factor.

Several years later more shells from the 1965 production run were found at the Lionel factory. As collectors, we would think those working these projects would pay attention to the details, but considering we were still a mostly pre-war tinplate organization, somewhere between 67 to 74 additional shells were reported to have been discovered at the factory while looking for parts. It has been reported that some shells made their way to the west coast, while others say that Mr. Lenny Dean would have none of that and the shells were offered back to TCA. It should be noted that if any shells did make their way out of the factory, they would be on unstamped frames, and these unauthorized cars would have little, if any collectability.

What is known is that these “specials” as they are referred to, were made up of all the remaining stock 6464 frames and when they ran out, 3484 operating car frames were used to complete the order. In retrospect I find it so very odd that all these “specials” were rubber stamped with the “X” designation while nothing, not even an accurate count of how many were made, to differentiate those that were made with the operating mechanism. They were simply stamped with the same 6464-1965X stamp as the other cars. Why do I find this so odd? Consider the time period of 1967 when these cars were reportedly found. TCA was scrounging around Lionel looking for other 6464 boxcars to be used for the 1967 convention. Those cars were also rubber stamped on the frame and even given a serial number. We have a unit count of the nine different road names that were used and serial numbers for some of them. Why the 1965X series never received the same treatment is wide open for speculation and conjecture.

One last point about this interesting car is the reported “black door” variation. No price guide from the era ever reported this variation and there is nothing in any official TCA publication stating black doors exist. The simple fact that it was reported that some had operating mechanisms but there is no mention of any with black doors could make a person suspicious. The doors can be easily changed and with a surplus of these cars showing up at train meets, the black door does give the bland blue boxcar a very colorful “pop” and makes it stand out. When looking at the 1965 convention cars it should be remembered that none of the original 800 unit 6464-1965 run had black doors. They would only appear on the very limited production “X” series which were made up of available spare parts.