model train set on track

Those Wonderful TCA TURBINES from the Postwar Era

e*Train Issue: Feb 2008   |   Posted in: ,

By Mike Stella

About 25 or so years ago I wrote a nifty little article about collecting Lionel Turbines and asking “HOW MANY” did the Lionel collector really need?

Next year I will update that Black and White article to a Full Color spread for the TCA e*Train and include a few more turbines I have collected in those 25 years.

Today I wish to highlight a few very special #671 Turbines that most TCA members are familiar with.

In the late 1960s, the first TCA collectors train was being created with a Lionel freight car addition each year for 10 years.  No locomotive was ever produced to pull this train.  Rather a TCA SPECIAL boilerfront was offered along with a few stickers to redecorate a #671 or #2020 Steam Turbine.

I have seen many of these redecorated turbines offered for sale and for some unexplained reason almost all of them use the #671 over the #2020.

Why the “O” Gauge number commands more respect than the 0-27 version?  Even today 40 years after first being offered, one can still locate the “kit” required to convert a #671 and there seems to be no shortage of the special tender shell that is stamped with TCA data.

Although not actually produced by Lionel, the TCA SPECIAL turbine finds a home in most Postwar collections.

The three TCA tenders in white, silver, and gold.

But did you know there are three different TCA tender shells and while the white stamped one is easy to acquire, the gold one is much harder to find, and you might never be lucky enough to latch onto a silver one.

Here are three surplus #671 Turbines with the TCA conversion “kit” installed.

I tried to win a gold tender only in an Internet auction a few years back, but didn’t bid high enough.  Same seller sold a second gold tender along with the #671 Turbine and I won that one for only a bit more then the tender sold for by itself!  I sure am glad I was outbid on the lone tender.

An overhead shot of the three TCA Turbines ready to roll.

A silver shell showed up and I was very surprised at how high the winning bid was.  I did a bit of reading and discovered that only 11 of these silver shells were produced.  Luck would have it that another one went up for auction and I bid more than I wanted to, but it actually sold for much less than the first one I saw.

Very happy indeed, I was.  I made up for it by buying a 12 wheeled #671W tender to get the chassis and also repairing and restoring an old #671 Turbine I rescued from the junk bin!

My prototype #681R from the 1950 Lionel catalog.

I cherish Lionel Postwar steam locomotives and these TCA Turbines are three great additions to my collection.  Look at the back page of the 1950 Lionel Anniversary Catalog and you will see the ad for the last Electronic Set pulled by the #681R.  Not many of these Turbines were produced, probably just a few salesman’s samples.  My #681R was obtained from a family member of a Lionel employee after he cleaned out the office his father had occupied upon his passing.

These four Lionel Turbines are just an addendum to the complete series.  I will do an updated article on the entire series at a later date.

Until then, continued Happy Collecting.