model train set on track

Variation Illumination or shedding some light on a Lionel favorite.

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

By M. Stella

Put a new fangled electric light bulb on a toy train and you have the first operating car offered to the public. There has always been a fascination with turning out the room lights and watching a train run around in the dark, with a locomotive headlight showing the way. And if you were lucky, a searchlight car in the freight consist added a bigger beam of light to scan the darkened skies.

What fun the simplest toys provided. Now as a Lionel Postwar Collector, it is mandatory to have all the numbers, all the styles, all the features, all the colors, and all there is to have in the line of searchlight cars that ran from the late 40’s through the final years in the 60’s.

We tend to take the searchlight car for granted and often pay little attention to the large number of variations available and the challenge to collect them all. The following pictures show all of the searchlight cars I was able to locate in the last hour of scanning my display shelves (Might be one or more stored in boxes).

In the past year I have been concentrating on the plastic #6822 and am still looking for one that is near impossible to find.
I hope you enjoy this second article on “variations” as I hope to do about 100 more.


The earliest postwar cars were #6520 and came with generators in green, maroon, and orange. Hoods were crackle or smooth gray and sometimes black. The searchlight could be remotely turned on or off with the push of an uncoupling button.

A #6520 with RED generators and a pair of #3520s. Once in a while an orange hood will turn up.

The #3620 came with an orange or a maroon generator also. The Generator Boxcar is a nice addition to any collection and comes in LONG or SHORT stripe versions.

The Extension Searchlight car shows the ingenuity of Lionel engineers. Dark Gray and Light Gray versions and once in a while a Black Hood.

The all-plastic 6822s. Most common in Black with Gray or Gray with Black but often found all Black or all Gray. The recent sale of Lionel factory items and Richard Kughn items turned up some ORANGE superstructures that quickly made their way to Ebay. Crazy!