model train set on track

Who is Sharon?

e*Train Issue: Mar 2022   |   Posted in: ,

By Timothy P. Ring, TCA #06-59760

In the Pre-war Era, Lionel produced numerous versions of the 1680 style Oil Car from 1931 to 1942.  The last versions made in 1941 and 1942 had aluminum or later gray tanks, the Sunoco Gas & Oils decal on the right side of the tank, and were lettered S.U.N.X. 1680 or 2680 on the left side of the tank.  The 2680 differed from the 1680 in that the cars had automatic box couplers instead of the latch or manual box couplers found on the 1680.  Below the car number was a line of capacity and weight data ending with “Sharon 5-29”       

So the question comes up, “Who is Sharon?” And why is her name on some Lionel Prewar Tank Cars? Was Sharon the wife, daughter, sister, or mistress of Joshua L. Cowen?

Lionel 1680 S.U.N.X Oil Car C.1941

It turns out that Sharon is not a person, but a place! Sharon, Pennsylvania is located along the Shenango River in Pennsylvania, Northwest of Pittsburgh, along the Ohio border near Youngstown.

In the early 1900’s, Sharon was home to a Carnegie Steel Mill and shops that produced railroad tank cars. These included the Pennsylvania Tank Car Co. and the Standard Tank Car Co. which was bought by General American Tank Car (now GATX) in 1927. The Pennsylvania Tank Car Co. had built tank cars for refining and oil companies including Galena, Gulf, Texaco, and others. A successor to the Pennsylvania Tank Car Co., the Petroleum Iron Works Co., was also later absorbed by GATX[1]


Railroad Blotter Image-

Advertising images from the Standard Tank Car Co. and the Pennsylvania Tank Car Co. are shown.  Both images show the Sharon, PA location at the right of each tank car. 

It turns out that Lionel added a touch of realism to its late 1680 and 2680 tank cars when the lettering was designed.   Sharon was not a name, but a reference to where tank cars were built in Sharon, Pennsylvania.  Question answered!

Pennsylvania Tank Line Playing Cards- Potter & Potter Auctions

[1] Railway Car Builders of North America,