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Sunday, November 15, 2009

The Hallmark Lionel OO Gauge F-3

Here is a model I have had in my mind to purchase for years, and I finally started searching and found a good deal on one on eBay. As you can see from the first photo, the Hallmark Lionel OO gauge F-3 looks great!

The model is not HO scale, as many would today probably think on first glance at this model. Ed Morlok wrote a two part article on converting this model to an operating OO gauge model that appeared in the November, 2000 and February 2001 issues of The OO Road. He introduced this model as follows:
In May of 1999 Hallmark Card shops began offering a OO gauge reproduction of the famous Lionel O gauge F3 A-A diesel in the New York Central lightning stripe paint scheme. This two-unit locomotive is 60% of the size of the O gauge model. Thus it is almost exactly to OO scale and is exactly OO gauge. But it is an unpowered model, sold only with a display case. The locomotive is very handsome, and looks great with OO scale items. The only major discrepancy is that it is about 9 [scale] inches too low, not very noticeable. In my opinion, this negative feature is far outweighed by its handsome appearance and excellent painting and lettering. Of course, it has the detail level of the original Lionel product, but this matches the level of detail of most manufactured OO items.

Powering is not difficult if one uses underfloor units. I also powered one using an Athearn frame and motor, and that was a very tedious job. It also results in the loss of Lionel’s characteristic swiveling pilot, which is part of the charm or appeal of Lionel to collectors, I’m sure. The Hallmark case can be used to display other models or this loco.
The rest of the Morlok articles deal with the nuts and bolts of making these models operable. There are a few options as to how to do this but the underfloor units such as he describes would certainly make the easiest and best running conversion. He used Tenshodo HO power trucks, 35mm wheelbase with 10.5 mm wheels.

In the photo of the underside of the model you can see better what you are up against. The models will roll, sort of, on my layout as they are but would certainly need working over to use as operating models.

These next photos compare the Hallmark model to the Schorr F-3. The Hallmark model really is, as Morlok worded it, very handsome, but it is also clearly semi-scale. It is close—it is wide enough for sure, but it is not tall enough over the rails. The overall length of the models is nearly the same, the Hallmark model being only a couple millimeters shorter in length.

This model was a part of what appears to have been two series of OO gauge models that were marketed by Hallmark. As stated by Morlok, they are 60% size models of O gauge toy trains. The other models in the series are as a result more toy-like and not very usable as scale models in OO gauge.

According to the flyer packed with the model I purchased, the 2333 NYC F-3A-A was third in the series, released in the spring of 1999, and had a list price of $100. The series was started in 1998. The Hallmark - Lionel Lines 726 Berkshire steam locomotive was first in the Great American Railways 20th century series listing at $120, and the Lionel 2332 Pennsylvania GG-1 was second in the 20th century series listing at $95. Also available at that time was the first model in the Norfolk and Western Train Series, the Lionel 746 Norfolk and Western 4-8-4 which listed at $90. It was priced lower as it did not include a display case. Also based on what I see for sale on eBay, there was a fourth model in the 20th century series, the Hallmark - Lionel Lines 671 Turbine Steam locomotive, and at least one more model in the Norfolk & Western Train Series as well, the Hallmark Great American Railways Lionel 3356 horse car. The later, according to eBay listings, sold for $30 originally. These other models, while interesting collectibles and OO gauge, are not particularly models you might want to convert to operation as they are clearly miniature models of semi-scale toy trains (although, based on the photo in the flyer, you could perhaps think about converting the 4-8-4 to an operating model--but it would certainly be a huge job).

I should mention the track that comes mounted on the base. It is as Ed Morlok noted clearly OO gauge and is similar to Lionel OO three rail sectional track, as illustrated in this photo.

All of these show up on eBay with a variety of ways to list the models. Most sellers seem to think they are approximately HO scale. Also all appear to have been produced in limited edition runs of 29,500 each. My pair are number 20703 in the F3 run. If that makes them rare or not in the world of Hallmark collecting I am not sure but they seem to be common enough so that there is usually one on sale as a BIN item and if you spend a few weeks specifically trying to find one they will come up for auction on eBay. I would say they are not so rare that you could not modify one for operation if you wanted.

The prize in the Hallmark OO line for us I think is still the AA F-3’s. This pair I am not planning to try to power any time soon; it is actually going in my office in the nifty display case seen in this final photo. Every OO gauge enthusiast should have one of these.

UPDATE: I saw a Hallmark-Lionel 726 Berkshire and a 2332 Pennsylvania GG-1 at a recent meet, and they do give very much the visual impression of being smaller than OO; the F-3s however do really visually impact as being OO gauge models.

9 comments:

Phil said...

There is also a Hudson. I have one of these. It is good looking.

John Ericson said...

Phil--I did finally track down a Hudson and actually it is an Avon item. Just a tiny bit longer than the OO Hudson but a very nice display item with base. Would be impossible (more or less) to convert to operation.

Lionel Trains said...
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John Ericson said...

But would also note there is a Hallmark version of the 4-6-4, their 773 Hudson. It has a tender and display base such as seen on the other Hallmark models.

Sonny Sacharow said...

Hello there- I am a railfan, but no longer into layouts, etc. I stumbled across The Avon Lionel Train collection, and was able to purchase all 5 pieces for under $10 each. Quite a surprise. All are resin based, static displays,with nice simulated wood bases and brass ID's on each. Surprisingly, as the issues were released somewhere in the 1990's according to Avon, each one became more detailed and more accurate. For example, the Lionel 381 is a crude representation, while the last of the Hudson and the Santa Fe Chief are quite accurate. Well, as an e-bay aficionado, I then came across the Hallmark Series. People were offering these, made in the early 2000's for retail prices! Due diligence paid off, as I have acquired all 5 at very reasonable prices (under $25 each). The details are outstanding, and the bases with 3 rail track and the brass ID's are quite well done. Each comes with its' own acrylic display case. What I don't understand is how the scale was determined? The NYC F3A and the Hudson are a bit larger than the Berkshire and the Turbine is really small. Great static displays, lit up on a bookcase but leaves some unanswered questions. Can anyone help clarify? Thanks

John Ericson said...

Neat you found the sets and this article. I like the look of the Avon F-3 a lot and will need to pick one up. As to scale, the main thing to remember is they are reduced size models of toy trains which are not necessarily to scale (1/48) to begin with. So the Hallmark models for example are 60% size models of O gauge toy trains. The Hudson is a scale model that happens to size out when reduced to very close to American OO (1/76), but the F-3 a bit under 1/48 as originally produced by Lionel and the others are quite reduced/stylized models.

Sonny Sacharow said...

Thanks for your response John. I understand what you are saying. If the Hallmarks are 60% of scale, then that would determine that the Hudson and the NYC F3-A's were considerably larger than the Berkshire and the Turbine in real size. Is that correct? Further, I was completely blown away, when I discovered that all the drivers and wheels actually turn! For the lack of a motor or power, these die cast models are as accurate as any powered HO train I've ever seen. One interesting fact is that the tender used on all 3 steam engines are the same. In any case, they make for very dramatic individual displays.I would be happy to send pictures of each one for your followers if you would like. Thanks

Sonny Sacharow said...

Thanks for your response John. I understand what you are saying. If the Hallmarks are 60% of scale, then that would determine that the Hudson and the NYC F3-A's were considerably larger than the Berkshire and the Turbine in real size. Is that correct? Further, I was completely blown away, when I discovered that all the drivers and wheels actually turn! For the lack of a motor or power, these die cast models are as accurate as any powered HO train I've ever seen. One interesting fact is that the tender used on all 3 steam engines are the same. In any case, they make for very dramatic individual displays.I would be happy to send pictures of each one for your followers if you would like. Thanks

John Ericson said...

That is to say, the Hallmarks are 60% size models of toy trains. The toy trains were semi-scale at best, and the Berkshire and the Turbine were not scale models to begin with, they are underscale, so the Hallmarks are also underscale.

I also have now had an opportunity to look at the Avon F-3, it is larger than the Hallmark by a good bit and is likely close to S scale.