FAQ

FAQ

Question: Is the item that I see on your web site available?

Answer: Graham's Train's inventory is always up to date. Our inventory database is updated in real time as items are purchased. If the item shows a quantity of one or more available, then we have it. There is no need to contact us to verify the availability before you can place your order. If you click the "Buy Now" or "Add to Cart" button and your shopping cart is still empty, that means that you have found an out of date web page that was archived or saved by an internet search engine. To make sure that the item page you are seeing is the most updated, key the manufacturer's item number into the search box at the left side of the page and then click "go". This will then search our site for that item and update the page. If the quantity still shows one or more available then it may be ordered. If the quantity shows "Out of Stock" then that means that we have sold out of that item.

Question: What does "gauge" mean?

Answer: Gauge is the width of the track. Only trains that fit the track will run on it.

Question: Which gauges are most Lionel trains?

Answer: Most Lionel trains run on two similar, related track gauges: O gauge andO-27 gauge. Both are 3-rail track.

Question: What is the difference between O and O-27 track?

Answer: There are two kinds of three-rail track --  O-27 gauge and  O gauge. Both are actually the same gauge -- 1 1/4 inches between the rails -- but serve slightly different needs. Curves in O-27 gauge are tighter than in O gauge. That means that some of the very longest O gauge cars and locomotives are too long to turn the tight corners of O-27 gauge layout. All O-27 gauge cars and locomotives will work on O gauge track.  Assemble O-27 curves into a circle and you get (surprise!) a 27-inch diameter circle. If your railroad has limited space, choose Lionel O-27. It's value-priced, offering various curves and crossovers as well as manual and remote-control switches. O-27 comes standard in all Lionel ready-to-run starter sets. O-gauge track is sturdier and has slightly taller rails than O-27 track. O-gauge track is 11/16" tall, where O-27 track is 7/16" tall. Basic O-gauge track makes a 31" diameter circle so it is commonly called (you guessed it) O-31 track. O-gauge track also comes in larger radius curves so that you can operate longer locomotives and rolling stock. The most common sizes are O-42, O-54, and O-72. The bigger the radius of the curve, the bigger the layout space you will need. 

Question: What does "Scale" mean?

Answer: As you now know, gauge refers to track size. Scale, on the other hand, measures the size relationship between a model and its real-world prototype. For example, a Lionel locomotive that is O-Scale is 1/48th the size of the real thing is called 1/48th or 1:48 scale. (As it happens, O gauge trains are 1/48th scale.) Sometimes the terms "gauge" and "scale" are used interchangeably even though, technically, they're different. 

Question: What scale and gauge trains does Graham's Trains sell?

Answer: Graham's Trains sells mostly O-scale, O and O-27 gauge trains. If the scale or gauge is different, it will be listed in the description of the item. 

Question: Are there other scales?

Answer: Yes, the list below describes other various scales and gauges.

  • 2-7/8-inch gauge
    Joshua Lionel Cowen's first train, The Electric Express, ran on 2-7/8-inch track. Lionel made trains in this gauge between 1901 and 1905.


  • Standard gauge
    In 1906,Cowen announced his new "standard gauge" (2-1/8 inches wide), which Lionel manufactured until 1939. (Standard gauge was eclipsed by smaller and less expensive O gauge, which was introduced in 1915 and produced to this day.)


  • O gauge
    Lionel O gauge is 1:48 scale. Most all Lionel trains are O gauge.


  • OO gauge
    Lionel OO gauge is 1:76 scale and very close in size to HO. It was manufactured by Lionel between 1938 and 1942.


  • HO gauge
    At 5/8 inches wide (with a scale of 1:87), HO is exactly half the size of O gauge.  (It's the most popular gauge on the market, but a bit small for young hands.)


  • TT (Table Top)
    TT is 1/120 scale and (we've heard) popular in Russia.


  • N Scale
    N is 1:160 scale and the second most popular scale after HO.


  • Z scale
    This is the latest gauge from Europe, with a scale of 1:220.


Question: What kind of electricity do model trains use?

Answer: Model trains are powered by transformers that output AC or DC power. "AC" stands for "Alternating Current" and "DC" stands for "Direct Current". Alternating Current (AC) is the type of electricity that you get when you plug something in to a wall socket in your house and is normally 110 volts. Direct Current (DC) is the type of electricity that small batteries such as "AA", "D", "C" type batteries output. The model train transformer reduces the house current from 110 volts to 0-20 volts AC. Most O-scale and larger trains run on AC power. For the smaller scales, they usually run on Direct Current (DC). The DC transformer reduces the voltage to 0-12 volts and converts the power from AC to DC.

Question: Is the electricity from model train transformers safe?

Answer: Yes, since the voltage that is output from model train transformers is so low, it poses no safety issue for adults or children. Make sure that your transformer is in working order and the the electrical cord is not stiff, cracked or frayed. 

Question: What kinds of control systems are used for model trains?

Answer: There are 2 main kinds of control systems in use for model trains. The original type of system uses a transformer with a built in controller that varies the voltage that is output to the track. When the voltage is increased, the train moves faster. This is the type of control that the postwar and baby boomer generations grew up with. The most modern control systems are digital control systems. Digital control systems use a constant voltage supply to the track and a signal is then sent to the engine from a hand-held remote control that adjusts the speed and the host of many other available features such as horn, whistle, bell, volume etc. Digital control systems can be used to control model trains accessories too. Lionel's digital control system is called TrainMaster Command Control or TMCC for short. Mike's Train House (MTH) digital control system is called DCS or Digital Command System. For more information, visit Lionel's web site at www.Lionel.com and MTH's web site at www.railking.com.

Question: How can I find out how much my trains are worth? 

Answer: See the information below.

Some toy trains are quite valuable. That's one of the reasons why collecting Lionel trains is such a popular pastime for thousands. However, it's also true that some toy trains, regardless of age, have not increased significantly in value over the years. How, then, are you supposed to determine the present-day value of a train uncovered while rummaging through Grandma's attic, or one found stuffed in a box at a garage sale or flea market?

Train Collector's Association Grading Standards

Mint

Brand new, absolutely unmarred, all original, and unused.

Like New

Free of any blemishes, nicks, or scratches. Original condition throughout. Very little sign of use.

Excellent

Minute nicks or scratches. No dents or rust.

Very Good

Few scratches. Exceptionally clean. No dents or rust

Good

Scratches, small dents, dirty.

Fair

Well-scratched, chipped, dented, rusted, or warped condition.

Poor

Beat up, junk condition, some usable parts.

Experienced collectors generally rely on three sources of information:
  1. Self-acquired knowledge resulting from active participation in the hobby.

  2. Personal contacts with other experienced collectors and dealers acquired over time.

  3. Annually published price guides that attempt to reflect current market conditions.


The novice collector, or someone who simply wants to determine the worth of a train that has been running beneath the family Christmas tree for generations, is somewhat at a disadvantage. He or she may lack long-term experience in train collecting, and probably hasn't developed contacts who might help answer questions. That being the case, the most viable alternative remains the published price guide.

Even experienced collectors can have a "love-hate" relationship with price guides. Some swear by them, and others swear at them! Usually, it's a matter of how "fair" they perceive the guides to be. Those wanting to sell trains, or hoping to see their investment increase in value year after year, are somewhat prone to disdain these books, reasoning that their items must surely be worth more than the "book price." Those wishing to buy toy trains are more prone to cite published prices, figuring that a higher asking price is akin to "gouging."

Always keep in mind that price guides for any kind of collectible are just that -- guides! They should never be taken as gospel! The true value of a toy train (or any other commodity) depends largely on the eagerness of a buyer to acquire the item, and on the willingness of a seller to part with it. A price guide provides nothing more than a reasonably reliable starting point for negotiation. None of the published price guides profess to offer more than a general reflection of market conditions existing prior to publication.

Remember, too, that the single most important factor influencing a given toy train's value is its appearance - that is, its condition. Collectors usually care less about how the item operates than about how it looks. So dents, scratches, faded paint, and damaged or missing parts all adversely affect this rating. The guides published today generally adhere to grading standards established by the Train Collector's Association (TCA), the largest organization of its type. These ratings, ranging from "Mint" to "Poor," are rigid standards, monitored and enforced by the TCA and followed by its members (see chart above).

However, non-TCA collectors sometimes ignore these or other standards. All too frequently, an unwary novice is sold a "Mint" item that may actually be only "Like New." Admittedly, objectivity may be difficult when you're grading a treasured item that you want to sell. Nevertheless, the seller's credibility is on the line, and every collector is well advised to disregard sentimentality and err on the side of conservatism in grading each piece.

In the area of Lionel train collecting, there are two respected, affordable, and long-established guides that are considered to be the most comprehensive and authoritative: TM's Lionel Price & Rarity Guide (two volumes) and Greenberg's Pocket Price Guide to Lionel Trains. Both are updated and published annually, and each has, over many years, developed a devoted following.

Greenberg's Pocket Price Guide covers Lionel production from 1901 to the present, listed numerically by general "era" of production. This includes "prewar" (1901 to 1942), "postwar" (1945 to 1969), and "modern era" (1970 to present, sub-categorized to reflect ownership changes). The book covers Lionel's 2-7/8 inch, Standard, OO, O, and O27 gauge trains listing the most common version of each item, along with some significant variations. (For HO, see the Greenberg illustrated hardcovers.) To locate an item in the listings, you'll need to know the product number or the catalog number (sometimes they are not the same). Then it's a simple matter of looking it up in the body of the book (Greenberg's Guide does not have an index). The easiest number to find is most often the one printed on the side of the car, or on the locomotive's cab. It helps, of course, if you know the era when the item was produced, because then you won't have to search every section.

TM's Price and Rarity Guide offers additional features. There are, for example, chapters on complete sets, Lionel's HO product line, and Lionel's boxes (some of which are quite valuable today). In addition, the TM guide lists all major variations, assigns rarity-rating numbers to reflect scarcity, and employs trend arrows to help collectors identify changes in marketplace conditions. State-of-the-market reports written by prominent collectors and dealers are also provided. Items in the TM guide are listed by category or type, but an index at the back of the book also allows you to find items by catalog number. TM publishes two volumes: the first covers 1900 through 1969, the second covers 1970 to the present.

Regardless of which guide you select, be sure to read the introductory material explaining how the guide was compiled, how prices were determined and listed, and how to use the book. Always remember that the more sources you consult, the more informed your buying or selling decisions will be. It's really as simple as that! Just keep in mind that these are only guides, and that there really is no substitute for experience.

Guide Books
Greenberg's Pocket Price Guide to Lionel Trains, 1901 -- 1999
Published by Kalmbach Publishing Company. To order direct, call 1-800-533-6644. Or visit www.kalmbach.com.

TM's Lionel Illustrated Price & Rarity Guide, Vol. I: 1901 -- 1969
TM's Lionel Illustrated Price & Rarity Guide, Vol. II: 1970 -- 1999
Published by TM Books & Video. To order direct, call 1-800-892-2822. Or visit www.tmbooks-video.com.