(Gianni Carrara)

The adventure of a great brand like Lionel in the H0 market can be split into two separate periods: the first one goes from 1957 till 1966 and represents the years of investments to find its own identity in what, also in America, was drawing attention as the future of railroad modeling, while the second, from 1974 till 1977 was the last , failed, attempt to get its own space in the H0 market.

After deciding to enter the H0 market, Lionel decided not to lose any further time and not to risk great investments to create its own line of products and preferred to apply to another manufacturer in order to market, under its own brand, models already existing. The choice fell on Rivarossi. So in 1957, in its first H0 catalog, Lionel introduced only Rivarossi models; but this agreement lasted only for one year. The short duration of this contract, notwithstanding the appreciation of the quality of the Rivarossi models by the market is surprising; on the Lionel side the reason was the maintained inability by Rivarossi to manufacture enough to satisfy the market requests, however there exists a text by Alessandro Rossi where he declares that the end of the relationship was due to disagreements about the payment conditions of the supplies.

Anyway Rivarossi did not manufacture any model specifically for Lionel but confined itself to install the standard NMRA couplers and to stamp on the models the typical Lionel trade mark with the letter “L” enclosed in a circle. 

When the Rivarossi experience ended Lionel contacted Athearn, an American manufacturer with an already noticeable experience in H0 and as an OEM manufacturer, whose production characterized the Lionel catalog from 1958 till 1966, though in these years models manufactured directly by Lionel replaced slowly the Athearn originals. 

The purpose of these few lines certainly is not to describe the Lionel story in H0, for which there already exist well documented publications, though these also are not devoid of inaccuracies *, but only to describe the short but interesting collaboration between Lionel and Rivarossi through the models which characterized it.


The Diesel Locomotives

Rivarossi manufactured for Lionel only one type of diesel locomotive, the famous C-Liner from Fairbanks Morse. Notwithstanding the short duration of their relationship, the versions of this locomotive under the Lionel brand lend themselves to some interesting observations,because they were introduced into the Lionel catalog in a moment of transition for this locomotive also in the italian market.


The locomotive was manufactured in version A unit powered, A unit dummy and B unit dummy, all versions were fitted with NMRA couplers on both ends.

In the hurry of having a catalog the locomotives displayed in the 1957 catalog show a version previous to the one actually sold by Lionel; actually, in the images, the locomotives appear as fitted with a huge front bulge with an horizontal slot were the classic Rivarossi hook coupler is protruding, furthermore the locomotives are fitted with metal wire handrails both on the front and on the side. In reality the models introduced for per Lionel had a smaller fromt bulge with a wide opening in the bottom from where the standard NMRA coupler was protruding; also the side handrails were eliminated and embedded in the body casting. Finally, the model which appeared at the beginning of the year, during the same year, was substantially modified and this which lets us identify two well separate  versions of this locomotive.

The side letterings were rubber stamped for versions Wabash, Chicago and North Western, Western Pacific and Illinois Central while for versions Southern Pacific and Texas and Pacific the lettering was simply printed on thin cardstock glued to the body sides.



First Version

Unit A powered

Body in styrene with handrails in metal wire only on the front, on the sides the handrails embodied in the casting.



Flat chassis in black painted brass plate with two rear tabs which fit into two slots in the rear body. Central ballast in a single block under the chassis fixed with a rivet, removable ballast inserted in the back of the body and resting on the chassis. The body fits on both sides into two metal projections protruding from a thin metal sheet fitted between the chassis and the central ballast.

Motor type 1677 on ball bearings with a white plastic body.

Front lamp with one pole riveted to the body and the central pole in parallel with one of the motor brushes. Two sockets in the back of the chassis, one connected to the chassis and one in parallel with a motor pole, for the connection of cable jumpers powering the lamp of a possible dummy A unit.



Rear body with intercommunication door details and two slots in the bottom for the insertion of the chassis tabs.




Front unpowered truck in a single casting in black plastic with integrated sideframes (painted when needed) connected with nut and bolt.


Rear powered truck in Zamak casting with screwed-on plastic sideframes (painted when needed).


Unit A dummy

Same as the powered version but without any ballast and with two unpowered single casting plastic trucks. Front lamp connected to the two rear sockets.


Unit B dummy

There were no B units with brass plate chassis.


Second Version

Unit A powered

Body in styrene with handrails in metal wire only on the front, on the sides the handrails embodied in the casting.

Motor type 1677 on ball bearings with a white plastic body.

Front lamp with both poles in parallel with the motor brushes. Two sockets in the back of the chassis, each in parallel with a motor pole, for the connection of cable jumpers to power the front lamp from power coming from a powered A unit.


Tub shaped chassis in clear plastic with bottom painted in black. Central ballast in multi-layer plate inside the chassis and fixed by a rivet, removable ballast  placed in the chassis between motor and back. The body fits on both sides into two plastic protrusions in the chassis.


Rear body with intercommunication door details without bottom slots.


Front unpowered truck in a single plastic casting as in the first version

Rear powered truck identical to the first version


Unit A dummy

Same as the powered version but without any ballast and with two unpowered single casting plastic trucks. Front lamp connected to the two rear sockets.




Unit B dummy

Structure similar to the dummy A unit, obviously without cab. Two sockets at each end interconnected through bare electric wire.





The Steam Locomotives

The cover of the 1957 Lionel catalog shows,,beside a FM C-Liner, a short train pulled by a 4-4-2, known in the Rivarossi catalogs as L SP/R. However this locomotive was never sold under the Lionel brand, the steam locomotives of Rivarossi origin were only two:

Switcher Dockside 0-4-0, Lionel art. 0600 (Rivarossi art. L B&O/R)

A model corresponding to the contemporary Italian version, with plastic chassis SFN 1051. Fitted with complete valve gear, handrails on the cab sides, on the boiler and on the smokebox and brass bell. The handrail and the uncoupling leverage on the front beam are missing. NMRA coupler only in the back. Strangely devoid of any inscription, including the Lionel logo. Motor type 1677.





Consolidation 2-8-0, Lionel art. 0610 (Rivarossi art. L 280/R)

Besides the NMRA coupler in the tender the model is identical to the first version of the L280/R, with Italian style cab and without superheater above the smokebox. Motor in the tender with  driving shaft on ball bearings. Handrails on the boiler sides and on the smokebox,.coupler leverage on the front beam. Brass bell and three valves on the boiler. White “280” lettering on the tender sides but without the Lionel logo. In the 1957 catalog the tender is shown without inscriptions thug in reality these were fited.



The Freight Cars


The Rivarossi cars for Lionel were the direct counterpart of the Rivarossi American production of 1957/58, obtained simply by adopting the NMRA couplers and printing on the car sides the Lionel logo. The logo was printed in different positions and in three different sizes, anyhow, due to the hurry in deliveries, there are models in a Lonel box but without logo.


A further production peculiarity differentiated the cars for Lionel (except caboose 0857). While Rivarossi later on manufactured, both for the Italian and the American market, cars in a “simplified” version both in structure and in finish, the production for Lionel was the classic one of the first times, the most detailed, but with an important difference

Though the underbody carried the seatings for their installation, the three separate detail parts of the brake system were never installed; actually the underbody carried the holes for the three details but they were simply not installed. Probably an attempt to reduce costs.

Also the trucks and axles were the same of the normal production of the time, made in plastic, both in the archbar and bettendorf version and sprung. For the couplers a modification of the European version was adopted with a metal shaft clamped to the truck beam but with the NMRA coupler in place of the Rivarossi coupler. Please note that, though in some photos they are not shown, all cars were actually fitted with separate ladders as in the Italian version.


The Models

The fact that in three years there followed three different manufacturers can make it difficult the attribution of the model to the correct manufacturer and, in our case, to identify the models manufactured by Rivarossi from those manufactured by Athearn or Lionel. This is complicated by the fact that many model types have been manufactured by all three manufacturers and, sometimes even in the same colors; furthermore, while the Lionel catalog of 1957 showed clear photos of the models, the following catalogs were based on pictures. As a consequence it could seem, at first glance, that the Rivarossi production for Lionel continued for a long time, eventually integrated with the production of the other brands.

Actually the Rivarossi models are only those shown in the 1957 catalog, though some of them remained also in the 1958 catalog. After 1958 no Rivarossi model was sold by Lionel, notwithstanding the deceptive pictures in the catalogs.

The following table lists the Rivarossi cars for Lionel; column “RR Art.” shows the code of the models as it appeared in the 1957 Rivarossi catalog while column “Lionel Art.” Shows the corresponding Lionel code for the same year.

Column “RR Cat.” reports the first year of production for each model in Italy and column “Lionel ‘58” specifies if the model remained in the 1958 catalog


Art. RR

Art. Lionel

Cat. RR

Lionel ‘58




C Flat/1










C Flat/2










C Reef/1










C Reef/2










C Reef/3







Shown in the 1958 catalog but actually made by Athearn



C Stock/1










C Gon/1










C Gon/2






Yes as 0862

Flat TA.bmp  Note 1


C Flat/T







With 3 metal pipes



V Cab










C Boom










C Der










C Box/1







Also in the 1958 catalog though not shown



C Box/2







Shown in the 1958 catalog but actually made by Athearn

Box3A.bmp   Note 2


C Box/3







Shown in the 1958 catalog but actually made by Athearn



C Box/4










C Box/5










C Box/6







It is not sure if Athearn manufactured this car in 1958/59



C Box/7







Manufactured in 1958 by Athearn with the same catalog number

Box8.jpg   Note 3


C Box/8







Shown in the 1958 but actually manufactured by Athearn. See note



                             Note 4









Newer shown in any Rivarossi or Athearn catalog


Note 1: Originally without any load. Around the end of 1957 with a load of three metal pipes held in place by two rubber bands connected to four metal hooks.

Note 2: There is a very rare version with the picture of a potato on the left side of the white line.


 Note 3: This car first appeared in the June 1958 issue of the H0 Rivarossi magazine but never appeared in any official Rivarossi catalog.

Note 4: This car never appeared in a Lionel catalog, though its code is known, and does not correspond to any Rivarossi prototype. Practically it is the body of flat car 0811, in the same Illinois Central colors, but without the end walls and fitted with low side walls, therefore similar to the flat cars with a truck trailer load manufactured for the European market.


From a Fairbanks-Morse's box the whole Lionel H0 1957 catalogue


* For a more complete vision of the Lionel story in H0 we suggest  books “Greenberg’s guide to Lionel H0 Volume I 1957-1966” by G. J. Horan e V. Rosa and “Greenberg’s guide to Lionel H0 Volume II 1974-1977” by G. J. Horan, both published by Greenberg Publishing Company Inc.



Lionel 1957 Catalogue









Le altre marche