Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Prewar Tinplate Prototype, The New York Central S-motor

As younger generations begin to explore the wonders of prewar tinplate such as Lionel, Ives and American Flyer many may ask themselves, “were there really trains that looked like these?” The answer of course is a resounding yes.

In 1906 General Electric and Alco paired to produce the S-motor class of electric locomotives. The most prominent examples of these were the New York Central S-1’s, S-2’s and S-3’s. Toy manufacturers of the time saw these locomotives as ideal representations of future motive power. Even better, these were electric and what better to prototype electric toy trains from then the new electric locomotives appearing on the East Coast. For a detailed review of the S-motor’s history I recommend you check out

Today, some of the finest and most desirable prewar tinplate is derived from the S-motors. Two of my personal favorites shown here are the IVES 3240 in gauge 1 and the Lionel 1912 in Standard Gauge.
Notice the cast rivet detail of the IVES 3240 and the beautiful, although not protoypical “thin-rim” wheels of the Lionel 1912.

Comparisons between these tinplate-era locomotives and the S-motors they copied show that toy manufacturers were as interested in showing the future of railroading in their time as they are today, perhaps even more so. Stay tuned for more prototype/tinplate comparisons in upcoming articles.


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