Model Train Maker Lionel Making Boxcar With Markings of Connecticut’s Naugatuck Railroad

THOMASTON, CT – Long before so many classic car enthusiasts adopted their preferred hobby, they built model cars and played with electric train sets as kids. The renown Lionel toy train brand has long produced locomotives and other rolling stock bearing familiar railroad names. It’s now adding a boxcar bearing the name of Connecticut’s Naugatuck Railroad.

To mark the 175th anniversary of the launch of the original Naugatuck Railroad, its successor is having Lionel produce a branded black boxcar adorned with the letters “NR” stacked in bright orange. 

An O gauge boxcar will be available soon with an HO gauge boxcar due out in fall. Pre-orders are now being taken. The price of the O gauge boxcar is $85, while the HO gauge will cost $44. “We started the design process with Lionel in the summer of 2023,” said Orion Newall, passenger operations director of the Naugatuck Railroad.

The idea for a branded boxcar came from an advertisement in Lionel’s annual catalog noting that bespoke railroad cars could be ordered. Like so many others over the decades, Newall owned Lionel trains as a youngster and is a fan of them.

“We went back and forth a bit,” Newall said, before a boxcar modeled after one from the 1950s used by the New York, New Haven and Hartford Railroad (commonly called the New Haven Railroad) was selected. 

 A minimum order of 100 units was required for Lionel to produce an “NR” boxcar. “If it gets to 100 before the preorder cutoff, we’ll order more,” Newall said.

While the original Naugatuck Railroad was chartered in 1845, service between Bridgeport and Winsted wasn’t launched until 1849. The New Haven Railroad took over its routes in 1887 via a lease and the Naugatuck Railroad merged with the New Haven Railroad in 1906.

The current Naugatuck Railroad, which is part of the Railroad Museum of New England, was created in June 1995. It began passenger excursions between Waterbury and Torrington began in October 1996.

Lionel, which is based in Concord, N.C., was founded in 1900 by train enthusiast Joshua Lionel Cowen. Its products are made in the United States.

Along with the “NR” letters in orange, the forthcoming boxcar displays the word “Naugatuck” and the abbreviation “NAUG 1845.” Said Newall, “We decided to go with the charter date number. We may use 1849 on another car.”

Lionel also makes train sets with New Haven Railroad livery.

(Photos courtesy of the Naugatuck Railroad.)

About Bud Wilkinson

Bud Wilkinson writes the "RIDE-CT" motorcycle column and the "My Ride" classic car feature in the "Republican-American" newspaper in Waterbury, CT. A graduate of Vermont Academy prep school, he holds a B.A. degree journalism from Ohio Wesleyan University. He is the recipient of a Scripps Howard Foundation National Journalism Award in 1992 and a 1991-92 regional Emmy Award for commentary. He currently rides a 1987 BMW R 80 RT and a 2014 Triumph Bonneville and drives a 2010 Mazda MX-5 Miata.

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