Production: 1946 - 1949 & 1952
The Berkshire -- modeled after a real-life Boston & Albany locomotive -- was a premium locomotive in the Lionel family. Introduced in 1946 as the 726 with a number change to 736 in 1950, the Berkshire remained in their product line for over 20 years! Along with the legendary 773 Hudson and the colorful 746 Norfolk & Western J, many consider the 726 Berkshire and its scale-like 2426W tender among the nicest steam locomotive and tender combinations offered in the postwar era.
The 736 Berkshire was essentially a 726 but with Magnetraction. The Korean War caused various material shortages in many industries. For Lionel, they were unable to obtain an adequate supply of aluminum and nickel required for Magnetraction. As a result, they were forced to re-introduce the Berkshire without Magnetraction and catalogued it as 726RR. Note that some 726RR Berkshires simply had 726 on the cab. However, those units had more in common with the 736 than the earlier 726.
The 726 Berkshire has the following standard features: black painted die-cast shell with silver numbers, full complement of driving hardware, three-position E-unit, hinged boiler front, plus a headlight, smoke, an ornamental bell and a decorative whistle. The initial production run (1946 - 1949) included detailed Baldwin-disc drive wheels. When re-issued in 1952, the 726 had the spoked drive wheels.
The 726 underwent several changes during its production run. The following summarizes the more notable changes with the estimated year of change:
- Cab Window - available with either a three- or four-window cab. The four-window cab (with four small equally sized windows) was produced in each year of the 726's production. The three-window cab (with two smaller windows with a larger rear window) was only produced in 1946 and 1947.
- Smoke unit - the 1946 Berkshires used the smoke bulb unit. For 1947 through 1949, the heat-resistant wire smoke unit was used in all Berkshires.
- Pilot - the 1946 and 1947 versions have a plain pilot on the front. For 1948 and 1949, a simulated knuckle coupler was cast into the pilot.
- Cab number - when Lionel re-issued the 726 in 1952, most were numbered 726RR -- with RR indicating the locomotive was a re-run. However, some early 1952 production Berkshires simply carried the plain 726 without the RR.
From 1946 through 1949, all 726 Berkshires were sold with the premium semi-scale, die-cast 2426W Lionel Lines whistling tender. When re-introduced in 1952, all 726s were sold with the 2046W Lionel Lines whistling tender. The 2426W tender is far more desirable than the smaller and less detailed 2046W. Features on the 2426W include: 12 wheels, scale-like size and plenty of impressive detail.
Additional Detail, Photos & Box Information
Numerous Variations - Shown in the photo above. - The Berkshire in the photo above has a four-window cab, plain pilot and a heat-resistant smoke unit -- circa 1947.
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