Production: 1947 - 1956 & 1963, 1964
The 6257 had a long production in the Lionel postwar era -- running for ten consecutive years; then making a brief two-year appearance in the early 1960's. Since the 6257 was produced for such a long period, it experienced numerous variations and changes. A single web page could not even begin to describe every variation. For simplicity, the common variations will be documented on this site with a few rare ones mentioned for reference purposes.
The first 6257 was introduced late in the 1947 production year. At the time, it was Lionel's entry level SP style caboose and contained minimal detail. The 6257 was included in several beginner sets as well as being available for separate sale.
During the 1950s and 1960s, Lionel continuted to introduce numerous other SP style cabooses into its product line. Some were stripped-down cabooses with no extra detailing -- such as the 1007, 6007 and 6017, while others were premium cabooses and even today remain highly sought-after cabooses -- such as the 6557 and 6657.
Standard features on the 6257 include:
- Trucks - Started with staple-end trucks in 1947. These were replaced with bar-end trucks in 1952 which continued until 1956. During it's two year re-appearance in the early 1960's the 6257 caboose had AAR trucks.
- Exterior Color - For the first several years of production the caboose was painted red. There are numerous color shades or variations which runs the entire range from red to tuscan. In some cases the color difference is so slight you need to hold two cabooses next to each other in order to determine if a difference exists. For the final two year (1955 & 1956) the 6257 switched to an unpainted molded red body.
- Brakewheel - The brakewheel detail is located on the end-railings. Dual brakewheels were the norm for the first few years of production. In the early 1950's the caboose changed to a single brakewheel and finally to no brakewheel by the mid 1950's.
Interestingly, there are two rare 6257 cabooses containing a smokestack; the very first and very last version produced by Lionel.
- In late 1947, the very first production run for the 6257 came with a painted red smokestack, matching the color of the caboose. These painted red stack versions are extremely rare and almost impossible to locate -- especially one with the correct original box! The painted stack version was produced both with and without battery boxes attached to its frame.
- For 1963 and 1964, an unpainted red caboose with a black die-cast smokestack was produced in small quantities. Although this is a rare caboose, it is slightly easier to locate than the 1947 painted smokestack version.
Additional Detail, Photos & Box Information
Most of the current Lionel reference books catagorize the SP cabooses based upon the lettering style on the side of the caboose. Therefore, we've elected to remain consistent with the popular market.
Lionel / SP Lettering - Shown in the photo above - Estimated to run from 1948 through 1952 and always contains a painted body with white lettering.
Lionel / SP Lettering With Red-Painted Smokestack (Second photo above) - This is the very first production run, probably from late 1947 and quite possibly for only a few days or weeks! This is the rarest SP style caboose as well as one of the rarest Lionel postwar items! This version always has a red painted body, staple-end trucks and dual brakewheels.
Lionel / Circle L Lettering (Third photo above) - Estimated to run from 1953 to 1955 and generally has an unpainted red body. Lionel referred to this variation as the 6257-25 caboose.
Lionel Lettering (Fourth & Fifth photo above)- Estimated to be a one year only item from 1956 and not too easy to locate. The Lionel lettering is available on either the right or left side of the caboose and was referred to by Lionel as the 6257-50 caboose.
Lionel Lines - This variation always had AAR trucks, expanded side lettering to include Lionel Lines versus just Lionel plus a die-cast smoke stack on the top. It was produced in 1963 or possibly 1964 and is a very difficult caboose to locate and collector quality examples will command a significant premium. Lionel referred to this caboose as the 6257-100 caboose.