Production: 1950, 1951 & 1953
The 681 steam engine is Lionel's representation of a turbine locomotive. The 6-8-6 wheel arrangement supported Lionel's advertising claim of 'it's an impressive 20-wheel locomotive!' The prototype was produced for and used by the Pennsylvania Railroad. Due to inefficient fuel consumption, the S-2 was a commercial failure and a second locomotive was never manufactured.
For Lionel, the success story of the turbine locomotive was different. The turbines were a marketing victory. The first turbine was introduced in 1946 (numbered 671) and the final one rolled off the assembly line in 1955. Between those years, Lionel produced thousands of turbines. Other examples of postwar Lionel turbines include 671, 682 and 2020, all of which remain popular with collectors and operators.
The 681 was basically a continuation of the 671, but with Magnetraction added to the locomotive. It's a durable engine and has pulling power comparable to some of the best locomotives produced by Lionel.
The 681 turbine locomotive had a three year production run -- but skipped over 1952 when the turbine briefly reverted back to the 671RR. Standard features include: black painted die-cast shell with white numbers, '6200' on the keystone, a single drive rod on each side, Magnetraction, three-position E-unit plus a headlight and smoke. The pilot and trailing trucks are always die-cast.
For 1950 and 1951, Lionel included the premium 12-wheel 2671W tender with the 681. When the 681 was re-introduced in 1953, the eight wheel 2046W-50 whistling tender was included with the 681. Both tenders have Pennsylvania lettering on the side -- however the 2671W is a much more desirable tender with its impressive 12 wheels compared to the 2046W-50.
Additional Detail, Photos & Box Information
681 w/ 2671W Tender - Shown in first photo above - There is only one reported version of the 681 S-2 turbine locomotive, but the 2671W tender was only offered in 1950 & 1951.
681 w/ 2046W-50 Tender (Second photo above) - When reintroduced in 1953, the 681 turbine remained the same, but Lionel included the 2046W-50 tender with the turbine.