Lionel HO compatibility?

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Guy with the Green Hat
Hi all. :)
I was generously given two boxes of old HO rolling stock and locomotives. Most of the equipment is Athearn with the occasional Tyco or Mantua car. However, I did get one Burlington Northern locomotive that was made by Lionel. The date on the bottom of the engine says 1976.

Somehow, I seem to recall that Lionel's HO locomotives were not compatible with normal DC operation, due to the fact that they ran on AC power. Is that true? Or am I misinformed?

I'd like to run the engine on my layout, but I don't want to fry anything.

Thank you.:)


Active Member
I can't imagine that Lionel would have made the gross error of attempting to market HO scale locomotives that ran on AC when 90% of the HO world in N. America was DC at the time....but stranger things have happened. Just look at MTH's foray into the HO market with their DCS proprietary system. It has been a big uphill struggle for them to break into the mainstream.


Active Member
Lionel's HO stuff was DC. I had an early attempt at their GS-4. It should work just fine with the rest of your stuff, if it still runs!

NH Mike

CEO & Wheel Cleaner
I have a Lionel HO GP30 that was originally in BN paint. Late 70's vintage. Yes it is DC and you'll have no problems. I haven't run it on a while ( long while ) but it ran quite well.


Guy with the Green Hat
I gave it a shot, and she runs. :) It took a minute to break her in, but she's up and moving. Mike, mine is a GP-something in BN paint, so I bet they're identical.

I ended up popping the shell off of the frame, and the motor looks identical to some old Bachmann and Life-Like stuff that I've seen. The motor is mounted on the rear truck with a wire leading to the front truck for electrical pickup. The middle of the frame is just a bunch of metal weights screwed together.

NH Mike

CEO & Wheel Cleaner
Good to hear it still runs. Quite some time ago there was mention of Lionel HO in another thread on here. If I recall someone replied with who actually made them for Lionel. Bachmann seems to sound right.

You can't miss a GP30 due to the shape of the cab roof. It has a large bump on top that extends back even with the long hood and the dynamic brake blisters have extensions that run forward to meet it. No other Geep has this roof. All others are round or flat with angular sloping sides.

Bachmann has released a GP30 recently with DCC on board. I bought an undec and painted it for my own road. It runs very good at all speeds on my DC layout.
I believe that Lionel did the GP30 and GP9, both of which were made under contract by some other company (I think it was either Tyco or Life Like). The Lionel GP9 still currently exists. I think it still exists as the Model Power version. (my memory is a little fuzzy on this though)


Master Mechanic
The Lionel HO of the mid 1970's were made by Kader, Bachmann's parent. Originally they were going to be made here in the US, at a Michigan plant, IIRC, using a 5-pole motor that was really very good. The motor was even part of the original advertising campaign. But then Lionel went thru one of their bankruptcies, and the manufacturing was shifted to Kader. So except for one year, all of the 70's Lionel HO was made in Hong Kong.

The locomotive was a GP-7 and had 8-wheel drive, 8 wheel pick up, and a solid heavy frame. I had one and it was a very good runner. Bought it for $15 in 1975.
You mean the Walthers Trainline GP9 with the chopped nose and too-short stanchions?

I'd have to check, but I think the Walthers one used to be made by someone else. is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to