Lionel at War in 1917
Lionel's #203 Armored Train Set
Lionel made only one Military Train set during their existance up to WWII

After a number of years searching for a #203 War set, when I found one that was in pretty good shape, I knew I needed to build a layout to honor this 1917 historical train set (the same time America was becoming involved in the War). Lionel claimed that "You can be a General just like the soldiers in Europe...". Lionel said their #203 set was just like the real Siege guns booming on the battlefields of Europe. In truth, they were not close in design to the real Siege guns, but after all this is a make believe toy. In reality, the Germans had very large railroad guns that could fire shells up to 26 miles away.
The battle field was spread all over Europe where both sides were dug in trenches without much movement. Gases were used which eventually have been outlawed by most communities of the world. The Great War was highlighted as the "War to end all Wars" which is sadly not been the case. Military toys may be useful in training and understanding the dangers of war as well as survival skills. The hope is that there is no need for these toys, but that hope has been dashed on too many occasions.
The 5 and 10 dime stores sold metal figures (all hand panted) which would provide kids the opportunity to build their own "War Scenes". Barclay, Grey Iron, and Manoil were the most common manufactures of toy soldiers when production was booming from 1924 to the start of WWII. The German soldiers in this picture were made by Bill & Sharon Holt who believed (as I do) that there were not enough German soldiers to counter the number of "doughboys" made... and after all, the battles needed to be realistic.
Many inventions, both good and bad, came out of WWI, that as hard as it is to believe, The Great War has given us the start of many things such as aviation as we know it today. Germany's Manfred von Richthofen (the Red Baron) flying a Fokker DR.1 shot down 82 planes before being downed himself by possible ground fire. America's Eddie Rickenbacker (downed 26 planes) flying in a French Spad are both flying over the battle field hoping to stay to live for another day. Some will say it's bad (by today's PC standards), but toys generally help to prepare youngsters to develop their minds and strategies that might keep them alive in a possible future war.

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