Cataloged from 1936-1939, the O gauge 263E steamer was part of the last hurrah of tinplate - Lionel's final attempt to convince the boys of America that real steam engines had chrome-plated domes, smokestacks and piping. The 263E was the successor to - and looked very much like - Lionel's first O gauge steamer, the 260E introduced in 1930 with great fanfare: "Boys - here is the most remarkable "O" Gauge Steam Type Locomotive that has ever been produced. Dozens of blue prints and photographs of famous new locomotives from railroads all over the country were examined, and the best features of each were utilized by Lionel's Engineering Department in designing this locomotive. It represents a miracle of model railroad engineering."
But six years later, in the catalog that introduced the 263E, the future was apparent in the more-realistic all-black locomotives portrayed on the cover and the scale-sized Union Pacific streamliner inside. Nonetheless, Lionel's copy writers pulled out all the stops in describing the train sets led by the 263E. Passenger Outfit No. 283W was led by "A long, sleek whistling locomotive. The Blue Comet in "O" Gauge for the first time. One of the most beautifully proportioned models ever produced." For work train Outfit No. 277W, the language was even more effusive: "There's a thrill a minute in the operation of this fascinating, whistling "O" Gauge work train."
Today, the 263E returns to the Lionel Corporation Tinplate lineup but just beneath the graceful lines of the tinplate boiler, lies the excitement of Proto-Sound 3.0 whose revolutionary electronics control a smooth-running chassis capable of running at just a few scale miles per hour. Cracking open the throttle and bringing the locomotive forward releases the first blasts of smoke from the engine's stack enhanced with the realistic sounds of chuffing. As the engine picks up speed one notices that each huge puff of smoke is timed to the driver's revolutions. The wail of the whistle and the clang of the bell further stimulate the senses until the realization that the flash and color of yesteryear is but a faded memory when compared to a Proto-Sound 3.0 equipped Lionel Corporation Tinplate locomotive.