Thanks to Lionelr, American Flyerr, and the New York Central's publicity department, the NYC Hudson was perhaps the most well-known steam locomotive in America. And No. 5344 was the most famous of the famous. The last J-1e built, she was the best of her class and the prototype for Lionel's groundbreaking 1937 scale model Hudson. She was also, according to the publicity department, \"the World's First Streamlined High Powered Steam Locomotive.\" In 1934 the railroad's West Albany shops fitted 5344 with a sheet metal shroud and named her Commodore Vanderbilt after Cornelius Vanderbilt, one of the railroad's first empire builders. As author Alvin Staufer noted, \"The early concept of streamlining was to completely cover the engine so the outside world would have no idea there was a steam engine underneath. The 'Commodore' styling was so treated but even so she was a rather handsome engine. The toy makers had a field day with this particular streamlining and reproduced it by the hundreds of thousands.\"
Of course, the Commodore was assigned to the Central's premier passenger train, hauling the Twentieth Century Limited the 233 miles between Chicago and Toledo. In 1939, however, No. 5344 returned to the shops for a new costume, emerging this time in the streamlined styling designed by Henry Dreyfus. By the late 1940's, that streamlining had also been removed, and No. 5344 was back in basic black.
The Commodore Vanderbilt returns to the RailKing line in 2017, offered for the first time with Proto-Sound 3.0. Recreate the magic that was the Twentieth Century Limited, the most luxurious way to travel between New York and Chicago, or choose this engine in one of three other liveries. The Rexall Train duplicates the Commodore-type styling and unique paint scheme applied to an entire train in 1936, for a promotional junket that covered 29,000 miles across the U.S. and Canada. According to Al Staufer, the 12-car train served as a \"traveling exhibit and convention headquarters for 10,000 druggists and 20,000 sales people.\"