The cover of the 1932 Lionel catalog depicted a real steam engine with a young lad at the throttle and the slogan “A Boy’s Dream Come True.” Inside, on a page headlined “POWERFUL – SPEEDY – MAJESTIC – JUST RARIN’ TO GO!” was the new No. 392E Steam Type “Distant Control” Locomotive and Tender, “the latest Lionel Standard model, fashioned after the latest Timken types” — perhaps a reference to the Timken Four Aces, an Alco 4-8-4 that had recently toured the country demonstrating the benefits of Timken roller bearings on all axle and rod bearings.
At $35.00, the 392E offered a more affordable but still highly impressive alternative to Lionel’s top-of-the-line 400E steamer introduced a year earlier. The $10.00 difference between the two engines was a considerable sum in the depths of the Great Depression. Headlined “THE NEWEST LOCOMOTIVE IN THREE DANDY COMBINATIONS,” a later page in the 1932 catalog offered the 392E in two passenger sets, with smaller 309-series and larger 424-series cars, and one freight set with 500-series freight cars. The sets ranged in price from $45.00 to $55.00.
The following year, Lionel’s ad men pulled out all the stops in their catalog description of the 392E: “Give this flashy model the once-over and you’ll decide it’s just the one you want, that no other model will do. Why? Because it’s fashioned after the greatest coal-burners going. Because every detail in the real locomotives is here, too, with striking , realistic effect. And because the motor is the finest Lionel makes—sturdy—built to last—and powerful enough to haul many loaded cars at a fast clip.” Like its larger brother the 400E, the 392E would remain in the Lionel catalog until 1939, the last year that Standard Gauge was cataloged.