The Train Collector's Association (TCA) provides the following scale for rating condition of old trains:
C-10 - Mint - Brand New all original, unused and unblemished.
C-9 - Factory New - Brand New all original, unused, may evidence factory rubs and the slightest evidence of handling, shipping and having been test run at the factory.
C-8 - Like New - Complete all original, no rust, no missing parts, may show effects of being on display and/or age, may have been run.
C-7 - Excellent - all original minute scratches and paint nicks, no rust and no missing parts. No distortion of component parts.
C-6 - Very Good - Minor scratches and paint nicks, minor spots of surface rust, free of dents. May have minor parts replaced.
C-5 - Good - Sign of play wear with scratches and minor paint loss. Small dents, minor surface rust. Evidence of heavy use.
C-4- Fair - Scratched, moderate paint loss, dented missing parts, surface rust. Evidence of heavy use.
C-3 - Poor - Requires major body repair. Heavily scratched, major rust and missing parts. Restoration candidate.
C-2 - Restoration required.
C-1 - Junk, parts value only.
From your description, it sounds like your trains are around C-5 condition. You don't say whether you just want to keep the trains as an heirloom with no concern about market value, or whether you want to keep the option to sell the trains. If it is the former, do what makes you happy.
If it is the latter, my observation is that only items in C-10 to C-8 condition are holding their value in the high end collector market. By and large, the demand for items in C-7 to C-4 condition is sagging, primarily because most of the collector demand is from people who coveted these items as children. These people were buying when they were at their peak earnings years and in early retirement, but they are now facing other concerns. In addition, the market from younger operators who just like Lionel is being swamped by more elaborate new trains from Lionel and its competitors. It is unlikely any investment in restoration of items in this range will ever be recovered. Items in ratings C-3 or C-2 might benefit form restoration, but most likely only if they are high-end or scarce items.
On the other hand, be aware that "restoration" essentially means repainting. Replacing a missing part, worn motor brushes, wires with frayed or cracked insulation, etc., comes under the category of "maintenance or repair" - it does not significantly matter whether these actions were performed by an Authorized Lionel Service Center when the piece was young and its original owner broke it, or by a collector who followed the old service manual and used authentic repair parts in doing a more recent rapair.
I would recommend you repair these items so you and your offspring can share the joy your mother had with operating these trains, but that you not restore them, and rather that you carefully preserve the paint nicks she joyfully placed on her trains. Geezer
face=Arial size=2>...</FONT></DIV><FONT face=Arial size=2>> Hello..I hope
everyone is doing well today...To make a long story<BR>> short..My mother
would would have been 85 this year passed away last<BR>> fall and one of the
items she left me was an old set of Lionel trains<BR>> she got for her
birthday when she was 8 years old in 1931..It is a<BR>> Lionel #254 engine in
dark green and the 3 cars that go with it..2<BR>> Pullman passenger cars and
a Pullman observation car..I also have all<BR>> the track and
transformer...The trains are in overall good shape (No<BR>> missing pieces,
dents, heavy scrapes or damage) although the paint is<BR>> scraped off in
spots from them just being stored together in the same<BR>> box for 70
years..The wiring is complete but looks pretty brittle and<BR>> dried up..I
seem to recall these trains running when I was a kid<BR>> myself which would
have been in the early-mid-60`s...I've seen a few<BR>> sets on Ebay and they
don`t seem to be really high dollar value so I<BR>> am curious about what all
is involved in re-conditioning something<BR>> like this to a newer looking
but as close to original state as<BR>> possible?...I`ve seen "restored"
engines and cars on Ebay so I know<BR>> people do it..Are there people who
specialize in this?..I would more<BR>> want to restore them as a keep sake
from my mom than to turn around<BR>> and resell them..Any info is greatly