SALT LAKE CITY (AP) _ Lionel Corp., a toy retailer struggling to emerge from bankruptcy protection, is clearing the shelves of its Playworld stores in Utah, a published report said Tuesday.

Unidentified Playworld employees told The Deseret News of Salt Lake City that on-going clearance sales at Lionel's four Utah stores in Salt Lake City, Midvale, Provo and Ogden were a prelude to their shutdowns.

Store managers declined comment on the closures and referred questions to a spokesman at Lionel Leisure, a Philadelphia-based subsidiary of Lionel Corp., who also would not comment.

The chain announced in a full-page newspaper advertisement on Sunday an ''inventory clearance sale'' at 20 percent to 40 percent off. The ad said all sales were final, but didn't mention the stores' future.

New York-based Lionel Corp. filed in June for Chapter 11 reorganization under the U.S. Bankruptcy Code, attributing its problems to stiff competition in the toy industry.

Lionel stopped making model trains in 1969. In addition to Playworld stores, it operates the Kiddie City toy store chain.