Learning About the Hobby

I enjoy the site. I'm new to train modeling and it's been very informative. Any recommendations on starter books?

Gene Markins-Dieden

It depends on what your interests are in the hobby. There are a lot of books on collecting, operating, and layout building from a number of publishers. Check out your local library. There's also a lot of great videos on the subject. Allow me to shamelessly plug our video on the basics of building a layout: How to Build a Toy Train Layout

It's Always Nice to be Missed

I really enjoy your webzine, but noticed that the last issue was dated August 2000. Is this webzine no longer active?

Roberta L. Beauchamp

Hello TM,

Have there been any on-line Toy Train Revues since the August 2000 "Happy 100 to Lionel" issue? I miss them......

Chuck Look

Dear TM Gang,

I know you guys are busy making videos and special run cars (just bought the Hudson video, haven't had a chance to look at it yet), but I miss Toy Train Revue, which hasn't been updated in close to, what, nine months? Is Toy Train Revue On-Line dead, or just on sabbatical? With all the interesting news in the three rail world, like what's up with MTH's DCS, who's suing who next, will there be a second generation of TMCC from Lionel, is K-Line really going to take on the big boys, what is Williams' place in the market, is Hi-Rail the only game in town, etc., etc. I'm longing for insights and info from the experienced and well connected team at TM :-).

Best Regards,

Thanks to all for the comments. I'll spare you the long answer and give you the short version. This is something we do when we're taking a break from the books and videos. Occasionally, gradually, we have come up with a new article. But not until now, after refining and organizing this issue, have I been comfortable with posting it. Like Ernest and Julio Gallo, I'll serve no Toy Train Revue On-line before it's time.

Tom Snyder's Standard Gauge Layout

About a month ago, television personality Tom Snyder sent us a couple of pictures of his new Standard gauge layout. We asked if we could post them online and he said sure. What we'd really like to do is go out to California and videotape it. To see Tom's layout click here.

No more "Made in the U.S. of America"

I read with dismay that LIONEL! of all companies is rushing headlong to China. The company could care less about the people employed by them. All they see is $$$$$$$$$$$$$. Quality of Made in China products is not up to U. S. A. standards. I could give examples but most train people know what I mean, not to mention other goods. Likely the Chinese will get better, but in the meantime I'll stick to the older Lionel. There's plenty of decent stuff around and prices have been stagnant. Check out the better train meets, auctions and clubs. Should all these companies go belly-up, and some definitely will, don't shed a tear. The best will survive, but at what cost?

The last time I was in this area, fourteen moths ago, these conveyors were lined with people
assembling the Postwar Celebration Series Lackawanna Train Master.

To whom it may concern:

I am presently employed by Lionel and I can't understand why they are leaving the US again. I know that Maddox owns most of the company but the employees had no say in this matter. It was handled in an unprofessional way. Maddox made one statement to the employees, that's it folks. I really can't understand why move to another country. I enjoy my job at Lionel and really take pride in what I am doing. Don't you understand?

The press release that Lionel was closing the plants in Michigan was the news I never wanted to hear. I have often had conversations with people all over the country about Lionel's future. Many people took the position that somehow domestic production was a liability for Lionel. My feeling was that any misfortunes Lionel might be having had less to do with the salaries of the workers and more to do with decisions by some in management, specifically the 1997-1998 period. Why punish the workers?

Once the announcement was made, I wanted to know the reasons. I have found that two major factors contributed to the decision to move all production offshore. First, Lionel's competition, almost all of which uses suppliers from the East, has grown considerably over the last five years. The hobby has grown as well, but competition has taken a large cut of that pie. Lionel over the last four years has steadily increased overseas production. Accessories and new locomotives have been produced there for some time. New diesel models were being made in China, and new steam locomotives were made in Korea (which I'm sure you've all heard about). These new models have met with success, particularly the articulateds. Based on this success, knowing that there are consumers who will purchase a Lionel product regardless of it's national origin, Lionel had no reason to think they can't successfully exist using foreign suppliers.

The other reason had to do with the plant, not the workers. The decorating technology was not up to today's standards. TM is having a car produced by Lionel. It will be made in China. The graphics are intricate and there are about eight different colors used. We had asked about the possibility of it being made in the US. We were told there was no way the car could be made here due to the decoration requirements. I have heard stories such as workers having to repeatedly shim machines one way or another in order to get a perfectly aligned deco application. Things like this would slow down the plant's efficiency.

Obviously, a lot of people are upset about this. And then again, others are not.

Blast From the Past

I recently bought a new and unused pair of Lionel 6-8568 Preamble Express F3's made in 1975. I was the first to open the boxes, and to my surprise found one of the two to be an un-powered version. A local shop researched this and indicated that a reference book noted that there were a very few custom made non-powered units produced . This was all the info they could find. Do you have any insights as to this unique pair, and any assessed value? What does custom made units produced refer to?

I don't know if you are the one to ask, but am hoping that you can direct accordingly.
Thank you for your help.

Phil Bramel
Atlanta, GA

This picture shows how collectors bought two matching Preamble Express power
units to create a more attractive double-headed set. From Lionel: A Collector's
Guide & History Vol. 4, 1970-1980, by Tom McComas & James Tuohy

I am skeptical of how authentic a dummy unit in Preamble Express markings is. Certainly anyone, from someone at Lionel to a dealer to a regular guy, could easily switch the cab from a power unit, and place it on a dummy frame. The frames and trucks are black, which are the most commonly used F3 components. There's two ways to look at this: one, it's a fake; or two, someone at Lionel made them from parts and sold to a dealer as a favor. Maybe a dealer said, "I can't move these single A units. Everyone's asking for a matching dummy." That is what is meant by "custom made units produced." I don't dismiss this possibility. The Preamble Express was a unique model. It is plausible that some were assembled by Lionel, making it the only dummy unit in modern era history with the same cab number as the power unit. As I understand the situation at the time, a lot of operators were buying two A units and lashed them up. 

The Chicago "El" Train

I just glanced over your comment about the MTH Chicago L offering.

Couple of Questions --
1. Any sounds?
2. Costs?
3. What about dependability of MTH, especially parts. I've been told it could be difficult.

I'm a native Chicagoan and a model railroading buff, so this would be a great addition...Thanks for the info.

Oh, by the way, I've been told the set is designed after the CTA's 6300 series. As for the third rail, it's actually an electrified side rail (not a middle rail like Lionel).

Stan Zoller

We talk about the sounds in the second paragraph. This set is unique in that you activate the direction and sounds using the bell button. I think it retailed for $300.00. I have never had a problem with MTH customer service or in getting parts. By coincidence, my CTA set had a bad speaker. MTH sent me a replacement to install and they even let me keep the bad one!

Lionel vs. MTH

Hello, just discovered your e-zine. I have to take exception with some ideas on this theme. As a youngster I had a Lionel train, which grew into another and then another and before I knew it I had trains, trains and more trains. These were the good ones, diecast and heavy with very little to break or lose, and with lots of action accessories. Then came the punch, I bought a new Lionel train set for my son. Going on the name we got it home and opened the box. PLASTIC!!! AND MORE PLASTIC!!! What a piece of crap. The loco broke in the first week, the cars were  destroyed shortly after. After a long absence from O scale or toy trains I finally came back with a decision to model a fantasy railroad with a suitable loco and Disney cars. The loco I chose was the MTH General 4-4-0. I am very pleased with this loco and its construction. I was also pleased with it's price. An equivalent Lionel diecast loco would have been almost three times the price, if I could find one. I am not saying that one company is better than the other, as I see this loco as an equivalent to a much higher priced one, but one that I am happy with and can play with. It brings back memories of a time of cast locos, fun and reliability. 

Thank you and keep up the good work. 

MTH has done very well with their RailKing line. I remember seeing the General engine you are writing about in action. It poured out more smoke than I think I've ever seen come out of a model. Lionel has taken notice of MTH's RailKing line and recently developed the LionMaster line to compete. I know that prior to this, Lionel has always offered diecast steam locomotives from starter sets to high-end models. Of course, the question of whether Lionel or MTH is better is up to the individual consumer those opinions can shift pretty quickly. Your comments do show how extremely important it is, in this competitive environment, for these companies to satisfy every customer they gain.

HO Inquiry

I am new to the hobby of model railroading and am looking to acquire a few steam engine models. Do know of any companies that sell HO scale models of any of the following locomotives?

Norfolk and Western class J 4-8-4
PRR K-4 class 4-6-2, "Broadway Limited" streamlined
New York Central class J3a 4-6-4, "20th Century Limited" streamlined
Norfolk and Western class A 2-6-6-4

Any help that you could provide would be greatly appreciated. Thank you.

David T. Tuttle

Hmmm, not to sure about HO. I know for a fact that Rivarossi made a model of the 20th Century Hudson. I've seen it sell for between $75 and $125. I'm not sure about the others, but would be willing to bet that the Class A would be made of brass and be fairly expensive. Several versions of each locomotive you are looking for have all been made in O gauge, however. It's not too late to change!

Toy Train Revue History

I actually was searching for the videos and discovered this. First, I would like to find out a little history about the videos. I have numbers 1-12, but I am missing number 10. How could I obtain it? Second, what was the timespan of the videos? How many were there altogether? When were videos stopped and the "on-line" version started? Thank you in advance for any help you can give me.

David Bloom

The Toy Train Revue videos were started in 1991 and were sold on a subscription basis. The subscription also included Toy Train Revue Journal. The plan was to produce the video magazines on a quarterly basis. They were well-received, but producing them became very difficult in addition to working on other projects. There is no number 10, per se. To fulfill customers subscriptions for number 10, copies of the video The Re-making of the 1949 Lionel Showroom Layout were issued. The final video, number 12, was produced in December of 1995. Toy Train Revue Journal still exists in our Price and Rarity Guides.