Lionel Continues to Expand it's HO Line!

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Bruette

Well-Known Member
Browsing through the Lionel Store I was amazed to see all the new and coming soon HO Gauge products. I had to share the news with my train buddies. The Lionel HO line now numbers well over 200 separate items and more are on the way! True to Lionel form they use the term Gauge as opposed to scale to encompass all of their HO products.

Disclaimer; I am not a Lionel employee, paid or compensated endorser in any way . I'm simply a very happy/satisfied Lionel customer who wants to share the news! I had no idea they were making this many HO things! I'm primarily an O Gauge enthusiast, but I do dabble in HO, even N. After seeing all this I will probably expanding my HO stuff.

Lionel has always given me fantastic service and support, above and beyond any other manufacture, in any trade! Best of all this great service, support or the answer to any question I might have is only an email, click or phone call away. Contact Lionel Support

HO Train Sets
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HO Locomotives
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HO Train Cars (rolling stock) of many different types.
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HO Accessories buildings, kits, track side accessories, figures, metal wheels, even bulk packs of code 83/100 rail joiners and much more!
Fully assembled and decorated.
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Kits ready to be assembled and decorated.
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HO Track
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Even 100 packs of code 83 flex track!
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Click on any photo or highlighted link for more information.
 

Selector

Well-Known Member
I, for one, wish them success. I know their history is spotty in the HO scale, but I happen to have snagged one of the last HO Challengers', a 'greyhound' with smoke lifters. It was my third purchase in the hobby, and I have loved it ever since. Extremely reliable, reasonably well detailed, heavy, great sound with two speakers in the all-metal tender that tracks so nicely. It is still one of my smiler locomotives because its sound to me was early and remains nostalgic and familiar. If they can keep a grip on quality, reliability, and decent performance, I don't see why they shouldn't carve out a modest following in the hobby.

The only fly in the ointment is that, soon, steam locomotives will slip away in terms of interest. That might take another 10-15 years while the last of us complete our purchasing history (and therefore our power in the marketplace), but diesels are increasingly what people see and know. They'll have to figure out how to compete in a market that's already well served in diesels of most popular kinds.
 

trailrider

Well-Known Member
I saw a review or ad by Lionel online for their new Mikado. (Can't find the link just now. If I can find it later, I will post it.) They say it is a Mantua Mikado frame and running gear with the boiler and cab from the Mantua Pacific, making it a light Mikado. Lionel's model will (delivery later this year) DC/DCC/Blue Tooth, plus sound, a new can motor and a gearbox (which the very early and last production Mantuas had). From the photo, it appears the center drivers are blind, which will allow it to operate on 18" radius curves. I have two that I kitbashed similarly, except they are DC only, plus about a half-dozen with the heavier boiler, and I would probably add a Tsunami sound decoder to the two light Mikes, if I felt I needed them. If I acquire one it will probably be the GN decorated one. Looks like it should be a good one, and you have to be careful not to catch the track behind one, as you could pull the track up! ;) They can pull a heckova load. I'm glad to see the upgraded Mantua locos back available (later this year). Price isn't too bad nowadays for what you get.
 

Bruette

Well-Known Member
Wow, I had no idea they were still making HO. They're not doing very much to publicize it! Or maybe I'm just not noticing.
Bob, this is the third venture into HO for Lionel. This time the have a comprehensive strategy focused on customer satisfaction and higher quality. Earlier attempts were to expand market, but quality was often overlooked.

The latest venture into HO began with the Polar Express. That was a "no-brainer" the Lionel Polar Express products are the most popular toy train products since the golden years of the 1950s

This expansion continues with the purchase of Model Power tooling.

Lionel, LLC is not the Lionel of old, the 70's, 80s or even the 90's. Ownership of the original company has changed hands several times since Joshua Lionel Cowen's first electric toy train. The big changes began in 1969 when MPC (Model Products Corporation a division of General Mills) bought the cash poor company.

Along with ownership changes, management has shifted philosophy several times as well, even more often than ownership!

Each owner brought something to the company.

1969 was the last year the original Lionel Corporation would produce Lionel Trains.

MPC and later after a reorganization in 1973, General Mills' Fundimensions group are often derided by Lionel "purists", but they saved the company form being lost to history. The release of the Disney set, other innovations and special editions was a big part of saving Lionel.
1970 "Fast Angle" wheels with needle point bearings and new trucks reduced friction and allowed for longer trains.
1971 An all new sound system, "Mighty Sound of Steam,"
1973 Standard O, closer to scale products. In that same year the introduced low cost O27 sets for beginners. The idea was, something for everyone.
1976 A successful, large advertising campaign to bring the name Lionel back, that featured Johnny Cash, a toy train enthusiast himself.
1979 Reintroduced American Flyer S trains. The Original Lionel corporation bought American Flyer in 1967, but never had the cash to follow up.
1970 Through 1985 MPC/Fundimensions cultivated a collectors market with the Lionel Railroaders Club and limited edition trains. MPC's deep pockets, innovations and new ideas set Lionel back on solid footing.

1985 General mills spins off Lionel into is Kenner-Parker division
1986 Kenner-Parker sells Lionel to Richard Kughn a Lionel collector himself. Some have said the reason he bought Lionel was so that he could have access to all the old stock and expand his collection. Regardless, his love for Lionel was good for the company. Under Kughn Lionel becomes known as Lionel Trains Inc (LTI) The new company sees a boom in the 1990s thanks to Kughn's passion and its new innovations.
1989 LTI debuts a new electronic sound system that will become known as "RailSounds"
1994 LTI unveils Train Master Command Control (TMCC) developed in part with Neil Young's influence and financing

1995 Lionel becomes Lionel, LLC owned by a group of investors with ownership of most all Lionel trademarks and rights dating back to 1900

Further changes to management bring many and rapid innovations, too many to list them all. Legacy Command Control, RailSounds 5.0, Legacy RailSounds, Vision Line, LionChief and many more!

The current management of Lionel LLC is focused on customer service and quality products. They keep developing more high end products, but have not forgotten the lessons of the past and also have many new entry level products. With strong profits this should/hopefully continue for the foreseeable future.

Modern manufacturing brings special challenges. No longer do we see much post-production testing. Now the idea is if something is wrong with a new product, stand behind it and take care of the customer. I can tell you Lionel is the best company to deal with if you have a problem, any problem! Their customer service is the best. They not only help you with Lionel issues they are more than willing/happy to answer any modelers questions.

American Manufacturing - Lionel is bringing back some manufacturing to the USA in it's new North Carolina headquarters/factory/store/warehouse and distribution center. Others like MTH have said American Manufacturing can no longer be done, but year after year Lionel continues to expand the products coming out of North Carolina. It's still only a fraction, but it's a step in the right direction.

Lionel is an American success story!
 

Bruette

Well-Known Member
There's still a place in my heart for the Lionel trains.

I do have the Hallmark ornaments since the first one and most of the extra addition ones.
Patrick, you are not alone.

Those Hallmark Ornaments and many other Christmas ornaments can drastically increase in value.

Christmas is my first love. I probably have as much if not more invested in Christmas as I have in trains.
 

dave1905

Active Member
The question is what market are they shooting for. They might get the trainset and starter market and I'm sure some collectors will want their stuff because its Lionel, but it with be tough to break into the "scale" model railroader market with the equipment they have. For example the Polar Express engine, to get it to the same level of detail as a 1970's AHM engine of the same type, would take hours of work.
 

Bruette

Well-Known Member
The question is what market are they shooting for. They might get the trainset and starter market and I'm sure some collectors will want their stuff because its Lionel, but it with be tough to break into the "scale" model railroader market with the equipment they have. For example the Polar Express engine, to get it to the same level of detail as a 1970's AHM engine of the same type, would take hours of work.
Dave, That's an interesting question.

My first thought is; if what they have done in O is any indication, I expect they will eventually be into almost all aspects of HO. But as you probably know better than me that will not be so simple or easy.

Lionel was never far behind the curve in top of the line O scale. In fact they pioneered much of it and you could say they are head and shoulders above the rest currently.

HO is another story. They don't have much to build on from the past and buying Model Products' tooling will not leap frog them in front of most. Even though they are committed to improving what they bought.

I suppose they would have to buy their way up the ladder and I would not be surprised if that is what they do.
 

Selector

Well-Known Member
They might be hoping that the kit-bashers and do-it-meselfers will want proven and reliable running qualities so that they won't waste their time adding road-specific details, which many steam enthusiasts will do. In fact, if they were smart, they'd sell modular kits, even fill-in-the-blank ordering online and get a kit to put together with the right domes in the right places, and the right profile of stack. So, you get the chassis and a boiler, but the top half of the boiler would be a specific one to which you'd add piping, a front pair of checkvalves in the right place, or a feedwater heater mebbe...that kind of thing.
 

dave1905

Active Member
Its not even a matter of "road specific details". Its kinda basic stuff. Like the Polar Express engine doesn't even have a coupler in the pilot.

It does look like they have a reasonable motor but almost $300 bucks is a lot to pay for a chassis to have to replace/modify so much basic stuff. I would be interested to see the other side of the Mikado. I suspect that the engine as modeled would be unable to start or stop a train. In the Mantua Pacific, based on a B&O engine the air compressors were on the pilot deck. The Lionel engine doesn't have them there. The Mantua Pacific boiler doesn't have a provision for air compressors along the running board. I wonder if the engine even has air compressors modeled?

And while I'm ranting, here's a general rank for ALL model steam locomotive manufacturers. Its really cool when you include class lights on the engine, but why oh why do you have to make the lenses green? Green means you are a section (other than the last section) of a regular train. Maybe 1% of all trains ever operated carried green signals. Make them dark (regular train) or white (extra), those are what 99% of trains carried. End rant.
 

trailrider

Well-Known Member
Dave, you certainly have an interesting point about the air compressor. As you say, we can't see the other side of the boiler to see if there is one or not. As Lionel won't be coming out with the Mikado for a while, they may make provision either to use the original pilot with the twin compressors behind the shields or add in a compressor and modified running board over the top of the compressor. Alternatively, they might offer some detail parts and instructions on how to add a compressor. (The 2020 Walthers catalog shows Cal-Scale compressors for under $10. It isn't much of a trick to add one.)
 

Bruette

Well-Known Member
The Polar Express is a "horse of another color"

The Polar Express line is aimed at fans of the movie, not high-end modelers.

Because of having to pay royalties to Warner Brothers the cost of the Polar Express is higher to begin with.

In O scale it took 10 years to see a scale version of the Polar Express. I can't say if we will ever see a high-end HO scale version, but who knows?
 

dave1905

Active Member
Basically the Polar Express engine is a NKP 2-8-4. AHM was producing them in the 1970's with way more detail and several other companies have made them in plastic since. You are right, its a train set, around the Christmas tree, oriented model. The question is, can they survive in that market alone?

I have bought several ex-Model Power, ex-Mantua engines (the RDG B-8 camelback 0-6-0 is my mainstay switcher), one of my first steamers was a Tyco/Mantua 4-6-2 over 40 years ago. They just need to figure out what market they want to be in. If they want to be in the train set arena, that's one thing, if they want to compete with BLI, Athearn, Bachmann, MTH, etc., they are going to have to up their game.
 

malletman

Alcohaulic
I believe Lionel got the rights to the Mantua line a few months ago. Should give them a good footing to make a serious start in HO scale. They have the chance here to reclaim the spot that Athearn used to hold. Those were the "goto" trains, along with Mantua for entry level modelers for decades. Hopefully they can make a good run with HO this time around, and great to see more "made in the USA" product from them. They are the ones who need to lead in this aspect. Just as J.L Cowen did when he make this company a house hold name for so many years. AD
 

Bruette

Well-Known Member
Basically the Polar Express engine is a NKP 2-8-4. AHM was producing them in the 1970's with way more detail and several other companies have made them in plastic since. You are right, its a train set, around the Christmas tree, oriented model. The question is, can they survive in that market alone?

I have bought several ex-Model Power, ex-Mantua engines (the RDG B-8 camelback 0-6-0 is my mainstay switcher), one of my first steamers was a Tyco/Mantua 4-6-2 over 40 years ago. They just need to figure out what market they want to be in. If they want to be in the train set arena, that's one thing, if they want to compete with BLI, Athearn, Bachmann, MTH, etc., they are going to have to up their game.
Have you seen Lionel's Vision line in O scale?


Lionel covers all segments of the O gauge market. They have RTR sets for under $200, all the way up to the O scale Vison Line Big Boy for $2699.99. They make Brass Hybrids, Unpainted Locomotives, even 2-rail conversion kits in O

Something for everybody has been a successful strategy for Lionel since it began in the MPC era.

I started with a $20 Tyco set, now I buy Legacy and Vision Line locomotives and I still buy RTR sets, they make great gifts.

Only time will tell where they are going with HO, but I expect there is more to come.

Thanks for sharing your thoughts.
 

bob

Administrator
Staff member
Bob, this is the third venture into HO for Lionel. This time the have a comprehensive strategy focused on customer satisfaction and higher quality. Earlier attempts were to expand market, but quality was often overlooked.
The third venture into HO for what I'll call the New Lionel, or the third venture for the company as a whole?

I have a few (very few) vintage Lionel HO cars, including the exploding boxcar and the helicopter car. Both are sadly in fair condition at best.

I also have an 1970's Lionel HO set. It's in storage at my father's place, and one of the prize pieces in my collection. I have other items that are worth more, but since I worked on the American Freedom Train, this set means a lot to me.

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Bruette

Well-Known Member
The third venture into HO for what I'll call the New Lionel, or the third venture for the company as a whole?

I have a few (very few) vintage Lionel HO cars, including the exploding boxcar and the helicopter car. Both are sadly in fair condition at best.

I also have an 1970's Lionel HO set. It's in storage at my father's place, and one of the prize pieces in my collection. I have other items that are worth more, but since I worked on the American Freedom Train, this set means a lot to me.

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Bob, I got to see the Freedom Train! It was on display near Martin's State Airport in eastern Baltimore Co. I wish I had known at the time how lucky I was to get to see it in person. I don't have a photo or even a souvenir from seeing it.

Off the top of my head it would be the third, possibly fourth venture overall. That is if you include special editions. I focus on my first love Lionel O, but I don't ignore HO. When I get my playpen sorted out I will verify what I can with my books and catalogs. Then I will update and add to this this thread as needed. Don't hold your breath, it might take me some time.

The Original Lionel produced HO in what is known as "the Post War era"
Under MPC Lionel produced HO in the 70s.
Now that I think of it there may well have been some HO 1986-1990 I can't remember for sure, but I think there may have been some special production runs in HO.
The "new" Lionel reentered into HO in 2016 with a Polar Express set. (new is as good a term as any)

To the purists of the Lionel collector/operator world there are 3 primary era's of Lionel:
Pre War up to and including 1941
Post War 1945 to 1969
Modern Era 1970 to the present.

For me, I'm focused on the Modern Era and collectors/operators like me, the Modern Era can be broken down as well.
The MPC Era 1970-1986
The Richard Kughn/Lionel Trains Inc. Era 1986-1995
The Wellspring/Lionel, LLC Era 1995 to the present.
Wellspring Capital Management was an investor group that includes Neil Young.
You can also break down the Lionel, LLC Era by the CEOs They each brought something different and positive to the table.

Your vintage cars were probably produced in the Post War era. To the right collector, everything is valuable!

Your Freedom Train would have been made during the MPC era, in the 70s. The values might surprise you. I think you made a wise investment!
https://www.ebay.com/itm/Vintage-19...255304?hash=item262a1c4e08:g:kakAAOSwCRNdr1nA

They made 2 Freedom Train sets in the MPC era 1975-1976
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In the 2016 Lionel catalog they had a new Legacy O scale version of the Freedom train.
Lionel AMERICAN FREEDOM TRAIN #4449 GS-4 6-83197

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Here is a Lionel O scale Legacy set and some additional passenger cars for sale on eBay
https://www.ebay.com/itm/Lionel-Ame...otive-and-all-cars-13-Brand-New-/254499671333

They had two O scale Freedom trains in the 2016 Lionel catalog, more were made available later.
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Below is from a private collection. I couldn't begin to put a precise value on it, some where in 5 figures.
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For me the size of O gauge is the advantage, It's easy to play with/work on and I can see it! The size is also a disadvantage, it takes up a lot of space, but I love it!

I'd love to buy the 2016 O scale version, but what would I do with it, where would I even put it? I only have room and plans for so many tracks. I would hate to have it become a shelf display. My hope is to run all my trains. I've resigned myself to the fact that when I do get my permanent tracks up and running I will already have too much stuff. I plan to see off the excess. I'd rather see somebody get some use out of them.

That is unless I hit the Power Ball and buy a warehouse!

As my great friend Rodney from Tasmania once told me "the only expensive locomotive is the one you don't use".
 




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