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#1
So my girlfriend wants a train around our tree this year so I decided to purchase a decent set instead of a $60 set. I am also thinking about using the train for other holidays, maybe some Halloween cars for Halloween etc. So I have a few questions.

1. Brand - Lionel? They make a few Christmas sets between $200 and $300 and a polar express set for like $430. Any of those would be fine, but wondering your opinion. I've seen some negative reviews on a few of the Lionel sets, the coupling doesn't work at ALL.
2. What about a larger scale, there are some G scale sets from Bachmann trains or something similar?
3. Im guessing building from scratch is going to be much more expensive, is that true?
 

Iron Horseman

Well-Known Member
#2
So my girlfriend wants a train around our tree this year so I decided to purchase a decent set instead of a $60 set. I am also thinking about using the train for other holidays, maybe some Halloween cars for Halloween etc. So I have a few questions.

1. Brand - Lionel? They make a few Christmas sets between $200 and $300 and a polar express set for like $430. Any of those would be fine, but wondering your opinion. I've seen some negative reviews on a few of the Lionel sets, the coupling doesn't work at ALL.
2. What about a larger scale, there are some G scale sets from Bachmann trains or something similar?
3. Im guessing building from scratch is going to be much more expensive, is that true?
1. Remember that Lionel isn't just Lionel like your grandfather had. Remember back then almost no one had them because they were so expensive. Now they make several levels of cost, quality, and different types of control. One of our members swears by the LionChief line of products. I see the polar express version of that one for $349 in a few places. I have no experience and own none of the the LionChief line. I, on the other hand, got the grandpa's type top-of-the-line Lionel "O-Scale" line Polar Express (no track, power, etc. just the loco and 7 cars ) and it cost just shy of $3000. Coupling works just fine. But, I expect it to last forever and to be passed on to great great grandchildren. Some of our other members are much more familiar with the O-gauge and Lionel specifically, and will be able to help more with this question than I.

2. I love the larger scale. G-gauge trains are the staple for going around our Christmas trees. I've got one Kalamazoo brand Mountain Central Set (click it - three on ebay right now) that has been running around our trees since 1984. Also expect it to be running for a few generations. I also have many of the Bachmann. In fact, the Bachmann Emmet Kelly Circus train is the primary this year. If you go Bachmann look for the 4-6-0 locomotives not the tiny "Porter" type. Big advantage of Bachmann is their lifetime warranty. I mailed the locomotive in. They fixed it, charged me a $10 service / shipping fee, and sent it back. I like the "North Pole and Southern" like THIS ONE, (It also comes in set form), I don't know if they make them new anymore. Seem to be plenty in the used market. This North Star Express would be a good set to start with (click here). Piko and LGB are excellent Large scale brands.

3. Set vs Pieces. One can get very good deals piecing things together but it takes time. Plus one can get more of exactly what they want rather than just taking whatever is in the set. But, yes, if one just buys at retail value, the economy of a set is lost (especially considering track and power supply).
 
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#3
Thanks a lot for the reply, I really like the look of the Kalamazoo set, I'm just so green I have no idea how to get all the pieces I need to get the train to run.

I particularly like this HERE.

How would I add additional cars that have the same look and feel? What tracks would work? I assume I need some sort of controller?

How about something like This, is that going overboard?
 
#4
Thanks a lot for the reply, I really like the look of the Kalamazoo set, I'm just so green I have no idea how to get all the pieces I need to get the train to run.

I particularly like this HERE.

What tracks would work? I assume I need some sort of controller
That train will go around an 4' circle (called Radius 1 in g-gauge terms), but it would work better on a 5' circle (Radius 2). This LGB track would work - https://www.trainworld.com/manufacturers/model-train-specials/lgb-15000c-curved-track-r2-30-case-of-12/ I would also need some power terminals to connect the wire to the track. The track is too heavy to easily solder a wire to it.

Almost any standard DC controller would work, ones made specially for G are better. MRC is a good brand. Something like THIS. Of course there is always a risk buying 2nd hand.

Here is a track and controller in a lot (but it is Radius 1) - https://www.ebay.com/itm/PIKO-G-SCA...epid=1437240710&hash=item4676de671e:rk:5:pf:0

So a big question is, "Do you have enough space around the tree for a 5' circle?".

How would I add additional cars that have the same look and feel?
That is a bit harder, but generally things that look old fashion and are smallish would be good. Anything from Kalamazoo would work because that is all they made.

How about something like This, is that going overboard?
I saw that and it looks tempting, but personally I think it is overpriced. Probably because of the season. Contrast that to this one. The catch with the latter is that they will not ship it. With these sets one really has to watch the shipping cost.

When looking at Bachmann take an extra glance at the drive rods on the locomotive. If they are made out of metal it is a 10th year anniversary (called Annie) series run. They are more than twice as good as a regular unit. Sometimes the sets will even say something like "with Anniversary Version Loco". Examining the 3rd photo in the above ad listing, it is clear they are plastic and the loco in this set is not an Annie. The North Star Express does have an Annie locomotive.
 
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#5
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Sirfoldalot

Plucked Tailfeathers
Staff member
#8

Bruette

Well-Known Member
#9
I'm sorry to have come late to this conversation. I have been preoccupied by my own Christmas preparations, forgive me.

If you are still looking for a train set for Christmas at this late date I would recommend you visit a local retailer. The reason I suggest this route is as you mentioned with Lionel there are a significant number of problems with entry level priced train sets, regardless of who makes them. Buying at this late date from an online retailer or eBay may leave you with a set that has some problems or doesn't even work at all. There may not be enough time to get a replacement or a repair before Christmas Eve.

I'm a big fan of Lionel's LionChief sets, but they are no different than the rest when it comes to problems with new sets. They do stand behind them and they send you everything you need to make it right when you call their toll free support line, but time is a factor. That is why If I were you I would buy local from a retailer that can make adjustments quickly. For the same reasons I would also not buy the last train set they have in stock.

On the other hand if any manufacturer can make things right before Christmas, Lionel is the one. They have toll free support and your call will be answered or returned the same day if you call in the morning or the next day if you call late. Best of all you will speak to someone at the Lionel store/support and factory in North Carolina. Yes, they do make a few things in the USA! They have been increasing production at their North Carolina facility every year.

Bachman is notoriously slow to provide support as are many of the others. I seriously doubt any other manufacturer could solve your problems before Christmas Eve.

There are some "decent" sets for under $100. Lionel's Ready to Play Polar Express G scale set is one of them. It's battery operated, has a remote control and is made for a child to set it up. I bought both of my grandsons one of these sets when they were 2 and 3 years old. By the time they were 5 they were setting the set up under their tree for Christmas. My oldest grandson is 10 now and he still sets up and uses his set every Christmas. Because the set is so simple there is very little to go wrong with it.

If you have no choice, but to buy online I recommend buying from Amazon. I also recommend buying the Lionel Polar Express Ready to Play Train Set right now Amazon has it for $49.99!!! Same price I paid for the same sets I bought for my grandsons 5 years ago!
Amazon has the system, infrastructure and resources to take care of you before Christmas in the event of a problem. You can choose between help from Lionel or an exchange from Amazon. What ever best suits your needs.

https://www.amazon.com/Lionel-Polar-Express-Ready-Train/dp/B01C35QC4W/ref=sr_1_1_sspa?ie=UTF8&qid=1544005303&sr=8-1-spons&keywords=lionel+polar+express+ready+to+play+train+set&th=1

Amazon carries many other sets as well, but I think this one would be a good choice for this Christmas.

I will better address your original post in another reply later this morning.

Thank you Iron Horsemen for making me aware of this thread.

For the record; the Iron Horsemen has without a doubt the broadest and deepest knowledge of this hobby of any person I have ever encountered. Best of all he never guess at his answers. In the rare event that he is unsure he will tell you and if he has time will find you the definitive answer!
 
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Bruette

Well-Known Member
#10
So my girlfriend wants a train around our tree this year so I decided to purchase a decent set instead of a $60 set. I am also thinking about using the train for other holidays, maybe some Halloween cars for Halloween etc. So I have a few questions.

1. Brand - Lionel? They make a few Christmas sets between $200 and $300 and a polar express set for like $430. Any of those would be fine, but wondering your opinion. I've seen some negative reviews on a few of the Lionel sets, the coupling doesn't work at ALL.
2. What about a larger scale, there are some G scale sets from Bachmann trains or something similar?
3. Im guessing building from scratch is going to be much more expensive, is that true?
Brand - For me there is no other brand, Lionel is the best! I do buy some MTH and Williams by Bachmann rolling stock, but their service and support is no comparison with Lionel.

All entry level train sets can have problems, regardless of who makes them. It's a simple trade off, price/quality. When you adjust for inflation Lionel is much cheaper today than they were in the Post-War era and even into the early days of the MPC era. For example a $100 locomotive in an era of $1.25 per hour federal minimum wage. A person would have to work 80 hours. Today we can buy some Lionel locomotives for $200 or even less with discounts. With a federal minimum wage of $7.25 a person only has to work a little over 25.5 hours. All manufacturers have problems. Usually the lower the price, the more problems.

It's true Lionel has had some problems with the couplers used in RTR (Ready to Run, entry level) train sets, but it is greatly exaggerated! I have bought dozens of Lionel RTR sets for myself and as gifts. I have had only 3 cars out of hundreds that came with those sets with coupling problems. Simply contact Lionel or an authorized dealer and they will replace the coupler for free! In a matter of days.

See for yourself the testimony of people with getting support from other manufacturers. Good luck getting any results in weeks! Lionel service and support is unmatched and in this era of price/quality, serivice and support is the most important factor when deciding what brand to buy.

A side note just incase you need it. A piece of transparent tape like you use to wrap presents, will be enough, in most cases, for a quick fix if a coupler fails. It will get you through until you can get it taken care of properly.

Scale - In large scale (O&G) O has the biggest variety, selection and availability. If you are looking to have a versatile railroad, Halloween, Christmas and much more O is your clear choice.

Something else to be aware of in scale is; scale within scale. Traditional (O27, RailKing, Semi-Scale and others) and True Scale. Traditional scale was made to run smaller radius track and was the mainstay of Lionel for decades and is still the biggest seller. True scale (Lionel calls it "Scale O" it use to be Standard O) is more recent and usually requires larger radius track. They can and do work/play well together, provide you have the proper radius track. The traditional scale is a bit smaller and is sometimes noticeably smaller. That depends on individual pieces. With boxcars being the most noticeable and flatcars the least.

This is why you will often hear O being referred to as O Gauge, to include all variations.

Sets or Individual pieces. - Here is where your budget comes in. RTR sets are far cheaper, but if your budget supports it individual pieces are great! Personally I started with sets and still buy sets. Buying sets is the cheapest way to build a railroad. On the other hand, I love my high-end Vision Line and Legacy pieces.

Bottom Line - It all comes down to where you are going with your trains. That can be hard to say. I never dreamed that the Lionel RTR Traditional O Polar Express set my daughter gave me would lead me so deep into this great hobby. I thought I would just use the set to run under the Christmas Tree. For me it turned into a passionate, year round love this hobby.

If you are only looking for a simple inexpensive and reliable train to run under your Christmas tree the Lionel G scale Ready To Play Polar Express set is great.

If you think you might be interested in something more or just want something better, a little more realistic with more features and add-ons. I would recommend the traditional O Lionel Polar Express LionChief Train Set with Bluetooth. Amazon has it right now for the fantastic price of $269.99 https://www.amazon.com/Lionel-Polar...44017139&sr=8-4&keywords=lionel+polar+express

LionChief sets are simply fantastic! They are the most versatile sets on the market! They can operate in any environment, DC, traditional conventional AC transformer control, or LionChief power and remote or app for your device. (Apple or Android) Another benefit of LionChief is you can run your set on a Legacy layout using your remote or your device. No modifications or additional equipment to buy!

LionChief is where Lionel is focusing much of its efforts. They offer Plug-n-Play accessories and many different sets and even more realistic LionChief Plus locomotives.

Legacy is the high-end command control system from Lionel. Just incase you catch the model railroad "bug" and become obsessed, like I did! :)

What ever you decide have fun with your trains and don't be a stranger to the forum, post some pictures of your tree and train if you can, we love pictures!
 
#11
those are beautiful pics, do you have multiple trees in your house?
In 2015 we put up 36 trees, last year we toned it back to just 11 "better" ones. Our goal is to some year get all of them up AND properly decorated … Maybe 2023 after I retire.

So now I'm thinking of this set, what do you guys think?
It would work. Still a little pricey, but not unreasonable and Tis the Season. As Sir Fold A lot says the track is not wonderful (basically metal folded over plastic) but it would work. At least for a first year. If you have rough carpet it will work less well. But over all that is sort of what we did. Started with a set of trains and improved or added to it each year.
 
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#12
MRasmussen,
Just incase you didn't notice the note at the bottom of "Burette"'s post, I asked him, Louis, to take a look at this thread and provide some more O-Gauge input. Just so you had some more perspective. He isn't "butting" in, or trying to one up me.

Brand - For me there is no other brand, Lionel is the best! I do buy some MTH and Williams by Bachmann rolling stock, but their service and support is no comparison with Lionel.

What ever you decide have fun with your trains and don't be a stranger to the forum, post some pictures of your tree and train if you can, we love pictures! … For me it turned into a passionate, year round love this hobby.
A little more passionate than I expected!

PS. Another personal thing. I don't care how great of a train MTH makes, I refuse to buy anything of theirs due to their corporate mentality. They single handedly drove several model train companies to bankruptcy or the brink there of. For a while it seemed they had more outstanding law suites than they did products in their catalog. Most of them frivolous. The big one delayed the development of advanced DCC technologies by 5 years.
 
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#14
Oh yeah, another thought. We have really enjoyed the open gondolas and flat cars on the Christmas trains. It allows one to add interesting wrapped gifts or other oversized cargo to the train. You might have noticed the "diet Coke" along for the ride in one of the pictures I linked to above.
 

Bruette

Well-Known Member
#15
MRasmussen,
Just incase you didn't notice the note at the bottom of "Burette"'s post, I asked him, Louis, to take a look at this thread and provide some more O-Gauge input. Just so you had some more perspective. He isn't "butting" in, or trying to one up me.

A little more passionate than I expected!

PS. Another personal thing. I don't care how great of a train MTH makes, I refuse to buy anything of theirs due to their corporate mentality. They single handedly drove several model train companies to bankruptcy or the brink there of. For a while it seemed they had more outstanding law suites than they did products in their catalog. Most of them frivolous. The big one delayed the development of advanced DCC technologies by 5 years.
Passionate about my Lionel trains, guilty :) I've been known to butt in. One up the Iron Horsemen, I couldn't if I tried.

Iron Horsemen, I agree with you about MTH. Their lawsuits have disrupted and slowed Lionel's Innovation, production and overall advancement as well. The MTH vs Lionel law suit filed in 2000 forced Lionel to file bankruptcy after the jury awarded MTH over 40 million dollars. The law suit was later overturned. Eventually Lionel settled that law suit and another with MTH for 12 million. As part of the settlement MTH now manufactures Lionel's tin plate line and oddly enough it is still called Lionel Electric trains.

I've bought all sorts of trains, O, HO, and a few others, but I will not buy Tin Plate.

With great shame I have to admit I have given in to my own selfishness.

I sorry to say I bought this from MTH
1544165824228.png

and this
1544165959567.png

I knew I had forgotten one
1544182531265.png


And possible 1 or 2 more, but I'm not sure because my inventory is on another computer. I'll get back to you on that. The road to recovery for an addict ;) begins with the truth and asking for forgiveness.

Forgive me for my weakness.
 
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Bruette

Well-Known Member
#18
I don't have any photos on this computer but here are the Christmas Lionel sets I have. Pictures are from the Bing search engine.

I have 2 Polar Express sets, conventional transformer control and LionChief. I need to pick up one with Bluetooth as well, but I need to get my stuff in order first. I promised myself I would not buy anymore until I get my train room/play pen set up after moving last December.
I did buy the Bluetooth set for my son and it is fantastic!
1544181537352.png


Lionel Santa's Flyer conventional set.
1544181722936.png


Lionel's Silver Bells Express LionChief set
1544181863540.png


In addition I have this Lionel Christmas locomotive.
1544181969682.png


I also have dozens of Lionel Christmas rolling stock and accessories.
Here is the one Santa is bring for me for Christmas. I'm a bit disappointed in this years Christmas car, they have been much better in previous years, but I still love it!
1544182172414.png


Now I have to get back to getting ready for Christmas!
 



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