Older Life-Like train sets updated/renamed?
I was recently going through the HO Scale Train Resource website and the older 10th edition of the "Basics for Beginners" model railroading booklet (which I got with my "Railroad Empire" set almost a decade ago), I noticed that some of the older Life-Like Products HO-scale train sets have either been renamed, or had parts of it updated/replaced, or both. Here is what I have noticed so far...
The "Super Chief," (#8793) which uses an F7 Santa Fe locomotive, two freight cars and a caboose, features a regular circle of track and the power pack. I think it came out around the late 1970s or early 1980s. Some time in the 1990s it was updated with different freight cars, and also included a set of signs and utility poles, but the locomotive, caboose and track plan stayed the same. The product number was also changed (#8739). It was updated a couple of times after that; including a retitling called the "Branch Line," which does not include the signs and utility poles, and uses Power-Loc track. Walthers offers a new version called the "Rail Charger," which appears to be almost the same, but with the F7 locomotive coming in the blue-and-yellow Santa Fe paint scheme, different freight cars, and according to the website it also includes trackside shanties, signs and utility poles and a tunnel (not sure if this is a typo or something). Unlike the other new sets from Life-Like/Walthers, THIS set uses conventional Code-100 track! The circle layout remains the same though.
The "Amtrak Midnight Special" (#8762) came out around 1976, and had an Amtrak F7 Phase-II locomotive, extended-dome car, coach car and observation car. The track plan was, again, a simple 36" circle of conventional track. In 1978, the F7 was replaced with an Amtrak Phase-II F40PH locomotive, but the rest of the set remained the same. In the 1980s, the set was discontinued, but sometime last decade the set was brought back, retitled as the "Rail Traveler," and included the same Amtrak locomotive and passenger cars, but also included the dining car and the regular dome car to make the complete set, and the track plan was changed to a 56 x 38" oval of Power-Loc track. It seems this set was recently discontinued.
The "Rail Master" (#8916) probably went through the most minor modifications. I believe it came out in the 1990s and initially had a Union Pacific F40PH and caboose, and two freight cars. The track plan was again a simple circle of conventional Code-100 track, and it also included railroad signs and utility poles. Around 1998-1999, the set replaced the old circle of track with a 45 x 38" oval of Power-Loc track, and some time after that, the Union Pacific locomotive and caboose were replaced with Santa Fe versions. This set is still in production today.
The "Trail Blazer" (#8770) came out around the 1990s and had an 0-4-0 Pennsylvania Railroad steam locomotive and tender, three freight cars and a caboose. It had a 45 x 36" oval of Code-100 track, a signal bridge, and a set of railroad, street and road signs. It was later renamed the "Iron Horse," and had different freight cars, added utility poles, and replaced the signal bridge with a 10-piece bridge and pier set, and changed the track layout to Power-Loc in a 47 x 36" oval. Everything else was the same.
The "Power Hauler" (#8950) included a Union Pacific GP38-2 hi-nose locomotive, five freight cars and a caboose, an over-under figure-8 layout of Code-100 track, a bridge-and-trestle set for the track, a signal bridge, an operating railroad crossing gate, a stock pen building kit, some farmer figures, railroad signs and utility poles, plastic cars and trees. It came out around the 1990s, and shortly afterward, Life-Like offered a Power-Loc version entitled the "Power Charger" (#21249) and was essentially the same, but used a Santa Fe version of the locomotive and caboose, and replaced the Code-100 track with Power-Loc track, as well as using the 18-piece Bridge-and-pier set and the dual-gate version of the railroad crossing. Then in the early 2000s, Life-Like renamed the set the "Super Power Charger" and once again changed the locomotive and caboose roadnames to Union Pacific. The set was still essentially the same, but did not include the signal bridge included with the previous versions. Later on, the locomotive and caboose roadnames were changed back to Santa Fe, like the original "Power Charger." I believe this set has now been replaced with another successor version, the "Freight Runner." It was again identical to the later version of the "Super Power Charger," but no longer included the bridge-and-pier set in favor of a 90-degree crossing track section. It also includes a Snap-Loc train station building kit. This version is still available.
The "Diesel Blaster" (#21506) came out in the late 1990s and featured two Santa-Fe (blue and yellow) GP38-2 lo-nose locomotives (one powered and one dummy), four freight cars and a caboose, a 74 x 38" oval of Power-Loc track, a 10-piece bridge and pier set, a signal bridge, stock pen and trackside shanty building kits, cars and pickup trucks, figures of people and farm animals, trees, railroad signs, street and road signs, and utility poles. Some time around the early 2000s, it was renamed "Diesel Thunder," but still remained the same except for the freight cars. Later on, the locomotives were replaced with red-and-silver GP38-2 hi-nose Santa Fe locomotives, but the rest of the set was still the same.
The "Railroad Empire" came out around 1999-2000, and was essentially a variation of the "Freightline USA" set, with a similar over-and-under Power-Loc track plan with switches, GP38-2 lo-nose Santa Fe (red and silver) locomotive, five freight cars and caboose, 18-piece bridge and pier set, operating log dump station and railroad crossing (with dual gates), trackside shanty building kits, trees, cars and trucks, figures, a tunnel, railroad signs and utility poles. The differences between this and "Freightline USA" was that it did not include the coal tipple, and the layout was a bit smaller (but still very similar), and also used a log dump station and freight car instead of a gravel-unloading station. The train set was discontinued for some time, but recently brought back as the "Diesel Driver," which has the exact same track plan and accessories, but the GP38-2 lo-nose locomotive and caboose are now Union Pacific versions.