Newsletter: October 1997
In this issue:
On The Warpath with Tom Lytle
Two manufacturers model the same prototype. What an opportunity for
competition, for one of those side by side and feature by feature ads!
I'll let the marketing types hype this up. Meanwhile, I'll get to the
chase: Lionel vs. MTH F3s in warpaint.
Who did the best job imitating the real? I'd have to say
MTH. It glows in the dark, over runs with surface details! Just as their
other F3 offerings, MTH is second only to custom brass in quality. Lionel,
I have to say, made a little effort in improving their yellow stripe
on the nose, but that's about it. Furthermore, the quality of their
molding and painting was bad enough for me to send both the A's and B back
to Lionel for replacement. Lionel could do a lot better for the prices
they are charging.
I'll limit this to motive components. I don't have a clear
winner here. I think it's a matter of style. Lionel continues to have
their split field motors with all of their modern improvements in
manufacturing. Trucks and rollers are solid and sturdy. I have no
complaints for Mike's vertically mounted DC motors with flywheels.
I might complain about their bronze axle sleeves and rollers for lack
of durability but that's about it. Otherwise, this is a fine piece of
engineering. I'll call this competition a draw, because in their own way
they are both good.
Boy, there's a lot here! Electronic control, sound
systems and couplers. Let's walk through this minefield. (Beware - I
am prejudiced in these areas.) QSI for MTH; Trainmaster for Lionel. Mike
has got almost the latest from QSI (2.1 vs. 2.5). This system has
improved significantly in the last year or so, and is compatible enough
to run with Trainmaster. There is potential for the MTH/QSI system to
turn off the sound system on detection of the Trainmaster system. I call
this a problem, not a feature. It works as advertised. However, getting
to feature forty by cycling the power forty times is not exactly a
thrilling prospect to me (i.e. still a pain). I do like the style of
the central umbilicals between engines. The Trainmaster system from Lionel
is still a pleasure to operate. It works in conventional mode as well as
command. I think Lionel's command control is so easy, everyone and
every train should have one.
In the sound system arena, both systems are good.
are rich in features and innovation. Innovation goes to MTH. For richness
of sound, I still like Lionel's Railsounds. The quality of Lionel's
sound is better compared side by side. As far as coordination of sound
with the control system, I think Lionel wins this one. There are no voltage
levels to watch, no standing on your head, no waiting for
significant snowfall!. Push "brake," the train slows down and
the brakes squeal. In the end, Lionel wins out two to one.
At long last, the Lionel system has electronic couplers. Here
again, I think Lionel has the better system. I don't have to arm the
couplers ahead of time, or whether a switch under the engine is forward
or rear. I simply push either the 'forward' or 'rear' coupler button on
the CAB-1 .. anywhere, anytime .. and it works!
So in the end, what do I think?
In a perfect world, I would have an MTH
shell on a Lionel chassis (That's really why I bought both of them).
But right now, I would have to go with MTH for best overall effect.
105 East 23rd Street by Jim Herron
One of the benefits of growing up in New York City was being able to go
to Madison Hardware any time of the year and pick up that train you
didn't get for Christmas or repair the one that went flying off the table.
Trains, parts and service were all found in a storefront that was only
15 feet wide and a boxcar long. The Shaw/Shur brothers had operated
Madison Hardware for over 50 years, and it was really known as an
institution rather than a train store. There were more Lionel trains
than you can imagine. The brothers didn't always know where they had
what you were looking for, but it was somewhere! Shelf upon shelf up to
a 15 foot ceiling was lined with trains and boxes, stacked rows deep.
The storefront window -- done in neon -- was always overflowing with
trains to welcome the first time visitor or the regular.
In July of 1989, Madison Hardware closed after 80 years of operation.
It was a sad day for the true railroad hobbiest and collector. I was
glad to hear that Richard Kughn opened Madison Hardware in Detroit, albeit
in rejuvenated form, to preserve history. Moving the inventory to Detroit
took 16 semi trailer loads. Each semi held 20 tons. That meant that 320
tons of toy trains and parts were moved out of that small store.
The new Madison Hardware is now open to the public by appointment and
our own Mike Schneider had the opportunity this August to be the first
visitor from our club. So, we'll let Mike tell us about his visit to the
new Madison Hardware -- in next month's issue. How's that for keeping you
Product Reviewsby Walt Skelnar
The recent UPS strike created havoc for businesses across the nation. For
us toy train enthusiasts, it helped to create a September which, at
month's end, seemed more like the Christmas holidays in terms of new
products delivered and the result on our pocketbooks. A sampling of new
Hallmark Lionel Ornament.
Hallmark has issued its second Lionel Christmas
ornament - a Santa Fe F3A in Warbonnet colors. It is a beauty and a good
buy at $18.95. It will look great on the tree or, as one of our members
found, running round the tree behind an N scale engine. Hurry to
your nearest Hallmark shop and add it to your collection while they are
available. Supplies are already drying up.
Greenburg's Road Name Guide to O Gauge Trains.
This is a wonderful book
for the railroad purist. It makes it easier to find your line to explore
expansion or cars and engines you've missed. The book is 200 pages long
and sells for $10.00 It includes almost all manufacturers (except K-Line)
and is a great addition to the Greenberg/Kalmbach O gauge library.
Lionel Target Launching Car.
This is a new re-issue of the #19827 Target
Launching Car which is a re-issue of #3470. We had fun with this car at
the club this month. It is a great siding/spur car. Aim your rockets at
the aerial target and fire. Watch the target hover about 6' to 10' above
the car. It runs by compressed air through a track roller pick-up on the
truck, and a bridge rectifier changes the AC to DC to operate the blower.
The old #3470 was a 2D cell battery operated unit. The new version is
so much better! Originally produced in 1962, it lasted until 1964. The
cars runs pretty well at about 6 volts but does take a feel to operate it
on the mainline (watchout for bridges and tunnels!). It's a great car for
kids to watch, too. At $50, it is a good buy and a nice addition to your
space age/military collection.
Lionel Century #726.
Lionel's Century Berkshire #726 has arrived in stores
and is a definite plus. Our check-out specialist, Tom Lytle, has the
first one (who else). He ran it on the club's big layout using
Trainmaster. The sound is superlative. The whistle, start, bell and braking
are so realistic, it leaves everything else in the dust. Even rabid MTH
fans were heard saying it was an awesome sound system. Some of the
detailing leaves room for improvement - the cable connecting the engine to
the tender is obtrusive, the detailed cab interior sits so far back that
the engineer would have to look out the back of the engine to see. No
directional lighting, and the smoke unit is fair at best (but supposedly
can be boosted using Trainmaster). At $800+, it is definitely a good
MTH RailKing SP GS-4 Steamer.
This 4-8-4 Daylight is a real beauty.
Rumored to be slightly larger than Lionel's recent version, this steamer
has the value, detail, pulling power and smoke you come to expect from
RailKing steam engines. An added plus is the RailKing SP Daylight
Streamliner passenger set (6 cars available) rolling behind the GS-4 -
perhaps the nicest paint scheme to adorn the RailKing Streamliners to date.
Show Announcementsby Walt Skelnar
Although it is uncertain whether the portable layout will visit locations
prior to years end, the first five weeks of 1998 are already booked for
two events. The Great American Train Show (GATS) makes its return to the
George R Brown Convention Center January 3-4. Just announced is the Lone
Star Division TCA Winter Meet, to be held in the Katy Veterans Hall
January 31-February 1. The format for Katy will be similar to last year,
with TCA members and guests admitted on Saturday and the general public on
Sunday. Setup for both GATS and the Katy meet will be Friday PM. It is
expected that HTOS will again handle the concessions at Katy, minus
the potato chips.
EXCURSIONS CANCELLEDby Walt Skelnar
Union Pacific Railroad announced the cancellation of the three
excursions scheduled for late October/early November. The excursions,
sponsored by the Gulf Coast Chapter, National Railroad Historical Society,
were to have their starting and/or ending points in Houston. Operational
concerns were cited by UP for the cancellations.
Ghosts and Goblinsby Walt Skelnar
All club members need to drop by the club during October to check out
the great Halloween setup that adorns the right display window. Designed
Mark Whetzel. The display includes a Lionel set, appropriately named the
Black Cave Flyer.