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Houston Tinplate Operators Society - Lionel, Trains, Layouts: Newsletter

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.

The Outside.
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.

The Inside.
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.

The Miscellaneous.
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. Mike's Protosounds 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 in suspense?

Product Reviews

by 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 items include:

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 investment.

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 Announcements

by 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.


by 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 Goblins

by 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 by Mark Whetzel. The display includes a Lionel set, appropriately named the Black Cave Flyer.

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