Saturday, October 09, 2004

Lionel Out of Standard Gauge?

Been doing some thinking based on past posts and on the new MTH Tinplate catalog. I keep hearing that the Hiawatha and Vandy were both dead weight for Lionel and are sitting on store shelves. I can't think of a train store in a 100 Mile radius that has these on the shelves (I can only think of one store in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut that have one of each).

I have the Vandy and Hiawatha, that's almost $4k worth of trains. I'm confused, how are these sets a failure? I can only find about 6 of each set on the internet. How are these failures? Lionel didn't sell out of these 6 weeks after they shipped? MTH seems to be doing fine - their tinplate catalog is extensive.

What makes me sad is that these are GREAT sets. Some of the best in standard gauge. Lionel shouldn't short change themselves and their customers. You have to stay in a market to make money in the market.

I have seen this about 1000 times as I have worked in big companies for almost 20 years. Dip your toe in the water, if solid gold blocks don't fall at your feet, run in the other direction.

Trust me Lionel, I buy your standard gauge stuff. Make good stuff and I guarantee others will follow. MTH and super high quality/no compromise independent folks like Joe Mania & MEW are keeping the market going, further entry into the market will expand it. A little competition isn't a bad thing.

And let's be realistic, the only competition in the standard gauge market comes at a train meet between two dealers selling the same thing four tables away from each other. And they usually end up trading each other a ton of stuff anyway and walk away happy as clams.

Try making a standard gauge Blue Streak. I promise, I'll buy two.

MPosted by Hello


Gilbert Ives said...

I missed a Hiawatha on Ebay [from a nearby dealer, but I'm not a regular customer and I wasn't following the auctions daily]. While I was waiting for another one to come along--for $1,500. or so-- I got a call from a dealer in the Midwest who sold me my Black Diamond Set. Said Lionel was giving them a special deal on the Commodore Vanderbilt-- $900.[half-price]. Between the time I ordered and delivery a week or so later, many more appeared on Ebay at or around that price. There was discussion on the Std. Yahoo Grp. at the time, with at least one person buying 3 sets.

Spring or Early Summer Delivery / Closeout before Christmas. As if Toy Trains were subject to the whims of fashion. Think Pink!?

I'd rather have the Commodore than any other Lionel set, so to me it's the "Best Set They Ever Made". But I fear that I am in the distinct, small minority. Rumor has it only 750 sets were produced, and it certainly seemed like plenty were dumped at the end of the year. But if only 100 or so were dumped, why not hold onto them for another year? Yeah, yeah inventory valuation.... But how are you going to sell the next $2,000 set? Or will there just not be another??

Gilbert Ives said...

Oh, and just before the Commodore appeared on the closeout rack, I was happily dreaming of an un-streamlined Hudson pulling a string of newly-tooled freight cars, perhaps inspired by the "scale-detailed" merchandise car, tank, and caboose of the years just before the War.

Anonymous said...

Marc, can you point me toward one of these CV sets? I'm trying to find one to purchase.


Jim Kelly

Anonymous said...


I looked at the Vandy but I didn't buy one. I felt it wouldn't fit in with my other trains, mostly all classic period. I had a DeHanes Santa Fe set for a while and it just looked out of place displayed with my other trains. I thought the Vandy would be the same thing. I thought about the Hiawatha and if I see one cheap at a show I will pick it up.

One of the things I think MTH does right is that they offer trains in both traditional and contemporary. I am a traditionalist. I like the feel, smell, and sound of the original style motors. The Can motors just don't have the same mechanical feel for me.

I have one complaint about Lionels recent tinplate offerings, they change things just a little bit. I bought the terrace and station a little while back. Lionel decided to put 4 screws on the top of the terrace. I would have much prefered if they had made it exactly like the original. If they had to add the screws they could have put them under the station. I passed on the power station and the Hellgate because they did the same thing. They added the smoke to the power staion and plastic windows to the Hellgate. To be honest though I have a power station and 2 Hellgates so I didn't need them. I did not have a terrace and the price was good. Also I liked the the fact that it says Lionel City over the door.

If Lionel and MTH reproduced the same item for the same price, I would buy the Lionel version every time. Just because I would rather have my cars and engines lettered Lionel Lines like the originals. but if one differs from the original I will probably buy the one that doesn't. Just my humble oppinion. Tom

Standard Gauge Blogger said...


Just do a search on "Lionel Standard Gauge Commodore Vanderbilt" on Google. You'll come up with at least 5 dealers that have them online.

I agree that the current Lionel reproductions aren't quite the same as the standard gauge originals. Honestly though, I am rarely concerned about the accuracy anyway, as long as it is a close shot at the product. The reason being is that I know manufacturing has changed and they may know some things they didn't know in the 30's and 40's.

Further, I also know the option is for Lionel/MTH to produce nothing at all. They could just as well produce more scale o gauge stuff for 1200 bucks an engine and more postwar reproductions. We (people that run standard)just don't represent a large dollar number, even if the products do have better margins.

Tom, I agree, I tend to like having the lionel name on the item as well. Although there is a growing movement in the tinplate hobby to produce "no compromises" products. I think the vendors will start to feel this sooner than later. No comromises means that the products are exactly like the originals with every bolt, screw and driver in the right place. I have quite a few no compromises pieces and I have to tell you, I'm not that picky, I really am glad to have both.


Gilbert Ives said...

There are two camps: the Fundamentalists and the Fun-Lovers. Others might call them Collectors and Operators, but these terms aren't as accurate. The Fundamentalists will only accept true "reproductions" -- and the extemists don't think ANY should be made. The Fun-Lovers play with their trains, like "replicas" and think certain technical improvements are welcome. They also enjoy items that might have been made but weren't.

Personally, I find it somewhat silly to be so very concerned about mass-produced toys. Nothing painted by Rembrandt or carved by Chippendale [Would actually have to check how much carving vs. designing Thos. Chippendale did. And Rembrandt had assistants to do all that drapery and background].

So I get most annoyed when something doesn't work: The Commodore won't spoke, two National Limited cars short out, one of my 1134's suddenly stopped running.... But I buy everything to play with as often as possible. I have no shelving, but the train table just keeps getting bigger.

In closing, I'll just ask this: While I greatly admire Joe Mania's cars, what's the point of buying one of his locos that can only pull 2 of them? And that twin-motored Super 6 [or 7?] was never actually made [unlike samples and prototypes that do exist]. Of course, given my beliefs, I say "Bring on The Brute!" Then I would actually buy a State Set.

Gilbert Ives said...

Forgot to add-- As of a few weeks ago, Nicholas Smith [Broomall, Pa] had both Hiawatha and Commodore Vanderbilt sets on display. Very well might have more than one of each.

Gilbert Ives said...

MTH Traditional vs Contemporary:

I know that more Contemporary versions are sold [2/1?]. Mike Wolf talked about this; I'll look up the article. The first Mike's Train House runs were shockingly small 100-200 total with a split between nickel/copper versions. TCAQ had exact breakdown of each and every one of the early items. Will cite the article when I dig up. Don't know how for sure about recent MTH but understand less than 300 National Limited sets were produced; less than 200 extra cars for Olympian.

Anonymous said...


I would dive on a Hiawatha if it were available. The other comments lead me to believe this is not a hopeless quest.

I also would like to see Lionel further pursue the Standard Gauge reproduction market. I would like to add that the Hiawatha and Vanderbilt were not the end of the line. Lionel did produce a reproduction of the #128 station and terrace as of the 2003 volume II and Polar Express catalogs. I have the red trim model on my layout and am very happy with it.

Should Lionel continue (and I hope they do so), I would encourage Standard Gauge with a Command/TMCC option and RailSounds. Recently, I purchased an MTH No.9 Pay-As-You-Enter Trolley with conventional motor and electronics. It has the same programmable station stop feature as the MTH subway sets; this adds a lot of interest. I think Lionel could do as well with command and sound.


Tom Virgil (aka San Diegan)

Gilbert Ives said...

20 Oct.: According to the Yahoo S-gauge list, 20 top people at Lionel were sacked. They're wondering what it means for Flyer and I wonder what it means for Standard. This would be the management team that brought out the Hiawatha and Commodore sets (& powerstation, station w/terrace).

Anonymous said...

Please direct me to 1:32 scale train sets & modeling; figures & accessories.