Tuesday, January 06, 2009

New MTH/Lionel Website

Josh over at the Prewar Times has been doing a great job of covering the phantom MTH/Lionel website that was supposed to go on line today or tomorrow. I'm kind of hoping that the information that leaked out about a Jan. 6th debut wasn't an arbitrary date picked out by a web developer or marketing person. Typically MTH focuses their catalogs and product launches around an event, usually York, PA.

This is one of the very few catalogs I am really anxious to see. For obvious reasons, this should be one of the most exciting toy train catalogs of the last 10 years. The fact that MTH and/or Lionel has a catalog ready, approved with product and price is very encouraging. It says volumes about both companies ability to plan and launch.

It's kind of funny, if we look at the history of Lionel, this kind of sharing is almost in their DNA. After Ives was split between Flyer and Lionel in 1928, Lionel put out Ives products. Some of Ives most memorable products came out under Lionel's stewardship. Lionel still puts out American Flyer S gauge product that is excellent.

Again, throughout Lionel's entire history of the 20th Century at one point in time or another they've had to align with their largest competitors to maintain or grow the market. Someday maybe we'll be privvy to how the current deal with MTH was struck, I'm sure it is probably just as interesting as the Ives receivership or the eventual downfall of the American Flyer train line. As I recall neither Flyer nor Ives had the legal animus that MTH and Lionel had for the last decade or so. I can only say (as a customer) what a relief it is to see an end to the legal wrangling.

More important, the new trains that this brings to market could be, should be and hopefully will rival some of the tinplate from the classic era of the 1930's. What I am hoping this is NOT is a licensing deal that lets MTH just stick brass tags on the sides of 408E's that say "Lionel" instead of MTH and do no more. I hope it's a license to be creative and to appeal to a segment of the market that may not have participated MTH's products or direction.

Hopefully this will also create a blue print for other great things to happen. I've been watching Buddy L fairly closely for the last 5 years at auction, on eBay and in train shows. All of the Buddy L repros still carry hefty price tags and the originals are still going for top dollar. What if the Dorfan crane had TMCC or DCS? Have you seen the amazing cranes and accessories Buddy L created for their trains and toys? I'm not expanding this concept too much, I think cooperation yields results. Buddy L, Dorfan, Boucher and others are still some of the most intriguing products that have yet to be produced. Imagine some of the prewar greats with modern electronics or with just plain old reliable castings!

I'll leave most of the coverage of the catalog debut to Josh over at Prewar Times. I think this is big news for the toy train community and I will be checking my computer and Blackberry with high hopes and expectations for the next great chapter in Tinplate.


PS the pic is of an angry little 33 that's been hanging around my train room floor too long. It's going to get a layout to stretch it's squat little legs on prettttttyyyyy soon.
PSS Ok, I got off on a mild tangent with the Buddy L stuff. My mind has way too much train stuff in it. My point was that I am hoping both companies use their creative license and really put out some memorable product. Not having this new website ready is really driving me nuts.


J. Schnibbe said...

Thanks for the kind words, Marc. Let's not forget that Dave over at OGaugeWatch was the first to bust this story wide open. That being said, I'm just as anxious as you are to see the new Lionel Corporation catalog. I just wish they'd get the bloody website up already!

- Josh

Anonymous said...

I'm no Cockeyed Optimist, so I think it's likely a Licensing Deal BUT since Mike really LOVES Tinplate, he'll keep bringing out new and improved products. Hope we get a return of Hiawatha and the Commodore. And likely a few more items have been languishing in Product-Development Hell.