MTH vs. Lionel - the nitty gritty

Discussion in 'G / O / S Scale Model Trains' started by dwight77, Mar 1, 2005.

  1. dwight77

    dwight77 Member

  2. Knifeguy

    Knifeguy New Member

    Good read. I have a few MTH trains. Im mainly HO, and N myself, however, my father in law is a big O guage guy. He likes em both. MTH gives you a good product. I have their DCC, and its as good as advertised.

    One of the guys at one of my local shops, which is huge mailorder, you guys probably bought stuff there (Trainland / Trainworld) tells me a few months ago, I wouldn't really compare MTH to Lionel, I said why is that, he says cause MTH will never go up in value like Lionel. When you look at engines you purchase, in 10 years, you will see. I don't know enough to argue that fact. Who knows.
  3. Livesteam

    Livesteam Member

    i hvae mostly lionel and K-line, lionel's are more expencive, a very nice lionel engine you can spend alot of money, i dont think i have any MTH products but i will get one some time to try it out.
  4. 3railguy

    3railguy Member

    This story is pretty MTH biased. I see no reason to feel any pity for Mike Wolf of MTH electric trains since his company built its capital reverse engineering and importing reproductions of prewar and postwar Lionel trains throughout the 1980's and 1990's. He was a thorn in Kughn's (previous owner of Lionel) and Wellspring's (present owners) butt. MTH did import some of his own designs which were the diecast steam engines in the case.

    At the time Lionel's subcontractor bought the black market design discs of MTH diecast steam engines, MTH was installing their ill fated QSI PS-1 boards in their diecast scale steam engines. Lionel took it one step better and installed their state of the art TMCC wireless remote control system which caused the Lionel versions to outsell MTH by a landslide. Thus the charges of misapropriated trade secrets were pressed. Lionel is acussed of knowing what their subcontractor was doing but no one knows for sure. It is likely Lionel felt their subcontractor was reverse engineering MTH designs. An eye for an eye and tooth for a tooth so to speak.

    I would not let any dealer fool me into believing today's Lionel trains or MTH for that matter, might go up in value in the next ten years. It is likely neither will because the technology keeps improving and the products get re-issued, killing the resale of the past release. The kind of thing we have seen in HO and N for years. Sure, there are special cases such as Lionel's PWC Texas Special or maybe a smattering of Atlas O woodside reefers but in general, O gauge trains just don't go up in value much.

    MTH likes us to believe they are the technlogy leader which just is not the case. Lionel innovated digital railsounds in the late 1980's and wireless remote control in the mid 90's long before MTH came out with their versions. In fact MTH bought their digital sounds from QSI. A private electronics manufacturer. MTH likes us to believe they came out with the first diecast scale 3 rail steamer. Which just isn't the case either. Lionel came out with theirs in 1937 starting with a scale hudson followed by a B-6 switcher.
  5. Greg Elems

    Greg Elems Member

    MTH also beat Atlas O to the market with the AEM-7 electric locomotive with rapid prototyping. A few of the cars were copies of Atlas cars, with small changes that can’t be seen unless you set them next to each other. Mr. Wolf isn't as innocent as he would like you to believe. MTH would also like you to believe he invented DCC, which was out a long time before he started playing with it.

  6. Fred_M

    Fred_M Guest

    And when all is said and done they ALL are copying from companies like EMD, GE, Alco, Thrall, UP. Hey, UP, didn't everybody get down on them because they wanted to licences their logos to the model industry because they were having their designs copied for free by all the modeling companies? It's just one big nasty spider web and what part sticks to you depends on where you decide to walk through it. Nobody has clean hand. I find it is great entertainment and is a better show than any reality show on TV. So keep discussing it. I love it. Fred
  7. Dave Farquhar

    Dave Farquhar Member

    Speaking as a journalist myself, I believe the reason the story was biased was because Lionel and Wellspring refused comment. He was able to get one former Lionel VP to talk, and he said, "Mike Wolf isn't lily white in all this," so the author did obviously try to balance things a bit.

    Unfortunately, when you write a story, your story is going to tend to be biased towards the source who talks the most. Wolf has always talked more than just about anyone from Lionel. And when Wolf doesn't talk, he gets Tony Lash to talk for him.

    I think the author did a good job with what he had to work with, and he pointed out two conflicts of interest Wolf had while subcontracting for Lionel. Had Jerry Calabrese talked--the article may very well have been written before Calabrese came on board--the article would have been better. But Bill Bracy may have still been CEO of Lionel, and he never talked to anyone, and chances are Lionel's lawyers wouldn't have been too keen about Lionel executives talking to the media either.

    I struggled with this as a journalist myself--sometimes one source was obviously more articulate than the other, or one more talkative than the other, so my story would end up looking more biased than I might have liked. But without coaching my sources--which is a huge no-no--there usually wasn't much I could do about it.
  8. Greg Elems

    Greg Elems Member

    Well Fred in a sense you are right. But on the other hand, the issue of MTH and Lionel goes back further than the law suit. Lionel could have sued earlier and the shoe would have been on the other foot, MTH the big looser. Also, model makers’ copying the prototype doesn’t conflict with the EMD, GE and Alco for business. UP, also another subject, is acting pretty heavy handed with their licensing. Looks like it's time to model the NKP in On30 (No Known Prototype). :D :D

  9. TR-Flyer

    TR-Flyer Member

    Hi All:
    Couple of impressions i have of this suit.
    1. The punishment does not fit the crime. Mr. Wolf's damages do not approach the 40 million figure. This figure is based upon trying to drive Lionel under.
    2. Even if Mr. Wolf feels he was finally "snubbed" by Lionel, he still owes Lionel a lot for the money he already made through the sale of repros of Lionel original designs and through the experience gained by working with Lionel.

    I have no intention of EVER buying another MTH product.

  10. Livesteam

    Livesteam Member

    So the MTH products are not good?
  11. Dave Farquhar

    Dave Farquhar Member

    Depends on how you define "good." MTH's early products caused a lot of people to overdose on fine detail the likes of which they'd never seen before on a 3-rail train. That endeared them to a lot of people. Lionel and K-Line played catch-up and have succeeded, but a lot of people credit MTH with raising the bar.

    But MTH's electronics have been problematic over their short history. I know former MTH owners who absolutely hate the company because of that. I suppose if I spent $1,500 on a locomotive only to have it completely die, I might not like the company much either.

    A lot of Lionel collectors don't like MTH because MTH makes a lot of accessories that are exact or near-exact copies of vintage Lionel accessories, and that's driven down the value of the real thing in anything but the most pristine condition. And on some forums I've seen people call this a double standard--it's fine for MTH to copy Lionel designs, but the other way around isn't OK.

    Lionel-MTH is a really, really sensitive topic in some circles. I've seen some forums ban the discussion of it altogether because the die-hards on both sides have a difficult time discussing it in a civil manner.
  12. Greg Elems

    Greg Elems Member

    For detail, Atlas O raised the bar, which even MTH had to chase. Weaver was there before MTH selling O scale cars and locomotives for 3-Rail markets. Lionel started chasing Weaver and MTH had to follow suite. If you look at MTH's early scale cars, they are very close to prototypes chosen by Weaver and Atlas. After all, how many different brands of GP-38-2's do we need? Originality is sorely lacking IMHO.

  13. O_HO_Nfanatic

    O_HO_Nfanatic New Member

    I collect mostly Lionel post war trains. As everyone mentioned, I am concerned about the collectible investment. K-Line, MTH and Williams will go down in value whereas Lionel for the most part continues to go up.

    I have recently begun buying selected brands of non-Lionel trains. Only this morning, my latest ebay win came in via Fed-Ex. It was a Williams PRR A/A shark nose set with four Madison style passenger cars. This retailed originally for around 500.00 in the late 90's (I think). I got it LNIB, for just under 250. The realistic detail far surpasses anything Lionel has made as far as PRR passenger sets. I intend to buy some MTH products too. I see the huge 2-8-8-2 for half of what a Lionel model would go for. Right now I am doing some research, MTH is made in Korea, I have friends stationed there. I am trying to find out if MTH products can be bought over there and if so, is the savings significant after shipping...
  14. O_HO_Nfanatic

    O_HO_Nfanatic New Member

    I almost forgot to add; Lionel was king for me because it was Made in the USA.

    Made in the USA meant alot to me. Without delving deep into politics here, the trade unions greatly angered me this past election. Whereas I used to always buy US products first (I never owned a foreign car) I now could care less where the product is made as long as the quality is good.
  15. BR2ACH

    BR2ACH New Member

    More Bang for the BUCK!

    MTH quite simply offers more bang for the buck than Lionel, scale prototype equipment as opposed to endless constant re- issues of postwar and caricatures. A 100 year-old company deeply enriched in our nation’s history can afford to be arrogant about the products & materials that they produce.

    Having previously owned Lionel trains as a teenager, it was Mike Wolf products such as the Lionel T-1 Chessie & the Weaver Gold edition Brass Amtrak GG- 1 which brought about my return to the hobby. Finally true scale product.

    The internal electronics of today’s trains in Lionel, MTH, Weaver & Atlas inclusive of the problems are here to stay. As the current owner of some 125 plus locomotives, yes I lost count sometime ago, that’s` Conventional, DCS & TMCC controlled, I want and prefer O gauge prototype equipment!

    My biggest pet peeve is that currently neither Lionel nor MTH will do out- of - warranty repair work.
  16. ozzy

    ozzy Active Member

    was it 2004 that lionel went to china to have everything made , i forget the year now. but i wont buy the new stuff, witch is easy to do as im more into pre and post war stuff, and a few things in the 70's,,, only thing im giving in and buying new is the fast track, i have just had it with the old 0-27 track.

  17. nkp174

    nkp174 Active Member

    I know someone that dealt with both MTH and Lionel a few years ago with a deal that did not materialize...but they did get to know the management of both companies. At least at that time, Lionel was run by toy train people with a toy company mindset and MTH was run by railroad minded people. I cannot really say much else about it, nor am I any kind of an expert on the companies (I'm a fan of Grandt Line's On3 stuff). I don't know if that still holds, but I would expect it to play a bit of a role in what market they target. Regardless, neither offers the 85' passenger cars I like :) I'm more drawn to the MTH Premier stuff in my hobby shop, but Lionel has some pretty ones too.
  18. BonoboWannabe

    BonoboWannabe New Member

    Wow! I just found that one out the hard way. I'm completely new to the hobby and have had serious problems with a locomotive I bought. Maybe I shouldn't eve say who I got it from.

    When I posted a about it over at's forum, they banned me outright, basically for trolling.

    I'm totally new, but I'm starting to think these trains should come with a warning label: WARNING - do not complain in a public forum no matter how badly our product performs, or how badly we treat you as a customer.

  19. 3railguy

    3railguy Member

    LMFAO! Lots of disapointed MTH buyers have been banned from that forum for posting their grief. I was banned a couple years ago but not over MTH quarreling. It was for telling a blowhard know it all a**h*** where to shove it.

    Several outcasts joined the Model Train Journal. :wave:
    You may want to register and share your story there. :wave:
  20. BonoboWannabe

    BonoboWannabe New Member

    Thanks 3RailGuy!

    It's nice to see I'm not alone. I did use some fairly explicit language in my first post over there, but I'm used to posting on, and everything I said would be kosher over there!

    Anyway, it's good that I'm not alone. The more people talk about this stuff, the more we can band together and maybe *maybe* even get some positive results from the companies.

    Funny thing is, I honestly have no preference whatsoever.I'm not in this for the collecting at all. I plan to run a shelf high up and all around the inside of my apartment to run a train on. I want to be able to put a LOT of hours on my locomotives, so for costs sake I really am going to need to be able to fix and maintain them myself. Having had a look inside, changing the controller out looks fairly simple. I don't even think there is any soldering required.

    One other thing I REALLY want to do is modify the sounds on my LM. I bet the sounds are just simple wavs embedded in the file or something similar.

    I guess I could always try asking MTH, but after the response I got just asking for a controller, I don't hold out much hope for them helping me.

    That's such a shame too. It's wouldn't be hard at all for them to help customers who want to do this kind of thing out. I really like my locomotive. When it's working it's pretty cool. I'm just afraid to use it now for fear of puttin too much wear on it.

    I mean really. I can upload my own ringtones to a cell phone. There's no reason on this gree earth why I shouldn't be able to upload my own train sounds.

    I was all set to buy a complete DCS and Z4000 setup too. Not anymore.....

    Thanks for the link too - I'll go check it out!:thumb:

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