Updates on O guage

Discussion in 'G / O / S Scale Model Trains' started by green_elite_cab, Nov 24, 2006.

  1. green_elite_cab

    green_elite_cab Keep It Moving!

    Hello! i've been an HO modeler for a while, but i started off 11 years ago with a Lionel trainset when i was 6.

    Lately i've been thinking about getting a new transformer, locomotive, and track, because i suspect they all have equal parts to do with the set's now poor performance ( although i can attribute most of it to me)

    In addition, my uncle is searching for a set for my cousin, and I'm the one and only train buff there, lol. However, the most i've done recently in O was to get some new rolling stock, and a pair of turnouts. i also have some older O-27 stuff that i'm not sure if they work anymore, as i never tried them. Alot of my stuff is in a sorry state, as i only began to maintain them with the lionel kits and my own work around 2003, when i began HO modeling. It still runs, but its very unreliable, especially when my family comes over, andit just fails to run under the tree.

    Anyway, i'm worried about O guage. It seems like all the major manufactures save Atlas O ( i don't know much about Williams, and i haven't heard much about K-line either) Are having lots and lots of both quality control issues.

    I've heard good things about Lionel's Fast track, and i'm looking into the next widest radius from O-27 (somethere that will prevent my diecast 4-4-2 from flying off the track and through the wall).

    I'm also interested in a newer, better transformer. I think mine still works, so i'll have to test it sometime, but in the future i want to get something newer. CW80 seems synonomous with problems on this forum, so i already know to avoid that. don't need command control, a regular power source will be fine.

    also, what a good locomotive to buy? I keep on seeing Shorty U36B locomotives that i like (might as well have sold them as U18Bs!) but i hear they are underpowered. On the otherhand, i'm not going to buy anything expensive. the absolute limit i'd have on a O scale locomotive is maybe $200. I don't want to spend that much on any one item ( don't spend it all in one place!) but i may if i like what i see.

    I'm also thinking about the Atlas Trainman GP15-1 sets. are they any good? maybe i'll suggest them to my uncle ( although he seems to want the nostalgia stuff, and i think the diecast steamers O-27 steamers would be best for my cousin anyway). I might buy that set, if its compatable with my current lionel.

    In short, whats the best equipment available
  2. ozzy

    ozzy Active Member

    well, from the reserch i have done on the newer lionel, your better off buying pre and post war stuff, thats what i got. i was looking into new lionel but i have heard to many horror storys about people buying a 3, 6, 700.00 engine and a week latter its junk., as far as K-line, lionel owns K-line now, so bewere, and i looked into MTH, and there new stuff is as bad as lionel from what i here

    anything 2004 and newer from lionel is made in china, now its all cheap junk.

    gone are the days of "made in the USA.

    but there is still 80 year old pre war lionel engines still running like new, dont miss a beat.
  3. 60103

    60103 Pooh Bah

    We have a recent Lionel set with CW80 and Fastrack. We haven't had any problems yet, except for the stupid wiring of the CW80. Only problem I have with the track is taking it apart after it's assembled in the oval.
    Fastrack is a minimum 36" diameter (vs 27" and 31" for the others).
  4. Dave Farquhar

    Dave Farquhar Member

    One thing to remember is that it's only the dissatisfied people who speak up. From reading on the forums, you would think every manufacturer has a 99% failure rate. Nobody dares criticize Atlas O, because they give the high scale fidelity that the Proto-48 wannabes fall all over themselves about. (I never understood 3-rail rivet counting--when your track is 4 scale inches too wide and has an extra rail in the middle, does it really matter if the car is missing a couple of rivets or the color is off a little?)

    I don't buy a lot of modern production because I like the old stuff. Two years ago when the Polar Express came out, I bought two of those sets--one for me and one for my sister, brother in law, and niece. The set I got for my sister and her family has worked flawlessly from the start. The one I got for me had a dead transformer. It worked when I first tried it out, then when I came back to it a few hours later it was dead. To Lionel's credit, they replaced it very quickly and with no hassle whatsoever--the company still believes in good customer service, which is refreshing in this day and age when most people's idea of customer service is some guy reading a script in Bangalore. I found the engine runs very smoothly and has good pulling power. The only complaint I've heard about it (besides that it isn't made to full 1:48 scale--ahem) is that it doesn't smoke as much as a K-Line or MTH. But for some people, that could be an advantage. I'm happy with a whisp of smoke coming out of the stack and don't need my locomotive to make the train room as smokey as a frat house during hell week.

    Based on my experience, I wouldn't have any problem recommending a Lionel starter set to someone who was in the market today. The CW-80 transformer in those sets isn't the best, but when you add up the retail value of the rest of the stuff in the box, it's still more than the cost of the set, so it's not like it's a huge loss. I would suggest leaving the set up and running for a few months and running it on a regular basis while it's still under warranty to make sure the transformer keeps working. Make sure if it's going to break, that it breaks during the warranty period while Lionel is still standing behind it.

    Of course I'd prefer to buy stuff made in the States, but I also wish Louis Marx was still in business. Neither's gonna happen. If you're going to make it in China, you've got to back it up with quality control and good warranty support. Lionel's quality control seems to be pretty good, and its warranty support is outstanding.
  5. Geno

    Geno Member

    My Dad bought me my first Lionel set, a Soo Line Yard Chief set, when I was seven back in the 70's, so I 'm quite familiar with the limitations of MPc-era engines. The engine I had was also underpowered and didn't live very long.

    I got back into O gauge in the 90's and found that new companies like K-Line, Weaver and MTH were giving Lionel some serious competition. The engines, using dual vertical can motors with flywheels, pulled much better than anything comparable from Lionel at that time.

    These manufacturers also made their engines and rolling stock scale models (much better looking IMO) as opposed to Lionel's 'chunky and stubby' versions, so I started buying their equipment. By the late 90's Lionel got into the scale game too, but with the added bonus of TMCC. I now have a fleet of 25 TMCC diesels, as well as a roster of over 300 freight and intermodal cars.

    You can buy the early MTH diesels on Ebay for around $125-200 (a little more around the holidays, of course). These are the dual can motor variety, so they pull well and some even had Protosounds, making for a reallly nice non-command engine. Premier versions are the scale units, so if you like 18" engines this is the ticket. The Railking line are 'short and stubby' a.k.a. traditionally sized like Lionel, so if this is your preference you can go there too.

    K-Line sold a 120w transformer that pops on Ebay- more power than the CW-80 and a better reputation as well. MTH also sells 75w and 100w transformers- good for moderate power needs.

    The Atlas trainman sets are a good quality, but lack engine sounds (horn only) and maybe a bit more than you want to spend (about $370). For that price you could get a Lionel or MTH train set with sounds.

    I agree with Dave's assesment of Lionel starter sets- for the price (about $175- $250) you can't go wrong, and if you have any issues with the CW-80 most local hobby stores will exchange a bad unit for a new one. I bought a Polar Express set for my nieces last Xmas, and they were very happy with it.

  6. Greg Elems

    Greg Elems Member

    Take a look at Williams O gauge trains.


    They are sturdy and very dependable. They also are good pullers and simple compared to the new MTH, Lionel. They also are more reasonably priced and have a nice selection to choose from.

  7. Cannonball

    Cannonball More Trains Than Brains

    I really don't know what the fuss is about the CW80. I bought one on eBay to replace my old transformer and I've had zero issues with it so far. I just wish my engine had the whistles and bells to use with the switches on the transformer. (Automatic reverse would be nice too. That little switch inside the cab is a pain.) I'm not a fan of Fastrack just because it's so expensive compared to the regular track. If and when the time comes to replace my old track, I will look into finding the regular track until it can no longer be bought.
  8. Dave Farquhar

    Dave Farquhar Member

    The fuss is that a few people had problems with it and they're bitter, so every time someone mentions the CW-80, they pile on and yell and scream and you would think, by reading it, that Lionel made a grand total of 12 CW-80s that actually work. I know firsthand that Lionel did have problems with the CW-80--mine worked for about 15 minutes and then died, but Lionel replaced it for me with no hassles. I e-mailed customer support, told them what happened and the symptoms and how I knew it was the transformer and not the locomotive because I tried a different transformer, and a couple of days later a replacement was sitting on my doorstep. Fantastic customer service. So I'm not complaining. I don't mind if a company makes mistakes as long as they fix them--even my Honda Civic had a recall.

    I use a loop of Fastrack around my Christmas tree and I like it for that, but it would cost $1,000 to do my layout in it. I used O27 profile track on it, mostly used, and I probably have less than $200 in it. I also think tubular track looks better with the vintage trains I like to run. I can't imagine Lionel will stop making tubular track any time soon, but even if they do, there's literally tons of the stuff out there. I see tubular track at train shows for 25-50 cents a section all the time.
  9. Geno

    Geno Member

    Fastrak is definitely not cheap, considering it's still hollow tubular track on a plastic roadbed. The opposite is true about 027 - what you can buy on the secondary market is alot less costly, but the issue most operators find with it is the limited amount of curve diameters available.

    Lionel sells 027, 042, and 054, with 027 and 042 manual and remote switches. After the release of Fastrak they immediately raised the prices on the whole 027 line- probably another one of Jerry's ideas to fatten up that bottom line. In any event, what used to be an affordable way to go in expanding your layout just got more expensive like everything else on O gauge.

    K-Line used to make 063 and 072, but with their demise only Lionel knows it those sizes will return. Some K-Line track is still out there in LHS if you can find it.

  10. tracman165

    tracman165 New Member

    Think I'll throw my hat in the ring! The first thing I would do is clean
    everything before spending any money! If theres a hobby shop, or
    someone close by that does maintenace on O or O27, I would have
    them check out your engine and transformer. I have 2 engines and
    a ZW transformer that I've had for over 50 years. Replaced the cord
    on the ZW had the engines cleaned, they run like new!
    I agree with the rest of the guys in the fourm, Williams. K-Line, and
    the rest all make quality engines, me I have a little of each and knock
    on wood, I have no problems. If I read you right, you're not willing to
    spend more then $200.00 on an engine? For the price of O and O27, I
    find it best to invest a little at a time. Once you get establised with
    Williams, they have a pretty easy payment plan. I think the rest of
    the guys and gals will agree with me, there not many choices of engines
    under two hundred dollars. That old saying comes into play "You get
    What you Pay for"
    Hope that helps?
  11. green_elite_cab

    green_elite_cab Keep It Moving!

    yeah, thats true. I wish O scale stuff would be cheaper. I don't know how you guys hanlde buying $400 locomotives!
  12. pgandw

    pgandw Active Member


    I don't buy any $400 locomotives (in any scale).

    In O, I have a Postwar 2026 ($90 used), an MPC Alaska SW ($65 new), the Coast Guard set ($225 new), the 1991 Circus Set (less than $200 new), a PW used General ($160), a 2004 ACL Berkshire ($170), an MTH trolley set ($90).

    These locos are about $100 or less: RMT Beep (a shortened, whimisical GP), K-Line Plymouth switcher, Lionel 0-6-0T, K-Line Porter 0-4-0T.

    Provide you are willing to run conventional mode (not command), and don't need the full scale stuff that requires 054 or 072 curves, there are many loco choices for less than $250. Check out Williams in particular. How many locos do you have room to run at one time anyway? I have far more than I need, and may get rid of a lot of my O collection yet.

    For transformers, I favor the PW 1033/1044 models. Plenty of power for small layouts, and easy to find for around $50.

    Track is your choice. I have a mish-mash. I prefer 027 for its lower height, but the curves are a little too sharp, like you said. The problem is lack of decent switches since K-Line was bought out. Either 027 or 031 is needed for a lot of the postwar operating accessories that hooked directly to the track.

    031 switches are generally much better quality except for a few years' production. And the track is sturdier and slightly bigger curves. Mixing 031 and 027 is actually quite easy. Downside is the absurdly high height.

    I think a lot of the Atlas track. Curves in 027, 036, and bigger. Flex track is available. Switches in 036. Larger switches apparently have dead spot issues. Atlas track looks good.

    MTH Realtrax is expensive, and doesn't stay together well after being put together and taken apart several times.

    I have never tried Fastrack, but a lot of folks says it's the best for layouts not built on a table.

    my thoughts, your choices
  13. Dave Farquhar

    Dave Farquhar Member

    I don't have any $400 locomotives either. I've got Dad's childhood 2026 and 2037 (book value $90-$125 each), a postwar 671 (book value $175), and bunches of Marx locomotives that book at $100 tops, some as low as $10. Most of my cars are worth $30 or less also. So it's possible to have vintage, genuine postwar stuff on a budget. That's not the impression you get from reading the magazines but there are a lot of us who are sitting in the cheap seats and enjoying every minute of it.

    My prewar stuff is all pretty inexpensive too. I've got a $100 Lionel 259e and an American Flyer 3110. They're old, but common, so that keeps the prices down.

    If you want modern-production stuff, buy stuff that's a couple of years old. The new stuff depreciates like a new car. I have one full O-scale diesel that may have cost $400 new but I paid $100 for it.
  14. Geno

    Geno Member

    Nice 2-rail layout! I wish I had gotten into that when Atlas was cheaper. I still bought a pile of the new Atlas 2-rail track for my studrail layout (benchwork in progress). How big is that layout? I like that industrial theme.

    Guys- I'm on the other side of the fence (nothing but $400 locomotives), but I'll tell you that it wouldn't be the case if it weren't for Ebay. I usually get mine, sometimes used, for about $150-300. If you think the new stuff is cheap to buy used, please tell me where you can get it- all the new engines on Ebay still gets market value if not more.

  15. Dave Farquhar

    Dave Farquhar Member

    Geno, I see the bargains at train shows more often than online. It's like anything else though. Sometimes you go and the stuff is priced high, sometimes it's low. I only buy when it's low. Gotta get to the show early to get the low-priced stuff though, because if you stop to think about it, someone else is liable to grab it.

    I got the one I mentioned for $100. I've bought a lot of O27 locomotives for a lot less (sometimes around $10).
  16. Geno

    Geno Member

    I hear you on that one- the train shows can be a good place to snag some deals, but the only train I attend with any kind of regularity (Cal Stewart in Pasadena, CA) is a hole that's 'fished-out' more often than not these days. Friday and Saturday are dealer days only, so by the time any deals are set out on the table they're already gone on Sunday (open to the public).

    I'm thinking of checking out the Greenberg show (GATS) in Anaheim this January '07, but from what I hear from my train club buddies it's another dry hole.

    A few years ago I did pick up some great deals at Cal Stewart-like a Lionel Cibro tank train set plus the add-on car for $100. Those go on Ebay for around $200-250 easy. this year it was some scale freight cars for $10/ea.

  17. green_elite_cab

    green_elite_cab Keep It Moving!

    wow, that sums it up pretty well!

    still, the prices scare me. I used to buy Industrial rail for O-27, but i think Atlas O just bought them out, and i haven't seen any since. all the lionel stuff is outragoues to me ($40-$60 is alittle much for a single car, although once again maybe there is cheaper out there that i haven't come across)

    yeah, i've seen williams stuff, and they look like they work, but the non scale stuff just looks to weird (the lionel GG1s and E33s come to mind). I don't know who makes these, but there are Reading company "blue" E.M.U. car pair for about $200 at my local hobby shop that i'm looking into. assuming they haven't been bought i might grab them.

    as far as running locomotives and space, I could techincally run 2 trains if i bought a few extra track sections, and if one of the trains was short ( like a RDC or the aforementioned EMU cars in addition to my current 4-4-2). However, I don't want to buy the command control for somethign i only run on the holidays, and days where i feel like doing somethign different. vareity would be nice though.

    i'll probably stick with my current O-27 until next year, where i may get up the nerve to spend on the Lionel Fast track.
  18. green_elite_cab

    green_elite_cab Keep It Moving!

    being pretty new to this stuff, those are Item numbers right? is there a website that elaborates on these numbers? and as far as "vintage" stuff goes, will it require maitenance and restoration? I feel like most old trains that come into my possession just don't seem to justify work to get them running again (i have lots of old Mehano and tyco HO trains, as well as a pair of Marx 0-27 0-4-0s) and i don't know what to do with them. I might post a thread later on seeing what can be done with these Marx trains.

    thanks for the information!
  19. green_elite_cab

    green_elite_cab Keep It Moving!

    Thanks! yeah, its only a HO 4x8. I try to creatively take pictures so that its hard to tell. I actually need to update those pictures. I keep saying i will, but i never do. I have so much grass and such down. so i'm positive i'll have them up byt tommorow, because i definitely am going to get the new pictures posted now.
  20. Dave Farquhar

    Dave Farquhar Member

    Yep. Try http://www.postwarlionel.com -- it's not definitive but has lots of good info on it.

    It all depends. I had the 2026 and 2037 repaired because they were my Dad's, so it was worth it to me, whatever the cost. My 671 just worked. I lubed it to be on the safe side, but it was ready to go. A lot of postwar Lionel is in operable condition or nearly so as-is.

    Learn on them! Marxes are the easiest trains, by far, to get running again. Take 'em apart, clean 'em up, get them running, and you'll be more confident when you want to tackle the slightly more complex Lionel.

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