My next question is, I was looking at the track picture you posted and what is the code rail for Lionel track? Is it shaped like real railroad rail or is it like O gauge fast track?
I’ll jump in here. On the samples that Lionel sent me the rail is the same as SHS rail -- more or less code 137. MTH will be offering SHS rail in the spring of 2013, I believe. And, yes, is has a real railroad rail profile. The head width of the SHS rail is narrower than the AM 148 so it looks a bit lighter. I personally find it easier to work with than the AM, but not so much that I would lose sleep over the difference. I use both and mix them together without consequence. I also run some scale wheeled equipment in addition to Hi-rail and Flyer,
I share your dislike of the ‘bear claw’ couplers. I use Kadee #5 couplers and prefer them over the Kadee ‘S’ coupler because the #5 allows for much closer coupling between cars… But to each, his own.
There is plenty of steam out there for S in Hi-rail. The SHS 2-8-0 (though getting hard to find), AM 4-6-2 and 4-8-4 plus the Flyonel 4-6-2, 2-8-2 and two of the three articulated. I say 2 of the 3 because I’ve heard the Big Boy is not really S scale.
As far as Hi-rail verse scale you have to judge for yourself. If you look at Brooks Stover’s layout you will find it is HI-rail even though it is one of the best ‘scale’ layouts in any gauge. The track is AM 148 as are the turnouts. I can’t believe he used the AM #4s but he did. For a link to Brooks layout look in this forum on October 4th under ‘Terrific S-Scale layout’. If you can see the ‘pizza cutter’ flanges, you have great vision.
Plenty of pictures have been posted of Flyer to scale conversions for rolling stock, but I would like to encourage some shots of Flyer engines. I know Jerry has some including a Flyer K5 with Kadee couplers. Maybe he’ll post some.