I don't "hate" speed control; I think of it as a way to make something that's already good even better. If the speed control is too "tight" or reactive it can take away the feeling of momentum and mass. And a lag can make it feel like you're operating a robot, instead of running a train. It's better to achieve smooth operation the natural way, embracing the laws of physics instead of fighting them. It's a bit like the discussion of a tube amp vs. solid state, vinyl vs. mp3, or drive-by-wire vs. a cable throttle.
Two years ago we almost lost ERR. Now as MTH closes its doors, the future of Protosounds and DCS is unknown. Historically Lionel hasn't offered it's Legacy electronics in a retrofit kit. With a conservative gear ratio, quality motor and drive train, ANY of the non-proprietary R/C systems such as Airwire (which has been around for YEARS) would give you individual control with Legacy-like performance. The only sacrifice is a muted top speed.
The Williams by Bachmann 4-6-0 is a good example. I've seen this loco in action, and everyone on this Forum says it's a great runner even without speed control. Williams uses the common RS-385, but at track speed, I'm pretty sure the RPMs get way up there. It coasts nicely too. It's well-enough engineered that I've heard few complaints about NVH. I would like to see more locos use this gearing as a starting point.
At some level, even MTH has admitted the error of its ways. They didn't make a big deal about it (probably so as not to devalue existing inventory.) But beginning around 2008, many of the RailKing locos got lower gear ratios. The Mohawk, Pacifics, and Hudsons gradually changed to 26:1, which is lower than most 3-rail trains marketed as scale models! And the "new" 726-style LionChief Plus Berks were geared at 25:1, which is the slowest I know of in any postwar-styled train. Hopefully more will follow this pattern.
I'm not saying that they should stop selling trains with speed control, or that people shouldn't consider a thoughtful upgrade if a train has a lot of sentimental value. My point to JohnA is that Williams (Samhongsa) wasn't wrong. A 42:1 gearbox isn't a disease to be excised. For use on a typical small layout, 800 RPM = 4 mph is an excellent starting point. Whatever issues of NVH and current draw might arise from that can be addressed through careful motor selection and quality design. Then, speed control becomes the cherry on top of the sundae.