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Beta 3.0

2-minutes of run time evaluation:

Cow catcher shorting out on center rail

Rubber tires rolling.  May need to buy Lionel tires to replace these with- the rubber seems too pliable perhaps.

Shorting on center rail - while on low profile tubular track (Marx and Lionel)

DBE5DC76-CF0E-4630-B169-B36F00893C73

This is a design/manufacturing defect I will need to work around.

Note the metal under the coupler sags. If it didn’t sag, it wouldn’t touch the center rail.

DABE817C-F47F-43D8-A35B-4BE63EA0BAC6

I like the engine sound and momentum. The horn sounds toy-like.

Couple of paint smudges behind the rear doors, but otherwise looks very good.

image

Rubber tires rolling after 2 minutes of running at lowest speed with no load on tubular track.

1D98B0DD-0531-457B-B6CD-F52166B76A18

2F97C40E-79FA-44A6-AE4E-24694E97DD08

I agree with earlier comments that the couplers are almost non-functional when using manually.  I’ll try them on an uncoupling track today, once I tape up the front to prevent shorting.

I paid $210 for Lionel’s lowest end GP38 in 2020 (MSRP $220 as of Jan 5, 2022), and $188 for this Menards engine with the same features 18 months later.  With Lionel I get dealer support, increased resale value, blue tooth, iPhone app, future compatibility, and spare tires.  Overall I think I will be much better off paying 6% more for Lionel quality and support.  Saturday I’ll post in the Saturday Switcher thread this engine’s run through my track.  Last Saturday I ran the Lionel GP38 and posted on the Saturday Switcher thread.

Fun to test a brand new product!  If I can figure out the tire situation, and after I fix the center rail shorting problem, this F unit should work fine for pulling my Amtrak cars, with no switching duties requiring a functional coupler.

Maiden Voyage:  rough ride over the K-Line O42 manual switch; otherwise seemed to traverse the Gargraves flex at about 34” diameter, K-Line O42 auto switch, two Marx O34 auto switches, and Marx 34” dia curves and Lionel straights as well as the Lionel GP38.

Attachments

Images (5)
  • 1D98B0DD-0531-457B-B6CD-F52166B76A18
  • 2F97C40E-79FA-44A6-AE4E-24694E97DD08: Tires shifted
  • DBE5DC76-CF0E-4630-B169-B36F00893C73: Truck float
  • DABE817C-F47F-43D8-A35B-4BE63EA0BAC6: Metal deformed/sag
  • image: Paint smudge
Videos (3)
trim.39F39913-0B81-4760-AC53-96C10AE3191C
trim.E6AED3FA-B556-404E-955D-C120D57F42AB
trim.D0408E6D-F86D-4BFD-A9FF-F9EC981569D4
Last edited by Hannibal-St Joseph RR

I think your point is well taken about the least expensive separate sale LionChief locomotives being competitive in features and price.  The current LionChief locos offered for separate sale also can be operated by the universal remote, the app/Bluetooth and, presumably, in the future, employing the new command base in the coming catalogue,  which allows control of LionChief locos via the Legacy handheld.

May not be an issue for new hobbyists or those with only one or two locos, but for those who already have Legacy, LionChief might be a plus compared with Menards offerings.  We don't know for sure what the final pricing structure will be for Menards locos, but it sounds as if it's likely comparable pricing to existing LionChief locos.  Be interesting to see how this plays out.  More choices aren't a bad thing, however it goes .   I wish Menards success in this new venture, given that we've been losing manufacturing over the last decade or more, with Weaver and K-Line leaving the industry, and Williams and MTH becoming less and less of a factor.

Last edited by Landsteiner

Menards pilot shorting on center rail.

Fixed the cow catcher.  Added a piece of cardboard to lift the catcher (cardboard from the free blue Ford box!)

Before:

32362F4D-26FE-433C-875A-897BF64E6EFD

Insert cardboard here (deep):
67D83102-34B8-4C96-B9FC-1A2F9DB5D068

If you remove a motor power wire, you can just barely get to the screws attaching the cow catcher.
5872B255-0085-49FC-8A0E-A5A61D980F7D

After:

71C479B2-9451-4CF8-84FC-6DFA09AB61E3

How-To video and successful verification run after adding the shim:

Attachments

Images (4)
  • 32362F4D-26FE-433C-875A-897BF64E6EFD: Before
  • 67D83102-34B8-4C96-B9FC-1A2F9DB5D068: Add shim
  • 5872B255-0085-49FC-8A0E-A5A61D980F7D: Loosen Cow Catcher
  • 71C479B2-9451-4CF8-84FC-6DFA09AB61E3: After
Videos (2)
trim.9A05FD0C-22AC-4EBB-B8A5-584B8AD9A181
trim.CC417583-68A5-41E3-9797-E56767AC7A7E
Last edited by Hannibal-St Joseph RR

The coupler height was a problem this time.  Couplers match between Menards pieces, but not when connecting to Williams or Lionel.

Menards is WAY below the NMRA standard on their flatcar and the F Unit. Almost 25% of the distance.  1/16” or maybe 1/8” discrepancy could be accommodated with a 3/8” knuckle, but not almost 3/16” below standard.

image

(Coupler knuckles are 0.36” on Menards and Lionel.  Add 1/2 of knuckle (0.18”) to the center-of-knuckle NMRA standard height (11/16” or 0.6875) and you get the top of rail to top of knuckle target height of 0.8675”.

I’m thinking when Menards launched their product line they misread or misunderstood the Standard, and set the Top of the knuckles to 11/16” instead of the Center of the knuckles, and haven’t corrected it.  Half a knuckle height across the line of products is a really big miss that has persisted for years now - makes me wonder how committed Menards truly is to making improvements.

Post war Lionel Sunoco tanker:

image

Williams boxcar:

DA51BAC3-EB1D-4E66-B993-3B450C74A864

Measurement technique- caliper from top of center rail to top of coupler:

image

Menards F Unit:

image

Lionel Post-War Sunoco:
image

Williams boxcars:
image

Menards flatcar:
image

OOPS video:

Also, none of the Menards couplers released over the uncoupling track.  Williams boxcar has no issues.

Doesn’t open even when idling over the electromagnet.

Attachments

Images (8)
  • image: Lionel Sunoco
  • DA51BAC3-EB1D-4E66-B993-3B450C74A864: Williams boxcar
  • image: Measurement technique
  • image: F Unit
  • image: Lionel Sunoco
  • image: Williams boxcars
  • image: Menards flat car
  • image: Compare to NMRA Standard
Videos (3)
trim.1F534BD5-7B48-4E52-BFA4-0DD9D30859EE
trim.917397A4-8A81-45C8-8FCE-6E41F5EAC492
66302843750__74680551-5D73-46AF-B6D0-34BEA28E19F1
Last edited by Hannibal-St Joseph RR
@Landsteiner posted:

I think your point is well taken about the least expensive separate sale LionChief locomotives being competitive in features and price.  The current LionChief locos offered for separate sale also can be operated by the universal remote, the app/Bluetooth and, presumably, in the future, employing the new command base in the coming catalogue,  which allows control of LionChief locos via the Legacy handheld.

May not be an issue for new hobbyists or those with only one or two locos, but for those who already have Legacy, LionChief might be a plus compared with Menards offerings.  We don't know for sure what the final pricing structure will be for Menards locos, but it sounds as if it's likely comparable pricing to existing LionChief locos.  Be interesting to see how this plays out.  More choices aren't a bad thing, however it goes .   I wish Menards success in this new venture, given that we've been losing manufacturing over the last decade or more, with Weaver and K-Line leaving the industry, and Williams and MTH becoming less and less of a factor.

well said

You'll never find cowcatcher in ANY diesel documentation, particularly as many diesels are equipped with snowplows nowadays.

***a Rusty Traque/Blue Streak photo crop***

I pity the cow...

Rusty

Agreed. Cow catcher has never been used for diesels. The term was a 19th century phrase that referred to heavy-sloped pilots that indeed had livestock and wildlife in mind. Diesel pilots without the plows? Nope. In fact, this is the first time I have heard any hobbyist on this forum refer to a typical diesel pilot as a cow catcher.

You are right, but this nitpick contributes nothing to the conversation about Beta 3.0

100%

I appreciate your time for the thorough review. This is the first time I've seen anyone try to fire the couplers with the electromagnetic track. Williams boxcar couplers are notorious for being higher than lionel. There isn't much overlap between Menards and Williams.

Seems like Menards should be talking to you if they're really interested in improving!

Last edited by PRRick
@Jim R. posted:

Agreed. Cow catcher has never been used for diesels. The term was a 19th century phrase that referred to heavy-sloped pilots that indeed had livestock and wildlife in mind. Diesel pilots without the plows? Nope. In fact, this is the first time I have heard any hobbyist on this forum refer to a typical diesel pilot as a cow catcher.

So the steam engine came first and it was called a "cow catcher".  The evolution of steam engines created the diesels.  When that happened the "cow catcher" became a "pilot".  That begs the question, is it fair to call a cow catcher a plow during the 1800's?  Because of its shape, it probably helped move snow off the tracks and, therefore, couldn't it be called a plow, too?

Should we call them toy trains or model trains?  We scale them down to correct size and weather them, but, as my wife points out, they remain little trains powered by an electric motor that allows us older boys to play, too.

And then, where does a model or toy engine that sells for under $200 fall in our classification?  When does a toy become a model?

And do Menards' buildings fall in line with toys or models?  Afterall, there are a lot of photos of them on the forum and they are included in some pretty nice layouts.

I'm looking forward to testing the Beta 3.0. model, err, toy.    I'll see how that little silver and red puppy performs when I have a drink in one and hand and a remote in the other.

@RoyBoy posted:

Yes. That is a Williams F7. It matches the old AMT tooling, although AMT never made a B unit as far as I can tell.

Correct - AMT (American Model Toys)/Auburn KMT/KUSAN never made up tooling for a B unit to go with the F unit first offered by AMT in the early 50s. Williams (who purchased the original AMT-made tooling for the F unit) eventually had the B unit tooled up to match the A unit originally offered by Jack Ferris' AMT line made in Auburn, Indiana.

Last edited by MTN

Beta 3.0

2-minutes of run time evaluation:

Cow catcher shorting out on center rail

Rubber tires rolling.  May need to buy Lionel tires to replace these with- the rubber seems too pliable perhaps.

Shorting on center rail - while on low profile tubular track (Marx and Lionel)

DBE5DC76-CF0E-4630-B169-B36F00893C73

This is a design/manufacturing defect I will need to work around.

Note the metal under the coupler sags. If it didn’t sag, it wouldn’t touch the center rail.

DABE817C-F47F-43D8-A35B-4BE63EA0BAC6

I like the engine sound and momentum. The horn sounds toy-like.

Couple of paint smudges behind the rear doors, but otherwise looks very good.

image

Rubber tires rolling after 2 minutes of running at lowest speed with no load on tubular track.

1D98B0DD-0531-457B-B6CD-F52166B76A18

2F97C40E-79FA-44A6-AE4E-24694E97DD08

I agree with earlier comments that the couplers are almost non-functional when using manually.  I’ll try them on an uncoupling track today, once I tape up the front to prevent shorting.

I paid $210 for Lionel’s lowest end GP38 in 2020, and $188 for this Menards engine with the same features 18 months later.  With Lionel I get dealer support, increased resale value, blue tooth, iPhone app, future compatibility, and spare tires.  Overall I think I will be much better off paying 6% more for Lionel quality and support.  Saturday I’ll post in the Saturday Switcher thread this engine’s run through my track.  Last Saturday I ran the Lionel GP38 and posted on the Saturday Switcher thread.

Fun to test a brand new product!  If I can figure out the tire situation, and after I fix the center rail shorting problem, this F unit should work fine for pulling my Amtrak cars, with no switching duties requiring a functional coupler.

Maiden Voyage:  rough ride over the K-Line O42 manual switch; otherwise seemed to traverse the Gargraves flex at about 34” diameter, K-Line O42 auto switch, two Marx O34 auto switches, and Marx 34” dia curves and Lionel straights as well as the Lionel GP38.

One point, not to quibble, but comparing a Lionel engine you got in 2020 to what Menards is or isn't these days may not be relevant. The price of Lionel's products have shot up and are likely to go up even more. You are correct IMO about price vs quality, to me saving a couple of bucks and getting something that to me is inferior doesn't make sense. And yeah, it could be a better bargain to buy a lionchief engine used than this new, kind of like back in the day buying a Yugo new or a used Toyota or the like, no comparison.

Current price of a GP38 (BN 2085) on Lionel web site is $220.  So it has not changed price in 2 years.  I got mine for $210 as a pre-order.

Menards is asking for feedback, so I compared to a brand-new Lionel engine in the same price range with nearly identical features.  This Menards engine should work fine for pulling my Amtrak cars - it seems very sturdy - but this isn't about my use of the engine.  The objective of Beta 3.0 release was to get people to test it on a variety of track, with a variety of manufacturer's cars, forward, backward, uphill, down, around corners - the kinds of testing that will flush out problems.  If the competition (in this case Lionel) has the same problems, then you are competitive.  However, in my opinion Menards still has some work to do if they want to release an engine that will please people.  If you say you have operating couplers, then they should operate - but if you hang them 3/16" below the published S-2 Coupler Standard (0.688" +/-0.031", or 11/16" +/-1/32" top of rail to CENTER of knuckle), then your plunger won't have enough travel to open the knuckle, and you will disengage from some cars, like the Williams that are 1/16" higher than the NMRA Standard.  Menards is asking for feedback - and it is a fun way for me to engage, and a fun way for people to see that I am human.

It is a sign of this forum's camaraderie that people still accept (or ignore) me even though I called the pilot a cow catcher!  Repeatedly!  Thank you, Menards for a fun experiment and a solid engine for a good price.

" And yeah, it could be a better bargain to buy a lionchief engine used than this new, kind of like back in the day buying a Yugo new or a used Toyota or the like, no comparison."

I believe the point is that new LionChief locos for separate sale are no more expensive than this Menards loco.  Charles Ro has some for about $10 more than the Menards diesel if I recall correctly.  So the comparison is valid in that sense.  No need to go used if you don't want to for similar price and features.  But there are only a few types of locos and road names, so there's probably room in the marketplace for both Lionel LionChief and Menards.

Here are my V3 unboxing pictures.

  • For those who don't have a local Menards the "brown" shipping box is what comes to your door if you order (or have it shipped to a local Menards). Then the clear insert packaging is what is placed on the shelf in the store. As usual very good packaging. No directions at all (what does the switch on the bottom of the loco do?).
  • I did not get a V1 or V2 to compare, but this V3 has an impressive slow speed / momentum start up. Way better than my Lionel LionChiefs and I would say better than my MTH Proto V3's. I don't have Legacy so I can't compare to those. I'll post a video shortly comparing engines.
  • I grabbed some other Menards cars so I didn't notice anything on coupler height as mentioned above. Nor did I have any issues with the engine rubbing on the tracks as posted above by @Hannibal-St Joseph RR . I am running it right now on my Christmas MTH RealTrax setup that was under my tree. So all O-31 curves and switches. No issues at all.
  • The sound is good, as mentioned above the horn sound is not the most realistic.
  • The LED's are very bright, again not realistic but very clearly bright.
  • I can't get over how smooth the startup is and the momentum transition up and down is very pleasing. You won't make an emergency stop with this engine.

Solved picture issue. Now included.
IMG_1555IMG_1556IMG_1557IMG_1558IMG_1559IMG_1560IMG_1561IMG_1562IMG_1563IMG_1564IMG_1565IMG_1566IMG_1567

Attachments

Images (13)
  • IMG_1555
  • IMG_1556
  • IMG_1557
  • IMG_1558
  • IMG_1559
  • IMG_1560
  • IMG_1561
  • IMG_1562
  • IMG_1563
  • IMG_1564
  • IMG_1565
  • IMG_1566
  • IMG_1567
Last edited by AtoZ Lewis
@AtoZ Lewis posted:

Here are my V3 unboxing pictures.

  • For those who don't have a local Menards the "brown" shipping box is what comes to your door if you order (or have it shipped to a local Menards). Then the clear insert packaging is what is placed on the shelf in the store. As usual very good packaging. No directions at all (what does the switch on the bottom of the loco do?).
  • I did not get a V1 or V2 to compare, but this V3 has an impressive slow speed / momentum start up. Way better than my Lionel LionChiefs and I would say better than my MTH Proto V3's. I don't have Legacy so I can't compare to those. I'll post a video shortly comparing engines.
  • I grabbed some other Menards cars so I didn't notice anything on coupler height as mentioned above. Nor did I have any issues with the engine rubbing on the tracks as posted above by @Hannibal-St Joseph RR . I am running it right now on my Christmas MTH RealTrax setup that was under my tree. So all O-31 curves and switches. No issues at all.
  • The sound is good, as mentioned above the horn sound is not the most realistic.
  • The LED's are very bright, again not realistic but very clearly bright.
  • I can't get over how smooth the startup is and the momentum transition up and down is very pleasing. You won't make an emergency stop with this engine.

Because I am attaching so many pictures, it won't include them inline with the post. You will have to click on them.

Can't view the pix.

Beta 3.0

2-minutes of run time evaluation:

Cow catcher shorting out on center rail

Rubber tires rolling.  May need to buy Lionel tires to replace these with- the rubber seems too pliable perhaps.

Shorting on center rail - while on low profile tubular track (Marx and Lionel)

DBE5DC76-CF0E-4630-B169-B36F00893C73

This is a design/manufacturing defect I will need to work around.



**************************
Hi Dan.

I think what you are seeing is more of  a mistake in assembly rather than a design defect. Mine has run flawlessly and couples up perfectly to MTH Premier passenger cars and Atlas O reefers.

See pics.

8089D83F-8DB3-405A-ACF3-3330084A3BCF20DA628B-EA8E-4CEE-9976-6824AD2F9D1D

Attachments

Images (2)
  • 20DA628B-EA8E-4CEE-9976-6824AD2F9D1D
  • 8089D83F-8DB3-405A-ACF3-3330084A3BCF
Last edited by ChiTown Steve

Current price of a GP38 (BN 2085) on Lionel web site is $220.  So it has not changed price in 2 years.  I got mine for $210 as a pre-order.

Menards is asking for feedback, so I compared to a brand-new Lionel engine in the same price range with nearly identical features.  This Menards engine should work fine for pulling my Amtrak cars - it seems very sturdy - but this isn't about my use of the engine.  The objective of Beta 3.0 release was to get people to test it on a variety of track, with a variety of manufacturer's cars, forward, backward, uphill, down, around corners - the kinds of testing that will flush out problems.  If the competition (in this case Lionel) has the same problems, then you are competitive.  However, in my opinion Menards still has some work to do if they want to release an engine that will please people.  If you say you have operating couplers, then they should operate - but if you hang them 3/16" below the published S-2 Coupler Standard (0.688" +/-0.031", or 11/16" +/-1/32" top of rail to CENTER of knuckle), then your plunger won't have enough travel to open the knuckle, and you will disengage from some cars, like the Williams that are 1/16" higher than the NMRA Standard.  Menards is asking for feedback - and it is a fun way for me to engage, and a fun way for people to see that I am human.

It is a sign of this forum's camaraderie that people still accept (or ignore) me even though I called the pilot a cow catcher!  Repeatedly!  Thank you, Menards for a fun experiment and a solid engine for a good price.

Sadly the nitpicking has caused some of my friends to leave the forum. When we finished reviewing our Menards engine we gave it to some youngsters with a layout and no command engine. Not sure if Lionel makes a scale size and detailed engine like this in LionChief. Closest I think is their FT A-A pair which is about $500 for a power and a dummy. Is that correct?

@Art Lites posted:

Looks like Menards has aways to go on this one.  I still don't like the chrome finish on the frame.  Smart move asking the forum to test. Lionel should take note.  I wish them luck. We will all benefit from increased choices from competition.

Art

I was thinking they made a minimum production run of frames and trucks and are still using them. Also an easy way to tell "test" units from regular production runs.

Williams did make an F7 B unit for their ex Kusan F7s. They sold them separately from the AA sets. What are you talking about?

I never said Williams didn't make F7 B units as I'm the guy who answered his question on what the B unit in the video was.  Not sure what you are talking about.

I have no idea if AMT or Kusan or anyone else that originally controlled the tooling ever produced a B unit nor do I even care.

@BobbyD posted:

Sadly the nitpicking has caused some of my friends to leave the forum. When we finished reviewing our Menards engine we gave it to some youngsters with a layout and no command engine. Not sure if Lionel makes a scale size and detailed engine like this in LionChief. Closest I think is their FT A-A pair which is about $500 for a power and a dummy. Is that correct?

Bobby,

I can clearly understand how some could get frustrated with the types of discussion that takes place here from time to time.  But in reality isn't that the case no matter what train site you go to?   

Not to be funny in any way, out of curiosity, where did your friends that left the forum go to for model train discussion?

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