This year I purchased two MTH TurboTrain sets, VIA Rail and an Amtrak (later scheme), and 4 extra coaches for the VIA Rail, 3 extra coaches for the Amtrak set. The VIA Rail set arrived first, in February. I took it home and read the manual, began to put the train together as prescribed, and planned to run it on my all O-72 Fastrack layout. Immediately I noticed one of the connecting "forks" had one finger bent upward and the other bent downward. I gently reshaped these to their intended position. I then started putting the set together and noticed that the forks were all bent slightly up or down causing the cars to connect irregularly. Not only were they bent, but then when I tried to take it around one lap the train derailed because the cars were too close together in the O72 curves. I first tried calling MTH service, and after several attempts calling and many hours on hold, I got a service tech. He said he was unaware of any problems with the TurboTrains and offered no solution to my problem. I also emailed MTH at this time, no response. I then turned to the OGR Forum to search for info and found Marty Fitzhenry's fix for the close connecting cars from the first batch of these TurboTrains a year or so earlier. I then adjusted the angles of these connecting forks as suggested by Marty. I would have thought that if MTH was aware of this issue and Mike Wolf himself communicated the fix to Marty Fitzhenry that MTH service techs would also be aware of this by the time a second production run was distributed. Beyond that, the problem should have been adjusted by MTH on the second run of these trains. Okay, connecting problems solved thanks to this forum, and no thanks to my call to MTH, I went on to start running my new VIA Rail gem. It did not take long for one of the coaches to start blinking its lights on and off constantly. Around that time the Amtrak set delivered, and I debated canceling its purchase. However, my love of this prototype and my mostly operational VIA Train working minus one coach, I decided to go through with buying the Amtrak set as well a couple months after the VIA set. When I started putting this Amtrak set together I was thrilled to find no bent fork issues and fewer adjustments needed to the closeness of the cars connecting. However, the train soon abruptly stopped with the rear power car acting irregularly and stopping operation of the train. Rechecked tethers, and still a dead rear powercar. The calling to MTH started. I spent untold hours trying to reach MTH by phone. And then, nearly two months after my email I had a reply from Kirstin who apologized for the email problem and that they had some problems with their email at MTH. I had frequent and nearly instant communications with Kirstin and a return authorization for the Amtrak power cars and the blinking VIA Rail coach took place. It took about 6 weeks for the products to get returned and were repaired. I sent a letter to Mike Wolf with my concerns about their quality control and customer service, giving Kirstin glowing reviews for her help, albiet months later. I had NO response. Amazing how you can spend $800 on a Maytag and if theres a problem they come to your house to fix it, but buy $5000.00 or more of MTH products in a year and you cant get an answer or a response without GREAT efforts.
A few months of trouble free operation restored my confidence in these models, but that soon ended. By October I have a total of 5 turbocoach cars that either blink their lights or also affect operation of the train. One Amtrak coach completely shorts out the train stopping it after a few blinks of the coach lights. With all of these bad cars I at least had one or two working cars and could run short TurboTrain consists. But not for long. The VIA Rail set now is totally out of service with its rear power car dead in the same way the Amtrak one had gone before it was sent back to MTH. Kirstin disappeared and I get no responses from email once again.
I have condensed this saga and left out much of the detail of the severe amounts of time, effort, shipping, and frustration. I have remained friendly to MTH and not presented any of this with any anger but simply the desire to get these trains working properly and reliably. I am not looking forward to the effort I will have to take to get MTH to fix the latest round of TurboTroubles. The dealer where I bought these has offered to take on that effort and deal with MTH. In the midst of a very busy year in life from all angles, dealing with a model train issue to this extent becomes an added burden rather than fun diversion. A customer should not have to endure such efforts to try to get support for a product. Things go wrong, but its how a company takes care of that problem is what counts. The TurboTrain by MTH is a spectacular model, it is a shame that such effort to create a gem is tarnished by quality control and perhaps design flaws.
In spite of these issues, I have a plethora of MTH locomotives that work fine from 1997 through to newest releases. They make a lot of tremendous products and I have always appreciated that things like the TurboTrain would have never been made without MTH on the market. I was thrilled with the old ads by MTH for the C&O steam locomotive that we would not have to wait 48 years for a locomotive to be produced. I am an MTH supporter, I just wish in times like the Turbo troubles, they would return the favor.
My last resort will be to re-wire this train and equip it with conventional boards. Before that happens I will try to get these fixed before the warranty runs out. I have communicated with several other TurboTrain owners who I met through their youtube videos. They were having the same malfunctions that I am experiencing and same frustration.