Skip to main content

Newbie question looking into the future, kind of circles around parts/repair availability.  When you get a locomotive that blows you a way, do you/should you buy a spare? (would rather not haha)  Or does lionel do a good job keeping repair parts available for 10+ years?  With running an 036 track I will be limited in locomotives and features as they come out.  I would rather buy different versions to have a variety.  And I would think features in Vision line today will trickle down to legacy in the future which would make tomorrows locomotive more attractive to buy then a spare of today's...

Original Post

Replies sorted oldest to newest

Up to around 2004, in the days of PS-1 and early PS-2, I bought duplicates (or the same type of engine with a different road number) of MTH locomotives that were important to me. I have never run the duplicates, keep them in display cabinets, admire them almost every day, and run the first ones. New technology is not of much interest to me as I'm satisfied running conventionally on my loop-type layouts. If battery power becomes more widely available and affordable, I may someday install it into the models that I run. Unfortunately, parts supply is likely to become more problematic due to the closure of MTH.


I'd never "waste" limited train money on buying duplicates unless I was planning on running them.  Part availability in 10 years is a function of how many extra parts Lionel has, and how many get bought up in the interim.  Never look at these trains as an investment.  Buy what you like, and run them.  If the time comes it doesn't work and you can't get parts to fix it, then buy a new one.  Lionel has been pretty good at rereleaseing locomotives over the years.

Your plan needs to include checking both models when you buy them to make sure they work correctly.

Then this sparing concept might be a half decent idea.  I think a fair number of defects are "DOA" right out of the box or infant mortality (maybe survive a few trips around a loop and then die when something that was questionably manufactured gives out).

There are always exceptions.  Something could just spontaneously decide to die by sitting in storage (such as electronic problems relating to the electrolytic capacitors that had a manufacturing problem a while back - not limited to trains).  Also, see the thread on the JLC series GG1 side frames that had a casting problem.  Many years later (like within the last few weeks! ) a dealer was successful in creating a spare part, but Lionel had not been able to provide anything for many years.  So for that particular case, if you bought 2 locomotives, and they both had the disintegrating trucks due to zinc pest, you potentially could have had 2 non-operable engines instead of just one.

But those are exceptions (hopefully! - though the zinc pest thing does seem to show up every once in a while) for the most part, you'd have a better chance of a functional spare than you would of getting a specific part from the manufacturer years later.  There is no such thing as the manufacturer getting a run of "spare parts" these days (except maybe for screws or some minor stock electronic items, which may be able to be bought generically).  It's well understood Lionel gets spare parts for the engines by disassembling whole units they purchase with this purpose in mind.  So once the engine specific parts are gone, they are gone.


Last edited by Dave45681

I think whether to get a duplicate depends on how much you love it, your financial resources, and your concern about availability of parts down the road.

For instance, I have duplicates of certain Postwar engines I love, such as the Lionel Berkshire #736, Lionel baby Hudson #2065, and Lionel ATSF 6220 bell-ringer switcher, all of which are relatively modest in cost when in good condition and good operating order.

On the other hand, I have an MTH Proto 3 NY Central RS3 that I am crazy about. I think it's my best locomotive, and I have thought about buying a duplicate, but it's about a $400 engine (not prohibitively expensive, but still more than I want to spend at this time for a duplicate). 



Last edited by Arnold D. Cribari

Another reason to get duplicates just occurred to me. 

What if your model railroad is very focused, with model trains from only one railroad. IMO, modeling that goes into depth like that can be very interesting.  For realism, you might want more than one locomotive of the exact same kind, like a real railroad would have. 

Here's another reason for duplicates. I forget what it's called, and I don't do this, but you can run trains with 2 or more of the exact same locomotive pulling it.




Since mth is going out of business this makes some sense. Just look for the same type engine used or heavily discounted and functions as it should. Then use that engine to strip parts off of. If lionel can do it why cant you. Just as I said I would look for a good used deal. I would never by a new engine unless I wanted lets say two es44 engines in a lashup together look. Also the second engine would have to be a different road number. When I get all the locos I need for my layout I am planning and thinking about this myself. Especially with my mth engines.

 I’m attempting to assemble a fleet of Rutland steamers for future operating sessions. They didn’t have a wide variety of engines in the late 40’s. I presently have 3 10 Wheelers [ with another on the way ] , 1 Consolidation, 3 Mikados. All with Legacy. 2 Pacifics, 2 0-8-0’s and 1 0-6-0. I have More than enough for what I envision. The Rutland often ran doubleheads. My Legacy steamers can be mixed and matched just like the prototype. 
 The duplicates are to ensure I can cover all the runs envisioned. Even if a few happen to go down and in need of repair. As far as parts. These are fairly common engines that have been re run a few times. Parts shouldn’t be an issue.


Last edited by Dave_C

I have this penchant for SD70ACe diesels. A couple are demonstrators, one is a case of denial, and a pair are BNSF. The rest are some form of Union Pacific (Heritage, Bush 41, and ONE in yellow and armour gray). If the budget and eBay cooperate, I'll try to pick up another UP "Flag" unit or two. The UP units and the big boy were the reason I bought a set of excursion cars.

When I started my O27 layout and I needed at least 4 locos to run on my two relayed loops.  2-4-2 locos, some with plastic bodies, were used.  I upgraded to four 2026 locos and then four 2035s.  I will pick up spare or extra locos or LWs transformers if the price is right, like the LW I got for $10 at my last train show. 

I do not buy duplicates as such.  I like to acquire different pieces from what I have instead.  I am limited by size as all gear must be able to run on O27 track and switches.

But I love duplicates of favorite tools, cameras, golf clubs, etc.  For tools I keep temporarily misplacing them and cameras and golf clubs I break them.  For tools I have 4 work areas where some are required plus cars.



I wouldn't spend the money on duplicates. Just figure the stuff they put out today will fail sooner than later and parts availability will most likely be an issue.  When a loco fails just rip out the guts and sell it on the Bay as a non powered unit. Move on to the next new purchase. After all, that's why its called disposable income

I see nothing wrong with buying two or more of a locomotive for double heading or just because the user may like the engine and simply want more than 1 of them. I myself currently have 5 NYC Hudsons. However, I could never justify buying a whole brand new locomotive for the sole reason of in the future cannibalizing it for parts. These so called toys are just too darn expensive for me to do that but if someone else has the money and that’s what they want to do, hey more power to ya! As they used to say. I am sure Lionel will welcome the business. 

Last edited by Hudson J1e

Anything that runs on O36 such as LionChief, RailKing, etc., was probably produced in large numbers.  So it shouldn't be hard to find a parts donor ten years from now.   If you do feel compelled to buy a backup for spare parts, make sure you get one from EXACTLY the same production run.  For example: I remember some frustration with the LionChief Plus Mikados because apparently Lionel used a different builder, or changed the driving rod screws after the first batch.  Welcome to the joys of modern O gauge!!

Personally I would leave my money in the bank.  Examples that can be cannibalized for parts will always be out there.  And trains with improved sound and features appear in each new catalog.  If my 6-12345 stops working one day, I won't really care, by then I'll have moved on to something else.  My $.02.

Last edited by Ted S

Heh. In the past year I have acquired (5) MTH PS3 SW1500s. My interest centers on switching operations so a switcher with [electronic] speed control fills the motive power bill perfectly on the Plywood Empire Route and by far my favorite prototype is the SW1500. As inflation eats into my wife's pension (no COLA) we will have ever less disposable income so I thought to store up on my favorite engine while I could and what with MTH's demise I'm glad I did. I assume the PS3 board is the weak link but hopefully four spares will see me to my end 

And if I outlive those five engines I still have 3 Lionel PWC NW2s tucked away and drawers full of every spare part possible.  While speed control is wonderful a well-tuned Pullmor drive performs well enough for me to still enjoy switching operations.

I'm not going to buy spares unless it's something I like so much that I want to have two copies, and that hasn't happened yet as far as engines are concerned.

I've resigned myself to the inevitable failure of electronic components - at the point where such parts can't be found (which is probably 5-10 years away), I'll just stick an e-unit in, wire the motor directly, and run conventional.  

IMO, the bigger risk of availability is related to frames, trucks, and gears due to zinc pest, etc.  And this might be mitigated by all of the inoperable engines that will hit the market as the electronics fail.

Another concern is that the cottage industries which supply aftermarket items (like Dallee) will fade away as the owners retire.

@Mallard4468 posted:

Another concern is that the cottage industries which supply aftermarket items (like Dallee) will fade away as the owners retire.

Good point. That is a concern of mine as well. We have already totally lost some cottage industries and some were reborn under new owners. Since I prefer DCC the least of my worries is electronics. As an open standard there will always be someone manufacturing the electronics. In the proprietary world of 3 rail it is a possibility that someday something could happen with the electronics but I seriously doubt it. I think retrofit electronics will always be available in some form to allow a locomotive to run but it's possible some features could be lost if exact copies of original boards are no longer available.

Thank you so much for all the feedback, good points and schools of thought.  I'm glad to hear many don't buy a spare.  It does make sense not to wrap up money in a spare and instead buy a variety. A locomotive 10 years ago re-released today more than likely has more features so that is something to look forward to instead of buying a spare.  And skimming through the catalog for the re-release or a new locomotive is more fun than buying one I already have.  I think that is a good school of thought and what I'll do.  

However I do completely understand the peace of mind having a spare, especially for the one you like the best/run the most or matches your layout scheme.  Maybe the day I have all the variety of locomotives I like and not looking to add,  then add a spare.  But i'm guessing that day doesn't come does it? haha  

Well, I just did a duplicate thing, but retroactively. I have  an MTH PS1 Camelback (New Jersey. Central) that intermittently would just stop running. The lights and sounds would  stay on but it just wouldn’t move. I had taken it to my local hobby shop to be repaired, but they fail to do so.

So I started thinking about Upgrading it to PS3 or ERR. My LHS said it would be a $350 conversion. I got to looking on eBay to see if I could  find a somewhat inexpensive one that I could buy  to try to swap out parts. I found one that had some small  cosmetic problems and wasn’t selling for too much. However, it was advertised as running beautifully. So, I got it.  PS 1 engines do run beautifully so I didn’t mind sticking with that system. The newer systems are better, but for my purposes PS1 in this camelback would be quite sufficient

Well, when I got it it did run beautifully. After messing around with it and my engine I found that I simply needed to change the tender and my engine ran perfectly. I will simply swap out the tender shells as mine is in beautiful condition. So now I have a beautiful engine that runs perfectly by retroactively buying a duplicate.

I will sell the leftover engine and tender on eBay, and of course being truthful about the operational challenge. It just probably needs a new board in the tender. Even though I won’t get that much for the operationally challenged engine it will help offset the cost of fixing my old one by retroactively buying a duplicate.


Peering at my electronic phone, and over it at this electronic big screen TV I've had since forced to go digital, l am mystified as to how these and other much more "antique" household appliances manage to whir on, and trains with the earliest "boards", to the latest, can have the lifespans of dayflies?  Conversely, l bet that first electric display Mr. Cowen put in that dept. store window is running in somebody's collection.  The KISS rule applied to the old trains, but definitely not to this TV or phone.

IF you are referring to that "Holy Grail" piece that completes your universe..yes buy a spare. IF it's scarce probably will be later..yes get a spare if you can.

I have seen far too many engine parts available from locomotives that had derailed and launched onto concrete or tile floors. Diecast is not forgiving. 

IF your concern is electronics failure, as others suggested, buy some spare compatable aftermarket electronics. ( E,-unit, smoke units, lighting, sound, maybe spare traction tires). 

Most shelf Queens, can be restored to conventional use (low cost) or upgraded (market price..usually expensive). 

When engines totally fail it is always an unexpected costly loss. There is almost always another of the same model available out there if it's not a limited production piece.

Most of us turnover our motive power as newer models are produced.

( I dont think there will ever be a shortage of NYC Hudsons).



Add Reply

OGR Publishing, Inc., 1310 Eastside Centre Ct, Suite 6, Mountain Home, AR 72653
Link copied to your clipboard.