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@Dave Olson

A few years back Lionel had decided to redesign the trucks for freight and passenger cars.  The new trucks were met with disdain as the trucks lost many features of the previous design.  Gone were the swiveling coupler, actual working springs, hidden uncoupler tab, all metal design, smooth functioning coupler.  The new design had a bolster made of plastic, the side frames were diecast but the springs were now decoration and no longer functioned.  The coupler was fixed to the truck.  The hidden tab to operate the coupler was replaced with the ugly thumb tack.  The only good feature of the new trucks was the ability to completely disassemble the truck and remove the coupler if the user wanted to use kadee couplers.  The previous (and most think superior) design required the user to cut the coupler off.  This was a permanent modification.  Us buyers responded to the new design with our wallets and refused to buy the new trucks.  Lionel saw the buyers response and informed us that they would return to the hidden uncoupler tab as the thumb tack was the worst feature on a scale equipment.

Fast forward to today and Lionel is still using the new truck design, which is poor at best.  What Lionel has done in response to our pleas is to retrofit their new truck design with a new coupler shank which has the hidden uncoupler tab.  The current freight cars still have the plastic bolster, non functioning springs, and non swiveling coupler.  The new hidden tab uncoupler shank is of of poor design to match these inferior trucks.  It does not mate well with the existing trucks (of the superior design).  The uncoupler tab is a sloppy mechanism.  Its mounting causes it to droop and not properly align with other cars which have the previous style.

I had purchased from Lionel, these new trucks with hidden uncoupler tabs for my camera caboose which came with thumb tack couplers.  I assumed it would be the previous design which was stamped metal, diecast sides, etc... What I saw matches, what buyers are now seeing on the new run of milk cars.  These trucks are still the poor design we complained about the past few years.

I do not under stand why Lionel continues to push this new design which clearly does not work well.

Last edited by Joe Fermani
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I can handle prices continuing to go up because that's just the way it is, but I can't handle the quality going down on many fronts at the same time. I have been looking at my collection lately to see how many pieces of rolling stock I have that has been produced since 2016 or so. I have stopped buying new stuff completely here recently and now I'm looking at the cost of changing out the trucks on the stuff in that range that I really like. I have also been researching previous rolling stock from before this started to occur to see if I missed anything I would like to have instead of looking over the new releases.

Also, when was some of the production moved to Vietnam?

I'm not in full disagreement, but allow me to play the devil's advocate for a minute:

- I'm sure the old truck molds were well worn out after tens of thousands of uses over the years, so no surprise that Lionel opted for a retooling at least.  The new trucks are much crisper in their side frame details, and include the nice molded in lettering.  They visually look more like Atlas trucks now, which is not a bad thing at all.

- As an engineer I can say, if a new design is simpler, cheaper, and can accomplish the same goals, there is no reason not to go with it.  The old design was reliable, but rather complex for what it was.

- There are no small number of individuals who model two-rail or even three-rail and prefer scale couplers.  I can't for a minute criticize Lionel for catering to this segment especially with the scale offerings.

- Considering the history of zinc pest amongst various die-cast parts, especially trucks, I would never have a problem with using plastic components, as long as they are robust.  Most modelers in HO and N use simple plastic designs for their truck frames.  Plastic can also decrease noise slightly, by transmitting fewer vibrations into the body of the car.

That said, I do prefer the hinged coupler design for tight corners, and the functioning springs.  Although, the weight of these cars mean even the "functional" springs don't actually function much unless you're pressing down on the car by hand.  I also find the new design frustratingly harder to open the knuckle (some very light weight oil helps), although on the flip side I'm finding they randomly pop open much less often compared to some I have of the old design.

The thumb tack is, however, unacceptable in my book on a scale model and I am pleased that they are rectifying that with the tab design, though it's not the most robust.

So would I personally have preferred that they stick with the old design?  Perhaps, but I don't find the new design the end of the world as long as the thumb tacks are gone.

@BillYo414 posted:

What are the numbers for the new crappy trucks? I just bought two 2-packs of Lionel trucks for a special project. Hope I got the good ones.

From what I have seen, the separate sale trucks that come in the box are still the quality stamped steel, diecast models that we really like.  Its the trucks that are on rolling stock is the issue.

Last edited by Joe Fermani
@PRR Mark posted:

Are these trucks being placed on the made in USA boxcars too ?

So far the new milk cars and the camera caboose have the new truck design.  I do not know of any other roller stock yet.  The camera cabooses have been in production for a few years.  They started with the thumbtack new trucks.  Later versions got the hidden tab BUT still on the same plastic truck.  I would be interested to know if other current production rolling stock has these trucks or not.  If Lionel is just trying to use up inventory of the bad design I could understand that but I would love to hear from them what the future is with the trucks on rolling stock.

Last edited by Joe Fermani

I'm not seeing what the big fuss is about.  FWIW, the new UP "flat wheel" sound boxcar I just picked up has diecast trucks, hidden uncouplers that are removable, and the Kadee mounting blocks.  The couplers seem to work well, they couple very easily, and don't come open, at least in a 20 minute test run with a pair of track cleaning cars behind them to provide a drawbar load.  At least this truck design, to my way of thinking, isn't really all that bad.

I think the buzz about spring loading of the trucks on rolling stock is a lot of ado about nothing.  The springs don't do a think unless you put about three pounds of lead in the cars, they're just cosmetic.  As far as the fixed coupler, that hasn't been an issue with the vast majority of rolling stock I own that has fixed couplers, exactly what is the big deal with those?

Lionel 2026190 UP 'flat spot' PS-1 Boxcar First Look N4


Images (1)
  • Lionel 2026190 UP 'flat spot' PS-1 Boxcar First Look N4

I bought over 150 pieces of Lionel scale rolling stock between 2012 and 2016. I’ve been vocally critical of the move to the new design. I’ve concluded:

  • The original design was industry-leading and highly desirable
  • The new design is vastly inferior
  • I believe the design was changed first and foremost for cost savings (that weren’t passed along)
  • The thumbtacks were awful
  • The revised new design (without the thumbtacks) is better than the original new design, but still significantly inferior to the original design
  • There is likely no going back to the original design irrespective of how much we howl
  • At this point, the new design is here to stay in Lionel scale rolling stock and we either buy it or we don’t, but it isn’t changing.

Just my take, and I might be wrong....

I'm not seeing what the big fuss is about.  FWIW, the new UP "flat wheel" sound boxcar I just picked up has diecast trucks, hidden uncouplers that are removable, and the Kadee mounting blocks.  The couplers seem to work well, they couple very easily, and don't come open, at least in a 20 minute test run with a pair of track cleaning cars behind them to provide a drawbar load.  At least this truck design, to my way of thinking, isn't really all that bad.

Lionel 2026190 UP 'flat spot' PS-1 Boxcar First Look N4

John watch my review of the Milk trucks.  Those couplers a JUNK.  I'm not so much concern with the trucks themselves but those **** lobster claws.  And as for easy conversion to Kadee.  Yes easy until you notice the spacers don't bring the kadee to the correct height, at least for my two bay hoppers.

The new couplers do not mate well with the older design.  As shown in the milk car review and I have confirmed with my own rolling stock.  Trying to mate old and new couplers, one coupler never closes.  The new couplers tend to droop more and hang a bit lower than the older design.  The hidden tab has a lot of slop.  It can move up and down quite a bit as well as back and forth to operate the coupler. The sprung trucks really do not do anything so I understand Lionel switching to design where its ornamental.  The lost of the swivel i think is important because it helps with curves.  Yes - many Lionel trucks had fixed couplers but when Lionel came out with the swivel design it clearly was a winning feature.  I do like the ability to take the truck completely apart.  That is a nice feature.  Overall I still think the older design was functionally better.

I agree the swivel is nice, but I haven't had a big issue with the fixed couplers, so while I would rather have the feature, it's not a deal killer.  As far as mating up with the existing couplers, this one sample I have mates up perfectly with all the things I've tried it with.  The couplers activate very easily and don't separate until I want them to.

I suspect much of the complaints may stem from poor quality control as from design.

I just got the legacy bnsf oilcan set and two ps1 sound cars. all the cars have the new design couplers with the thumb tacks. they work very well and I have had no issues with any of them working together and coupling to all my other cars. either lionel of all truck designs or any mth cars and there various designs.

The only issue with the cars in my oilcan set was the couplers on some cars kept popping open. the fix was easy and fast. a week spring so I just removed the screw above the spring and stretch the spring slightly and remount the spring and screw. problem solved and no more unwanted uncoupling.

I am in the minority here, but I love these new couplers with the thumb tacks. the nuckle design seems to be better also. the inside curve of the nuckle is more U shaped than round to allow the other trucks nuckle to push the moving parts fully closed. I put some light oil on the moving nuckle parts and work it in till the moving nuckle parts move freeley and there is no catching or moving parts sticking. then I soak up any excess that works out with a qtip. this really helps overall it seems. Imo they work far better and seem to take less force to close than the older design everyone raves about.

I have not gotten any of the new cars yet with the new truck design with the hidden  uncoupling tabs. so I can not speek first hand about those, but the ones I have work great and they play very well with my homemade uncoupling tool which I like. also no issues on my uncoupling tracks either. they open every time.

I needed some replacement trucks on a few cars and so I took a new style truck off one of my new cars and low and behold it fit on the cars which need new trucks. so I ordered 3 pairs from lionel. not cheep but like I said I like the new design. simpler, less moving parts and they dont take as much force to couple together. the springs were more just for show and did little for functionality IMO. the moving sprung nuckle did provide greater movement around tighter curves,but if the spring got weak or damaged the nuckle would not come back to center properly.

Bottom line IMO less frills, easier to work on, very nice truck side detail. they take less force to couple together and they get the job done. I say coudos to dave olson for designing these.

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