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So two forum sponsors are offering custom runs of engines I am interested in. One is offering a Lionel Legacy 2-8-0 at $675.  The other is an MTH PS 3.0 4-6-2 at $1,250.  That is a price difference of approximately 85%.  I understand the engines are not identical, and different control systems. However, I find it hard to believe it is costing MTH 85% more to manufacture a similar engine.  Perhaps the MTH run is smaller?  Just trying to understand better before I make a purchase.  And not looking to start a Lionel vs MTH war.  I think both companies make a great product.  Thanks.

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The short answer, MTH is a larger locomotive for starters, and is of newer more highly detailed tooling than the smaller antiquated 2-8-0 tooling from Lionel.

I suppose you could throw in a possible limited  production number as well.

Having said that.  The last run of 4-6-2's from Lionel. Which were rather inaccurate for many of the roadnames, due to the overly long firebox, had an MSRP of $1399.

Well there are some huge differences, from a mechanical stand point, between a Lionel 2-8-0 and a MTH 4-6-2. Yes they both will have whistle steam but that's where the similarities end. It's like comparing apples to oranges.

The Lionel 2-8-0 is much smaller than the MTH 4-6-2. The Lionel model is powered buy a small RS385 motor with a worm shaft pressed onto the end. This is they style of driveline used in starter set/Lionchief/Rail King locomotives. The model also doesn't have nearly as much add of detail as the MTH 4-6-2. The MTH 4-6-2 is a more detailed model with more separate detail parts. In addition the MTH model uses a larger motor with a drive shaft that connects it to a separate worm shaft in a gearbox. The MTH model is stronger and will pull a much longer train.

The reason the MTH model is more expensive is because it's a larger, more powerful locomotive model. I own a Lionel 2-8-0 model and the MTH 4-6-2 is worth the extra $600.

I have talked to Brass importers about similar issues.   I personally like smaller engines like consolidations and switchers and I was asking why they didn't make more of them.     The importer explained the cost difference for similar quality in pretty minimal.   A relatively small amount of material makes teh difference between a Big Boy and an 0-6-0.   So he siad the costs to design and build are almost the same for the small one.   However, buyers expect a smaller 0-6-0 to be vastly cheaper and therefore won't buy when only 10% or  so less that the big articulated.    Therefore he generally offers larger locos because they sell.

Also, the size of the run is very important, especially when new tooling is needed.    the cost of the tooling needs to be amortized over the number of locos.   If the number is small, say a few hundred, the amount each one must cover is much higher.    If the run is 1000, the cost of the tooling and design per unit is much much lower.

My understanding is that all of these custom runs are quite small compared with long standing previous tradition.  Sometimes as few as 25.  The reason they can be made at all is that the tooling is already there and decoration has become much less expensive per loco.  The economies of scale (large volumes) aren't there, but you are dealing with sunk tooling costs, each additional locomotive doesn't cost that much to produce in terms of materials and labor.  Since these are hand assembled in most cases, labor is a large component of the cost, after tooling, I'd guess.  Materials probably come after that, and if you are getting a much more expensive motor and drive train, that likely adds to the differences as mentioned above.

@MR-150 posted:

Lou1985   Thanks for telling about the Lionel Consolidation.I was thinking getting one but you mentioned about it being a weak puller, you've saved me some money.

I have the earliest release of that locomotive (Southern Pacific, TMCC) and it pulls ok. It manages a freight train of 10-12 scale cars with easy and will pull 3-4 heavyweights fine. I wouldn't expect it to do more than that being that it has a small RS385 motor. The MTH Pacific on the other hand should have no problems with a 8 car or more heavyweight passenger train or 50 freight cars. It's just a larger, more powerful locomotive. 

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