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I live in Japan and I purchased a Lionel Christmas Thomas set from MB Klein to set up at my brother’s in Pittsburgh for the holidays. At 5:30 on Christmas morning, I put the new Thomas on the track only to find the remote dead. Fortunately I had a new Lion Chief+ RS 3 from CT McCormick and three engines dating back to ’47 that were working perfectly, so Thomas being stuck in Sodor was a disappointment but not that big of a problem. My daughter didn't notice as I put the new Thomas set away before she woke up.

The holidays were a blur and I have only had a chance to contact MB Klein now that I am back in Japan. They were very nice and offered me a refund or credit if I return the set. However now I am back in Japan and I am not one to return stuff anyway ( I usually just fix it which happens about 50% of the time I buy Lionel stuff,) it will cost more to ship it back than the set is worth, so I’d just like to get it working. I am confident it is just a dead remote. When I put the engine on the track it responds properly but the remote is dead. When the remote is switched on, nothing happens. The light does not come on. Yes, the batteries are fresh and installed properly. I checked this over and over with different sets of new batteries.

MB Klein told me to contact Lionel customer service and I did. After being on hold for 40 minutes, the woman I spoke with told me the only option was for me to return the set because they no longer manufacture this set and none are in stock. She was rather short, unpleasant and unhelpful, something I did not expect from Lionel customer service. When I asked about using the new Lion Chief universal remote due in June, she said it would not work. I did not get the impression the person assisting me deeply understood what she was talking about nor did she really seem to care.

Sadly, this experience leaves me with a bitter taste in my mouth, my motivation to buy the new Legacy PA set is strongly diminished and I will probably not purchase any more Lion Chief stuff even though my new Lion Chief+ RS 3 is great and a really good value. The irony of not being able to get a part for a brand new Lionel engine, versus getting three old engines that have not seen the light of day for 40 years running perfectly in a matter of hours stings.

I seriously doubt the remote is repairable, but if anyone has had a similar experience please chime in. Also, if you have any advice about what I could do short of returning the set, please let me know.

Happy New Year!


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I'm sorry to hear of your troubles, and a bit surprised to hear of your poor service experience.  

While you mentioned buying the set new, do you know when it was actually made?  sometimes dealers have old product sitting around a while.  I bring this up because the first generation of the Thomas set with the remote uses a different sort of radio control that is not really the same thing as any other LionChief engine.  I think these are the ones with the red remote.  The newer Thomas engines that have the same style of remote as other LionChief products should work with the universal remote when it comes out.   Edit: After looking at the parts diagram referenced below I realized the new thomas remotes still look different than the other Lionchief remotes, but internally they are the same.  As such, the Universal remote should work just fine. 

As to trying to fix the remote you have, there is very little in the way of serviceable parts in there for the average person.  I do recall hearing that the battery contacts may be an issue on the original remotes, so you might try using a small screw driver to bend the contacts outward slightly to make sure they are making good contact with the batteries.  You could also open up the remote and see if one of the wires broke off from the battery terminals or board, or maybe see if they have cold soldier joints.  


Last edited by JohnGaltLine

Thank you all. After adjusting the battery contacts to no avail, I took apart the remote to check the micro switch. It appeared to be working. I put the remote back together and low and behold Thomas is back from Sodor. My daughter is having a ball with it as I write. She is currently laughing and pushing the all aboard button while making station announcements herself in Japanese. These Lion Chief trains are a great value (if the remotes work.)  I do wish all of the trains were Lion Chief + however, then if you have a dead remote you won't have a dead train. It's always good to hear from all of you.

That's good news!  by the way, SantaFeFan is Lionel's CTO.

I was expecting to hear from you in the U.S. by now.

I can tell you that Thomas is sturdy and has withstood a lot of abuse from my grandson for 2 1/2 years. I have had to replace some parts, buffers and smoke stack and cover, eye mech bracket, but he is a very useful engine.

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