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Hey Guys,

Christmas is coming, and I am trying to pick out a 1970-ish,  decent, cast metal body, fairly inexpensive, but attractive, Lionel Steam Loco.

Like it or not, it will probably be an MPC engine.   (And yea, I know that these were not "top of the line" engines. I don't run my engines much, and I will just run it until it fails.)

In researching this, I have been looking at both the Lionel 8101, and the Lionel 8801, which (please correct me if I am wrong) are both MPCs.

What I don't understand is why people seem to hate (or perhaps distain is a better word) the Red C&A 8101, but absolutely love (to the point of cult status it seems), the 8801 Blue Comet.

Now, I KNOW that the 8101 has a tender with a terrible "chuffing" sound, and that the whistle and chuffer often short out because a piece of foam rubber under the circuit board rots away.    BUT besides that, is there really a quality and performance difference between the two engines themselves?   Do the both have the same motors?


The reason I don't care about the whistle and chuffer in the 8101 tender, is that I am not going to use them anyway.  I will disable them.   I already have a great whistle mounted under my layout which is nice and loud.

In fact, I would prefer to buy the 8101 without a tender.

So, given this, comparing engine to engine only, are there any real differences between the two.  (Aside from the fact that the Blue Comet is  a more attractive looking engine.)

Thanks for all actual experiences and factual information.

Mannyrock

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The 8101 and 8801 are essentially the same mechanically and are at their core 2046/646's.  The Alton has a die cast tender and the Comet a plastic tender.  Both have the crude (by today's standards) white noise "Mighty Sound of Steam."

As far as paint: It's eye of the beholder land, although I thought the Alton's paint appeared a little "muddy" to my eyes.

And back in the day these were considered "Top Of The Line" locomotives.

Rusty

Last edited by Rusty Traque

Part of the preference is the "Blue Comet Mystique,"  originating in the Prewar, deluxe Standard Gauge set that is the dream of many collectors.  Though the MPC set is not the same by any means, the mere name attracts.

If you get either, don't expect it to fail in a hurry.  A little maintenance, and it will probably outlast you.  The association of MPC with junk is both untrue and unfair.  I have a truly bottom-end MPC engine that has more hours on it than can be counted, has only needed a set of brushes and lube over the last 50 years, and which is the ONLY Lionel engine I own that has NO problems--unlike the two postwar and the several modern era (i.e. expensive, command, scale).

I like red, so I think the C&A set look much better, but that is simple preference.  Neither is particularly realistic or scale, so be advised ahead of time.  Both are attractive, generally reliable, and a pleasure to run.

I personally wouldn't give you two cents for a Blue Comet. I bought the early C&A set (that you are speaking of) and add-on cars for my daughter because it was a much nicer looking train set. I can't say the same for the newest Lionel C&A. It was very drab looking. I went with K-Line for the closer to scale C&A set.

Wow.  Thanks for all of the comments, particularly those of Palallin.

The C&A red color is a little "muddy", but other than the light directly overhead of my layout, the basement is fairly dim, so I want to add some moving color with reds.   Black or Navy Blue Locos just don't show up very well.   Bright candy colored reds give the trains too much of a toy-like look to me.

Big Jim, so how good was the early C&A set you bought your daughter? How long did it last?   (I would never buy any of the modern stuff, because I just don't fancy computer control items.)

Mannyrock

Everything Lionel I own is either prewar or MPC era. I see no issues with the MPC era items at all. In my opinion I feel that MPC era items are just as good as anything postwar with out the inflated pricing. Why pay more for something? If you plan to run it just get the later releases and save some money in the process. Honestly I think the only people who really seem to hate the MPC era stuff are folks who will never look outside the postwar era anyways or folks who only want high end scale items.

My Red train is a great set. I plan to get the Comet someday also. Check out my YouTube videos if you want to see much of my MPC era items in action. The Fallen Flags Wabash is also a great overlooked set.

I have had both and still own the Blue Comet set . Both locomotives are rugged, dependable  and I like the paint scheme on both. I don’t think you can go wrong with either . The C&A does have a nicer tender . I may replace the C&A I sold years ago at some point . I kept the Blue Comet as it belonged to a good friend who left us way too soon.

@Mannyrock posted:

Wow.  Thanks for all of the comments, particularly those of Palallin.

The C&A red color is a little "muddy", but other than the light directly overhead of my layout, the basement is fairly dim, so I want to add some moving color with reds.   Black or Navy Blue Locos just don't show up very well.   Bright candy colored reds give the trains too much of a toy-like look to me.

Big Jim, so how good was the early C&A set you bought your daughter? How long did it last?   (I would never buy any of the modern stuff, because I just don't fancy computer control items.)

Mannyrock

Manny,

Like the others have said, it was/is a great set. The colors make it something special for its time! She still has it. Somewhere in the OGR catacombs there is an article about this set.

Since I am an MPC guy, I will chime in. I have both sets, they both look great and run well. The C&A is a little bit more rugged. The tender is die cast and has the Mighty Sound of Steam and the Whistle, where as the Blue Comet only has the steam sound.

You cant go wrong with either. Proper maintenance and the MPC line will run forever, alot longer then the Lionel Chinese/Vietnam scale imports :-)

Manny,

The next issue of OGR has a Collector's Gallery article about both the MPC Blue Comet and C A engines which you will find valuable for background in making your decision. I can echo most of the posters who say the engines are rugged , attractive and generally reliable.

  I use more modern Lionel sound cars in place of the original Sound of Steam and C A whistle. Details are in the Collector's Gallery article, which I recommend for anyone interested in these locomotives.

Ed Boyle

I have an MPC era semi-Scale Hudson and I’ve come to appreciate its qualities. It’s a solid loco, didn’t cost a lot and because it has an open-frame motor, I just leave the Sound of Steam unplugged - there is no rectifier in the tender. It smokes well and pulls reasonably well.

It also has a die-cast tender with 6-wheel trucks which I rather like, I believe it’s the same as the one on the Williams semi-Scale Hudson?

TBH, if I were shopping at a budget something like that would be on my list.

@Ed Boyle posted:

The next issue of OGR has a Collector's Gallery article about both the MPC Blue Comet and C A engines which you will find valuable for background in making your decision. I can echo most of the posters who say the engines are rugged , attractive and generally reliable.

I will have to check around and see if I can pick up that issue from one of the hobby shops around here.

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