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There was a time on this forum when discussions of fantasy trains being made to "O-scale" would bring caustic criticism out from the great and respected rivet-counting model railroading clique, as well from miserly scrooges . And, those who dared to dream would retreat to fight another day. I remember those days well, and while some good friends are dedicated scale model railroaders, I believe that there's plenty of room for everyone in the O-gauge world.

When I thought about writing an article detailing the history of the Polar Express, which after drafting, later appeared in OGR Run 309 and was titled, "Where Life and Art Intersect - The Polar Express" I had concluded that "Lionel's PE journey shows no signs of losing steam" - a small metaphorical attempt at train humor. By the time the article appeared in print ~ late 2019, Lionel was delivering to dealers the fascinating Polar Express BiPolar; a new run of scale PE cars with simulated snow on roofs (and prototypically correct placement of lettering beneath the windows); and, the long asked for Stationsounds Hot Chocolate Diner Car, among other goodies. There were a couple of "hiccups" in the scale cars, but nevertheless fevered PE fans do as all loyal fans do, endure and overcome

Since that article, Lionel has continued with some interesting scale and traditional sized PE items, and with the latest 2021 catalog they have, in my opinion, gone for broke and advertised a PE Acela train. Without getting into the price point of the set and add-on cars which has been covered under other threads, I am interested in other "Christmas Train" and/or other holiday (e.g., Hanukkah) train enthusiast opinions; and, whether you've decided to pre-order them. Considering that the Acela is a "Built-to-Order" item, and since it'll likely be some time before another run of these trains are made, if ever, I am torn on what to do. Like some others, these times have been trying in many respects, not the least of which is financially, and in 2021 I need to factor in some major house repairs among other expenses. I also note that, as I've tried to make my layout late 1930s to early 1940s themed, the PE Acela would be quite out of place...yet with the mysterious character known as Saint Nicholas you never know what can come hi-balling down the mainline on Christmas Eve

So, don't worry about getting chastised, we're in good company here, so please chime in on whether you've decided to "break the bank" as the saying goes and pre-order a PE Acela set. And, if you plan on operating it, displaying, collecting, etc.

Last edited by Paul Kallus
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Well since you asked...

I have ordered the PE Ready to Run set when they first came out and it was the "Under the Tree" go to set.  As time went on and my situation changed tinplate now occupies that place under the tree and the set has been packed away with all of the add on coaches.

The Scale PE Berk and all of the coaches offered thus far in the "white roof" variety now take a place on my basement layout every holiday season along with the Polar Express "Tri-Polar".  The BiPolar, Polar which pulls the scale frieght offerings in the PE scheme.

So I feel I am fairly loyal to the Polar Express theme BUT the Acela will not be on my list.  I'm more traditional, even though the Tri-Polar is nowhere in the movie but the freight cars add a lot to the layout and something had to pull them.  To me the Acela just doesn't seem to fit the mold of the PE so I will pass but I would venture to guess it will probably do OK.

Paul, like you, I really enjoy the Polar Express. My two sons were at the perfect age when the movie came out and it ran non-stop on our DVD player - even outside of Christmas season. Seeing the new PE stuff always reminds me of a great time in the life of our family.

I have the original scale #1225 and all of the black roof cars that have been released (including the RPO).  I was spared preordering the not-so-hot-chocolatey Hot Chocolate car since they didn’t offer it in a black roof version.

I have every piece of scale rolling stock, including six of the coal hoppers (I’ve always told the boys the long coal consist isn’t for hauling heating fuel to the North Pole, but rather for hauling stocking stuffers).

Having said all that (and now to your question), the Acela doesn’t do it for me. At all. Maybe it’s because I’m a lifelong Midwesterner and have no affinity for the Acela. Nor did I bite on the BiPolar. For whatever reason - and despite clamoring for something to haul all those freight cars - the BiPolar just didn’t move the needle.

The flat car with the bell load in the new catalog kinda has the feel like they are running out of ideas. But, I’ll get one because I still believe.

Last edited by Rider Sandman

I have the semi-scale Series II locomotive.  I gave it my full command treatment, cruise, sound, and of course, fan driven smoke.  I added an additional sound module in the baggage car with clips from the movie that I trigger from an RF remote.  Then I picked up a couple more passenger cars to complete the picture, the locomotive and 7 passenger cars makes a nice sized consist.

John, those customized features sound neat. Marty and Rider Sanderman, I didn't go for the diesel PE streamliner set when it came out...but I can see diesel fans liking it. The BiPolar locomotive was and still is one of my all-time favorites...I still the original MTH PS2 Milw. Road version, so the PE version from Lionel was an easy choice for me. Steamers remain my best choice for anything holiday related.

As for the PE Acela, I am guessing the cars come in around 20", and they're plastic but nonetheless look nice, and in fact are the selling point of the set, for me anyway. The "passive" tilt feature sounds neat but I have to wonder will it do anything noticeable. The PE Acela may turn out to be one of those sets that if buyers don't want they can at least sell and get the money back...though that may be rationalization on my part

Last edited by Paul Kallus

fyi, at lunch I studied the new catalog which I just got earlier this week and noticed the Acela is not listed as a "BTO" item, yet in some dealers pre-order lists it is? If not a BTO, then perhaps taking a wait and see approach is doable.

Also, I watched some videos of the first release Acela set and the engine's sounds to me sound like a diesel-electric? I know the Acela is an electric locomotive, am just curious why it sounded like that.

I have a confession.  I can understand why train enthusiasts like PE, but I am one of the few train fans that didn’t care much for the movie.  My son was 10 when the movie came out and he didn’t like it either.  We have plenty of trains, but none of it is PE.  Sometimes think I should buy some so I don’t become an outcast of the hobby.

So far, no one has fessed-up to placing a pre-order. I know that this forum is not a representative sample of the hobby, however.

If not often that technology lives up the hype surrounding it, but I have to admit viewing the Polar Express in IMAX 3D that holiday season 2004 was a feast for the senses. To date, nothing has topped that experience. It came at a sorrowful and downtrodden time, having lost my father and best friend tragically within days of each other, and having lost interest in the hobby.

With that said, Lionel is pushing the licensing of the PE name into uncharted territory with the Acela. It would've been better had they listed more features, such as custom stationsounds, etc. As it is, its hard to justify pre-ordering.

@jstraw124 posted:

I have a confession.  I can understand why train enthusiasts like PE, but I am one of the few train fans that didn’t care much for the movie.  My son was 10 when the movie came out and he didn’t like it either.  We have plenty of trains, but none of it is PE.  Sometimes think I should buy some so I don’t become an outcast of the hobby.

Hey, it's your hobby. Do it so you enjoy it. If you don't like PE, don't get PE. We may not agree on issues like freight or passenger? what scale? Lionel or MTH or Atlas, etc. but we can all enjoy our different branches of the same hobby together!

I don't think you will lose money on it solely because there won't be many produced and so supply and demand will at least allow you to always get your money back.

I, too, am in love with the PE scheme.  There is something about that color combination that does it for me, on top of my love for the movie itself.

The price is too high for me personally to get one right now, but I can understand those who are on the fence.  It's truly on the fringe of what most train enthusiasts would say they have to get.  And it's just a bit too much money for that kind of impulse purchase.

While some may consider any PE items to have "fantasy schemes", I think the berk/heavyweights at least are rooted deeply enough in pop culture to be considered "real" (even though they aren't prototypical). There is a history behind PM 1225 being used for the film a so it simply makes sense to offer a scale version of it in the PE scheme to those of us who want more than just a starter set version.

The PE freight cars are fun playful additions to round out the theme, however I do think that the PE Acela (and even the BiPolar) dives so far into the fantasy realm that it is not appealing to many buyers. There is no story behind these engines being painted in these schemes to make it relevant enough to most in the hobby. If these weren't as expensive as they are, this might not be the case. I think that the GP9 Lionel made in the early 2010s was a different story because that was marketed more as a 'Christmas themed' item than a PE item.

As other's have stated, each person has their own interest and hopefully there is someone getting enjoyment out of each and any PE item that Lionel produces. Personally, I plan on purchasing the PE berk and heavyweights in the future (currently using my train-funds to build a layout and increase my PRR collection first). In the PE line, I think I would be interested in more scale freight cars similar to the previous offerings. On a personal bias, I strongly prefer the black roof heavyweights over the snow covered roofs and hope I can find some when I commit to buying a set.

Although Polar Express (PE) is not something I am inclined to purchase for myself, I would love to go on a PE ride with my wife, adult daughter and granddaughters, and think Lionel PE trains are wonderful for children and others who find them appealing.

Another very good thing is that I understand PE Trains have been very profitable for Lionel, and I believe that is very good for the hobby. It enables Lionel to have more financial resources to manufacture the models that I prefer to purchase.

Arnold

Last edited by Arnold D. Cribari

Although it's not germane to the Acela question, and as I wrote in Run 309, the 2004 Polar Express movie brought me back to my roots within the hobby. I had been, prior to that, a fairly serious hi-railer, though I had never totally lost my connection with the Christmas element of electric trains around the tree and all. It's been a fun journey.

@Paul Kallus posted:

Although it's not germane to the Acela question, and as I wrote in Run 309, the 2004 Polar Express movie brought me back to my roots within the hobby. I had been, prior to that, a fairly serious hi-railer, though I had never totally lost my connection with the Christmas element of electric trains around the tree and all. It's been a fun journey.

Paul,

The Tom Hanks character in the movie still scares me, I can't imagine seeing it on the big screen! Due to price and space many I know have the Lion Chief Polar Express sets rather than the scale size ones. While there will of course be some purchasing the Acela, a quick sample of friends with layouts was 7 "No" replies. As to this "Built to Order" nonsense, who runs a business and where you have no pre-order demand for an item still makes hundreds of items?

What I would like to see is a re-run of the blue Polar Railroad Geep. That would sell as it's at a much more affordable price point and you can run it with anything, even Polar Express cars for those members with too many of the Heavyweight cars for one train on their layout.

@Paul Kallus posted:

There was a time on this forum when discussions of fantasy trains being made to "O-scale" would bring caustic criticism out from the great and respected rivet-counting model railroading clique, as well from miserly scrooges . And, those who dared to dream would retreat to fight another day. I remember those days well, and while some good friends are dedicated scale model railroaders, I believe that there's plenty of room for everyone in the O-gauge world.

Fantasy??? Who said anything about fantasy? Lionel nailed the prototype the very first run, right down to the lettering on the tender: ( Not My Video)

Like Clint Eastwood said.

A man's got to know his limitations.

While I am collecting the scale P.E. items, i did not get the Bi-Polar or have any attention in getting the P.E. Acela express. Electrics were not in the movie or in the book. Im having a hard time just keeping up with the scale freight cars as well as the two scale passenger sets- black roof and white roof sets. Now the latest add ons are sleeping cars which could be a "grey area" as the train did pick up more cars as the train got closer to the "North Pole". But im wondering will it ever end with these scale passenger cars? The scale freight cars im convinced Lionel will eventually paint every scale car into a P.E. paint scheme! We just need more P.E. scale locomotive options besides the Berk! Perhapse a P.E. Heavy Mike?

Last edited by prrhorseshoecurve

Rick: to your point, I ask, does art imitate life or does life imitate art? Factor in both the locomotive depicted in the story book and the movie and the question becomes more intriguing

Well, no one has come forth to venture a "Yes" for pre-order, and the deadline is fast approaching or even has past from some dealers by now. BobbyD makes a good point about the BTO program...it's like playing a game of craps...if its a hot item dealer extras sell out fast and if its a dud they can carry inventory for a year or more. I confess I've been checking pre-order prices on the PE Acela...a sign that the hard cover catalog pictures may be wearing me down.

As for future releases of PE motive power, it seems like any and everything is a contender. And, Lionel has also made scale Christmas/holiday models in other fantasy road names. The "North Pole Central" has a neat side history all its own. I would like to see a return of the Polar RR...am recalling the scale Legacy K4s and the Geep as BobbyD mentioned. I also recall a modern Polar RR diesel that was made in limited numbers...cannot remember the exact engine. 

@Paul Kallus posted:


As for future releases of PE motive power, it seems like any and everything is a contender. And, Lionel has also made scale Christmas/holiday models in other fantasy road names. The "North Pole Central" has a neat side history all its own. I would like to see a return of the Polar RR...am recalling the scale Legacy K4s and the Geep as BobbyD mentioned. I also recall a modern Polar RR diesel that was made in limited numbers...cannot remember the exact engine.

What I'd really like to see is a re-release of the PE Legacy engine and tender at a reasonable price < $2500.00 The few original ones I've see for sale are ridiculously priced.

The scale freight cars im convinced Lionel will eventually paint every scale car into a P.E. paint scheme! We just need more P.E. scale locomotive options besides the Berk! Perhapse a P.E. Heavy Mike?

Curve, I have the NKP heavy mike and love it. It was a sleeper of a release - one of my favorite steam acquisitions of recent memory. I kick myself for not buying the unlettered version and finding a nice set of PolEx #1224 decals. I look for the unlettered version in the secondhand market, but they never seem to come around. The unlettered ATSF brass hybrid might also work, but I never see them either.

The ten wheeler would also be a great candidate.  

Hopefully, they’ll eventually do another scale PolEx steamer and it will be a model that will work on most layouts (i.e., not 072 min).

@Tom Lake posted:

What I'd really like to see is a re-release of the PE Legacy engine and tender at a reasonable price < $2500.00 The few original ones I've see for sale are ridiculously priced.

Tom, I think they could re-release it every three or four years and it would sell well. The first release of the scale PolEx Berk was 2014 and the second one came in 2017 (and sold well, I believe). We may be due for another release soon.  

Given MSRP of the 2017 version was $1500 (actual prices lower), I’d holdout instead of getting gouged. YMMV

I am sorry, really sorry.  But, I just don't "get it."

The movie is great, if you are a 10 year old.  I found it utterly boring.

I can imagine someone being super excited, in a frenzy, over a Polar Express Engine, . . . if they are 10 years old.

But this crazy love-fest obsession with Polar Express trains by adults???

I am sorry.  . . . .   I just don't get it.

Mannyrock

Manny, the fun is putting PolEx stuff on the layout for my kids, especially since they loved the movie. There has always been a bond between Lionel trains and Christmas and the Polar Express is a fun manifestation of that bond. It’s a great Christmas train whether someone liked the movie or not (I actually liked the storybook more than the movie, for sure).

That’s really all there is “to get” - no reason for you to be sorry.

Rider, I totally understand what you are saying.   A great explanation.   But, for the understandable purpose that you have described, you would only need ONE Polar Express Train.    It seems to me that Lionel keeps bringing these things out, and folks routinely keep buying more and more of them.   This apparently unquenchable "thirst" for more and more of them, the latest and greatest, is what I really don't get.   :-)

@Mannyrock posted:

   This apparently unquenchable "thirst" for more and more of them, the latest and greatest, is what I really don't get.   :-)

Its all part of the "collecting" which is what makes this hobby what it is for many isn't it? There are folks with rooms full of stuff never even taken out of the boxes, to each his own I suppose.

In the meantime, it appears you can "no longer hear the bell" Manny..."sorry about that sport".....

012003

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Last edited by RickO
@Mannyrock posted:

Rider, I totally understand what you are saying.   A great explanation.   But, for the understandable purpose that you have described, you would only need ONE Polar Express Train.    It seems to me that Lionel keeps bringing these things out, and folks routinely keep buying more and more of them.   This apparently unquenchable "thirst" for more and more of them, the latest and greatest, is what I really don't get.   :-)

It's not necessarily having the latest and greatest that's the reason. Collectors like entire sets of a line. Every piece of Polar Express merchandise Lionel sells is part of one set. Usually, a collector never even runs the trains (s)he collects. I'm a collector but I do run my LC Plus 2.0 PE. I have all the buildings such as the Hero Boy's house, Elf Warming Shack, Automatic Conductor/Gateman building, etc. I have been focusing on the passenger cars but now I'm ready to start on the freight cars as well even though they were not in the movie.

Tom, I think they could re-release it every three or four years and it would sell well. The first release of the scale PolEx Berk was 2014 and the second one came in 2017 (and sold well, I believe). We may be due for another release soon.  

Given MSRP of the 2017 version was $1500 (actual prices lower), I’d holdout instead of getting gouged. YMMV

Actually the first offerings were the optional PE tender for the scale PM Berk in 2008.

Then the locomotive was sold seperately with a choice of either tender in 2010.

FWIW. These earlier offerings have more unique actual protoptype PM chuff and idle sounds, whereas the later ones got the "run of the mill" chuff and idle sounds Lionel began putting in most steamers.

@RickO posted:

Actually the first offerings were the optional PE tender for the scale PM Berk in 2008.

Then the locomotive was sold seperately with a choice of either tender in 2010.

FWIW. These earlier offerings have more unique actual protoptype PM chuff and idle sounds, whereas the later ones got the "run of the mill" chuff and idle sounds Lionel began putting in most steamers.

I had forgotten those early a la carte offerings. They do further the notion that a release of the scale PE Berk will sell every 3-4 years (ish): 2008, 2010, 2014, 2017, 202X....

@MichRR714 posted:

My Scale PE consist with black roofs has reached it's max length on my railroad.  I did make purchases for it from last years catalog.

I will enjoy this train every Christmas season, but probably won't be purchasing any more coaches for the train.

Of course not. Now Lionel is making sleeping cars for the scale sets. Are you in for that?

Speak of the devil, lookie what I got delivered today!

20210227_18391620210227_184000

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Last edited by prrhorseshoecurve
@Mannyrock posted:

I am sorry, really sorry.  But, I just don't "get it."

The movie is great, if you are a 10 year old.  I found it utterly boring.

I can imagine someone being super excited, in a frenzy, over a Polar Express Engine, . . . if they are 10 years old.

But this crazy love-fest obsession with Polar Express trains by adults???

I am sorry.  . . . .   I just don't get it.

Mannyrock

Someone can't hear the bells 😉

PRRHorseshoeCurve: that looks like the recent scale PE hobo on roof car? I received mine not that long ago. Note that the figure is rather large and I for one need to raise my coal tipple about a 1/4" to accommodate him

I suppose since no has come forward admitting they've put in a pre-order for a PE Acela set, this thread can go off on yet more tangents...part of the wild card nature and interest that can come from a forum.

Like I said earlier, I detailed the history of the Polar Express, book, movie, PM Berkshire, and of course the Lionel connection in Run 309 (Dec. 2019 issue). It took me quite a while to gather all the information, and FWIW I had to cull the article by almost half in order to fit the OGR requirement. I also included some of my best photographs, with contribution from a train friend on the gold edition PE items.

JLC himself found the connection between Christmas and electric trains to be a very lucrative aspect of his business, and I'd venture a guess he did most of his sales around the holidays. Today, as back in JLC's day, the fantasy or toy aspect of electric trains is a force to be reckoned with. Frankly, I don't relate to near half of the licensing Lionel does...to me its all remakes of the same equipment with different colors and names. But, anything Christmas related, and since 2004, PE related, garnishes some special attention

Last edited by Paul Kallus

Rider, I am planning on making my pre-order for the PE Acela before the deadline...which is tomorrow March 1. The catalog spread has been laid out on my kitchen table, along with about 40-50 back issues of OGR and CTT for a few days now (I am finally culling out the stacks of back issues of each, some date back to the late 1980s...am simply out of room). I've spilled soup and splattered pizza grease on the catalog pages, likely from hovering over and possibly drooling as I studied the pictures and read the descriptions. What pushed me to the brink was watching YouTube videos of the original Lionel Acela which was just awesome. What shoved me over the edge, so to speak, was the artists rendition of PE livery with snow on roofs and listing of customized bistro car sounds. This is one item that I selfishly hope is delayed, however...as I am challenged on many fronts, financial being one...by Christmas 2022 would be nice

While I find the PE Acela intriguing, and would probably buy one if money were no object, I'm happy to stick with steam and adding on to my consists.  I bought the first Legacy PM 1225 and add-on PE tender, and then later the first Legacy PE 1225 with the "cow-catcher" pilot and whistle steam, and have been double-heading them at our Christmas displays at Kennywood until I got the snow-covered cars in 2019, and then I ran them as separate consists on the same line.  The Polar Express is always a big hit with kids and parents alike.  Here is a video from 2018 that I shot at Kennywood:

Andy

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