Looking for thoughts/info about Lion Chief Plus diesels

I'm thinking about taking the plunge on one or two of the LC GP7s in the new catalog and am hoping to get some information and insight. I'm basically a postwar guy who is wary of the reliability of command electronics, but I am intrigued by these. Here are my questions:

1. The catalog says all LC diesels have die-cast pilots, trucks, and fuel tanks, which is a big plus for me. But the other magazine's recent review of the LC GP20 says it has a plastic pilot. Anyone know which is correct? More importantly, anyone have a GP7 who can tell me what it has?

2. Do the GP7s have all-metal gears or are some plastic? (I'm not passing judgment; just asking.)

3. How do these run? I thought I remembered a bunch of these getting sent back for operational problems a year or so ago. 

4. Does the remote/conventional switch mean that if the command electronics go bad they can be isolated by the switch so that the engine will still run in conventional?

5. How have the remotes held up?

Thanks. And if you have other thoughts about how these run or look, please share them. 

Chris Dunn

Original Post

I run only Lionchief Plus. 1 steam engine, 1 GP7, 1 NW2, 1 RS3. A switch underneath selects either conventional operation or using constant 18 volts to the track and operating with the remote. Using the remote lets you run more than one on the same track because the remote controls the loco, not varying the track voltage. Plus the remote operates the electro couplers and let's you adjust the sound volume. They are awesome for slow running. Great pullers. I think there was a problem initially with the RS3's, but not anymore. I've had a little trouble with the diesel smoke units, but maybe it's just me. I haven't heard of any common complaint  

I love Lionchief Plus!! Very simple to use. Not as complex as Legacy but I get the basic things I want. My opinion!

I have worked on many of these and they are fun to run.  They are very smooth runners and are well built.   I get to see many of these.  The sounds are also good.   These are going to have Bluetooth from this time forward.  I recently got to run a FlyerChief Northern with Bluetooth and it impressed me big time.  I have seen a few engines in my time and this was a new experience.  The app is free and it does many things.  I feel that all you need to do is run one for a test and you will be hooked.

I do repairs for a Lionel Dealer and my only complaint is when someone would send a locomotive in without the remote.  When I test, I test in conventional and remote mode.  Lionel recently released a universal remote that will control three locomotives.  I am a happy camper with this remote.  This is a well done product also.  

 

 

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The catalog says the pilots, trucks, tanks are cast.  Isolating the command electronics would be a good question for Lionel.  My question is -- Are all LC+ engines going to be Bluetooth?  If you look at the catalog and say the Mikado steam engines.   Half the engines have the Bluetooth logo next to them.  The other half does not.

Jim

 

carsntrains posted:

The catalog says the pilots, trucks, tanks are cast.  Isolating the command electronics would be a good question for Lionel.  My question is -- Are all LC+ engines going to be Bluetooth?  If you look at the catalog and say the Mikado steam engines.   Half the engines have the Bluetooth logo next to them.  The other half does not.

Jim

 

Everything from 2017 on is Buetooth.  The engines not marked are made prior to 2017.  I have 7 LC+ Engines and none are Bluetooth but I have ordered a new Berkshire that will have.  As of now, I probably won't have a need for Bluetooth but tomorrow may be a different story.

I do not own one, yet! But I will be a proud owner about ten minutes after Lionel puts out a Polar Express engine with "Lion Chief PLUS" in it.

To add to what Marty stated above the folks at the club who have done demonstrations with them and run them at home all speak very highly of the product.

I think the Lion Chief Plus controlled engines are a great way for a Post war person to break into Command Control. This is as simple to run as it comes.  

 

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I have a silly question....I run TMCC and Legacy...

Can you operate the Lionchief Plus loco's with the Cab1, Cab1L or Legacy remote in conventional mode?

I run some of my MPC with the Cab1.

Mark

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Grampstrains posted:
carsntrains posted:

The catalog says the pilots, trucks, tanks are cast.  Isolating the command electronics would be a good question for Lionel.  My question is -- Are all LC+ engines going to be Bluetooth?  If you look at the catalog and say the Mikado steam engines.   Half the engines have the Bluetooth logo next to them.  The other half does not.

Jim

 

Everything from 2017 on is Buetooth.  The engines not marked are made prior to 2017.  I have 7 LC+ Engines and none are Bluetooth but I have ordered a new Berkshire that will have.  As of now, I probably won't have a need for Bluetooth but tomorrow may be a different story.

I understand that there were some made 2016 and earlier. But they said ALL LC+ engines made 1-1-17 and later will have Bluetooth capability.   If they don't I don't plan on buying them.   I already bought a Kindle Fire to run them lol

I don't have any insight on model specific features.  My NW2 has metal gears and plastic side frames, but those features are likely to vary by model.  

As for the LionChief Plus line in general:  

4. Does the remote/conventional switch mean that if the command electronics go bad they can be isolated by the switch so that the engine will still run in conventional?

The short answer is maybe, but not likely.  It would depend what exactly broke in the electronics, but even in "conventional' mode, these engines still use their microprocessor.  I would have to take a guess that that is why the switch is labeled 'transformer' and not 'conventional'.  It's not really conventional control, but a rather interesting, for electronics nerds anyway, system that's in place.  So, the long answer, if any of the things that are likely to actually fail in the electronics do fail, the engine will be dead.  On the plus side, anyone with a passing, hobbyist level knowledge in electronics can repair any of the likely electronics failures even if Lionel decided not to repair it for some reason.  

5. How have the remotes held up?

I've heard stories of remotes being broken.  I've never seen one in person, or a photo of a broken remote posted.  The remotes shipped with the LC+ engines are made of a sturdy plastic and the weakest point is the speed control knob.  that is a standard potentiometer, and as such could be broken by someone forcing it past it's stop, just like the volume knob on any piece of electronic kit made in the last 100 years with a potentiometer.  

The remotes that ship with the very low end LionChief engines are a bit more flimsy looking, but I don't have enough experience with them to know if they actually are any worse, or more likely to be damaged.  

Lastly, The Universal remote follows the same basic design as the LC+ remotes, but it doesn't feel like as good of a quality plastic.  This has no scientific basis, but the orange, glossy plastic seems thin and more likely to crack than the textured blue plastic of the other remotes.  It may just be a perception I have and for all I know it could be exactly the same material, but it just feels cheaper.  I also don't like that you can see the LED lights glowing through the plastic.  

ZWPOWER13 posted:

I have a silly question....I run TMCC and Legacy...

Can you operate the Lionchief Plus loco's with the Cab1, Cab1L or Legacy remote in conventional mode?

I run some of my MPC with the Cab1.

Yes, if switched to conventional mode, they will work just like any other conventional locomotive when run under a powermaster or similar device.  Keep in mind that you do lose the ability to use the electro couplers when run in conventional.  There may be some other features that don't work, as well, but movement, whistle/bell/announcements should be accessible on a track powered with a Powermaster or similar device.  

JGL

$ This is John Galt speaking.  $

“I swear by my life and my love of it that I will never live for the sake of another man, nor ask another man to live for mine.” 

 

 

Nice write-up JGL.  Much information contained clearly and informatively; always posts worth reading.

I run outdoors, and I've been thinking of getting a Lion Chief Plus engine for young kids to run as it might not be as complicated as Legacy or DCS with all the buttons and features.  I have about a 100' by 60' layout, and I'm wondering what kind of range I might expect.  Kids and cats like to chase things around, so that might be part of the solution.  I know there are four classes of bluetooth, and I'm guessing that Lionel might use Class 2.

Any thoughts would be appreciated.

Woodshire Bill posted:

Nice write-up JGL.  Much information contained clearly and informatively; always posts worth reading.

I run outdoors, and I've been thinking of getting a Lion Chief Plus engine for young kids to run as it might not be as complicated as Legacy or DCS with all the buttons and features.  I have about a 100' by 60' layout, and I'm wondering what kind of range I might expect.  Kids and cats like to chase things around, so that might be part of the solution.  I know there are four classes of bluetooth, and I'm guessing that Lionel might use Class 2.

Any thoughts would be appreciated.

I can't speak with any certainty about the BLE modules being used in the new engines as I don't have one and haven't seen the guts of any of them.  I have disassembled a Universal remote, and can say that it uses a class 2 module.  I would expect that class 2 would be uses throughout the LionChief line.  The module in the universal remote just barely meets the minimum spec for class 2 which should be good for at least 10 meters(33 feet).  However in open air, outdoors, I think you can safely assume at least twice that range, if not more.  I think it will be hard to know for sure without actually testing.  Perhaps one of the folks that has one of the FlyerChief engines with bluetooth that have been released could do a range test?  

Also worth considering, if one is planning on using the LionChief app on their smart device, the device you use could limit, or improve, the range.  While pretty much every smart device uses a class 2 Bluetooth radio, not all class 2 radios are the same.  Many better quality devices will have radios that greatly exceed the minimum spec.  On the other hand very inexpensive devices may have radios that only barely meet the requirements for class 2, and may have worse range.  At this point, it's a non-issue, with the app only available for Apple devices, which all have top-end hardware, however when the Android app is available there could be a wide range of hardware in use.  

Short answer:  I think it's worth a try for 100 foot range outdoors, but I'm not quite sure that it will make it.  If it doesn't have the range, there are some hacks I can think of that might just get something working for you.  

JGL

 

$ This is John Galt speaking.  $

“I swear by my life and my love of it that I will never live for the sake of another man, nor ask another man to live for mine.” 

 

 

I have 4 LionChief Plus, locos on my layout. I feel LionChief Plus is a plus for any layout. Each operator gets their own controller. My favorite feature is the speed control. You may find these YT videos helpful from my YT channel. 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vbWfacp3U3Q

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X1IqzW9IL7U&t=4s

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hw2_EjBif4U

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6pYAU2xJlDg&t=1s

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"

I have a silly question....I run TMCC and Legacy...

Can you operate the Lionchief Plus loco's with the Cab1, Cab1L or Legacy remote in conventional mode?

I run some of my MPC with the Cab1."

Mark, I think you will find that if you have a LC or LC+ loco you will enjoy running them in command mode using the included remote for each loco or the universal remote.  While the Cab-1/-2/1L can control them in conventional mode, you don't get the independent control you get in command mode, exactly what you get with TMCC/Legacy.  No worrying about blocks .

Thanks John and Gary.   Your input convinces me to add Lion Chief Plus to the mix of conventional, DCS, R100, TMCC and Legacy.  There are some young children in the neighborhood who aren't ready for the more complex control systems, and I think this will be the ticket for them.   It'll be another two months before cleaning the track and running outside, but I'll email you with controllability results.  At least we won't have to worry about crossing over TIU zones.

Landsteiner posted:

"

I have a silly question....I run TMCC and Legacy...

Can you operate the Lionchief Plus loco's with the Cab1, Cab1L or Legacy remote in conventional mode?

You probably could since when you throw the switch for transformer/remote to transformer it'll run like any other conventional piece. 

Matt 

Have 2 LionChief+ locos, a NW2 and a camel back 4-6-0. The 4-6-0 smokes fine although it needs refills more often than a MTH loco would. The NW2 does not smoke for me - using CW80 with the remote - has been sent back twice to Lionel. Comes back smoking but when its time for refill the smoke diminishes. Tried several brands of fluid - same results. Wonder if this is on of the Lionel locos you have to take the shell off and put smoke directly in the unit. Also on YouTube these same diesels often don't smoke. Well if you want a smoking diesel guess you buy MTH.

RoyBoy posted:

The PLUS in Lionchief plus means that it can be operated conventionally.

Well, yes, that.  But also cruise speed control, excellent low speed control, fan driven smoke units, better sound than standard LC, elecrtocouplers, and an over-all better build quality.  

ns1001 posted:

Have 2 LionChief+ locos, a NW2 and a camel back 4-6-0. The 4-6-0 smokes fine although it needs refills more often than a MTH loco would. The NW2 does not smoke for me - using CW80 with the remote - has been sent back twice to Lionel. Comes back smoking but when its time for refill the smoke diminishes. Tried several brands of fluid - same results. Wonder if this is on of the Lionel locos you have to take the shell off and put smoke directly in the unit. Also on YouTube these same diesels often don't smoke. Well if you want a smoking diesel guess you buy MTH.

Something to check would be that the 'funnel' for the smokestacks is lined up properly.  The LC+ NW2 has a T shaped funnel attached to the smoke unit to allow it to smoke from both stacks and this funnel doesn't have anything to hold it in place.  The design relies on the fit against the shell to keep it from moving and it's possible it has moved out of alignment.  There's also a couple small rubber gaskets that sit between the 'funnel' and the shell and these may have moved in such a way that they block fluid from making it into the unit.  Because of the long path the fluid must take to reach the unit it may be helpful to blow lightly down the stack after filling as well, to help it get down into the smoke unit.  I also find it helpful to wait a couple minutes after adding fluid, for it to be absorbed into the wicking material.  If you add about 20 drops, wait a couple minutes and add 10-20 more I've had good smoke output for quite a while.  

It is also, of course, possible that the wick material has been damaged from running dry.  The material can be burnt if run without fluid and once it is burnt it will not work very well in bringing fluid to the heating element.  Lionel sells new wick very inexpensively and it should not be difficult to change.  From everything other folks here on the forum have said the replacement wick also works much better than the type originally installed in new engines.  

Anyway, hope there is something of use there.

JGL

$ This is John Galt speaking.  $

“I swear by my life and my love of it that I will never live for the sake of another man, nor ask another man to live for mine.” 

 

 

ns1001 posted:

 The NW2 does not smoke for me - using CW80 with the remote - has been sent back twice to Lionel. Comes back smoking but when its time for refill the smoke diminishes. Tried several brands of fluid - same results. Wonder if this is on of the Lionel locos you have to take the shell off and put smoke directly in the unit. Also on YouTube these same diesels often don't smoke. Well if you want a smoking diesel guess you buy MTH.

Well, just goes to show you how we sometimes have different experiences with the same loco. My LC+ NW-2 (B&O livery) smokes like a champ. I mean it just billows out of the twin stacks!

I use Lionel Premium fluid with good results.

TCA, LCCA

The first time I received the model back from Lionel it would not move - so I sent it back thinking it had a pinched wire. It came back with the note that the wires were unplugged - and it was run for 2 hours at Lionel - makes me think they ran the loco with the shell off. After reading these post will send it back the third time - can afford to because am a veteran so free shipping both ways. Figure Lionel will eventually fix it or give me my money back. By the way the first time it was repaired Lionel said the smoke unit was stuck - so did they replace it? 

Well, sending it back and forth until your face turns blue is always an option.  Myself, I'd just open it up and find out what is wrong with it first.  For what it's worth I don't know if Lionel typically replaces burnt wick in their repairs, as it is damage caused by user error.  It may be that they do if they see it or are asked.   I'd also want to check that the T stack and rubber washers are aligned correctly as it would be very easy for these to move in shipping.  Again, only for whatever free advise is worth, the NW2 is one of the simplest engines to open up and have a look at.

JGL

$ This is John Galt speaking.  $

“I swear by my life and my love of it that I will never live for the sake of another man, nor ask another man to live for mine.” 

 

 

Had 3 locomotives not working. 1) A MTH Alco C628 new this month that after running fine for a week started stopping over switches. Called MTH and got a RA number and the lady said turn around is about 10 weeks. Tried running it again, stopped again - took loco off the track and looked at the offending pickup arm and found it partly retracted - lubricated the arm so it moves freely and now it works properly. 2) A Lionel scale PRR K4 purchased new in 2014 for  about half retail started shorting out. After ignoring it for months put in on the track and tested it. It stopped after a while with the round disc and screw under loco. This disc help keep the leading wheels aligned - screwed disc back in and no shorts. 3) Since I was on a roll looked at the LionChief+ NW2 again - tried putting a lot more Lionel smoke fluid down the stack than the instructions said - now it smokes. 3 for 3 today.

If the board dies they will not work in conventional mode. The NW2 is well built, with metal side frames, though be aware you may have to nearly mute the sound and bring it back up to volume from time to time to rebalance the settings, for some reason mines likes to have the engine rev end up louder than the other sounds. Running in conventional will leave them far poorer pullers than in remote mode, also you do not have to run them at the full 18 volts; 12 seems to be fine and all the features work, with out burning out 12 volt bulbs. I have had no issues with the remote. Just wish they would switch the horn and bell buttons to make it harder to accidentally activate the electro-couplers.

There is always something new to learn and greater understanding in the quest for wisdom.

"and an over-all better build quality."  So LC+ is manufactured differently to improve quality? Has better motor, drive trucks etc?  G

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GGG posted:

"and an over-all better build quality."  So LC+ is manufactured differently to improve quality? Has better motor, drive trucks etc?  G

It would probably take an experienced repair technician or one of the folks involved in the actual design to make a definitive, across the board, statement here, but from what I've seen, the Plus engines seem to be on par with the early 2000's TMCC engines that I own.  I do not know how these compare to modern Legacy engines, but it seems like similar designs from what I have seen posted on the forum.  

All of my LC+ engines are defiantly better built than any of my standard LC engines.  There are no tiny motors in them like many of the LC products, though I'm unsure if the motors are the same as what is used in Legacy engines.  

My LionChief RS3 engine has the cheap can motor inside the truck, poor pulling power, and wants to derail when pulling much of anything around a curve.  My NW2 Lionchief Plus, on the other hand, has a much better motor, mounted above the truck, pulls like a tank, and has never climbed the rail.  The NW2, at about the same cost as the whole set the RS3 came in is easily worth 10 times more in actual value to me.  It is a fun engine to run where as the RS3 is, well, a starter set engine.  

Over all, from my experience, (see below), the regular LionChief engines are pretty low end, and belong in the starter sets they are sold in.  The Plus engines are very good for their price range.  To me they are the equal of the 2000's TMCC engines as far as build quality (Or at least intended build quality, but that is a different story), Anyone that was happy with those engines should be equally happy with the LionChief Plus line up in my opinion.  

JGL

LC roster:  10th anniversary edition Polar Express, Standard LC Polar Express, Dino-Diesel set, NYC RS3 Freight set.  

LC+ Roster:  Burlington Route NW2, C&O Hudson, NYC Hudson

Other:  MPC 'navy' NW2, Sound of steam 2-4-2 (3x of same engine), Post-war 2055 x2, Post-war 2056, Post War 2025, Post War 44 ton switcher, Post War Turbine, TMCC NYC Hudson(purchased as command ready), (??road name) TMCC Hudson, Lionel-Lines TMCC Berkshire, MTH (proto1) Rail-King Allegheny, K-Line TMCC Allegheny, and a pile of Post-war and MPC engines that don't work.  

I'm sure I'm forgetting things as well, but the list is just to give an Idea of what I have seen the insides of and compare things to.  

$ This is John Galt speaking.  $

“I swear by my life and my love of it that I will never live for the sake of another man, nor ask another man to live for mine.” 

 

 

I would have to say the Lionchief Scout 248x 2-4-2 apart from the cheap front truck, is a fairly good puller, as long as there is no grade, the motor could be bigger, but is not too small and lives up to its ten MPC era in type car pulling ability. The Lionchief Line is a mixed bag, then what product line is not, some Basic engines are good deals, and the Plus Line from what i have heard is uniformly good.

There is always something new to learn and greater understanding in the quest for wisdom.

For what it is worth, we ran Lion Chief and Lion Chief plus 5-7 hours a day for three days last week, and had over 300 kids take a turn at running a train around the layout. No failures, no wrecks, no controller issues.  300 happy kids.

I'm a big fan. Can't wait for the new big diesels to come out this year, one already on reserve.

See "Elementary School Reports, Day 1, 2, and 3" over on the 3-rail board.

B&O Bill

JohnGaltLine posted:
Woodshire Bill posted:

Nice write-up JGL.  Much information contained clearly and informatively; always posts worth reading.

I run outdoors, and I've been thinking of getting a Lion Chief Plus engine for young kids to run as it might not be as complicated as Legacy or DCS with all the buttons and features.  I have about a 100' by 60' layout, and I'm wondering what kind of range I might expect.  Kids and cats like to chase things around, so that might be part of the solution.  I know there are four classes of bluetooth, and I'm guessing that Lionel might use Class 2.

Any thoughts would be appreciated.

I can't speak with any certainty about the BLE modules being used in the new engines as I don't have one and haven't seen the guts of any of them.  I have disassembled a Universal remote, and can say that it uses a class 2 module.  I would expect that class 2 would be uses throughout the LionChief line.  The module in the universal remote just barely meets the minimum spec for class 2 which should be good for at least 10 meters(33 feet).  However in open air, outdoors, I think you can safely assume at least twice that range, if not more.  I think it will be hard to know for sure without actually testing.  Perhaps one of the folks that has one of the FlyerChief engines with bluetooth that have been released could do a range test?  

Also worth considering, if one is planning on using the LionChief app on their smart device, the device you use could limit, or improve, the range.  While pretty much every smart device uses a class 2 Bluetooth radio, not all class 2 radios are the same.  Many better quality devices will have radios that greatly exceed the minimum spec.  On the other hand very inexpensive devices may have radios that only barely meet the requirements for class 2, and may have worse range.  At this point, it's a non-issue, with the app only available for Apple devices, which all have top-end hardware, however when the Android app is available there could be a wide range of hardware in use.  

Short answer:  I think it's worth a try for 100 foot range outdoors, but I'm not quite sure that it will make it.  If it doesn't have the range, there are some hacks I can think of that might just get something working for you.  

JGL

 

JGL

I just want to share my Experience with BLE technology that we use in our RTK GPS receivers.  Bluetooth has been built in for easy programming with a smart phone or tablet but the data is still sent out via a 9 pin serial connection to the field computer because Bluetooth connectivity for our application is still considered too unreliable for a stable connection even at less than 3 feet. 

I did do some range tests of these BLE modules with different Apple and Android phones and the manufacture really didn't make a difference in the range category. I think the Apple device was able to add about an extra foot give or take a few inches.  Both tests were conducted with line of sight between devices:

Outdoor test:
30 feet - stable lock & max data through put
40 feet - de-rated lock & data through put was reduced to %10 of max
45 feet - connectivity was lost

Indoor test (120' x 45' metal machine shed):
30 feet - stable lock & max data through put
40 feet - de-rated lock & data through put was reduced to %20 of max
45 feet - de-rated lock & data through put was reduced to %10 of max
50 feet - connectivity was lost

I have an LC+ engine on order with Bluetooth abilities, and will be happy to test with that when it arrives. I would like to think that the above test conditions are ideal for the best possible range using BLE. Remember the LE stands for Low Energy, this stuff just was designed for power conservation and not range.

Still, I think 30 feet will be more than enough range for most operators.

H1000

 

H1000

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