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Many of you have read my blogs on how wonderful Menards Trains are.  Well that is true but things are changing with the train cars which I do not think is necessarily a good thing.   So what am I talking about?  Recently, I purchased 7 new 20,000 gallon tank cars.  The first one was actually beautiful, it was a Lifesaver Tank Car.  It came with metal trucks, metal uncouplers, and all the truck side frames were painted and they were metal too.  The trucks added WEIGHT to the car.  Then Menards followed the Lifesaver Tank car with six very nice 20,000 gallon Tank Cars and they have changed.  They are the Conrail, Army, NS, CSX, BN and Tide Soap. All of these cars come with PLASTIC TRUCKS.  These plastic trucks are a direct copy of the Plastic Roller Bearing Truck Richard Kughn brought out at Lionel in the mid 1990s,  Unfortunately, these trucks have NO WEIGHT to them and since the 6 new tank cars have very little weight either, the new tank cars hardly weigh anything at all. Which means these 6 new tank cars will jump the track. because of the weight problem.  I was able to get the tank end cap off of each of the six cars by gently removing the metal railing holding the end cap on and gently adding some pressure on the end cap and they popped off  I put some metal chains in each of the tank cars and that solved the problem.  Then, I bought an extra Tide Soap Tank Car.  I started the process of removing the end cap of this tank car to add more weight   The end cap was sealed with super glue.  I was not able to get the end cap off of that car and add the necessary weight.   So I got some metal screw nuts and filled the space in the tank car trucks to a reasonable degree and supper glued them in.  This solved my problem.  But why put such a light weight car on to the market that will not stay on the track?  Oh yes, you might be able to drill a hole in the bottom of the car and put 1 inch nails with the heads cut off into the car.  Once you put them in, they will add weight to the car..BUT WHY, does a customer have to go through all this "stuff" to make a train car heavy.  This was not caused by the Chinese, it was caused by someone at the Home Office of Menards that did not check out how light weight the car would be with plastic trucks.  Don't they get  production samples of there train cars before putting them on the market?  This is lack of Quality Control for this type of car.  Amen!

I bought 2 excavators on flat cars which had lights and sounds when activated with your finger pressing a button on the excavator. Unfortunately, the 3 batteries that were in both cars were defective.  They were leaking.  I took one car back to Menards and they exchanged it with a good one.  I took the second car apart and was finally able to see how the batteries were situated and was able to fix the car as there were 3 extra batteries included in each car.  There were NO INSTRUCTIONS with each of the cars.  Instructions would of shown exactly which screws to take out to release the excavator from the flat car.  Why did they use button type batteries?  They could of easily used a small triple A battery.  There was room to fit one or two of them in the excavator.  Again, a lot of work on my part to return one of the cars to Menards and to fix the other one myself.

And now I shall talk about the wheels on many of my Menards freight cars.  Some won't turn and some of these are pressed on with bent axles which causes the car to wobble along.  You know, Lionel had the same kind of troubles with there wheels from 1970 to about l985.  This is caused by Lack of Quality Control of the company who makes the wheel sets for Menards cars.  I am able to fix the wheels that wobble but I am never able to get the wobble completely eliminated.  Also some of the wheels will not turn on trucks that have a cradle type coupler where the cradle rides on the truck wheels and is kept in position by 4 tabs that grip (gently) around the axles.  Sometimes the machine that presses the tab around the axle uses to much force and prevents the axle from turning.  This can be fixed by using a very small flat head screw driver and pushing the the tab to release the pressure.  Then you have the plastic truck wheels that won't turn.  This is caused by the molding process of the plastic side frame which puts to much pressure on the fast angle wheel set.  Use gentle pressure to try and release the side frame on the needle point axle and use a very small dot of plastic compatible oil on each of the needle point axles where they enter the side frame.  It is wise to use a small dot of plastic compatible oil on all trucks were friction can cause the wheel axles not to turn.  What ever you do, do not put too much pressure on the plastic side frame trucks as the plastic being used is very brittle and too much pressure will break the side frame.  Then you will have the difficult job of replacing the entire truck .and that is mostly impossible with Menards as I have never heard of anyone getting parts from Menards.

Well, I paint a dim outlook for Menards Train Trucks, but the problems I have described above are few and far between.  Most of the trucks do fine.  The most important thing about defective items you might buy is to EXAMINE each and every item when you get them home.  If the wheels won't turn or there is a problem with something else you buy in the train department, you have 2 choices for a fix.  Return it to Menards for a credit or exchange or try to fix it yourself.   Save your cash register slips if you are returning any item.  Do not  try  and fix an item you want to return.,  Leave it alone and take it back to Menards.     Menards is excellent on returns and they want their customers satisfied.

One other very interesting thing about Menards.  Always pay for your items via your own Charge Card or Menards Big Red Card.  Why? Because if you do this, you will be able to print every cash register receipt (free) at any Menards because they keep your cash register slips in an electronic memory that is available to you at any Menards Store in the USA.  The computers (usually 2) are located where the return goods department is.  This means that if you lose one of your cash register slips, you can reprint each and every one (without the rebate attached).  Sure comes in handy if you are returning an item to one of there stores and forgot your register receipt.  They have no way of looking up your cash register receipts if you pay by cash.  One other very wise thing to do is to carry a small pocket notebook or make a list on your cell phone of the date your bought the train item.  You might be going to Menards and not buying trains.  So your list can have a notation that it is for trains and you won't have to hunt non train items to find your correct register train receipt  --- be organized.

By being organized,  you will be able to find the exact date you bought your trains even though you had bought other merchandise besides trains.  This organization will save you un-necessary printing of non train receipts.  To print those receipts, you must bring your card along to Menards and stick it into the computer.  Sounds complicated but it easy as pie, once you get the hang of what your are doing.     

Enjoy your trains,   sincerely yours      railbear601.,

Last edited by railbear601
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I have given Lionel starter sets (PRR Flyer Sets) to both of my sons, and the grandson and the granddaughters all look forward to setting up the trains at Christmas every year.  Saturday, my youngest son took the grandson to Menard's after I told him that would be a good place to go for some accessories.  He (my son) was somewhat shocked when I said that Menard's had anything at all.  He ended up buying some Christmas village themed buildings.

But Menard's had no FastTrack to make a bigger "layout", only tubular track,  and a few HO and Lionel sets.  There are no local hobby shops I could send them to.  So, my wife and I drove about an hour to take them some new but leftover FastTrack.  IF he ever wanted to buy some more then he will find that Menard's has no train stuff at all- other than at Christmas.

If/when the LHS loss is total, then hobbyists (like us) will need retailers (a) that have stock year-round, and (b) that has a relatively high level of quality product available. You can't do those types of purchases all online- Menard's or anyone else- the shipping will kill you financially.  (Maybe "ship to store".)  But that reality would likely kill the hobby.

In the past, the two main Lionel retailer types selling trains (other than sets year-round) were local hardware stores, and local hobby shops .

Menard's is unique in that they are in the train business at all.  The other "big box" stores like Lowes and Home Depot have nothing at all in the way of trains.   Is there enough market to support Menard's moving into that role?  It would have to be profitable, and a good use of retail space, all year.

But to fill that market, Menard's will either have to expand their own product line, or (easier) move into being a supplier of Lionel stuff on a year-round basis.  They will have to be "in" or "out" of supplying Lionel products- but not if they only have tubular track, and lightweight, inexpensive cars.

Last edited by Mike Wyatt

     I've decided that the market has priced itself out of itself already.  Those reasons have been and are being discussed in other threads.  Once the smoke clears from the nonsale of MTH, I think everyone will realize that unless you can afford BTO Legacy stuff, Lionel sucks.  Lionel will then go bye bye as well, and people will freak out.  But the greatest truth that will exist for some years down the road is that there is plenty of stuff out there on the secondary market to satisfy our small niche hobby.

     I am finding things on FB Marketplace that are very nice and very affordable to those who must offload things.  It almost makes more sense in my immediate local market to hang onto what you have if its nice, because folks are having a hard time getting what their trains are worth to them.

     Another hard truth is that assets in this hobby change hands via estate sales more often that people would care to think about.  I got all of my stepdad's HO stuff, and he has some nice stuff.  I have nice stuff, too, and the fact is that if my son doesn't want it for his children, some "Fast Eddie" will get it for dimes on the dollar.

     This hobby, its been said, is a niche within a niche, and that is 100% accurate.  It can survive on secondary assets for years on end.

OK, ladies and gentlemen.  You might think Menards makes cheap trains....well yes they do, but in this day and age when one boxcar that comes from your big Name Train Company cost $50 to $100 bucks.  A boxcar from Menards cost me around $17.50 with the 11% rebate and also 2% discount with my Menards Big Red Charge Card.   And if you check carefully, you might find the Menards Boxcars still come with all the ginger bread on them.  I just purchased around 15 new release Menards Boxcars and most are winners.  The Kansas City Southern is one of the most beautiful boxcars I have ever seen.  Talk about nifty, this boxcar still has metal door guides.  One thing about Lionel and MTH, the metal door guide boxcars are usually always black metal door guides.  The Kansas City Southern has Metal Door guides but the bottom guide is painted yellow to match the strip on the lower part of the car.   Also, the brake wheel is metal and held in place with a tiny phillips head screw ...that's what I call fancy. I bought two of the KCS Boxcars and I bought two of the KCS Hoppers as the colors match each other.  Yes, the KCS Menards Hopper is just as nice as the Box Car.  But don't take my word for this, just go into Menards and check out all the box cars and other cars and you will understand how nice they are.  The 14 3/4ths inch laser etched wood deck scale flat car is a winner by itself (you can mount all kinds of loads on it) or some come with Helicopters, etc on them.  Most of Menards loads that ride on there flat cars are die-cast items such as cement mixer trucks, various military items, etc.   I bet you the company in China that makes Menards Cars also make some of the cars for MTH and Lionel.  Yes, Menards has gone to a lot of Plastic Trucks on the freight cars, but most of the cars that have these plastic trucks are gondolas, ore, or hopper cars and weight can easily be added to them.   One of the best selling points of Menards freight cars are they are colorful, nicely painted, and there even making weathered and graffiti cars.   Choose what you want early because many of the freight cars are limited runs and are not repeated.      Sincerely yours      railbear601

Last edited by railbear601

"unless you can afford BTO Legacy stuff, Lionel sucks. "

Not true in my experience.  I buy almost exclusively non-BTO stuff and the value for dollar has been good for LionChief and LionChief Plus locos at prices similar to HO and N.

For beginners and most consumers who buy only a set and some track, maybe a second loco and some rolling stock, the prices are similar to many other hobbies.  A few hundred dollars, which ain't peanuts, but no different as a proportion of income than toy trains have ever been in historical memory.  A nice slot car setup or a few R/C planes and cars will cost about the same.  Video games more expensive, but in a different category.

The quality has been good in my experience, contrary to the usual rants here : ) (zero problems over the last 5-10 years).  If you want a scale model railroad in any gauge, with command control, such as DCC, DCS, Legacy, you're going to spend more money, of course.  More like the thousands, not hundreds of dollars.

LionChief and LionChief Plus provide command control at reasonable prices and great simplicity and reliability in my experience. Fastrack is safer for children to assemble, like most roadbed systems,  and quite reliable, if pricey.

This is a niche, not mass hobby, and prices reflect that lack of economy of scale (unintentional pun).  Complaining about pricing is very similar to complaining that other people earn more money than I do.  Gets you nowhere.  Lots of good value on the previously enjoyed market if you seek out information and help from the knowledgeable experienced hobbyists.  If you want top of the line Legacy locos, the pricing is going to be higher, just like buying a top of the line car, house, computer, home security system, etc.  Most cannot afford that and live happy lives anyhow.

Last edited by Landsteiner
@Lou1985 posted:

Menards is in the train business as a side business. Everything they make is done by the cheapest bidder. The stuff is cheap to buy because it's cheaply made, so you'll have to tinker with it.

"If you want something that doesn't need work out of the box buy used MTH/Lionel rolling stock."

Sadly that isn't the case. Our Lionel purchases are racking up a lot of defects which were there prior to packaging and are requiring return for repairs.

This kind of post only fires people up. There’s always been a low end and high end availability of trains. More traditional operators seem to go for the lesser cost items,  where as more scale type operators go high end. Nothing wrong with either one. Prices are what they are so choose your enjoyment. No one in my opinion is pricing themselves out of business. There will always be a buyer.

@railbear601 posted:

Recently, I purchased 7 new 20,000 gallon tank cars.   The first one was actually beautiful, it was a Lifesaver Tank Car.   It came with metal trucks, metal uncouplers, and all the truck side frames were painted and they were metal too.   The trucks added WEIGHT to the car.   Then Menards followed the Lifesaver Tank car with six very nice 20,000 gallon Tank Cars and they have changed.  They are the Conrail, Army, NS, CSX, BN and Tide Soap. All of these cars come with PLASTIC TRUCKS.

Enjoy your trains,   sincerely yours      railbear601

Railbear601  the Lifesaver tank car came out simultaneously with the Tide, and several other tankers, in Aug. or Sept.  It was the only one of the bunch with die-cast trucks.   It was not like Menards changed anything after its release.  So, it didn't follow the Lifesaver car with the others as you indicate.

@Landsteiner posted:

"unless you can afford BTO Legacy stuff, Lionel sucks. "

Not true in my experience.  I buy almost exclusively non-BTO stuff and the value for dollar has been good for LionChief and LionChief Plus locos at prices similar to HO and N.

For beginners and most consumers who buy only a set and some track, maybe a second loco and some rolling stock, the prices are similar to many other hobbies.  A few hundred dollars, which ain't peanuts, but no different as a proportion of income than toy trains have ever been in historical memory.  A nice slot car setup or a few R/C planes and cars will cost about the same.  Video games more expensive, but in a different category.

The quality has been good in my experience, contrary to the usual rants here : ) (zero problems over the last 5-10 years).  If you want a scale model railroad in any gauge, with command control, such as DCC, DCS, Legacy, you're going to spend more money, of course.  More like the thousands, not hundreds of dollars.

LionChief and LionChief Plus provide command control at reasonable prices and great simplicity and reliability in my experience. Fastrack is safer for children to assemble, like most roadbed systems,  and quite reliable, if pricey.

This is a niche, not mass hobby, and prices reflect that lack of economy of scale (unintentional pun).  Complaining about pricing is very similar to complaining that other people earn more money than I do.  Gets you nowhere.  Lots of good value on the previously enjoyed market if you seek out information and help from the knowledgeable experienced hobbyists.  If you want top of the line Legacy locos, the pricing is going to be higher, just like buying a top of the line car, house, computer, home security system, etc.  Most cannot afford that and live happy lives anyhow.

I agree with your ideas. I should've been more specific in stating that Lionel is undesirable based on my expectations at this point in my journey through the hobby.

My aim isn't to complain about price- I remember watching a TM trains video on the history of Lionel (copyright 1991) wherein one of Dick Kughn's underlings said, "Lionel has never been a cheap product, and it will never be a cheap product, but you get value when you buy a Lionel product." Seeing that at age 10 made me think that guy was a jerk, but the quote is still accurate 30 years later.

You accurately point out that Lionel still offers value at 2-3 different pricepoints.

My concern is that with ever rising production costs and already thin margins, at what point does the balance of hobbyist buying power and Lionel's ability to make profit or break even shift to the place that it's no longer a viable business.

I don't feel that it will necessarily help Lionel not to have a direct competitor in all areas of the O scale market.

History has shown us that even when Lionel had a commanding market share over American Flyer and Ives,it was in and out of recrivership. I feel that the possibility of history repeating itself is high.

Last edited by BobRoyals

The sport of golf comes to mind.  I haven't golfed in a number of years, not since the invention of the hybrid club. Went out to Dick's last year and bought a new entry-level set for under $300 on closeout.  My brother-in-law went to college on a golf scholarship, won a DIII national championship, won several country club championships, and was recently inducted into his college's athletic hall of fame. He spends more per club than I spent for an entire set.

We both can have fun golfing with different skills, capabilities, and expectations.

Folks, Menards is a big box hardware store, not a hobby shop or a train manufacturer.  

I'm guessing they profit more on a days worth of 2'x4's than a years worth of trains.

It would seem a there is enough interest in trains by Menards management that they offer a small selection to remind folks of the "Mom and Pop" Hardware stores of days gone buy that sold electric trains. Not unlike the honey roasted peanuts sold up by checkout line.

Its amazing they even offer what they do with toy trains. They only customer support they can provide is a return or  an exchange. It would seem more trouble than its worth.

On a side note: Lionel recently dropped their industry leading trucks, and the latest ones don't even couple to previous offerings.

Lionel is a train manufacturer that has been making trains for 120 years.

Last edited by RickO

Well, I have tons of Menards stuff.  Tons of cars, and several buildings.   I have maxed out on O scale.  I have two large O layouts, and, though I love their stuff, I simply have no room for it.  I'm somewhat horrified to learn about the plastic, lightweight trucks.  I've had a few issues with Menards cars and accessories over the years, but nothing to complain about.  Great value, great looking stuff.  Most of us can negotiate our way through a few minor issues.  I'm very appreciative that I have filled out my two layouts with better quality from them.  Can't agree more, that lightweight cars, tending to derail, are unacceptable.

Since I have no more room for O, I've been working on an N scale layout that fits over the pool table.  I'm amazed at the detail of the consists.  As gorgeous as all my 600 O scale things.   Besides, neither me or the poker boys can see the pool balls anymore.  Hahaha.  I'm designing it with only foam, so that it can be removed when our adult kids come home and have one of their parties!

Best wishes to all......

Jerry

I have a bunch of Menards cars, they are well done, great paint schemes and the occasional problem. Most of the time it can be fixed but when it not fixable just send it back. Menards always makes good on issues.

As far as the trucks go, you may think they are better than plastic but are they really. If you prefer metal then so be it  but with all the cars I bought from Menards 99% have worked well without any problems. Also Menards are making the freight cars to a certain price point. If you expect a $20.00 cars to be in the same quality sphere as a $79.00 or higher car from Lionel, Mth or others then you are not seeing reality.

Dave

Menards are considered "blue box" (Athearn) entry level products. If you want Atlas Master Line or MTH Premier quality products....you'll pay the $$$.  I didn't like Weavers plastic trucks (mainly the flexible bolster) but they were the only scale sub $25.00 car available in the 90s. I think Menards has found a niche for those who are willing to trade time for $$$.

I can’t complain when I can purchase good quality rolling stock for $20 and they give me a lighted die cast truck with an MSRP of $30 for free.

I’ve greatly expanded my road names thanks to Menards’ low costs as I couldn’t afford to buy as many cars from the other manufacturers.

I’m willing to tinker with the wheels/trucks on occasion and if I can’t fix it customer service always takes care of it.

@Mike Wyatt posted:

I have given Lionel starter sets (PRR Flyer Sets) to both of my sons, and the grandson and the granddaughters all look forward to setting up the trains at Christmas every year.  Saturday, my youngest son took the grandson to Menard's after I told him that would be a good place to go for some accessories.  He (my son) was somewhat shocked when I said that Menard's had anything at all.  He ended up buying some Christmas village themed buildings.

But Menard's had no FastTrack to make a bigger "layout", only tubular track,  and a few HO and Lionel sets.  There are no local hobby shops I could send them to.  So, my wife and I drove about an hour to take them some new but leftover FastTrack.  IF he ever wanted to buy some more then he will find that Menard's has no train stuff at all- other than at Christmas.

If/when the LHS loss is total, then hobbyists (like us) will need retailers (a) that have stock year-round, and (b) that has a relatively high level of quality product available. You can't do those types of purchases all online- Menard's or anyone else- the shipping will kill you financially.  (Maybe "ship to store".)  But that reality would likely kill the hobby.

In the past, the two main Lionel retailer types selling trains (other than sets year-round) were local hardware stores, and local hobby shops .

Menard's is unique in that they are in the train business at all.  The other "big box" stores like Lowes and Home Depot have nothing at all in the way of trains.   Is there enough market to support Menard's moving into that role?  It would have to be profitable, and a good use of retail space, all year.

But to fill that market, Menard's will either have to expand their own product line, or (easier) move into being a supplier of Lionel stuff on a year-round basis.  They will have to be "in" or "out" of supplying Lionel products- but not if they only have tubular track, and lightweight, inexpensive cars.

Menard's is a privately owned company, no stock holders, just the family so they can do what they want with no one to second guess them.

Dick

I am NOT saying that Menard's train products are anything bad at all.  They are an outstanding value.  Especially for metal wheels and trucks (which seem to be fading away toward more plastic). And their line of buildings is terrific - probably not to be matched by the LHS due to the cost of inventory.  And most local Menard's do not have trains for 12 months a year. 

But it is impractical for a hobbyist (like I think most OGR people are) to rely on internet sources for the majority of their purchases each year (not dollars- number of transactions).   Paint, glue,  bags of ballast, bags of foam turf, balsa and basswood, - etc.   But w/o the LHS- we are stuck buying these types of things less often than we need them- that $50 purchase would increase to $65 including $ 15 shipping, not to mention the "wait".

We NEED a place locally to go and buy these incidentals.  Menard's could be that local place in many areas, not all.  And only IF they stock, and if that is 12 months a year.

I've purchased stuff from Menards (box cars in multiple packs) and quality has been reasonable. Lionel sells 6 packs of certain types of rolling stock and time to time Amazon will sell them at a discount. I just bought a 6 pack of gondola cars and the cost was reasonably discounted making them less expensive than Menards. All metal trucks with plastic bodies and operating couplers.

From time to time places like Trainland will discount Lionel engines and rolling stock-brand new stuff though sometimes not the most recent stuff.

John

I only have Menards buildings (York Hotel, Police Station and soon Parking Garage, strip mall, and Lighting supply company front) and have been EXTREMELY happy with the look, quality, and selection for the reasonable prices (compared to the "major manufacturers").  Keep 'em coming, please!

Maybe next order I'll have to include a piece of rolling stock, just to check it out.

Menards... if you're listening... aluminum display shelves are highly needed at a nice price point! 

Just my $0.02!

I haven't bought anything of Menards, but given what they are manufacturing at the price point it is at, it is designed to be kind of like what Marx was in the day, low cost postwar semi scale equipment, along with some pretty nice buildings and tinplate track.  They aren't in the train business per se, this is a side business that someone there wanted to do, and expecting them to be like a hardware store that once carried Lionel trains is not really a fair assumption, from what i know (Menard's sadly doesn't have stores in my area) they only really carry stuff in their stores around the holiday season in any kind of quantity (could be wrong, just my impression). The trains are really more like a way to advertise Menards, to get people to buy things there, rather than a direct bottom line kind of thing. Given what floor space means in a store, they aren't going to dedicate floor space, which is expensive, to carry things outside their product line, floor space is expensive and I doubt carrying stuff a train store would carry would be economically viable for them, the cost of the floor space > revenue. Likewise, given the price points of their products,  it is unlikely that quality control/assurance is a major focus, it is like buying a cheap Chinese set of headphones versus buying Senheiser or Bose or the like, you buy it knowing it likely is not going to have the quality of the more expensive ones (though price and quality are not always equated, either, cheap toyotas have often been of better quality then very expensive cars like Mercedes).

If you are expecting scale fidelity, top of the line wheel sets, etc you likely won't see it here, but if you like the whimsy of what they produce, something really more toy like, then it is quite a bargain IMO.

@Mike Wyatt posted:

I am NOT saying that Menard's train products are anything bad at all.  They are an outstanding value.  Especially for metal wheels and trucks (which seem to be fading away toward more plastic).

(emphasis mine)

It isn't that metal wheels and trucks are fading away--everything that was first produced with metal wheels/trucks continues to be equipped with them. New models intended for the $19.99 end of the line are most likely equipped with plastic trucks to keep them comfortably at that price point. Possibly the only reason the Life-Savers tanker has die-cast trucks is that would have been the only way to have them in silver. They undoubtedly cost more to make than the other modern tank cars, if for no other reason than the (seemingly) plated bodies.

---PCJ

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