I am fairly new to the hobby and a total ignoramus when it comes to Lionel trains. Would somebody please explain to me what went on in the Lionel train world during the MPC era that makes these trains undesirable? I bought some MPC era F-3's, did I make a mistake? I got an ABA set NIB for 125.00 which I thought was a good deal. The only difference I can see between these and my PW set is that the top vents are slotted and the horns are plastic.  Should I be looking for anything else? Please let me know if I made a mistake so I can avoid doing it again.

Original Post
Originally Posted by RRaddict2:

I am fairly new to the hobby and a total ignoramus when it comes to Lionel trains. Would somebody please explain to me what went on in the Lionel train world during the MPC era that makes these trains undesirable? I bought some MPC era F-3's, did I make a mistake? I got an ABA set NIB for 125.00 which I thought was a good deal. The only difference I can see between these and my PW set is that the top vents are slotted and the horns are plastic.  Should I be looking for anything else? Please let me know if I made a mistake so I can avoid doing it again.

$125 sounds like a fair price, price will fluctuate a little with roadname.  I paid $100 for a pair of New Haven F3's back in the 1980's.  Basically, everything back then was derived from postwar tooling with new graphics and some mechanical changes.

 

A lot of folks like to compare MPC with today's products and that's where a lot of disdain comes from.  Probably 99% of the LionelMPC I once owned was extremely reliable and the fixes were easy if something broke.

 

The MPC era was a rebirth for Lionel trains, otherwise the tooling would have been cut up to make Chevy's or Ford's.  We probably wouldn't have an OGR board if it wasn't for Lionel/MPC.

 

Rusty

I think that those that regard the MPC era with disdain would point to examples of where parts of the product lines were cheapened further after the postwar period.

 

Some would point out to MPC further removing details from the F3s and the earlier powered units having only a single motor (this actually started in the postwar period).  Others would point out how the columns of side body rivets were removed off the 6464-based boxcars (done to make paint & decoration easier) and parts that were once metal were substituted with plastic (brakewheels, underframes on the reefer & lumber unloading cars, etc.)

 

Criticisms would also point out to the lack of big steam engines during the early years and the relatively crude Sound of Steam technology and lack of a traditional air whistle or diesel horn option in engines.

 

Some of the criticisms were justified as the prestige of Lionel did suffer somewhat especially with the lower-end sets (hence the commonly heard "MPC = More Plastic Crap" remarks).  But the pendulum was already swinging that way even before Lionel trains was taken over by General Mills, and train sales were still in a slump for a number of years afterwards, General Mills was still experiencing a learning curve with O gauge train production and figuring out the O gauge train market.  In other words, they were being cautious.

 

And as is true that a pendulum tends to swing back the other way, this is exactly what happened during the later part of the General Mills era when some of the higher-end engines like the FM Train Master and premium detailing gradually returning to the F3s.  And as the market conditions improved, so did the variety of offerings and improvements further implemented in the product lines.  Needless to say, General Mills decided to take on a product line during a time when the demand was abysmal, and kept the Lionel name alive where if given their devices, the Lionel Corporation would have surely let it continue to die a slow death.

 

Back to your F3s, if they look great to you, have pulling power and operational qualities that is sufficient for your needs, then there's no cause for concern.

I re-motored my postwar F3s with some NOS MPC era motor/power truck assemblies back in the mid 1990s, and the locos have been running superbly ever since. Much smoother than the old postwar "growlers" they replaced....  Lionel made some good stuff during the MPC era (along with some cheezy like the Kickapoo locomotive). They also made some decent Hudsons, Berks, and other steam locos back then.

-- Not a "rivet counter", but do love fine-scale detail ! --

Addict..Don't stress if you buy the wrong thing. I did it when I didn't know what I was doing. OGR has a great For sale feature. You can always re sell.Guys on here are into all kinds of trains. At the right price your trains will sell. You will get to know what you want. Just takes time. Nick

                                                                                                                             

As said but worded differently MPC is a good product for the most part. Now General Mills did try to come out with some super cheap sets, Mainly 0-4-0 steam engine and small diesel switchers in the shape of NW2 but smaller. They also ( most of them anyway ) where DC power engines and could only run on DC, They did make some that ran on either AC or DC 

Here's my opion on trains, if you like them run them. I have from prewar - postwar and then again engines and cars from about 1995 to about 2010. I'm really getting into my prewar Tinplate right now. But like all I have. I've thought about selling some of my trains but when it gets down to it, just can't on about 99% of them. 

I don't have a layout at present, so if you do your ahead of me, I need to have some structural things done to this house first. 

Just Keep on Training 

Bill

over time some of the real railroads removed detail from cab units, like portholes.......

I do have an ABA set of F3's for Amtrak  and run them with various PW ATSF and MPC Amtrak O27 cars.  Makes for a nice early Amtrak train on the O27 curves I onece had.

Now, I also have an AA 2353 ATSF PW F3 set which I could use with the Amtrak cars for an early 1970's train.

The TEXAS SPECIAL:  The REAL RED streak of the golden prairies!

If you're going for a hyper-realistic O scale layout, your MPC engines will stand out like a sore thumb.  If you're building a layout that you can enjoy with reliable, smooth-running engines and equipment that pleases your eye (and your wallet), you couldn't have made a better choice.

I love all the MPC equipment I own.  I've never purchased any of the notorious clunkers -- i.e., I don't have the Kickapoo switcher and I don't own a Mini-max "boxcar" and I don't own any of the lower-end freight cars with plastic wheels -- but I do own a ton of 9200, 9400, and 9700 box cars and quad hoppers, and tank cars, and, and, and...

...and I'm a happy guy.  You should be too.

Steven J. Serenska

General Mills/Fundimensions/MPC trains were made in an era when the O gauge model train hobby was just beginning its resurgence around 1970. It is safe to say that the new company wasn't quite sure what would sell or what the market was, so they manufactured similar P/W stuff. There were few innovations but the fast angle wheel trucks that enabled pulling long consists was a good one that remains to this day.   MPC engines used universal AC motors and electo-mechanical e units. The horns were gone and AFAIK didn't return until the later Kuhn era. Some items were cheapened, but the MPC products sold at low prices and are affordable to this day. If you are looking to just turn the trains on, let them run on the layout and not spend a fortune, they are ideal.

There is a segment of the market that still runs conventional and there are the folks that want the latest technology in remote operation and detail. In my case my layout is like my large canvas of artwork that recreates railroading in small towns during the 1950's. My objective is the overall presentation not the complexity of operation. I still run conventional but with electronic e-units, and horns/whistles/sound boards as upgrades. Your view of the hobby and what you expect from it will determine which way to go.

Builder of the Hill Lines ( New Delta Lines). Recreating history for the model RR community.

We grew up on Postwar and MPC trains. Since getting back into trains and deciding to model O scale, most of what I've purchased is MPC era stuff, and I like it. I run conventional, I don't plan on running long trains either. I like the stuff I've bought and plan on just enjoying running trains, and playing with the few Lionel power accessories I've bought recently. I plan on starting bench work soon, but, only after completing some necessary work on the train room.

Rusty

And as the sunset faded, I spoke to the faintest first starlight.
And I said next time, Next time, We'll get it right!

I think you had to live through the era. Before MPC we had a couple of pages for a Lionel catalog and that was a smaller reprint of the year before. My friends who were into Lionel where sure Lionel would be out of business soon. Prices were really starting to go up for used stuff and that was all we could get. Suddenly there were cheap F-3s, 6464 sized box cars for around $5 bucks and new stuff coming out fast. Yes, it was not as detailed and all diesels were single motored, but it was cheap and a lot was available. There were a few real advances. Fast angle wheels for one. You could pull a ton of cars with a single motor F unit. It's easy to look back from todays eyes and say MPC was junk. It saved Lionel and kept a lot of us in the hobby. 

Don

Serenska posted:
I've never purchased any of the notorious clunkers -- i.e., I don't have the Kickapoo switcher and I don't own a Mini-max "boxcar" and I don't own any of the lower-end freight cars with plastic wheels -- but I do own a ton of 9200, 9400, and 9700 box cars and quad hoppers, and tank cars, and, and, and...


...and I'm a happy guy.  You should be too.

Steve, I HAVE purchased those things and I'm still a happy guy!

Truthfully, I think the Kickapoo has received an unjustified bad rap over the years. Under the hood, it's the same mechanism from the MPC 2-4-2's and 4-4-2's, minus the lead and trailing trucks. The entire KV&N set was modern Lionel's first big move in doing something different, but the general consensus is that it missed the mark. No doubt it was engineered to a price point, and the fact that it only lasted one year (along with the accompanying upscale Pioneer Docksider set) says the market wasn't ready for such a foreign concept. I've tried to track down the "product champion" of the Kickapoo from the early MPC guys that are still with us, but haven't had any luck getting further with the story.

I've attached a photo of the scratch-built, prototype Kickapoo locomotive that I acquired over twenty years ago. It's one of my favorites.

8200a

And as for the 9090 Mini-Max boxcar, I have no idea what they were thinking!

TRW

Attachments

Photos (1)

Another plus for MPC was colorful freight cars and steam engines with railroad names. Their early years were restricted by how much they had to spend but as sales improved so did the products. I don't know why they sold the junk sets but so did the Lionel corporation.

 

I've never heard of the Mini-Max boxcar.  Anyone have more info on it ?

Dan Padova

 

"In the course of my life I have had to eat my words, and I must confess it was a wholesome diet"..........Winston Churchill

                                                                                                                                        

I have several 9090 Mini-max boxcars. It was a brand new car, created by the folks at MPC. It had a prototype.
There are variations in the lettering.
It came with a load of three "pallets" of merchandise. There are variations in the load too.
At least some of the cars came with sprues in the door opening between the roof and floor. A little slip of paper was packed with the car that had instructions to remove the sprues.

Say what you want about MPC.
Had they not purchased and continued making Lionel trains, Lionel probably would not be around today.

C.W. Burfle

MPC tended to get a bad reputation after running them at too high a voltage, a post-war ZW at max will cook an MPC engines guts. Running way to many cars also was part of it since many were only intended to pull about 14 cars. There was also a time of some faulty gears that ended. They were known for working on quality, to the point they canceled a Christmas season from having a huge batch of faulty transformers. They guarded their reputation rather well and upheld it.

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

They guarded their reputation rather well and upheld it.

Something few companies seem to do these days. They all seem to be plastering their names (and reputations) on cheap junk in the quest for a quick buck, ruining their hard won reputations. This goes well beyond toy/model trains.

C.W. Burfle
david1 posted:
imageDan Padova posted:

I've never heard of the Mini-Max boxcar.  Anyone have more info on it ?

I had one and it was very small car with two trucks that only two wheels. It was blue and white.

In Europe, four wheeled freight cars are common.  There must have been some sort of prototype for Lionel to have made the Mini-Max.  I suspect they were in the lower price range.  

Dan Padova

 

"In the course of my life I have had to eat my words, and I must confess it was a wholesome diet"..........Winston Churchill

                                                                                                                                        

I got back into the hobby in the later '70s.  My first purchase was the G M & O Heartland Express.  From there I purchased more MPC and post-war at train meets.  While the post-war was certainly built to last, the MPC held it's own nicely.  

Dan Padova

 

"In the course of my life I have had to eat my words, and I must confess it was a wholesome diet"..........Winston Churchill

                                                                                                                                        

Bottom line - if you like em, buy em - they can be found cheap and I think they will stay cheap, so buy to enjoy. Pretty much reliable (get some traction tires for the powered engines!). A little lube, good to go.  If you are starting and don't have any dough, you can have a whole empire for a couple of hundred bucks.  I was growing up during the MPC era, and it was thrilling to get new product after a bunch of very dry years at the end of the Lionel postwar era (basically just boxing up what was left over, and a rerun of some 6464's). I had a ton of that stuff, and started to offload as it was obvious that guys were dumping it for the heavier, better, more expensive stuff coming out later by Lionel LLC and MTH. I still have a few of the diesels, some 'Service Station' F3 sets, and a couple of electrics (EP5 and Rectifier). And a bunch of freight cars! I have converted some of them to postwar metal trucks, which you can find a meets for about $5 a pair. Nice companions to the postwar stuff. 

Jim

Jim Waterman



 

Lets not forget that the MPC trains allowed many of us to join in on the resurgence of the "Lionel" hobby back then.  We didn't have the big bucks to buy the post war trains that were in high demand at the time.  We started going to train shows in search of hard-to-find 072 track and good deals on 022 switches or maybe a box full of hopper cars for $15 each.   My sons and I ran our MPC for hundreds of hours with just a little maintenance once in a while.  These trains led to a lifetime of enjoying O guage trains. I enjoy the scale trains and electronics we have today, but it all started with MPC trains.  I am most grateful to General Mills for keeping the wheels rolling and reigniting the hobby.   

Everything I have is (for the most part) MPC era. My first set was a NPK 8617 steam freight set, my dad added added to that set a bunch; an 8801 U36b and an Amtrak 8912 yard switcher and a bunch more rolling stock. Now that my son is getting old enough to be into trains sticking with MPC era stuff has allowed us to add to the set very economically as well as maintain the same appearance through out the set. 

C W Burfle posted:

I have several 9090 Mini-max boxcars. It was a brand new car, created by the folks at MPC. It had a prototype.
There are variations in the lettering.
It came with a load of three "pallets" of merchandise. There are variations in the load too.
At least some of the cars came with sprues in the door opening between the roof and floor. A little slip of paper was packed with the car that had instructions to remove the sprues.

Say what you want about MPC.
Had they not purchased and continued making Lionel trains, Lionel probably would not be around today.

You said it as it needed to be said - IF it were not for MPC - BET there would be no Lionel today!

I had a bunch of MPC And it was great, lots of engines with colorful paint schemes. Freight cars in the 9200, 9700 series were low priced and looked and ran very well. 

I can't remember a MPC engine that ever failed in the time I owned them. 

It was a great time, 

Dave

Dan Padova posted:
david1 posted:
imageDan Padova posted:

I've never heard of the Mini-Max boxcar.  Anyone have more info on it ?

I had one and it was very small car with two trucks that only two wheels. It was blue and white.

In Europe, four wheeled freight cars are common.  There must have been some sort of prototype for Lionel to have made the Mini-Max.  I suspect they were in the lower price range.  

CW mentions there was a prototype.

Modern Railroads October 1969

 

    Pick up a C8 post war, imagine you grew to expect that quality and ruggedness.

Pick up a similar C8 MPC. Note the weight, detail difference, metal content and overall feel of ruggedness. Note the change in sheen because in the 70s you are suspect of the high sheen; previously that was a dead giveaway for cheap, brittle, plastic, even on name brand items.( Time answered the question on the plastic's quality )

  Can motors were considered cheap and unreliable. They were only seen in toys.  Lionels were not "just toys" they were Lionels. The open frame could be rebuilt like a quality power tool; the can motor was perceved as a throwaway toy.

  Add to that the fiasco that occurred as thousands of kids planted that new Lionel starter set loco on the old family Christmas loop and had them quickly toast.... DC trains did little to continue the confidence Lionel had earned with the Christmas crowd. I recall stacks of returns 4' high at Kmart. These starter set's likely ended a few hobbyists future fun permanently and ended some family traditions.

  Gramps ordered sight unseen from Lionel from the mid 30s till the mid 70s. Finally, the overall quality made him send an engine back. He cried because "his Lionel" was dead. He continued to buy, but never ordered another thing.

  Gramps was an operator, but also a serious collector. The kind with "white glove cabinets". I feel guilt cutting into anything pre70 not already broke.  I see MPC as something cheap and acceptible that I can enjoy; or hate... bashing on it till I do enjoy it, without " guilt".

 

"Still trying to not shoot my eye out"

 

"Nursing insomnia one railcar at a time"

My aroma therapy? Smoke Pellets.

 





Adriatic posted:
    Pick up a C8 post war, imagine you grew to expect that quality and ruggedness.

Pick up a similar C8 MPC. Note the weight, detail difference, metal content and overall feel of ruggedness. Note the change in sheen because in the 70s you are suspect of the high sheen; previously that was a dead giveaway for cheap, brittle, plastic, even on name brand items.( Time answered the question on the plastic's quality )

  Can motors were considered cheap and unreliable. They were only seen in toys.  Lionels were not "just toys" they were Lionels. The open frame could be rebuilt like a quality power tool; the can motor was perceved as a throwaway toy.

  Add to that the fiasco that occurred as thousands of kids planted that new Lionel starter set loco on the old family Christmas loop and had them quickly toast.... DC trains did little to continue the confidence Lionel had earned with the Christmas crowd. I recall stacks of returns 4' high at Kmart. These starter set's likely ended a few hobbyists future fun permanently and ended some family traditions.

  Gramps ordered sight unseen from Lionel from the mid 30s till the mid 70s. Finally, the overall quality made him send an engine back. He cried because "his Lionel" was dead. He continued to buy, but never ordered another thing.

  Gramps was an operator, but also a serious collector. The kind with "white glove cabinets". I feel guilt cutting into anything pre70 not already broke.  I see MPC as something cheap and acceptible that I can enjoy; or hate... bashing on it till I do enjoy it, without " guilt".

Posts like the one above make me cringe a bit, because they're long on emotion and short on facts. Let me start with two questions:

1) What was the set name and approximate year that you saw 4' high stacks of returns at K-Mart? How do you know the reason why they were returned?

2) What was the locomotive that your grandfather returned because it didn't have the overall quality he was looking for?

TRW

Adriatic posted:

...Gramps ordered sight unseen from Lionel from the mid 30s till the mid 70s. Finally, the overall quality made him send an engine back. He cried because "his Lionel" was dead...

Too bad. 1976 was the year things started getting really good again.

Rob

I grew up on running PW Lionel with my father until I graduated from HS in 1970.  With getting a career and married a short time later, we did not run trains much until getting back into it in 1976.  We did buy some MPC, but dad always preferred the PW Lionel and engines with magnetraction.  We did have some steamers with the tires, but dad sold/traded them for PW engines.  One he sold was a scale sized Hudson, but we/I still have the NYC tender that came with.  As with many, we/he liked the rolling stock more than the engines.  I had a lot of MPC I picked up myself, as I inherited our collection when he passed in 1978, at a way too young an age of 53.  I still retain all we acquired together, plus everything added since 99%.  I agree, if it had not been for MPC and other changes/innovations, we would not have the fine Lionel, and other makes, around to enjoy today.

 

Jesse   TCA

As I remember at the time the Kickapoo was designed by a old Lionel designer. He also designed the small Milwaukee Madison cars. No operating couplers and very simple cars as was the steam engine. I bought all those MPC things early on. I repainted the steamer and detailed it but had no problem running it. I can look up more detail on the steam engine if anyone would like. Don

If we are discussing P/W to MPC era, I will agree somewhat that the line was cheapened but the universal motors were retained. Yes magnetraction was gone, boxcars and engines were stripped of details but in the 1960s old Lionel was doing that too. The biggest difference was that many 9700 series boxcars were no longer painted but got their color from the plastic that they were molded from.  Markings were heat stamped. Engines were single motor and traction tires were added. The product was basic, reliable and with the fast angle trucks ran better than their P/W counterparts. Fundimentions was a TOY company not one catering to hobbyists, so this perhaps explains the thinking in their marketing department. When they discovered that guys in their 20's and 30's was their market we saw steady improvements in the line . This was driven by an old Lionel employee Lenny Dean (R.I.P.)

Builder of the Hill Lines ( New Delta Lines). Recreating history for the model RR community.

 He also designed the small Milwaukee Madison cars.

Whatever model railroading magazine I was getting at time (MR or RMC) ran a feature article about those "baby Madison" cars when they were being designed.  If I recall correctly, One of the points the article featured was the changeable end to make a Pullman or an observation.

C.W. Burfle
ADCX Rob posted:
Adriatic posted:

...Gramps ordered sight unseen from Lionel from the mid 30s till the mid 70s. Finally, the overall quality made him send an engine back. He cried because "his Lionel" was dead...

Too bad. 1976 was the year things started getting really good again.

That's right. Starting with the 8600 steam loco and the return of Magne-Traction. But the real eye-opener was the 8753 GG-1 from 1977 -- it proved to the Fundimensions guys that they didn't need to re-engineer anything to reduce costs on high-end product, and that there were people out there willing to pay the price to get the items with the features that they wanted. I'm really curious to know which locomotive was delivered that missed expectations so badly -- nothing obvious comes to mind.

 

scale rail posted:

As I remember at the time the Kickapoo was designed by a old Lionel designer. He also designed the small Milwaukee Madison cars. No operating couplers and very simple cars as was the steam engine. I bought all those MPC things early on. I repainted the steamer and detailed it but had no problem running it. I can look up more detail on the steam engine if anyone would like. Don

Bruno Branstner is credited with the Kickapoo, but I believe Gordon Hathaway did the "Milwaukee" cars. (They originally planned on doing the Pennsylvania cars first.)

 

C W Burfle posted:

 He also designed the small Milwaukee Madison cars.

Whatever model railroading magazine I was getting at time (MR or RMC) ran a feature article about those "baby Madison" cars when they were being designed.  If I recall correctly, One of the points the article featured was the changeable end to make a Pullman or an observation.

I only have a vague recollection of that article. I think it was in Railroad Model Craftsman, circa 1973. Anyone know which issue?

TRW

Add Reply

Post
OGR Publishing, Inc., 1310 Eastside Centre Ct, Suite 6, Mountain Home, AR 72653
330-757-3020

www.ogaugerr.com
×
×
×
×
×