Originally Posted by Bob Bubeck:
Most certainly a very interesting and potentially promising announcement.
Competition is good and this new arrangement should keep Lionel’s American Flyer feet to the fire. It would be interesting to know if the sale of S-Helper Service's assets was pitched (first?) to Lionel? In any case, it remains to be seen whether or not M.T.H. can maintain a reasonable facsimile of the wonderful personal attention from Don, Robin, and Mike F. that made S-Helper Service as a small dedicated firm so appealing. In addition to a very good line of trains, of course.
Because of SHS’s historic cash limitations, there are a significant number of gaps in the line up. Hopefully, M.T.H. will use the new opportunity to fill them. The thoughtful viewer of Rusty’s excellent pictures will note that the range of locomotive offerings is actually pretty limited (the SW’s, F-units, and the 2-6-0). There are no gondolas or tank cars. Although all of the rolling stock is steam or transition era, there is nothing modern and no true steam era caboose, aside from a very lovely later period extended vision caboose type. No recently offered passenger equipment. The excellent sectional track system still requires completion, e.g., more radius choices and high number turnouts. There is a lot in the line that is very good, indeed. But, much remains to be done to make it a complete train line.
I also hope that a bit of M.T.H.’s native practicality as a manufacturer/importer of a broad line of trains can rub off on the acquired Showcase Line. For example, the 2-6-0 is an excellent but flawed product. The plastic tender tether point and many of the add-on detail parts are too fragile. Operation of the hi-rail version is lumpy at slow speeds in conventional AC mode. Such shortcomings as these can hopefully be avoided in the future.
As a life long enthusiast of S gauge, I hope that the big three manufactures (Lionel, M.T.H., and AM) can avoid going head-to-head on offerings, at least for a while. AM, SHS, and Lionel AF managed this quite well in the past. And, River Raisin plays in a different and lofty market segment, all together. American Models has been and continues to offer a quality, but slightly lower priced line of trains. One suspects that this could continue with AM being able to tout that much of their line is made here in good ol' Michigan. How the various control systems will play out is another hanging question. We’ll see. It will be fun to watch. And participate.
Pretty good analysis, Bob. (BTW, it's a 2-8-0...)
Sometimes SHS held themselves back to their advantage or disadvantage. The switchers evolved due to the use of common castings, trucks, cabs, etc... Same for the F-units. Their box cars and open hopper cars also used some common castings between the models, minimizing the development costs.
One thing that held them back was wanting to try to keep the freight cars visually the same height as a Flyer boxcar. Everybody and their brother in the scale crowd was asking SHS to do a PS-1 boxcar, but they didn't want to do one because it was taller than the Flyer boxcar. How the TOFC and bulkhead flats got made with this logic escapes me.
I suspect (pure speculation alert...) that MTH will announce something totally new by mid next year to shake things up with the Showcase Line. I look to how MTH rolled out the HO line as a guide. Maybe, I'm wrong, we'll see.
With the recent exciting developments in S, I don't expect S to overtake O or HO in popularity, but it may become more mainstream, less of a curiosity and get some valuable shelf space in stores.