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I wanted to share my findings and teardown photos of the new Lionel 2-8-0 Lionchief engine based on previous MTH tooling. Lionel 2323060 New York Central 2-8-0 Consolidation LionChief Bluetooth 5.0 Set

I'm not reviewing the entire set, but more of a technical what did they change from the MTH tooling to make it Lionel Lionchief.

#1 They removed the MTH fan driven smoke unit and fitted the Lionel plastic piston based puffer system used in many other Lionchief steam engine setups. In order to do that, they did modify the MTH frame, made a complete bottom plate held with many screws, all so the front axle could have a cam. Again, It's almost crazy the modifications made to make this assemble like some other Lionel engines (I'm thinking of the Berk Jr).

#2 They changed all the screws to metric and typically smaller size than previous MTH screws in the same locations. Honestly, this is the one that boggles the mind. Screws in bulk cost money to install. I don't get how these mods make it any easier to assemble at the factory, if anything they increased costs and complexity. Do I even need to link to the recent screws falling out of new Lionel engines topics?

#3 They kept the same basic gear ratio and worm gear arrangement, although I'm not confident the Lionel gears are the same quality as previous MTH. The photos do not do it justice- the worm wheel is a different alloy, and the worm gear on the motor is a cheaper machined bare steel finish. Flat out- this is going to wear at a faster rate- you read that here first. Again, the MTH gears are a different alloy on both sides of this, and better smoother polished finish, along with way better factory grease. Lionel is building this as cheap as they can.

#4 They did add figures to the MTH cab and it is a nice touch

#5 Lionel is using only one LED for the headlight, where MTH used 2 LED for the plastic green indicators on the sides of the boiler.

#6 The pilot front 2 wheels assembly now is riveted where the MTH used a E-clip during the manufacturing process. Normally you have no reason to take that apart for maintenance but another slight but important manufacturing change.

#7 MTH 2-8-0 shells do directly fit on the Lionel chassis. The mounting screws are different, but the exact same holes and do fit.

Boiler_frontCam_followerFrame comparison 2Frame comparisonFront_truckLionel CABLionel_shell_inside_LEDmotor_worm_gear

Worm wheelMTH_cab_cropMTH_front_e_clipMTH_front_truckMTH_Lionel_sidebysidesmoke_lever

Attachments

Images (14)
  • Boiler_front
  • Cam_follower
  • Frame comparison 2
  • Frame comparison
  • Front_truck
  • Lionel CAB
  • Lionel_shell_inside_LED
  • motor_worm_gear
  • MTH_cab_crop
  • MTH_front_e_clip
  • MTH_front_truck
  • MTH_Lionel_sidebyside
  • smoke_lever
  • Worm wheel
Last edited by Vernon Barry
Original Post

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That's sad to hear about the gears in the block. Here I thought it would be feasible to swap the better MTH electronics into these drive blocks for repairs when needed but given your report about the lower-quality metals being used, I'm not sure about that.

What is the cost variance between these two? The last MTH RK 2-8-0 I bought new from my LHS was two years ago for $260 which had an original MSRP of $299.

Dug back through the catalog and the Lionel 2-8-0 Consolidation by itself is $329. Makes sense the MTH set would be higher as it includes the DCS Explorer. IMO, the extra cost for the set (or savings on the separate sale engine) is worth it considering you get fan-driven smoke, cruise control, available conventional operation, an electro-coupler, and better build quality.

Last edited by H1000

All I'm saying is, look at that key point of wiring passing through the sharp frame of the tender for the speaker. If you cannot see why that is a problem, I don't know how else to help some of you.

The drawbar flexes left and right way further than that hole the wiring is passing through- especially with factory O-36 curves and returning to straight over and over again around the supplied oval. That hole is stamped and has sharp edges, no rubber grommet and nothing else on the wire to protect it. It's not if it fails, more like when it fails.

And the when and what happens when it fails- that connecting speaker wires effectively to frame which is also connected to the wheels and AC common, instantly minimally damaging the Lionchief amp IC, but more likely outright blowing the board sky high.

Speaker wiring

Last edited by Vernon Barry

My perspective is different. I think LionChief is a superior control system to DCS/Explorer in terms of reliability and simplicity of use, so there's that.    And keeping the cost of starter sets down is important in terms of continuing to make entrance to the hobby affordable for more people. One of the downsides of MTH's strategy of higher quality/DCS was that their sets were almost always quite a bit more expensive than Lionel's.  $400 when Lionel's sets were 200-300 or even less for Thomas.  So there may be a reasonable tradeoff between ruggedness, durability and cost.  Most set locos are going to be operated during the holiday season and that's all,  for one thing.

The MTH sets I had were high quality as noted,  but quirky in terms of PS2's reliability and complexity.  LionChief sets have been much better in that particular regard, at least in my experience.  Works the first time and every time, easy to set up and superior to the infrared handheld controller provided in MTH sets back in the day. And Fastrack is a more reliable and robust product than the track included in the MTH set.

Finally, the MTH set price quoted above is pre-pandemic and probably would be at least 20-30% higher if it were in production today.  Since MTH isn't making sets at present, it's a moot point, of course.

Last edited by Landsteiner

All I'm saying is, look at that key point of wiring passing through the sharp frame of the tender for the speaker. If you cannot see why that is a problem, I don't know how else to help some of you.

The drawbar flexes left and right way further than that hole the wiring is passing through- especially with factory O-36 curves and returning to straight over and over again around the supplied oval. That hole is stamped and has sharp edges, no rubber grommet and nothing else on the wire to protect it. It's not if it fails, more like when it fails.

And the when and what happens when it fails- that connecting speaker wires effectively to frame which is also connected to the wheels and AC common, instantly minimally damaging the Lionchief amp IC, but more likely outright blowing the board sky high.

Speaker wiring

Gotta sweat the details as the old saying goes. A simple bushing in the hole or a piece of shrinkwrap over the wire would help.
I just bought a LC 2-6-0 for under the tree. Bought it knowing what I was getting which is fine. Looking at these new products and comparing them to MTH and Lionel products from 10-15 years ago is apples and oranges.

My fear is the unsuspecting parents who buy a LC+ set for their kids only to be disappointed when it doesn't work or breaks shortly after.

And we just bought my son a new IPhone 15 Pro-max for $1200. We all know that in 4 years or so it will need to be replaced.

Bob

can somebody please make a video of this new 2-8-0

really want to hear and see it in action compared to the mth version

i really want this engine but can't afford it right now as i used my train money for the new dash 8

but hopefully next year i will get one of the 2-8-0 sets

plus i really hope to try jt's MARX scented smoke fluid

IMO I do not think a LC starter set is even comparable to an MTH starter set. The MTH starter sets were packed with all the PS3 features and fan driven smoke. Even if you are using the DCS Explorer it still has more features than LC and if you upgrade later to full DCS the locomotive already has the features built in unlike LC.

I got into this hobby after purchasing an MTH 2-8-0 starter set in 2017 and now have much more track and more locomotives (PS3 Imperial Railking, LC, LC+, LC+2.0 and Legacy). Even if they made LC+ or LC+2.0 models in starter sets I would still find the MTH ones superior but more comparable than comparing them to LC. The problem with MTH was they did not have the variety of starter sets that Lionel does. If I had went with a LC starter set back in 2017 I would have long forgot about model trains and never would have gotten deeper into it as I have now.

Brad

...they did modify the MTH frame, made a complete bottom plate held with many screws, all so the front axle could have a cam.

#3 They kept the same basic gear ratio and worm gear arrangement, although I'm not confident the Lionel gears are the same quality as previous MTH. The photos do not do it justice- the worm wheel is a different alloy, and the worm gear on the motor is a cheaper machined bare steel finish. Flat out- this is going to wear at a faster rate- you read that here first. Again, the MTH gears are a different alloy on both sides of this, and better smoother polished finish, along with way better factory grease. Lionel is building this as cheap as they can.

Excellent post @Vernon Barry!  Personally I'm glad to see the switch to a "bottom plate."  They also followed best engineering practice by keeping the worm wheel on a MIDDLE axle.  So theoretically, if you were somehow able to obtain another front axle, you could swap it with the rear one and get rid of the rubber tires.  This is one of the very few locos in 3-rail O where it's possible to ditch the tires.

While you have it open- what is the gear ratio?  The MTH version already had one of the best gear ratios, 28:1 I believe.  It would be a shame if Lionel made it taller (i.e., faster.)  From your photos it looks like both versions use the tiny Mabuchi RS-365PH motor.  Gears multiply torque.  That little motor doesn't make much torque so it needs all the help it can get!  Thanks again for the detailed write-up.  It's vital for any prospective buyers to make an informed decision.

Last edited by Ted S
@Ted S posted:

Excellent post @Vernon Barry!  Personally I'm glad to see the switch to a "bottom plate."  They also followed best engineering practice by keeping the worm wheel on a MIDDLE axle.  So theoretically, if you were somehow able to obtain another front axle, you could swap it with the rear one and get rid of the rubber tires.  This is one of the very few locos in 3-rail O where it's possible to ditch the tires.

While you have it open- what is the gear ratio?  The MTH version already had one of the best gear ratios, 28:1 I believe.  It would be a shame if Lionel made it taller (i.e., faster.)  From your photos it looks like both versions use the tiny Mabuchi RS-365PH motor.  Gears multiply torque.  That little motor doesn't make much torque so it needs all the help it can get!  Thanks again for the detailed write-up.  It's vital for any prospective buyers to make an informed decision.

It's the exact same ratio as the MTH, the exact same tooth count, pitch, worm gear and worm wheel- just ever slightly different alloys and surface finish of the final teeth.

You can take the motor from an MTH bolt it into the Lionel and it meshes.

Upper is an MTH worm lower on the motor is the bare steel Lionel version.

motor_worm_gear

Left is Lionel, right is MTH.

Worm wheel

@B rad posted:

I got into this hobby after purchasing an MTH 2-8-0 starter set in 2017

Same here, except for me it was a PS2 set back in like 2009. No way would I have bothered with O-scale if it wasn’t for those MTH sets with all the features.

and now have much more track and more locomotives (PS3 Imperial Railking, LC, LC+, LC+2.0 and Legacy). Even if they made LC+ or LC+2.0 models in starter sets I would still find the MTH ones superior but more comparable than comparing them to LC. The problem with MTH was they did not have the variety of starter sets that Lionel does. If I had went with a LC starter set back in 2017 I would have long forgot about model trains and never would have gotten deeper into it as I have now.

Again same, and I agree the amount of features they packed, specifically synchronized rod movement, puffing smoke and sound, was a big reason I went with MTH early on and why I have about an overwhelming majority of MTH steam.

Further notes- as suspected, the single LED headlight is hot glued far into the headlight recessed hole such that no light bleed occurs to the class lamp light pipes on the sides of the boiler. Again, MTH used 2 LEDs on PS3 engines one lighting the headlight and another facing upwards to light these 2 colored green plastic light pipes for the class lamps.

Again, MTH version and mounting of LEDs

Where Lionel just used a whole bunch of glue and one LED inside the boiler shell

The result- nary one bit of light out of the green light pipes for class lamps.

Class lamps

2 videos- excuse my messy layout. One is at the lowest speed step in Lionchief, the other is wide open throttle max at 18V track voltage

Smoke chuff and sound is 1 per wheel revolution.

Attachments

Images (3)
  • mceclip0
  • Class lamps
  • mceclip1
Videos (2)
IMG_3971
IMG_3972

MTH PS3 engine weighs: 4 pounds 3 ounces, tender is 1 pound 2 ounces.

Lionel engine weighs:      4 pounds 1ounce, tender is 1 pound 1 ounce

Also, above videos were showing 4 MTH passenger cars being pulled, not on video, I had a total of 16 of those 64' MTH woodsided passenger cars running behind it for the video. Pulled it no problem on level grade with Atlas track.

So yes, it has the same basic pulling capability as the MTH version, same weight, same motor, same gearing.

Last edited by Vernon Barry

Further notes- as suspected, the single LED headlight is hot glued far into the headlight recessed hole such that no light bleed occurs to the class lamp light pipes on the sides of the boiler. Again, MTH used 2 LEDs on PS3 engines one lighting the headlight and another facing upwards to light these 2 colored green plastic light pipes for the class lamps.

Again, MTH version and mounting of LEDs

Where Lionel just used a whole bunch of glue and one LED inside the boiler shell

The result- nary one bit of light out of the green light pipes for class lamps.

Class lamps

2 videos- excuse my messy layout. One is at the lowest speed step in Lionchief, the other is wide open throttle max at 18V track voltage

Smoke chuff and sound is 1 per wheel revolution.

wow it looks like lionel improved their puffer type smoke unit

Honestly I always found the styling of this loco to be a bit crude.  But this latest version seems to run smoothly and consistently at slow speed.  It doesn't have excessive top speed, and it coasts nicely.  Apparently it has good pulling power, too.  Taken as a whole, that's more than can be said about 95% of locos ever made in 3-rail O!!  [Oh that's right, maybe it's the gear ratio... ]

The redesign to add a "bottom plate" at least in theory improves serviceability.  About the only drawback evident is that the worm is pressed onto the motor shaft.  So when either the motor OR the worm wears out, it means replacing the whole thing with an exact match.  Thankfully a LOT of locos were made to this design over the years, by both MTH and Lionel.  So cannibalism could prove a viable strategy.

Your videos are great Vernon, but I can't help wonder how it would do in a more demanding layout environment, i.e., O31 curves and switches. Maybe someone else who has that type of layout will also get one and post a video.  Thanks again for sharing!

Last edited by Ted S

Glad I found this thread. We bought my grandson the Lionchief NYC set with the NYC 2-8-0 engine referenced in the OP post and shown in the smoke unit video (yes, it does smoke that well). The screw the holds the front pilot assembly has fallen out. This is a shoulderless screw, so you cannot tighten it down or it will lock the pilot in place and also stop vertical pressure downward, as well.  I looked all over the track for a bushing, thinking that it fell out when the screw fell out. No bushing. Is there suppose to be one or do I just Locktite the screw in place loose enough for it to function?  Here is the original posters pic of that screw.
IMG_6003

Attachments

Images (1)
  • IMG_6003

This answers a lot of questions I have about the LC2.0's. I've seen these on eBay and wondered from the semi-scale appearance if the steam engines weren't related to MTH RailKing bodies. The asking prices on eBay are of course ridiculous ($600). Very glad that MTH is producing some RK PS3 steam engines that are supposed to be available in May. Asking prices are $470.

@Largescale posted:

Thank you, Vernon!  Perhaps another member might have one.

Make it better than the factory delivered it. Cut a simple bushing from a piece of tubing that will fit snugly over the screw, but fits in the hole of the pilot truck, …..then no loctite required……you shouldn’t have to do that, I get it, but if it runs great, and that’s the only issue, I’d just fix it and move on…..

Pat

Is there a way to get more smoke chuffs and sounds per each revolution Vernon ?  🤔

No, not easily IMO. It's cam driven, so you have to remove the front wheelset (possible because one change is the bottom place of the diecast frame now can be unscrewed, but then you still have to modify the cam to have more lobes- but still has to maintain the same stroke distance. The problem with that could be more drag and more wear and tear on the plastic cam follower.

So can it be done- sure, with the right skills and lots of work.

Further notes- as suspected, the single LED headlight is hot glued far into the headlight recessed hole such that no light bleed occurs to the class lamp light pipes on the sides of the boiler. Again, MTH used 2 LEDs on PS3 engines one lighting the headlight and another facing upwards to light these 2 colored green plastic light pipes for the class lamps.

Again, MTH version and mounting of LEDs

Where Lionel just used a whole bunch of glue and one LED inside the boiler shell

The result- nary one bit of light out of the green light pipes for class lamps.

Class lamps

2 videos- excuse my messy layout. One is at the lowest speed step in Lionchief, the other is wide open throttle max at 18V track voltage

Smoke chuff and sound is 1 per wheel revolution.

With how much that engine costs, I'm not surprised at the end product.

I'm glad its back for sure, I just wish it was given LC2.0 Treatment.

Who knows, maybe in a new run..

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