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Hey Scott, we've heard horror stories about the Chinese selling tools for scrap in the past, maybe just urban legends - do we know exactly what remains of all the tooling Mike paid for (and the Chinese are holding?)

Jim

I assure you Mike knows. Keep in mind he spent large portions of time each year monitoring his investment and production quality.

Scott Smith

@scott.smith posted:

The tinplate tooling is not for sale. Mike plans to produce it himself.

Hey Scott, we've heard horror stories about the Chinese selling tools for scrap in the past, maybe just urban legends - do we know exactly what remains of all the tooling Mike paid for (and the Chinese are holding?)

@scott.smith posted:

I assure you Mike knows. Keep in mind he spent large portions of time each year monitoring his investment and production quality.

Since I'm not privy to any inside info but really like reproduction tinplate, here are my thoughts...

One one level, the comments above make sense - MW seems to have a soft spot in his heart for tinplate, and doesn't seem ready to completely walk away.  I hope that everything is in good hands, just waiting for the right moment.

On another level, I'm not so sure...

1) Even if Mike carefully monitors the possession of the dies, they're thousands of miles away in a country where the concepts of intellectual property and ownership are "flexible".

2) IMO, using the dies to produce tinplate in China would be a lot of management work (almost as much as producing everything?), so why would he retire and then continue with producing for a sliver of the train market?

3)  Since it's such a small subset of the market with low production numbers, could he produce tinplate at a price that would generate enough sales?

4)  It seems that a big factor in curtailing production of tinplate was because the market was saturated - how many more paint schemes for a 400E will people buy?  Unless different items are produced, which would require a lot of work and expense, is there enough of a market?  I'm guessing not.

And then there's parts...

@Jon G posted:

MTH did get samples of new 400E frames just prior to closing (I inspected them).  I was told that when and if they produce tinplate, it will likely only be 384’s and 400E’s which were the best sellers.  You likely won’t see anymore Ives, Dorfan and AF locos from MTH because the demand vs. cost is just not there.

I would think a series of 384 engines could be a homerun. They run great, pull well, and go with almost anything.

@Jon G posted:

MTH did get samples of new 400E frames just prior to closing (I inspected them).  I was told that when and if they produce tinplate, it will likely only be 384’s and 400E’s which were the best sellers.  You likely won’t see anymore Ives, Dorfan and AF locos from MTH because the demand vs. cost is just not there.

Appreciate the info.

Unfortunately, reducing the range of product won't help the marketability of repro tinplate.

I wonder how much of the demand for those engines is driven by @Jim Waterman's need for donors to build his masterpieces?  (Maybe they should be offered in primed/undecorated?)

As far as I know that is correct,  pretty sure Mr. Wolfe got the rights to use the Lionel name on the tinplate reproductions he was already producing.  That was part of the lawsuit settlement.  When the litigated licensing time frame expired,  the price Lionel wanted to renew the agreement was listed as a major obstacle to future production and pretty much ensured the end of LCT.

I would be highly surprised if he let's control of that tooling go to anyone who isn't planning on using it soon.  On top of that the market was pretty saturated as discussed.  My interpretation of this is that there will not be any movement on the tinplate tooling for a few years, but what do I know? 

I really wish we could have seen some updates to the tinplate line to gain more interest.   A camelback or a  Pacific seemed like a natural fit, or a mallet made from the guts of a pair of 263e engines would have been huge. 

Time will tell.   I wish Mr. Wolfe well and I hope for success of the next phase of MTH in the post-Wolfe era.

I understand that the individual parts would not be run unless Mike had an order for the entire item. Example: Any individual part for a 400, could not be ordered unless the 400 loco & tender where ordered. At that point, Mike could order as many of the parts used in the production as spares as he wanted. This would be critical for keeping us & Jim supplied w/ motors and detail parts for any length of time . On top of that is the 25% increase of import duty from China brought on by the Trump negotiations.  The above is what I have been told by someone in the know.  We ( JLM  & I  ), have been busting our humps trying to get the MEW parts into production. With the passing of George Tebolt recently, Parts availability is getting strained even more.  My 2cents worth.   Harry 

A decade or so ago Lionel had made some interesting tinplate trains using the Lionel brand.  Now might be the time for Lionel to consider reissuing some of those tinplate trains, particularly if Mike decides not to go forward.  

Some might even posit that total retirement without the continuing push and pull of work demands has value at a certain age!

Last edited by Dennis GS-4 N & W No. 611

A decade or so ago Lionel had made some interesting tinplate trains using the Lionel brand.  Now might be the time for Lionel to consider reissuing some of those tinplate trains, particularly if Mike decides not to go forward.  

Some might even posit that total retirement without the continuing push and pull of work demands has value at a certain age!

Those trains are why you never saw MTH Tinplate with six driving wheels. The problem was and still is Lionel doesn't understand tinplate. They built two of the most scale looking standard gauge engines ever and they were a flop. The Hiawatha was beautiful.

20210622_19511820210801_205407

The Vanderbilt was scale looking as well but looked rather dull for a tinplate set. The  thing to remember about tinplate it's not about looking like the prototype. Tinplate is about color.
This is my second time with a Standard Gauge Vanderbilt. I sold my original because it ran like crap; like a postwar engine it had one speed-FAST. So why did I buy it all over again? I bought my Vanderbilt and Hiawatha under the conditions that both had to have Cruise Control added. As far as I know my two sets are the only two sets that have cruise control installed. Mike Reagan installed it after a long conversation with Jon Z on how to modify the locomotive to make the Cruise Commander work. The shells on these engines are heavy and thick plus the large motor makes this a recipe for overheating. Another criticism is the sound file itself; one chuff per revolution and sounds like a drum beating.
     Had MTH made these for starters, we wouldn't have a dark gray Vanderbilt; instead we would have the Blue Streak and the Red Comet. The colors would have knocked the socks off a tinplate collector. The cruise control would have been apart of the Proto 2 package. The locomotives would chuffed in sync with the smoke unit instead always on.

     I am sure that the Hiawatha would have also been offered in other colors as well. Once MTH had 6 wheel drivers for tinplate than whole new world of options would have been opened up.

Scott Smith

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A decade or so ago Lionel had made some interesting tinplate trains using the Lionel brand.  Now might be the time for Lionel to consider reissuing some of those tinplate trains, particularly if Mike decides not to go forward.  

Some might even posit that total retirement without the continuing push and pull of work demands has value at a certain age!

What trains are you referring to?  The Hiawatha and Commodore Vanderbilt (mentioned above) were early 2000s.

In recent years, Lionel made a couple of "tinplate inspired" trains, but AFAIK all of the actual tinplate was manufactured by MTH under a license and sold as "Lionel Corporation tinplate".

Last edited by Mallard4468

One more problem with these Lionel tinplate offerings. Who told Lionel that they need to add a "decorative piece" above the coupler on the tender. That piece means that the only thing you can run with it are the passenger cars that came with it or the much smaller 500 series freight cars that look silly with such a huge locomotive.

Scott Smith

Mike was making tinplate long before the Lionel Corporation Tinplate licensing.  The tooling is MTH's.

Rusty

The licensing allowed MTH to mark the trains as Lionel, which probably increased their desirability for some buyers.  Other than that, I don't think there were any differences in the designs.  For example, the pre-licensing 400E loco has "MTH" on the cab, while the LCT version has the circle L logo.

Personally, I just want to run a retro-style tinplate train - doesn't matter what the lettering says.

You can see my Hiawatha running at the 3:14 mark in the video. Please note the Hiawatha set only came with 4 cars, I have two extras running with mine.

This video from February has the Vanderbilt in it check the 9:03 mark.


The passenger cars on both of the these set are beautiful. I have also managed to acquire the unpainted prototype for the Vanderbilt cars. I am still trying to make up my mind what to do with them. Do I paint them for my N&W 400E or do I clear coat them and leave them as is.
Scott Smith

Last edited by scott.smith
@Landsteiner posted:

Lionel made two O gauge tinplate sets, one freight and one passenger about 12-13 or so years ago. Labeled Lionel so probably not made by MTH. So-called prewar celebration although I’m not sure that Lionel used that term.

Yes they were a flop as well. No smoke, no command, no cruise  and the worse part they used flat paint on the cars and locomotive.

Scott Smith

Please also keep in mind that at the end of the agreement between Lionel and MTH, MTH had to stop selling trains with the Lionel name. MTH still had product in their warehouse. A dealer stepped up agreed to purchase the remaining tinplate under the Lionel name. However a part of that agreement was that MTH would take a time out producing tinplate and allow that dealer the sell down the purchased inventory.

Scott Smith

Last edited by scott.smith
@Landsteiner posted:

Lionel made two O gauge tinplate sets, one freight and one passenger about 12-13 or so years ago. Labeled Lionel so probably not made by MTH. So-called prewar celebration although I’m not sure that Lionel used that term.

To provide a complete answer to your question, 13-15 years ago Lionel offered four traditionally powered Prewar Celebration O gauge sets as follows:

6-51009 "269E" freight outfit. Equipped with Trainsounds. Unfortunately, it was painted with flat paint.

6-51010 "246E" passenger outfit. Equipped with Trainsounds. This set was painted with glossy paint

6-51014 "291W" Red Comet passenger outfit. Equipped with air whistle. Glossy red paint. Nice outfit.

6-31771 "267W" Flying Yankee passenger outfit. Equipped with air whistle. Glossy gray gunmetal paint (that is actually gunmetal!) and chrome plating.

It can be said that the team at Lionel at the time went through a learning curve. From my recollection of discussions with Matt Ashba, there was (still is) a belief that MTH tinplate is too bright and too glossy relative to the originals. Regrettably, they went too far the other way with the 269E freight outfit. All four sets run nicely with their conventional motors. The Red Comet and Flying Yankee are very creditable reissues with good sounding air whistles.

In Standard gauge, the series also included a lovely set of reproduction "101 Electric Rapid Transit" Summer Trolleys (one powered, one unpowered) with a very artfully made reproduction of the motor found in the originals. JLM later made an accurate set of reproduction passengers to go with. Nice running, handsome, stately looking outfit.

Parenthetically, it might also be fairly stated that a distinct minority (which includes Mike Wolf, himself) prefer to have their modern tinplate powered conventionally as the originals (no smoke, no cruise, no electronics) with an authentic 'feel'.  Time will tell, but the modern traditional tinplate may prove to be the more repairable over the long haul.

Hope this helps.

Bob

Last edited by Bob Bubeck
@Bob Bubeck posted:

Parenthetically, it might also be fairly stated that a distinct minority (which includes Mike Wolf, himself) prefer to have their modern tinplate powered conventionally as the originals (no smoke, no cruise, no electronics) with an authentic 'feel'.  Time will tell, but the modern traditional tinplate may prove to be the more repairable over the long haul.

Nothing stopping one from turning off the smoke and sound and running anything from MTH conventionally.

As for being more “repairable” if all you’re interested in is conventional operation, it’s simple to rip out a fried controller board and install a reversing unit and a rectifier.

@scott.smith posted:

Those trains are why you never saw MTH Tinplate with six driving wheels. The problem was and still is Lionel doesn't understand tinplate. They built two of the most scale looking standard gauge engines ever and they were a flop. The Hiawatha was beautiful...The Vanderbilt was scale looking as well but looked rather dull for a tinplate set. The  thing to remember about tinplate it's not about looking like the prototype. Tinplate is about color.

This is my second time with a Standard Gauge Vanderbilt. I sold my original because it ran like crap; like a postwar engine it had one speed-FAST. So why did I buy it all over again? I bought my Vanderbilt and Hiawatha under the conditions that both had to have Cruise Control added. As far as I know my two sets are the only two sets that have cruise control installed. Mike Reagan installed it after a long conversation with Jon Z on how to modify the locomotive to make the Cruise Commander work...     I am sure that the Hiawatha would have also been offered in other colors as well. Once MTH had 6 wheel drivers for tinplate than whole new world of options would have been opened up.

Scott Smith

Thanks Scott!  That was a very informative and helpful explanation.  I saw each of these sets at Lionel in Chesterfield, MI, and they were both gorgeous.  But, they were both on a display shelf.  It's great that you understood the limitations, and what improvements might be possible, as they are stunning pieces.

"To provide a complete answer to your question, 13-15 years ago Lionel offered four traditionally powered Prewar Celebration O gauge sets as follows:"

Thanks for the correction Bob. I actually have all four sets, but don't keep records on when I purchased stuff, and I had forgotten about the Red Comet and Flying Yankee. Mea culpa.  I kind of like them as is, mostly for display.  I wouldn't have minded TMCC or Legacy, but I definitely wouldn't use smoke (bad for the lungs and heart )   

In any case, the point of my reply, however inaccurate and incomplete in the details was to refute the erroneous claim that Lionel couldn't make tinplate without MTH's help, if they saw that as a product in demand.

Last edited by Landsteiner
@Mallard4468 posted:

What trains are you referring to?  The Hiawatha and Commodore Vanderbilt (mentioned above) were early 2000s.

In recent years, Lionel made a couple of "tinplate inspired" trains, but AFAIK all of the actual tinplate was manufactured by MTH under a license and sold as "Lionel Corporation tinplate".

I was principally referring to the Hiawatha and Commodore Vanderbilt, but hadn't "mastered" the entire Lionel tinplate line.  I also didn't specifically recall the year of issue, hence, "a decade or so ago".  Having seen both of the above train sets on display at the Lionel Layout, I thought that they were gorgeous.  Since my interest was MTH tinplate and then Lionel Corporation Tinplate, I just hoped, at the time,  that MTH or Lionel Corporation Tinplate would also make similar items.  Finally, the principal thought was that perhaps Lionel could re-enter the market with tinplate items in the near term.  Scott has added a significant and thought provoking overlay to that possibility.

Last edited by Dennis GS-4 N & W No. 611

Another little nugget of information. These Lionel prewar celebration series tinplate sets were being planned during a period when MTH and Lionel were not on the best of terms, to say the least, during the drawn out lawsuit, and before the Lionel Corporation licensing agreement, so MTH probably had zero role in Lionel's manufacture of the sets specified by Bob Bubeck above.

As Bob pointed out, these repros were attempts at faithful reproduction of the prewar models in almost all respects, which some folks prefer, including AC open frame motors. The could have used TMCC, but chose not to in deference to those who prefer that even their primitive electronics and motors reflect the original model. MTH used to offer tinplate with open frame AC motors, but stopped when they found most of their fans preferred PS 2.0. Different strokes for different folks .

Last edited by Landsteiner
@rplst8 posted:

Nothing stopping one from turning off the smoke and sound and running anything from MTH conventionally.

As for being more “repairable” if all you’re interested in is conventional operation, it’s simple to rip out a fried controller board and install a reversing unit and a rectifier.

I have some conventional MTH/LCT tinplate and some PS-2.  The type of control depended on what was available when I found the item - still not really sure which one I prefer.  My original thinking was that it would be easier to find parts for a conventional loco, but I've come to doubt that.  Since the PS versions use can motors, which seem to be robust, reliable, and common, @rplst8 makes an excellent point about a way to recover if the expensive electronics go south.  Then there's that pesky problem of chewing up gears...

I am also in the minority camp that favors conventional operation. My prewar and postwar collection is the primary cause. Yes the features are nice, but just not for me. I want to run the trains and sometimes find the long startup sequences frustrating. I know you can turn these off. Also I’m not interested in the additional investment for all the command control equipment. I have some repro’s such as Williams standard 381E, 408E and MTH 400E. Last year it took me a while to find a City of Denver conventional only made by MTH and licensed under Lionel Corp Tinplate. That’s what is great about this hobby, something for everyone.

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