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I’m thinking about buying LionChief plus and I like to get some feedback about LionChief plus engines. How good are they? Do they break down a lot? How’s Lionel support for product repair? Do steam engines run better than diesels? Are the new 2.0 LionChief plus coming out better quality than just LionChief plus? I’m not sure if I want to operate legacy or just stay with LionChief plus operations. Any feedback would help with my decision.

Original Post

Hi there! I currently have 7 locomotives in my fleet; 4 LionChief and 3 LionChief Plus. Personally, I think they're fantastic engines for the value. I have a smaller, DC-powered layout with no plans to build another layout with AC power at this time, so I have no personal experience with Legacy.

Of my three LionChief Plus engines, I have one steam engine (Santa Fe Hudson #3450) and two diesel engines (Santa Fe GP-38 #3441 and Nickel Plate Road NW2 #13). My steam engine is the oldest of the three with no Bluetooth while my two diesels are newer with Bluetooth compatibility. I've had to send the Hudson and GP-38 back to Lionel for warranty repairs - the Hudson's speaker went out in the tender, and the smoke unit quit working on the GP-38. Lionel took great care of my engines, and so far, they've been running great. I've yet to have any problems with my NW2 Nickel Plate Diesel - that one might be my smoothest running engine overall. However, in top shape, all three engines run incredibly well, so I can't really say the steam engine runs better than the diesels.

That all said, I have two LC+ 2.0 engines on preorder that I am extremely antsy to recieve; the Nickel Plate Road #765 Berkshire and the Santa Fe #95 0-6-0T Docksider steam engines. Personally, I'm taking a leap of faith with these engines by preordering them having never heard their true sounds (other than early demo prototypes in early 2019) and seeing their features on full display (I've actually written to Lionel kindly asking that they put demo/preview videos of the finished products/prototypes on their FB page as there are many, many folks anxiously awaiting these new engines). What intrigues me about the LC+ 2.0 steam engines is that they supposedly will sound more realistic having 4 chuffs per revolution rather than two/rev on the older LC+ engines or one/rev on the LionChief starter set engines. According to one of the "Ryan and Dave Show" clips on Lionel's FB page, the sounds on both the LC+ 2.0 steam and diesel engines will supposedly rival those of Legacy, all while being packed into a semi-scale engine.

I've seen clips of the new LC+ 2.0 Big Boys and the LC+ 2.0 SD80/90 MACS diesels - WOW! I personally thought each of those engines sounded incredible, and if that's the kind of quality that will be placed into the LC+ 2.0 Berks, FT diesels, Tier 4 diesels, and others, they will be worth the wait. I know there are a lot of folks here in the forum who have had LC+ 2.0 preorders placed since January 2019....

Hope this information helps! Overall, I think you get excellent semi-scale/traditional-sized engines for the price with LionChief Plus.

Pretty much the same experience as Patrick above.  Limited run time but no problems with seven locos.  Each loco came with a remote, so these are command engines capable of conventional operation.  No additional purchases needed to operate in command mode.  Most before Bluetooth was made available.  Sounds are good but not of Legacy standard.  Not a problem for me.  Good value for money and decent quality as far as I can tell.  When bought at sale prices, the best value in three rail locos, IMO.

Last edited by Landsteiner

Is this common practice with any engine you buy today with sending it out for repairs after you buy it?

I would say it's not "common" but like any other high tech consumer product, it can happen.

If you have a local hobby store nearby that you can purchase from, I would highly recommend that you make them take it out of the box and run it for a few minutes on their test track to make sure there are no bugs. If you do not have an LHS and have to buy on-line, I would only buy from a reputable dealer (like one of those here on the Forum) and ask them to take it out of the box and test it on their track and make sure all functions are working properly before shipping it out to you - most will do that for you.

What are some of the good hobby stores on line that will do that?

The best answer is ... the LHS closest to where you live. Any LHS worth their salt would be happy to unbox and run on their layout/test track (if they have one) when you picked up your loco.

Absent that, I can only say that every LHS I've purchased from (Forum sponsors TrainWorld, Mario's, Pat's; non-sponsors Grzybowski's, Tom's Trains (Ardsley NY, my local go-to) have never blinked when I've asked 'em to test something for me).

As for Lionchief+ - I love 'em, run 'em hard, and had only 1 (Hudson) give me a problem (binding) that was not of my own making. This, out of 7 LC+ engines purchase (in addition to 3 "regular" LC locos).

- The Other Guy

I have one LC+ locomotive, the Hogwarts Express.  It has bluetooth capability, which I really like, since I already run many of my trains with the MTH wifi app.  I had to send it for repairs this past winter/early spring for a drawbar issue.  I didn't send it directly to Lionel, but to a Lionel repair person that was in my state.  Took a little while because of Covid, but he was able to get in the necessary parts and I should be getting it back soon.  Overall, I really think it's a good value engine.

I have 5 LC+ engines, and really like them. To date, no problems at all. LC+ is great if you don't want to get too complicated with your operations, or for times when you just want a casual, quick and easy operating session. The great cruise control is one of its best features. As Landsteiner mentioned above, the sounds are fine, although not near the level of sophistication of Legacy sounds. Using the phone app adds to the interest, though. Among other things, with the app you can vary the sounds of the bell and horn/whistle, which is a nice feature. Looking forward to the upgraded features on the new LC+ version 2 engines.

@Brendan posted:

Agree with previous comments.  The only drawback I find is lack of low speed control on some models.


There's a big difference between LionChief engines and LionChief Plus (LionChief +) engines. One of the primary differences is that LionChief engines do not have speed control, whereas all LionChief Plus (LionChief +) engines are equipped with an excellent speed control system that provides very "slow crawl" speeds, if desired.

And more robust motors, as well as better sound (still not up to TMCC or Legacy sound, but...) at half the money.  The LC+ engines I have run great- had ONE problem with an early LC+- PRR RS3- , a piece of ballast got into the plastic gears and a tooth broke.  The newer LC+ locos seem to all have metal gears though.

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