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I like to start a small lay-out using traditional size trains. I have been looking at two Lionel starter set Locomotives: Lionel #2032200 Santa Fe 0-8-0 #729 or Lionel #1932140 Santa Fe #3452 2-4-2. I would like to head up a unit train of K-Line Map Reefers and Caboose, (9 cars, which I have) would either one or both of these locomotives pull this train considering they are starter set engines regularly pulling 5-6 cars? I have heard that LionChief engines are strong pullers. Thank You for your responses.


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Richie raises a good point about pulling an incline.  On a level layout using O36 and O48 FasTrack curves, I've used similar LC locos to easily pull more than 20 cars.

Of course if you have a sharper curves, steep grade, excessively heavy cars, or lots of friction between the wheels, axles, and trucks, your results may vary.

Last edited by SteveH

They might be ok.  But since you have a specific consist in mind and don't need a train set, I would keep saving your money for a LionChief Plus (LC+), maybe the 4-6-2 Pacific or 4-6-4 Hudson.  Even the LC+ 0-4-0 switcher "A5" style is a great runner.

Another option would be the Williams by Bachmann 4-6-0 Old Timer.  Any of these will pull more cars, and most importantly, run smoother than a basic LionChief.  I know they cost more.  But watch some videos on this Forum, or YouTube.  Pay especially close attention to when the locos transition from a stop to first starting in motion.  There's a difference!

Buy whatever makes you happy.  But if this really is your first loco, I would like to see you start with something amazing that you can really build on.  My $.02.

Last edited by Ted S

I gave several sets of grandchildren the "Pennsylvania Flyer" set.  All have used it to set up Christmas layouts, running a few times a week for a few minutes.  But one MIGHT be a future train hobbyist- he runs it often, for the whole time the set is up.  He also has added cars to the train, probably doubling the weight of the set trains meager 4 cars.

That particular engine got through two seasons, then at the beginning of the third- the locomotive started making noises (which to my son) sounded like gear noise.  He opened it up and found good lubrication.   So, I ordered a Pennsylvania Lion Chief Plus (6-82968) Pacific engine which cost about 1-1/2 times the set.  No problem, he has been running that now for two Christmas seasons.

I inherited the set engine.  The growling noise turned out to be a failing motor.  That (I think)- is a main difference in the set engines- a tiny motor.  Since, I replaced the motor, and added  diodes in the motor leads to make it run more controllably, and it still runs as a switcher on my layout.

Last edited by Mike Wyatt

An upgrade to LC + is a good idea - I may stand corrected, but I believe they come with a larger motor than just plain LC and, while an LC starter set engine may initially pull a long consist for awhile, the question becomes how long that will continue before the motor starts to deteriorate and eventually fail.

Check this thread and the imbedded videos for more info .....  Pulling Power of LionChief+ and LionChief | O Gauge Railroading On Line Forum (

redball, I think what you heard is that the LionChief PLUS locomotives are strong pullers. As Richie above tentatively suggested, the LC+ locomotives come with a larger, more robust motor.

The Lionel 2-4-2 you mentioned being interested in, comes with the same type motor that Lionel has used in starter set products (until recently*) for many years. On that particular loco (or the similar 4-4-2 starter set engine) Lionel recommends a 10 car train length limit, so you'd be pushing it with the 10 car K-Line Map Reefers which likely have die cast trucks and sheet metal frames, which are heavier than the typical Lionel starter set train car. More than likely, the engine will pull that train but you'll probably be shortening the life span of the motor, and most definitely the lifespan of the smoke unit.

By the way, I've been running these sorts of starter set products for many years. The 2-4-2 (4-4-2) steam engine will most likely pull the train you want. I certainly pulled some very long trains with some of mine. But you will shorten the motor life by doing this. But the DC motor for those is a pretty common one and not hard to come by.

*The Lionel 0-8-0 starter set locos (along with the Thomas series engines and the new Tier 4 starter set diesel) are using a much smaller sized worm geared motor than that of the spur geared motor in the 2-4-2. Now Thomas I get, but the other two locos should have larger motors in them. I've read far too many comments about folks having the motors fail in these engines, and then not being able to find a replacement motor: Lionel doesn't have them, and neither do parts dealers.

Same premise goes for the LionChief stuff in general, at least in my opinion. I know it's the way of the future, but in those LionChief engines, you have one single circuit board that does everything. If the board fails, it HAS TO go back to Lionel proper for service, provided it is still under warranty. Or if there's a problem with the remote. That's one advantage of the LC+ is that you can operate them conventionally without a remote. BUT the same scenario exists if you have problems and need service: It has to go back to Lionel provided it is still under warranty as Lionel doesn't service items out of warranty. There are "some" dealers who can service these items, but they are far and few between.

This is just the way it is. From what I understand, the factories in China want to keep the assembly line workers employed, so they are not making individual parts available. Instead the train companies have to order extras on the production run, and then disassemble them stateside for parts.

Your better route would be to look for a dual motored diesel, most of which will easily pull the train cars you want to run. And that could be a LionChief type (NOT the RS3, but the GP20, GP38, GP9 or the FT) or a pre-remote type, in which case you could consider some of the dual motored K-Line starter set engines.

My suggestion to you Redball (if you are not adamant on having the remote), is to look for an older new stock (or lightly used) Lionel (or K-Line) set that runs off a basic transformer without the remote. More people are able to service these, and parts are not generally such an issue as with the new stuff. Also you will likely get 027 track instead of FasTrack. It's all preference, but you mentioned building a small layout. 027 track will give you far more layout options than will FasTrack for a small space, and at less cost. Note that 027 track is not currently in production by anyone, but there's certainly lots of it out there on the secondary market. And patience in looking will reward you with a good price on that.

You could also take the route Ted S. suggested and look for a Willliams by Bachmann loco. (The WBB sets come with a good transformer, but score low marks for the track, which is the Industrial Track, which has no turnouts and isn't being made anymore.) Most of the WBB diesels come with larger vertically mounted motors. Their Baldwin starter set loco has received very good reviews, save for the smoke unit which is the weakest thing about the WBB steam engines in general. BUT be forewarned parts availability from Bachmann is pretty poor.

This is one advantage of buying a product that was produced in very large numbers, such as the Lionel 4-4-2 starter set steam engine. Should you need parts and not be able to find them from a parts vendor, you can always buy a used loco to cob for parts... and many times cheaper than it would cost to buy some of the parts.

Anyways, not trying to give you too much info here, but like the others above, would rather you make an informed decision for yourself and not waste money. Many here on the forum love the new remote trains with all of their features. But the unavailability of parts and limited service options has completely steered me away from these sorts of products. I run trains for FUN, not frustration.

Last edited by brianel_k-lineguy

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