Little Tommy et al.,
Allow me to chime in on the Thomas issue. Yes, Lionel has the Docksider chassis. BUT. It's way too large to allow an S proportioned Thomas shell to fit. And yes, they could probably shrink the O shell, but I already did that the old school way, that is, by hand. A tank engine like Thomas is much smaller than a Docksider. To modify the chassis to fit into the Thomas shell would not be easy, especially since folks would want more than a simple DC motor. Legacy would NOT be possible without major shrinkage of their circuit boards. Here's what a Docksider chassis looks like after major surgery:
And I mean MAJOR. Notice the blunted ends and brass front bracket. Even the smoke unit had to be omitted, leaving only the chuff mechanism. Also notice the motor itself had to have the bracket and motor top ground to fit. Even the two-piece side rods had to be soldered together. I suppose the chuff could be done electronically, but again, Lionel isn't known for their small boards. Now, DCC... ;>
And with the properly proportioned shell:
Then, there's Annie and Clarabel to think about. Keeping everything in proportion makes the train much too small to fit on a standard DS chassis.
Yes, a Thomas could be made on a Docksider chassis, but it wouldn't be proportioned well enough for most S gaugers. For kids, perhaps. I made another one using a less modified chassis, but it's not nearly as well proportioned. Even so, I still had to chop the back of the chassis quite a bit and relocate the simple circuit board:
Using a simple push toy as the shell, here's how it compares to the proportioned shell (and you should see how chopped up the shell is):
Would it bring more folks into S? I highly doubt it since Thomas has been done in just about every scale already. I don't think Lionel is ready to invest more in S and converts would need track, transformers and more than just Thomas. He's part of the Island of Sodor, populated by more than him.
As far as attracting younger folks to our favorite scale, that's up to us as individuals using what we already have as a start. Offering more modern equipment is a good start. My 6 year old grandson LOVES running trains on my layout using the FlyerChief controllers. Will that transfer into an interest in S? Only time will tell. For now, he and I are having fun, and that's what it's all about, isn't it?
BTW, Thomas and I will be at this Sunday's train show in Novi, MI. Stop by and say hi to us!