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I found my old MPC era trains a while back and bought a new LC+ 2.0 ET44AC Diesel engine recently.  I was excited to get back into the hobby but found that with lack of space and life the idea has changed somewhat.  I've decided to stick with traditional as it's more of a once in a while thing than a full time hobby.  Currently using some of my old MPC rolling stock with my new engine.  This is where I'm stuck.  Are any of you using the MPC era rolling stock with the newer engines?  I like MPC with all the colors/variations and budget friendly as well.  However I noticed that my new engine is approx 3.5" in height as well as one of the steam engines I'm looking at.  The MPC rolling stock, not counting the scale items, are significantly lower.  Do you find they look silly or fit right in with the LC+ 2.0 engines?   They sit noticeably lower than the engine(s).  Maybe I'm just being picky as nothing bothered me when I was a kid.   They also sit lower than my Spirit of 76 MPC engine and that didn't bother me back in the day.



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"Scale" is definitely a relative term in O-gauge product lines that aren't specifically produced as exact-scale product lines. The other hitch you're running into with MPC-era rolling stock is that it's essentially postwar-era stock that was updated with better painting processes and new or re-introduced details. Postwar Lionel was a mix of scale proportions and "selectively compressed" designs to fit within the limitations of standard "O" and "O-27" track layouts. To be fair, Lionel's selective compression of proportions was generally done with a remarkable level of care and artistry so that it's hard to tell where a model was shortened/reduced unless you set it right next to a full-scale version. They manage to just "look right" as long as you don't disrupt the illusion with a scale model alongside, or a modern selectively-compressed model that's not quite as well-executed as some of the old stuff.

The other thing you're running into is that the typical postwar or MPC boxcar is a model of a mid-20th-century 40-foot boxcar. While they were quite big in their day, they're tiny by modern standards. In real life, modern equipment will dwarf them, especially in height. Clearances have been raised nearly everywhere on US Class 1 railroads, so the lower profiles of older equipment is often due to the then-prevailing height limitations of bridges and tunnels. Generally, the "ride height" of postwar/MPC cars is reasonable (if not a bit high, by true scale measurements) in proportion to the clearance needed for the already-oversized flanges required for tubular track. What you're noticing is that a 1940's-era boxcar does indeed look mis-proportioned in relation to equipment from the later 20th and now 21st century.

Thank you all!

Yes, I probably should have used a different term than "traditional scale" in the topic.

One of the steamers I was looking at is the Baby K and that is about 3.5" in  height as well as my current LC+ 2.0.  I thought some of the old mpc rolling stock would look good with that as it's an old time engine.   Unless sticking with scale items I can see the dilemma in trying to match up items for the consist.

@EricF  Thank you for the detailed explanation.  I'm probably not using the correct term.  I see the products of the last 10 or so years are physically larger than the items from a few decades ago.  Regardless of the time period the engine was on the rails. Or I could be incorrect in that assumption.  I basically wanted to use the old rolling stock with the newer generation engine hardware.

@Ron045 I agree.  I'm probably putting too much thought into this

Last edited by Zildjianmeister68

Historically, Lionel played fast and loose with scale. I seem to remember that someone measured a 6464 boxcar and found it about 1:53 scale; likewise the "Santa Fe" type Hudson (2065, 665, etc.). Both were released in 1953, go figure. And some rolling stock is significantly smaller. Meanwhile, the GP7s, FM Train Masters, and F3s were all close to 1:48, as were the "chemical" tank cars and quad hoppers. The 2-bay hoppers are modeled from a much smaller prototype and are not so far off, but they are much too narrow. And many steam locomotives were designed to no scale at all. It's a mess! All this tooling was reused by MPC, and some is still in use in the modern traditional line. Other manufacturers (notably MTH and K-Line) designed some of their product to more or less fit in with this mixed bag of Lionel offerings.

So, basically, there are no rules in "traditional" because manufacturers did not abide by any rules when creating the trains. The only real criterion is whether you like the way it looks.

One thing I do, if I feel the locomotive is a little too tall, compared with the consist, is to use a low-sided car (gondola or flat) at the head of the train. It provides some visual separation, so that the difference in size is not noticeable.

Another thing I do is page through old railroad photography books until I find something that looks ridiculous (an enormous locomotive pulling a tiny cars, or vice-versa). Then I say, "there's a prototype for everything!" and congratulate myself on how realistic my toy trains are.

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