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I "believe" this topic deserves its own thread since the 20th Anniversary of the milestone movie that reinvigorated electric toy trains is upon us. Historical note: The Polar Express premiered at the 40th Chicago International Film Festival on October 21, 2004. It opened on November 7 and went into wide distribution on November 10.

Below are the 3 Berkshires...and on page 139 of the catalog the special PE set. The set consists of the red PE Berk and 3 cars...with the combine being a specially painted car creating a streamlined effect with the engine.

I for one don't know what to do, though I have to admit the "plasma blue" is calling to me. What about you?

PolarExpress20thAnniversaryBerks

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Last edited by Paul Kallus
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@Paul Kallus posted:

I "believe" this topic deserves its own thread since the 20th Anniversary of the milestone movie that reinvigorated electric toy trains is upon us. Historical note: The Polar Express premiered at the 40th Chicago International Film Festival on October 21, 2004. It opened on November 7 and went into wide distribution on November 10.

I for one don't know what to do, though I have to admit the "plasma blue" is calling to me. What about you?

PolarExpress20thAnniversaryBerks

Ah yes, with 2024 being 20 years since the Polar Express movie came out (later in the year), Lionel will have to make a big deal out of selling more of the PE trains. Lionel's first sets didn't appear until the next year after the movie debut. Too bad they didn't time production better so the sets were available to coincide with the debut of the movie. Lionel's PE train may have "reinvigorated electric toy train . . .", but only to some degree. I'm sure there have been more PE Christmas trains around the tree sold since then, along with avid collector-operators who must have the scale versions. Most buyers of the stock PE sets run them around the tree for the holidays, then put them away after Christmas until the next holiday season.

Now, 20 years later, the catalog is offering many variants of the original PE train. I about laughed my head off when Lionel came out with the scale version of the PE with its exorbitant pricing for the locomotive and cars. Yet, men who will be boys, just clamored for this set, thinking it's really something. Way too much ado over a fantasy train that never really existed, IMHO. Now they're planning to offer the PE Berkshire in different shades other than the original black and some seemingly just can't wait to get their hands on one. To me, this is as laughable as when Lionel came out with a diesel Polar Express. It's really nothing more than a kid's fantasy train for crying out loud. 😂

I will stick with my original Polar Express set which I run during the holidays. I've updated the BLACK Berkshire and tender to the Lion Chief version and it's a perfect change on my winter-themed layout for the holidays. Good enough for me, thank you.

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@PSM posted:

Isn't that scale length for a heavyweight?  Lionel's scale, non-observation heavyweights are all 18", are they not?  The scale streamlined cars are 21".  The traditional sized cars on the next page are 12".

Quite a lot of "heavyweights" were 80 to 85 feet so 21" is quite appropriate.

I never saw the movie so I do not know what length the "prototype" cars were. If they were 72' cars then Lionel got it right. Anyway the price turned me off this time.

EDIT: The discussion above about possible color variations does not bother me as I would be repainting the car as part of the two-railing project.

There was a person (on another forum, I believe) that would convert a standard Walthers obs to a Polar Express version complete with rounded bulkhead, roof with lighting, and platform. By the time that I A: had the money and B; found out about it, he had stopped doing it.

Last edited by PRRMP54
@PSM posted:

Isn't that scale length for a heavyweight?  Lionel's scale, non-observation heavyweights are all 18", are they not?  The scale streamlined cars are 21".  The traditional sized cars on the next page are 12".

Heavyweight passenger cars were most consistently 20" long (80').  18" cars (72') are more in line with commuter cars and head end equipment in the steel car era.  As I always say, it pays to research your prototype however Pullman Standard Cars in the heavyweight era were fairly consistently 80' in length going back to the late 19th century Pullman Palace cars.  This would include all sleepers, diners, a majority of observation cars, and nearly all coaches with 6-wheel trucks.

To the topic, I love the scale Berkshire that Lionel is doing now, just not interested in a fantasy scheme on it.

Last edited by GG1 4877

It's worth to note just how desirable the past black PE Berkshires are...the sold prices on the secondary are astronomical! It's a good bet the black version of this latest crop will sell the best.

I am wondering: as the plasma-blue version only available through the Lionel store, and if that requires immediate payment in full as a pre-order, would that affect the production numbers? For me, I cannot layout $1,699.99 + shipping + tax, now, for an item that may not come to market until next Christmas. If my hunch is correct on the immediate payment for pre-order, I won't be able to afford to add that to my already bulging credit card(s) bills. Most of my past pre-orders have given ample time to save and budget.

Now that red PE Berkshire is a different story...well, maybe it'll look better in person...just doesn't look right to me. Anyone think it is neat...I don't want to rain on your parade?

Also of note: the NKP Berk looks awesome - given it is a fantasy engine.

Last edited by Paul Kallus

I don't mind the variety of fantasy schemes for the Polar Express but please don't include Santa dressed in plasma blue. If it wasn't for the original Lionel Polar Express set, I wouldn't be in this hobby; it's how we started. I'm pretty sure I'm not alone in this. No planned purchase of the newer items as I'm happy with what I have which has been a huge hit in our household with the whole family - children, grandchildren, nieces and nephews - for the past two decades. Great movie, too!

Oh boy...  This is going to be a tough year for train purchases..  I am huge Hiawatha and PE fan... Love the BNSF and CP ES44 lineup, Hot Box Reefers, AEC set, H50' tank cars in the 2024 catalog...  Some years there is nothing, but 2023 and 2024 have been pretty solid for offerings..

My son was born 20 years ago and it was the PE that brought me back to the hobby from the days when my dad introduced trains to me in the early 70s....

I do really like the Blue Plasma and will probably order, but paying upfront hurts the budget out of the gates. However, the red (maroon)  engine in the 20th anniversary set is calling me for some reason.. I was fortunate enough to purchase the 10th anniversary Black and Gold (sold and reacquired thankfully) scale engines back in 2014, so not sure I need another black engine... ..  Not to mention all the blue and gold HW passenger cars i have accumulated over the years...  Also interested in the "white roof" passenger cars as I currently only have the black roof traditional pass. cars. Just not sure if they fit in my long 2024 "want list".  While these PE engines are expensive, relatively, the $1699.99 price is reasonable when compared to the $1499.99 price tag in 2014 for the Black and Gold units...   For me, there is just to much nostalgia, connection with my son and the memories of my father for me to pass on...

Michael

While I’d like a scale polar express, I’m unsure of picking on up.
Only opinions,

I feel Lionel left some opportunity on the table with not having a station sounds hot chocolate car. On the other side of the coin, the price of the coaches is fair and the opportunity to purchase what you wish separately is nice.

The other thing is the set. If Lionel did that plasma coat engine with gold coaches for the anniversary , I believe that would have been a nice offering.

@Yellowstone Special no need to be a buzzkill, just because it isn't for you...

I'm ordering 5 passenger cars. Considering the number of cars in the train changes throughout the movie, I think the exact length is a moot point and I'm fine with 18".

As for the locomotive, the plasma blue sounds really cool but I'd have to go with black. That being said I'm just not sure I can stomach $1400 retail for an engine I can only run with one train. So for now I'll probably just use an engine I already have and maybe look for a second hand TMCC berk to reletter. Excited for the cars though!

I am debating on what I’d like to do as well. I think the red with the set looks nice, could be a good seller for them. The plasma blue does seem neat and would be nice for the scenes when crossing the northern lights. I’m a “purist” however and would normally  get the black version; I wouldn’t want to go against the prototype of a magic train from Baldwin

I’m disappointed that they’re not producing a stationsounds diner or observation car (Songs: Hot Chocolate, Christmas comes to town; or fun one liners). I want to buy the train this time around, but I’m debating on waiting to see if they offer sound cars for a bigger anniversary like 2029, the movie’s 25th.

Black first, the blue looks sharp in the photo. Red? Nah.....
I have an original PE set that I bought for my son about 15 years ago. I added a baggage and the marionette car to the original set. For a train that gets run about 6 weeks a year and goes back in the box, it's all I need.

I can find a lot more trains to spend $1500.00 on. The LC+ 2.0's are growing in numbers in my collection.

Bob

Last edited by RSJB18

As to what I might pick up, I'm considering a black PE berk, but it's unlikely I'll pick up any.  I've been picking up scale PE cars over the years when I find them at good prices, so it'd be nice to have a PE locomotive, but (and I know this might be blasphemy) I absolutely hated the movie.  I grew up loving the book, but I can't stand the movie.  Maybe one day I'll put together something that looks as close as possible to the locomotive in the book.

I’m in for the 20th set….

Cool set! This may be the all-time best seller and most in-demand could be set if the gold PE 10th Anniversary set is any indicator. I was unable to crop the photo. The set consists of the red PE Berk and 3 cars...with the combine being a specially painted car creating a streamlined effect with the engine.

Last edited by Paul Kallus

I agree with @jamestrains2003, this is going to be a rough year as I also like a lot from the catalog.

Personally, I will be in for a scale black PE Berkshire. I will get the new observation car and fill in the gaps with cars I am currently missing.

It would have been cool to see a Stationsounds Hot Chocolate car, but alas.

Slighly off topic, I will also be in for a scale 765.  With a few exceptions, my locomotive roster usually consists of engines that are still in existence today. I sold my MTH 765 a little while back in hopes that Lionel would have theirs in this catalog. I will be happy with those Berkshires this catalog.

@Paul Kallus posted:

Cool set! This may be the all-time best seller and most in-demand could be set if the gold PE 10th Anniversary set is any indicator. I was unable to crop the photo. The set consists of the red PE Berk and 3 cars...with the combine being a specially painted car creating a streamlined effect with the engine.

I know someone with the gold set… it’s nice.

the issue I am facing is that there is nothing special about the 20th set. I think Lionel did a huge disservice by offering the RED berk separate. Based on some pre order prices I saw, you can get the loco plus three cars for less than the set. Not sure the combine car is worth the premium.

I know someone with the gold set… it’s nice.

the issue I am facing is that there is nothing special about the 20th set. I think Lionel did a huge disservice by offering the RED berk separate. Based on some pre order prices I saw, you can get the loco plus three cars for less than the set. Not sure the combine car is worth the premium.

I agree with you. My first impression of the 20th anniversary PE Berkshires was, "Oh, is that it?"

Us Lionel fans have to face an undeniable trend in their product line and evident mission statement in last 4-5 years that many of us are familiar with in our own jobs, "Do more with less." I was sorry to learn a few years ago that Lionel let go of a notable sound engineer...I cannot recall his name...he was instrumental and innovating in sound systems and variety of sound effects. In Lionel's case, they're cashing in re-issuing items in all sorts of colors and licensed themes that span the history of the Baby Boomers and subsequent generations coming of age. Evidently, it is a very profitable business decision. Nevertheless, I think the lackluster Polar Express line will sell very well; it's a powerful movement among collectors and operators alike.

Last edited by Paul Kallus

Just a note from the "rivet counter" in me:

As much as I love my 10th anniversary Polar Express Berkshire, and I also have two earlier Erie Berks that I double-head, I was hoping Lionel would've upgraded the molds given the 20th anniversary of the movie. The scale Berks have the U-shaped undersided boiler with suspension cast into the mold. It's outdated and fugly.

As much as some of us find fault with this product or that item, I strongly suspect that the collectors of Lionel items will make up the majority of sales...with BTO items leading that list. The majority of O-gaugers don't participate on this forum and therefore we're a relatively small lot...at least that's what I suspect.

@Will Ebbert posted:

@Yellowstone Special no need to be a buzzkill, just because it isn't for you...



"a buzzkill?" But I like my original 2005 Polar Express set (now with an updated Lionel Chief engine and tender) enough that it's been running on my layout each Christmas for the past 18 years. I've also added 3 additional cars over that time and its dependable operation, including lights, sounds, and smoke, contributes to it being an enduring hit with family and visitors. So, for the money I paid for it at the time, it's been a worthwhile investment.

All I was getting at, is those who spend way too much on the scale version for a seasonal, fantasy train. Might as well spend that same amount on something a little more substantial and worthwhile. "C'mon!"

Last edited by Yellowstone Special

For the "doubters" among us train fans, I will go out on a limb and bet a mug of hot chocolate that Lionel licensing (from Warner Bros) the rights to make Polar Express items was the smartest business decision ever made by an electric toy train company.

Ahh yes, I remember well the demand for the PE starter sets as the film was distributed...it was hot and heavy as sets came trickling in later on in time for Christmas that year...with some unscrupulous Ebenezer Scrooge types jacking up the cost...$400, $500, good grief. Evidently, Lionel had underestimated demand. Nevertheless, some lucky children had very special present in time for Christmas . The following year and after production increased substantially.

2004 was a sad year for me, having tragically lost my father and best friend within a week of each other. It was Thanksgiving night when my wife suggested we go see this new movie in I-Max 3-D...I was scrooge-like at first...but relented. We stood in a long line at the theater, a freezing cold night, and after admission all patrons were given special glasses and a PE movie poster. Wow, what an awesome experience I-Max 3-D is! Words cannot describe the wonderful effects. I had, once again, "believed," and the experience motivated me to resume work on my layout...which had been dormant since the passing of my father and friend. My wife had the poster framed in beautiful blue metal. Here we are 20 years later...can I still hear the bell? It's faint, though I do hear it

HPIM0900aDSC00520

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Last edited by Paul Kallus

All I was getting at, is those who spend way too much on the scale version for a seasonal, fantasy train. Might as well spend that same amount on something a little more substantial and worthwhile. "C'mon!"

Worthwhile to whom?  You?   That's not the way it works.

It's a bit sad you have to dump on people who don't view the hobby exactly the way you do.

I initially had 2 reasons I am ordering the Blue and the Red.  Now I have 3.

  1. I really , really like them
  2. I can afford them
  3. To make you upset.

ps. you'd probably love my Daylight Cab Forward

@Andrew B. posted:

So, spend it on not a toy (no matter how much "scale fidelity" exists, these are still toys running on 3-rail track)

Yes, these ARE still toys running on 3-rail track. But why spend $2,400 on a seasonal, fantasy scale Polar Express set when you could get a pretty good Legacy passenger train modeled after a real railroad for the same amount, or even less? 🤔

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