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Seems like more and more products are being affected by the zinc rot.  Now some high priced engines like the vision lines ones.  Is this the future of this problem?  Seems like every manufacturer has been affected.  Is this an issue with product produced years ago, modern era, in the USA.

What about other scales, N, HO and others.  How have they been affected.

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Generally speaking, USA-manufactured products in our hobby have not had this problem since the late 1930's. Exceptions? I'm sure. Lots of things have been produced, but generally domestic manufacturers dealt with this way back when.

Found this yesterday on my (trans-Pacific-made) Atlas F-M Erie-Built - knuckle broken off, and the loco is barely used, and only by me; bought new. I did not slam it into anything.

DSCN5441

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@D500 posted:

Found this yesterday on my (trans-Pacific-made) Atlas F-M Erie-Built - knuckle broken off, and the loco is barely used, and only by me; bought new. I did not slam it into anything.

I just moved some Atlas F Units that were in my display case   Have never been used and all 4 of the fixed couplers disintegrated  Think these were from 2005

I haven't bought new product in a long time and this is one of the reasons why I'm hesitant to do so.  I just seems like I won't be long to enjoy my purchase before it starts to fall apart.

Considering that 99 percent of product offerings have no problems, this sounds like one of those excuses. With that same thinking, no one would have bought any Lionel products after zinc pest crept into their 1930s products, including the 700e scale Hudson.

Brian has a valid point.   Folks that can't really afford to have a $900+ engine or set disintegrate on them without spare parts being available are going to be gun shy.  It is only natural.   

The issue is real and random throughout the manufacturers - except those in the brass business. 

The manufacturers must come up with a viable solution - as its the right thing to do.

@Allegheny posted:

Brian has a valid point.   Folks that can't really afford to have a $900+ engine or set disintegrate on them without spare parts being available are going to be gun shy.  It is only natural.   

The issue is real and random throughout the manufacturers - except those in the brass business.

The manufacturers must come up with a viable solution - as its the right thing to do.

Exactly.

Remember the thread about Lionel Trains not being anymore expensive today than they were in the fifties given inflation, etc?  The most valid point in that entire thread was, "In 50 years from now will the next generation be collecting today's Lionel trains or the same exact ones we collect now from the fifties (and earlier)"

I can get parts for those old trains, yet built in obsolescence for today's trains is considered acceptable business.  Should we no longer expect things to last even at premium prices?

John

$900 locos????  A few recent locos I'd not mind owning are more along the $2K level. I can not buy that to see it crumble.

Rot is rare?? Maybe but between die cast model cars and model trains I have seen more than I want. All the trucks on my K-Line HW passenger set turned to dust. Lucky K-Line was still around. If I'd provide the labor K-Line will send me the parts. All good. But what about someone else that has the same issue today.

It can be fixed.....My few 40's era Lionel's are fine and never had the rot issue in any HO that have die cast parts.

@D500 posted:

Generally speaking, USA-manufactured products in our hobby have not had this problem since the late 1930's. Exceptions? I'm sure. Lots of things have been produced, but generally domestic manufacturers dealt with this way back when.

Found this yesterday on my (trans-Pacific-made) Atlas F-M Erie-Built - knuckle broken off, and the loco is barely used, and only by me; bought new. I did not slam it into anything.

DSCN5441

Good info and photo D.

@Jim R. posted:

Plenty of information online for zinc pest or zinc rot. Just do a Google search.

Great info Jim.  The Google info  covers a lot on this subject.

It seems like the zinc problem extends far beyond model trains.🤔

From the sounds of these sites , the best thing to do is keep the layout out of garages , basements and attics in temp and humidity controlled areas for the best scenerio to at least slow progression of the problem.

I do have the trains in a finished lower floor ( partially underground ) with seperate rooms for the furnace, hot water heaters and laundry appliances.  Temp and humidity remain pretty constant throughout the year .

So far over 5 years.......no signs of the problem......but still looking once in awhile. 🤤

So many times when reading posts on the forum, I am reminded of something Alan Miller used to say a good deal: We've met the enemy and the enemy is us.

For example, people wanted cheap prices, bought trains mail order and then wondered why local hobby shops were closing? There are certainly many other examples too. People wanted new models that have never been made before (which requires new R&D and expensive tooling) and then people complain about high prices. Which by the way, for the scale stuff, need to be a lot higher. The starter set traditional line non-scale products keep Lionel in business. And the prices of scale and traditional rolling stock are NOT that far apart. The US made LionScale cars are priced less than a foreign made traditional car. SO to me, that means Lionel is actually holding down prices of scale stuff. Lionel recently had to completely retool the scale milk cars. Who paid for that?? For sure, not the limited number of customers buying the scale milk cars.

Craftech wrote: I can get parts for those old trains, yet built in obsolescence for today's trains is considered acceptable business.  Should we no longer expect things to last even at premium prices?

Circuit boards fail. I've had CD and DVD players stop working, so I take them apart to cob for parts... anything like screws, washers, etc. Inevitably, every time so far, the DC motors still work. It is the circuit boards that fail. But because these items are sold in the millions, you can buy another one cheaper than trying to have the old one repaired... if you could even find someone these days that does that. And how about smartphones and computers: You have to replace those every few years. Anyone still using Windows Vista or Microsoft Word 2000?

The premium prices of trains have a lot to do with the SMALL production runs. On top of that, some people want more realism, unique features and operating functions. So today's standardization of parts for trains is nothing like it was during the postwar or MPC eras. Factor into that, components that go into the trains become unavailable. Like DC motors. So then the train company has to partially retool a design to accept a new style motor. Mike Wolf talked about that once, how a motor became unavailable so they had to completely redesign and retool the power truck. NO company eats those costs and stays in business: They cut corners somewhere or raise prices.

From listening to videos and podcasts from other manufacturers in other scales, the minimum production number from China that gets spoken of the most is 300. I suppose that could vary between Chinese factory vendors, but that three hundred number comes up a lot. Within that 300, it appears that the train makers can do various paint schemes so long as there are a minimum of 25.

But the HO companies don't worry about that as much. As I've heard them say, they can introduce a new locomotive and sell several thousand in the first run. Lionel is not selling several thousand of any high end loco, save for the once in a blue moon, out of the ballpark home run.

Allegheny wrote: Folks that can't really afford to have a $900+ engine or set disintegrate on them without spare parts being available are going to be gun shy.  It is only natural.   

The manufacturers must come up with a viable solution - as its the right thing to do.

And what is that solution? Stop introducing new models? Go to a postwar/MPC era method of putting a new shell on an existing motor frame for a new loco model? Do away with added parts and make all details molded in, so you do away with having to stock all these additional parts? Make generic sounds and functions for ALL locomotives, so you have one type of circuit board that gets used in every single locomotive?

On a production run of 300 locomotives, how much of an overrun should they do for parts? 5%? 10%? So they do 10% and have 30 extra locomotives to strip for parts. How long will those parts be in stock for? Especially when Lionel does a yearly parts sale?

And this is not exclusive to low production high end products. I've read too many threads on LionChief and LionChief+ boards and motors failing with no parts available. Factor into that scenario that many of these electronic parts are not made available to parts dealers and that products have to be sent back to Lionel proper for service. And that products out of warranty won't be serviced. That goodness for the handful of guys here such as Gunrunnerjohn, who are knowledgeable and willing to offer repair advice here.

I'm not criticizing anyone specifically here. But we (not everyone, but those with the loudest voices) got what we wanted. We wanted new tooling, so all the train makers went to China to be able to afford that. We wanted unique new scale models and we got them. Though the bigger the minimum required curve for a particular product, the smaller the number of potential buyers.

Lionel is no different these days than many other electronics makers: Try getting parts for an old computer, or an old vacuum cleaner or an old anything. Parts ARE NOT available. You have to replace it with a new one.

Or if you're lucky and the item sold in large quantities, you buy another used one to cob for parts (save for circuit boards)... if you know what you are doing to repair it. Same goes for trains. There are lots of train items with parts no longer available (smoke units for starter set 4-4-2's for example). But Lionel made multiple tens of thousands of starter set 4-4-2 steam engines. So I buy an extra used one to cob for parts. Same goes for many other mass produced starter line products. That scenario changes dramatically when they only made few hundred of the product you need parts for.

Or how about Williams by Bachmann:  They're not noted for making high end products, yet go to their website and look for parts. Good luck: They're not available. Anyone buying the WBB scale 44 ton switcher had better buy two of them: One to run and one for parts, because that model has already been discontinued.

Addendum: On the topic of zinc pest, I had 3 or 4 K-Line Classic type sprung die cast trucks that were purchased as parts, that crumbled apart on me. No other zinc pest issues. But I buy mostly large production run starter types of products - whether that has anything to do with the issue. Many of my 4-4-2 steamers were Chinese made by Sanda Kan (even when the box said "Made in America" the shells were still made in China). Yet it appears Sanda Kan had the Z.P. issue with Williams products, which they were also making.

Just an observation, but it does appear like this problem seems to crop up more frequently with lower production run products.

Last edited by brianel_k-lineguy

Hi Brian,

I am 75.  I grew up with reasonably well made products (not just trains).  Stuff lasted because it was built that way.  My father was a mailman and worked two jobs and we lived in a New York City apartment until I was 13 and it was not a well to do area at all.  That is how I was able to get federal grants to go to college.

There was better stuff than what we could afford, but the quality of the materials used and the construction of the modest stuff we bought was there and it was understood that THAT was the norm.   It is not just my generation that are fed up with today's junk.  Young people, middle aged people, and us old people have had it trying to find anything that will not self-destruct in short order even if we are super careful.  Check the antique shops.  The same stuff is there that was there when I was young.  Stuff from my parent's generation and some from mine and there is where it ends.  That we want it that way because we want cheap goods is a Wall Street self-promoting meme amplified by the fact that they own our media as well.

Rant over.

John

Brian:

You make a lot of excellent points in your thoughtful post. There is one area, however, in which I respectfully disagree. When a manufacturer like Lionel produces a new engine that is available in numerous road names, in addition to special runs, and one of those engines fails right out of the box because of a motherboard failure (or any other major defect), it is unconscionable that it would not produce replacements for the defective board. I had exactly that issue recently regarding a Legacy engine.

Allegheny was spot on in his post regarding this issue. And it is simply not realistic to think that customers are going to buy two engines as an insurance policy in the event one fails. It's never going to happen unless perhaps someone is super wealthy.

Pat

If a super wealthy person buys two engines and they're both from the same batch, they'll both fall apart.  So that's not an insurance policy!

I was fine with the "generic" postwar body styles produced in large numbers, and cast-in detail.  IMO the only thing needed was a high-ratio worm drive retrofit, so they would operate smoothly at scale speeds.  A new chassis for the old bodies, like K-Line's Marx-derived steam loco (but with a flywheel this time!)  Instead, we get newly tooled scale models in every catalog, filled to the brim with complex electronics.  Which is great, as long as you have a McMansion to accommodate O72 curves.  Or a basement.  Some of us don't want to live where it's cold ;-)

It's true that Lionel's original flagship 700e suffered from Zinc Pest.  But the world was a different place then, and most importantly they stood behind their product.  After 25-30 years Standard Gauge trains developed issues too.  Collecting and restoring them was part of the impetus for the creation of the TCA.  (There was no Internet in 1954!)  Folks like McCoy, MEW, and Hennings stepped up to reproduce wheels and other key parts.  A lot of those Standard Gauge pieces are operable today because of their contributions.

Recently someone affiliated with Hennings cast new side frames for the Lionel Scale GG1.  This was a major success story!  I have a lot of hope for 3D printing too.  All this being said, I am indeed "gun shy" about today's high-priced, limited production offerings.  I think more standardization of parts and sub-assemblies is necessary to ensure survival of the hobby, even if it comes at the cost of realism.  It's your money, but in the words of the immortal Mike Brady "Caveat emptor!"

Last edited by Ted S

I've had several K Line boxcars with die cast trucks come out of the box in pieces.  So I quit buying Kline cars.  Everything stored inside the air conditioned house in fairly dry Southern Texas.

I've not had it show up on any engines I own.  But I don't buy any of the newer stuff after 1995.

I would be disgusted if I bought something that had broken pieces in the box, missing pieces, or didn't work.  If I paid decent money for it I would really be upset.

But that's just me.  Your mileage and satisfaction may be different.

Same thing with automobiles, lawnmowers,  lithium powered tools etc.  Buying quality merchandise has long term benefits.

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