American made Lionel

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American made Lionel
Posted by JoeD1980 on Thursday, June 21, 2018 2:32 PM

Hi everyone,

Maybe you can share with me your thoughts on why foreign-made lionel trains leave me feeling empty.  

I'm a huge fan of everything up until 2000. Then after that, I only seem to appreciate the PWC and the Conventional Classic series (which really needs to make its return). But even those are still iffy for me.  I think that fantastic packaging is their redeeming quality.

I'm not a xenophobe.  I love my Nintendo made in Japan (which may be made in China now), and I wouldn't like it if Porsches started being made in the US.  

If it seems like my thoughts on this are scattered, it is because they are!  I just can't seem to pinpoint what is is that makes a Lionel item from New Jersey or Detroit have more value, desirability, and charm for me. 

I also miss the artwork catalogs.  Even the 1996 -98ish LLC ones (which were my first illustrated ones as I missed the postwar era by decades). Maybe the new stuff is too detailed.  I have no idea.  Thoughts appreciated.

 

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Posted by The Gnome on Thursday, June 21, 2018 4:29 PM

Joe, tariffs may raise the price of imports from China.  Domestic production may restart.  What goes around, comes around.

Jim R https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=voS6dePOx3c&feature=share
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Posted by artyoung on Thursday, June 21, 2018 4:52 PM

It's highly doubtful that engine production will ever come back here. One of the gripes about Chinese production is that once they get ahold of dies and molds etc., they will NOT give them back, claiming that they now belong to them - regardless of origin.

No niche toy company can afford to re-engineer and rebuild that equipment.Sad

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Posted by Penny Trains on Thursday, June 21, 2018 6:57 PM

artyoung
One of the gripes about Chinese production is that once they get ahold of dies and molds etc., they will NOT give them back, claiming that they now belong to them - regardless of origin.

That's a HUGE piece of it in my book!  Thumbs Up

I also think there's something that gnaws at my psyche and makes me a bit upset in the back of my unconscious.  If I had to put a label on it, I'd say it's distress at the idea that maybe these trains could be made here if we were just better at "playing nice" with one another.  You can break that down into the greed of the wealthy vs. the needs of the average if you like.  But does a gallon of gas REALLY need to provide such high profits to the few?

If things didn't have to be as expensive as they are, all of us might live a bit more comfortably.

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Posted by Firelock76 on Thursday, June 21, 2018 7:25 PM

I think I know how you feel JoeD, I feel kind of the same way, and here's why...

Ever see "Raiders Of The Lost Ark?"  I'm sure you have.  Remember what Belloq the "bad archaeologist" said to Indiana Jones?

"You and I are only passing through history Doctor Jones.  THIS (as he slaps the side of the Ark) IS history!"

And so it is with those little time-travelers we call pre-war and post war Lionels.  The new Lionels (and MTH's, RMT's, Menards, and so forth) made in Asia will never have the mystique of the old timers, no matter how good they are.  And they ARE good.  But those old Lionels and American Flyers, they ARE history!

Mystique, mystery, romance, history, whatever you want to call it, it's real, it's tangible, and we all feel it.  It's the same vibe you get if you hold an original Revolutionary War or Civil War musket.  Where has it been?  What has it seen?  Who carried it?  And oh, if it could speak!  Just hold one and you can feel it slowly but surely pulling you back into it's own time, even if it's just your imagination going into overdrive.

And dammit, those old Lionels are American!  And most of them still work, or can be made to by those with basic skills.  They weren't built to be used up and thrown away, they were made to LAST.  And last they have, probably beyond the expectations of the original builders. 

A few weeks back I had the pleasure of handling a pre-war Lionel 226E 2-6-4 locomotive.  Heavy as a cinder block and just as solid, I could almost feel the power of American industry of the time, the same industry that was going to smash Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan a few years later.  Just from holding that toy. Amazing.

Sure, I know how you feel.  I know just how you feel.  The Asian stuff is just fine, more than fine, some of it's spectacular.  There's just "something" missing. 

PS: Want to see a 226E?  Check this out...

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bPsDxG5tVqg

No, it's not mine.  Darn it.  You know what?  The video doesn't do it justice.  You've really got to see it to appreciate it.

 

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Posted by artyoung on Thursday, June 21, 2018 7:31 PM

I'm sure all of us have noticed that when things get "deregulated" or "outsourced", or corporate megamergers are allowed, the promise is always that this will mean lower prices for the consumer.

Well, we ain't seen it yet.

(I guess it must be the fault of all those gouging American workers who want to be paid for their labors - how dare they!).

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Posted by Deputy on Friday, June 22, 2018 10:20 AM

I actually like all of Lionel (and MTH and K-Line), new and old. The biggest plus for the postwar gear is it is easy for the user to work on. And it is a lot more reliable. 

BTW...was watching on FOX news where Mercedes has a plant in the USA that makes SUVs. If I were to buy a Mercedes, it dang sure better have "Made in Germany" stamped all over it. Not Made in USA in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. Thumbs Down

Virginian Railroad

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Posted by Penny Trains on Friday, June 22, 2018 7:22 PM

Firelock76
It's the same vibe you get if you hold an original Revolutionary War or Civil War musket. Where has it been? What has it seen? Who carried it? And oh, if it could speak! Just hold one and you can feel it slowly but surely pulling you back into it's own time, even if it's just your imagination going into overdrive.

That is an experience I can say I was lucky enough to have!  Big Smile  My 8th grade teacher had one that was handed down through her family since her ancestor used it during the revolution.  After we were done with it in class, she allowed me the honor of carrying it back to her car while she went on with the rest of the class.  There was more weight on that old musket than just the wood and iron!  Wink

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Posted by Firelock76 on Friday, June 22, 2018 9:20 PM

You get it M'Lady, you get it indeed.  You felt the "vibe."

And imagine bringing a gun to school in this day and age.  Ain't gonna happen anymore, even with a relic.

And it's really remarkable to have a musket from the Revolution still in the family.  Since the veterans of the Revolution went home unpaid, except for IOU's from the Continental Congress, they were allowed to take home their muskets and personal field equipment as a sort of payment.  Many of the soldiers sold their gear to civilians just to have some money for the long walk home.

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Posted by Penny Trains on Saturday, June 23, 2018 6:57 PM

It had it's "charger" no less!  Big Smile  ("Charger" as in bayonette!  Wink)

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Posted by Firelock76 on Saturday, June 23, 2018 8:06 PM

Penny Trains

It had it's "charger" no less!  Big Smile  ("Charger" as in bayonette!  Wink)

 

Now THAT'S amazing!  A lot of those muskets that made it home usually went to work around the farm for hunting or pest control purposes, like most farm guns, and the bayonets disappeared over the years. 

Truly remarkable.

Now here's something else that's interesting but has nothing to do with toy trains, I admit.  Continuing with farm guns...

Every once in a while at an antique show or gun show I'll run into a Civil War musket that started life as a .58 caliber rifle, but now is smoothbored.  Why is that?

Well, a lot of Civil War veterans who brought the rifles home with them were farmers, and a .58 caliber rifle wasn't much use around the farm, but a 20 gauge shotgun was.  So, they'd take them to the local gunsmith and have them smoothbored.  Surplus weapons dealers like Francis Bannerman did it as well. This was done to quite a few of them, so don't any of you be too suprised if you run into one.

The neat thing is, that smoothboring cuts the value in half, making for a relatively inexpensive Civil War relic.  And if it's in good condition, a fun shooter.

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Posted by robmcc on Sunday, June 24, 2018 8:00 AM

I think this generally applies to anything that has some collectibility. I have a 1983 Z28 and even though it's 35 years old, I'd rather have a '67-'69. Unfortunately, the fine folks at Barrett Jackson (and others) have pushed that market out of reach. Same with my Fender Jazz Bass. Mine is 20 years old, but I'd take a late '50s model in a heartbeat. As much as I appreciate the older Lionel product, I certainly like the advancements in technology and scale detail the newer models have. I know we already discussed in depth the debate on US made vs. offshore trains in your March 2017 post.

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Posted by Penny Trains on Sunday, June 24, 2018 6:53 PM

Yeah.  I sold my late 90's vintage Les Paul Goldtop last year but 90% of those looking at it wanted the 60's original.

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Posted by phrankenstign on Thursday, June 28, 2018 11:32 PM

What do you mean by, "once they get ahold of dies and molds etc., they will NOT give them back, claiming that they now belong to them - regardless of origin"?

 

I've never heard nor read about anything like this before.

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Posted by rtraincollector on Friday, June 29, 2018 6:16 AM

Over in China the goverment owns everything. You may pay to have it built but they own it. 

Life's hard, even harder if your stupid  John Wayne

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Posted by Firelock76 on Friday, June 29, 2018 7:30 AM

China's still a Communist country, even though they're making a good game at capitalism and they're not koo-koo Commies like they were back in Mao's time.  (I remember the 1960's when the Chinese made the Russians look downright reasonable!)  The state owns everything in a Communist society that we'd associate with the private sector here, especially the industry. 

The tooling and dies could be recreated here, certainly it'd be expensive to start from scratch all over again, but not difficult or impossible.

Who knows?  But my guess would be it might be even easier to recreate the tooling and dies with the computer-assisted machining technology available today, and with the post-wars as models, than it was to create them decades ago.

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Posted by Penny Trains on Friday, June 29, 2018 7:07 PM

Yep.  Tools and dies are a sort of "intellectual property" in China and they're not allowed to leave the country.  Ridiculous eh?

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Posted by LL675 on Saturday, June 30, 2018 8:44 AM

I look at my Pre,Postwar, and even MPC trains with a sense of history. We were the best, manufactured to last, and be handed down thru the generations. Today's foreign made trains while fantastic in detail just don't give me the same feeling.I have one non USA made locomotive, a MTH RK PRR M1a. I love this engine, but I don't look at it or get the same feeling as I do from a Lionel,Marx, or Flyer piece that has Made IN USA on it.

Dave

It's a TOY, A child's PLAYTHING!!! (Woody  from Toy Story)

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Posted by robmcc on Saturday, June 30, 2018 9:38 AM

Unfortunately, on the flip side there's been lots of quality control issues with the LionScale product. Hopefully Lionel can get that addressed.........

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Posted by rtraincollector on Saturday, June 30, 2018 9:42 AM

I do like the Lionel of today but not my price point. I think that has done a lot, to cause me to go back to prewar and postwar trains. The thing I think bugs me the most of trains of today is that the two main manufactures can't make a system that will run both. So While I can't afford either really other than used and pray it's okay when I buy it, When I buy prewar or post war at least 90% of the time I can fix what is wrong with them. About 5% of the other is because of lack of correct tooling, and other 5% just don't have know how/confidence to do the repair. The newer stuff Just to expensive to get fixed. 

For most part I can do with old tech., get my track to switch when and where I want by good old classic wiring. 

I'm for ever hear that this piece of Lionel came in with this broke or missing screws etc, and the same with MTH. I think it may have originally been cheaper for them but I feel now the qualitu as seem to drop, compare to when it was first moved over there. I feel eventually either folks are going to accept what they get will need to be repaired or just stop buying. Quality control it appears has gone out the door. 

Life's hard, even harder if your stupid  John Wayne

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Posted by Firelock76 on Saturday, June 30, 2018 4:13 PM

Penny Trains

Yep.  Tools and dies are a sort of "intellectual property" in China and they're not allowed to leave the country.  Ridiculous eh?

 

It would seem the philosophy over there is "What's yours is mine, and what's mine is my own!"

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Posted by Jushavnfun with trains on Wednesday, July 04, 2018 5:54 AM

I believe that what is being made now in this hobby is the best ever made and the continuing enhancement in detail and upgrades will only continue.  

The Lionel gondola and flatcar 6 packs that were offered a few years back are great , affordable (6 for $90) heavy & good looking train car and that's 1 example. Lionchief engines are fantastic & accessories are outstanding, some legacy control, and Legacy control is phenomenal.  Yes I suppose I am drinking the Lionel water now, Geeked

but how do you feel about Lionel when MPC had them made in Mexico back when?Crying

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Posted by cwburfle on Thursday, July 05, 2018 5:36 AM

but how do you feel about Lionel when MPC had them made in Mexico back when?Crying

 

Lionel's move to Mexico didn't turn out well, and therefore they moved their production back.
I guess that most folks would have to look up which pieces were made in Mexico if they cared.

As for USA versus China product (not just trains): I buy USA product whenever I can. I don't buy any newly made Lionel trains. I don't like can motors or electronic control. So I limit my few purchases to older product, generally made before 1994.

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Posted by JoeD1980 on Friday, July 06, 2018 7:36 PM

Thank you all for your thoughts.  

Rob, I know we discussed the USA v. China production in depth back in an old post, but I meant something a little different by this one.  You seem to be miffed at me, or maybe you're just tired of the debate at this point.  I mean no disrespect to anyone here or anyone in China. I like the new stuff as well. Plus, I think it was you that went out of your way a while back to help me fix my favorite engine (please try to stifle laughter) my MPC Baltimore and Ohio F3, so thanks again!

I think Firelock hit on my feelings pretty well, and expressed it in a more articulate way than I could have.  Thanks my friend!  You seem to be a big gun fan, and even though I'm usually on the opposite side of that debate, I think it's great that a few pieces of plastic and metal from 50 years ago bring us together. Always enjoy what you have to say. (The poor moderator - who you know must groan everytime he sees an "American Made" post because he has to police us -should love this.)

MPC made in Mexico, not for me.  Neither is my lawnmower, but that's a different story.  I do love USA MPC.  Actually, the Mexican MPC (the few pieces I know about) are growing on me, and they have a unique spot in Lionel history, so why not?

CW and I shop in the same "store," though I usually allow for purchases up until the year 2000.  It's funny, I really like the conventional classics, they aren't exact, but they definately have their own "vibe" (I dislike that word) to them.  I did however buy a set of Santa Fe F3's from the PWC and while I initially liked them, I sold them for a loss not long after. They just felt "cold" to me.  

I am thoroughly enjoying what everyone has to say.  Look at the number of views we have! We're not the only ones who care!  *Tap* *Tap* Is this thing on? Anyone from Lionel listening?

PS - Lionel's trying, and for that, they get all the credit in the world. Now if we could just get them back in NJ, revive JLC and maybe the Mick, we'd be on our way...

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Posted by Firelock76 on Friday, July 06, 2018 9:28 PM

Thanks JoeD, you're too kind.

Lionel back in NJ?  Hey, I'm from NJ myself, I'd love to see it happen, but it won't.  The corporate tax structure up there now, ugh!  To say nothing of everyone elses.

I'd settle for them being back in Michigan, or expanding the North Carolina operation in a big way.

Ol' Joshua Lionel Cowen?  I'm sure he's quite happy running his own full-size "Blue Comet" through the cosmos and not likely to put in another appearance.  The closest we've got to J.L. now is Mike Wolf, and he's doing pretty well.

The Mick?  You mean Micky Mantle?  You must be like me and remember the days when the Mick was "The Deity."  No, I'm sure he's quite happy where he is hoisting frostys and chowing down on hot dogs with the Babe.

Ah, we're doing all right.  Just enjoy the ride!

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Posted by JoeD1980 on Friday, July 06, 2018 10:27 PM

Hi Fire,

I'm from PA actually.  Was looking at homes in NJ, and WOW, was I blown away by the taxes. And you are correct, I can't imagine what it would be like to run a company in your state today.

It's funny, I don't remember the days of "The Mick," but I grew up with stories of them (born in '79).  It must have been something to see Dimaggio and Rizzuto walk into the Lionel showroom.  Definately an era that can't be replicated. Can you even imagine a Lionel Showroom in NY? Not to mention running into a marquee Yankee when you went there?  

I miss the Michigan factory.  As it turns out, I'm more of a Michigan Lionel fan, since that was more my era.  I always thought Michigan was a great fit for the company, as the factory sat in the shadow of Motor City. 

It's funny, I wonder if we're just outdated. Kids today (and I applaud them for this) are far more inclusive.  I don't know if it's a good thing (they're more accepting) or a bad thing (we haven't passed on our love for country), but, for the most part, they couldn't care less where something was made.

I often wonder if America sank into the ocean, whether or not we'd care where our items were made.  

 

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Posted by JoeD1980 on Friday, July 06, 2018 10:32 PM

PS:

The loss of Mr. Joe Gryzboski is a big loss for all of us.  He was fun - I pestered that poor man with more postwar questions than I could count.  He always shared his knowledge with me, and, amazingly, some of his fine collection.  He could be cranky, but usually when he was, a word or two from Mrs. Grzyboski set him straight, and sent my requested item out of the warehouse in quick fashion.

I'll miss him, the Grzyboski's were and will be part of a lot of great Xmas times around here. 

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Posted by JoeD1980 on Friday, July 06, 2018 10:42 PM

I should also add - I've voted with my wallet.  I have spent the minimum on Lionel products produced since 2000.  And the one MPC aquarium car I bought needed a part - which was unavailable from the company (though they tried).  My last purchase from them.  

Also, a round of applause for anyone who purchased the "Andrew Johnson" train car from the presidential series.  You, purchaser, are much finer American than I.  

I often laugh and wonder, how many AJ cars could have possibly sold?

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Posted by Firelock76 on Saturday, July 07, 2018 10:47 AM

Joe, the guy you've really got to envy are my father and my Uncle John.  Both are lifelong Yankees fans and are old enough to remember Babe Ruth (Although his career was winding down at the time they were kids), Lou Gehrig, Joe DiMaggio, and Micky Mantle, among others too numerous to mention.   Dad mentioned with disgust his discovery that present-day baseball players were charging a fee for their autographs on baseballs.  "Babe Ruth never would have done that!"   "You're right Dad"  I said, "And it never would have entered his mind either!"

Babe Ruth.  I'll bet you can't say the man's name without smiling.  I can't.  What a great legacy to have!

Dad had a chance to go to the Yankees game in 1939 when Lou Gehrig said his tragic farewell, but didn't.  Dad was playing ball himself that day and as he put it "You didn't watch someone else do something when you had a chance to do it yourself."  but he was always sorry he didn't go.

He WAS there in 1948 when Babe Ruth made his last appearance, and he was sorry he DID go to that one.  He said seeing the Babe was like seeing a ghost, he was a dying man at the time and everyone knew it.  The stands were full of grown men in tears, Dad said he'd never seen anything like it before or since.

You know, those presidential cars, nice as they are, kind of leave me cold.  What DID get me excited was a Lionel Bicentennial Set I saw at a show last year at a price just too good to pass up.  I run it from time to time, but not with the diesel that came with it, I use a Michigan produced "President Washington"  B&O Pacific to pull it.  Makes sense, the thirteen original states with President Washington pulling them along, which is what the man did, when you come right down to it!

And back in the glory days of the Lionel New York showroom it wasn't just Yankee ball players that might show up.  New York had THREE ball teams post-war, the Yankees, the Giants, and the Brooklyn Dodgers.  If they were looking for toy trains, they'd come see Lionel.  And of course there were the celebrities like Frank Sinatra, Celeste Holm, Gypsy Rose Lee, and other stars of Broadway, Hollywood, and the night club circuit.  Quite the place in it's time.

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Posted by Penny Trains on Saturday, July 07, 2018 7:24 PM

JoeD1980
I often laugh and wonder, how many AJ cars could have possibly sold?

It'll probably end up being "the Virginia" of the series.  Big Smile  Ever notice how much more the VA car brings over it's companions in the Spirit of 76 series?  Wink

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