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There is a long history of complaints about Lionel quality, mostly by O gaugers. In the Lionel S gauge world there have been far fewer product issues. The Polar Express sets have one issue in 100% of the passenger cars. The wiring is too stiff, too short and not actually soldered to the truck pickup. With use, the wires pull loose and the car lighting does not work. The fix is well documented and requires nothing from Lionel. No other passenger cars have this problem. The issue with the Polar Express engine missing axle bearings seems related to when they were manufactured. Some are ok, some are not.
Another issue, design related, affects the second release of the Legacy SD70ACe diesels. The truck design was modified from the first release and the new trucks have axle springs that are too small of a gauge to pass current reliably. Carl Tuveson came up with a fix to replace the Lionel springs with thicker American Models springs. Carl modified two of my engines, this mostly solved the issue but not quite 100%. Looking at the trucks I decided to pack the spring pocket with a silver conductive grease. This must be done with great care because the insulators are less than 1mm thick and it is easy to bridge the insulators with the conductive grease creating a permanent short circuit. I did this to all of my new SD70's and they now run perfect.
All Lionel AF freight and passenger cars made prior to 2019 have wheel sets gauged 1/10" too narrow. If they are used on Gilbert track they run perfect. To use them on track with crossings and scale wing rails they must be regauged. Its easy, get a pair of snap ring pliers to spread the wheels until a dime just fits between them. With practice it takes about 10 seconds/axle. Beginning in 2019 the wheels are all correctly gauged.
The most pervasive repair issue in S gauge is the poor quality fan driven smoke units. With some operating time at least 50% have fan failures, about 10% have heater failures. The replacement is not hard and replacement units are readily available. The motors and electronics seem very reliable. Stock up on traction tires, seems like every week I need to replace a tire on one of my engines. I have about 50 TMCC/Legacy engines and pull long trains up grades which puts more stress on the rubber tires. Fortunately replacing the tires is easy.
The only issue with American Models engines is cracking gears in the gear towers on their diesels. The replacements are readily available but rebuilding the gear tower is tricky.
All said and considering the complexity of the modern engines, I feel the product is in good shape when delivered.
Buy a couple 5 digit Gilbert engines with the two position reverse units or any knuckle coupler diesel and it will be apparent Gilbert had more design and quality issues than the modern Lionel engines.
 

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That engine needs more smoke fluid. The right way to initially fill it is 25 drops, let is soak in for 5 minutes, run it for 5 minutes then add 10 more drops. It will put out clouds of smoke. Any time it sits overnight or longer add 10 drops before running it. It will need more smoke fluid after 20 minutes of running, never let the wick get dry.
It is impressive how well the engine and cars track on that highly irregular track that is not fastened down.
 

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Lionel did a good job designing that app. I have it on a couple of older iPhones I keep in the train room. Works good, just like the video.
They have also made the app interface with their Universal Remote.
So now, you can use the app to control the older RF only units.
In other words, if the Universal Remote can run the engine, then the app will run that same engine through the Universal Remote, in hot spot mode. Very cool wizardry.
 

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The new Legacy Base3 will also run FlyerChief engines using a Cab2, or an iPhone or iPad paired with the Base3. This is a significant Legacy advancement, for the first time Legacy/TMCC and FlyerChief engines can be operated with the same remote. Lionel will be releasing a new Cab3 app as well.
It is nice that Lionel is bringing all their control systems into a common environment.
 
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