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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hello,
After much deliberation I finally broke down and purchased a new Lionel Polar Express Lion Chief set with fast track.

I am learning a bit about how this works and interacts with other units.

My question for the more experienced is "which makes more sense, the remote control train or the older non electronic stuff?"

I think I can see some advantage to each.

Also how do the more experienced feel about the fast track versus the original three rail systems?

Unfortunately for me, my engine came out of the box with parts missing that I failed to observe until I attempted to run it and discovered it would not go. Going to shop on A.M.

Any advice will be appreciated.
 

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i like fastrack i use it on my layout. just like any track they all have pros and cons. if i didn't use fastrack i would go with atlas.
 

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Until a year ago, I had owned and used exclusively old gear, all 1930 - 1952. I wanted to buy my son a Thomas and Friends train, and noticed that all of the newer kits were LionChief. After much debate (you can find the thread here), I decided to give it a try. One other forum member (sjm, I think) also bought one for his kid, at the same time.

To use LionChief, you must set the track (or all tracks the train will use) at a constant voltage, nominally 18V. Then you use a hand-held remote to operate the train. This remote has fwd/rev speed control, as well as control for several sounds. My 4 year old (now 5 year old) seems to have no trouble operating this, whereas I suspect he would have a little more trouble using the speed and direction controls on my ZW or LW, although to be fair he hasn't had much chance to drive the older trains himself.

In terms of quality, prepare yourself to be very disappointed, but I suspect that is just the state of Lionel today, and not only applicable to the LionChief sets. I was very surprised how poorly it was all made, and I had to purchase three sets to put together one complete set with no defective parts. Nothing like the old Lionel.

On which to buy, there are advantages to the LionChief system. In fact, I sort of wish ALL of my gear operated this way, but I have no intent to modify my old loco's. LionChief and traditional can be mixed on the same platform, without enormous trouble, although my plan is to just have separate rigs for LionChief and traditional.

Several here and elsewhere have found that the newer locos (including LionChief) can be easily damaged by de-railing while operating on older transformers, due to the older transformers' slower overcurrent protection circuitry and the ability to deliver substantial short-circuit current. This is not unique to LionChief, and there are several threads here on how to add protection (fast-acting fuse plus TVS).

FastTrack... not the best track system out there, but not the worst. It works nicely, but doesn't look very nice, IMO. Not that traditional tubular ever looked nice, but 100 years of familiarity has given it a certain nostalgia. The FastTrack is definitely superior for portable layouts on the floor, particularly on carpet, but the plastic roadbed just doesn't do it for me. I'm using the FastTrack I've received in kits for the floor around the Christmas tree, while reserving my tubular for a more permanent setup.
 

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Ill agree with FMtrainmaster, I had the same problems. I do like the tubular track, not just for ease of use , price , and it works well, but I grew up with it. Its almost as if when I see a model train , it should run on tubular. Lionel does make a more expensive system, legacy , or its predecessor tmcc, which give a greater control over the train along with a hand held remote that can be pre programed. But its $$$$. Older conventional stuff can be fixed up to run great ,and kids and adults can have fun. That being said my daughter can use the lioncheif set and enjoys it, she also can run my zw but not as easily. Shes 3.
 

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sjm, weren't you the one who burned up a LionChief loco within a few days of receipt, when it derailed while powered by ZW? I seem to remember you buying the same kit for your daughter, that I bought for my son.

I should also clarify my comments above on FastTrack. It's not a bad track system, but if investing in a new system for a new layout, there are other systems I would probably choose. Good for me, I like old loco's on old tubular, and that can be had cheap.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
Thanks for all the input. I debated long and hard before finally being bitten by the Polar Express bug. My biggest problem is that there was a missing screw on one of the drive wheels and I did not realize it until I attempted to run the unit. When it would not move I began investigating and found the missing screw that won't let the drive wheel function.
I am pretty disappointed with this thing at this point and looking at a repair bill on a brand new unit.

Again, I appreciate the input. Just not sure where I will go from here. I have both old and new, the Polar Express just caught my aging imagination.
 

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Are you intending to get into some serious railroading, or just a train running under the tree? For the latter, a Lion King and its components that come with the set are adequate; if you want to build a railroad, there's much better stuff out there, from engines to control systems, for a few (hundred) dollars more that you won't easily outgrow. I've never been a fan of ANY sectional tracka8
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
When you say sectional track I assume you mean the shorter sections versus the longer sections that can be purchased at a train shop.
I am debating how deeply I want to get into all of this. The man at the train store today told me for a more serious train enthusiast that the MTH stuff is superior to Lionel.
I am still debating whether to follow my friends lead and stick with older stuff that is available from people who are getting rid of things or to move on to the more sophisticated and sexy stuff that involves all the electronics. I am quite impressed with the MTH Proto sounds chip. I am open to input and thoughts from experienced railroaders. Thanks,
 

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All things being equal, which in real life they rarely are, I'd probably pick the MTH starter set over the Lionel starter sets. The real bonus of the MTH sets are they're all equipped with full command capability, so when you move on to a larger layout, you have something that can grow with you.
 

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Even my Legacy Blue Comet had issues out of the box, so at least Lionel is consistent across the board with their quality control. Their customer service also sucks severely. Whenever I called them, it seemed like they were irritated to even have to take my phone call and that they were doing me a favor by giving me the time of day.
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
I am really leaning toward the MTH decision. Thanks for that input. It is consistent with what my local dealer told me and he is and authorized Lionel dealer. In fact you have to look to find MTH stuff in his store but he indicated it is better. I am thinking for the added benefit that may be a good idea. Also, I feel like I kinda owe this guy since he fixed my Polar Express at no charge.
 

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Alright update, took out my Thomas set, used a few times last Christmas, set it up, again trouble getting the battery compartment open. I used a nice and a screwdriver. Put in te batteries and no response from the control, fm trainmaster gas a similar problem last year. I fiddled with it, nothing. After a persuasive slam on the ground, works great. Hopefully someone will tell me they upgraded the remotes, otherwise I would never buy one again. Even if it disappoints my daughter!
 
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