So far, Menard's is the Yugo of locomotives. Rough analogy. Functional, but with some drawbacks. What folks want is the Toyota or Kia version
. I don't get the complaints over pricing. Like getting your knickers in a twist about people who buy high end Mercedes. Who cares and why? Take a look at the Lionel catalog from 1958 or so and you'll find sets for $25 and sets for $100. That was serious money back then.
The Lionel top of the line stuff is the equivalent of spending money on a BMW or Lexus. Some folks want that extra luxury and cachet and have the money to afford it. But the Honda or Subaru or similar equivalents cost tens of thousands less and are just as functional and safe. Likewise, a LionChief + loco will do most of the stuff the Big Boy can do. Command control, electrocouplers, etc. One quarter or one fifth the price. You want high end scale models? They are hand assembled and very complex, low volume. Be prepared to spend between $1200 and 2000, whether it's Lionel, MTH or 3rd Rail for steam locos of any size. If you want reasonably priced locos, Lionel has some LionChief locos in their catalog that have street prices of a couple of hundred dollars and rolling stock for 50 bucks or so. Not strikingly more than Menards.