LionChief Model Trains

A Model Train Review by Papa

I love Lionel trains and I truly enjoy talking about the sets I personally own and play with, every chance I get.  You can see what I have to say about my favorite set, the Polar Express, in my article about it here. But my affection for the Lionel train lines doesn’t end there.

One of my first sets was the Lionel New York Central RS-3 Freight Train Set – O-Gauge.  This set features a dark blue NYC diesel locomotive all trimmed in white. The model railroad set comes with one NYC boxcar in a nice bright green, and a striking red caboose.  Both cars are trimmed in white and black with the oval shaped NYC logo. This set comes with the wall pack power supply, the remote, and enough Lionel FasTrack to make a 40 inch by 60 inch loop.  I have found quite a few NYC railroad cars, and now when I run it, I have a nice long NYC train.

The Patriot Diesel train set is a model train I purchased about a year ago.  I love the red, white and blue paint scheme on the locomotive and caboose. This is a great set to help celebrate the 4th of July, which is a special holiday for our family.  The set comes with a green boxcar celebrating 200 years of our great nation, and a special hopper car with bold red and white stripes.  This set has enough track to make a 40 inch by 50 inch loop, a wall power pack and the remote control.

I even have a train set for Halloween!  The Lionel Peanuts Halloween Train Set is a spooky set according to my six-year old grandson, who does not like the Halloween sound effects. Painted in Peanuts’ themed Halloween style, this train is ready to take you on the hunt for the great pumpkin.  Being a steam engine, the set includes the tender, a boxcar, a tank car and the caboose, a wall power pack, the remote and enough track to make a 40 inch by 50 inch loop.

Here’s a family favorite, Lionel’s DC Comics Batman Phantom Train Set in O-Gauge.  This set features the best sound effects. Batman’s voice sets the stage, talking about fighting crime as train moves smoothly around the track.  The Phantom diesel has two additional cars, the wall power pack, remote control, and the standard 40 inch by 60 inch loop of FasTrack. Heads turn every time this train set goes by.

I’ve been planning on expanding my O scale trains, and have been planning a layout to showcase my favorite trains. Eventually, the layout will have farmland features, so I had to get the Lionel John Deere Steam LionChief Train Set – O-Gauge.

John Deere green is the predominant color of this train set although the steam engine does have a bright metallic nose. The set has a flatbed railroad car with two tractors on board, a gondola car with crated farm equipment, and the caboose. The set includes the remote control, a wall power pack and the standard 40 inch by 60 inch loop of FasTrack.

I’ve purchased farm buildings, grain silos and other accessories to go along with my countryside setting. Part of my farmland layout will be done in older O track so I can incorporate some of my post war era Lionel accessories.  You should see the cows go from the corral to the stock car.

Did I mention that our layout will have a subway level?  We will be running the Lionel MLB Yankees LionChief Subway Set.  It’s a three car, M7 subway train set painted with scenes baseball fans can enjoy. This model railway set comes with a wall power pack, remote control, and enough FasTrack to make a 40 inch by 60 inch loop.  

To expand the subway line, I also have the Batman M7 subway set and I have plans to have it make special runs to the Arkham Insane Asylum from Gotham City.

As an O-scale model railroad collector, I’ve also picked up a few sets that I are no longer find available online but are worth mentioning in case you happen to find them in a model railroad hobby shop, or swap meet.

My Lionel Pennsylvania Railroad Keystone Special features a working searchlight flatcar. I also have a Lionel Union Pacific Scout Hill Freight Train Set.  We met a railroad engineer who told us that Union Pacific’s nickname is “Unkle Pete. I can say with confidence that I love “Uncle Pete!”

In addition to modern railroads, I also have a Rio Grande & Santa Fe Steam Switch Engine Train Set. It was my very first railroad set.

Part of the fun of model railroading is going to different hobby and train stores and train shows.  I like looking for interesting sets to expand my railroad layout. The diligent, knowledgeable shopper can find some good bargains hidden on the back shelf, so it’s absolutely worth getting to know your hobby store staff to find out what they’ve got hiding behind the counter.

One of our biggest inspirations in O-Scale train layouts is Ericstrains on YouTube. If you love trains, you have to check him out!

I have saved the best for last.  I bought the Lionel BNSF RS-3 Scout Freight Set with Bluetooth Train Set for myself, then I gave it to my grandson who loves BNSF. The BNSF diesel locomotive is a vintage RS-3 painted in the new BNSF road colors. The set includes a green Burlington Northern boxcar, a black BNSF tank car, and a red BNSF caboose. The set has the standard 40 inch by 60 inch oval loop of FasTrack, a wall power pack, and the remote control.

One of the coolest features of the Lionchief systems are the included sounds that come from hidden speakers. You have a bell, a horn, and voice announcements. There are different announcements for when the train is moving and for when it is stopped. Both of these situations switch to a third announcement after 30 seconds of changing from being motion or stopping.

Operating two or three Lionel LionChief train sets on a big layout gets noisy, but it’s my kind of noisy. We’ve added a few extra BNSF railroad cars, and the train is impressive as it winds around the layout. These trains are powerful enough to easily pull a dozen railroad cars. I intend to obtain another of these sets so that I can have my own, again. Then my grandson and I will have two identical engines to play with. I have not tried that yet!

To me, gaining the ability to operate an O scale train from my tablet or smartphone with bluetooth functionality makes playing with the model trains more like running the engine from the cab. The features of the control panel are excellent.  Having the Bluetooth ability is also be a great way to run the train if the batteries in the standard remote control fail. The Lionel Bluetooth app is a free download available at most app stores.

Once you get started playing with Lionel trains, it’s easy to get enthralled with the charm and excitement of each different set. I know you’ll enjoy run any of these railroad sets! To get started choosing your own Lionel O-Scale railroad set, you can browse their Amazon storefront here.

Want more like this? Check out some of our other lists and reviews below.

LEGO Harry Potter Hogwarts Express

Amazon Product Name (APN): LEGO Harry Potter Hogwarts Express 75955 Building Kit

A Model Train Review by Papa

If you love LEGOS, trains, and Harry Potter, then this is the set for you. At 801 pieces, this model train set includes a train station with pedestrian overpass and clock, the Hogwarts Express, tender, a passenger car, and a handful of mini figs.

The LEGO minifigs include Harry Potter, Ron Weasley, Hermione Granger, Remus Lupin, the Trolley Witch, the Dementor and Scabbers figures.  The Trolley Witch even has the chocolate toads that Ron is always eating!

The LEGO Hogwarts Express model train set is not motorized, but it does roll by hand on LEGO City track.  Another difference between this set and other LEGO train sets are the train’s couplers.  The Hogwarts Express uses connectors and pins, instead of the magnetic couplers used in the motorized sets.  They work best if the train is moving in the forward direction.

The best feature of this set is the custom Hogwarts Express art details on the engine. These are very nice and colorful.  The engine is pretty detailed with three set of “drive” wheels on each side and has the appropriate sets of smaller wheel before the “drive” wheels. It is a bold engine showing shiny red and black.

Now, this set is not motorized, but I wanted to make it motorized.  I bough an extra Hogwarts Express kit and a second LEGO City Passenger Train 60197 motorized kit and “kit-bashed” a solution I found on a YouTube video.

There were actually quite a number of videos for the different methods used.  I took the Bluetooth receiver/battery pack and built a slightly longer engine tender which I then mounted the LEGO drive motor/wheel set to. The weight of the battery pack is sufficient to give the drive wheels good traction.

With my upgraded train set, the tender now pushes the engine down the track.  This works ok as long as you keep the layout simple with gentle curves and straight track. It will not negotiate wiggle track at all.  I took the extra parts from the second kit and made an extra passenger car, and added a “caboose”. This motorized train looks very nice as it runs around the track. The Bluetooth control, using your tablet or smartphone, gets you some added sounds to liven up the operation.

My updated Hogwarts Express on display.

I am a fan of Harry Potter and have purchased most of the sets that are currently offered.  My future model train layout will combine my love of Lionel O scale trains with LEGOS and LEGO City trains.  Of course it will have the secret wall at the station and a rail line to the city “by the lake” for a boat ride to Hogwarts Castle.

Here are just some of the Harry Potter kits you can add to your Hogwarts Express layout:

LEGO Harry Potter Quidditch Match


LEGO Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

LEGO Harry Potter Hogwarts Great Hall

Aragog’s Lair 75950 Building Kit

LEGO Harry Potter Hogwarts (The BIG Castle)

I have added several of these sets to my collection already, but I haven’t yet bought the six thousand piece castle set.  The sets I have are all colorful, and form an interesting feature in my layout. I haven’t decided yet how I will use Aragog’s Lair, since it really needs a deep dark forest located beyond the castle.  Guess I need more space!

Get started building your own Hogwarts fantasy. Start with the Hogwarts Express by finding it on Amazon here.

Want more? Check out some of our other lists and reviews below.

LEGO City Cargo Train 60198

Amazon Product Name (APN): LEGO City Cargo Train 60198 [Amazon Exclusive]

Our Rating: 5 of 5 stars

Toy Review by: Papa

If you like trains and LEGOS, then this is the set for you!  The LEGO City Cargo Train 60198 is one of the newer remote control motorized train sets that includes Bluetooth control so you can operate the train from your smartphone or tablet.  The Lego Powered Up app is is a free download from your favorite app store.

This train set is full of features and accessories.  Besides the motorized, remote control engine, you get the parts to build a operating crane railroad car, a loaded log freight car, and a flat railroad car with 2 cargo containers.  One of the cargo containers contains a bank vault with money and gold and there is an armored van for making deliveries. The set includes 6 LEGO minifigs and a siding control tower.

I love that this set comes with a turnout switch and a track dead end bumper stop. It has enough track to make a nice loop with the siding on the inside of the loop. You can park Lego railroad cars on the siding.  Kind of makes you want more railroad cars or another engine. Yep, that’s how I think. When it comes to toys, more is better, don’t you agree?

I really enjoy playing LEGO trains with my grandson, who is just starting to understand that if you take your LEGO apart, and don’t know how to put it back together again, then you end up with a tub of parts, but no toys to play with.  I added the LEGO City Heavy Cargo Transport 60183 Building Kit to this layout and my grandson, who is six years old, put the entire kit together by himself. He has played with it almost daily for the last two weeks and it is still all put together.

If you’re looking for a new engine to add to your LEGO City layout, you can find this one on Amazon here.

Want to see more? Check out some of our other articles and reviews below.

Are those model trains HO?

How To Tell The Difference Between Model Railroad Scale Sizes

A Model Train Help Article by Papa

What’s the difference between model railroading Scale, and Gauge? Scale is the ratio of the model dimensions to the real life size.  Gauge is the distance between the two outer rails. As an example of Gauge, O Gauge track is listed as 1.25 inches.

O Scale is 1:48.  This means 1 actual foot (12 actual inches) on the model train layout equals 48 scale feet.  Looking at it from the layout perspective, each ¼ inch on the layout represents 1 scale foot.

The above image is of an O Scale train next to an O Scale brick wall. If O Scale layouts seem too big for you, then consider HO, N or Z Scale.

HO Scale is 1:87, N Scale is 1:144, while Z Scale is 1:220.  These very popular scales allow you to build impressive layouts in smaller locations.  Where a Lionel O Scale diesel locomotive might be about 12 inches long, the same engine in HO Scale might only be about 8 inches long. An N Scale model train may be just 4 inches long, while a Z Scale engine could be as small as 2 inches!

Now, if you decide you want to go bigger with your model railroading, take a look at G Scale model trains.  Often called “garden” railroads, these systems are often built outdoors.  At a scale of 1:22.5, this means your engine might be 2 feet long!

But wait… there’s more.

Model railroading hobbyists are intensely individual. That’s why where are so many different scales for model railroading. And just because G, O, HO, N and Z are the most common scales, they aren’t the only ones. Another lesser known scale is S Scale at 1:64, just a little smaller that O Scale.  There is also the unofficial L Scale for trains made by LEGO at 1:38. And then there is Live Steam… I’ll leave a little video for you to check out some Live Steam model trains below.

As you learn about the different model railroading scales, make sure you look at the pros and cons of each size. Some scales are smaller, so they can fit in tight spaces. Other scales offer a wider variety of track, engine and accessories. Do your research so you can find the model railroading experience that’s right for you. Or, if you’re like me, and can’t decide which scale is the right one for you, get one of each!

Happy railroading!

Want to see more? Check out some of our other articles and reviews below.

Help! What kind of Lionel train controller do I get?

The Changing Current of Lionel Model Trains

A Model Train Help Article by Papa

If you are just getting started in the model train hobby, you may be looking at new and pre-owned O Scale Lionel trains for sale, and wondering what kind of control system you’ll need to run your railroad engine. In this article, we’ll take a look at the different kinds of controls available for both new and used Lionel model trains.

The first thing you need to know about operating Lionel O scale train sets, is that there are two basic engine types.  Originally, all Lionel train sets operated using an external variable voltage alternating current (AC) transformer. (Currently available is the Lionel CW-80 80-watt Transformer).  The maximum voltage output of this transformer style control is about 18 volts AC, and is applied to the center (hot) rail of the track.  The two outer rails are the common, or ground, rails. This “transformer method” of control involves applying power to the engine using the transformer speed control.  The engines can go forward and reverse, and has a neutral setting between each direction. In order to change directions of the model train with a transformer controller, you turn the controller to zero, apply power in neutral, turn the controller back to zero again, and then apply power to start moving the train.

The neutral position on the Lionel transformer powers the track to operate motorized accessories while the engine is stopped. Lionel has changed the transformer style over the years and older, no longer-in-production styles can still be found in small hobby shops, or purchased used from model train hobbyists. Modern transformers also have buttons for horn and bell, if your engine has them, and a reversing button that can stop the train and change direction with one touch.  

Lionel introduced multiple engine control with its TrainMaster Command Control (TMCC) system in 1994. TMCC was replaced in 2006 by Cab-2 and the Legacy system. The Legacy system is available today for Lionel’s Premier Line. These are very nice and very expensive train sets for the serious collector.

Then came the digital revolution and its version of remote control.  The success of the Lionel Thomas remote control set in 2012 led to LionChief introduction in 2013.  These systems use 18 volt direct current (DC) and full power is applied to the track as soon as the Lionel LionChief 72W Wall Pack Power Supply is plugged in and turned on.  All controls are in the hand-held remote that allows the user to operate the train and the included sound system. Commands are sent from the controller to the train wirelessly.  These systems allow the train “engineer” to follow their train around the layout. The remote speed control centers at zero volts and allows easy slow downs and direction changes by simply turning the knob in the desired direction at the desired speed.  Each train set has its own controller and own frequency. LionChief Plus became available in 2014. Lionel has introduced the universal controller which can control up to three locomotives, but not all past LionChief sets will be supported.

In 2017 Lionel introduced Bluetooth controls which allow you to control the LionChief train from a smartphone or tablet using the Lionel LionChief App, which is a free download from most app stores.  This is really important since non Bluetooth sets cannot be operated if the controller batteries fail, or worse yet, the controller fails. A failed controller will have to be sent to Lionel for repair.

If you happen upon a transformer set in your local hobby or model railroad shop, you may want to get it because in 2018, Lionel decided to discontinue production of the AC transformer equipped starter sets.

But please note that you cannot connect AC and DC track power supplies to a single layout at the same time.

I recommend that newcomers start with LionChief Plus with Bluetooth.  These sets will come with enough FasTrack to make a oval loop and you are on your way. To take a look at some of Lionel’s O Scale offerings, you can head to their page on Amazon here.

Want more? Check out some of our other lists and reviews below.

LEGO City Passenger Train 60197

Amazon Product Name (APN): LEGO City Passenger Train 60197 Building Kit (677 Piece)

Our Rating: 4 of 5 stars

Review by: Robby

*Reviewer’s note: I do not own this train. It is my Papa’s. But, he lets me play with it sometimes, so I know a bit about it.

I like the LEGO City Passenger Train 60197 because it can plow things like logs off the tracks with its cone shaped nose, just like my LEGO City High-Speed Passenger Train 60051 (You can see my review about the 60051 model train here). I like using the Bluetooth LEGO Powered Up controller on my Papa’s cell phone. It’s a lot of fun, and the Bluetooth controls are really neat.

The main thing I don’t like is that the LEGO City Passenger Train 60197 isn’t my model train set, so I can’t crash it or tear it apart. Papa wants me to always keep it together and keep it un-crashed. I also dislike that it doesn’t fit through the Harry Potter LEGO Hogwarts Express station because of the electricity hooks on the roof. If you want to play with this with the LEGO Hogwarts Express train station, take the electricity hooks off the top of the passenger train, then it will fit through the Hogwarts Express station (but ask permission first so you don’t get in trouble).

If you want to get the LEGO City Passenger Train 60197 to build, you can find it on Amazon here. But, make sure you figure out your LEGO rules before you start running your train, so you know if you’re allowed to crash, or not!

Want to see more? Check out some of our other articles and reviews below.

LEGO City Cargo Train 60198

Amazon Product Name (APN): LEGO City Cargo Train 60198 [Amazon Exclusive]

Our Rating: 5 of 5 stars

Toy Review by: Robby

*Reviewer’s note: I do not own this train. It is my Papa’s. But, he lets me play with it sometimes, so I know a bit about it.

What I like: I like that the LEGO City Cargo Train 60198 is as green as Christmas. I like using the Bluetooth LEGO Powered Up controller on my Papa’s cell phone to move the model train around the track. I like running this model train on the LEGO Bluetooth app, even more than I like running my O Scale Lionchief BNSF RS3 model train on the Lionchief bluetooth app.

The only thing I don’t like about the LEGO City Cargo Train 60198 is that it isn’t my train, so I can’t crash it or tear it apart (and I love train crashes). Papa likes to always keep his trains put together, and keep them un-crashed. Although this train set is for 6 and up, Papa’s rules about not crashing makes it seem like it’s for kids 69 and up.

If you want to get the LEGO City Cargo Train 60198 to build, you can find it on Amazon here. But, make sure you figure out your LEGO rules before you start running your train, so you know if you’re allowed to crash, or not!

Want to see more? Check out some of our other articles and reviews below.

LEGO City Cargo Train 60052

Amazon Product Name (APN): LEGO City Cargo Train 60052 Train Toy

Our Rating: 5 of 5 stars

Toy Review by Robby

I saved my own money for a long time to buy the Lego City Cargo Train 60052 train set. I built it with Dad the first time. It’s L Scale, which is close to O Scale model train size, but it’s L for LEGO! I like to crash my trains a lot, and I like to take my LEGO kits apart and build new things. Mom has helped me rebuild this set a couple of times, too.

The LEGO City Cargo Train 60052 set reminds me of a real-life CSX Freight Train. I like that it’s blue like Amtrak. I love crashing this train set. When I first got it, I would crash the train into the truck, and crash the forklift into the crane.

I don’t like that when I crash it, the headlights on the bottom fall off. It’s pretty hard to build, and I have a hard time building it without help because it’s such a big set and I just want to play. Although the LEGO City Cargo Train 60052 model train set is for kids 6 and up, it’s very difficult to build without a grownup helping. If you want to build this set with your kids, you can find the LEGO City Cargo Train 60052 on Amazon here.

Make sure you build it together, and you decide if you’re okay with crashing it or not. It’s more fun when everyone agrees on how to play trains!

Want to see more? Check out some of our other articles and reviews below.

Lionel O-Gauge Trains

Model Railroad Review by Papa

When you collect trains as long as I have, you can’t help but pick your favorites. In my collection, I have about 30 engines, over one hundred different model railroading cars, and enough O scale track and accessories to fill most of the floor space in my house. When I look over at my collection, it’s easy to see that Lionel trains are my favorite.

I prefer Lionel O gauge model trains for a number of reasons.  First, is nostalgia. That’s where it all started with the first Lionel train set that our dad bought for me, my brother, and himself. (You can read more about my first train set in A Love Affair with Model Railroading here.)

I also love the weight and size of the Lionel O scale model railroading engines. Lionel trains are heavy, and you should use both hands when you pick one up. And watch out for little hands – small children will definitely need help moving the engines around the train room.

Many of Lionel’s engines are equipped with working headlights and and sounds. There are illuminated cabooses, and passenger cars with people who move on the cars.  I have model railroad freight cars that carry and dump loads of “wood”, “coal”, and “feed”. Searchlight cars and other operating cars can be quite fun. You would be amazed at how often new models and O scale accessories are added by Lionel!

One of my favorites cars is the Lionel US Army boxcar 3665, which includes an operating plastic missile launcher.  I personally enjoy the wide variety of flat cars and all the different loads you can model. The detail on tank cars for oil and gasoline are amazing.  If you look hard enough you can find models that relate to the history of your town, state and country. We used to have a Reynolds Aluminum plant where I live, and I was able to find two Reynolds bauxite cars for my O scale trains.  One of my newer log dumpers carries the Weyerhaeuser logo, to represent the mill that used to be in our town, too.

Another fun aspect is finding vintage “post war” era railroad cars.  I found a vintage milk can car, Lionel 3472, that can carry 7 “milk cans” and unload them onto a side platform.  I was given a post war era cattle car and unloading side platform, Lionel 6656, with 15 “cows”. Since each car can only hold 5 “cows” I have been looking for more of these vintage stock car and now have two.  (Please note that vintage accessory pieces like the milk can station or the cattle corral were made to work on the track available at that time, Lionel “0-27” three rail metal track and will not work with modern FasTrack without adapter track section and some shimming due to dimension differences.)

You can model specific railroad lines, which adds a lot of color and variety to the model railroading layout.  I have always been a fan of Union Pacific railroad, while my son prefers Burlington Northern. My grandson is up to date and likes BNSF railway.  I also enjoy freight lines like Pennsylvania railroad, NYC, Rio Grande and Santa Fe. With all the real life railroad mergers, you can see some of these road names still operating today on actual railroad systems.

Lionel is my favorite model railroading manufacturer because of the wide availability of sets and accessories, coupled with affordable prices. But that’s not to say that Lionel trains are cheaply made. Their remote control sets can now include Bluetooth ( e.g. Pennsylvania Flyer LionChief Set-with Bluetooth), and for the more discerning model railroader hobbyist, Lionel offers more expensive engines with remote control couplers (Lionel Southern LionChief Plus 4-6-2 Pacific Steam Engine w/Bluetooth), and other options like a wider array of sounds, lighting, and more sturdy construction of the engines.

My favorite thing about Lionel model train layouts is they’re so easy to expand. Combine your favorite engines with add-on sidings that have decoupling sections (like the Lionel FasTrack Siding Track Pack)and you can create a working train yard with multiple sidings for each train line or style of load like freight cars or hopper cars.

For those who want to look beyond Lionel trains, another brand I enjoy is MTH (Railking). I was happy to acquire a vintage NYC docksider set made by MTH.  Although Lionel is still my brand of choice, I also look for Atlas, Menards, and Industrial Rail O scale model railroad sets.

You’ll enjoy Lionel trains because they are fun, full of features and best of all, expandable.  Playing trains with family and friends has created rewarding experiences that I’ve cherished for half a century, and I know they’ll do the same for you and your loved ones, too.

Want More? Check out some of our other lists and reviews below.

Create a website or blog at

Up ↑