New Product Spotlight – Introducing LionChief Plus

3 02 2014

Our soon-to-be-released 2014 Signature Catalog will bring the next evolution of our LionChief™ Remote Control system with five new locomotives equipped with this versatile control. What is LionChief™ Plus and how is it different from LionChief™, Conventional or Command Control? We’ve already had lots of questions on the subject so before we look at the new locomotives themselves, let’s take a few minutes to talk about the different systems and what they have to offer.

Conventional Control


The CW-80 is the most common transformer in our Conventional starter sets today.

Conventional control is the way we’ve powered our trains since the very beginning. A transformer supplies variable AC power to the track. By adjusting the voltage using the lever on the transformer, you control the train’s speed.

Over the years we’ve added many features to our conventional locomotives including working whistles, bells and other effects. But the control of the trains remains at the transformer. And while you can wire your railroad with “blocks” to run more than one train at once, you still need one transformer per train.

Command Control

Lionel broke new ground when we launched our first Command Control system, TMCC™, in 1995. With TMCC you could finally control multiple trains from one controller, or cab. And that cab was wireless so you could go anywhere in the room and follow your trains. Command control uses a constant AC power on the rails and sends specific coded electrical commands to the locomotives to control their movement and many other functions.


LEGACY offers the most complete control systems possible for your model trains.

To enable operators to control more than one train at once without the need for blocks and multiple transformers, each Command locomotive must be programmed with an address. The commands to speed up, stop, reverse, etc. are all preceded by that address so that only the locomotive you want to operate will respond.

TMCC™ evolved into LEGACY™ bringing even more extra features and finer control to the trains. For a locomotive to respond to the commands it must be equipped with a special receiver which can interpret the signals from the cab. A LEGACY™ equipped locomotive can run on conventional layouts as well, and the LEGACY™ system is designed to allow the option to control a conventional locomotive. For more on Command Control see our Wiring Your Layout pages.

LEGACY™ remains our finest control system for our premier line of products.


In 2013 we introduced the LionChief™ Remote Control system in new Ready-to-Run sets. LionChief™ isn’t Conventional control or Command Control – it’s radio control.

preproduction sample

Our radio control options began with our Thomas the Tank Engine set. Like LionChief, easy and reliable operation is at the heart of this design.

Like Command Control, LionChief™ uses a constant 18 Volts on the rails – only this time the wall-pack produces DC. But unlike TMCC™ or LEGACY™, the commands which tell the locomotive to go, stop, whistle, etc. don’t come through the rails; with LionChief™ they are sent via radio signals from the hand-held remote. And unlike command control, there are no locomotive addresses to program. Each locomotive has its own pre-programmed remote controller.

Because it only needs to see 18V of DC or AC power to operate, a LionChief™ locomotive can be run on any LionChief™, Conventional or Command Control powered layout. Just put 18V on the rails and use the remote control to run the train.

And you can run more than one LionChief™ train on the same track at the same time without blocks. On Command layouts, you can run multiple LionChief™ locomotives and command equipped locomotives together on the same track without any extra wiring. When running with a Conventional transformer, a conventional train won’t run with the LionChief™ locomotive(s) without wiring blocks – the same limitations you would face for controlling multiple conventional locomotives still apply. You can run more than one LionChief™ locomotive at once with a conventional power supply.

LionChief™ Plus

The new LionChief™ Plus system is designed to give you all of the control options of LionChief™ PLUS the ability to run the locomotive via your conventional transformer as well. Now you can run the locomotive on any layout (Conventional, LionChief™, TMCC™, LEGACY™ – even competitors’ control systems) with your LionChief™ Remote, or flip a switch on the locomotive and run it as a conventional model.


LionChief Plus locomotives will use the LionChief remote or a conventional transformer.

Our new LionChief™ Plus locomotives have more than just this added control option however. The LionChief™ system was designed to make operating model trains as easy as possible – no wires, no programming, self-explanatory controls, lots of fun in the palm of your hand. With LionChief™ Plus we’ve added many of the features found in higher end locomotives. These are a transition between an entry-level set and a high-end LEGACY™ model.

In addition to more detail on the locomotives, you’ll see features like working electro-couplers, improved sound and smoke, and Odyssey speed control. LionChief™ Plus is designed to give you complete control, exciting operation, an introduction into the many options available in model railroading and all a price point a lot more manageable than our premier products.

We think once you see what LionChief™ Plus can do you’ll be as excited as we are about these new trains. After testing preproduction samples of the Hudson and Pacific, we shot a little video to show the sound and power of these locomotives. Our Pacific handled a train of 25 scale freight cars plus the caboose up a FasTrack grade without any hesitation. If you like smoke, you’ll love LionChief Plus! Unfortunately it doesn’t show up well against the light gray walls of our test layout room, but take our word for it, these locomotives can put out quite the cloud.

See the videos here:  LionChief Plus Sounds  LionChief Plus Power!

Next week we’ll spotlight the new Hudsons here on the blog and go into greater detail on all of their special features. Stay tuned!



9 responses

3 02 2014
David R. Goodhart

If each Lion Chief Plus loco needs its’ own controller, how is this a better control system than TMCC with the use of a CAB 1 (which was much less expensive than the CAB 2) that could control all conventional and TMCC locomotives and operated all features of Lion Chief Plus?

3 02 2014

The advantage of LionChief and LionChief Plus is that it provides an easier path from a starter set to a more advanced model railroad, esp. for those who do not already have a command control system. The LionChief remote offers advantages in features and control (and cost) over what we can offer with transformer controlled sets.

By making adding the conventional control option (LC+) we have created a locomotive that has many of the features you’ve come to expect in our LEGACY engines in a more accommodating size and price range. This also opens the door to those established hobbyists who prefer to use their existing conventional or command control systems. (In conventional mode, you can operate an LC+ locomotive using TMCC or LEGACY as you would any other conventional engine.)

So for operators who already have a command control system, you have a moderately priced locomotive option that can be run with your Cab 1, 1L or 2 remote or, use the individual LC+ remote as an inexpensive second cab for that engine when other operators come over (esp. children, but it’s good for the young at heart too!)

3 02 2014
Pete Flaherty

One nice Additional Feature that you could consider is to have the LionChief systems respond to the TMCC/Legacy Emergency Stop ( at least 30 second pause)!
I have had a couple accidents that could have been avoided when Thomas was being a little over zelous when being run by Jr Engineers ….

3 02 2014

The LionChief Sets are the Ultimate Train Set to Introduce Youngsters to Model Railroading and I love them too!

I picked up 2 of these sets for my under the Christmas tree layout and my 4 and 5 year old grandsons and everyone really loved them!
My niece, her husband and their 1 year old son loved it so much that I ordered a set for them to have under their Christmas tree.
All of the LionChief sets come with the wireless remote control, power supply, track and a complete train. Depending on the set they have steam or diesel locomotive sounds and smoke. Remote activated crew dialog sounds, horn, bell and other sounds. My Silver Bells set even plays Christmas music and it sounds pretty good too! Each set can have different sounds so check the features of the set you may be interested in.
They come with a plug and play DC power pack, but they can run on any 18 volt AC system too They will work with Legacy, TMCC or some other control systems. For those of us with Legacy, TMCC or other control systems all you have to is put the little one’s LionChief train on the tracks with 18 volts and they use their own LionChief remote and they are running their trains with us on our Legacy, TMCC or other layouts! They even work with conventional AC transformers. You just set the voltage to 18 and then use the remote to control the train.
I built an O gauge Lionel floor layout for my grandsons to play with some months ago and they enjoy playing with them, but they really love the remote control of the LionChief sets. Why would they not? Many of us enjoy the Legacy, TMCC and other remote controls.
After playing with the LionChief remotes under the Christmas tree now they want remote control for their layout! I don’t blame them its fun for me too! I wish I had waited for the LionChief to be available, but now I have an excuse to buy more Lionel trains. This way they will be able to both run a train on the same track at the same time!
The best thing is it won’t cost a fortune to get them up and running with a remote control system for their layout, the prices are amazing! My Local hobby shop MB Klein/Model Train Stuff has a few for under $200.
I wanted to share this with other grandparents, parents or anyone that buys gifts for youngsters. Technology comes easy to the youngsters, they love remote control and to be independent when they are playing with their trains. They love for us to watch, but my grandsons want to do everything themselves, but never leave the little ones unattended.
The LionChief sets provide a remote that is kid friendly and they can take full advantage of all the features as soon as they start using it. All I had to do is to show my grandsons one time which button did what and they never needed my help again and like I said before they are only 4 and 5 years old.
Of course you can never leave them unattended because it is an electric toy.
I think Lionel is really on to something here. This maybe something that brings model trains back to the Christmas lists for Santa of many youngsters. Thank you Lionel! We love them and can’t wait to get some more!

5 02 2014
Conductor Andrew

Reblogged this on theredcaboose1.

29 12 2014
Sam Thorn

I have recently joined the hobby and started with a Lionel Area 51 Train and I couldn’t be happier with my purchase! I agree that in the electronic day and age we live in a single handheld remote is much easier for my kids to learn and enjoy. I have a 6 and a 2 year old and they both love the trains! Thank you Lionel! Now i just need to find a Mad Max style train for my layout!

29 12 2014
Pete Flaherty

I havent seen a single post from Lionel since last September,just an FYI

It’d be awesome if lionel added an addon for the Legacy system that would allow legacy to control Lion chiefs too ….kinda like their ‘wifi’ adaptor adds on…..

29 12 2014
Pete Flaherty

Shame they dont maintain this site, it was amazing, and I looked forward to the Freight Car Friday articles, as well as timely announcements for new products …

7 01 2015
Sam Thorn

Thank you for the information!

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